Sunday, 25 December 2011

Solstice and Christmas on Loch Ness

Feasgar math, good evening Outlandish Bloggers,
Scot here, hailing you from the shores of Loch Ness where Sam and I are staying in a Victorian hunting lodge over the Christmas / Solstice period.  Log fires, good food, good company, no snow, driving rain... It's Scotland.

We're cabinned-up in The Inch na Cardoch Hotel.  That's Alan Clayton, the owner in the kilt below.

We've been having a we break and also performing the role of MC for the few days here, bringing Scottish traditions to the proceedings.

We've just been making Brides Crosses with the 19 or so guests.

Sam gathering Luachar for the crosses

Loch Ness from the lodge

Bridget's Crosses proudly displayed.
Bridget is a Celtic diety who was the Goddess of hearth fire, home, the plough, poetry, wisdom and blacksmithing.  She was taken into the Christian cannon of saints.  Making of her crosses for the home is a blessing. We do it in the winter dark hours.  Here, the guests have given them as gifts to the staff, Marian, Ali, Michelle and Rab the chef have been working hard to look after us in this fine old homely home.

Winter blessings with you.  The sun is returning!

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

May 2012 - Happy Thoughts of a Spring Tour

I'd really like to know if there's something happening out there that I'm not aware of, because there's been a run on the Jamie & Claire May 2012 Tour!  There are now only 4 spaces left.  Usually we get people signing on throughout the months, but this time it's been almost all at once..... interesting (as Mr. Spock would say).

It's a nice diversion after the two wind storms we've just had here in Scotland where winds of 100 to 150 mph were lifting trees out of the ground and roofs off the houses.  Scot and I lost power for two days just after a huge grocery shopping trip, so we scrambled to friend's for freezer space.  Then our roads flooded into our yard leaving us without clean water until we had our water tank emptied and cleaned.  But if that's all life is challenging us with, then life is pretty good and we have no complaints!

Mind you, we had quite a wind storm in May this year.  This has all been a bit unprecedented.  Climate change anyone?  I don't know about you, but I'm looking forward to the spring and to meeting more lovely faces on our adventures following the trail of those two famous and much loved Outlandish Spirits, Claire & Jamie.  We really enjoyed our travels with all our other OSs and hope you're all doing well and keeping warm.  Cheers Dears! Sam
And here are some sheep... blue spotted sheep... a rare breed.... ahem.

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Getting the Harvest in

This wee post is not a tour blog.  Tour season has ended, big sigh, sore feet, what day is it?

Now it's time to get the white board out and make the long list of winter projects to do.  One of which is to finish the harvest and get the garden put to bed.

Scot has been mowing the meadow and making hay stacks.  There's still a few wee beasites and bees around (unusually warm over 3 days) so he's been leaving some flowers up for them.
For tour guest Monique and other city dwellers: a haystack

I have become "smoothie girl", blending bulk spinach for fruit-smoothies that I will freeze for eeking out over winter.  There is a lot of eeking done here in the winter - Gabaldon and other books to read and make last; currently, "A Thousand Splendid Suns".  Firewood to eek out, sanity to make last a winter of snow.  (You've seen The Shining, aye?)

I have been keeping us healthy with nutritious blends of vegetables and fruit, much from the garden, to make smoothies.  (Scot:  "canny eat that. I's got froot init." ).  I'm running out of room in the freezer.  I grew my own spinach this year with great success, but the season is over and now I've gone to our local green grocer for a crate.

Scot has a cottage to thatch next week in Argyll and then it's down to book writing again.  He's set himself the target of 20,000 words to add to the book this winter.
Another note for city dwellers:  A thatched house that Scot's repairing.  This is only slightly smaller than our last wee house.

On the tour front, I am playing with the idea of an Ireland tour for next year (amazing country and people).  Some of my Outlandish Spirits from previous J&C tours are interested. 
Scot will be doing a "Journey to the Western Isles" tour for some previous old-tour-friends.  That one's private, but again, some interest from the Outlandish Spirits in the public one.  (See Scot's website for pics of that tour from last year Journey to the Western Isles)
Himself is also thinking of a dude tour called Grain and Stone.  It's just a "what if" at the moment, but the idea would be to visit a few clan chiefs in their castles, share a dram and experience the lives of highland chieftains.  That's the Stone part.  The Grain is to visit a couple of breweries and a few distilleries.  Throw all that on to the back of highland ponies and head into the wilderness hawking and hunting for their daily rations for a few days.
All a bit dudish for me (and perhaps you, the blog followers) but it might be a good way to get rid of your husbands for week, perhaps permanently if they can't keep up.  Visions of City Slickers (1991) come to mind.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Line em up day 8

The Last Day, sob sob.

