The Fairy’s Pool

This used to be a place of paradise
Before you created a road to here
Because, for man, its beauty did entice,
And you could charge a price for them to leer.
They could travel up to the waterfalls,
And take a swim in our enchanted pools.
But would they listen to when the fae calls,
And play victim to our list of strict rules?
Wading in our water may be a treat
Which will rejuvenate any old soul,
But your heart will become out nightly meat,
And you will leave having to buy that toll.
Your desire will remain in our hands,
And you’ll always long to live in our lands.

My Scottish Heritage

It wasn’t until the end of my trip when I was asked if I had a little Scottish heritage in me. The question came from a driver who was taking us from where we dropped off our car rental to our hotel for the evening. The way he said it sounded as if he asked any tourist that he was in a car with the same question. I am sure he got an answer from many of those people that was the same as my answer, “Yes, I got a little bit of Scottish in me.”

Scotland is one of those countries that becomes a pilgrimage for many people because it tugs on something from within. They can hear the allure of hazy skies, whiskey tastings, history, kilts, highland games, and the occasional fish and chips. It promotes a lifestyle that they have only heard of in the books they have read as children or the stories told to them by an elder generation. They are curious about whether or not they can find a home in a land that was a home to their kin for so long.

Despite the rugged landscape, and the various castles, there is a sense of home that comes with traveling to Scotland. No matter where I went, I was greeted with a warm smile, and a friendly ear. Community was everywhere I looked. People would put down their phones to meet each other at the pub, or spend a day exploring the vast landscape that was offered. It is hard to come out to Scotland, and not fall in love with the land, the history and the people. For that reason, it feels like home.

The history of Scotland is one of rebellion, and national pride. It tells tales of victory, and defeat and how the land and the people were shaped by these moments. It boasts heroes whose exploits have been slightly altered to share national pride in other nations, so they can believe in the same fights that the Scots have fought for generations. It brings together nations under one banner while keeping its unique flavor for who they are and what they believe in. The history of Scotland is a fascinating one, and wherever I went in the country, I would run into a reminder of how rich and powerful that history was.

Scotland does not just offer the world a rich history and wonderful story to tell. It is also one of the hearts for intellectual thought in the world. Many great writers and philosophers have called Scotland, or more specifically Edinburgh, their home. Names such as David Hume, Robert Louis Stevenson, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Charles Dickens, Robert Burns, and J. K. Rowling all have connections to this great city, and many people from across the globe have been affected by their works in some capacity at some point in their lives.

Scotland’s impact on the world does not only stop at philosophy and literature, but extends into the sciences as well. There were great medical discoveries that came from Scotland including the discovery of the first anesthesia, chloroform. They were also the ones who cloned the first animal, Dolly the sheep. Their contributions to medicine has influenced the common practices so much that we would still be in the dark ages without them.

Scotland may be a small island off in the distance to so many people that they would never consider it a part of their lives, but if they look closer, there is a part of their lives that have been touched by the Scottish. In a way, when that man asked visiting guests whether I had any Scottish heritage, their answer should all be the same. Their is a little bit of the Scottish heritage in all of us. We may not be able to claim a clan as our own, but we can talk about how their history and culture has affected us in some capacity.

I am really glad that I was able to take the trip out to Scotland. It is a beautiful country, and I felt instantly at home in it. I suspect that this would be true for anybody that travels there. It should not be a must see destination for the ones who have a tartan hanging in their closets and they want to see the land where it comes from; rather, it should be for anyone who has ever been enthralled by its literature, learned a lesson from its history, or been saved by its contributions to science. It is everybody’s home.

I hope that someday, you can take the trip to Scotland and have the same kind of experience that I did. It is really worth the pilgramage.

The Isle of Skye – Scotland

It doesn’t always look like this. I was constantly being told that on my trip to the Isle of Skye. My travels through the island was accompanied by sunshine and a cooling breeze wherever I went. We were also able to come out in April before the crazy summer rush of tourists invaded this idyllic setting. I couldn’t have asked for better conditions to check out this part of the world that I wanted to get to for a long time, and it exceeded all of my expectations.

The Isle of Skye is an idyllic island a short ferry right in the northwestern part of Scotland. It only has a couple of towns, and the rest of it is pastureland, old whiskey distilleries, even older ruins, and a few one lane roads to take you to these places. During the summer months, it becomes overrun with tourists, and not enough places to support the people who would come out to go on long hikes, take pictures, and enjoy a night out on the town.

One of the bigger towns that attract people is Portree. It is the perfect jumping off point to see a lot of the sights, and get to the long hikes that take people to stunning scenery. I am told that in August it reaches the height of the tourist season as people flock out here to watch the Highland Games. I was also told that it doesn’t always look like this. In April, the people are just starting to come in, and there are still sidewalks that are navigable, restaurant tables available, and pictures still looking like I was the only one there.

I guess that is the joy of being able to come to a place like this during the offseason. Yes, I did run into tourists at the sights, but for the most part, I had them to myself to explore. I went to the old fort one morning, and the parking lot to the sight was basically empty. A couple of people were wandering down the grassy slope back to their car, and a couple of people were up exploring the fort. But if I took my time, and waited a minute, I would be able to get that picture that I wanted where it looked as if nobody has been there for ages.

The tourists were still out there. We were turned away from a restaurant once because they were fully booked and we did not have a reservation. I had to step off a path every once in awhile to allow a person to pass on through. And they were at the distilleries, but that just added to the experience when we went on a tour of the Talisker distillery and tasting room. The funny thing that we heard from our tour guide though was “It doesn’t always look like this.”

