Colorado, aka Scotland,USA

There are an estimated 50 million Scot Diaspora living around the world and I am lucky enough to be one of them. Among that 50 million, a much smaller number have been lucky enough to actually visit Scotland. I am also one of them. An even smaller number, perhaps, long to be back in Scotland, and I am most definitely one of them. I am homesick for the Highlands, the Islands, the lochs, the munros, the haggis, the whisky, the friends, and all that is Scotland.

While I explore my options for immigration with an eye to making Scotland my home, I constantly search for ways to stay ‘connected’ to the country. A recent visit to Colorado almost had me believing I was back under the Saltire.

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS

My first visit to Colorado was in 1970. While I was still in high school, our family vacationed with my Uncle Van and Aunt Ruth who had a ranch in Durango. A decade later I honeymooned there. In the early 1990s I flew balloons there for the first time. I could not have known then that it would be nearly 25 years before I would return and that when I did, I would be viewing Colorado in an entirely different light – making comparisons to the land I plan to call home, Scotland.

The reason for my recent trip to Colorado was the same as my last, ballooning. I was invited to attend and fly the Steamboat Springs Hot Air Balloon Rodeo. Though I’d only returned from Scotland barely 6 weeks earlier, I jumped at the opportunity for I needed to see the majestic vistas, the lakes (lochs), and mountains (munros). I needed to breathe the clean, crisp, invigorating air I’d experienced in the Kilkpatrick Hills, the Highlands, and on Isles of Bute and Skye. I was anxious for a break from the already sweltering summer temperatures of Louisiana. Colorado did not disappoint…

A WEE BIT O’ SCOTLAND

In my travels I found many comparisons between Colorado and Scotland (noted further on) but there is a significant difference – altitude! While Ben Nevis towers over Scotland at an elevation of 4,409 feet, it pales in comparison to Colorado’s Rocky Mountains. Steamboat Springs, Colorado, sits in the NW corner of the state, in the Yampa River valley at 7,000 feet elevation. Access to the valley is via mountain passes that approach 10,000 feet. Cross the nearby Continental Divide and you’ll ‘soar’ to over 11,500 feet!

My traveling companions were two friends, Joey Scarpinatto and Frankie McCall, who often volunteer as crew for my “Coyote Rising” hot air balloon. Our first view of Steamboat Springs, from just over 9,500 feet in the shadow of Walton Peak (no, not of the TV show), literally took our collective breath away – and had me immediately reminiscing about Scotland.

 

This view of Lake Catamount reminded me of a similar view seen weeks earlier in Scotland...

This view of Lake Catamount at the end of the upper Yampa River valley reminded me of a similar view seen weeks earlier in Scotland…

A "surprise" provided by @ButeifulBute. A view of Bute (on left) from the Tighnabruaich Viewpoint on the mainland.

…namely this view of the Isle of Bute from the Tighnabruaich Viewpoint on the mainland.

Other vistas we would enjoy over the next several days recalled similar memories. For example this vista, seen as we drove toward Buffalo Pass…

This view of the valley with Steamboat Springs at the far end...

This view of the valley, with Steamboat Springs at the far end…

...this view from the Glengary Overlook.

…recalled this view of Loch Garry, sans the loch of course!

And this vista transported me back to the Cuillins on the Isle of Skye!

Colorado

Colorado…

Isle of Skye

The Black Cuillin on Isle of Skye

Scotland’s landscape, especially in the Highlands and Islands, is dotted by waterfalls, both large and small; so too is Colorado…

Fishcreek Falls - 15 min. outside Steamboat.

Fishcreek Falls – 15 min. outside Steamboat.

Fishcreek Falls

Fishcreek Falls

Mealt Falls on Isle of Skye...

