Sometimes harsh and forbidding, sometimes soft and inviting, Scotland delivers more to the senses than expected. Mountains, rough seas, windy roads, cruel weather, and unintelligible English are all offset by beautiful scenery, brilliant sun breaks, and wonderful cultural warmth.
Scotland starts in the Lowlands, an area 100 miles north of Hadrian’s Wall, where the Romans tried to keep the Scots bottled up by building a wall across the island. It is a landscape of green pastures covered with sheep and dotted with small villages. The Lowlands give way to the Highlands where barren hills are covered with heather, and beautiful meadows – covered with sheep – abound; you can experience all four seasons in one day. While there are many differences in Scotland, two things are consistent throughout the land: There are sheep – thousands of them, and there is whisky – hundreds of them.
K’s family immigrated to the US from Montrose, a town on the North Sea. The Mitchell name is a little too common here and a search for the family name in cemeteries found hundreds of Mitchells. Let’s just say it was a great walk through a maze of history lessons!
While the Lowlands are pretty, there is a lot to like in the Highlands with steep mountains, National Parks, mysterious islands, deep Lochs, castles, and warm and welcoming people. The Highlands are the home of the Highland cow, an adorable shaggy creature that is hearty enough for the harsh environment. They are also home to famous whisky distillers such as Glenfiddich, Glenmorangie, The Glenlivet, and hundreds of others. A 750ml bottle of whisky can cost anywhere between $20 and $5,000 and up.
A series of Lochs and a canal transect Scotland. An intrepid sailor can cross Scotland through the Caledonian Canal and sail the oceans to return to the start. Along the Caledonian Canal, nestled in a deep canyon near Inverness is Loch Ness, famed for the Loch Ness Monster. Like many before us, we searched for the monster to no avail. One kind resident told us that we didn’t offer enough chocolate in order to see it.
The Highlands is also home to the first Special Forces military training camp, which was formed during the early days of World War II. When Brittan was facing its darkest hour, Winston Churchill directed the military to form a commando force to take the war to the Continent and Africa. They trained in this harsh environment and became experts at infiltration and espionage.
While in Edinburgh we spent a day with our Scottish friend Emma, who we had met when we were all volunteering at the Churchill Northern Studies Centre in northern Canada. We had a great day of exploring the Royal Mile, seeing Scottish bands “Beat Retreat”, and showing her how to geocache (yes, we’re doing that here too). How we enjoyed those bagpipes! Thank you Emma for a wonderful day.
Scotland calls to us. We will return…