We won't have any words from our Outlandish Spirits directly for the final day, because we didn't carry the blog machine around Edinburgh today.

Gale force winds buffeted the Western Isles and we felt just the tail of it on the Royal Mile.  Bracing!  Very authentic for Claire-returns-to-Edinburgh-1768.

We did all the wee side streets and closes that feature in the book, testing the guests along the way to see if they knew which scene was played out in the place they now stood. Julia was, and has been through the tour, the most.. erm... devoted reader (there's always one on the Jamie and Claire tour whom we suspect has a box of cross-referenced indexed cards with every character and scene cataloged -lol- that would be Julia on this tour.  Hello Danelle from last year to name but one.)  Which of you was it on the Grain Tour?

Debie has not stopped grinning throughout the trip (see yesterday's picture of her with a gnome friend).  Today was no exception.  She kept saying that she was just going to stay in Scotland and not go back.  I'm sure her family can come up with a story about Stones and Gems and being lost in time.

Line em up one more time - Jacobite Glasses
Sam gave "a few wee gifties" as she calls them to our guests (above).  A rare 18th Century style of glass, traditionally engraved with a Jacobite symbol.  Line em up!  Just sayin'.

Sam went running about some local shops and discovered some that specialize in proper Scotland items, made in Scotland and not some foreign land and came back with the locations for our Outlandish Spirits to visit later.  She also ran into and had a good chat with Mike Katz and Alasdair White of "The Battlefield Band".  Alas, they were not playing in town this day.  But she recommends that you buy one of their cd's and enjoy some good Scottish music.  She has seen them in concert in the past.

After most everyone said goodbye, I decided that we should do a pub crawl for some local ales and 'convinced' Julia, Monique and Glenda to join in.  Luckily it was on their way to their accommodation (complete with swimming pool and spa - another J&C Tour first) so the lasses didnae have far to stagger, I mean walk.  Then more goodbyes and aye fond farewells as the song goes.

We shall truly miss this group of haggis eat'n, whisky, ale and sambuka drink'n, bunny chasin', and most important Jamie chasin' (except for Ron, who kinda likes Loighaire) Outlandish Spirits ... Just sayin'.

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Line em up - day 6 and 7


Monique: Last night we got to stay the night in the castle. It was my first experience in a castle and it was awesome. I don't even know how to describe it. We had a three course meal with bagpipers, and then I encountered my second favorite dessert (next to the thick hot chocolate, of course)...sticky toffee pudding. It was the most sinful thing ever. To our surprise Robert the Bruce and a Templar Knight came to visit. We had to make a decision on whether or not to help the scottish war against Edward of England. How to make such a decision was hard but ended up helping anyway. We got to try on the armor and play with the weapons. Boy, that was fun!!! Overall, the people were great, the food was wonderful, and the company was grand! Also there was the cutest gnome garden in the front of the castle. Any type of gnome you could think of probably exist in that garden. There were a few gnomes being very "cheeky" in the garden but they were too cute to be upset with.

Cindy: We arrived last night at Castle Stuart to spend the night; another first for me. The meal was fantastic as was the bagpiper and Robert the Bruce. Yes this was somewhat of a fairy tale night. This was another favorite day and night for me. I'm yet undecided if climbing up the mountain with sheep all around and the bubbling creek was my favorite day or was it the castle stay. It doesn't matter. It is all such a real wonderful dream. Who would have thought I would be waking up in a Castle in Scotland.

Nancy & Ron: We enjoyed a magical night and day in the Castle Stuart. [They had the big king size bed chamber... I'm just saying... Sam)

Debie: Oh Brothers of mine grab your walking sticks and join me in the enchanted forests of Scotland! Green moss covers the trees, mushrooms of every color cover the ground orange with polka dots, white and green, wild flowers blue, pink, yellow and orange [we took a walk along the hills around Loch Ness]. The castle was outstanding, the piper calling us to dine. It was a dream come true. Fireplaces so big you could stand in them, you could feel the history!
Tales by the walk-in fireplace

Not sure how to add to this image by words?