Mealt Falls on Isle of Skye…

Isle of Skye

Isle of Skye

It is the prodigious snow melt from the Rockies and the Cairngorms that result in nearly countless rushing rivers and streams (burns) in both Scotland and Colorado…

Colorado

Colorado – photo by Joey Scarpinatto

Scotland

A rushing burn on the Ardverikie Estate – Scotland

With all that flowing water, it’s no surprise that fishing – for salmon and trout, is also a popular past time in both locations…

Trout fishing in Colorado - photo by Joey Scarpinatto

Trout fishing in Colorado – photo by Joey Scarpinatto

And of course there are the lochs, those amazing bodies of water that help make Scotland a world class sailing destination. Best known as a mecca for snow skiing and winter sports, Colorado does not lack for spectacular lakes of its own for sailing, water skiing and other aquatic recreation…

Green Mountain Reservoir, Colorado

Green Mountain Reservoir, Colorado

With the big house, the beach, and views like this, you won't be in the cottage for long!

Loch Laggan, Scotland

Loch Ness

Loch Ness

Scotland also has dramatic rock formations, among the most famous is Kilt Rock…

Kilt Rock, Isle of Skye - so named for the way the sheer rock face seems to be pleated just like a kilt. Scotland does not lack for drama on its coastline, but this sight takes your breath away. If you look very carefully, there is a tiny speck just off the base of the most distant cliff. That dot was a ship at sea the morning I took this shot giving a sense of just how massive this rock formation is.

Kilt Rock, Isle of Skye – so named for the way the sheer rock face seems to be pleated just like a kilt.

…while a popular attraction in Colorado, near the city of Colorado Springs, is the Garden of the Gods, which features dramatic formations of red rocks – and on the day of my visit, showery, typically ‘Scottish’ weather…

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Balancing Rock - photo by Joey Scarpinatto

Balancing Rock – photo by Joey Scarpinatto

The natural beauty of Scotland can be found on many levels, and in many colors, seen here in a variety of flora…

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IMG_1982And the same is true of Colorado…

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IMG_0130There are other similarities of course — lots and lots of snow in the winter and summer temperatures that are far more temperate than I’m used to in the Deep South of Texas and Louisiana, where I’ve lived most of my life. A casual conversation about the climate shortened growing season for tomatoes in Colorado had me feeling chuffed that I could reference a gardening program I’d heard on BBC Radio Scotland in which the identical issue was discussed!

Like Scotland, Colorado offers wild camping…

IMG_0126and even has roundabouts!

Roundabouts - common in Scotland are not so frequently found in the USA, but this signpost at Steamboat Springs brought back fond memories, even if the US traffic flows counterclockwise and Scotland's clockwise!

Roundabouts – common in Scotland are not so frequently found in the USA, but this signpost at Steamboat Springs brought back fond memories, even if the US traffic flows counterclockwise and Scotland’s clockwise!

But of all the memories I brought back from Scotland, and they were numerous, the most enduring was of the people I met, the friends I made. Again, Colorado would stand up well to this litmus test…

…One evening, as we staged for a balloon glow, a member of  the event staff noticed my Scotland cap and announced, “I’m Scottish too!” When I asked about her ancestry she explained her family (the MacDermids) came from what she thought (having never been to Scotland) was a very small place called “Breadalbane.” I explained that some of my ancestors (the Breckenridge family) traced to Breadalbane as well and were of the Campbells of Breadalbane clan. To that, Torey MacDermid Wodnick smiled broadly and exclaimed, “We’re family!” and we high-fived each other in celebration. The next morning she greeted me as her “brother from another mother.”

A new friend and fellow 'Scot' - Torey MacDermid Wodnick

A new friend and fellow ‘Scot’ – Torey MacDermid Wodnick

So my recent trip to Colorado served to once again stoke the fire of my love for Scotland, of my desire to make Scotland my home, and it gave me one experience I did not have time to enjoy when in Scotland… the opportunity to fly my balloon amidst a very ‘Scottish’ backdrop!

The view of the upper valley of the Yampa River as seen from my balloon.

The view of the upper valley of the Yampa River as seen from my balloon.

The mountains, valley, small loch and purple flowers, though not thistle, had me dreaming of Scotland as I piloted my balloon, Coyote Rising (foreground) at Steamboat Springs, CO Hot Air Balloon Rodeo.

The mountains (munros), valley (glen), small lake (loch) and purple flowers (though not thistle) had me dreaming of Scotland as I piloted my balloon, Coyote Rising (foreground) at the Steamboat Springs, CO Hot Air Balloon Rodeo. Photo by Joey Scarpinatto.

And so I celebrated this adventure in a very Scottish way, with an Irn Bru. After this most recent visit, Colorado will always seem to me as Scotland, USA!

