Sunday, 29 September 2013

One Dead bat - day 7

And now for a few unique photos........


Garden Bird Feeder

Not sure what the Scots are feeding their birds, but they are brave little creatures .

The Mighty Guard

Sam: Each adventure is a bit different and the places we visit and accommodation we stay in may vary from tour to tour.  We keep things unique so each group has their own special experiences. 
Katherine - Our last night had a fitting end with a stay in a luxury country house where you felt like you actually lived there. Food was as gorgeous as the decor and the staff treated you as a VIP. Of course we ended the night with sweets and wine and stories. This experience was by far one of the best. 

Deanna - ...and so comes the end of our tale of adventures through the incredibly beautiful Highlands.  We have visited kirks, castles, pubs, and moors.  We have tasted wonderful whiskies, ales, and the best ginger beer I could have asked for.  Scot's stories capped off evenings of not so quiet laughter and warm companionship.  I think we have been blessed by a showing of Scotland's best autumn weather. The pride of Scotland, it's storied history and people and the lovely mist will be with me forever.

Scot:  Ahh weel, the year of Outlandish Adventures comes to an end.  Time to pack away the travelling gear and get the firewood into the house for the white winter.  And, of course, dream about the coming season of adventures, new friends to meet (who are booking already) and new tour arenas to plan (like the Borders) and get excited about. Mar sin leibh an-drasta.  Bennachdan leibh, Scot.



One Dead Bat - a study in moss and stone

A study in Rock & Moss.

Gail: Great day on the nature trail, hiked to the falls, saw so many shades of green! Learned some Gaelic!

Sarah - The last several days have provided many opportunities for wonderful experiences. I've been horseback riding through the hills, had a marvelous boat adventure on Loch Ness, walked hills and viewed scenery the likes of which are not to be found anywhere else on earth. Currently, I am sipping wine in good company in a beautiful big hoosie awaiting a wonderful meal. I can honestly say this has been the most wonderful holiday in the most magical place.

Friday, 27 September 2013

One Dead Bat tour - day 5

No words today, just images to capture the autumn colours.


Our ancestors had a harder life than most of us unless they were of wealth and nobility.  Who amongst you would give up your power garden tools or grind your own oats to make porridge?
Katherine- For someone who hasn't read the Outlander series I am completely in awe of what I have been experiencing.  I am surrounded by history, discovering the nooks and crannies of highland life of past and present!  All in one day I was thrust into several different worlds and was able to become a part of lives that lived before me.

Gail - We visited a Cottars house. We learned about the housing, family structure of the time, tools, just the every day life.

Sarah -  I was struck by the ingenuity of the people, as well as by what was most evidently a hard and difficult life.  It was by turns fascinating and shocking to experience what it would have been like for the people of those times.

Deanna - Being an American, I haven't had an opportunity to experience historical context of a way of life that is hundreds, even thousands of years old.  We visited an area with homes that were a century older than our country.   I can better visualize what the people looked like, their daily lives and the hardships they endured.  I also now have memories of the smell of a pine forest and a peat fire, the sensation of lying in a field of heather and the bright blue sky above. We wondered through a tree grove and listened to a story of "pine needle litter" and "saffron eyes". Another amazing day.

Liza -  I was able to lay in the heather, feel the Scotland mist on my face, experience the words of "Herself" from the voice of a Scotsman, and truly feel overwhelmed with the beauty and emotional connection I feel and see everywhere around me.  Oh, and it's only day 2. Och, I can't wait to see what's next!!!

Gail - Today we viewed a castle that is lived in by the owner, she allows visitation during the season. Beautiful. Our visit to the Culloden Battle Field is very sobering. It is heart wrenching to see what the outcome of the Jacobite uprising cost the Highlanders. The group dinner is the nice finish of our day!

Deanna - The castle's Don Quixote tapestries with their vibrant persimmon and rich teal colors was charming, as were the hand sketched portraits of the orignal lady of the castle and her daughters.  Culloden Field was devastating, watching the blue and red flags whipping in the light wind, knowing the stories of the families who lost so much that day.  Donald from Appin's story provided insight into the Scottish spirit of honor and duty.