Debie makes a friend

A porter goes to fetch a bag
Tomorrow... we walk the Royal Mile and search out the haunts of A.Malcolm seditious printer.  It is forecast to be gale-force tomorrow and raining heavily, just like in Claire's return to Edinburgh and the run to the World's End.  Ah, the authentic Scottish experience.  Can't wait!

Saturday, 10 September 2011

Line em up day 5


Scot:  What a day!  We have just come back from the Julie Fowlis concert this evening (this being the Celtic Music themed Jamie and Claire Tour).  I know Julie Fowlis's folk music but this was a commissioned piece called Heisgeir.  It was a short film, backed with her live band of Celtic instruments, documenting an abandoned island near where she comes from just off the west of Uibhist.  I was really touched by the piece.  It was the premier and possibly the only performance so Sam did well to find us tickets.  The musicians spoke in Gaelic and English and the islanders in the film told tales and their life experiences on the outer isles in Gaelic.  Our Outlandish Spirits had the full experience of what Claire would have heard a majority of the time, 200 years back from her own time.
I had a grand we natter with a man called Jamie who had traveled 10 hours to come to this gig and was camping in a midge-infested river location.

Yesterday I ran into a man for whom I had done a storytelling session last year, way up in a hunting lodge. He now works at the Black Isle Brewery, near to Inverness and he said they were having an Oktoberfest.  I told the Line-m-up crew and this afternoon we went over and joined the festivities and sampled the ales and listened to some great music from local blues and folk musicians. (A Festival being another 'First' of new experiences on the J&C Tour).   It's handy when we have a smallish group of enthusiasts (as opposed to a large coach tour) because we can take advantage of such fortuitous deviations in the planned itinerary.

The ale was grand as was the Bratwurst (it is an oktoberfest afterall).  The cook was another of my storytelling acquiantances named Ricky.  Tall, red haired, wears a kilt, AND COOKS.  Oh the lasses of the posse had a wee bit o fun at his expense.  He made the Bratwurst himself from "Gloucester Old Spot and The White Sow" pigs on Monday.  Fresh!

All this and we still managed to do the planned visit of the day.  A very special burial place that will remain secret.  The posse found it to be moving, from all accounts.

The Line-m-up posse in fluid form, Mr Reid, sings in the background.

Sista joins in the straw throwing with the under 5s.

Debie and Sistas read to us from the UK copy of Outlander - note the alternative artwork and name of 'Crosstitch'. Note also the pint pots. These lasses are all "blondes".

The final scene of Heisgeir - the band play behind the video footage and interviews. 

Friday, 9 September 2011

Rainbow Chasers - day 4

DAY 4 
Monique: So, today was beyond anything i could of expected.  First we went to a castle that could have been castle Leoch.  it was beautiful, magestic and everything i thought it would be, but it was not what had the lasting impression; This came at Culloden and to be honest i was anxious about the whole experience.  Initially the exhibit was very informative up until the movie; the battle reenactment! how could anything top that?  Well I ventured to the battlefield with Debie and I started seeing the clans stones.  Even as I think about it, I get teary eyed; it was just too much.  Then I saw the stone for the clan Fraser and I lost it.  How could lives be lost so senselessly?  As I sit here after all i have seen i still don't know what to say, feel, or think; all i can do is cry.  It is a part of history that can't be changed but can be learned from. it was a hard experience, but it was one that i will never forget!

Nancy:  Today we started out with a guid stretch & walked through the Castle with the lovely gardens and woods and we ate lunch in the castle.  We enjoyed song while we strolled through the woods. Hieland Cows were a highlight before the battle of Culloden. We enjoyed a beautiful rain free day!!

Sam:  Another first:  A nice walk through the woodlands surrounding the castle.  I started teaching the group a wee song that we'll all sing later.  I was amazed at how the castle gardens have as many flowers in the early autumn as they do in the spring.  Absolutely beautiful.

The Tai Chi of Castle

Is that a castle in the distance?

Thursday, 8 September 2011

The Rainbow Chasers Tour - day 3


Rainbows are showing up all over in our travels and they've inspired each of us in our own way, so I duly dub this tour "The Rainbow Chasers" tour.  As well, we're in the height of the bloom'n Heather season and the surrounding hills are patterned with purple and greens.  It's as if I forget every year how beautiful the autumn colors are here and am only reminded when I come up north; a treat every time.