Photo by Angie Peace

Photo by Angie Peace

SLAINTE!

 

 

A Photo Visit to Ardverikie

I’ve been back from Scotland for 6 weeks now and I still miss it every day – hell, every hour of every day! How can a place have that effect on a person?

If you’ve followed my blog you know that the TV drama Monarch of the Glen sparked my interest in Scotland. You’ll also know it was filmed on the Ardverikie Estate in the Scottish Highlands. By letting one of their self-catering guest cottages for a week, I gained unfettered access to this amazing 40,000 acre slice of heaven on earth…

During my stay in Scotland I captured over 2,000 images. Some of those presented here you will have seen from earlier posts, others appear for the first time. I find it helps to keep my spirits up to look back through these images time and again, they allow me to drift back to the most amazing place I know – Scotland. Hope you enjoy this phtographic visit to Ardverikie…

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Entry to the estate is marked by the Gatehouse. In MotG, Hector and Mollie, Archie's parents, set up house here having moved out of Glenbogle House in a family dispute. YOU can stay in this house, it is let as a self-catering cottage. I did not only because my bad knees would never survive the 3 floor spiral staircase that leads to the bedroom.

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The Three Chimneys Experience

When it came to my #Homecoming2014 I wanted to experience as much variety of Scotland as I could fit into my 3 weeks. Thus I based in Glasgow for a week, The Highlands for a week, and Isle of Skye for a week. When it came to dining that meant everything from my first haggis to black pudding to cullen skink (oh, and my first Irn Bru!). When dining out was the issue I ran the gamut from steak & ale pie at the Glen Lussett pub, to a full Scottish breakfast at The Wheelhouse Restaurant to an 8-course dinner at the world renowned Three Chimneys.

I believe it was one of Scot travel writer Robin McKelvie’s “Top 10″ blogs that helped set my sights on Three Chimneys. The restaurant is one of those places where their reputation precedes them. As their own website says, “we have overcome our remote location to deliver an incomparable experience for our diners.” I booked dinner for one with great anticipation and high expectations; I was not disappointed!

I’d selected Skye as a destination in part because of it’s amazing landscapes, in part because I wanted to experience something of the Inner Hebrides’ lifestyle, and in part because I had commissioned ALT Jewellery’s Nick Shone (an Isle of Skye resident) to craft a bespoke ID bracelet commemorating my #Homecoming2014, and thus would be taking delivery of the bracelet upon my arrival there. My friendship with Nick grew as we collaborated on the project, and as my excitement over the art he was creating also grew, I invited he and his wife, Vicki,  to dine with me as my guests – a special way of marking a special occasion.

On the outside Three Chimneys is charming, but certainly not over the top! Driving past, the casual passerby would have little clue of the dining experience that awaits within – and it is a dining experience!

The entrance to Three Chimney's, while attractive, offers little clue to the experience that awaits within.

The entrance to Three Chimneys, while attractive, offers little clue to the experience that awaits within.

With a 7:30pm reservation on a Friday night, we were warmly greeted and immediately seated in a comfortable booth. The dining room has an air of both formality and coziness. There are two menu options – a traditional a la carte or a set “Taste of Skye.” It’s worth noting your entire group must do the same – that is order from the a la carte, or the set menu (which does offer a choice of entreé). At £60 and £90 each respectively, it is not inexpensive but this is no corner fish and chips shop!

The food was wonderfully fresh and ingredients locally or regionally sourced whenever possible, right down to the local croft egg yoke on the Colbost Skink – which was delicious! My entreé of Black Isle Blackface Lamb Loin & Haggis Pasty with Neeps and Ramsons was beautifully presented and very tasty! Our servers exhibited expert skill and knowledge yet were keen to chat, offer suggestions, and answer our questions. An added benefit for this delightful meal was the wee copy of the menu placed on the table (closed with a wax seal embossed with the restaurant’s signature logo) so we could follow along with each course; included were wonderful wine selections though I chose a more traditional Drambuie.