I did not need them to tell me this though. When I came to Scotland, I had a certain image in my, and when I got there, I was not treated to what I thought I would see. I was expecting gloomy skies with clouds hugging the tip of mountains, foggy hikes where I could barely see in front of me, and rain, lots and lots of rain. What we got instead were cool days without any stormy weather. We were extremely lucky to have this experience of Scotland that I don’t think many other people get to have.

So I do not know if I am the person that you should talk to if you are considering visiting Scotland. I will tell you that the hikes were fun, the people were friendly, the sights were amazing with their historical perspective, and, out of the norm, the skies were always blue.

Scotland is an amazing place with a new treat waiting around the corner, and the Isle of Skye was my favorite place that I visited on this trip. The scenery was beautiful, the people were friendly, and the experience is not one that will fade from my memory soon, or ever.

But remember it is not usually like this. My experience might not be the typical Isle of Skye experience. Not everybody who travels out to this small Northern island gets to enjoy the weather that I enjoyed. I don’t think that if it was the typical weather it would be any less dramatic. It might be something I would enjoy even more giving the land a completely different character. Still, I will just have to live with the experience I have and think of the Isle of Skye as this sunny and amazing place to visit. I hope if you choose to go there that you have a similar experience, whatever the weather may be like while you are out there.

Thanks for reading, and until next time, get out there and enjoy those opportunities when they are given to you.

The Hogwarts Express – Glenfinnan, Scotland

Sometimes we think that when Hollywood makes it movies, it builds these elaborate sets in order to make the worlds they are creating come alive. We are amazed at these elaborate set pieces, and wish that if it were possible, we would go visit them. What we do not realize is that these set pieces have sometimes been around much longer than the stories that they inhabit. One of these places was used in the Harry Potter series, the Hogwarts Express, and it has become quite the tourist destination sight.

Every morning on the hillside outside of Glenfinnan in Scotland, a group of people will gather to watch this steam-powered train take a ride over the Glenfinnan Viaduct, a bridge that spans across a valley and over a river. The train, whose real name is the West Highland Railway Mallaig Connection, is actually a passenger train that will take people from Fort William to Mallaig, the port city for the ferry that will take people over to Isle of Skye. Of course, this train has been running for a lot longer than the Harry Potter series has been around, and has always been a tourists attraction, but since it has been featured in the movies, it has gained in popularity.

If this is something that you wish to do, you will need to be there in plenty of time before the train arrives. Not only does it take about fifteen minutes to hike up to the hillside, and find a good viewpoint away from all of the other tourists, there is also the problem of parking nearby. There is a pay to park lot which costs four pounds, and there are limited spots, so it can be hard to find one.

The scenery out there is spectacular, and there is a gift and coffee shop connected to the parking lot. It is worth seeing, but the train is a little bit of a disappointment. The train does not go over the viaduct fast enough to make it as exciting as it is in the movie. It will stop for pictures, and to allow the passengers to wave at the people on the hill. It will blow the smoke once, and it was only a little plume, so it didn’t make that great of a picture. But that does not mean you should skip the sight. The viaduct is cool, and worth the time out there, but if you go when the train does not come by, it is not as touristy.

There is another historic sight right across the street from the parking lot as well which does not attract as many tourists, the Glenfinnan Monument. This is the spot where Prince Charles Edward Stuart started his campaign to take the crown of England and where he gained support from 1,200 Highlanders. The significance of this place is just as great to visit as the viaduct, but most people skip coming here when all they would have to do is cross the street.

Both sights are worth your time if you are in the area, and should be made a part of your itinerary before going off to other places in Scotland, and I hope that you get the chance to make the voyage.

Arthur’s Seat – Edinburgh, Scotland

In the middle of Edinburgh sits a volcano that overlooks the city. It has been a historic part of the city for centuries, and in 1541, King James V made sure that it would always be a feature by building a wall around it. Tourists still flock to this sight, and on any given day you can find many people taking the forty-five minute hike to its summit. I am not sure if they would all make the trek if it wasn’t for the name, Arthur’s Seat, invoking the name of the famous king who has captured the imagination of the people of Great Britain and the world.

Despite the perfect marketing name, on a nice day in Edinburgh, it is worth taking the hike to the top of the mountain. The hills are beautiful, and there are plenty of places along the way where you will want to stop and take a picture. It starts off at a pretty leisurely pace, but as soon as you get off the paved Holyrood Park’s path, it does get pretty steep, and rocky.

Despite this difficulty, it is not that hard, and the view of the city, and the Highlands of Scotland to the North are worth taking the trek to the top. I was lucky enough to get a beautiful day in the middle of April to take the hike, and though it got a little cool with the wind, it wasn’t the bad. There were also not that many other tourists on the path, but I imagine that this gets pretty bad during the summer months during the height of tourist season. I can also imagine that on May 1st, the trek becomes overrun with people, especially early in the morning.

There is a local legend about the seat on the first of May, where young maidens should hike the trail before the sunrise. If they are on the top when the sun reaches over the peak, they are supposed to take the morning dew from the grass and wash their face with it. If they do this, then they were be graced with eternal youthfulness. Even though this is a story filled with superstition, it is still one that attracts many young women every year to make sure that they partake in the ritual.

Even if you are not a young maiden, it is still worth the time to spend an afternoon or early morning on this mountain. The photo opportunities are everywhere, and it is fun to look at the various viewpoints that Arthur’s Seat has to offer. It does make you wonder why it is named after the famous king. There is nothing that makes it look like a seat for a king, and some people suspect that it was the location for the famous castle, Camelot. The more likely explanation is that King James V liked the legend so much that he decided to name the mountain in the middle of the city after him.

Whatever the reason you make it to the top, the legends, the myths, or the exercise, it is a must do if you are in Edinburgh. You will join the other people who make the hike, and spend some time looking over the vast landscape that the vantage point has to offer. Make sure that you make it there if you ever find yourself here.

Until next, thanks for reading.