"It's not good enough for anything Scottish to be just an option that pupils or teachers can choose if they like or if they have time. In what other country of Europe would you find such a state of affairs?" #ScotsLanguagehttps://t.co/8MgV9cbA3g
— Àdhamh Ó Broin (@Gaeliconsultant) November 27, 2017
From Scotland with the Wee White Dug, a tale of adventures in the Highlands, including the Pump Room and Spa Exhibition in Strathpeffer, a view of Castle Leod (seat of Clan Mackenzie), the Touchstone Maze honoring Scotland’s historic sites, a Moray Firth cruise with Dolphin Spirit Inverness, enchanting music at Embrace Gifts shop along with wood carvings at Victorian Station, the Eagle Stone of The Pictish Trail, and more. Just further proof, as if we needed any, that your Scotland trip deserves quality time in Inverness-shire and at least a glimpse of the Northern Highlands.
Today I’m going to share with you an eclectic mix of Victorian spa town in the Scottish Highlands and a dolphin spotting adventure on the Moray Firth.
Last Saturday after an early breakfast at our B&B near Portmahomack, we set off along the NC500 route between Tain and Dingwall to make the 34 mile journey to Strathpeffer. Strathpeffer lies a few miles west of Dingwall.
The village sits in a wide mountain valley or strath. Leafy, and surrounded by mountains it has the look of an Alpine village to it.
Arriving in Strathpeffer is like stepping back in time. The Victorians have left an instantly recognisable imprint on the architecture of the village. You half expect to see elegantly dressed ladies, strolling down the street on the arm of top hatted gents with mutton-chop whiskers.
The Victorian Station
When we arrived at the station a cute little shop calledEmbrace…
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So here’s the state of the art on my painstaking vacation planning. Gee, I thought vacation was supposed to be fun. . . . Huh.
Despite (or because of) all the great things to see, despite my fondness for Shakespeare and English literature, and despite a long process of selecting favorite English regions, cities, and sights, England, let alone London, has not made the cut.
Scotland is now our sole target country for this first dedicated family trip of some length.
I feel kind of foolish because I’m not Scottish and neither is my husband. It feels illegitimate somehow, like we’re imposters or something. Since we aren’t going to an extremely different climate and culture as would be the case on an African safari or in other seemingly more exotic locales like the Tropics or Tokyo or Tasmania, I feel compelled to be very selective about the part of Europe we explore together. It feels as if we should have some personal connection, relatives, work purpose, or people we know there.
He’s Slovenian (Italian-ate) and Latvian; I’m Irish, English, German, and Dutch. I travelled France, Italy, Switzerland, Austria, and the Netherlands (where some known cousins live) almost 20 years ago during college, and he’s been to the United Arab Emirates, Turkey, and France on business. I speak French; he speaks (a little) German, understands some French.
So why Scotland?
It’s really all down to Outlander and my obsession therewith. Through the journey of the story, Scotland has become personal. Scottish Gaelic is even becoming my third language. Visiting does seem full of purpose. I feel as though I do know the people, at least more than I did before my deep and abiding interest in the book and TV series set there.
No apologies, no excuses, no misgivings, no sheepishness, but maybe some sheep, and maybe for dinner . . . mmm, haggis (?!). Research, plan, prepare, go, enjoy, and remember. And be grateful for the chance. And remember, the best laid schemes . . .
Five Scottish regional destinations for a 2-week visit, clockwise order from the south-west: Most preferred sights are listed for each area, though we
may will not make it to all of them.
- Glasgow and environs (4 nights Glasgow) – Glasgow Botanic Gardens, Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Park, City Chambers, Glasgow Cathedral/Necropolis, a play, boat ride on the river Clyde; Cumbernauld (Outlander studios drive-by), Falkirk Wheel, Stirling Castle, Doune Castle (Monty Python, Castle Leoch), Wallace Monument
- The Trossachs, Argyll, and Central Highlands – Loch Lomond (and maybe Loch Katrine) in Trossachs National Park; Loch Awe, Inveraray Castle; Glencoe
- The Great Glen, Highlands, and west coast (2 nights Fort William) – Fort William, Glenfinnan Monument (Jacobite Rebellion launch), Jacobite Steam Train to Mallaig, lochs and walks in the Great Glen; Eilean Donan Castle
- Inverness and environs (3 nights Inverness) – Inverness Visitors Centre, excursions to Foyers Falls, Loch Ness and Urquhart Castle (maybe a boat ride), Cawdor Castle (Macbeth), Culloden Moor (Jacobite Rebellion), Clava Cairns (standing stones with split rock), Cromarty, Black Isle, Moray Firth
- Edinburgh and environs (4-5 nights Edinburgh) – Edinburgh Castle, National Museum of Scotland, Palace of Holyroodhouse, Calton Hill, The Royal Mile main street, which includes Writers’ Museum, Greyfriars Kirk (“Bobby” the Westie), St. Giles’ Cathedral, Scott Monument, and more; Southern Uplands including Rosslyn Chapel and maybe Abbotsford House (Sir Walter Scott) and Melrose Abbey
The above sites are separate from several specific towns and rural locations where the Outlander TV series has been filmed. After some consideration, I’m inclined to skip a packaged Outlander tour in favor of making our own. I know enough about the books, TV series, and show creators that information won’t be lacking, and we need not be further restricted in our movements or schedule.
