The Artist’s Corner – Talking Poetry With Poet Carrie Tangenberg, Part 2

Last week, talented storyteller and fellow blogger H L Gibson asked me to offer some thoughts about poetry, along with an original poem. Here’s Part 2 of 2. ICYMI, see also Part 1.

hl gibson, author

Welcome back to The Artist’s Corner for the second portion of my interview with poet Carrie Tangenberg.  Today, we’ll continue with Carrie’s amazing insight into poetry as well as enjoy one of her original poems.

Why is poetry important?

A literary question for the ages. I can only look through my biased poet’s lens, but I think it’s valuable not just because academia tells us it is.

For me:  Poetry gave me a way to express myself early in life that did not demand absolute clarity or lots of text. I could write what I felt or wanted to feel. I could focus on rhythm and the sounds of words. It didn’t have to make sense to anyone but me, and even then, it took me a long time to be so kind to myself. I used to be quite experimental, moving from puns to invented words and concepts, creating…

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An Outlander Tourist in Scotland, Part 6

Featured image: Three Sisters of Glen Coe. Credit: STARZ/Sony Pictures Television

So Let’s Review, Sassenach

Welcome back for this final installment in my comprehensive, now six-part series “An Outlander Tourist in Scotland.” We’ve had a hiatus from roughly monthly postings, which began in December 2016 with Part 1, proceeded through to Part 4 by mid-March, and left off in April 2017 with the muckle “Review: Slainte Scotland Outlander Tour + Outlander Tourism Resources,” in effect part 5. Thus, the numbering gap.

Between taking our trip and writing this series, I also published posts focusing on the aesthetics of the overall experience, certain mountain-sea and mountain-loch vistas, an Edinburgh restaurant we loved, a nature poem by beloved Scot, Robert Burns, and the singular, marvelous attraction of a well-preserved castle ruin. Then, between the first few posts in the Outlander tourism series and parts 5 and 6, I shared a timely heads-up to view nature programs like Wild Scotland in the post “Wildlife TV Programs This Week.” That post ends with resources for live Scotland wildlife and nature tourism.

Now I’m so excited to deliver, for this dedicated Outlander tourism series, a final set of experience-based tips, insights, and resources! Long-term project turns fait accompli. The series would not be whole without my top overseas travel tips, a survival guide, reviews of travel apps, insights on where we slept and ate (with photos), my list of touchstone regional Scotland websites, and some closing thoughts to tie it all together. I hope all six parts of this Outlander tourism series prove helpful and that you’re managing Droughtlander like a “sturdy” OL fan.

Disclaimer: My blog series content is based on a family trip to Scotland in September 2016. Remember to verify details to make your travel experience as smooth as possible, especially if you take the DIY approach. I share ideas to get you started, but info, resources, and site access can change or be incomplete. The UK and Scotland’s hospitality sector, including property owners and stewards of film sites, have the final say. Research and confirm with contacts directly in advance.

Top Five Tips for Travel Overseas

Now that you, the Outlander fan, know you really want to go to Scotland, and as you’ve started saving for the trip, it’s time (unless you already went!) to accomplish things that must be in place or in progress before your trip is imminent.

Next are my top tips for the U.S. traveler headed to Scotland, though the ideas apply to all travel abroad. Thoughts and resources for acting on the tips follow the list.

Incidentally, if you haven’t yet read Part 4 of this series, it will take you through our entire planning process, complete with itinerary snapshots comparing plans with actual results, plus reflections on the whole 14-day Scotland travel experience. Take a look!

#1 – The Passport: Before diving into specifics, take the most important step. If you don’t yet have a valid passport or are not sure it’s current, that’s business item number one. If your passport’s expiration date is too close to your dates of travel, even if it comes after them, your passport may not be accepted. Do your homework so you can pass.

#2 – Grab Your Guides: Be sure any travel guide book you consider buying includes some kind of survival guide section or street smarts feature. I’ll unpack the survival guide concept later in this post. Online government sites and articles can also be helpful on topics such as car insurance and car rental abroad (called “car hire” in the UK), travel insurance, rules of the UK road, and passport regulations.

#3 – Do I Really Have To? (Maybe Not): Save yourself some time and money by checking multiple sources before following advice that costs you both. For example, my husband and I discovered only upon arriving at our car hire office that we need not have paid for and gone through the trouble of obtaining international driver’s licenses. This may not be true of all car hire companies, so check before you travel.

#4 – The Travel Agent: Think about your tour priorities and unique circumstances so you can decide whether to go the DIY route or join a group tour for your entire trip. Enlisting the aid of a travel agent may be your best entree, especially for vacation packages. Do-it-yourselfers like me might appreciate the peace of mind of having the right travel agent on your side. I found it invaluable to ask questions and discuss ideas with my agent. He also booked our airfare and lodging package on our behalf, which saved us time, hassle, and money.

#5 – Secure Yourself: Don’t give issues of personal, digital, and overall travel security short shrift. Travel insurance may be a beneficial investment for you. With the right policy, you gain the freedom to focus on the fun, knowing you’re covered in case of X, Y, or Z unpleasantness. Buying Allianz travel insurance was affordable, convenient, and satisfying for us. I recommend Allianz without hesitation, but know your options, too.

Using Your Travel Guide

After you square away the passport, turn your attention to tip 2, the specifics of where you most want to go and what you most want to see and do during your trip. Get out those travel guides, take some notes, and chat it up. Again, see Part 4 under the sections “Where I Started” and “Scotland Guidebooks” for a list of print travel guides I used.

As I suggested previously, you can approach this either by exploring regional info sections of guidebooks or specialized websites, or by searching for certain activities, attractions, and tours, and then fitting those to time and place. The process should get you excited about travel planning and motivate you when the logistical slogging phase arrives—shortly. Here are some reminders of resources I shared earlier.

Along with the following guides, I’ve included a list of links to touchstone regional resources of Scotland. See the bottom section of this post for those regional starting points: “Appendix: Guides to Adventures in Cities and Regions.”

NOTE: Those are good regional starting points, but there’s a lot more where they came from, ready to be shared. Just say the word! Leave a comment or question, and I’ll get back to you with whatever I may have on the topic you raise.

Online Guides to Scotland

Along with specific resources for regions, areas, or individual sites (see the print travel guides or this post’s “Appendix”), it’s a great idea to orient yourself to the comprehensive websites for general Scotland tourism such as VisitScotland.com and Gazetteer for Scotland. Those were my go-to Internet sources for extensive place name lists, maps, and info (both), accurate historical and statistical profiles of regions and cities (Gazetteer), and up-to-date accommodation, attraction, and dining ideas (VisitScotland).

Try out a few of these broad-ranging web resources, and find one or two that you are most comfortable navigating and that consistently deliver the results you seek. Here are some possibilities. Blurbs are from the sources (parentheses mine).

Gazetteer for Scotland: Scottish Towns, Villages, Places, People, Families (scottish-places.info/scotgaz/scotland.html) – A vast encyclopedia of Scottish towns, villages, geographical features, historic sites, family names and famous people.

Gazetteer for Scotland: Map of Scotland (divided into searchable regions) 

Rough Guides – The Rough Guide to Scotland (roughguides.com/shop/rough-guide-scotland/) – The new, full-colour Rough Guide to Scotland is the definitive travel guide to this gem of a country. In-depth coverage of its burgeoning food scene, artistic innovations and awe-inspiring wild places. (for purchase)
Undiscovered Scotland: Home Page (undiscoveredscotland.co.uk) – The home page of Undiscovered Scotland, a combination of visitor guide, accommodation listing and business directory; aims to show you what the country is really like. (See also their Councils, Regions, and Counties page, which links to breakdowns of three different types of government divisions of land within the country.)

Scotland – The Guide to Scotland – Travel History and Places (scotland.org.uk/guide/)  Travel Scotland: Find the Freedom – Tells the story and inside info on places and history. Independent info about Scotland: travel, tours, accommodation, sightseeing, outdoor activities, castles, genealogy, etc, including the Highlands & Islands.

Scotland Travel Guide by Rick Steves (ricksteves.com/Europe/Scotland/) – Explore Scotland! Get inspired with Rick Steves’ recommended places to go and things to do, with tips, photos, videos, and travel information on Scotland.

Scotland Travel Guide | Fodor’s Travel (fodors.com/world/Europe/Scotland/) – Expert picks for your Scotland vacation, including hotels, restaurants, entertainment, shopping, top attractions, and more.

Fodor’s Scotland (Travel Guide): Fodor’s: 9781101879641: Amazon.com: Books – Fodor’s Scotland (Travel Guide) [Fodor’s] on Amazon.com. FREE shipping on qualifying offers. Scotland offers astonishing variety: its iconic lochs and mountains, as well as lively cities such as Edinburgh and Glasgow

Scotland Travel Guide | Travel + Leisure – (brief, 2 sections: Things Not to Miss in Scotland, When to Go to Scotland)

Scotland the Best: Peter Irvine chooses his top 50 Scottish places to eat, stay and play – Daily Record – THE latest edition of Scottish travel bible Scotland the Best is out and here, author Peter Irvine selects his top 50 places to eat, stay and play.

Nature Scotland – Welcome to Scotland’s forests – Forestry Commission Scotland (scotland.forestry.gov)

National Parks | Visit Britain (visitbritain.com)

Itinerary Design

Once you have an idea of your preferred main attractions, take a crack at designing your itinerary, matching your moves on the map with the slots in your schedule. Consider your budget, timing, and comfort needs during transit and overnight stays. Strive for a balance between seeing those most important highlights and sparing enough energy to enjoy the experience without coming home flat broke in the end. Below are some tools for making a detailed plan. Just remember, be flexible even after the fancy printout; life happens, and in Scotland so does the weather, even on vacation.

KAYAK.COM – (text mine) I thought their itinerary creation tool was the best and most secure among several I tried—all of those below. Create an account, login, go to Trips, add a trip, and enter your details!

Itinerary Design – How to Create the Perfect Itinerary | IndependentTraveler.com – What’s the secret to creating a great itinerary? Here are trip planning tips and essential Web sites to help you put together the perfect itinerary.

Itinerary Design – TripCase Travel App: Manage Itineraries, Trips & Flights – Connected to powerful technology & travel companies, TripCase delivers the right information at the right time to any device. Sign up for Free today!

Itinerary Design – TripIt – Travel Itinerary – Trip Planner – TripIt organizes your travel plans in one place. Finds alternative flights. Sends real-time alerts. Snags the best seat. We have something for every traveler.