Colbost Skink, Marag Dubh & Talisker Crumb, Local Croft Egg Yolk

Colbost Skink, Marag Dubh & Talisker Crumb, Local Croft Egg Yolk

Sconser King Scallop with Asparagus, Kale, Blood Orange & Seaweed Dressing

Sconser King Scallop with Asparagus, Kale, Blood Orange & Seaweed Dressing

One of the eight courses in our Taste of Skye dining experience at 3 Chimneys - lamb and a haggis pasty!

Black Isle Blackface Lamb Loin & Haggis Pasty with Neeps & Ramsons

The "Taste of Skye" menu, complete with wine suggestions.

The “Taste of Skye” menu, complete with wine suggestions.

The meal was completed with Three Chimneys’ signature Hot Marmalade Souffle’ served with Drambuie syrup and Mealie Ice Cream. And for me, an added treat as Nick presented his work of art (my bespoke bracelet)!

Hot Marmalade Souffle', Drambuie Syrup & Mealie Ice  Cream

Hot Marmalade Soufflé, Drambuie Syrup & Mealie Ice Cream

My ALT Jewellery Original! My name Glen in original Gaelic, the Texas 'Lone Star" and the Scottish 'Saltire' flags.

My ALT Jewellery Original! My name Glen in original Gaelic, the Texas ‘Lone Star’ and the Scottish ‘Saltire’ flags.

Lastly, we were able to while away the evening with after dinner coffees and not made to feel as if we were inconveniencing the staff. Indeed we were among the last to leave at midnight! Like so much of my #Homecoming2014, our evening at Three Chimneys exceeded all expectations!

There's a new 'Gleann' in Scotland!

There’s a new ‘Gleann’ in Scotland!

 

Brilliant Moments

Two weeks removed from my Homecoming 2014, I’ve had time to reflect. I’ve just completed a 64 page book compiled from photos taken on the trip, and the memories they evoke are still recalled in crystalline clarity. I hope it will always remain so.

While the entire experience was one giant #brilliantmoment – a marketing hashtag used by Visit Scotland (.com) – here is my list of the Top Ten Brilliant Moments from my journey. (For the record, some of these are experiences of combined “moments” grouped as one.)

1) Edinburgh

A day of planned sightseeing was a bit hampered by dense fog. So dense I accidentally drove out of the city and “lost” it! I was rewarded though with a great lunch (delicious strawberry tea) and a parking ticket in Queensferry!

The fog was so thick you could barely see the top of Edinburgh Castle - forget views from Arthur's Seat.

The fog was so thick you could barely see the top of Edinburgh Castle – forget views from Arthur’s Seat.

Where did Edinburgh go????

Where did Edinburgh go????

A bridge to nowhere!

A bridge to nowhere!

Lunch in Queensferry - sausage roll, strawberry tea and a £60 parking ticket!

Lunch in Queensferry – sausage roll, strawberry tea and a £60 parking ticket!

9.The Kelpies

I missed arriving for the big grand opening by just a week but was well alerted to the magnificent Kelpies sculpture. They were an early addition to my “must see” list and did not disappoint!

Opening Night for the Kelpies! This photo courtesy of my friend Susanne Arbuckle (@ButeifuleBute). See her amazing album of photos from this celebration here: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.297072790449674.1073741827.297070447116575&type=1

Opening Night for the Kelpies! This photo courtesy of my friend Susanne Arbuckle (@ButeifulBute). See her amazing album of photos from this celebration here: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.297072790449674.1073741827.297070447116575&type=1

The Kelpies can force you to do a double take at first sight!

The Kelpies can force you to do a double take at first sight!

The Kelpies tower above their human admirers!

The Kelpies tower above their human admirers!

8. Brassed Off!

If my day in Edinburgh was a bit disappointing because of the dreich weather, my night was star-studded. An evening at the King’s Theatre with Natalie Rowan (another new online friend met) and the Dalkeith and Monktonhall Colliery Band!

Two tickets for opening night!

Two tickets for opening night!

A really bad selfie (focus!) Note to self - next time let Natalie take the picture.

A really bad selfie (focus!) Note to self – next time let Natalie take the picture.

A really great brass band!

A really great brass band!

My paternal grandfather - kneeling beside the snare drum on the left - played in brass bands all his life. The show has special meaning for me.

My paternal grandfather – kneeling beside the snare drum on the left – played in brass bands all his life. The show has special meaning for me.