Outlander-related locations, many of which we can catch en route to others, include (my preferences in bold):
- Culross, Fife, between Edinburgh and Stirling (Crainsmuir, the Black Kirk)
- Falkland, Fife, with the Covenanter Hotel (Mrs. Baird’s B&B, 1940s Inverness)
- Pollok Country Park, Glasgow (Castle Leoch grounds, Paris woods duel)
- George Square, Glasgow (Frank’s wedding proposal to Claire)
- Highland Folk Museum, Newtonmore, Highlands (wool waulking, rent collection)
- Loch Rannoch/Rannoch Moor near Glencoe (backdrop for Craig Na Dun)
- Tulloch Ghru, Highlands, near Cairngorms National Park (opening credits and hilly woods between Craigh Na Dun and Leoch)
Those near Edinburgh are:
- Blackness Castle, on Firth of Forth (Randall’s Fort William, of Jamie’s flogging)
- Linlithgow Palace, West Lothian (Wentworth Prison exterior, corridors, eps 115-116)
- Hopetoun House, West Lothian (Sandringham’s stately home in ep109)
- Glencorse Old Kirk, Glencorse House grounds, Pentland Hills, Midlothian (Jamie and Claire’s wedding, ep107)
- Midhope Castle/House, a private residence, Abercorn, Hopetoun estate, South Queensferry (Lallybroch)
I’d also like to visit the Southwest/Borders region closest to England–including Caerlaverock Castle and Caerlaverock Wildfowl and Wetlands Centre, Dumfries, and Robert Burns sights–as well as the Isle of Skye, but there won’t be time. At some point, we’ll need to sample the peaty whiskey (whisky) among the many distilleries.
Life is large and detailed, as is the world. I relish details, the worlds within worlds on this planet. I like to get lost in them, as must be obvious by now from my blog. For two weeks, we’ll get lost, and be found driving on the wrong side of a single-track road along a beautiful loch in the Highlands of Scotland. Details.
After the trip:
- Morning Fog, Loch Long, Arrochar – snapshot from the Seabank B&B, Trossachs National Park (posted Oct 11, 2016)
- Scottish Color: A Photo Essay – overview of sensory highlights (posted Oct 12, 2016)
- The Paps of Jura – sea-and-mountains vista; language lesson (posted Oct 15, 2016)
- Linlithgow Palace, a.k.a. Wentworth Prison – profile of a lesser-known Outlander STARZ filming site (posted Oct 20, 2016)
- Famous Poets’ Nature Poetry, 5: Of Mice, Men and Rabbie Burns – reading “To a Mouse” & The Writers’ Museum (posted Oct 24, 2016)
- Kurdish in Edinburgh – restaurant review (posted Nov 4, 2016)
- Dial up the sun – original poem & photos from the National Museum of Scotland (posted Nov 9, 2016)
- An Outlander Tourist in Scotland, Part 1 – my take on Outlander tourism, presenting filming sites in Central Scotland (posted December 1, 2016)
- An Outlander Tourist in Scotland, Part 2 – continuing in Central Scotland with filming sites in Glasgow, then southward to the Ayrshire coast and Dumfries & Galloway (posted December 23, 2016)
- An Outlander Tourist in Scotland, Part 3 – wrapping up orientation with sites in the Highlands, from Perthshire to Ross & Cromarty to Inverness (posted Feb 11, 2017)
- An Outlander Tourist in Scotland, Part 4 – the story of my trip planning process, snapshots of planned vs. actual itinerary, summary of our experience, and reflections on improvements (posted March 11, 2017)
- Wildlife TV Programs This Week – a heads-up for Wild Scotland on NatGeoWild. See the end section about select Scotland nature and wildlife tourism options with brief descriptions and links to resources. (posted March 27, 2017)
- Review: Slainte Scotland Outlander Tour + Outlander Tourism Resources – (a.k.a. part 5) our Outlander tour and Slainte Scotland company review, notes on OL sites we visited alone, profiles of most popular OL filming sites, list of 40 OL filming sites, resources for OL book and inspiration sites, other OL tour company links, articles on the show, plus how to survive Droughtlander (posted April 11, 2017)
- An Outlander Tourist in Scotland, Part 6, the final post in the OL tourism series, focused on Scottish and more general travel tips and resources, based on our Scotland trip experiences (posted June 15, 2017)
Verse writing, like other writing, can greatly benefit from the poetry we read. An overview of the evolution of the Western tradition in nature poetry might be a good place to start getting to know existing nature poems and poets, along with what it’s all about.