Scotland Itineraries – Fodor’s | Scotland Travel Guide | Fodor’s Travel Guides – Find the perfect Scotland Itinerary for you! … created by the Fodor’s editors.

Reality Check: Travel Agents

Now that you have an exciting rough sketch of your awesome trip, it’s time to consider consulting a travel agent to disabuse you of any extremely unrealistic notions you may have developed by this time. Talk to an agent, or at least an outside party—a friend, online travel planning expert, relative, or just a person who’s been there before—to get some healthy perspective on your plan so far.

While you’re doing this, start getting some of those new questions answered that popped up during your perusal of the so-helpful-but-so-overwhelming travel guides. Ask the travel agent, who may help cut down research time and confusion-related stress. Note that this step combines tips #3 and #4 above.

The travel agent is a resource that, with a little forethought, can help in more ways than implied by the term “travel agent.” Ask about budget, financing, realistic timing, building in down time, ensuring time to eat, ways to streamline or increase the value of your experience, deals and packages, tour group options, and more.

By now, good travel agents should be aware of Outlander’s impact on Scottish tourism. They should have some idea of the rise in numbers of visits to Edinburgh, if not exactly why they’ve risen. If the agent’s missing the “why,” then you’ll have the chance, as I did, to educate them about the greatness that is the world of Outlander.

It’s natural for a U.S. travel agent to be most familiar with Caribbean and European river cruises, but good agents can guide you to wherever in the world you wish to go. At minimum, your travel agency should have some info ready on packages, cruises, guides, and in-depth resources for UK travel, if not Scotland travel. Ensure your agent can promptly pull up options beyond London. If they can’t, find another agent.

The best travel agent is a planning partner, adding value beyond flight/hotel discounts—without adding fees. We were glad to have this with Brian Chima at Chima Travel in Akron, Ohio. Note: I’ve never met Brian in person; we conducted all business by phone and email. So even if you’re not in northeast Ohio, Chima Travel may still be an option.

Traveler Protection

With safety and security, focus on a few key factors: insurance, personal security, and digital security. Decide how important your investment is to you because that’s what your trip is—an investment in enhancing your life with a one-of-a-kind experience.

You may find it worthwhile, at some level, to protect that investment with travel insurance. There are certain tried and true companies, as well as different levels of protection to purchase. It’s worth a little research and discussion with your travel partner(s) to familiarize yourselves with the options.

Below are travel insurance resources I consulted. Several proved insightful. We went with Allianz for travel insurance; it was a great choice insofar as we didn’t have to use the policy’s benefits. Cross your fingers, say your prayers, but protect yourself, too.

NOTE: Rental car insurance is a separate concern from overall travel insurance. We discovered our AllState auto coverage would not apply overseas. Unless we bought a separate policy, we wouldn’t be covered while driving in Scotland. So we added rental car insurance to our travel insurance policy at a reasonable daily rate. If we’d bought it with Alamo, costs would have risen. See the Car Hire/Rental section of the Survival Guide below for more information.

TripAdvisor: Inside Edinburgh, plus UK Comprehensive Guide – Before you see Edinburgh, see TripAdvisor for the latest info/advice, written for travelers by travelers.

9 Steps To Avoid Getting Scammed On Travel Insurance – Business Insider – Just before you buy your plane ticket…

Travel Insurance Coverage Tips by Rick Steves (ricksteves.com)

Travel Insurance db – Get A Travel Insurance Quote | Compare The Market – Compare travel insurance quotes from leading…providers at Compare the Market.

Travel Insurance Plan Comparison Chart – Travel Insured’s four Worldwide Trip Protector plans compared based on benefit levels and travel assistance services. Additional charts for medical, baggage, and reasons for trip cancellation.

Allianz – Purchase a Travel Insurance Policy – Step 1 | Allianz Global Assistance

Travel Insurance 101: How Travel Insurance Works | Allianz Global Assistance – More and more travelers are opting to buy travel insurance to provide benefits ranging from peace of mind to financial security.

BETiNS Travel Medical Insurance ,Trip, Holiday, Student, Cheap Travel Insurance – BETiNS – variety of Trip & Travel Insurance for Holiday, Student, Missionary, and Family Travel. Compare the best travel insurance and the cheapest travel insurance

Travel Guard – Cancel for Any Reason Travel Insurance Coverage (travelguard.com) – The Cancel for Any Reason (CFAR) option is available as an upgrade when you purchase the Platinum, Gold, My Travel Guard or Great Outdoors plan and is a great option that allows travelers to cancel their trip for any reason not otherwise covered in their base plan, provided they cancel their trip >48 hours before their departure date.

Ideas for personal and digital security, plus packing efficiency, can start here:

Best Gear for Travel | The Wirecutter – We put in another year and tens of thousands more miles of travel to test the best travel gear—and we stand by last year’s choices alongside a few new picks.

Packing Cubes & Folders – TravelSmith – Shop TravelSmith for packing cubes for travel and packing cubes for suitcases. Visit our site for how to use packing cubes and travel cubes and the best assortment of eagle creek packing cubes and packing sleeves.

Packing Cubes | Pack Smarter – eBags.com – Pack like a neat freak – even if you’re not one. Designed with efficiency in mind, packing cubes allow you to pack more while taking up less space. Shop now.

Although we didn’t go with packing cubes, I did buy some handy vacuum-less compression bags to pack clothes in to reduce their bulk.

It’s also a good idea to buy an RFID protective wallet, to protect your credit cards and passport from digital hacking. Ody and Tarriss both offer good product options.

Of course, be sure to keep updated on the latest airline and airport regulations for managing checked luggage and carry-on bags.

Survival Guide: Travel Logistics & Street Smarts

The following website collection covers a range of information on services for safe and legal travel, banking & currency, communications & media, state systems & practices, infrastructure, transport to & from, and navigation. Book guides should also advise travelers on health, city savvy, and any nation-specific nuances. Again, make sure some of your guide materials go into travel logistics and survival.

Keep in mind: This list represents our own interests during planning, plus specific services we engaged and investigated along the way. It’s not exhaustive, and obviously not everyone will need or want all resources. Consider it a sample starting point. For instance, because we used mass transit in Edinburgh and drove a rental car for more of Glasgow, I list the main Edinburgh bus system but not the Glasgow bus companies. However, we did enjoy touring with the hop-on, hop-off bus one day in metro Glasgow.

Blurb text for each listing is the organization’s unless otherwise noted.

Government

Scotland Government and Politics – Scotland Info Guide – History and present day of the Scottish Government and Parliament in Edinburgh

Parliament, Scottish – Official site with information on MSPs, history, buildings and current business.

Banking & Currency / Savings

XE: (GBP/USD) British Pound to US Dollar Rate (xe.com) – Calculate live US Dollar to British Pound foreign exchange rates with this free currency converter. You can convert currencies and precious metals with this currency calculator.

ATMs (Cash Machines) in Stirling, Central (travelmash.info)

Note: Our bank advised us to convert some of our dollars to pounds before flying so we wouldn’t be scrambling or delayed by trying to find a bank or fee-based machine between landing and taxi hire. Good advice.

HES Explorer Pass – Web Store :: Ticket Selection (tickets.historic-scotland.gov.uk)

National Trust Scotland – Join (nts.org.uk) – Join the Trust online today and save 10% when you pay by direct debit.

Communication & Media

AT&T International Calling Guide – ATPS-0120-LOAD.indd – intl-reference-guide.pdf

National Library of Scotland – The National Library of Scotland is Scotland’s largest library and the world centre for the study of Scotland and the Scots.

Transportation

This is a guide section often called “Getting There” and/or “Getting Around.”

Traveline Scotland, including the app available from iTunes and Google Play (a really handy resource throughout our trip).

Traveline Scotland – Public transport information – Timetables and journey planner for all bus, rail, coach, air and ferry services in Scotland. Open 24 hrs on 0871 200 22 33.
Edinburgh Airport maps (edinburghairport.com) (maps of parts of the airport)

Taxi Note: My husband and I found the Edinburgh International Airport taxi service (name unknown) to be very friendly and professional. Availability of taxis was sparse when we first arrived from baggage claim, so efficiency may be a question, but the stewards and driver were helpful and pleasant. The taxi was clean and comfortable.

Buses

UK Bus Checker – (text mine) For great help with buses in Edinburgh and Glasgow, a reliable service with a good interface is UK Bus Checker. It provides schedules and alerts for which bus stops are nearest your current location. UK Bus Checker displays live, up-to-the-minute countdowns when the next bus approaches that nearest stop. Maps show bus stops with pegs as on Google maps, and every stop between any two end points lists which bus lines use that stop. Live route maps let you trace where a bus will go on its route while you’re on it, and there’s also a journey planner tool.

Ticket options – Lothian Buses – Local Bus services in and around Edinburgh

Transport for Edinburgh – Android Apps on Google Play – Live departure times and journey planning for Lothian Buses and Edinburgh Trams.

Rail

ScotRail trains, tickets & service info in Scotland | ScotRail (scotrail.co.uk) – Buy cheap train tickets & find the best deals on rail fares to Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Inverness & the rest of Scotland. ScotRail is operated by Abellio.

ScotRail pass or no? Prebook everything? – United Kingdom Forum – TripAdvisor – Answer 1 of 7: May 14-21 in Scotland…

Rail pass – The Spirit of Scotland Travelpass | ScotRail – Find out more about ScotRail’s great value Spirit of Scotland Travelpass (formerly Freedom of Scotland Travelpass) for unlimited rail travel in Scotland.

There are also rail passes available from BritRail and ACP Rail.

West Coast Railways – West Coast Railways, Carnforth. Independent Train Operating Company – along some of the UKs most…

West Coast Railways is the company through which to book the Glenfinnan Viaduct trip between Fort William and Mallaig on the west coast, the viaduct being a site they used to film Harry Potter. The iconic transport is the Jacobite Steam Train. The Glenfinnan Monument, Glenfinnan, marks the spot where Bonnie Prince Charlie raised the Scottish standard to start the 1745 Jacobite Rising.

West Highland Rail Guides: One audio guide I found really fun to use during our West Coast Railways trip on 23rd September I found through the West Highland Lines version of the app called View from the Train: route “Fort William – Mallaig.” After you select among three available routes, a map pops up with the stops indicated. There you select the station you’re starting from. The journey begins with a well-performed audio tour accompanied by transcript text you can read as you go. Each page includes play button, transcript, and a picture of the area being discussed. It was a nice supplement, with different insights, to the brochures the rail company provided.

