Monday, May 18, 2015

Great Scots

 "Great Scots!" That's what I said when I opened a cabinet, and old snapshots drifted to the floor. The images took me back to 2005, when we spent two blissful weeks in Scotland. Armed with nothing more than sweaters, disposable cameras, and a map, we took off for the wild blue highlands.

The trip hadn't been spur-of-the-moment. The year before, we'd booked the same tour, but when we checked in at the airport, the ticket agent turned Bandwith away--apparently his passport would have expired the day before our return, and he wasn't allowed to leave the country. We were disappointed, but in those days, we were unsinkable. Plan B was put into action. We drove home, removed the wool sweaters from our suitcases and added summery things, then drove straight to the Biltmore Mansion. On our way home, we stopped in Gatlinburg. Our travel agent was able to get a full refund, and we booked our Scottish tour for the very next summer.
 Previously, we'd been on guided tours to the UK, but they had only included quick glimpses of Scotland--a night in Edinburgh, a day in Glasgow, and a trip to the woolen mill. But this time, we hoped to move at a leisurely pace. Before we departed the US, the news was filled with dire warnings about air travel and terrorism, and indeed, an Air Marshall was on our flight. (Whenever a passenger went to the WC, the Marshall would wait till they left, then he'd hop up and check the WC. Once, as he returned to his seat, his jacket flipped up, and I saw his firearm. So that's when I figured it out.) In any event, my little family arrived safely, then we immediately took off on an adventure.

 We walked though gardens that were straight out of a fairy tale. 

In Scotland, even the bridges are magical. 

Bandy enjoyed St. Andrews.

At Loch Ness, we didn't see Nessie (not that we expected to).

At one point, we flew up to Kirkwall in the Orkney Islands. Located about 9 miles from the northern coast of Scotland, this windswept archipelago has a completely different vibe. It's colder and grayer, a place where tartans are a necessity, not a decoration. From our hotel room, we watched ferries plow through the cold, gray water, bringing a surprising number of tourists and commuters. After supper (the food was Americanized--baked chicken, green beans, rolls, salad--and chocolate pie), we put on our jackets and walked up a steep hill, past tea shops, row houses, and a community garden. 

The next morning, we explored Maeshowe, a beehive-shaped Neolithic passage grave, where light shines against the wall during the Winter Solstice, then we drove out to a mini-Stonehenge. (All of those photos are tucked away...somewhere.) That evening, dense fog rolled in. We'd planned to take a naturalist tour of Shetland, but all flights were cancelled. We were stranded at the airport, along with dozens of oil riggers from the North Sea. 

Hours later, the fog cleared, but we'd missed our flight to Shetland. We boarded the last plane to Aberdeen. Our hotel was old, packed with stranded riggers, the parking lot littered with broken ale bottles, but the food had never tasted so good--steak and eggs and crisps.

A few days later, we stopped by a wee church near Balmoral. 

Those two weeks seemed to stretch out, as if time had slowed. We were always on the go, always starting another adventure, yet we were never tired. Each day was filled with wonder, peace, and happiness.

We traipsed around without rhyme or reason. Did we get lost? Oh, yes. And it was wonderful. When we found ourselves in the Highlands, we stayed a spell.

We drove to Glasgow and toured the area. We couldn't resist a cruise down Loch Lomond. 

Stirling Castle was our next stop.

The next day we hired a car and drove north to Glencoe, Fort William, and the Isle of Skye. Along the way, we roamed around ruins and castles. I loved how the gardens plunged into the sea, rimmed by lilac-colored hills.

Days later, we drove east and toured Glamis Castle--supposedly the most haunted place in Scotland, but Bandwidth wasn't impressed. :=)

At East Lothian, we listened to bagpipes.

In Edinburgh, we attended the Military Tattoo. The audience was filled with tourists from all over the globe, and when the announcer introduced the U.S, we were booed. It was quite a shock! 

We looked up my husband's Scottish roots and discovered he was related to Clan Maitland. (Those photos must be in another cabinet!). His forebear was William Maitland, secretary to Mary Queen of Scots. It was a beautiful day to visit the old manse

We saw Highland cattle everywhere.

It's always wise to stand away from these beasties when taking photos--those horns have a wide sweep! 

The land and weather work in tandem to create romance and magic. Each moment is ever-changing, and you don't want to miss a second, especially when mist engulfs a hilltop ruin.

When our two weeks ended, we weren't quite ready to leave.

Ah, Scotland, we still miss ye.

You'll take the high road and I'll take the low road,

And I'll be in Scotland before you.