Featured on the Academy of American Poets‘ list of notable nature poems, English writer Thomas Hardy’s poem “The Darkling Thrush” serves as a good example for its formal meter and rhyme, gradual conceptual revelation, and descriptive beauty.
As perhaps an antidote to the horrors associated with nature’s dangers, recalled to us by Shark Week and SharkFest on TV this week, Hardy’s poem offers an infusion of hope and tranquillity.
The first two stanzas establish the atmosphere of the scene. Here is the second half of stanza 1:
The tangled bine-stems scored the sky Like strings of broken lyres, And all mankind that haunted nigh Had sought their household fires.
The iambic meter creates rhythm with alternating lines of tetrameter (4 iambs, or beats of one unstressed syllable followed by a stressed syllable) and trimeter (3 iambs), the use of simile in the second line, and the selective word choice of verbs like “scored” and “haunted” exemplify some of this poem’s treasures. Read on for more.
Exact end rhyme in a traditional ABAB pattern adds to the lyrical effect of the rhythm. The journey of the poem portrayed is one of dwelling in darkness and being surprised by a sudden “light” of sorts. The animal, a bird, serves as the source of that light.
Famous poems can inspire, are useful models to imitate, and are worth reading for the sheer pleasure of it. There are so many options for subject, form, and style with nature poetry, as with many types of writing, that the number of different accepted approaches has greatly increased over time.
Whether you choose a formal or informal style, rhymed or free verse, animals or elements as your nature subjects, you too have open access to writing nature poetry for yourself and others.
Take advantage of the outdoors and the beauty of the seasons, bring along a pen and paper, observe what comes, and try your hand at some nature verse. Celebrate your world.
The famous nature poetry series (famous poetry, not so much the series–yet)
- Famous Poets’ Nature Poetry (1): Sun Spots – lines from poems in the sun
- Famous Poets’ Nature Poetry (1a): “The Sunlight on the Garden” by Louis MacNeice
- Famous Poets’ Nature Poetry (2): Elizabeth Bishop – featuring fish and moose
- Famous Poets’ Nature Poetry (3): Wordsworth’s Daffodils – compare to Ammons (8)
- Famous Poets’ Nature Poetry (4): Promise of a Fruitful Plath – “Blackberrying”
- Famous Poets’ Nature Poetry (5): Of Mice, Men and Rabbie Burns – “To a Mouse”
- Famous Poets’ Nature Poetry (6): Hugh MacDiarmid in Scots – “The Eemis Stane”
- Famous Poets’ Nature Poetry (6)–Oh, NOW I Get It!: Hugh MacDiarmid in Scots
- Famous Poets’ Nature Poetry (7): Black Legacies – on Black and African American poetry, featuring an excerpt of “Blessing the Animals” by Yusef Komunyakaa
- Famous Poets’ Nature Poetry (8): “Corsons Inlet” by A. R. Ammons – compare to Wordsworth (3)
- Famous Poets’ Nature Poetry (9): “The Lake Isle of Innisfree” – shared on Poem-in-Your-Pocket Day 2018
Also, if you enjoy writing for the birds, this blog has the goods.
- Poem “Hawk Side” Wins Contest – an original poem on the red-tailed hawk
- Wild Verses: Bits of Nature Poetry, 8 of 10 – starlings and a canine
- Five-Phrase Friday (12): Call It Bird Song – on the phonetics of bird calls
- Five-Phrase Friday (23): Cool Creatures – a bird of paradise, among others
- Five-Phrase Friday (26): The Poet’s Paradox – reference to poems about birds
- Backyard Brief: Mystery Bird Unveiled – identifying what I thought was a sparrow
- Backyard Brief: The Yellow Eye – Dickinson meets a special winter goldfinch
- Backyard Brief: What’s New – new friends make their first visits to our feeder
- Backyard Brief: Little White King – the white-crowned sparrow
- Backyard Brief: The Front Porch & Backyard Brief: Great Blue Birthday – blue heron
- Famous Poets’ Nature Poetry, 8: “Corsons Inlet” by A. R. Ammons – shorebirds jab
- Buddha, bird – an original poem – a pondering with links to some answers