Auto/Private Vehicle

UK_speed_limits.png (highwaycodeuk.co.uk) (A good idea to review since few speed limits are posted en route; you’re simply expected to know based on the type of road you’re on – a tip from a fellow Outlander friend)

Streetmap – Maps and directions for the whole of Great Britain (streetmap.co.uk)

Car Travelling Around Scotland by Car | VisitScotland – Detailed information on Scotland’s road network, driving routes and car, campervan and motorhome hire, for your perfect driving holiday.

Car Travel in Scotland | Fodor’s Travel – Learn more about Car Travel when traveling to Scotland.

Route Planner | Maps, directions & route finder for UK & Europe | RAC – RAC Route Planner, Maps and Traffic News providing you with route finder driving directions for UK and European journeys at street map detail with a walking routes toggle.

Scotland Customized Map | Mapcustomizer.com (mapcustomizer.com/map/Scotland_Trip) (A snapshot of a group of 12 centrally located Outlander filming venues that I flagged and put together. This resource is not quite as sophisticated as the itinerary tools shared earlier, but it’s handy for a relatively quick sketch.)

Scotland Map and Distance Table (rampantscotland.com) Scotland Map & Distance Table

Scotland Distance Calculator, Driving Directions, Distance Between Cities, Distance Chart (UK) – (distancecalculator.globefeed.com) Scotland (UK) Distance Calculator and Driving Directions to calculate distance between any two cities, towns or villages in Scotland (UK) and Mileage Calculator, Distance Chart, Distance Map. May be also used for travel distance calculation for Scotland (UK).

Traffic Scotland (trafficscotland.org home) – Real time and future traffic information for Scotland, a service provided by Transport Scotland.

Also try: Traffic Scotland Radio (http://trafficscotland.org/trafficscotlandradio/) (for hands-free live traffic reports for the regions and the nation.)

Cashless mobile parking payment app – a better way to park | PayByPhone – Pay for parking easily with PayByphone – the smart cashless parking app that’ll help you avoid tickets & remind you when it’s time to go – download today.

Petrol Prices Live on Your Android phone | Whatgas.com – The following free Android application can be used to get live petrol pricing data straight to your Android phone…

Note: I used and liked the app Fuelio to search for gas/petrol and compare prices.

Car Hire/Rental

At least a few of these guides and articles are worth a look before you start shopping.

British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association (BVRLA) car rental guide: Car hire – Your Guide to Renting a Car – from BVRLA – renting-a-car.pdf (bvrla.co.uk/)

Car Hire – How to Rent a Car in Scotland | USA Today (traveltips.usatoday.com) – Many international visitors to Scotland stick to the major cities of Edinburgh and Glasgow, but the majority of the country’s castles and large, historic houses are in rural areas, so…
Car hire – Seven Worst Rental-Car Rip-Offs (and How to Beat Them) (huffingtonpost.com) – Just about every segment of the travel industry is rife with rip-offs, but the folks who rent cars have risen gouging to an art form. The worst rip-offs …

Car Hire Reviews – Best Car Rental & Hire Reviews 2016 (moneysavingpro.com) – You can make sure the best car rental is the one you choose, by reviewing car rental companies before taking any further action you can make a sound choice.

Car Rental – How to Save on Car Rentals – Consumer Reports (consumerreports.org) – Want to save money on your next car rental? Get money saving tips from the experts at Consumer Reports.

I was able to do better in my online shopping for good car rental rates than my otherwise very helpful travel agent Brian Chima, so we used my results for that. After searching through and comparing Priceline, Expedia, CarRentals.com, RentalCars.com and others, I used my Alamo Insider status to book through them. Part of the same team are Alamo, Enterprise, and National.

Car Rental Reservations – Alamo Rent A Car (alamo.com) – Start a car rental reservation with Alamo Rent A Car.

Edinburgh – Car Rental at Edinburgh Waverly – Alamo Rent A Car – Rent a car at Edinburgh Waverly from Alamo Rent A Car. Find cheap car rental rates and deals.

NOTE: We followed a tip that car hire at the Annandale St. location would be cheaper than directly from the airport. I can’t recall why we didn’t rent from the Waverly office.

Edinburgh – Car hire | Edinburgh Airport (edinburghairport.com)

Edinburgh – Car hire Edinburgh Airport from Rentalcars.com – Car hire from Edinburgh Airport, in Edinburgh, UK from Car hire 3000. Book your car hire in Edinburgh Airport with no cancellation or amendment fees and worldwide free phone support. Pay less, get more for your Edinburgh Airport car hire

On Street Parking – Glasgow City Council (glasgow.gov.uk)

Parking Glasgow Map (glasgowgis.maps.arcgis.com)

Car license – International Driving Permits (AAA.com) – (text mine) Again, we got these at home, but we ended up not needing them. At least bring your regular driver’s license!

Boat

Below are just a few options for boat travel in a coast-rich land of nearly 200 islands.

CalMac | Summer Timetable | Mallaig to Armadale | Skye – CalMac ferries Summer timetables & fare prices for the Skye, Raasay & Small isles route from Mallaig (west coast) to Armadale (Isle of Skye). CalMac sail to 24 destinations.

Ferry To & From Skye | Visit Skye | CalMac (calmac.co.uk) – Calmac sail to Skye and 23 more destinations on Scotland’s West Coast. Find what a visit to Skye can offer and order your ferry tickets online.

Cruise Scotland – Find a Cruise (cruisescotland.com)

Cruises by Jacobite also does Loch Ness cruises, and there are river-to-sea cruises along the Clyde available from Glasgow. For a general search, start at VisitScotland.

Walking

Top tip from the same Outlander friend who traveled a few months before us: Wear comfortable shoes, especially in Edinburgh, an old, hilly, cobblestone-heavy city. Shoes with good ankle support and cushioned soles. I concur. Hiking boots for country treks. Due to their bulk, consider wearing them on the plane to save suitcase space.

Tourist Tracks Glasgow Tour Pack – Tourist Tracks – (MP3 audio walking tours) Download (2-hour) Glasgow Tour ₤5; Scotland Tour Pack (Edinburgh, Glasgow) ₤8. Walks include a map in pdf format. Route passes by major highlights of central Glasgow.

Terrain

Maps – MunroMagic.com (A page from the Loch Tulla area on our way up through Glen Coe, for the munro Beinn Odhar. A Google map.)

Climate & Weather

You’re not likely to avoid at least one of either cold, rain, strong wind, or clouds during a trip of any significant length in Scotland, but if you’re a weather geek like my husband, you might find some of these resources interesting, if not quite reassuring.

Certainly, as you plan your trip, taking averages and tendencies into account isn’t a bad idea, and knowing when the sun rises and sets helps with scheduling. In our September trip, days were getting shorter, and fall color doesn’t peak till a bit later in the year.

Scotland Weather and Climate | Scottish Weather | Scottish Weather Statistics | Rainfall Chart | Weather Forecast – Scotland Info Guide (scotlandinfo.eu) – Weather and Climate in Scotland includes weather extremes, average rainfall and sunshine charts and the five day weather forecast for the highlands

Climate and Weather – Weather in Scotland in September (climateandweather.com) – Is September a good time to visit Scotland? The summer crowds begin to dissipate, the leaves begin to turn yellow and brown, and the weather is mild and pleasant …

Edinburgh weather – September Weather Averages for Edinburgh, United Kingdom (holiday-weather.com) – Holiday (i.e., vacation) Weather – We provide weather averages for Edinburgh United Kingdom in September

Weather in Scotland – September Weather in Scotland: Temperature, Rain, Sun Averages – Current Results (currentresults.com) – Normal September weather in Scotland, with average high and low temperatures, total monthly rainfall and hours of sunshine for eastern, western and northern regions.

Sun or Moon Rise/Set Table for One Year (aa.usno.navy.mil)

Scotland in the Fall – tips for seeing our autumn colours. — Must See Scotland (must-see-scotland.com) – Scotland in the Fall, or Scotland in autumn as we call it, is a great time to a visit. But when will the colors or colours will be at their peak?

Autumn Color Best Timing – Scotland | Getaway Tips – azcentral.com (getawaytips.azcentral.com) – Although only a hundredth of the ancient Caledonian Forest remains, almost a 5th of Scotland’s land area is covered in trees, most of it in the Highlands.

A climate tip from our Outlander friend: Wear several light layers whether indoors or out, in addition to a coat outdoors if needed. The Scottish indoors tend to be hot because there is no air conditioning in most older, smaller buildings and rustic inns. Up-scale, urban hotels are usually air-conditioned, but expect most interiors from buses to taxis to museums to pubs to be rather warm in the summer, if not year round.

Travel Essentials: Sleep, Eat, Do

I won’t pretend to be an expert on where to eat and sleep any more than I am on other aspects of overseas journeys. There’s already plenty of expert advice, professional services, and phone apps galore to help with these essentials. I’ll just continue with sample resources based on our personal preferences and decisions.

One of the tools I used and liked was the TripAdvisor app. TripAdvisor Mobile and Tablet Apps | Travel Apps for iPhone, iPad, Android, Blackberry, Nokia and Windows Phone – Get your free TripAdvisor travel app

Accommodation

Accommodation – VisitScotland Search results

Scotland accommodation & travel for Scottish holidays – The Internet Guide to Scotland (scotland-info.co.uk) – Independent info about Scotland: travel, tours, accommodation, sightseeing, outdoor activities, castles, genealogy, etc, including the Highlands & Islands. 10 Best Hotels near Edinburgh Airport (EDI) – Hotels.com – Looking to book a cheap hotel near Edinburgh Airport (EDI), Edinburgh? See Hotels.com 10 best local hotels with our lowest price guarantee. Collect 10 nights get 1 free!

Another way in is through municipal guides such as this one for Inverness:

Inverness accommodation – Stay Inverness – The official Inverness City site. A non-commercial city portal guide to the economy, tourism, the environment, leisure facilities, shopping, latest news.

Our Chain Hotels

We got a hotel package through our travel agent for our Edinburgh and Glasgow stays (start and finish of our trip), targeting Marriott properties so we could use my husband’s rewards. That landed us at Residence Inn Edinburgh and Glasgow Marriott, which were both very accommodating accommodations with great staff.

