As most of our readers know Kate and I are from New Zealand, a beautiful green country at the bottom of the South Pacific. Like many New Zealanders of “European” descent my forbears originally came from England and Scotland. My father is always proud to point out our ancestral ties to the Macdonald clan and the famous Scottish poet James Hogg, and he has our family’s Scottish coat of arms on his business card. As a child I was lucky enough to visit Scotland and I remember that the rural scenery was very similar to NZ. The Scots who originally settled in NZ must have felt right at home 🙂
When I return to Scotland I would like to revisit some of the places I remember from my childhood visit.
Back then were traveling for 3 months around the U.K. And Western Europe in a VW Campervan and when in Edinburgh we parked up each night at a camping ground on the outskirts of the city by the Firth of Fourth. My brother slept on the front seat, my parents on the dining table come double bed, and I was curled up in the back luggage area! I remember there was a floor bolt that I had to avoid. It certainly wasn’t a very comfortable sleeping arrangement for me. Settled into our sleeping positions I remember listening to the haunting sounds of fog horns of the marine traffic on the Firth. The area is famous for the Fourth Bridge, a steel caniliver bridge and engineering marvel from the Victorian era. Of course the highlight of Scotland’s capital was visiting Edinburgh Castle perched high on the Castle Rock above the city. The views are fantastic and the history of the fortress is amazing. The first evidence of human occupation dates back as far as the 2nd century AD and it was used as a royal palace between the 12th and 16th centuries.
Of course this time I won’t have the luxury of a month to tour all of the U.K. I see there are flights from London to Glasgow or Edinburgh for as little as 26GBP so we’ll probably do that. We might even have money left over to get a comfortable airport transfer from the airport into the city rather than public transport. These days Glasgow is famous for it’s music scene so I’ll be keen to go to some intimate gigs at a few clubs. I’ll likely go on a tour of some local whiskey distilleries and check out some micro breweries.
I love to do day hikes so what better place to do this than Glencoe in the Highlands of Scotland. The valley and mountains of Glencoe are reknowned for their beauty. The area has some grim history though – this is where the massacre of some 38 of the MacDonald clan took place back in 1692. About the same number of women and children died of hypothermia after their homes were torched and razed to the ground.
Another must will be visiting Stirling Castle, one of the best castles in the U.K. Especially cool is that the Great Hall, where lavish royal banquets were held back in the 1500’s, has been fully renovated to it’s former glory, including the hammer beam ceiling and the outer stone wall being painted with a golden cream paint. Apparently the whole castle had originally been painted in this “King’s Gold” which made it glow in the sun, perched up on it’s rocky escarpment. Over the centuries the paint wore off revealing the grey stone underneath.
As a 9 year old visiting Loch Ness with the hope of seeing the Loch Ness Monster was really cool. I didn’t realize at the time that this myth has only been around since 1933. The ruins of Urquhart Castle on the shores of the lake does add to the mystique of the area but I have to say there are plenty of more picturesque lochs in Scotland such as Loch Shiel, Loch Tummel, and Loch Awe with it’s grand ruins of Kilchum Castle.
I look forward to seeing this beautiful port town again. I remember this was where I bought my first ever piece of jewelry, a Celtic cross. I might try and time my visit for the 4th Thursday in August when the Oban Games are on. I’ve always wanted to go to a highland games and watch the tossing of the caber! There are Highland games held all over Scotland during the summer months. what a way to soak up some traditional Scottish culture and mix with the locals.
Image by Unsplash