Thursday, 27 June 2013

Badgers - Jacobite or Whig?

We visited Culloden today. Sarah couldn't decide on her political leanings so she tried them both out, Jacobite and Hanoverian.

 It's been a whirlwind tour and again, over too soon, but we've all had a grand old time, adults and children.  I'll let the wee ones give the tour in their own words.

Jacob (11 years): 
'Beware, when driving out in the country, if you see just what seems like a random stone out in the fields it is probably an ancient standing stone.`

Sarah (8 years): 'I liked all the castles.  Hmmm, I liked that some of them were broken and ruined and some of them were actual working castles and that they were big.  [How big?]  Twelve thousand feet tall!  Five thousand inches... eighteen thousand and a hundred wide.  We got to stay in a castle.  It was AWWWsome, awwesome!
When we got to go in one castle, we got to do a scavenger hunt and after, when we gave it to someone, we got to pick a prize out of the magic box.  When we did the scavenger hunt it was hard for my brother but very easy for me, but mostly my dad found the answers.  I got to annoy my brother. '

Some things don't change, hmm?  Sibling rivalry.

Monday, 24 June 2013

Badgers on tour - day 1 and 2

Who's outlandish today?  Meet the Badgers!

I'm not sure we can explain this

We're hosting a private tour for Krista (right) and family.  It's a Jamie and Claire tour in part, with some rip-roaring adventures for the rest of the family thrown in.

Joseph (dad) messing about with steam trains

We come to our castle, where we're staying for a few nights, complete with its own mad woman

Helen feeds the reindeer

Peter from Ghillies Kitchen makes our castle dinner - a dangerous man with a pan - "Get oot ma kitchen or ah'll brain ye!"

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

There's No Place Like Home

There's no place like home.........
click, click, click.

I know how Dorothy felt after being away from home for a long time on an adventure in a 'different land' meeting different people!  It was lovely to walk back in our door and say "Hello hoosie!"  I did the fastest unpacking I've ever done and enjoyed the familiarity of our home and garden.  Scot did his usual surveying of what had grown while we were away (besides the weeds).  We fed our garden birds and counted new flower heads.  A small jungle had grown in the two weeks and my wild Scottish Roses are really sprouting up this year!

Being a professional Guide is 80% desk work and 20% road work, but the actual guiding is the fun part.  Each and every journey is different.  This particular trip was 13 days long and extended into the late hours of every evening, so quite a bit beyond our normal guiding hours and well into the non-stop zone...whew!

So an homage to our home and being here..  The beginning of the Simon & Garfunkel song comes to mind;
"Gee but it's great to be back home
Home is where I wanna beeeeeee yeah
and it's been so long my friend..."

Or how about John Denver;
"Hey it's good to be back home again
Sometimes this ol' house feels like a long lost friend
Yes and hey it's good to be back home again."

Anyway you put it, if you love your home, it's always nice to arrive.

Sunday, 16 June 2013

Day 12 - last day

A day spent in the gardens of Atholl.  Diana the Huntress's Grove, St Bride's Kirk and the Garden of Hercules.

Christine is still catching up from Skye and says:

Chris: Beautiful island and really lovely accommodation. The Fairy Glen was absolutely magical and Skye lived up to it's name of the island of mist.

It is our last day today, so while the troops are off walking and shopping, I thought I'd put together a wee collection of photos, mostly from the guests' cameras.  A sort of "best of".

And finally, a short video of Sam and Scot.  What we did this afternoon off while the guests shopped.

Friday, 14 June 2013

Day 10 - The Stones

The video: We meet Margaret Curtis at the megalithic complex.  Remarkable woman and a good sport with photo ops.  She is so full of understanding of this area in its ancient features.

Thursday, 13 June 2013

Day 9 in videos

Here's a couple of short videos of Day 9 - Lewis.  First is Bostadh a house from the Iron Age.  Second is a similarly ancient broch.  The video stopped just before Ozzy Diana put her hand and sat in the sheep poo and then ran around like a 6 year old squealing.  I'm sure you wanted to see that.

Day 7 and 8 - iona to Skye

Shiela: A looong day travelling on ferries and roads - a misty, mysterious day just right for visits to the Fairy Bridge and the Fairy Glen.  After not being able to connect to mail or wifi for several days, it was somewhat disconcerting to hear my phone 'ping' while standing on the middle of the Fairy Bridge in the absolute middle of nowhere!!!  Another great hotel (Viewfield House) for the night, and a FABULOUS meal at the Harbour View restaurant.