A special shout-out to Ryan at Glasgow Marriott, who corrected a booking date glitch in our reservation and gave us executive lounge access for our trouble.

Residence Inn Edinburgh – Booking.com – The Residence Inn by Marriott Edinburgh has a central Edinburgh location, just a 10-minute walk from the Royal Mile.

Glasgow – Hotels in Glasgow City Centre, Scotland | Glasgow Marriott Hotel – A fabulous city centre location and spacious, light-filled accommodation set the Glasgow Marriott Hotel apart. Visit us, and experience the difference. We also found a parking prices guide in advance for the Glasgow Marriott since we would have our rental car during that part of the trip. Parking Marriott Glasgow P&D_700x900_ v6 Tariff HNG overlay – Car_Parking_Prices.pdf

Our Luxury B&B

I did my own searching and querying to a large number and variety of specialized lodging options throughout central Scotland and Inverness-shire, investigating the Trossachs and Cairngorms National Parks, as well as towns along the Great Glen. My husband and I decided to go budget for one B&B and indulge a little in another. 

Daviot Lodge – Luxury 5 Gold Star Bed & Breakfast near Inverness in the Highlands of Scotland (daviotlodge.co.uk)

Daviot Lodge (Inverness, Scotland) – UPDATED 2016 B&B Reviews – TripAdvisor – Book Daviot Lodge, Inverness on TripAdvisor: See traveler reviews, candid photos, and great deals for Daviot Lodge, ranked #19 of 244 B&Bs / inns in Inverness and rated 4.5 of 5 at TripAdvisor.

I joyfully submitted my review of Daviot Lodge (pron. DAY vee et) through the Glasgow-based website http://www.freetobook.com:

This is what it means to be pampered. Ample parking, cozy sitting room spaces with books and games, breakfast made-to-order, delicious black pudding, fresh fruit, great coffee, beautiful views inside and out. Look out for the adorable little terrier, and for the pheasant! We loved everything about our room, which was eminently comfortable and aesthetically pleasing.

“The Hutchesons were very helpful with travel tips and restaurant bookings, even providing us with a map of the area. Don’t miss the Culloden Battlefield and Visitor Centre museum! The food at Culloden Moor Inn is great, too. The Clava Cairns are also rather wonderful. Cawdor Castle is very scenic. Beauly Priory is gorgeous.

“Daviot Lodge is a quiet, peaceful country retreat on farm land…, yet only a few minutes from downtown Inverness. With this luxury B&B, you can’t go wrong.”

Our Budget B&B

Seabank B&B | B&B Accommodation in Arrochar, Argyll & Bute, Scotland | HomePage – The Seabank B&B is cosy and comfortable providing the perfect retreat after a day of exploring the local area, or somewhere comfortable to break a longer journey.

Seabank | VisitScotland – All rooms are en-suite with TV/DVD, hairdryer, iron/ironing board, tea/coffee making facilities, towels, Wi-Fi and extra bed linen. Our family room sleeps up to 4 people. We also offer a hearty breakfast using only quality ingredients. (“En suite” refers to where the bathroom facilities are located–in the room. Look for that if you prefer your own private restroom and shower to a communal spot.)

I posted my review of Seabank B&B on TripAdvisor just after Christmas 2016:

“Location: 4, Service/Staff: 5, Cleanliness: 5, Facilities: 3.5. Overall: 4. This economy lodging was very good. Dave and Sandy are thoughtful, efficient, accommodating, and very welcoming. Their friendliness and efforts to tailor breakfast and make our room available early to store bags were above expectations. Food was delicious, the spread of options very satisfactory, and the view (of Loch Long, Arrochar) naturally majestic. Coffee was particularly good.

“In-room materials provided tips and options for restaurants and other needs in well-organized and informative fashion. Communication was thorough, prompt, helpful with special local considerations, and convenient with email for pre-visit preparations and post-visit receipt.

“Facilities were well maintained, cozy and manageable. Some visitors may find the room a bit cramped. The bathroom is very slender and sink rather petite so would not be recommended for those with disabilities. Furthermore, the bed was rather uncomfortable because too hard for me; my husband had no trouble.

“The shower was good. We would gladly have extended our 2-night stay if it had been possible. Recommended for most travelers.”

Other Options We Considered

Castle stays – Stay in a Castle | Castle Hotels & Hire – Page 4 | VisitScotland – Browse self-catering castles, castle hotels & stately homes in Scotland. Find unusual accommodation, including tourist-board accredited properties.

Dalhousie Castle And Spa | VisitScotland – Dalhousie Castle is located in Midlothian Scotland, near the town of Bonnyrigg, just 8 miles from Edinburgh’s city centre.The caste was the seat of the Earls of Dalhousie, the chieftains of Clan Ramsay.

Dalhousie Castle Hotel and Aqueous Spa – A real 13th century Scottish Castle 8 miles from Edinburgh’s city centre, holding the title as ‘Scotland’s Oldest Inhabited Castle’.

Brochs in Scotland | Unusual Accommodation | VisitScotland – Find brochs and blackhouses for a stay in Scotland with a twist. Wide range of unusual accommodation, including tourist board-accredited properties.

Dining

As with accommodation, TripAdvisor is as good a place to start as any for eating out.

Taste our Best Edinburgh | Zomato – Taste our Best Edinburgh – Check out the best Menus, Photos, Ratings and Reviews

The following text is all mine.

Our Edinburgh Dining

In Edinburgh, we had particularly excellent dining experiences at Hanam’s (see my post reviewing Hanam’s) on Castle Hill and at Vittoria on the George IV Bridge (comfort Italian with gluten-free pastas available).

Another Edinburgh treasure is Jasmine, the Chinese restaurant across from the Royal Lyceum Theatre. We had just left the Lyceum, having seen John McGrath’s electric, ceilidh-style Scottish history play The Cheviot, the Stag, and the Black, Black Oil, brilliantly updated and performed by Dundee Rep Theatre. At Jasmine, after a long day of Outlander touring and an evening play, we re-fueled just before Jasmine closed at 11pm. I savored the delicious roast duck with plum sauce. Then, we slept in on Sunday.

I also really liked a cullen skink lunch at The Scottish Café, the National Gallery on The Mound, but service was very slow and threw off afternoon plans for our last day in the city. We had a date with Alamo/Enterprise for our rental car before dinner at Hanam’s.

Our Loch Lomond Dining

For most Loch Lomond-area establishments and any sought-after places, be sure to reserve your space at dinner in advance, early the same day or the day before. Daviot Lodge (Daviot, Inverness-shire) and Seabank (Arrochar, Trossachs, Argyll) both offered assistance with reservations, given proper notice.

Although we got caught in the rain after dark without a reservation on the 21st, a winding drive farther north along Loch Lomond from Seabank B&B allowed us to sample The Drovers Inn, Inverarnan, where we ran into our new friend Ádhamh Ó Broin from the prior day’s Argyll excursions. Happy accidents! Food was served late. Loch Lomond Restaurant at The Drovers Inn gave me a comforting meal of bangers and mash. A charming old stay, established 1705, lodging options start here: Drovers Inn and Lodge.

Our Fort William & Mallaig Dining

Maybe I just chose the wrong menu item, but I had only a so-so chicken dish at The Terrace, West Highland Hotel, Mallaig, halfway through our Jacobite train ride.

A forgettable burger with chips awaited us at a pub in Fort William as we headed down to Glasgow for the final leg of our trip. I don’t even remember the place’s name.

Our Cairngorms Dining

Balavil Hotel Restaurant & Bar in Newtonmore, near the Highland Folk Museum (an OL filming site), is where I enjoyed a dinner of Cairngorm ale battered cod and chips, along with the same variety of Dalwhinnie (local) whisky we had sampled at Doune Castle during our Outlander Tour with Slainte Scotland: balavil menus 2016.cdr – Menu 2016.pdf

dscn5241

Balavil Hotel restaurant, Newtonmore, Cairngorms

Our Inverness Dining

Culloden Moor Inn/ Keppoch Bar – Photos (facebook) – Culloden Moor Inn/ Keppoch Bar, Inverness. Just a stone’s throw from Culloden Battlefield & Visitors’ Centre. I loved the roasted veggie & brie filo parcels, salad & boiled potatoes, which I paired with Glenfiddich whisky. All very good!

We also enjoyed a great dining experience at The Riverside Restaurant (riversiderestaurant.info/ – includes their menus) downtown, not to be confused with River House, which is across the River Ness from Riverside. Both are highly rated options. See also TripAdvisor’s Riverside page.

We crossed the vibrating Greig Street bridge to get to Riverside from our parking spot after we discovered River House was booked full. The bridge didn’t vibrate on the walk back, but for some reason it had freaked me out a bit.

From the Riverside evening à la carte menu, under “Our Menus” at http://www.riversiderestaurant.info, I chose “Pan seared Isle of Lewis Scallops on mini potato rostis served with Stornoway Black Pudding & garden pea puree drizzled with Mackintosh of Glendavney (Aberdeenshire) lemon rapeseed oil”–yes, awesome.

The starters I wanted to sample were dainty and well presented, so I paired the scallops & black pudding with an appetizer of “Munros of Dingwall Haggis bon bons rolled in oatmeal served with a potato croquette, turnip puree & peppercorn sauce with a dash of Highland Single Malt Whisky.” The haggis was better than the potatoes. My husband had the large house salad (pictured above), which he enjoyed along with a main entrée.

Ash_Restaurant_Dinner-menu_Inverness.pdf (http://www.ash-inverness.co.uk/images/AshEvening.pdf) – Adjacent to the Inverness ScotRail Station. Here, I had Glenmorangie chicken & soup with Oban whisky. Loved the food, not so much the whisky.

DSCN5891_Ash-Restaurant-Inverness.jpg

See the Google map screen capture below for the locations (counter-clockwise from top left/east) of Ash Restaurant, The Riverside Restaurant, River House, the Inverness Museum, and Inverness Castle.

Inverness-downtown-restaurants-Riverside_2017-06-14

Downtown Inverness on Google Maps, boldfaced labels mine

Our Glasgow Area Dining

After a nice lunch at the Kelvingrove Gallery & Art Museum (I had shepherd’s pie), we visited Glasgow Cathedral, followed by a walk through the shopping district. We then decided to take tea (our first UK tea-time experience) at Glasgow icon, The Willow Tea Rooms, 97 Buchanan Street.

