Top ten things I did in Scotland
1. I got married in a castle! Yes, I married my husband, Hans Roth, in a castle in Aberdeenshire. Ours was the first wedding to take place within the walls of this venerable Scottish Baronial castle, and as far as I know, we may also have been the last. This beautiful castle sits on six thousand lush green acres alongside the River Don. We knew not a soul at our wedding, and what a fun time we had with the friendly Scots! With our permission, Lady Forbes invited friends from neighboring castles, and other esteemed guests. The men were smartly outfitted in formal dress kilts, and the women wore some kind of plaid representing their respective clans. It was a fairy tale wedding I will never forget!
2. I rode a Scottish Highland pony through a forest of Scots pines in the middle of nowhere. My own horse at home was a sleek, narrow-bodied Arabian, while the Highland Cob I rode was entirely different. Mild-mannered, these stocky, thick-necked horses chug along like little trains. Up and down the Highland hills we went, and the gentle beast never tired or broke a sweat. As for our trek through a Scotch pine forest, I doubt I have ever experienced breathing cleaner, fresher air! I am nearly finished writing book four in Those Magnificent Malverns series and part of the story is set in the Highlands. Thankfully, I get to use my experiences which I think creates more reality to the story.
3. In a quaint little restaurant in a medieval village outside of Sterling Castle, I had the best hot chocolate I have ever tasted. It was one of those crisp, misty days one can’t quite call rain, a particular weather I finding invigorating, but after hours of touring Sterling Castle, our souls begged for an enchanted hour or so before a fire in a Scottish tea house. We found a remarkable little inn run by two sweet ladies. The in with its crisp white curtains and cozy fire was just the thing. We were the only people in the small café and we had a delightful time eating scones with homemade jams and clotted cream beside a roaring fire. The highlight was the yummy hot chocolate. Oh, my! I have never tasted anything so richly developed, perfectly sweetened, and with those nice curls of chocolate floating atop. Pure heaven.
4. I sat on the banks of Loch Ness and scouted for Nessie. The sky was as grey as the waters that day. The vast lake is so deep in places the bottom has never been found. We ate lunch in a family owned restaurant and listened to tales of the Loch Ness monster. One of the most plausible explanations came from an anthropologist. With the great depth of the loch, there could easily be an opening to the sea where an ancient sea species, with no predators, could have found its way in, and not locating an exit, grew to enormous proportions. The oarfish for example with its compressed, elongate body can reach lengths of thirty-six feet or more in its natural environment. Its odd fin the full length of the body on top creates and undulating rippling effect in the water that could easily be Nessie. At any rate, I saw nothing but water.
5. I visited the well of the dead where the battle of Culloden was fought in 1745. The stone reads “Here the Chief MacGillivray Fell…” My grandfather, Alexander McGillivray, was named after this 8th Scottish laird who died on the battle field. He was called the Yellow Laird because of his long, blond mane. He stood over six feet tall, and was said to have been the most handsome man in all of Scotland.
6. I spent an afternoon in a mini-Stonehenge on private land unavailable to the public. What was particularly interesting to me was that this circle of stones was in the middle of a Scots pine forest. However, in the inner circle of the stones and surrounding the immediate surrounding area about five feet back, not a weed or tree grew. Instead the area was a carpet of emerald green grass. I mentioned to the owner of the land how odd it was that grass managed to grow so evenly and thick in a pine forest, and was it recently planted because it was such a rich green. He told us not only do they never touch the grass, for as far back as they could go historically, nothing but grass grew around the outcropping, and it never grows more than a few inches high, and always evenly!
7. I fished for brown trout in the River Don. I’m not a person with the patience to fish, but it was so very special spending time outdoors in Scotland’s fantastically fresh, clean air. The water was as pure and clean as was the air. I didn’t want to leave.
8. I bought the McGillivray plaid in a weaver’s shop. Most every clan has both a hunter’s plaid and the formal more modern, brighter plaid. Here are the two McGillivray tartans. My mother’s name was Glenda McGillivray. You don’t get much more Scottish than that!
9. Ate haggis for dinner and blood pudding for breakfast. Yep, being a Scot on my mother’s side, I couldn’t leave Scotland after our wedding without at least tasting the two native specialties. While the haggis wasn’t bad, I had a devil of a time choking down the blood pudding (a kind of sausage) and afterward, even more trouble keeping it down.
10. Toured public and private castles. The Lady of the castle where we were married arranged for us to tour the private homes of her friends. While the castle I was married in was the Scottish Baronial style with castellated towers, the others we visited were the tightly compacted castles often called “country houses” that were built up instead of out. I used my experiences touring these castles for book four in this series.