What do you expect from Scotland? Maybe you may think it is a rainy and cold place, with castles ruins, and legendary characters popping up in the moorland.
Nothing might be further from reality.
In Scotland, we had one rainy afternoon in a whole week. Besides, the Scots are nice, humorous and very modern people, who have perfectly clear in their mind that Scotland is a big touristic business.
When we arrived in Edinburgh, we were surrounded by the many street artists who were rehearsing their plays for the Fringe Festival. It is a month (August) during which you can attend shows of any kind in every corner in Edinburgh: you might see a Shakespeare’s poem reviewed in a modern context, or you might see a magician show or a cabaret monologue. Theaters, pubs, schools… everywhere there is a Fringe Festival venue. It is amazing to find such vibrating artistic turmoil in a town like Edinburgh, so rich in History.
In Edinburgh you can see the oldest Scottish pub, still serving the haggis (a recipe that I, as a vegetarian, cannot even mention) You can also find the street that inspired Rawling’s Diagon Alley: it is named Victoria Street and it is full of small, incredibly colored, shops. The Castle is very well maintained, with many museums inside, where you can spend a whole day.
So, Scotland is not the rainy and dark country you might expect. But Scotland is windy. When we visited Dunnottar, I thought that I was going to take off. Dunnottar is on the way to Aberdeen, and it offers a stunning view of the castle which is sheltered on a rock. Despite it might honestly need a good restoration, from the castle you see up to the horizon, and you feel like being on a ship’s bow. The castle is related to a dark story of battles and prisoners, and the legend tells that you might still see the Green Lady’s ghost. What impressed me the most was the information that in ancient times, the lords of the castle drank only beer because it was held in barrels and it was more difficult to poison. Really a dark era.
Many other castles are better maintained: Stirling, Glamis, Cawdor… they are cozy, with interesting tours and with lovely gardens. Some of them have been movies sets, such as Eilean Donan, where Highlander, among others, was shot.
Some of my best memories are linked to Loch Ness. It is a long, narrow, deep lake that cuts Scotland like a wound of black water. It is the best location for a legend about a monster: light plays on the surface of the lake, wind and streams are continuously changing the shape and the movement of waves. If I were a monster, I would hide there. Besides the sight, what amuses and surprises is the ability of the Scots of making a great local business out of Loch Ness. There is the Museum, there are shops, restaurants, places to shoot pictures… everything organized to make you feel that Nessy does not exist, but it is nice to keep on believing.
Another business location that is interesting and welcoming is a Scotch distillery. I loved to be informed of the steps and the times which are needed to get a Scotch barrel. The guide told us that, in the first years of aging, the alcohol evaporates quickly, even throughout the wood’s porosity, so the final volume of the Scotch reduces. As a part evaporates, it is called the angels’ share. I liked the idea of angels watching over the distillery, toasting the workers.
The highlands and the Skye island are incredible. There is apparently nothing: short vegetation, mild hills, and a strong wind blowing. But if you wait for a moment, you can see a carpet of purple little flowers, you taste the scent, and the wind sounds like a flute.
Our last stop-over was in the town of Oban. It is a nice place, that seems to be completely the opposite of every other Scottish town: the distillery is exactly in the downtown area, while generally, they are far from the town. Oban is overlooked by a sort of ancient circus, named McCaig’s Tower, but known in town as McCaig’s Folly. It is a circle of arches, with a meadow inside. There is nothing, but it is huge and the sight from the tower is amazing.
Despite being apparently so curious, Oban made a gift of the most lovely sight we could appreciate. From the hotel’s window, we saw the perfect image of Scotland: the sea, a sailing ship, the green land, and an ancient building on the horizon.