Written by: Anne Gavin
As I mentioned in a previous diary entry, much of my tour would involve hiking and spending time out of the car. I was really looking forward to experiencing some of the most pristine landscapes in the world up close and personal. Therefore I was excited to learn that our first day in the Highlands would include an ambitious hike. But, before that, we made a brief stop in the little township of Falkland. Everyone geeked out as we walked into the town square and saw the famous fountain from Outlander Episode 1 “Sassenach” – where Jamie’s ghost stood looking longingly up at Claire in “Mrs. Baird’s B&B”. I don’t know why but the tiny town square seemed so much larger on television. The street on either side is barely 25 feet across and the distance from the fountain to the small shop where Claire admired the blue vase is but a stone’s throw. Nonetheless, it was thrilling to be there and to know we were standing where our beloved actors and the characters they play had stood. Now with Outlander adrenaline coursing through our veins, we headed off for our first hike at the Birks of Aberfeldy.
The foaming stream, deep-roaring, fa’s
O’erhung wi’ fragrant-spreading shaws
The birks of Aberfeldy.
The evening found us in Inverness fairly giddy about the day we just had. The travelers were becoming more at ease with each other and names and faces were becoming clearer. Meanwhile, I was thrilled to have the chance to walk along the River Ness and think about one of my favorite passages from Book 4 “Drums of Autumn” – the fight between Brianna and Roger.
The following day we all knew what awaited us. A grim reminder that Jamie and Claire’s efforts were for naught and that the Battle of Culloden turned out to be a colossal disaster for the Highland culture and the clans that fought there. But, before that we made a brief stop at Clava Cairns – the ancient stone circles that many say was Diana Gabaldon’s inspiration for the fictional stones in Outlander’s Craigh na Dun. It was a beautiful day and so very quiet there. The cairns there stand as a reminder that this is sacred ground upon which ancient people chose to bury their dead. The winds whistled amongst the trees and the stones themselves seemed to hum ever so slightly as rays of morning sunlight licked softly between the moss growing within the stones’ crags. I understood then the pull of the stones, although had no desire to test whether they would transport. I was content to look around and feel the serenity of the circle and wonder how these ancient people created such a powerful place so many thousands of years ago.
As I got ready to step outside and tour the battlefield, I noticed it started to rain. It was steady, damp and very, very cold rain. Unfortunately, the GPS guided listening device handed to me as I stepped outside stopped working about a quarter of the way across the battlefield. I was actually quite far away from the Visitor’s Center so decided not to go back. At first I was annoyed, but then I realized that I learned almost everything I needed to know in the Visitor’s Center and rather than listening, I could play back in my head what I had learned and concentrate instead on what the clansmen might have experienced during the battle. A horribly conceived battle plan led exactly where you would think it would – to total and utter destruction. It was grim to think about. I was cheered only by the many dogs and Scottish owners scampering about the battlefield taking their daily walk. Apparently, dogs are allowed there!! For a dog lover like me, it was pure joy. I was happy for that distraction given the devastation of the scene. I would venture to say that the entire Culloden site is one of the best war/battlefield sites I have ever seen. Well worth the trip northwest if only just for that.
We remain in the Highlands for the next few days before returning to Edinburgh. Next diary entry I’ll tell you about our trip to Loch Ness and search for Nessie. However, a couple of things I have learned along the way. There are sheep literally everywhere. And, because lambing season took place mid-to late April there are BABY lambs everywhere, too. I am absolutely re-thinking my love of lamp chops. Second, HARRIS TWEED. I am obsessed. A hat, a jacket, a small bag and a couple of cell phone holders and I’m not done yet. Such beautiful wool and prints. Might have to buy a Harris Tweed Duffle bag to transport all my Harris Tweed products home.
Read ALL my Scotland Diary entries here:
A Sassenach Abroad
Ready, Set, Scotland
May 13-14 Edinburgh
May 15-17 Castles, Kirks, Cairns and Culloden
May 19-21 The Highlands Part 2
May 24-27 Over the Sea to Skye
May 27-30 The West Coast and Scottish Hospitality
Until next time, Sassenachs. Slainte!