Sarah - I was enamored with history...especially the dungeon. The story about the sheep "borrower" who was held there was my favorite. The art work in the depiction of how the Laird found the spot upon which to build the castle stood out, as did the gardens.. Following that was the somber visit to Cullodeon. The short film of the re-enactment brought a lump to my throat. Following that journey, I disappeared through the standing stones we visited. It was an odd trip and since James Fraser was not waiting for me on the other side, I returned in order to continue on this journey.

Liza - Culloden was a rightfully solemn visit.  But the story that Scot told us regarding the 16 year old boy who picked up his family's banner and hid it so that he would be able to take it home to his family was so heart touching that it actually brought a tear to my eye.  Hearing such a specific family story from Culloden really made me think of my own family and how I would feel seeing my son come home from such a devastating event.  A very emotional but yet another wonderful day.

Thursday, 26 September 2013

One Dead Bat tour - music on day 3

Traditional music of Scotland is one thing our Outlanders seek.  We often take them to a traditional pub where the ale and the whisky are in abundance, as is the music:  Fiddles, banjo, guitar, bodhran, bones and spoons.  Here's a wee video shot by Scot to give you a flavour of the old and the new in the Highlands.

And why is it called the One Dead Bat tour?  It was the last item on the list of the objects found when the castle excavated the dungeon (along with bones, shoes, coins etc).  Our lasses were rather taken by it.  It has become the group's toast.  "One Dead Bat!"  c-c-Clink!

Tuesday, 24 September 2013


The beauty of the woodlands with the autumn light gives the colours an extra intensity.  The lighter leaves of the Rowan contrasting with the fully ripened Rowan Berries.  Autumn is a magical season made of thousands of small moments that your eyes capture and your spirit remembers..........

Gail:  The oral history is great. We visited a small Kirk, beautiful. The most unusal thing today are the different plants.  Those that we don't have in the States. So very interesting. Our guide, Scot is very knowledgeable! This trip is wonderful!!

Deanna - There are two different things I have become aware of...the first is the scent of the Highlands.  It smells like a living thing, full of life and earth, verdant and rich.  The feel of the earth as you step on it is like a cushion.  It cradles your foot and eases your way.  I expected this place to be beautiful but it simply cannot be fully explained, it must be experienced.

Sarah - This morning I experience sheer joy as we watch the fog drift low over the hills. A spirituality as we quietly enjoy the kirk. The freshness and peace as we hike the trails. I am very surprised to discover that before today I have never actually had fresh water.  As I drink from a stream, the water is sweet and clear and I love it!

Katherine - The cold air coming off the stones of the ancient church, quietly listening as the words of Diana leave the mouth of a Scotsman. I have never felt more apart of a book than at that moment. The history wrapped around me like a warm blanket and the words taking me back in time. Unusual? more like unique.

Liza - Today's trip has really been one of a kind.  I have been to many beautiful places, but I can honestly say that the scenery I saw, and breathed in today was something I will never forget.  I actually felt the spirituality of the landscape and felt the emotion of the woods.  I took several pictures, but my mental pictures will last me a lifetime!

Monday, 23 September 2013

Day 1 of The "Autumn Tour"

A Gentle Start & Beautiful Sunny Day
The "Autumn Tour" begins!  We have already been to a secret place where Bonnie Prince Charlie's grandson is buried.  Can't tell you where it is, of course, but suffice to say that there were white roses on the gravestone still.
Along the way we heard of amusing, pre-tour adventures from Deanna and Liza who arrived yesterday at midday and by 4ish were renting a car to drive themselves "two hours" to Dunans castle* (it's 3-4 hours away).  They first tried to drive into Edinburgh to their hotel.  That half an hour journey took 1 hour, much swearing and screaming after which Deanna rang the hire company and told them to come get the car, there would be no way on earth they would try to drive again in Scotland. 
Ah, they missed the FB and blog posts over the last few years about overseas visitors who tried to drive here "cos they thought it would be just like home"?  Ooooooooooh!  Stick shift, on the left hand side of the road, with different driving rules.  There's a reason we are here, driver-guiding.  But fair due to them for trying and as they pointed out, in the theme of Outlandish Spirits, it was an outlandish adventure of their own.
Enough of that.  Now for the words of the guests.

