OK. Let’s Try This Again.
I have a tremendous amount I want to say. Of course.
I’ve been away from this desk for two weeks, and you know what? I really love this desk. I’m getting some amusement from realizing I have this old-school affection for a full-size keyboard and a couple of huge monitors.
I think it shows. I wrote a couple of longish Facebook posts and the majority of two columns on the road, typing with one finger on my phone in the backseat of a monster van, rocking and rolling over narrow roads in the highlands of Scotland. The posts were informational, just occasional updates from our trip for whomever, so not much of an issue. The columns were clunky and seemed forced to me, trying to capture something of my experience that really needs more thought.
Sue me. It’s hard to find the poetry of a journey with one finger. Insert jokes here.
I can make a better map, but this works for its purpose. Clicking on the photos will open them up in a light box.
Begin in Glasgow, where we landed in the early afternoon on Monday, Aug. 4. We spent the night, adjusting our internal clocks, and then headed west (day 2) to Oban, stopping at Loch Lomond along the way, where we picked up the ferry to Craigsnure. After the 50-minute crossing, we took a bus across the entire Isle of Mull, east to west, about 75 minutes, to Fionnphort and then the ferry to Iona, another 10 minutes. We spent Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday nights (days 2-4) on Iona, then reversed our tracks (blue line), meeting up with our crew back in Oban on Friday.
Friday (day 5) we meandered through Glencoe and Fort William, stopping at Loch Ness to climb around the Urquhart castle, eventually reaching our place outside of Inverness, near Tain. We passed the weekend (days 5-7) there, hanging around this lovely farmhouse and estate grounds (fascinating host, whom I never met but whose presence was felt in the house—maybe I’ll write more another time about him) on Saturday before going into town for dinner to celebrate the 20th birthday of one of our crew. Sunday we packed up and spent the morning and early afternoon exploring Inverness before heading to Aberdeen (day 7), stopping at Culloden to see the battlefield, then Pennan to get my Local Hero experience (also leaving for another time).
We spent Sunday night and all day Monday in Aberdeen (days 7-9), just seeing as much as we could, which was plenty. On Tuesday morning, we packed and headed out again (day 9) toward Glasgow, stopping at St. Andrews to breathe in all the magic that powerful place had to offer before hitting our hotel in the west end of the city.
We separated then, a couple of us heading back home while Julie and I rested in Glasgow (days 9-11) on Wednesday, walking around and eating everything in sight, plus naps. It was a much-needed respite, it turned out, toward the end of our two weeks and before the big push.
We reunited on Thursday morning, now down to four people, and headed for Edinburgh, staying in another farmhouse in the country (days 11-14), about 40 minutes outside of the city (a great option and an amazing place to stay, given the Festival going on). We saw Fringe shows on Thursday and Friday nights, and two concerts on Saturday, including a world premiere that took my breath away (again, aack, more later), with very late nights and little sleep, totally worth it.
Sunday we drove into Glasgow to the airport, flying to Heathrow and then straight home, arriving in the late afternoon.
There was just so much. You can imagine.
Big picture items include food, of course. We had a couple of fancy meals on Iona at our hotel, including chicken stuffed with haggis (for me, and I loved it), but otherwise we ate simple food at simple places, pubs and cafes. I had several meals of fish and chips, because I like fish and chips and I was trying to avoid standard American fare, which was everywhere (although I had a great burger at a fun place in Glasgow called Bread-Meat-Bread). I got very fond of the Scottish soft drink Irn-Bru, kind of a tastier version of Fanta or Orange Nehi, which is ubiquitous and gave me a nice choice when the others were drinking stronger stuff.
And I ate a lot, which was a relief; on our trip to Arizona the week before, I wasn’t great about getting enough calories in, and I really wanted to avoid that. Mission accomplished, my appetite apparently helped by all the exercise.
There was a lot of exercise. My Fitbit says I covered close to 50 miles each week (if you’re a step counter, around 15,000 per day) and I believe it. One day on Iona, I hiked for about 11 miles, a lot of that being a little lost.
I slept well, too, at least until the final Edinburgh push. I took over 500 photos and short videos, which now feel daunting in terms of organizing and sharing. At the suggestion of a couple of people, I restarted an antidepressant I took for about a year back in 2016, and I’m thinking it helped with stress management. I remember almost no stress, at least, no anxiety to speak of, no irritability or moodiness. Who knows. I’ll take it, and be grateful.
Grateful for all of this, really. Truly. It occurred to me last night that I should have Scotland written all over me by now, easy to discern, and how irrational but somehow logical that feels. It was a profound experience, for many reasons. I was in Scotland.
I stood on the Iona beach and looked southwest, pretending I could see Northern Ireland (possible; I saw something). In Aberdeen, I theoretically could spot Norway and the Netherlands. I was far away from home, and it moved me in ways I haven’t processed yet.
And it was perfect. We commented from time to time on this, but mostly stayed quiet, none of us wanting to explore our latent superstitions. The weather was mostly spectacular, and the one time we got drenched with torrential rain, it was fun and an appropriate ending to the evening (also, we had umbrellas). The place we stayed in Aberdeen was the only ordinary kind of house, and as our Scottish guide (our friend Maggie, born and raised in Glasgow/Paisley) mentioned, it was a pretty typical Scottish living situation, so there’s that. Otherwise, the hotels were very nice (five of our 13 nights) and the rentals were a bit jaw-dropping.
And everything else. It just worked out. Still waiting for the other, bad shoe to drop, as we boarded the flight to Seattle we found our seats in the back of the plane, two together instead of a row of three, giving us tremendous leg room and comfort, and I gave up. This was meant to be.
I read two books and began a third, all of them wonderful and thought-provoking. Internet availability was spotty and never all that fast, at least until our Glasgow hotel, where I managed to back up (finally) all those photos to the cloud, but it was fine for my purposes. John did great back here at home, no bad news awaited us, it was sunny and warm in Seattle when we arrived, customs was a breeze...what else? We got great Uber drivers both times, to and from the airport, what can I say?
Oh. Our car battery was dead. I bought a battery pack a few years ago for emergency jumps and it worked as advertised, not even an issue. Started up, we drove home, battery charged. I can’t make this up. It was perfect.