Dundee and Dunnottar Castle

MAY 21, 2024: Today we got to experience what we heard about the weather in Scotland – that in one day you can have many different types of weather. During the day we had overcast, cloudy, clear, sunny, hazy, misty, drizzly, warm and cold. Would this turn out to be a typical day here?

The plan for today was to do some Wandering Jew research in Dundee, and then go see the amazing Dunnottar castle. However, before doing this, I needed to run an errand and print some pages to sign. We saw that in Dundee there is a store called Mail Boxes Etc. where we could do the printing. They are in area where we could not bring the motorhome, but we found on Google Maps an open-air parking lot about a 10-minute walk away. The Dundee municipal website says that motorhomes can park in these lots, but just not stay overnight. Perfect. However, when we got to the parking lot, there was a sign that showed no cars with trailers, no trucks and no buses allowed – it did not specifically say no motorhomes, but it was easy to infer that motorhomes are not welcomed. Feeling that we did not have much of a choice (I wanted to get these pages printed), we parked in a corner of the lot, trying to be out of the way as much as possible. We would hurry and try to spend as little time here as possible.

We walked to Mail Boxes Etc., arrived at the store at 12:10 and found this sign on the door:

To pass the time, we went for coffee at Empire State Coffee around the corner. The shop was decorated with NY paraphernalia, including a subway sign, and we felt at home.  

Exactly at 12:30, we returned to the print shop only to discover that their printer is broken. They suggested we return in the afternoon – it might be fixed by then. We still had a full schedule ahead of us and decided to continue onward. We returned to the motorhome, and luckily it was still there and as far as we know, we did not get a parking fine.

So far, our mood was like the day, overcast and cloudy.

For Wandering Jew in Dundee, we had three sites to visit – two cemeteries and a synagogue. However, when we recently contacted the synagogue, they told us it had closed in 2019. So that left only the two cemeteries.

Our first Wandering Jew stop was the Balgay cemetery, a short drive from where we were. This cemetery is a huge place, but luckily there were some grave diggers near the entrance preparing a grave, and we asked them for directions to the Jewish section. It was a beautiful cemetery, situated on a hill, with huge trees, and forested areas scattered throughout. The sun had come out and our mood had brightened.

After over a ½ hour of walking and wondering the whole time if we are going in the right direction, we found the Jewish section. It was very small – about the size of a small living room. It was surrounded by a stone wall. The cemetery workers had told us that they had recently rebuilt the wall because rains had washed it away.

Inside the walled area, were some unkept bushes, a bit of scattered garbage and one large headstone belonging to Isaac Julius Weinberg. Laying against it were two other headstones, including one with a cross. Maybe we were not in the right place? There was a gated entrance and when we passed from inside the Jewish section through the gate and looked from the outside, we clearly saw a Jewish star and a passage from Job engraved in the stone. Yes, this was the right place.

The one large tombstone that stands in the middle of the Jewish section is in memory of Isaac Julius Weinberg. He was born in Germany in 1832, came to Dundee, where he established himself as a very successful merchant in the jute trade. He died in 1912. In 1909, he finished writing a memoir of his life in 1909 which is available on-line. Interesting.

Perhaps the same rain that washed away the wall at the top of the slope, also washed away other Jewish tombstones. Also, maybe because there is really very little here, this cemetery does not always appear on the lists of Jewish cemeteries in Dundee.

We returned to our car and a light drizzle started as we began to drive. The Balgay cemetery was on the west side of Dundee, and our next destination was the Eastern cemetery. It took us about 20 minutes, and several wrong turns to cross the city, and find a parking spot appropriate for a motorhome near the cemetery.

Eastern Cemetery is another huge cemetery with a Jewish section. Unlike in Balgay, there was no one to ask where the Jewish section was. We decided to walk around the perimeter road looking. After about an hour searching, feeling more and more that this was a crazy, fruitless pursuit, Mark and I spit up on parallel roads to widen our search area. At least the sun had come back out.

Luckily, an elderly couple strolled by me and I asked them if they knew where the Jewish section was. They did! Just down this road and turn right. I yelled for Mark to join me and was very happy when we saw the Jewish stars on a fence. Bingo.

What was also interesting was that there were several members of a Sherman family buried here.

As we were leaving, a woman was walking her dog and I asked for directions to the exit. This was lucky because my instinct told me to go one way and she told me to go the opposite. She knew what she was talking about, and we were soon back at the entrance.

Once back in the motorhome, we had some lunch and then started the hour-long drive to Dunnottar Castle. This was one of my must-see places on my Scotland list. Ruins of a castle on a separate rock on the sea. Spectacular. About halfway there the sun came out again. The journey was full of beautiful scenery, and, in the distance, we could see the mountains of Cairngorms National Park.

We were only about five minutes away from Dunnottar castle when a thick mist started to cover everything. You could no longer see more than what was immediately in front of you. We proceeded to the castle, hoping that it would change back to sunny soon. Unfortunately, that never happened. We arrived at the castle a few minutes after 5:00, and it was supposed to be open till 6:00, but entrance to walk inside the castle ruins had already closed. We climbed back up the 219 steps to the parking lot entrance. Through the mist, we saw enough to understand this place was spectacular, but it was not quite the castle experience I had hoped for.

From Dunnottar castle, we drove to our nearby campsite for the night. We are starting to be more comfortable in the motorhome. It has not yet been even 48 hours, but it already feels like home.

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