*Dunans castle is owned by some friends of ours Sadie and Charles.  Charles offers a Scottish Lairdship where you can buy a foot of Scotland, thus be a land owner, thus be a laird.  Liza has one square foot. She is "Lady Ellis of Dunans Castle".

The heather is in bloom for the Autumn Tour

Katherine: So far this has been a beautiful journey. I felt like I could spend the whole day passing scenenery and looking at all the wonderful cottages. When arriving at the BB, I was immediately awed by the decor and even though I am looking forward to dinner I cant wait to sleep in those beds!

Gail: Day one is off to a great start. Stopped and visited a church, beautiful, we weren't able to enter it as the roof needs repaired. Wonderful architecture, the village is amazing, quaint center with a fountain. I love this!

Sarah Cross: Day One has been really fun so far. I have met some amazing people. It has been really fun getting to know everyone. The scenery is gorgeous and peaceful and the accomodations are wonderful. I am having a wonderful time.

Liza Ellis:  Day one has been wonderful so far and I CANNOT wait for the rest of this outlandish adventure!!!  Seeing the beautiful scenery, and the charming villages along the way are magical!  The B&B is pretty and very comfortable and the rooms are so nice.  This has been everything I have expected so far.

Deanna Murphy: Our outlandish adventure has begun - We have met our wonderful guides and incredible tour mates.  Scotland has far exceeded my expectations with the kindness of its people, the beauty of its scenery and the colorful history. Just a quick snippet - until today, I never met a stout I enjoyed. I cannot wait for the next moment, meal, conversation, experience. 

The Ladies of Tour hear about the Ladies that attended the dying grandson of Bonnie Charlie, buried nearby

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Day 7 ~ Sheep, Dogs, Wool and Aye Fond Farewell

An Approved Tour!
This blog has been but a few of the excerpts from our adventures on The Jamie and Claire Tours and MacKenzie Adventures.  How do you find out about what we do and where we go the rest of the adventure? Join us on one of the journeys!  And here is a bit from day 7:

Percy: Thanks to everyone for accepting me, and this tour is now fully hedgehog approved. [That's Mike's friend, Percy who is a hedgehog.]

Percy the Hedgehog (cousin of the Haggis).  The Highland Cow Whisperer
Mike: I Learned about wool, and sheep varieties today. Very nice people. Cool demonstration of the border collies' herding abilities as well, including the 5 month old pup who is super eager to participate. The warmth and charm of the small places we've been to has been memorable.
Newest addition to sheep herding (the collie, not Collin)
Rhonda: I Can't believe today is our last day. We spent the morning crafting with wool.  Now we are off to lunch at a cute little tea shop....much warmer. Sad to be leaving.

Liz: Once again I attempted to be crafty and got a wee fuzzy black teddy with tiny blue eyes for my efforts. I had a fun time making it and learned so much about the wool business.  On to lunch and our Big Hoosie visit!

Regina: [At the sheep farm] Cindy was in her element! Loved the Border Collies! We all learned the processes necessary to create yarns.  Scot and Mike carded while the ladies felted. Lots of fun!  Great memories have been made that will last a lifetime!  Thanks Samantha and Scot!

Bonnie--I don't know of a better experience that could be had than my week on the J&C Tour with Sam and Scot.  This is our last day and we learned carding, drop spinning, and needle felting; what fun!  Our hosts were so gracious and hospitable.  Many thanks to Sam and Scot for the wonderful time in Scotland!