At our wee Claire & Jamie marriage chapel today, we had a special treat as several in the group sang together to test the acoustics - well done.  A couple of Rainbows later on the road we enjoyed our Afternoon Tea, complete with cakes and lots of tea and coffee. Monique was... err pleased?

We took a drive up the other side of Loch Ness and enjoyed the beauty of the smaller lochs and the never ending purple hued hills.  Quite surreal.

Scot: Aye, weel the blog is by me and Herself today as we've given them nae chance to write.  Besides, bha i beagan fliuch an-diugh - twas a wee bitty wet and I've noticed that the wee computery thing doesna much care for water drapped on it.

Maybe we should rename this tour the Heather on the Hills tour.  We've been marveling at it every few miles as we climbed higher into the hills today.  It's a strong show of the wee Calluna Vulgaris this year.  Them hills is Pink I tell ye! Pink!  Shtunning!

We went to the Ardsmuir / Wentwork / FortWilliam barracks lookalike this morning and recreated the bleakness of the Scottish prisoner experience of cold, gray stone and driving rain in the face.  Aye, well, they wanted the real thing.

We also made the very instructional visit to the cottars house to give the Hugh Munro experience.  We met with a cailleach who showed us her weaving and explained the loom, the drop spindle, the rake, the shuttle and all.  If none of that made any sense tae ye, then look it up on Mr and Mrs Google.  It takes her 25 hours to set the loom up for a new bolt of cloth, and that's before she's woven a single thread.
The new Yorkers build a barn

It's a family affair.

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

September Tour - The Line-m-up Tour

Monique: " So, this tour rocks!!!  I have learned so much.  Now i can see the things in my head in reference to the books and apply them to real life.  I cant wait to go home and read the books all over again and experience all the drama, emotions, craziness that Claire and Jaime go through.  Thanks to Samantha and Scott, I have been saturated in the the Scottish culture, and i feel that this will be an experience of a lifetime. "

I enjoyed seeing, "Crainesmuir" today. The gardens were beautiful. My mom enjoyed sampling the huge assortment of herbs. Nancy was great with mimicking the chickens and sheep [where's Aven when we need her?] . I enjoyed the wee post office. I purchased stamps and post cards to send home. Lunch was great at the village pub. I had the Ploughman's platter; Stilton cheese, bread and pickled chutney, potato leek soup, salad. It has been a wonderful day.

WOW OH WOW! Such beautiful flowers [in the Crainsmuir gardens]!
I feel like Ive gone herb hunting with Claire and Gellis. I Tasted Haggis, not bad.  Saw a kilted band playing bagpipes, I am really in Scotland!

What a wonderful place!!! The mountains are so beautiful and the book becomes so much more vivid and clear once you are here.

Lovely, the trip has been wonderful so far Scotland has been great such a great country and 'guid crack'.

Glenda aka Julia's MOM
Great day! Wonderful hosts and such lovely people to travel with. Having dinner just now and Julia, Monique, Debie, Scot and I had haggis, very intersting food, every thing has been good but then again when you are walking and traveling with fun people, everything tastes better.

This was another tour of 'firsts' - It was the first time that while at our Lallybroch we met with the current REAL Laird and Lady of the 'big hoosie' and the estate for a wonderful tour around the interior of their home.  Upon our arrival, we were shown into a huge room with many of the family's ancestral paintings surrounding us and we were treated to refreshments including lovely home baked carrot cake.  Some of the paintings were from our Outlander time with names of ancestors who had helped shaped the history of the Jacobites.  The Laird spoke candidly about his family tree and life now, versus life on a full working estate over the past few hundred years.  The room in which we sat has been restored to how it would have looked around 1720 - so that's right in the Lallybroch style.

The estate has it's own chapel, farm fields, working farmers and of course sheep.  In the words of some of our Outlandish Spirits on this adventure, "They were such gracious and down to earth hosts and she (our Hostess) was stunning and beautiful."  We have met and shared a wee tipple with real folk from this part of the world spanning the ages.

Our other 'first' for these Jamie & Claire journeys was a discovery I made this evening; if you want to clear a restaurant of Americans and New Yorkers (in a league of their own LoL) don't yell out "Fire!"  Yell, "Bagpipes!" as a pipe band marches past the window.  I've never seen a table empty so quickly in my life.... this is already proving to be a lively group.....ahem.  We later marched up the street with the same band into the night and back to our B&B.

