Articles By Gord
As I see it... Scotland

May 2006 issue of Vibrant Magazine, view the actual article (including images).

The way I see it... Scotland

I have to write about Scotland. I have no choice but to do so because I have a passion for Scotland that runs as deeply as my blood.

Scotland - it is a bracing gust of wind, a dollop of sunshine and a splash of rain. And when I walk across her lands, breathe in her air, feel that rain and the bite of wind, I am home.

The description as such might discourage some would be travelers to this historic land, but to me those rawish elements of nature are a great and wonderful calling card. Combined with her kings and queens, castles and clans, tartans and kilts, single malts, hills and valleys, heather and lochs, the pipes, haggis and golf and weather that suits no one and the next minute suits everyone... Scotland.

I was introduced to Scotland when I was a wee lad. Me Mum, ‘The Old Doll', dragged my brother Michael and my sister, Joanne and myself over home for a visit.

Her hometown is a wee village, Doune in Perthshire. It sits just north of Stirling. (Wallace's monument? You know the climb? Stirling Castle? Know the climb?)

On that first visit there was time spent with the grandparents; time spent exploring the village and time rambling over, through and about Doune castle. (Some of you Monty Python fans will have seen this castle in their movie In Search of the Holy Grail. A wooden rabbit is pushed up to its gates).

Doune castle was our playground, jousting in the Great Hall, imprisoned in the dungeon, eventually breaking free to the sunlight of the courtyard and then flying up the circular stairs to fend off attackers from the ramparts. (I hated those circular stairwells).

I recall feeling quite disgusted with the castle's tourist office when I last visited Doune with Catherine. Wanting money to enter, maybe buy a castle guide book and ramparts that were closed to the public for safety reasons. The cheek! I was a native son so to speak. Practically born in that friggin' castle. (How be it in the dungeon).

If you think that you'd feel comfortable driving on the opposite side of the road, or if you think you might feel comfortable passengering with the person likely doing the opposite side driving (and IF you've understood this last sentence?) and if you can afford the gas, traveling by car throughout this magnificent country is the best. Catherine and I had use of my aunt's vehicle and so firmly etched in my mind are the shrill sounds of horns, brakes and an array of curses flavoured by a variety of Scottish accents. Roundabouts and narrower roadways, the sound of gravel spitten up by tires discovering their softish shoulders, it was a hateful driving experience for Catherine.

From Doune we journeyed up to Oban on the west coast.

Whenever I mention Oban, most people respond, “Oh, Oban that's a lovely spot.” But Oban struck me as no great fancy. We ate fish and chips, bought a goat skin rug, tried several single malts and had fantastic weather. But the highlight was when we took a day trip out to the Isle of Mull and on to the islands of Iona and Staffa. Staffa is a towering volcanic island of columns rising straight up from the water. Roughly shaped steps led us from the boat to the top. If not for the sheep grazing and the day being blessed by brilliant sunshine, the impression of this island would have been as bleak a place as man could have created. Our stay was brief and with little wonder, what else was there to do? Sheep . . . Got it. Bleak . . . got it.

Fingal's cave. . Fingal's what?

A two hundred feet deep cave chewed out of the rock by the sea. The waves rushing in create such magical sounds, reverberating off the cave walls and ceiling. The composer Mendelson, after visiting Staffa in 1829, was so inspired by the cave's melodies and the cries of the ever present sea gulls that he penned “Fingal's Cave” otherwise known as “Hebrides.” (Here I'd been hoping that this Fingal's was going to be a pub or something good).

It was a short voyage across to Iona. My impressions were of a place still very exposed to the elements, but here there were a few people. A cluster of homes with lovely wee gardens all facing towards the water. (Catherine supplied me with that stuff about “lovely wee gardens.” Yeah, well whatever). A shop or two and the Argyll Hotel.

We went in to the hotel, picked up a brochure and poked about. I've always told friends that if I were running away from the rest of the world you'd find me somewhere in France, but this cosy hotel at the end of the earth would be a very close runner up. No one would ever think to look for you there. The perfect hideaway and it provides easy access to Staffa should you be in need of some sort of spiritual shock treatment. There was also an Abbey and in its cemetery supposedly the final resting place of that most infamous of Scottish kings, Macbeth. It felt most appropriate.

Scotland, her kings and castles, brave hearts galore...and monsters.

Will you believe in Nessie? When your travels bring you to the shores of that mysterious Loch you will surely feel her presence. Gaze down the length of those 21 miles towards Inverness, the hills on the right falling steeply in to the Loch and down on the left, the castle Urquhart.

If you dare, take a boat trip out onto the Loch, peer into its murky peatiness... but don't trail your fingers. Listen to the Captain's tales of sightings and you will surely come away as I did believing Nessie is alive and well...and hungry.

Alas, I've no the space to delve in to the likes of Edinburgh and Glasgow, Aberdeen or St.Andrews and the countless other loves that I carry for my home away from home. But now for you good traveler, t'is time you packed your sporran and whether you take the high or the low road what say we meet upon the bonnie, bonnie banks of Loch Lomond.

Scotland forever.

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