Showing off our art pieces
Sam:  Everyone keeps asking me if I'll be glad to get home.  Of course I love home, but it will be a quiet time to reflect on this past week and to miss immensely, the Outlandish Spirits / dear new friends we've shared this adventurer with.  To each of you and your lovely smiles, sense of humour and ability to remind both Scot and me of the awe inspired in the small things, we say thank you and safe journeys.

Scot:  And we know that some of you will be coming back to Scotland (or France) with us and I look forward to sharing time with you again.  You're in the club now; you can never leave, mwha! mwha!  Bidh sinn gur faicinn a-rithist (be seeing you again).

Saturday, 14 September 2013

Day 6 of Bold and Bonny

Liz on the hills

Cindy:  I have been thoroughly ruined. Scot and Sam have made my first trip to Europe very comfortable and easy. Hiking today "this is my Father's world-  all nature sings around me rings the music of the sphere"

One of Liz's "calendar shots"
Mike: The lodge is absolutely fantastic, and full of character, Rhonda and I love it. Yesterday we hiked to the top of the road and when Rhonda said she didn't have the words to describe what she saw, I said the word is "home". Today, a six mile hike through the hills that we had admired while driving south yesterday. Hills that we held hands and wished to have access to..... our wish came true. We will say thank you to Sam and Scot already, but thanks will continue long after we are home sorting photos in Canada. I came looking for myself, and some connection to a greater history - success. And a greater connection for two people starting anew.

Liz: Friday afternoon I walked into the 'hunting lodge' we were to stay at for the next 2 days and I lost my breath at the beauty of the main staircase and it remained that way as I looked around at the gorgeous interior of the main room. Saturday we finally got to our long hike and it was marvelous. We traveled through areas where I took pictures and plan to make a calendar out of them when I get home. I love the feeling of being back in time when we walked through the fields of heather and forests from 'Once Upon a Time' and was almost disappointed when we returned to the current time at the end of the hike. Whiskeys tried now stands at nine.

Day 5 ~ Cattle Reivers & Falling Waters

We venture south and head towards a lovely bit of forest and water.  Falling waters.
Cindy: Great hot chocolate, beautiful forest and waterfalls, fantastic accommodations and unbelievable views.

Water being the theme of the day, we pay homage to a water wheel.  No red bloomers, but still some lovely flowers lingering on from late  summer.

And then there was the 'Bull by the Horns' antics as Liz subdued the beastie, Rhonda snuck up on him, Mike, well he was the Bull Whisperer and Bonny was one of many photographers.  Cindy & Regina were in the background smacking their lips.... bad, bad!  (No Bulls were hurt or even harassed in the photographing, but Rhonda kept having to jump back every time the wee beastie moved it's head to avoid getting knocked over by the impressively long horn).

Together in the woodlands on a bridge, in a fairy wonderland, our Outlandish Spirits stop for a group pic before enjoying the peace & quiet of their walk back.

Liz: A Day 4 Addition ~ Yesterday I loved walking in the rain along the Loch Ness in the late evening in Inverness, so typical Scotland. I felt the weight of history visiting the lands of the Fraser's Lord Lovat (the Old Fox) and enjoyed feeling the connection to Jamie and his story. Today, walking the paths in a woodland with ancient trees and recording the beautiful waterfalls. Can't wait to turn my video footage into a screensaver when I return home and then I'll be able to return to Scotland whenever I want. The count on the number of whiskeys I've tried, I believe, now stands at 7 or is it 9. 

Bonnie:  A Day 4 Afterthought ~ We visited the lands of Simon Fraser, Lord Lovat, the Old Fox--Jamie's Grandfather.  Awesome! This was definitely a highlight!  (And on to current thoughts) Tonight we find ourselves sitting in the Great Hall of a grand hunting lodge, built in the early 1800s.  Wonderful!

Regina: Enjoyed the trip south from Inverness (a great city by the way). Really enjoyed our nature hike in the woodlands. Such a beautuful forest and the waterfalls were amazing. We ended the day with our new accommodation in a grand 'big hoosie'.  What a special place on the most amazing grounds. We all are just in awe of the history that this grand home has seen. Dinner is served so I have to go!  