Though not the first time, Scot was able to finally stop at his favorite brewery on the way up and has already started sharing the different bottled brews with the bottle at a time.  One of our prior travelers, 'Badlands Scot' (not to be confused with our own 'Highland Scot'), would appreciate some of the new ales.

A phrase that came up after dinner a few times as we enjoyed various sips, compliments of our New York OS's was "Line 'em up!"  Do I detect a possible name for this tour?  The 'Line 'em Up' tour group.  Me thinks the 'Grain Tour' group have new rivals....time will tell.
Hello to all our past Outlandish Spirits and a special Feasgar math to Carolyn & Marilyn!


Cindy.  What a wonderful and inspring day for me, Walking along mountain tops of Scotland and seeing the sheep running through the fields, rainbows everywhere and of course the secret. My inspiration to start the Outlander books again.

Debie  Well, I'm still here [stone reference].  That said the spot was lovely, the standing stones didn't speak to me or invite me in, maybe it was the time of year... Hard to express how I feel, a little disappointed but I do like my reality.

Monique  "I dont have any words to describe how i feel today.  after an hour hike of tracking in "muck" and getting my pants and hiking boots filthy, i was able to view the world that Claire and Jaime experienced in a new light.  It is a surreal experience. i really dont know how i feel.  i have so many emotions right now the only thing i can think to do is list them:  happy, inspired, overwhelmed, excited, exhausted, and totally in awe of this country.  Then at lunch i figured out the reason i was here...Thick Hot Chocolate!  I would hop plane at any time and go to any place to get it.  I think i just feel in love!!!!!
Scot: we made a "new" stop at a VERY rare place.  I think it is the ONLY remaining painted wooden church ceiling from the 17th Century.

Friday, 12 August 2011

The Glorious 12th - Scottish trivia

Scot here, blog and FB followers.

Today is "The Glorious 12th" of August.  For those NOT from Scotland I can inform you it is, or at least was, an eagerly awaited date in the year of Gentlemen who fanciend themselves as the Great White Hunter.

It is the opening of the Grouse Season in Highlands.  Millions of sweet, comical, beautiful, laughing grouse are currently daubing themselves in mud and moss in an attempt to evade the keen eyes of "the guns" and the associated shot.

Most of these Gentlemen came, in Victorian times, to "their estate in the Highland" to rid the place of birds, deer, otters, and sometimes with a bit of luck, any other "guns" who stood down wind of the buckshot.

Sam and I have headed south into Sassenach land, well, Yorkshire actually ( a people very like Highlanders in many ways but with all the humour wrung out) having left behind Pop Pop and her boyfriend (our tame partridges) in the hope that they will not get shot.  They being also in the grouse family.

We'll head into York tomorrow.  A fine city, nay the finest city in England, if not Britain.  She has posed the question as to whether it may be a future tour location.  MacKenzie Adventures conquers England?

For myself, I can't see it.  I break out in a hive of sweaty boils and expletives when I come to England.  A reaction against all the... well Englishness.

That said, we are yet in Yorkshire, which is hardly England.  It is Yorkshireland!  And they are our cousins in dourness and general disdain of "saft Southerns".


Friday, 5 August 2011

2012 is open for business

Just updated the website so that 2012 tours are listed and bookable.

(Fixed the broken Terms and Conditions check box too.  Who's clever boy then Scot?  Scot good boy! Yap! Yap!)

A September tour will follow in a few weeks when you've all decided whether we should go to the Outer Hebrides as well.

Comment away on that last one.


Thursday, 28 July 2011

July Tour

A few blog followers have been asking about the lack of a July Tour blog, as just past.

There's a good reason for that.

You might have noticed that the website billed it as "tour filled" early on.  It was booked exclusively as a private tour for someone very much in the public eye. We are sworn to secrecy and have no intention of letting that secret out. 

The tour went wonderfully well.

I left the tour on the website for reference because there will be a tour with similar dates and "specials" in July 2012 tour (I've had enquiries). 

I do have a photo to post, not of the tour of course, but of our wee house and wildflower meadow, taken on our return. 

And here are some photos of the wild, red legged partridges that have become comical residents in our garden.

See y'all in September for the tour.  Oh what delights await!  Mwa! Mwa!

