A Little Trip to London and Scotland

I was in beautiful sunny Scotland for the last week or so, with a few days in hot and sunny London as well. I tend to visit those isles during freakish weather. When I visited Ireland, we had thirty minutes of rain. Don’t tell anyone, lest they kidnap me and stick me in a dungeon to keep the clouds away. It was a lovely trip. That word was said quite a lot on the trip. That and delightful. Scotland’s natural landscape truly does evoke powerful emotions which obliterate the brain’s thesaurus. Or perhaps it’s the whisky and the beer.

sunset ruins
Sunset and Ruins on the Isle of Skye

We arrived in London for a friend’s wedding at the Naval college, went on a great Jack the Ripper tour with London Walks, then met writer Ian Ayris at The Grapes pub in the East End and talked until closing. Great fellow, that Ian. His novel Abide with Me was released to rave reviews, and he has a great story in Protectors as well.

Rob Roy's Grave
Rob Roy’s Grave

Then we took a train to Scotland with a crowd of loud children in the quiet car, and I drove 848 miles on the wrong side of the road and survived several near-death experiences across the roundabout infested, wind scoured kilt-scape. Firs stop: Oban, where we met the magnanimous Fiona “McDroll” Johnson for fish and chips. The best of the trip. McDroll has several story collections and a novella series out, and we edited the Lost Children anthology together. She writes with great power.

Fiona "McDroll" and me
Fiona “McDroll” and me

Next to Skye. A gorgeous isle of castle ruins, unique geological protuberances and wildlife, we crossed its 20 miles on a one lane road among oil trucks and tour buses. The beautiful setting made up for the stark raving terror. We had a terrific meal of fresh seafood in Portree, along with a few glasses of smoky Talisker’s scotch, the Port Righ port-barrel finished being my favorite. We also visited the Dalwhinnie distillery and enjoyed their distiller’s edition and 25 year very much.

Eilanan Donan castle
Eilanan Donan castle

On the way out we stopped at Eileanan Donan castle, one of the biggest and most evocative, but also where Highlander was filmed, which was the important thing. Here I am, the master of your destiny:

TomSword-sml
The Kurgan in his natural habitat

From there to Loch Ness, where we caught some rain and ducked into a pub to enjoy a night of traditional music at Ghillie’s rest, where local musicians wander in and join the band. The next day took us to Inverness and the coast, where we hopped a boat to see a dozen plump north sea bottlenose dolphins settling down to lunch. We hugged the coast and stopped in Aboyne to see the Highland Games, where I regrettable didn’t join the shotput event despite having set the record in my Freshman high school year, thanks some pestering old injuries. That and I had no kilt. Maybe next time. I do want to learn to toss the caber.

Castle Pat Benatar
Castle Pat Benatar

South we hit Castle Dunnotar, one of the last fortresses to hold out against the British invader, then St. Andrew’s cathedral, whose tower has existed since the first millennium. Saw the RSS Discovery, which explored the Antarctic.  From there we drove straight to Edinburgh.

St. Andrew's cathedral
St. Andrew’s cathedral

In Edinburgh we saw Mary Read’s Close, which is an alley from the old city that was built on top of in the 1900’s. Much of it remains and it is a curious if dank window into the city’s past. We also saw the Military Tattoo play outside the castle, and met up with Allan Guthrie, Nigel Bird, and Tony Black & family in Portobello, and spent a fine evening chatting over pints and chai. Overall it was a great trip and I can’t wait to return to Scotland and the East End of London, visit my friends once more, and have more time to relax and explore.

Nigel Bird, myself, and Allan Guthrie
Nigel Bird, myself, and Allan Guthrie

8 thoughts on “A Little Trip to London and Scotland

  1. I could totally see you rocking the feileadh beag. For an inexpensive but bespoke kilt check out USA Kilts’ ‘Casual’ model; made to measure from poly viscose with permanent pleats, you can throw the thing in the washing machine. I love mine for hiking. (Usual disclaimer, I have no affiliation with the company, I’m just a fan of Rocky and his crew. Good products, good customer service.)

    • I’ve thought about it, but didn’t want one in Scotland because I have no Scottish heritage. It would be purely a comfort thing, and to not be wearing cargo shorts.

      • Yeah, my understanding is that unless you’re at a fairly formal or ceremonial event in Scotland, wearing a kilt is an instant “I’m a tourist” advertisement.

        The forums at xmarksthescot.com provide an interesting anthropological study of people –mostly non-Scots living outside of Scotland– who wear kilts, and the many justifications they provide for that act. Most actual Scots think it’s all rather silly, but are gracious enough not to say anything. (Because if they do, they get buried a bunch of offended ‘muricans bleating about being proud of their heritage and culture and/or expressing their individuality.)

        I am barely Scottish by heritage, and am still trying to find the balance between “screw it, it’s an interesting, comfortable garment” and “hey, it’s that numpty who wears a kilt.”

  2. I’m pleased to say that I’ve wandered around Scotland for over 50 years and never been stab be…other than the occasion when I left a pair of scissors in my duffle coat pocket. I love when people want to wear a kilt. Who cares i they haven’t a Scottish hair on their head- go for it. If I ever make it to Japan you can bet I’ll want to wear a kimono. ;-) great post Tom & it was lovely to meet you and all those fab gals you travel with!

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