Where me and my true love will never meet again,

On the bonnie, bonnie banks of Loch Lomond.

Shared at the following parties:
The Scoop,  


  1. Great Scots is right! Thanks for taking us along on through those beautiful pictures.
    Lori from LL Farm

  2. One of many places I long to visit but will probably never get there. Thank you so much for sharing. Carol

  3. What a great tour! I love Scotland and especially the bagpipes. In 2011, I visited the island of Iona in Scotland. What a magical place. Thanks for the memories...

  4. oh i am just LOVING your guided tour~ i took a garden walk this morn, ran some errands and just plopped down with a cup of tea and a gallon of sweets, i could stare here all afternoon! i have been reading scottish books this month too, your timing is perfect, been knee deep in outlander and sara gruens new book about nessie, at the waters edge. if your eyes are still bad, get the audio books and enjoy yourself, i adored outlander with all the scottish brogue!

    love seeing the gardens, we visited lots of the places you shared, thanks for the smiles, you look like such a happy family too ;-)

  5. Don't you just love the gardens over there? They are just so nice. Of course I like the Highland Cows, so stinking cute!! Enjoyed this walk down memory lane.

  6. OH, my only visit to Scotland was a mere two days in Edinburgh. I so want to return, and your photo tour has enticed me to work on some plans. Just last night, I attended a chamber music event where I met a gentleman dressed in his formal kilt attire. We engaged in a long conversation about what one wears with a kilt depending upon the formality of the function. It was all most interesting, and he has agreed to talk on the subject to my antiques club in conjunction with a talk on Scottish tartan ware.
    Thanks for sharing the magic of this beautiful vacation. You three look terrific!

    1. I wish I could be at that meeting, Sarah!

  7. I once spent a Christmas (about 4 weeks touring Scotland...Started in London, took the train to Edinburgh and walked and traipsed about, then on to Glasgow...more traipsing about...down to south England and then back to London. I have to go back to find hubby's ancestral castle...though they got it in a rather sneaky way. Border Revieres was what they were called. A rough bunch of folks back in the day...But we have a tartan! ha. your pics are great. You found a time capsule! Sheila

  8. Hi Michael Lee! Oh, this must have been a wonderful surprise. I loved all of your pretty snaps. When my daughter and son in law lived in England, they went to Scotland twice and told me how gorgeous and green it was. Now Bandy is so handsome and look at all of that hair! ;) You are a pretty as can be! :) Hope all is going well with the house.
    Be a sweetie,
    Shelia ;)

  9. Ooh what a fun find! You certainly had a wonderful vacation. The gardens intrigue me and all the countryside views. I've never been inside a castle- I'd love to see one. The highland cattle are really something!

  10. Thanks for sharing your trip. I truly enjoyed your pictures. Scotland is on my bucket list.

  11. What a nice surprise to have those pictures tumble out of the cabinet, Michael Lee! I enjoyed touring along with you through your guidance and photos. How sad that the U.S. Citizens were booed. My late beloved and I visited Ireland, but someday had hoped to visit Scotland. Have you ever read Winter Solstice, by Rosamunde Pilcher? It takes place in Scotlamd.

    1. I haven't read Winter Solstice--but I adored The Shell Seekers, so I know I'll enjoy WS. Thanks, Kitty!

  12. What a wonderful trip, Michael Lee! The diversity of cultures and geography/topography/climate in our world are a delight and a tribute to our Creator. I loved this post!

  13. What a beautiful trip this must have been. Loved seeing all the beautiful photos.....

  14. Lovely photos. I lived n Scotland for a year 20years ago, and my son was born in Edinburgh, so I have seen a lot of the beauty that you have captured. Has brought back many memories for me.

  15. So beautiful.... My dream is to go there one day. I hope I'm able to :)


  16. Michael Lee, Your post has reminded me of all the things we love about Scotland. Both of my kids did a junior year abroad there, one at Edinburgh and one at St. Andrew's, and we have many happy memories of our visits. Your method of travel is just the way we like it too--wander and stay at places we find interesting. A vague itinerary of directions, talk to the locals and soak in the gorgeous scenery. Linda

  17. Oh what a great story...I am not sure how I would have reacted but seems like you all took it in stride and accepted Plan B....Now I have learned that your passport has to be renewed about 6 months prior to the expiration date...Love the gorgeous pics of Scotland....would love to visit Scotland one day (part of my heritage)....

  18. beautiful. I have wanted to visit Scotland. I've been to Ireland and England but not Scotland yet. Someday.

  19. That sounds like a fabulous trip! Thanks for joining Home Sweet Home!