Scotland in July

NOTE: We have been traveling internationally for more than 6 months and I realize that my memory is beginning to blur a bit so beginning this month I’ll write a weekly travelogue. This is primarily to preserve my own memory; hopefully it won’t be too boring for the rest of you who are kind enough to read me blog.

July 2014: Last week we took a road trip to Scotland.  Our first stop was, of course, Edinburgh.  I wanted to visit Edinburgh because, well, one can’t really understand Scotland without a peek at Edinburgh Castle.  Perched atop Castle Rock, this ancient fortress casts a watchful eye over the bustling city below and the coastline of rough, restless sea that nips at its outskirts.  Everyone from Morgan Le Fay (from the Arthurian legends) to Mary Queen of Scots and Robert the Bruce seem to have been here at some point.  In fact, just about every important saga in the history of Scotland includes a scene or two set at Castle Rock.

There was much to see and absorb at Edinburgh Castle — too much really.  What I enjoyed most was standing on the Argyll Battery, looking out over the sea and waiting for the 1 0’clock gun to fire (a way for the city to mark time).  Given the castle’s long and storied past, I wondered who else may have stood in that spot and stared out over the city and the sea, watching and waiting for something — a ship, an army, a messenger? — that would herald yet another seismic shift in the course of Scotland’s history.  A few folks, I’m sure.

From Edinburgh, we headed up the Scotch Whiskey Trail towards the Highlands.  Using Dufftown as a base, we wandered around the Banffshire Coast during the day (cycling, hiking and golfing) and took in a scotch tasting or two on our way back to the hotel.  My best memories of this stretch are:

1.) The day I spent hiking the coastal cliffs near Troup Head (while hubby golfed).  The heights made my heart pound, but the views over the sea, the quiet solitude (I found a carved out spot in the rocks at the top of a cliff and meditated for almost an hour without interruption) and the sea birds were worth it.  That day will be burned in my memory forever.

2.) Cycling along the roads at the northernmost coast of Scotland near Inverness (the best stretch is from Lossiemouth to Gardenstown).  The roads are quiet (very little traffic) and run right along the coastline.  Stunning views!

3.) A lively dinner at Taste of Speyside, where the owner pulled up a chair and gave us a lesson in Scottish history and some predictions on the upcoming vote for independence from England.  Before the evening was over, two other guests pulled up a chair as well.  Much scotch was consumed and many theories debated, but at the end of the night, Scotland’s future remained undecided.

We left Dufftown after a few days and made our way slowly over to the West Highlands, stopping at Edradour and Dalwhinnie on the way to do some more scotch tasting.  If you ever take the time to learn how scotch whiskey is made, do it at Edradour.  The smallest distillery in Scotland, Edradour truly clings to the old ways.  The tour is delightful and I’ve never seen employees who were so passionate about their work and their company.

We eventually arrived at the western coast near Oban and the Isle of Mull.  There is so much to do and see in this area that we did not get around to.  My biggest regret: I missed seeing the church at Dervaig (on the Isle of Mull), which has a beautiful stained glass windows showing a pregnant Mary Magdalene as she traveled through this area on her way to Iona.  I did, however, find one of the most lovely small gardens I’ve ever seen, located on the Isle of Speil with wonderful views of the sea.  I am now on a mission to find more seaside gardens as I continue on in my travels.

I am not finished with Scotland.  I got only the tiniest taste of this magical place and it wasn’t nearly enough.  I’ll be back in the future to do more cycling and to take my time poking through the ancient Celtic and Pictish sites scattered across the country.

 

 

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