Scot: indeed!  We had rain and mist gu-leoir for our visit to places of mystery, which was very appropriate.  Diana and Peggy seemed energised and playful after our romp through the Glen of the Wee Folk's Hills.  Most invigorating. 

Hearing a raging waterfall but not being able to see it through the fog is a bit odd.

No pictures though.  What can you do with layers of grey?
A video tomorrow, I promise.

Monday, 10 June 2013

Day 6 - A day of sailing

An inspired change of plan for today. We're going to do everything on the programme AND some sailing.  Mark Jardine has a 1930s Danish gaff-rigged Ketch and we're going out in it this morning.

Birthe Marie

Our Skipper Mark, Sam at the helm

This detour onto the water is a wee taster for the guests for the kind of tour Sam and I are offering next year.  It's called SlowScotland (TM) and it's about getting nowhere fast in Scotland, by sail, by pony, walking, kayaking etc - real depth of experience of Scotland.  You might have heard of the SlowFood movement.  We're going to add on to that concept and indeed, we'll be embracing SlowFood.

Anyway, back to THIS tour.  The boat was fabulous!  Mark's a really nice guy, knows the waters and took us on a circumnavigation of Iona.  We saw it as the missionaries did, as the kings saw in their final crossing to Iona for burial.  Mark told us the stories of the promontories and beaches and how they got their names.
Our own Salty Dog.  Happiest with a heads'l sheet in hand

Sheila on watch, Mark and Greta pull the helm into the wind

In the afternoon, we visited the Abbey and had the tour which was a lovely change of energy.  So far we've been about solitude, outdoors, birds, personal experience.  The Abbey tour is all about Iona as a place of politics, religion, community for 1450 years.  Gerry, our guide, was great and covered the broad movements of Celtic Christianity, Catholicism and Reformation in an easy way.  He's a funny bugger too.

This evening, we go back to the Old Religion, the Fairy Faith.  We're visiting a powerful site and I'm frankly a bit nervous because we're visiting it at a time between times - at the gloaming (sundown).  That's when there may be a few of the wee folk about.  All the party know to carry iron and to be respectful when sat on the home of the Ever Living Ones.

Now for some words by the guests.

Jim: Down to the sea in ships today. Reconnected with my salty roots. Inspiring and refreshing. Captain was informative and professional. He allowed us land lubbers to steer his vessel, very trusting and gracious of him. Although he kept a weather eye on us at all times. Plenty of local land marks and tales. Stunning weather continues.

Scot: Ahh, satisfied travellers.  Bliss, as was the Hill of the Wee Folk this evening at sun down.

Day 4 and 5

The experiences have been thick on the ground the last two days.  Yesterday we made a long journey to the very end of the Ross of Mull, way out into the Atlantic, then we fell off the end and landed on one of the world's most serene sacred places, Iona.

Today was blue sky and sun, birds calling as if in a jungle, nothing moving at more than walking pace (except the birds), lots of time alone to sit, be, photograph, write, sleep.

As such, I have no words from the guests for you save an unattributed quote from a couple of days ago.
"From the heights of Dunadd to the womb of the stone "church" were experiences I'll never forget. Scot's gift of probing our minds through millenia of history made it so much more alive."
Good to know we're feeding the spirit with the required tonic.

Given the lack of first hand words, I thought I'd give the "blog" in a series of pictures for the last day or so.

Peggy and Jim at Duart Castle

Sunset from Iona

Above my head - Bay at the Back of the Ocean

Gathering Luachar to...

... make Brigit's Crosses

A Bride's Cross

Even the guide gets an hour off - Sam goes paddling on west beach

Saturday, 8 June 2013

Day3 - The Movie

Just a wee addendum to Day 3, a collage in video of our visit to Dunadd, the ancient capital and a place of great spirit and stunning views, followed by the bluebells in temple wood.  Finally a wee session in our hotel tonight, the group clapping along.

And it's nice to see that Mara is following the tour in the comments below.

Friday, 7 June 2013

Day 3

Samantha:  The weather is lovely.  The isle of Arran was lovely.  I could spend a week there.  I must go back when Scot and I have some time off!

Robin: glorious weather for our visit! Felt a deep connection to the land today and the ancient people, with a strange sensation of sadness when I departed the henge near the Temple Wood stone circles.