Friday, 27 May 2011

To The Future ~ To Ireland

An Ireland Tour
in the planning......
NO, Jamie and Claire didnae go there (so far), but then we ARE Outlandish Spirits; going far and wide and exploring strange new worlds and new cilivizations ... but I digress.  Some of our recent and prior Outlandish Spirits are already interested in coming along.   We've just had a recent chat on our FB page:

Outlandish Spirit - whoa. Wait a minute. There's an Ireland tour?
Sam - Yes, Ireland. Stay tuned!
Vicki - What?? Do tell... Girl's trip????
Sam - Girl's trip? Well that depends if any Guys sign up :)  Guys are more than welcome!
Aina - Giant's Causeway perhaps.... share some Irish hot chocolate.
Sam - I'll buy you two of your own..... I want every last drop of mine...mmmm. an' me own pint! :p .

We're taking your requests for your preferred month to travel and places to go in the Emerald Isles.  Want to come along?  Help us choose the destinations now.

IRELAND ~ Land of Celtic legends: the Tuathaa De Danann, Children of Lir.  Land of magical song: the music of the fiddle can make you dance with wild abandon and can make you cry.  Have you ever heard the Uilleann pipes? Eerily enchanting.  Land of green rolling hills rising up to form sheared, steep cliffs over white foamed waves rolling and crashing onto the shore.... but I wax lyrical.

Scot and I have been to Ireland several times as travelers and as tour guides and Scot used to live there as well.  The people are absolutely lovely and have a great sense of humor and though the streets aren't paved in gold - green being the preferred color, most paths lead to a pint of Guinness; a tasty alternative.  Besides, if you catch the rainbow, you'll find your own pot of gold. 

Fancy coming along?  Tell us what you want to experience:  seashore, ceilidh session, stone circle, a specific village or county?  Let us know while we are still in the planning stages.

The wee tune "Song for Ireland" pretty much says it all:

The link, in case

Cheers, Scot and Sam

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Droch Isean, Day 8, the denoument

The Last Day.

We leave Lallybroch and head to Edinburgh.

Rebecca here and we have been giving the last adventure today through the streets of Edinburgh. Scot spent some time reading from our bible and gave me a chill as he read of the reunion of Jamie and Claire, total goosebumps. This has been an experience of a life time not only have we been mesmerized by the sights that Scotland holds but we have developed a bond with each other that will stand forever. So I guess we have created our own history in this historic Land. We separate today and a tear wells in my eye, but this will not be the last time we meet. A BIG thank you to Samantha and Scot for taking the time to create this tour and giving us the experience of a life time. Girls I will never forget you, you too Scot. This is me saying good bye for now....

Scot: And so another piece of history is written - The Droch Isean May Tour 2011. Fair ye weel a while ladies. We have enjoyed yer company just fine. We await to see the photos of your reunion at the Highland Games and we look forward to seeing some of you on the coming Ireland tour. Remember, you're part of the tours club now - you can never leave.

And on a final note.  The catch-phrase of the tour seems to have been

"Also, here are some sheep" 

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Day 7 - I am come home

Today is all about Lallybroch.

Scot here, blogging from a window seat in a fine tall sash and case window overlooking the lawn surrounded by trees in Lallybroch.  The lasses are all away exploring and are ecstatic.

From the far window I blog to you

Is that a Gabaldon I see on the dresser?

She has become accustomed
I've just spent WAY TOO LONG creating something for you - the Blood Oath that Jamie says to Claire as they marry, translated into Gàidhlig and in a sound clip, so you can hear it.

"Ye are Blood of my Blood and Bone of my Bone.
I give ye my Body, that we two might be one.
I give ye my spirit, till our Life shall be Done." (Copyright Gabaldon)

"Blood of My Blood" in Gàidhlig

Sali, here.  We're east of Edinburgh and the Bard has a nose-bleed because he's so far from the Highlands. The rest of us are experiencing significant withdrawl.  The Highlands are behind us?  After months of anticipation, weeks of excitement and days of reveling in the rarified air, haunting ruins, and pervasive history of the Scottish Highlands - it's over?

Okay - enough whining for now. Day 7 brought us Lallybroch - no, really!  White washed and three storied, glowing in the post-storm sun, it was everything our imaginations conjour up when ever Jamie and Claire go home. Complete with out-buildings, grazing sheep, game birds, and fields that go on forever!

