Thistles and heather. Kilts. Castles. Ruins. Craggy mountains. Rain. Lots of rain. Sheep.
My trip to Scotland fulfilled a bucket list goal and it also fed my imagination for writing about this windswept, mystical place. It was a memorable trip indeed!
When I finally made a trip to Scotland in 2008 after reading books set there (Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander, or Judy Garwood’s books, anyone?), I was not disappointed. Those books were just teasers. I was going to see the real thing. They don’t call me a Daydream Believer for nothing (although I was not a homecoming queen, but the Monkees got it pretty close). Kilted Highland lairds (and Jamie Frasier), castles, mountains, and enchanting romances…ah, yeah, I was hooked. And as luck would have it, I even married a man with Scottish ancestry, who – drum roll, please – wore a kilt for our wedding (round out with a bagpiper for entertainment). So, for our anniversary a few years later, it only seemed logical to set off on a fairy tale trip. My husband had studied in Scotland for a semester in college, so he brought a wealth of insider knowledge.
Oh, but did I mention that it rains in Scotland? A lot. Even though September is supposed to be a drier month, many of our supposedly breathtaking sights were shrouded in a gray cloud of heavy precipitation. Aside from our mishaps (which I'll elaborate upon in a moment), Scotland fulfilled my preconceived notions, with my own Scottish knight by my side to escort me through the perils of winding highland roads, haunting castle ruins, and dark alleyways to questionable hostels.
Lone sheep wandered down the middle of a meandering country road. Windswept moors, heather fields, and green rolling hills flanked our drives. Wild rocky trails and impressive mountains greeted us on our hikes. Blue lochs were aplenty (yes, Loch Ness is a deep beautiful loch and no, we didn’t see Nessie – but we did see the ghostly remains of Urquhart castle) on our two-week trip in this geological gem of a country. I think I gasped on the tarmac when I emerged from the plane in Glasgow.
My husband and I packed our itinerary because when we go tramping, we set the bar high and want to soak it all in! What can a couple do in less than two weeks? Well…
Visit a dozen castles and palaces (Threave castle required a rowboat ride across an overflowed River Dee)
Kayak on the astutely named Loch Awe to the ruins of Kilchurn Castle
Hike through Highlands and mountains
Watch a Highland game
Partake in culinary delights such as haggis and fish and chips
Carry on conversations with locals (about the upcoming American presidential election)
Drive over sketchy bridges to reach Rua Reidh, a lighthouse hostel on the North Minch of Wester Ross (no, not the Westeros of Game of Thrones fame, but I can see the striking similarities)
Expand our navigation skills on double-roundabouts (like a figure 8), one lane roads, and left-side driving
Meander through abbey and church ruins
Take a moment of reflection at the remains of Culloden battlefield
Stay at the haunted (yes, there's a ghost) 14th century Borthwick Castle