Scotland was on my “bucket list” for many years–especially since reading Diana Gabaldon’s books (Outlander; 1991), and our visit to Edinburgh after the Great Britain trip several years ago. I was very pleased when it was chosen for our 2012 First Church Travelers destination–and it did not disappoint!
There are always “pinch me”, am I really here?, moments during a trip, and the first for me was arriving at our Edinburgh hotel and looking up to see Edinburgh Castle overlooking us, just a couple of blocks away. A perfect location, day and night! It was a delight to wander this wonderful, historic place with our tour, and on our own. And the chance to taste the local fare at the pubs by the hotel!
The powerful history of Scotland was everywhere with us. From the beautiful links course at St. Andrews, to the courtly Dunrobin Castle, we were able to experience the feeling of the history of the place. It is hard for us to comprehend the site of graves at Clava Cairns that date back to 3,000 B.C., and the village of Skara Brae, also from that time, existing for 500 years before being buried in shifting sands. But the 1746 Battle of Culloden was brought vividly to life at the visitors center, and it was a powerful sense of the fierce and tragic battle that was pivotal for Scotland–and beyond.
Probably a highlight of the trip for the group was the glorious day on the Orkney Islands. Although we had some sun every day of the trip (note what an amazing thing that is in itself!), the day we went to the Orkneys was spectacular! The trip by ferry took us to a lush green, rolling landscape, dotted here and there with charming homes and grazing sheep. And with all of the churches one always visits in Europe, two special ones are there: St. Magnus Cathedral, over 860 years old, and the Italian Chapel, built by WW II Italian prisoners of war. Two extremes of architecture, and both a powerful experience.
At the end of the day, however, it is the people that “make” the trip. From the experience of the history of the people of Scotland, to the shopkeepers you engage in conversation. We had some outstanding local guides–in the Orkneys; at the whisky distillery in Pitlochry; the falconer at Dunrobin Castle… Their passion for their homeland and eagerness to share it with us, brought Scotland to life. The best part for me was the chance to travel with the First Church Travelers in our group. It is such fun to share the adventure, sharing our stories over meals, and getting to know each other in ways we never could otherwise. It enriches the whole trip to see a new place through each other’s eyes–we see things we would have missed! I find it a powerful thing, to share the world with each other, each person coming with the joys and challenges of their lives. The relationships become intertwined with the experience of Scotland, and will be always treasured. I look forward to the next adventure!