After Lallybroch, the group climbed Monument Hill and got a bird's eye view of Prestonpans. Then a deli lunch in Haddington. While my tour-mates were fed and watered, I wrapped myself in my new wool cape and wandered off to explore the town. I ended at Tyne River and spent my lunch-time photographing a family of swans feeding at the river. And then the piece d'resistence - our rooms at "Lallybroch".  I wonder what the poor people are doing right now?

Scot - This evening, back at the House, I had the pleasure of sending them to sleep one by one with tales, told in the room in the top picture above.  A fine place to tell fine Tales to fine ladies.
It's at the end of this post.

"Also, here are some sheep."

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Day 6 of Droch Iseanan

We didn't find time the other day to keep you up to date with the Blog and our visit to Culloden.  Here's Kelly's words.

Kelly - The afternoon brought us to Culloden. Some time was spent experiencing the interactive exhibits and then touring the battlefield; very difficult in such a peaceful place to remember the horror and sacrifice that took place. I believe that we all left with a sense of compassion for both sides and their pain, suffering and losses.

Today we follow in the coach tracks of Claire a-la Inverness to Edinburgh in search of A.Malcolm.  We are doing the two day coach journey in four hours over two days.  It's a long way, you realise, when you travel in the Highlands.

Dannelle:   We survived our guideless afternoon and evening in Inverness, last night, without the assistance (or interference) of the local authorities, though we did manage to irritate the security guards at the pub that we (ahem) raised a bit of hell at far into the wee hours.  I loved being asked where my accent was from, and hearing all the local Scots use everyday language that is totally different than what we hear at home.  And, of course, the accents are fantastic.  I was happily surprised to find that folks around town (and Scotland in general, so far) were really friendly and helpful - gave directions and were very chatty and a lot of fun!  I can totally see myself living here!

Scot - There are consequences, kids, to such late night behaviour:

Rebecca meditates upon the error of her ways

Dannelle:    I CAN'T see myself living in the wee 18th century village we visited this morning!  The tacksman's house, thatch-roofed and windowless, filled with peat smoke and dirt floors, with space for the beasts in an adjoining room(!!) was considered wealthy for the development....Claire, more power to you!  I'll stay happily in the 21st century, dreaming of adventures past!

Scot - because we have tours that are a bit more responsive to the changing needs of our friends, we made a wee stop this afternoon, not on the list, in order to pick up a few bottles of Uisge Beatha for Rebecca's man, Pat.  There's a fine shop in Pit Chloich Aridh that has about 400 different bottlings.  I chose the newest Distillery in Scotland for one - Kilchomain; the smallest for another - Edradour and the lady of the shop chose a third - Ben Romach.  Pat is perhaps reading this blog ahead of the delivered gifts.  Enjoy, your research into what's in store and I'd like to hear your tasting notes.
That led us to lunch and a bit of locating a grave that contains an almost unknown local story about the descendants of the Royal Stuart lineage.   Who'd have thunk it... but you had to be there.  I'm not giving that one away, guests only!

Sam - I noticed the terrain changing from the north as we traveled south today; the heather shrub in the more southern areas has already turned a deep plush green.  I love watching the subtle and also vibrant changes to the foliage.  Over the past few days, we've seen quite a few Red Deer and though our Hens didn't realize it, an amazing number of Red Kite sitings; an endangered and beautiful bird of prey up here.  Spring is wonderful.

Tomorrow, I can tell you, is Lallybroch day.

Friday, 20 May 2011

Day 5 of really bad ass hens

We thought we'd do something different on this tour (indeed, there are many "firsts" on this one.  More of that later).  We've given the lasses a day of two halves.  In the morning we stopped in to pay our respects to the Clan Chief - Lord John MacKenzie, Earl of Cromarty.  He furnished us with the traditional mark of hospitality  -  a wee dram - before showing us around his home.  I've not spoken to the lasses this afternoon about the visit but the looks of wonder on their faces as Lord John described some "new part" of the castle from 500 years ago were priceless.  I'd say they got a real sense of the historical details found in the Outlander books. After all they touched them, sat on them and smelled them.  We'll perhaps find out tomorrow what they thought.

Did we mention the Wild Hyacinth (bluebells) in the May tour?

Which leads us to the new idea of the tour.  We've given them the afternoon off.  They are unchaperoned in the town of Inverness.  Lord John doubted they could find any "hell" to raise.  WE are of a different opinion.  Not so concerned with FINDING mischief, but of MAKING it.  We've left our contact phone number with the local constabulary.
What can you do? Kids eh.

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Day 4 of Bad (Ass) hens


Sali here - (Hi, Boo!) It may be Day 4, but three of us are still giggling over last night's hunt for Isabella, the resident ghost of the baronial mansion where we passed the night. (Remind me to tell you about our utterly decadent four-posters!) The evening began with fluets of champagne toasting an utterly marvelous day - a day that saw us at the top of the world as well as beneath the earth. After dinner, our personal Bard regaled us with tales of Silkies and light-houses, his audience in rapt attention not interferring with sips of wine, coffee, tea - and the inevitable Pims & Lemonade. As midnight approached, Samantha and Scot floated off to their romantic plaid in the heather, and Dannelle and Rebecca to their sumptious suites. And that left three . . . night-caps anyone?

A Baronni and a couple of Pims & Lemonade had Kelly, Courtney and me following Simon and the keys to the mansion through one locked door after another, examining paintings and searching shadowy corners for a trace of Isabella. A drapery twitched, the eyes of a painting followed our movements, a door swung closed without human touch. Had Isabella found us?

Sam here - Scotland is full of some wonderful castles and ours provided an added highlight as the Lady of the castle came gracefully strolling up to the front. We enjoyed some lovely gardens today with beautiful fragrant flowers adorning our paths. I talked Sali into coming into seeing some special features and she was snapping photos of some lovely blue Icelandic Poppies for her hubby. On to a traditional pub to fortify ourselves before taking a good hard look at some Scottish Jacobite history and our hero, Jamie's involvement in it all.

"And also, here are some sheep."

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Droch Isean - day 3

DAY 3 - a day of surprises

Firstly, here's the tweed jacket. Fine aye?

Hiking in the wilderness
Rebecca-  Today I experience a wilderness that called my name.  We walked around a beautiful park that exposed trees and water rushes, a place God must look down and smile at his amazing work.  We had a reading to remind us of the times Jamie and Claire spent romping throught the wilderness and slept in the heather (which was to my surprise, very comfy). Imagine a time when the sky was you roof and the wind dried your hair, amazing.  I am truly having an experience that has exceeded my expections.  This is me logging off for now.....

Scot: we laid the surprises on thick today.  We're not telling YOU, of course, but here's the faces when the lasses found out where they were staying.

That's all your getting Followers!

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Droch Isean - Day 2


Pip - ready for adventure in the Spirits Tour Van
Hello all. This is Courtney and Kelly blogging for day 2 of the tour. After a lovely evening and delectable breakfast at a B & B we took a short drive to see an Ardsmuir-like prison Barracks. It was amazing to see how impressive it was to build a 4 story stone fortress without the aid of [modern] tools, and also how an individual could survive there once the task was completed. The view was breath-taking!

The second stop brought us to Wedding Chapel; one can just imagine the ceremony of Jamie and Claire! Did we mention BREATH TAKING VIEWS!

We certainly worked up our appetites to enjoy a spot of tea and sandwiches with some quite delightful desserts! The atmosphere was perfect and just what you would expect when having a proper afternoon tea. We are loving the tour, our tour companions, and our guides and having the time of our lives!

GREETINGS, ALL - Sali here. Is it still Day 2? We are packing so much into the days, it feels like Day 5 at least! At another B&B - bed looks so inviting, but dinner with the gang first. Dannelle and I actually have separate beds tonite! Haven't slept in the same bed with her this much since her 6-year-old nightmare phase!

I absolutely LOVE Scotland - the Highlands thus far are magnificent! I'm already wondering how I'll tear myself away to go home. Best part of the day? Certainly not just one thing! Loved joking about with Nigel Nicol in the wool-tweed shop! My daughter's face was memorable as she tried on a stunning Harris Tweed jacket that neither of us can afford, but I bought anyway. (What the heck - her look was priceless!) Buildings and ruins hundreds of years old. The rarefied air of history. Laughter with new friends. Could you choose?

Scot - aye she looks braw, does Dannelle in her new green tweed jacket, with silk lining. Like a Highland lassie - fit for crawling around in the heather then off to the ball without needing to change. That's Harris tweed for you.
Myself, I bought a pocket watch. I have "time issues" as Sam is always telling me. I haven't owned a watch for years - I tend to test things to a quick destruction. Besides, I'm a storyteller - we have a special relationship with time in my profession only understood by A.Einstein. Time is relative. I can make a story last a year. Ask my wife.