Sam:  Alas, the lodge is about to be turned over for the rest of the autumn to real hunters (not just our Cattle Riever wanna-be crew).  So, we'll not see it again until next year.

Thursday, 12 September 2013

Day 4 ~ Hors'n Around

The Magnificent Six ~ And theirs Riders!
Our Bold & Bonny adventurers went horse/pony trekking today.  I can only compare their faces (the riders, that is) to that of a group of children; all smiles and anticipation.
The equine looked much more subdued of course.  They take it all in stride (no pun intended).

The new addition to the Magnificent Six.... Number 7 ~ the young foal.

Then after the 4 legged journey was through, we were off to hunt for a horse of a different colour ~ greenish, silver with and extra long neck: The Water Horse.

Bone of My Bone - the song in Gaidhlig

This post is not from the current Bold and Bonny tour, but from a wee whiley back in July (took this long to get the vid edited).  It's the blood vow, Bone of My Bone set to music.  Linda and Deb sing this song-from-the-musical in the Chapel where Jamie and Claire were married.
Miss you, girls!

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Day 3 - The Bold and the Bonny Tour

The day belongs to our Romantic Couple.  Here they are in words and "cute video" (we went to Hoots for some live music this night).  We have called this Adventure, The Bold and the Bonny Tour.

Mike: Travelled part way around the world, sitting in a bar in Inverness, waiting for the nightly live music. The band steps up, and the first song is East Bound and Down, theme from Smokey and The Bandit.  Seriously!
Laughed out loud, and I have the original on MP3.  Otherwise, today was serious and sombre, a visit to the battlefield of Culloden that brought up strong emotion. Fantastic trip so far.

Rhonda: I saw my first castle today. It was meant for people my size. It was pretty amazing, but the best part of the castle was finding a small gate in the garden wall and stepping back into time. The trees had to be at least 200 years old and we found some foliage that looked like rhubarb right out of Jurassic Park. 

The "cute video":

Jamie & Claire ~ September, Day 2

Rhonda: Today started with a trip to a beautiful church from the 1700s. I had the pleasure of being the one to use the key to open the door, although a bit difficult as it did not work in the usual fashion. Many pictures taken, a reading and an intense emotional moment in the cemetery. It was amazing, beautiful and all that I could have asked for.

Unlocking the door to Jamie and Claire's chapel

Mike: The hilltop church and cemetery was incredibly peaceful, and emotionally stirring with current events at home. Stopping for the trail walk, and enjoying the woods was perfectly in tune with what I hoped for. Walking everywhere in kilted glory feels natural already, like I was meant to. Loving this so much.

Liz: Today I got a chance to put into practice all the hiking I had been doing all summer. It was so worth it to enjoy the beautiful waterfalls and to just stop and listen to the voice of God as he whispered to me in the wind through the Scots Pines. Another incredible moment was listening to Scot read the account of Jamie and Claire's wedding while sitting in an old Scottish chapel. I felt like I was witnessing it live. The day ended with the group having dinner and me getting to try my third type of Scottish Whiskey - yum!!

Liz lying in the heather, waiting for...
Regina: Enjoyed visiting the hilltop church and seeing the kirkyard.  So much history! Had a great hike through the pine forest and sampled the wild blaeberries. How cool! The cottars house was great and we all loved laying in the heather. So comfy! So fun 'reliving' the history and seeing sites as Jamie and Claire did so long ago.

A 1600s weaving loom in the tounship

Cindy; lichen, moss, heather and wool. 

Bonnie: I went back in time this morning to a wee kirk where Jamie & Claire exchanged their vows.  We sat in silence as Scot read from the book for this tender scene.  Outside, the skies were ominous, as we wandered through the kirkyard.

