Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Finding Magic and Myths in Scotland

Thistles and heather. Kilts. Castles. Ruins. Craggy mountains. Rain. Sheep.

Magic. Mystery.

My trip to Scotland fulfilled a bucket list goal and fed my imagination for writing about this windswept, mystical place. When I finally made it there in 2008 (after living in the fictional world of Scotland courtesy of my favorite authors), Scotland upheld its reputation. It rained. A lot. Many of our supposedly breathtaking sights were shrouded in a gray cloud of heavy precipitation. Aside from our mishaps, Scotland fulfilled my preconceived notions, with my own Scottish knight by my side to escort me through the perils of winding highland roads, haunting castle ruins, and dark alleyways.

Lone sheep wandered down the middle of a meandering country road. Windswept moors, heather fields, and green rolling hills flanked our drives. Wild rocky trails and impressive mountains greeted us on our hikes. Blue lochs were aplenty (yes, Loch Ness is a deep beautiful loch and no, we didn’t see Nessie – but we did see the ghostly remains of Urquhart castle) on our two-week trip in this geological gem of a country. I think I gasped on the tarmac when I emerged from the plane in Glasgow.

My husband and I jam-packed our itinerary because when we go tramping, we set the bar high and want to soak in all the sites! What can a couple do in less than two weeks? Well…

• Visit a dozen castles and palaces (Threave castle required a rowboat across an overflowed River Dee)
• Kayak on the astutely named Loch Awe to the ruins of Kilchurn Castle
• Hike through Highlands and mountains
• Watch a Highland game
• Partake in culinary delights such as haggis and fish and chips
• Carry on conversations with locals (about the upcoming American presidential election)
• Drive over sketchy bridges to reach Rua Reidh, a lighthouse hostel on the North Minch of Wester Ross (no, not the Westeros of Game of Thrones fame, but I saw the striking similarities)
• Expand our navigation skills on double-roundabouts (like a figure 8), one lane roads, and left-side driving
• Meander through abbey and church ruins
• Take a moment of reflection at the remains of Culloden battlefield
• Stay at the haunted 14th century tower keep Borthwick Castle

Oh, certainly there were lows…blowing out a car tire on a rock, getting a manual car instead of an automatic, while driving on the opposite side of the road (it is the UK, after all) – oops!, castles closing before we got there, getting lost on city roads, not finding our hostel while plodding trough the deluging rain), and hiking a washed out trail through Glencoe, while hundreds of midges made a home in my hair…. Nonetheless, I left Scotland feeling rejuvenated and inspired and ready to take on the next big novel!

The setting in A Hundred Kisses takes my hero and heroine on a journey across Skye and to the isles. Their journey begins at a signature castle, Eilean Donan, and remarkably, we were gifted with sunshine and a rainbow during our visit! This castle is as resplendent and utterly romantic as all the pictures portray. Loch Ness (another sunny day) was unfathomable and mystical. Walks among ruined castles and abbeys, reflective and inspiring.

So, thistles and heather – check! Kilts, castles, ruins, craggy mountains, lots of rain, sheep – check!

Magic. Mystery.


Jean M. Grant

Author of A Hundred Kisses
Writing where my heart takes me…from castles to craters to crags of all kinds

No comments: