Friday, 7 September 2012

Inverness and Beyond

We picked up our guests from their castle night.  There were no reported ghost sightings, but a piper played them into dinner, which was grand.  

Kathy found a Kathy-sized Horse

Jack was taken by the wee ruined church that used to serve the castle.  A chief that fell at Culloden is buried there.

This afternoon, as I write, the Squirrels are nibbling their way through Inverness (shopping, I believe).

This evening will be a special event - we're going to the Blas festival to see the specially commissioned piece by Mairead Stewart - Highland Wedding through the ages.

Karen: Haiku generally do not have titles, but the one the other day would have been called "Whither Claire?" and this one, inspired by yesterday's visit to Culloden, would be called "A Fatal Day":

Blue flags face the red
Empty stomachs, driving rain
The daffodils weep

Excitement at the Castle --- The laird has an autographed copy of An Echo in the Bone!

Kristin: The weather has been extremely cooperative for all of our adventures - as we were prepared for mizzle [the infamous mist/drizzle of Scotland].  Waking to sunny days has given a beautiful perspective of the lochs, mountains and many gorgeous shades of green and gold the countryside has too offer.  The pony trek was a first for me - can tick one off my bucket list!  Morton, a Norwegian Fjord 15hh horse, was a mild mannered one, however he did enjoy snacking constantly!  The view of Urquhart Castle, while on horseback, was amazing!  The visit to Culloden was fascinating.  The depiction of the government and the Jacobites on opposite walls really gave an good comparison of the 'mind set' of each.  The memorial field gives you pause when thinking of the horrific battle that was fought there as you see the small clan stones that have been erected.

Karen: "Senryu" are humorous haiku. This one would be called "Outlandish Squirrels Tour the Highlands":

Ooo, look at that! Click!
Red deer, deep lochs, piles of stones
Click! The laird's bow tie

Karen: Now, on to the city known as Auld Reekie, "The Old Smelly Place." . . . Could it be due to the things they used to throw out of the windows? . . . The lovely view from the backseat includes hills in the distance, lots of green trees and fields with round bales of hay, a river, old stone cottages, the occasional farm animal, and by the side of the road, yellow wildflowers, but no litter and no billboards. . . . Oops! Spoke too soon. There's a lonely piece of crumpled newspaper . . . Remarkable. 

Sam: The final day up north and we make a few stops as we head south to Edinburgh.  Our lunch at a working Highland mill gave us lovely sandwiches with beautiful fresh bread but alas no red under breeks by the water wheel.  However, we heard some local tales from Scot as we sat in the warm sunshine post lunch.

The final day in Edinburgh we explored with Scot's help all the closes in Voyager.  Then we wined and dined not far from our Outlandish Spirits' accommodation.  Karen gave Scot a lovely gift from Japan for his storytelling.  Another success for our laddie in the plaidie.  And another fond farewell to our travellers from distant lands.

Thursday, 6 September 2012

"We come to a castle" or two

 Today's entry will be without the first hand words of our Outlandish Squirrels as there hasna been time to blog. 

Tonight they are in a castle. Yup, a real castle, with armour and guns and a piper and towers. Kathy: "Ooh! I wanna see a ghost". Scot: "No you don't." Kathy is quite good for copy. She's been doing well with her gaidhlig for "good morning". Her version: "Madainn mhath y'all".
After showing the troupe around another castle this morning, the castle most like Leoch, we went on to Culloden. That's never a jolly experience. Sallie and Jack's words "Futility, incompetence, waste." Seems a common sentiment.

It's the human stories that get me, like 16 year old Donald Mollach who was the 9th Livingstone that hour to carry the banner of the Appin regiment in the one hour of carnage. All the others had fallen holding it. By the time he grasped it from the mud, the battle was lost. He tore it from its pole so that it would not be captured and burned by the British government. Donald wrapped it round his body and pulled his plaid over it and fled the field, heading for Appin. He made it back several days later to Appin and his home island of Lios Mor, having covered the distance by night, using hill passes, sleeping in forests and caves during the day. The Appin Banner is the only Jacobite banner to survive the public burnings in Edinburgh and London. 

Go to the next post in this tour

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Outlandish Squirrel Tour days 3-4

Introducing Kathy, Kris and Rebecca
Days 3-4
Karen: Visiting the cottar's village was fascinating.  The peat smoke was "quite refreshing" and ensured none of us came down with the plague  (historically speaking).  Later, watching Jack and Sal become handfasted was inspiring while Scot read the gaidhlig blessing [from Claire and Jamie's wedding].

Day 4

Karen: Haiku written a few days before departure inspired by the incident at Cranesmuir:

Purple heather mist
Donas' hoofbeats, clash of words
Heading for the stones

 . . . On today's hike near a beautiful loch, we finally came up close to the mounds of heather and the light mist drifting cross distant hillsides in the Scotland of my imagination. . . . Reality included clouds of midges that interrupted a reading of the passage about Jamie and Claire watching the pack of wolves . . . We moved on to the midge-free top of the hill and enjoyed the view and a picnic.

Scot:  This evening we dined with Jon in his place-where-whisky-goes-when-it-dies.  Kathy finally found a single malt that she likes.  Port Ellen 1967-1983 R.I.P.  The lass has expensive taste at 300 pounds a bottle.  Now she just needs to find man who can buy her said bottle. 

Kathy on her mount.  Did we mention the transport situation?

Aye, a goodnight with Jon, and the venison stew and chicken on oatmeal was verra fine too.  I think our day in the last wilderness of Scotland met with approval of the Outlandish Squirrels.  They were all satiated by their adventures judging by the hmmms and expressive faces.

Jack has hit his stride.  No longer is he waxing lyrical with streams of consciousness.   He now drinks single malts, smiles at the scenery and quietly nods to himself with a "hmm".  Scotland does that to you.

Goto the next post in this tour

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

JandC Sept 2012 - Red Squirrel Tour

The Red Squirrel Tour
Days 1-2

Finally, we have a blog machine on tour, after our death of the previous holder of the post.

So, to the important stuff.
As usual we will have each of the tour guests, under pain of torture by whisky, contribute some words of THEIR experiences of the tour.

Speaking of the amber nectar, we visited a distillery, en passant, yesterday as the group expressed an interest and we were in the right place with time.

Before the distillery tour...
After the distillery tour

Let us introduce the Outlandish Squirrels.

This is Corinne:

And her friend Karen:

Kathy: What incredible scenery.  The people are all so very friendly.  Seen pheasants, partridges (not in a pear tree).. still waiting to see the red squirrels all the signs post about...

Rebecca: Had a great hike yesterday, we made it to see a standing stone on some land with an incredible view. Feels like we have been here for a week instead of just a few days. So much more to see - ready to head to Loch Ness.

Kris:  Can't believe we're actually here.  The weather has cooperated wonderfully.  Woke up  to blue skies this AM.  Saw beautiful countryside yesterday - the greens are amazing - all shades you can imagine.  Quaint towns, tiny cars.  A taste of scotch whisky at Dewars distillery to top off the second day!

Introducing Sallie:

Sallie: Hearty Scottish breakfasts, beautiful but moody weather, incredible scenery, lovely people.

And her man ("the boy") Jack:

JacK: I have begun research on the Scottish Outdoor Access Code, otherwise known as the "Right to Roam." We must "Know the Code Before We Go."  In part, this involves a knowledge of the intricacies of trespass upon curtilage and the policies. Lovely weather today (Tuesday)! 

Scot:  Jack is a "stream of consciousness" sort of man.  Can ye tell?
I myself am enjoying a rare year when both the heather has a rich bloom of purple AND the Rowan is full of deep orange berry.  It will make for an interesting photie if I can find the right location.

Today involved making our way northwards into the Highlands.  A singular red squirrel was seen to cross our path, but that was after we had chosen the lame name for the tour.  Jack suggested, in Italian, The Magnificant Journey of the Beautiful Women and the Boy.  That was a bitty long although his sentiments were admirable.  Perhaps we'll get a better name as we go along.

Our Squirrels have dipped a toe in Loch Ness, although wee Rebecca totally bottled her promised swim.  Her friends back home should note that.

A visit to the Chapel where Jamie and Claire were wed met with their approval, of course, and I read that particular passage from the book.

This night, most are off sampling the amber nectar at a local repository.  Sam and I are stuck here, uploading the blog, planning the day tomorrow.  A tour guide's work...  Is that Ale I can smell?  Bidh mi gur faicinn a-rithist.  See yeez later.