* yes, there should be FIVE sets of boots but Allen ignored my advice to get adequate rain gear...

Monday, December 17, 2012


When Allen asked me about what I wanted to see in Scotland, I put a high priority on the Highlands mostly due to the influences of Hamish MacBethMonarch of the Glen, and the Outlander Series as well as a liberal smattering of romances set in the Highlands.  I was pretty sure that the Highlands would be epic with a deep sense of history and a dash of mystic Druidy-ness as well as full of time traveling kilted hunks or, at the very least, kilted hunks wandering about tossing cabers.  Imagine my shock when this wasn't completely the case!

Megan on super scenic walk to playground
Inverness has a population of around 60,000 and is by far, the biggest city around.  It reminded me a lot of Upstate New York in weather and general atmosphere.  We went at the end of October so the sun rose after 8 and set before 5.  The temperatures were running in the 30s and 40s (2 to 6).  This is a little colder than it was in Dublin but it actually felt a little warmer.  It had that crispness that I associate with late fall on the east coast and I finally got to see some proper foliage.  I assume from the crispness that it was a drier cold which supports my theory that damp cold just feels colder.  While it may have been short on the kilted time travelers, I will say that the Scots seem to have a more stoic attitude towards cold than the Irish.  We saw young men in t-shirts, girls dressed in a distinctly unbundled fashion and children frolicking about in jackets (even the odd pair of shorts) rather than parkas.  It seems that if you are facing a winter where it will almost definitely get much colder and much darker before it is done, you had better be sure you have perspective about what warrants full on cold weather gear.  The Scottish men were different as well- some were tall and lanky but a good number were decidedly tall and not lanky.  There actually did seem to be some foundation to the speculation that they grow them bigger in the north (or at least have a lingering Viking influence).  I also overheard an extensive discussion amongst some teenage girls as to if the college boyfriend (from somewhere other than the Highlands) was going to last.  He was going to have to "be made of sterner stuff" between the weather and the economic climate.  I got the strong impression that the women were well able to keep up with the men.  If you watch Dr Who, it will be very telling that Karen Gillan (Amy Pond) is from Inverness.

Noah focused on filling his pockets with leaves

We spent a lot of time traveling around the Highlands via train.  It was absolutely lovely in a very rugged way.  There weren't a lot of trees.  I believe it's due to a lack of topsoil.  The ground was scraped quite clean by the glaciers.  Although, there were some fairly significant pine forestry operations.  We also saw our fair share of sheep.  Sadly, no caber tossing.

Charlie occasionally sits still
We spent one day in pursuit of Nessie which thrilled the children to no end.  Allen worried that the boat tour and museum visit would be too cheesy.  I reminded him that we were traveling with a 4 and 6 year old.  The discussion was closed.  Megan swears that she saw something that may have been Nessie's back but the rest of us missed it.  Of note, this account didn't come until a day AFTER the trip.  Charlie was completely sucked into various theories about the Loch Ness Monster being a wayward prehistoric beast.  Noah wanted to know why we kept dragging him places that weren't playgrounds.

Urquart Castle
I enjoyed visiting Urquart Castle which is on the other side of the Loch.  It was cold and windy (shocker!) so I wasn't able to wax romantic contemplation quite as much as I would like but there was a very palpable sense of history.  It even felt a touch mystic what with the ancient sea monster myths, lapping water, brisk wind, and swiftly changing season.  I think the best time to get in touch with your inner Druid is likely autumn.  Nothing inspires you to light a bonfire and sacrifice a deer quite like a swiftly shortening day.

Views from Urquart Castle
St Columba visited (maybe) in the 6th Century.  He was a Christian missionary from Ireland who may have instigated the battle of Cul Dreimhne in Ireland in 561.  There was a great loss of life and, to avoid excommunication, he had to save as many Pictish souls as had been lost in the battle.  Some form of fortified settlement had been on this site since at least a bit before his time.  I could just imagine standing on the rocky coast, looking out over the loch and vaguely wondering what in the world I could possibly do with yet more fish for dinner.  The castle was put through a variety of iterations and passed through several owners, figuring highly in several feuds until the English troops sacked it in attempt to prevent it from falling into Jacobite control in 1692.  (As I told Allen the other day, by European standards, pretty much the whole of the US is new construction.)

Finally tracked down the picture
of the Dalek at the book store
If you are interested in Scotland, you might consider Neil Oliver's book, A History of Scotland.  I have read scandalously little of it at this point but so far, it's been quite enjoyable.  He also hosted a BBC series about Scotland that I haven't gotten to watch but based on the Viking one, I bet it's superb.

Children in railcar
We also visited Glasgow for a blessedly brief time.  It was easier to get back to Dublin that way.  The children greatly enjoyed Scotland's Museum of Transportation and Travel.


  1. This is so awesome becky! U seem to be having a great time! Miss u!

  2. This is so awesome becky! U seem to be having a great time! Miss u!

  3. We love reading about your adventures and getting to revisit some of the places that we miss! The transportation museum was one of our fav places to take the kids!