Modeled after Kate Cranston’s Ingram Street Tea Rooms designed by famed artist Charles Rennie Mackintosh in the early 1900s, The Willow Tea Rooms present a cheerful, elegant atmosphere with great treats. I had Jasmine tea, my husband took Kenyan, and we enjoyed mini-sandwiches and a gluten-free chocolate brownie with clotted cream.

Like a character out of Lewis Carroll’s Alice books, an inchworm insisted on enjoying the atmosphere with us during tea. Otherwise, we had the 2nd floor nearly to ourselves.

The Cotton House is a hidden jewel of a Chinese and Thai establishment in Longcroft, Bonnybridge, Stirlingshire. We ate here after swinging by Outlander studios (LBP Outlander Ltd.) in Cumbernauld on our way back to Glasgow from Linlithgow Palace, Linlithgow. I thoroughly enjoyed my pad Thai, and we had a nice chat with our friendly server, who was surprised to see American tourists in this industrial neighborhood. We credited the Outlander phenomenon. It’s a very popular local restaurant, especially at Christmas. It was even hopping during our rainy, late-September lunch hour.

Attractions & Events
Superlatives: Best-of Lists for Scotland

Once you get a broad scan of ideas, you may find yourself link hopping to various best-of lists online. Here are some I found myself exploring, usually at The Daily Record or Scotland Now (also a Daily Record outlet). Lots of pretty pictures.

Scotland the Best: Peter Irvine chooses his top 50 Scottish places to eat, stay and play – Daily Record – THE latest edition of Scottish travel bible Scotland the Best is out and here, author Peter Irvine selects his top 50 places to eat, stay and play.

40 pictures that prove Scotland is more beautiful than you ever believed – Scotland Now – THESE breathtaking pictures of the country’s most enchanting spots will prove that Scotland’s scenery is even more beautiful than you ever believed.

30 places you must visit in Scotland – Daily Record – In Pictures – CHECK out our picture gallery to see some of the most breathtaking places in Scotland.

10 of Scotland’s prettiest towns and villages – Scotland Now – THERE is no question that Scotland has some picturesque villages and towns.

25 Places in Scotland That Are Straight Out of a Fantasy Novel – Who needs Westeros? We’ve got Wester Ross…

12 fairy tale waterfalls in Scotland to see before you die – Daily Record

14 Scottish Places All “Outlander” Fans Must Visit – Never seen Outlander? You should visit these stunning Scottish locations anyway. Warning: Mild Season 1 spoilers ahead…

Special Events on Select Dates

Various traditions of book, film, music, and other festivals, feast days, the Edinburgh military tattoo, regional Highland Games, Gatherings, and other exciting special events occur on select dates in the Scottish calendar. Most major events are during summer, but Hogmanay (New Year’s) and Burns Night (January 25th) are some of the biggest Scottish holidays. Several smaller festivals favor spring and fall as well.

Keep the seasons in mind as you peruse different parks and gardens to visit so you’ll be sure to see them in all their glory—summer, spring or fall. For instance, rhododendrons are a frequently advertised May spectacle.

Something else that interested me was Doors Open Days, an annual event in September during which participating properties open their doors for just a few days to the public for a rare glimpse into their unique and historic treasures.

Doors Open Days (official) – Get into buildings! (Get into usually inaccessible historic buildings every September during Doors Open Days; searchable database and calendar updated annually, sponsored by Scottish Civic Trust and Historic Environment Scotland).

Glasgow Doors Open Day

Nightlife

Edinburgh Concerts, Tickets, Gigs & Tour Dates 2016 – Songkick – (songkick.com) Comprehensive listings and tickets for every upcoming concert, gig and tour date taking place in Edinburgh in 2016. (Also for Glasgow.)

Edinburgh Entertainment – Ents24.com – All Events in Edinburgh – Tickets and information for Edinburgh concerts and more. Also works for searching Glasgow events.

Entertainment Edinburgh – EntaConnect – Ticket/Seat Lyceum The Cheviot, Stag, Oil (bookings.lyceum.org) – The Royal Lyceum Theatre bookings

Edinburgh theatre – What’s On – Traverse Theatre (traverse.co.uk/whats-on)

Opera, Scottish – The Elixir of Love | Scottish Opera (scottishopera.org.uk)

Cultural Miscellany

Scottish History

Scotland – Seduced By History: What’s So Great About 17th Century Scotland?

Did You Know? – Festive Greetings and Toasts

5 best whiskies of 2016 … so far – Scotland Now – WHISKY expert Andy Bell doesn’t want to get political, but finds it interesting that four out of five of his favourite whiskies this year so far are independent.

5 of most beautiful Scottish whisky distilleries – Scotsman Food & Drink – There are over a hundred whisky distilleries in Scotland, here is our selection of the most picturesque.

Speyside whisky – One sip at a time: a guide to whisky tasting in Speyside | DK Eyewitness Travel – Read the One sip at a time: a guide to whisky tasting in Speyside feature, and discover other articles from DK Eyewitness Travel.

Scots Language Centre

Scots-Online – More Links – Links to Scots Language and related websites.

Language – A brief introduction to the Scots language | Resources | Ordnance Survey – Scots is the name for the language of lowland Scotland. Find out more about Scots language and how this is used on placenames in Ordnance Survey maps.

LearnGaelic.net – (A project of Gary Lewis, a.k.a. Colum Mackenzie, and where I learned my rudimentary Scottish Gaelic, 2015-2016.)

Scottish Gaelic language, alphabet and pronunciation – Info about Scottish Gaelic, a Celtic language spoken mainly in Scotland and Nova Scotia, Canada by about 87,000 people.

Scottish Gaelic learners’ materials online

Scottish Gaelic-Dictionary Online Translation LEXILOGOS >> – Scottish Gaelic-English Dictionary Online Translation, Language, Grammar

The Scots – monarchs, ancestry, DNA, Gaelic, Celtic, Brythonic, Dal Riata, Pictish, Scottish, Viking, Irish, north African

Books – Women begin to lead the way in Scottish literature (From Herald Scotland) – That’s not so remarkable in itself until you realise she’s the fifth woman to win this prize in the last six years, joining a mix of fiction and…

Books from Scotland – Home – The largest curated collection of Scottish books online, dedicated to showcasing the very best in Scottish writing & publishing.

Writing, Scotland – Women’s Travel Writings in Scotland: ‘Letters from the Mountains’ by Anne Grant and ‘Letters from the North Highlands’ by Elizabeth Isabella Spence | Books from Scotland

Books from Scotland – In the Shadow of Burns

McGrath – Theatre Scotland, in Scottish Theatrical History – scholarly article discusses McGrath’s work – IJoST Peer Reviewed Article. Vol.3, no.2 : R.Stevenson – IJoST Peer Reviewed Paper: Title-Scottish Guising: Medieval And Modern Theatre Games, Author-S.Carpenter

Macbeth_map.pdf

Map of the Highlands of Scotland denoting the districts or counties inhabited by… – Maps of Scotland, 1560-1928

Film Settings in Scotland – VisitScotland Guide PDF

Outlander

See An Outlander Tourist in Scotland, Part 5, “Slainte Scotland Outlander Tour + Outlander Tourism Resources.” To start or review this series from the beginning, see “An Outlander Tourist in Scotland, Part 1.”

Beyond reading the books, watching the series, and reading Diana’s website and blogs like this one, many OL fans have connected, become friends, and formed groups over social media platforms including Twitter, Facebook, and others, often inspired by following the projects and charities of central figures like Sam Heughan, Caitriona Balfe, and Diana Gabaldon—Herself. Comicons, Gatherings, the Highland Fling, book signings, and other OL-focused or off-shoot events also regularly occur across the U.S. and the globe. Your next travel partner, destination, business partner, or best friend may be waiting in any one of these nooks and crannies of the singularly passionate Outlander universe.


So that’s a wrap! I’ve taken you through highlights of nearly 40 different Outlander filming sites (parts 1, 2, and 3), the nuts and bolts of an Outlander-focused Scotland trip planning and reflection process (part 4), an Outlander tourism extravaganza (part 5), and the connective travel guidance to make that dream trip to Scotland a reality (part 6). Good luck in your planning and travels, feel free to share your questions, comments, or experiences, and slainte mhath!

In future posts, I’ll continue to highlight specific sites visited, services engaged, adventures experienced, and images captured during our trip. Keep coming back to my introductory post “Scotland Ventured, Scotland Gained.” to get the full scope of available bits from just after our trip last fall through the rest of this year.

Until next time, may your anticipation and experience of the Outlander STARZ TV series 3—based on Diana Gabaldon’s 3rd Outlander novel Voyagerbe a joyful one. Outlander STARZ returns September 2017, but remember, the books are always available!


Appendix: Guides to Adventures in Cities and Regions

With an emphasis on Outlander and personal experience, the following guides touch on select areas of: Southern Scotland (E. & S. Ayrshire, Dumfries), Edinburgh, Vicinity of Edinburgh, Kingdom of Fife, Lothians, Glasgow, Argyll & Bute and the Isles, Stirlingshire, Perthshire, The Great Glen, Glen Coe & Lochaber, Highlands, Loch Ness, Cairngorms National Park, Inverness-shire, West Highlands, Isle of Skye, and Northwest Scotland.

Not Covered: Southwest & Borders; Eastern Central regions: St. Andrews, Angus, Dundee, Balmoral Castle; Northeast regions: Aberdeenshire, Fraser Castle, Bowfiddle Rock; Far North; Inner & Outer Hebrides; Orkney; Shetland; Isle of St. Kilda.

Southern Scotland

East Ayrshire Leisure – Find out what’s happening in East Ayrshire’s libraries, museums, sports venues and countryside (including Robert Burns museum and frequented spots).

Edinburgh

The Real Mary King’s Close (official)

Edinburgh Castle – Morning (official) – Tailor your visit with suggested itineraries.

National Museum of Scotland (official) – The natural world, world cultures, art & design, science & tech, and Scottish history—all in one amazing building.

Palace of Holyroodhouse (Royal Collection stewardship site) – Find practical info for you visit, including info on security, refreshments and use of cameras.

Edinburgh Museums – The Writers’ Museum – Writers’ Museum

St Giles’ Cathedral, Edinburgh (official home page)

Gladstone’s Land, Old Town, Edinburgh (NTS)

Edinburgh Parks and gardens – Meadows | The City of Edinburgh Council – Meadows

Vicinity of Edinburgh

Cairnpapple Hill (Historic Environment Scotland (HES) site) – Site of an incredible Neolithic henge monument and a number of important Bronze Age burials.