Sheila: DunAdd was just stunning!  Climbing up was hard work, but a good lesson for me to be able to ask for help and be prepared to accept it graciously - not difficult when offered so generously, so thanks to all who helped me get up there!!  I sat on a stone seat on the level just below the top level, facing west and I realised I was sitting at the centre of the equivalent of a Tibetan singing bowl . . . it felt like it was resonating around me, and I realised that the ring of hills and the plain were actually the remnants of a giant volcana caldera.
The power was flowing out from the fort, rebounding from the hills, and flowing back to the hill, like a generator.

Scot:  I think they liked DunAdd.   After lunch we covered a LOT of prehistory.  We saw more standing stones and cairns than we can recall.  A FULL day.

Thursday, 6 June 2013

day 2

A day on Arran.  Machrie Moor stones for us this morning.  A mile walk into the moor brings us to a theatre of the megaliths.

Sheila: Amazing weather!  The stones of Machrie Moor were amazing . . . at one I stayed outside the ring of stones and walked to a fencepost and placed the palm stone I usually use as a  meditation focus between my hand and the fencepost top. It was like when I do reiki, a tingling in the palm of my hands and soles of my feet but at a stronger energy level - and it wasn't an electric fence!!  At the sandstone circle, there were missing stones in the Outer world but a strong feeling of completeness on the Inner.  Felt like ley lines possibly . . .

Chris: What a great day.  Plenty of sunshine and the most magical place in Scotland.  Highlighted by a few baby Curlews on Machrie Moor. 

Cyndy: My husband said, "I can't get the scenery out of my head!" Why should he? I will carry it with me! Machrie Moor was wonderful. Standing in the middle of a circle with the wind blowing, it felt like I was being carried back in time.  Later, a walk with forest on our left, and ocean on our right, was surreal.  The forest was the stuff of myth.  I half expected to see Merlin or faeries!

Chris: Looking forward to tomorrow....

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Celtic Spirit Journeys Day 1

Celtic Spirit Journeys' tour is under way. 

Chris: Rosslyn Chapel surpassed my expectations.  It started with a walk through the
Roslyn Glen which was such a magical and breathtaking experience.  Can't wait for the next days events.

Diana: My journey begins with a trip to Roslyn Glen and Chapel. The Glen is a grounding of the soul with nature; and the Chapel is an intricate building full of beauty and mystery. I look forward to the rest of tour and its wonderous surprises.

Greta: After 4 days of the bustle of Edinburgh, I look forward to the more comtemplative  part of this trip. Roslyn Chapel is beautiful.  The intricacy of the carving is amazing.

Keith: The trip started with a walk through the Roslyn Glen. Seeing the wild garlic and other fauna was lovely.
Roslyn Chapel was lovely. It must have been amazing to see all carvings when they were new. I look forward to seeing and feeling many new things.

That's the first snapshot of this troop.  We grabbed a few moments on the ferry over the our first island, Arran.

scot: I enjoyed the guide today at Roslyn Chapel. She covered the history and the mystery of the place.  Roslyn is lovely.  The fact that it is a practicing church with a congregation meeting twice a day adds to the place.  I asked the guide, Kat, what was her favourite thing about the chapel and she showed me the Whispering Door.  I put my ear to the left architrave of the opening and she whispered "hello" at the right and I hear the sound as if she was whispering into my ear.  This is something that they have only recently found out about the door. Apparently there are many whispering doors in Ireland, which is how they learned of this one.

Jim: Spent two days in town before the tour. What a wounderful change. Peace, quite and scenery just as I imagined. 12 more days of this, heaven.

Peggy:  Beautiful bluebells, faces in trees.  What more could one ask for?

Cyndy: The trip to the Isle of Arran was wonderful! The island kept changing images as we crossed the sea.  It was inviting and timeless. Whatever was in store for us during the visit promised to be memorable.

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

The night before Christmas...

Actually, it's the night before the Western Isles pilgrimage tour.  We're about to set off tomorrow with 16 devotees of  stone circles, Fairy faith and ancient places of worship, of the sacred and of peace.

We'll be touching in on six Scottish islands and I'm looking forward to finding some new places that I haven't been to myself before, and of course, finding the newness in the old places through the eyes of our fellow travellers.

This is the tour we are running for our friend Mara Freeman.  It's 12 days and I expect we'll blog a little for all the vicarious travellers out there.  Keep your comments and questions coming and we'll feel more connected to you.

Alas we must leave our wee cottage garden, just when the weather has become wonderful and warm and the garden so inviting to plant and weed and potter in.

See ya'll tomorrow, day 1.

Our wee cottage garden, looking warm and inviting