I’m once again on the bonnie soil of Alba. Things feel decidedly different this time around. That first-time-using-my-passport feeling is gone, it’s been replaced with an odd sort of comfort. I don’t feel like a tourist at all. Getting back into the swing of the Scottish schedule is always tough, they move at a much more leisurely pace here. One of the most awkward adjustments is the sheer amount of daylight they get here during the summer. Sunrise is around 6am & the sun doesn’t set until about 10:30/11pm — messes with one’s circadian rhythm...
Walked myself to blisters today around Stirling Castle, all the way to the Wallace monument and back - in record breaking summer heat. Everywhere I went I sought out at least one tour guide/employee, pulled them aside, asked them to tell me something interesting that other tourists didn’t care to ask about. Both times I gained a friend and some secretly cool things that make this trip feel even more special.
Seeing appreciation and passion in the eyes of these people when someone takes a true, deep interest in their cultural history - makes my heart smile.
The peaceful beauty of the monuments and greenways here is clinging to my soul. Even a bit lost in the woods of the Abbey Craig below, I felt totally at ease being there, wondering what secrets the forest might have seen...
Took the train to Glasgow today (the trains will get you literally anywhere throughout Scotland, it’s an amazing resource for travelers), and got to experience the difference between it's modern vibe and the "auld" Edinburgh. Edinburgh has a much older pulse, and it’s more of an “artsy” city - Glasgow is much more like Boston to me.
Beautiful bits, residential bits, rough bits, touristy bits and overall a very urban atmosphere, there is a grit in Glasgow that you do not see in Edinburgh, or anywhere else that I’ve been so far - almost as if it still remembers the darkness and difficulties throughout it’s rich human history.
It was ridiculously hot today, so I couldn’t explore as much as I would have liked - and I didn’t really have a great plan going in to be honest, so I’m sure I missed out on a lot of what the city had to offer. But I managed to make it to the Museum of Modern Art, the “People’s Castle” and a few cute cafés that not surprisingly offered delicious food and were blissfully dog friendly.
The weather here is incredible (and always changing). Reminds me of home.
Three major stops on the tour today were: the now legendary Rosslyn Chapel, the 12th century abbey ruins at Melrose, and lastly a Roman fort abutting Hadrian’s Wall. Needless to say, my nerdy heart was swelling with appreciation and wonder. The survival of these beautiful sites despite the aforementioned weather conditions makes them even more incredible. Only the chapel has had restoration work done because it is still a place of worship to this day.
My breath was taken away by these places. To be able to touch and walk thru something that is over 1,000 years old is completely surreal to someone who is from a very young country. The feeling in these places was something I can’t quite describe. I tend to wonder “what have these walls seen?” And “how did these people live?”, more importantly “what secrets lie here that aren’t in the tourist leaflets?”
Weirdly, another highlight of my day was the train ride back to Stirling. I have never seen the likes of it in my American world. Everyone is in a good mood, strangers from clearly different lifestyles are laughing with each other, carrying on conversations and more noticeably: drinking! Apparently you can drink on the train here quite freely - not to mention the amazingly comfortable pub culture here, complete with overall widespread dog friendliness. Warms my heart & soul.
Arriving in the Highland Capital was not what I initially expected. A bustling center of government and commerce, significantly smaller than Edinburgh and Glasgow. There are not as many obvious tourist monuments here, but it has a feeling of importance nonetheless. I also enjoy the atmosphere up here, there seem to be many more obvious patriots here than in a melting pot like Edinburgh.
The river Ness runs through the center of the city, and their botanical gardens were so peaceful & beautiful.
Arriving on Saturday night, it took awhile to find a quieter pub to have a pint (the streets are full of university students, tourists, Stag/Hen parties as they call them here), but managed at a nice place called the Black Isle Pub - which had a great rooftop garden.
Naturally I ended up befriending an older tour guide and his driver right away - I still can’t get over how genuinely friendly people are here - their willingness to just drink, chat and laugh with whomever they deem would be worthwhile to do so.
Isle of Skye
Today’s trip left me with feelings of awe, and weirdly sorrow.
Included in our journey was Eilean Donan Castle, a passing view of Loch Ness, and the ever present hills.
The Isle of Skye (also known as “Eilean à cheò” - Isle of Mist) is a type of magical that I can barely vocalize. The lochs, the hills, the “bens”, and the ever present mist - all make for a landscape that allows you to believe there may still be mystical things on this earth.
In contrast to all of this intrigue is the knowledge of how this land has changed over the last several hundred years, the old tales of the people and the tragedy of the Highland Clearance of the native Clans is heartbreaking. You can literally still feel a lingering sense of sorrow on that island, even up unto the bridge leading to it while winding through the western highlands.
I wish I could have spent more time there to truly feel the vibrations of the isle. Something deeper is definitely out of reach when you can only dart around this incredible place alongside a bus full of other people - snatching photos when and where you can.
All in all, I believe I could be quite comfortable living in this fascinating country - might be worth a try someday...