Blackness Castle (HES site) – Brief snapshot of the history of Blackness Castle; find out what to see when you visit ‘the ship that never sailed’.

Hopetoun House & Estate, near Edinburgh, Scotland (official home page) – Hopetoun House & Estate, outskirts of Edinburgh. House, luxury wedding venue, farm shop, clay shooting and property on 6,500 acre Estate. (Includes Midhope Castle.)

Linlithgow (official home page) – Linlithgow, a Great Visit

Glencorse Old Kirk – Outlander Film Set – Borders Journeys

The Falkirk Wheel | Scottish Canals – The rotating boat lift that connects the Union Canal with the Forth & Clyde. Discover this incredible piece of engineering…!

Kelpies – The Kelpies at The Helix (official home page) – The Helix is Scotland’s newest attraction. Cycle trails, walks, play areas, canals, habitats and artworks await. Also home to The Kelpies, monuments to horse power.

Kingdom of Fife

Culross West Church – Culross, Fife – Places of Worship in Scotland | SCHR – To the NW of Culross in West Kirk Churchyard, surrounded by agricultural land, this is the former parish church of Culross. Scottish Church Heritage Research Ltd (SCHR) maintains a database of over 10,000 places of worship in Scotland.

The Covenanter Hotel, Falkland, Fife

Falkland Palace & Garden

Aberdour Castle – A snapshot of the history of Aberdour Castle in the Kingdom of Fife; find out what to see when you visit this former home of a Regent of Scotland.

East Lothian

Outlander – Preston Mill’s Outlander | National Trust for Scotland USA – In June 2014, 150 cast and crew members from the hit TV show Outlander set up camp at the NTS Property Preston Mill and Phantassie Doocot.

Scottish Seabird Centre | Visit – An interactive wildlife adventure in North Berwick with Discovery Centre, gift shop, cafe and seasonal boat trips. A Scottish five star visitor attraction with something for the whole family, whatever the weather.

Glasgow

Glasgow Guide: Glasgow Places to Visit: Tourist Attractions in Glasgow A to F – The tourist info guide to the city of Glasgow in Scotland includes info for tourists on hotels, shops, pubs, clubs, photographs, visitor attractions, street maps, and more…

Glasgow Cathedral (HES) – Overview of the history of Glasgow Cathedral; find out what to see and do at the most complete medieval cathedral on the Scottish mainland.

Glasgow Museums | Glasgow Life (official home) – Kelvingrove, Riverside, Burrell, GoMA, Glasgow Green & People’s Palace, St Mungo, Provand’s Lordship, Scotland Street School Museum, GMRC.

Glasgow School of Art Tours – Walking Tours of the city and interior tours of the world renowned Mackintosh building at The Glasgow School of Art

Glasgow bagpipes – The National Piping Centre | Bagpipe school, shop, restaurant & hotel in Glasgow, Scotland, UK.

Argyll & Bute and the Isles

Walking and climbing in Argyll and the Isles – Come to Argyll and the Isles for unbeatable walking and climbing. Enjoy epic long-distance routes, magnificent munros, loch-side strolls and coastal treks – all amid stunning Scottish scenery.

The Trossachs National Park & Loch Lomond

Trossachs – The Lodge Forest Visitor Centre – Forestry Commission Scotland

Loch Lomond – Day Trip Loch Lomond Waterfalls – Guided Walking and Sightseeing Highland Day Tours for independent travellers wanting to experience Scotand beyond the major tourist attractions and the confines of a bus.

Farther West: Loch Fyne and the Coast

Inveraray Castle Visitor Information – An iconic Scottish Castle in Argyll, Scotland.

Auchindrain Township, Inveraray. The last surviving example of a Highland farm…

Ádhamh Ó Broin – (11) Gáidhlig Dhail Riada – Gáidhlig Dhail Riada. If you are interested in the rich Gaelic heritage of Dalriada and would like to find out more…

Stirlingshire

Stirling – Official visitors guide to Stirling – Destination Stirling – Stirling is a vibrant Scottish city, home to many of Scotland’s top attractions including Stirling Castle, Bannockburn and The National Wallace Monument.

Doune Castle – Get an overview of Doune Castle in the Central and West region, including its life as home of Regent Albany, and find out what to see at Doune Castle.

Stirling Castle – Step back into the sumptuous world of Stirling Castle’s Royal Court. A great family day out. Book your tickets online now and beat the queues!

Wallace Monument | Stirling Tourist Attraction | Plan Your Visit (official) National Wallace Monument. A world famous landmark, in a stunning location, come and visit one of Scotland’s most magnificent sights. Meet Scotland’s national hero, William Wallace.

Bannockburn: The Battle of Bannockburn – The 3D Battle of Bannockburn Experience allows visitors to experience medieval combat like never before.

Perthshire

Walking, Cycling, Horse-riding around Perthshire – From Dunalastair Holiday Cottages you can enjoy walking, cycling and horse-riding around Perthshire.

Kinloch Rannoch, Tummel Bridge, Loch Rannoch, walking holidays, wildlife watching, fishing, highland clans – Kinloch Rannoch and Tummel, Perthshire, Scotland – a haven of Scottish native wildlife and unspoilt landscape of mountains, lochs and heather covered hills where walking is pure pleasure

Perth & Kinross Countryside Trust | Pages | Perthshire Big Tree Country – PKCT is a charity that negotiates access to land, builds footpaths, helps care for Scotland’s most spectacular woodlands and works on conservation projects.

Carie (Rannoch Forest) Walk – Highland Perthshire site – Tourist information for Highland Perthshire, Scotland, including Pitlochry, Aberfeldy, Dunkeld, Kinloch Rannoch and Blair Atholl.

The Great Glen

Great Glen Rough Guides Snapshot Scotland | Rough Guides – The Rough Guide Snapshot The Great Glen is the ultimate travel guide to this spectacular part of Scotland. It guides you through the region with reliable

Glen Coe & Lochaber

Glencoe Scotland | Glencoe Scotland – Glencoe Scotland is Clachaig’s guide to Scotland’s most famous glen. Arguably the most historic glen and recently voted the most romantic glen in Scot.

Glen Coe area – Britain’s Only Mountain Gondola | Scotland Cable Car | Nevis Range – Nevis Range is a year round mountain ski resort in the The Highlands of Scotland near Ben Nevis and Fort William. Skiing and snowboarding in winter sightseeing and gondola rides in summer with spectacular views. Mountain biking and world cup held at Nevis

Glencoe & Dalness (NTS)

Fort William & Lochaber Guide, Things To Do, Events, Activities – Fort William and the surrounding Lochaber area is the self-proclaimed capital of outdoor sports.

Highlands

Rough Guides – The Central Highlands Rough Guides Snapshot Scotland – The Rough Guide Snapshot The Central Highlands is the ultimate travel guide to this dramatic part of Scotland. It guides you through the region with reliable

All Day Highland Tours around Loch Ness and the northern and western Highlands – All Day Highland Tours around Loch Ness and the northern and western Highlands

Highland Wildlife & Birdwatch Safaris | VisitScotland – Guided wildlife excursions, in small, friendly groups with an experienced local nature watcher, in some of the most beautiful scenery in the world.

Loch Ness

Urquhart Castle sits on the shores of beautiful Loch Ness | Urquhart Castle – Urquhart Castle is close to Drumnadrochit, on the shores of Loch Ness. Seized after Edward I’s invasion of Scotland, it was reclaimed by Robert the Bruce in the 14th century.

Loch Ness – The best crew and fleet on Loch Ness | Cruise Loch Ness – Our team are passionate and know everything about Loch Ness and the surrounding area. They’ll do all they can to make your cruise or RIB trip memorable.

Loch Ness – Tour Search – Loch Ness by Jacobite

Cairngorms National Park

Landscape Areas – Cairngorms National Park Authority

Local Search Results | Visit Cairngoms

Highland Folk Museum – Visitor Information

Inverness and Environs

Inverness Information Centre | VisitScotland – The Highland capital’s official source for info on everything to do and see in Inverness & the Highlands. Our enthusiastic team can help you book your stay, transport, day trips and cruises on Loch Ness.

Highlanders Museum, Fort George, Scotland – Highland Regiments Archive – The Highlanders Museum, Scotland, Fort George. The Seaforth Highlanders, The Queen’s Own Highlanders and Cameron Highlanders Archive

Culloden – PPF

Clava Cairns – Clava Cairns, one of Scotland’s most evocative prehistoric sites.

West Highlands

Glen Affric: Glen Affric Map – Map of Glen Affric (Highland) from Gazetteer for Scotland

Jacobite Steam Train – Official Site – The World’s Greatest Railway Journey, Fort William to Mallaig – Online Booking Now Available, West Coast Railways Regular Steam Train Trips on The Jacobite – West Coast Railways provide Regular Steam Train trips throughout the UK Online Booking Now Available.

Mallaig Feature Page on Undiscovered Scotland – Information about and images of Mallaig at the end of the Road to the Isles on Undiscovered Scotland.

Otters – Kylerhea Otter Hide Car Park, Glenelg – Kylerhea Otter Hide Car Park located at Glenelg (IV42 8) Tel: 01320 366322 Contact details and map.

Islands

Isle of Skye Visitor Attractions (Walkhighlands) – 18 Isle of Skye visitor attractions.

Northwest Scotland

Beauly Visitor Guide, Hotels, Cottages, Things to Do in Scotland – Visitor guide to Beauly in Scotland with advice tourism and travel information, maps, history, transport, popular places, accommodation. Plan your perfect holidays in Scotland

Scottish Castles Photo Library – Beaufort Castle, Beauly

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Backyard Brief: What’s New?

This spring I’ve added a new bird feeder to the party, and there are some new arrivals not before seen, plus others not seen in a while. Some migratory, some residential. Most of the birds that visit seem to prefer the finch seed mix to the black oil sunflower seed, but they are two different brands, so I suppose quality could be a factor. I’ll have to mix the two in both feeders to spread the sights and delights. Happy Earth Day.

