Last Sunday my mum and i travelled from London Euston around midnight, arriving into Edinburgh at just after 7am. By 8:30 we had gathered at the base of Highland Experience Tours and set off for our 3 day, Ultimate Skye Tour.
Since i was a child i’d grow up watching everything my parents did. As such, i was often confronted with period dramas and particularly historical content. Braveheart was the first impression I had of Scotland. Despite the historical inaccuracies, the film was key to capturing the most fundamental aspects of Scottish culture that would bind my interests to it. Here, Scotland was presented as a wild, dangerous and archetypically uncivilised country. It’s people however were proud, honourable and strong in their interests for preserving clan culture.
Not only is it the strong heritage that draws me to Scotland but as a descendent of clan Grant, it’s my belief that the feeling of ease in a country known for harsh weather comes naturally as a result of my ancestral connection with the country.
Throughout the three days we passed by such places as Stirling Castle, Doune Castle (Castle Leoch in Outlander and Winterfell in GoT), the Wallace monument and made stops at Glencoe, Loch Ness, Eilean Donan Castle, Urquhart Castle, Culloden Battlefield and the Isle of Skye, to name just a few. Briefly put, the first night was spent in Skye, overlooking the bridge back to the mainland of Scotland, shrouded by the mountains backing us to the South. The second night found us situated in a cozy area in Fort Augustus, merely a 5 minute walk from Loch Ness. Understandably, both locations were a romantic testament to Scotland’s undeniable beauty.
Scotland easily fed my imagination with stories both historical and fantastical which meant leaving it impossibly woesome. But having the experience has taught me more than i could have ever imagined.
- Belief. The central reason for loving this land of old is in tune with the solid beliefs that go beyond all reason. When we learn about myths of dragon slaying, witch hunting, fairies terrorising young children or nymphs that acts as guardians of nature, it is easy to dismiss these childish stories with the logic of science and reason. These unbelievable tales remain folklore for their absurdity among modern minds adjusted to a world where sense prevails. But out in the highlands where respect for these tales flourishes like its wildlife, these fantastical stories hold firm resonance in the minds of civilians and visitors alike. For a moment we can let slip our own sense of the world and truly believe that fantasy is real. That, for example, we may dip our faces in faerie pools for eternal youth, or pay sacrament to the beautiful sisters turned into mountains long ago. Even religion, from a time when it was heinous to deny, is becoming more and more distant from truth and plausibility. But retreating into such barren lands where myth is rife eases the suffocation of reality and allows your mind to wander into realms unknown and exciting.
- Seclusion. Beyond a point, entering the Highlands means removing yourself from the world you’ve grown up in. Finally, noise is conquered in favour of silence, bar the sounds of nature coming into her own once again. You feel able to breathe because it’s an escape.
- Time travel. Without the interference of technology it’s easy to stare out into the Highlands and imagine history unfolding before your eyes. In Scotland they believe in preserving old buildings, allowing history to remain frozen in the remoteness of the land.
- Being. By the time we reached Edinburgh i couldn’t help but feel dismal. We were still in Scotland yet somehow it didn’t feel quite the same. That’s when I realised; it was the Highlands. The Highlands were what affected me. My eyes were welling and i couldn’t pin point why I was so lost not being in the Highlands any longer. It was as if i had fallen in love…but with the entity of Scotland herself. And then I truly understood what it meant to be gripped by the romanticism of a heritage, to have fallen in love with a land that has faced prejudice, constraint, political battles and national pride.
Going back to what I said about belief and myths, being away despite the short stay still affected me in some way. When we stopped off by a stream each person pilled out of the mini bus, where we were suddenly braced by strong winds. Now, wearing just a t-shirt and cardigan probably isn’t the most appropriate clothing to be wearing in Scotland. But with everyone wearing thick coats I think for me there was a defiant need to prove I could survive the typically brutal Scottish weather. So there i was wondering about, camera in hand, trying to ignore the wind trying to break into my thin barrier of clothing. When I went down to the waterside I put my hand in the current and was surprised to find the water was mild, expecting it to be icy cold. This pool was assumed to have healing properties and strangely enough, since then I didn’t feel the cold; it was as if i’d become immune to the landscape’s rugged weather. It was probably because I’d gotten used to the cold, nevertheless it was nice to believe something more mysterious was at work here.
Moreover, when my mum and I were making our way to the station before departing Edinburgh, i stopped to take some photos. After about 5 minutes some fireworks went off. Of course this was in aid of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival but you can’t deny that the timing was strangely perfect. Finally, just as we were ready to catch our 11.40pm train back to London, we couldn’t. Turned out that the wires above another station had fallen and the train was delayed a total of 6 hours, meaning we had to catch a second at around 5 in the morning. Rational me says it was an accident, naive but optimistic me believes it was Scotland failing to let go of her descendants.
Of course i’d like to believe in the latter-I was enamoured with the place; I felt like a belonged to the landscape. But i guess myth never quite prevails
or does it?