Louring skies

Monday, 9 September 2013

J&C Sept - Day 1

It has begun! We're on the path of Jamie and Claire in the late summer / early autumn glow.    The colours are changing from multi-greens and purple to golden yellow, soft purple, bits of red.  Amidst our Outlandish Travellers on the September tour we have our own Jamie and Claire, known better as Mike and Rhonda.  They are our cute couple, holding hands as they climb the hill together to visit the standing stones.

All the gurrls posing; Mike wondering what's going on
Bonnie:  Here we are staying at 2 lovely guest houses.  Had a beautiful drive through some of the  Highlands with a picnic lunch atop a high hill studded with standing stones.  A wee shower caught us on the way back to the car.  Now we are on the way to dinner.  Lovely

Mike: Still adjusting to achieving a long time goal of just getting here. Hilltop picnic and losing myself in the scenery. Out to group dinner and first time wearing my new kilt in public - nothing but positive comments so far. Being here with someone special makes it fantastic.

A special moment with the stones and the hills

Oh, it's about 4000 years old...

Rhonda: Spent the afternoon on a wee hillside, it was beautiful and sunny, Samantha read the passage from when Claire went through the stones while we all looked out over the mountains.  You could hear the sheep baahing and the birds chirping.  It was a very moving moment, to picture yourself where Claire may have been when she walked back in time.

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Celtic Spirits - days 8-12

It's got to that time in the tour when the experiences are coming thick and fast and I sense that our pilgrims are aware of the final days.  As such, we have not blogged for a while, so below are what we have filled in along the way.

Day 8
Loreen: The final day on Skye finished with a perfectly entertaining viewing of the film "Whisky Galore"; layered Celtic storytelling at its best... a gift to see it first with the world's biggest fan of the film.

Loreen: Margaret Curtis! Let there be no mistake: she is a national treasure, a living, breathing, walking library of information and insight into the standing stone sites.  What a privilege to be in her company for a windy introduction to the nearly unbelievable mysteries of Site I.

Calanais stones, wind and mist

Day 10
Kathy: Calanis site III ~ Wonderful ritual at the site of the maiden, mother and crone stones.

Loreen: We had the stones to ourselves on a Sunday...Wind! Rain! Clouds parting for the sun to suddenly illuminate the landscape. A feeling of being out of time wrapped the place for me.  The mystery is only more intriguing for me.

Ramonet: It was quite an experience "finding" Calanais X. After looking at a 1930 map we realized that things have changed a bit and rejoiced when we found our guide in the top of the hill where the site is. Then we went to Calanais III where the triple goddess qualities and the lingam are together in harmony. Loved the sightseeing and the experience that each place gave us.

Caya: FANTASTIC DAY!!!! Scot....thanks!!!! I appreciate your guide, you were our angel (not only our guide) down there :) The walk was amazing and the ritual at site X was one of my best moments ever!

excited to be hanging over a 200 foot gorge on a platform

Wee Claudia a peace with the Stones of Peace

We visit the Duke's gardens to commune with Goddess Diana

Cait:  Another terrible place we're staying in - tonight they've stuck us in Atholl Palace Hotel, a nineteenth century spa in a mini castle with views over the black spout forest. Plus they keep making us eat all these three course meals. Seriously, it's horrible. [Cait is an Aussie, where everything is upside down - Scot]

Gina: I am still processing yesterday and all the magical experiences at Calanais. It was a gift of a life time to do ritual at Calanais III with my anglo posse. The wide extravagant display of breathtaking scenery... as Cait said... it is hard to handle another sucky view. (lol)

The Sucky View from some of the rooms

The Sucky View from our evening meal
Tonight is our last night and I am both looking forward to it (for it will be a time of enjoying what has passed) and I will be sad (for the adventure and close connection we have built between us comes to an end).  Perhaps there will be more words, or a video, to add later, but for now, we sign off, The Humming Stones tour of Celtic Spirit Journeys' Mystical Scotland.  We raise a toast to Mara and David for creating this fine adventure, who knows whether it will happen again in future years.  Mara? David?