New this year
  • song sparrow – Smaller than the house sparrow, with a narrower beak, buff and brown streaking with a black chest spot and eye line stripes, he makes beautiful music all day. The song sparrow perches in our weeping cherry tree beneath the bedroom window, in the tops of the trees (hazelnut?) lining the street sidewalk, in the evergreen of the neighbor’s yard behind us, and hops in the grass below our large backyard feeder. I think there may be more than one. He just seems to be everywhere these days, and it’s a welcome addition.
  • brown-headed cowbird – brief glimpses in the vicinity, seen and heard (loud, bright, high-pitched chip) 4/21/17 on our gazebo structure. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to the camera in time. Shy fella.
New this season
  • chipping sparrow – Two males! Also petite like the song sparrow, with a ruddy skull cap and grayish cheeks with an eye stripe, he can easily hide even in the freshly mowed grass. I might have seen females without realizing they weren’t female house finches or house sparrows. Those all tend to blur together. Although I did see a male chipping sparrow last June, the one I thought I saw in May 2016 turned out to be a female red-winged blackbird. These guys appeared 4/21/17.
  • red-winged blackbird – Usually a transient visitor, this time with female in tow; several males spotted, three at once on one occasion this week.
Other less regular visitors seen lately
  • downy woodpecker – Sometimes upside down as necessary, feeding on the suet. Female downy confirmed and pictured below. The other possibility was female hairy (longer beak, larger bird, no black bars on outer tail feathers). 3/31/17
  • common grackle – He keeps trying to alight on the squirrel-buster feeder without success. I haven’t captured his image yet, though. 4/21/17
  • European starling – Usually in flocks, they tend to prefer the suet as well.
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starling triptych

American goldfinches are in the process of molting for their brighter seasonal black and yellow. The rosy house finches and house sparrows are as ruthless competitors as ever, northern cardinals have come around now and then in mated pairs, and the docile mourning doves have made themselves at home in the bed below our pagoda dogwood. The American robins continue to dominate, as expected.

Backyard Brief: The Yellow Eye

Backyard Brief from shots taken March 14, 2017

As much as I pulled the trigger, this lone winter goldfinch graced only my closest third look with true color–which I then enhanced.

My Life had stood - a Loaded Gun -
by Emily Dickinson

My Life had stood - a Loaded Gun - 
In Corners - till a Day
The Owner passed - identified - 
And carried Me away - 

And now We roam in Sovereign Woods - 
And now We hunt the Doe - 
And every time I speak for Him 
The Mountains straight reply - 

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And do I smile, such cordial light
Upon the Valley glow -
It is as a Vesuvian face
Had let its pleasure through -

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And when at Night - Our good Day done -
I guard My Master's Head - 
'Tis better than the Eider-Duck's
Deep Pillow - to have shared -

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To foe of His - I'm deadly foe - 
None stir the second time - 
On whom I lay a Yellow Eye - 
Or an emphatic Thumb -

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Though I than He - may longer live
He longer must - than I - 
For I have but the power to kill,
Without - the power to die -

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The Dream of Turning 40

My birthday’s gift to you? Getting personal–one day early.


Each time I’ve thought of this coming birthday, I have heard Meg Ryan’s immortal lines:

“And I'm gonna be forty!”
“When?” asks Harry.
“Some day,” Sally adds weakly.
“In eight years!” Harry reasons.
“Yes, but it's just sitting there like this big dead end. . . .”

As with many of my favorite movies, and even ones I don’t like much, I occasionally hear these movie lines from When Harry Met Sally running through my head as I go about my day. These days, this particular record is broken.

Sally wants a family and has just learned that her several months’ ex-boyfriend Joe is engaged. Harry has gone to her place to comfort her. She’s crying rather hysterically, having shown no signs of grief post-breakup. Finally, the bubble has burst, and Harry and Sally’s friendship takes an irrevocable turn.

What’s my point? Lord knows. But isn’t that a great scene? More entertaining than I find everyday life, which is probably why I live in the cinematic fantasy world a significant portion of the time. (Don’t need the video; it’s all memorized.) Besides, the trauma is happening to someone else. I’m comforted, safe, but it also often means the joy and rapture are more likely found elsewhere. What reward without risk?

My eight years have passed, and 32 more besides. That reminds me, I’ve decided to state my age as “ten and thirty,” as in the days of yore. That sounds much more forgiving. Go for it, 60-year-olds! Say, “I am twenty and forty” or “I am twice thirty.” Sounds younger. I got this idea from my husband, who is nearly 14 months younger than I. Very thoughtful, Dear.

No, my husband is a hoot and adorable, and my parents, bless them, still vital and being parents. But I currently have no pets or children to look after (besides the backyard birds), which is the most accepted form of daily joy. No little ones to amuse me each day, which is, of course, the primary function of kids. Right, parents? Well, maybe not “primary,” but it’s mixed in there with all the exhaustion, stress, bewilderment, and worry.

The truth is I’m on the fence about having kids and have been for a while, but the inevitable alarm bells for presumably fertile women go up in volume a few decibels with the introduction of that dreaded digit “4.” No more thirties, not that I’ll miss the years themselves. No more legitimately falling into the young category. I’m entering that middle zone some refer to as “too young to be old and too old to be young.” Sounds like license for a mid-life crisis, for sure. 

But it’s certainly not a mid-reproductive years crisis. No, if it is a crisis or anything like, it’s that we’re coming down to the wire. As Sally Albright says after “this big dead end,” “and it’s not the same for men. Charlie Chaplin had babies when he was 73.” Harry replies: “Yeah, but he was too old to pick ’em up.” Sally starts to laugh but it returns to sobs.

Generally, women who want children and haven’t found a mate by their mid- to late-30s have more cause for mid-life crisis than men do, but science and evolution give us hope for higher numbers of fertile years and higher survival rates amidst high-risk pregnancies and complications of childbirth. Risk is always there, and danger still increases with age, but the 21st century is patient with late bloomers, whereas even as recently as 150 years ago, unmarried women past their twenties were already doomed to spinsterhood.

Risks and rewards come in many forms, and mean different things for different people. We as a society seem to believe we have no right to seek, let alone expect, healthy challenge or happiness in work or marriage itself or travel or the arts, especially not instead of in reproducing. Shouldn’t we take growth and joy everywhere we can get them?

You might think it depends on whether you’re passive or active in the “getting.” Actively seeking seems more honorable somehow, more adult, more enlightened than waiting for manna from heaven, as if we’re helpless, inert, ineffectual, and faithfully convinced of it. I.e., sheep.

Two movies intercede here. The Sound of Music and She’s Having a Baby, another 80s gem. “The Reverend Mother says you have to look for your life,” Maria tells Captain Von Trapp. And: “What I was looking for was not to be found but to be made,” says Jefferson Edward (“Jake”) Briggs of his wife and newborn son. Love that John Hughes.

Yet, even when we look for and make a life, nothing that results is absolutely great or horrible. Just as important as the issue of seeking actively or passively is to weigh the potential risks and rewards together.

For me, added risks come with carrying and birthing a child. Greatest of these besides age is that, due to inflammatory arthritis, any pregnancy would be considered by clinicians to be “high risk” from the start. I can imagine, have imagined the possible rewards as I watched my friends expand their families and now watch their eldest become teenagers. I’ve made my mental pros and cons lists and thought about all the right and wrong reasons and good and bad ways to have children. I’ve assessed our suitableness for parenthood and the question of passing on hereditary health conditions. Most important, after all that careful consideration and consultation, though, is to feel the desire rise above fear and doubt.

But whatever ends up touching us, however strangely or improbably it happens, however deliberately, desperately, or passionately we reach for it, there it is. It can either be good or bad for us, or both. We receive the good with the bad whether or not we want either of them.

The universe presents good, bad, worse, and better to us sometimes as options from an à la carte menu. The tongs grab the casual sex instead of the terrifying emotional chemistry that means risking great loss. Single woman will take slavery to meddling, co-dependent mother with side of slaw, instead of daunting freedom of looking for life, with unsweetened iced tea. But we always get a full plate. Another memorized movie brings the idea to a head:

“I have this theory of convergence that good things always happen with bad things, and I mean, I know you have to deal with them at the same time, but I don’t know why . . . . I just wish I could work out some sort of schedule. Am I babbling? Do you know what I mean?”

An enamored Lloyd Dobler replies, “No.”

But I got it perfectly! “Diane Court, whoa.” Genius of 1988, valedictorian of the class in Say Anything . . . Weren’t the 80s golden for rom-coms? She finds love just when her father’s life is falling apart. She can’t pick and choose. They both descend unbidden, and neither is going away any time soon. So she does the logical thing and pushes away the good out of loyalty to her lying, thieving father.

We do that sometimes—make self-sabotaging choices, afraid of happiness, scared of the sin of it, especially as others suffer, whether we play any role in their suffering or not. It feels wrong to be happy when loved ones are not. Fortunately . . . perhaps, Diane rights herself, rejecting Dad for Lloyd. The ending is open ended.

Love does not guarantee happiness; the opposite is more likely. But that doesn’t mean we should shun love. Pain is a powerful teacher. Once in a while, we learn something valuable to apply to the future.

Oh so much wisdom can be found in film. Our movie and TV heroes show us how we stumble and how to recover. They demonstrate how it’s done. The best stories at least hint at the fact that it’s an ongoing process, until it’s not.

If we’re lucky, we get to choose to embrace life or embrace death. “Get busy living, or get busy dying,” says Andy Dufresne in The Shawshank Redemption. Even more fortunate is the blessing of joy in this life. We may make our own happiness. We can certainly try.

Failing that, we can preserve our sense of wonder, mystery, beauty, or hope, even when rapture is out of reach. Even when disability, disease, injury, mistakes, conflict, or loss seems to mock our reaching.

In truth, fortune is fickle, and navigating it takes effort and patience, of initiative and waiting and recovery, and, for some, of praying. It really does seem to be all about the balance.

Whether equilibrium or tipped scales, the balance holds all. A 40-year-old can wobble like a toddler in heart or mind or body. A six-year-old can dispense ancient wisdom effortlessly. A 90-year-old can cut through the bullshit with razor sharpness. Nothing is completely as we might assume. Expect to have your expectations defied.

When you do, the likelihood of it may just increase. Sometimes a taste of the possibilities outside convention opens up the horizon like a star exploding. It’s messy, destructive even, but creative, too. We are all more resilient than we suppose, more capable of renewal and starting fresh after a fall or fallout or the numbing effects of time. I must remember this.

I think about death a lot, particularly my own, and not just because it’s my birthday. I expect to be struck down at any moment, much of the time. Especially any time I get in a car. I don’t really fixate; I just let the thoughts meander through. There’s little to stop them. Sometimes, I think I focus on death as a way to force myself to embrace life more vehemently. Losing grandparents, aunts, uncles, former classmates, and friends hasn’t done the trick. The terror does not yield to carpe diem, and some darkness lingers.

