7

Sep2016

Scotland-romancing on the highlands

Holyrood House ( imagecredit:tourguider.co.uk)

All the flights went fine to Edinburgh. We’re staying in a beautiful hotel here!

I did something to my back, I’m fairly certain it was the bed in Amsterdam but I’m in excruciating pain. Can you believe it! I'm eating Advil for breakfast, lunch, high tea, and dinner! Well, at least I’m having high tea!

Edinburgh is a wonderful city, though weather-wise it is just miserable, with the gusting winds off their Sound (they call it an Estuary) and the North Sea, it's worse than Seattle. It does have a haunting, stately beauty with handsome stone facades and towering parapets surrounded by rolling city streets and hills in the distance. Stunning.

Holyrood House, the royal palace in Scotland was interesting, so stark and simple in comparison to mainland Europe or Russian palaces. The history here is fascinating; the relationship to the English and the rest of Europe is steeped in brutal, bloody politics played out in war, marriages and alliances consolidated around money, position, religion, and country of origin. The combinations and permutations are mind-boggling.

Side note, the term British was created by the English to give the UK countries a sense of solidarity (at least that’s what our guide said). Of course no one but visitors use the term British or Brits as the Scottish, Irish, or Welsh would ever think of themselves as British.

Loch Ness ( image credit : Wikepedia )

We had one gorgeous day (though really windy) and took advantage to drive out to the country side and see the town of St. Andrews and the famous golf course there. We sat and had a Scotch in a proper British club overlooking the course and the North Sea in the distance. Perfect. It was a gorgeous drive getting there. Idyllic rolling hills lined with perfect acres of farmland. Sheep and their spring lambs along with Angus cows dotted the landscape like a movie set, it couldn’t be real. I kept thinking I would see Brigadoon around every corner.

Tomorrow we take a train ride out to Inverness in the Highlands for a few days and then onto Monte Carlo (my dream of a cigar and a single malt 30 year scotch in the Highlands is nigh!).

I have been gazing at the city from our room and I can tell part of my soul feels settled. My dream of going to school here has been resolved, the regret and questions of what could have been are answered. It would have been something to be here in my youth, but my life has been just as interesting (and as it turns out, I am a writer, and a prolific one at that) and no answer can ever exist for what might have been

Robert Frost has been whispering in my ear:

“I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference”

St Andrews Clubhouse ( image: golfchannel.com)

We are in the Highlands of Scotland. On the way here via train we encountered a late spring snow storm. It was truly breathtaking. Of course it didn’t stick so it only added to the mystery and fascination by covering the countryside with a soft, velvety, white down comforter.

I don’t quite know what to say. Everything from the sound of the Scottish brogue to the exquisite landscape is beyond anything I could have imagined. This isn’t the moors of England where I expected to see Heathcliff and his Catherine running through the mist yearning for heavens promise of enduring, eternal bonds of love (I know, I’m a sappy Bronte fan) or the stark terrain of Jane Eyre or Rebecca’s craggy hills and desolate landscape of England’s south or coastal environs.

This is the Highlands and the snowcapped rolling mountains and verdant valleys are breathtaking. Whatever I was expecting, it wasn’t this. I am sitting here in a palace turned bed and breakfast watching the sun set over the steep, jagged, overlapping mountains (4,000 feet at the tallest) daubed by lakes and rivers. There is even skiing nearby! We went up the Gondola to peer over the scenery. It was like a mini-Whistler in every way.

We drove by Loch Ness (Lake Ness) yesterday and strained our necks to see the monster. It was far more worthwhile and magnificent to take in the lake side villages and gently sloping, endlessly picture perfect ridges interspersed with farm land, chaparral, deer, and of course, sheep. If the Loch Ness monster is still here, he remains because it is just to dang beautiful to go anywhere else.

I have found the Scots an affable, easy going, and sincerely friendly people. Though it is sadly frustrating to try and chat only to end up having to repeatedly ask “what did you say,” it does get tiresome for all concerned, but they handle it with grace and patience.

Despite the accent-barrier, the Scots are unassuming with a diet that is designed for heart disease (I won’t even tell you what haggis or black pudding are made of and pot pies of all sorts are exquisite, not the Swanson variety I grew up with). This is not the seat of fashion or haute cuisine but it is the realm of J.K. Rowlings; Sir Walter Scott; Robert Louis Stevenson; JM Barrie (Peter Pan), Sir Arthur Conan Doyle; John Buchan (The Thirty-Nine Steps) and Muriel Spark (The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie—and of course Maggie Smith who played the role in the movie of the same name).

I am also finding a strange serendipity in this trip. Having gone from England to Scotland and now on to Monte Carlo, I seem to be channeling Ian Fleming’s James Bond. Sean Connery is decidedly Scottish and of course Casino Royale, which takes place in a fictional setting that is for all intents and purposes meant to be Monte Carlo, is part of my trek. Not anything intentional but intriguing all the same.

Damn this is going to be a gorgeous sunset!

  • Written byPaula Begoun

    Paula Begoun nicknamed The Cosmetic Cop and founder of Paula’s Choice skincare. An ardent traveler, with an amazing sense of humour and ability to see beyond the obvious.

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