Again. Because I miss it. Because two weeks just weren’t enough. Because there are many places that I didn’t get the chance to visit. Because my camera failed to capture every scene worth capturing. Because I didn’t walk through all the streets of town. Because I didn’t find myself in enough random situations and didn’t converse with enough strangers. Maybe I’m just riding on rosy retrospection, but I’m really not sure that’s it. Every time Paolo sings in that beautifully raspy Scottish voice, I’m, once again, lost looking outside the window at the raindrops racing down the glass and beautiful landscape after beautiful landscape passing us by. And amidst the monotonous sound of our blue bus navigating through the lush Highlands, tour guide Dave introduces us to the musical stylings of Paolo Nutini. I think about this trip, about Edinburgh, about the Highlands, about Edinburgh, about the people I’d met, about Edinburgh, and about all that had transpired in the last eight days and how I’d managed to find myself in a part of the world about which I knew nothing, but to which I suddenly felt such a connection. Although I can only recall one song from the ride, Paolo and memories of Scotland are now forever intertwined for reasons other than the obvious. He takes me back, every time.
Imagine driving through this – the magic that is Glen Coe. Seriously, I’ve never experienced a landscape quite like this one. Just observe how the road off to the right is but a strand in a massive sea of green.
And don’t just write off fairy tales as fiction, just yet. Because then you stop to marvel at the Eilean Donan Castle and wonder if you’d just stepped off a bus into a childhood story.
Or, you decide to follow a swampy trail behind your hostel that you believe will lead to the tethered Castle Moil in the distance (and it does), but you’re pleasantly surprised to discover so much more. Not one turn leads to a less-than-photographic view.
Not one. A small part of me happily contemplated the existence of those fairies that Dave kept mentioning. It’s not very difficult to entertain the idea of their magical presence in a place like this. Just one visit to Fairy Falls and you, too, may be convinced that putting your mouth to a stream of water is worth the experience of wishing upon a mystical creature.
And to think if it hadn’t been for that photo competition in which I won this tour, and all the individuals who, so generously, helped get me there, I might have missed out on all of this. I would not have traveled alone to a foreign place, spent two weeks instead of three days, entered the homes of people I’d never met, had an absolutely incredible time, experienced the enchantment that is Edinburgh, and left it all behind with a feeling of joy, excitement, longing, sadness and peace, all at once.
What’s not to love about a place whose stunning medieval architecture is only enhanced by the dark, dramatic clouds hanging overhead? Whose castle sits high atop a hill overlooking the town, robust, elegant, and downright captivating. Whose views compete with the wind to simply take your breath away. Whose venues, sidewalks, and street corners host the world’s largest arts festival, every August. Well, I don’t know. But I do know what is to love, and it only helps if you experience it for yourself. Then and only then will you truly understand why I rant on about some place some thousands of miles away whose old town is like a walk back in time, all the while still very present.
Even the Haggis was good. What a great presentation of sheep’s organs, potatoes and turnips, bathed in a creamy gravy. Thank you, The Royal Mile Tavern.
But, alas, the sun set over Calton Hill, over the Princes Street Gardens, over the Royal Mile, over Arthur’s Seat and Holyrood Park, over the tombstone of the Greyfriar’s Bobby, over the Haggis, neeps and tatties and the cobbled roads and the brick walls and the underground passages and the hidden alleyways and the live performances and the dark clouds and, of course, over the Edinburgh Castle, high atop a hill overlooking the town, robust, elegant, and downright captivating. And there I sat, taking it all in.
Until next time, Scotland.