Losing the dog last February, however, brought new emptiness, which I greedily filled with guilty pleasures and renewed ambitions. Seen another way, I dusted myself off and kept going. However, along with vigorous effort and focus comes not just hope, but expectation.

We have no right to expect positive outcomes just because we are open to them or want them or reach for them or demand them. But while we’re here, we might as well try to build and enjoy something that is ours. Few will remember us for long after we’re gone, and eons from now, no one will.

Nowadays, almost as much as I think about death, I wonder about having kids, and my husband and I discuss it periodically (no, not monthly). The questions arise, along with the concerns. Answers are few and indefinite. In short, neither desire nor aversion has yet won.

People like to say, “It’s never too late,” but frankly, for everything, one day it will be. The line cavalierly sanctions procrastination of major life decisions. It’s little different from “There’s always tomorrow,” but that may truly never come, and one day, it just won’t. Do now, be now. All we know for sure is now. Do what, you ask? What is most true to yourself. This notion has become a trend and may now be somewhat out of fashion.

I’ve read my share of self-help books, most before the age of 30, and some have pearls of wisdom I’ve tucked away. You may know one that says, “Your mission in life is where your deep joy and the world’s deep hunger meet.” (I won’t say which one; I’m promoting movies, not books, today.) In reading these, and favoring this quote, I’ve trained myself to be alert to my inner truth and its expression, and it seems to be working as I work. I don’t seek out those kinds of books anymore; too many better options await my attention.

If we all cop out or settle to some degree and at some point, or even if only most of us do, it’s no great tragedy. On the other hand, if we ignore our soul’s longing completely, it may not be a mortal sin, but it could become a terminal regret. My fear of regret keeps me asking important questions such as, How can I make the most of my life? What am I meant to do?

Like today, even tomorrow may be nothing but a dream. In that case, I choose to embrace the dream, and the dreams within it. I’ve made it this far. I survived. I fulfilled the dream of turning 40. It’s a milestone, a benchmark, a signpost, a weigh station (I try not to stop at those). As if life is an aging contest or some sort of race to the finish, as if the finish line were not death itself.

Age is a sort of accomplishment in our culture. For people with, say, a terminal illness or violent household, this may well be true. Obviously, war-torn countries are so described because of death and maiming, where celebrating survival may become almost necessity. Still, in places and times of relative peace, we celebrate birthdays from year one forward, and in weeks and months before that. When birthdays are used to celebrate life and becoming, it makes sense to add some hoopla.

Otherwise, encountering another year really isn’t much of an achievement. This time, a song borrows the old adage: “Wisdom doesn’t follow just because you’ve aged.” Experience doesn’t guarantee learning. “Been there, done that” doesn’t mean you’re really any better off than someone who hasn’t. So don’t gloat so much, old fogie.

I’m certainly not done yet, not done trying to “fulfill” my “potential.” At some point, you’ve got to deliver, Dodo-head, or find yourself going the way of the dodo. And who would mourn the loss? The inability to evolve, to persevere, maintain a foothold on earth, on behalf of your species? To represent! I always feel that pressure to achieve, to make a difference, to leave a legacy, but with long-term pressure, I risk overcooking.

One side of you is saying, “And so you should.” And perhaps: “How selfish of you, how typical, to lament the inevitable passage of time, to make excuses for not using yours wisely. More selfish still, just spending (wasting) the time thinking about it because you ‘have the time’ to do so.” That’s my projected criticism from all those busy family people my age who don’t have such a “luxury,” the disapproval from the other voices in my head.

Why do I choose to look at it this way? Is that motivating? Even with these last quote marks, my defiance comes through. “I am what I am and that’s all that I am,” says Popeye. It’s a defiance to convention, conformity, being ordinary. It’s an insistence on forgiving myself for not being perfectly healthy, at my ideal weight, in shape, and bursting with energy while also juggling two jobs, a home, and children. Besides, I do juggle many parts of a busy life.

I defy contempt for privilege, I defy the progressive insistence that moral rightness means impoverishing oneself in the name of equality, and I defy the stigma and misconceptions about writers’ and artists’ lives. I could do office work, and I have done lots of it. I could do manual labor if I really, really had to, but I don’t. Now I work to be an artist, I teach for some income, and, thanks to my husband, I’m not starving. There, I said it.

Of course I would consider writing about, which requires dwelling upon, turning 40. I am a writer. And what’s more, a writer in a culture accustomed to celebrating and obsessing about birthdays. I’ve often thought that I am better suited to life as a free-wheeling scholar from the Age of Enlightenment or something than to traditional, modern-era work. Rather than snub the blessing, I embrace the chance to be just that kind of scholar and writer, while still working toward greater individual contributions to our income.

I usually try to keep my defiance in check in my writing, never wanting to seem too selfish, self-righteous, self-absorbed, too forthright, feminist, emotional, emotionalist, or otherwise stereotypically female, except in jest. But also because I claim a cherished penchant for reason and logic. True, the suppression is a bit neurotic, but, hey, awareness is the first step.

I really like that first step. I walk it all the time. It’s an infinite loop, as though I have one leg much shorter than the other and am walking in circles. Selfish –> anxious about it –> neurotic about anxiety –> selfishly neurotic. It’s oh so productive.

Suppressing defiance or anger, though, just comes across as being cold, rigid, emotionally distant, or, perhaps worse, dishonest. Unlikely I’m fooling anyone but me.

Defiance leaks out, anyway, eventually, in other contexts, the rest that I have—tutoring, friends, family. I’m human and American. Overall, I like to think my students and loved ones are pleased with me despite my egocentric leanings. (I would say that, wouldn’t I?)

Maybe I shouldn’t try so hard to defy expectation and to be different. The effort has become its own sort of tedious convention. Those who know me have come to expect it. Who, in the end, is truly 100 percent original? We are creatures of habit, pattern, and imitation. Relax a little when faced with things you really can’t change. Do everything in moderation, even moderation. Let loose on occasion. Balance.

And so, I revel in the riches of imagination, in all its forms, mediums, shapes, and colors. “God is in the rain,” says Evey Hammond in V for Vendetta. In nature, in reverie, in reflection. That’s where God lives for me. Where I can find something of grace, of beauty, of serenity, invigoration, balance. It is my universe. I can touch it, see it, hear it, taste it, examine it, love or hate it, reject or accept it.

We all need ways to shelter ourselves from the certainty of death, at least long enough to invest in our lives and to dream new dreams. The only soul I have to live with is this living, sensing one. I mean to do right by it. Invest in the balance, and then, “wait and hope,” as the Count of Monte Cristo says. And smile.

My new dream? Only one of many: the chance to see how I feel about all this at age 50. What of effort, deepest joy, money, ego, pain, employment, God, imagination, kids, limits, convention, neurosis, the world’s hunger, potential, balance, or wisdom then? I hope I’ll see–and hear those movie lines calling.


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graduate school graduation, age 31, or “ten and 21”

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Book Review: Let Me Off at the Top!

Let Me Off at the Top!
My Classy Life & Other Musings
by Ron Burgundy

let-me-off-ron-burgundy-coverI finished it! After 11 months of dipping in and out and putting it on my top 5 list of books to slog through this year (this makes 3 of those 5 but 15 total, my highest number since 2012), I’ve read every last precious word. Now I really MUST see the film sequel Anchorman 2, which I have been meaning to do for over a year.

I would like to give this book the top star, 1 out of 5, but I fear being misunderstood. So, “When in Rome!” The out-loud laughter factor, perfect egotistical nonsense, mish-mashed name dropping, swinish pearls of wisdom, nestled gems of hilarity, and echoes of Will Farrell’s rich, melodious Burgundy-velvet voice require my donning this comfortably weighted pile of pressed wood-pulp leaves with no fewer than 4 out of 5 stars. (I also gave Middlemarch 4 but for completely different reasons.)

As farcical faux-autobiography, this classy tome ejaculates thick layers of ingenious offensiveness with delicious impunity. It’s dumb and it’s supposed to be, because that’s Ron Burgundy, but there is also brilliance in this dullard of an all-American, pop-culture sandwich. Brilliance like the “Seven-cheese samurai,” one of Ron’s seven recipes for “effective, sensual breath.”

Vinegar-y vignettes season this extended persona whittling into blood-soaked splinters, and by using surprisingly few French words. The jackalopes tale is killer. Non-sequitur running heads in each chapter, tales of brutality and family loyalty in Haggleworth, Iowa, and at Our Lady Queen of Chewbacca High School, and all the variations on the theme of drunken sexual escapades with the famous and infamous of all genders bespeak a compression of coarse coal into even coarser foggy diamond.

Some dull moments lovingly caress pre-emptive punch lines and weave holey sweaters’ worth of delightful absurdities, punctuating a reading with outbursts of appreciative hysteria. “It’s science.” Guffaws galore indeed, Mr. B, guffaws, chuckles, snorting chortles, suffocated hisses, hyena cackles, and non-stop grinning the rest of the time.

The opening disclaimer and author’s note set a mighty tone of baseless hauteur. However, adding a misdirecting table of contents would have been a great way to further christen the chaos, and a journalistic absurdity of a bibliography in the end matter could have made for a well-popped cherry on top.

Ridiculous histories of Mexico, two sets of monotony-mitigating photo spreads, and anecdotes of age-old journalistic and celebrity rivalries, along with many more slivers of heavenly manna, dribble glintingly off the sexy, whiskered lips of our fearless (because unconscious) San Diegoan news anchor-legend. I can’t wait to listen to the condensed audio book!

Overall, you’re right, it’s “one hell of a book.” Kudos to you and your intrepid news team, your noble friend and dog Baxter, and your “lover, sexual partner, woman I do it with, wife, and female fellow anchorman” Veronica. Bravo, book maker, for your soft, shiny hair and towering height, brute strength and persistent belligerence. You have proven yourself a choice, tender morsel of late 20th-century American journalism and classless white manhood.

Of this equal target and slingshot shooter of satire on the reeking, Scotch-backwash aftermath of personal and American triumphs and failures, I say, Pour me another glass, maestro!

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Exploring British profanity | Notes from the U.K.

A pressed post

Not long ago, someone in an online conversation said that as she gets older she has less “inclination to tolerate the presence of cockwombles.” The presence of what? The cockwomble in question was …

Source: Exploring British profanity | Notes from the U.K.