7. Strathspey Railway

From an emotional standpoint this probably should have ranked higher – probably number 2. As a huge Dawn Steele fan it breaks my heart every time I watch the scene in Monarch of the Glen when she leaves Glenbogle for a new life in New Zealand. She rides off on the Strathspey Railway so it was a trip I too wanted to make. Bittersweet!

In MotG, Lexie board the train at Glenbogle Station and rides away forever with tears in her eyes from this very platform.

In MotG, Lexie boards the train at Glenbogle Station and rides away forever with tears in her eyes from this very platform. However, for the TV show they turned the train around – the engine was behind me as I snapped this shot. On the tele, the train departs and pulls off into the distance, moving left to right as seen in this photo, not right to left as it really operates.

Mr. Lionel Smith - a delightful chap - I could have chatted endlessly with him.

Mr. Lionel Smith – a delightful chap – I could have chatted endlessly with him. A WWII vet, 15-year veteran volunteer conductor, and former extra in MotG!

Obligatory selfie at Glenbogle Station (Broomhill)

Obligatory selfie at Glenbogle Station (Broomhill)

6. Glencoe

One of Scotland’s many dramatic landscapes with an equally dramatic and tragic past. As my ancestors, the Barnhills and Breckenridges trace to the Campbells of Breadalbane Clan, it’s possible some distant ancestor of mine might have been here on that fateful day in history. I hope not. My stop here evoked mixed emotions amidst the scenic grandeur!

Glencoe. I didn't have a lens wide enough to capture the true stark beauty of this place. It's possible my ancestors, aligned with the Campbells O Breadalbane might well have been here during one of Scotland's darkest moment in history, I hope not. So this place evoked mixed emotions as I stood and took in the view. I add it as an Honorable Mention for that reason. The title photo for my blog - which is not my image - captures it better than my own.

Glencoe. I didn’t have a lens wide enough to capture the true stark beauty of this place. The title photo for my blog – which is not my image – captures it better than my own.

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5. Drive to Fort William

On my next to last day in Scotland I awoke early, 5 a.m., to make the drive from Edinbane on Isle of Skye to Fort William for my appointment with the Hogwarts Express/Jacobite Steam Train. The early dawn painted the landscape with watercolor pastels. The lochs were like glass. Along the way I snapped some of my most memorable and beautiful photos of Scotland…

Eilean Donan Castle. If you've ever heard of the 'one shot wonder' then this is certainly it. I'd love to take credit as a master photographer for this picture but I cannot. I was approaching the castle across a bridge headed to Fort William. I will take credit for having the 'eye' to see the image. with traffic following me, I could not stop, but did slow as much as I dared, stuck my point and shoot Canon G12 digital camera out the car window and "click"!  One lucky (jammy) shot!

Eilean Donan Castle. If you’ve ever heard of the ‘one shot wonder’ then this is certainly it. I’d love to take credit as a master photographer for this picture but I cannot. I was approaching the castle across a bridge headed to Fort William. I will take credit for having the ‘eye’ to see the image. With traffic following me, I could not stop, but did slow as much as I dared, stuck my point and shoot Canon G12 digital camera out the car window and “click”! One lucky (jammy) shot!

Another location I cannot pinpoint, except it was on an early morning drive from Skye to Fort William. The moring was perfectly still and the lochs, like this one, seemed as if made of glass. There are mirror tricks and even apps these days that can take almost any photo and make it a mirror reflection but I used none of them You'll just have to trust me when I tell you this is a completely naturally occurring photographic reflection.

There are mirror tricks and even apps these days that can take almost any photo and make it a mirror reflection but I used none of them You’ll just have to trust me when I tell you this is a completely naturally occurring photographic reflection. Sadly I don’t know the exact location. I simply saw this sight, stopped and took the photo then continued my drive.

A portion of the Glengarry Overlook. Taken about 6:30 a.m. - the early morning sun bathing the area in soft pastels. There is a loch beneath those low hanging clouds, and the single tree - standing up close in silhouette - contrasts to the sunlit mountains in the far distance, giving the viewer a sense that you can see into tomorrow.

A portion of the Glengarry Overlook. Taken about 6:30 a.m. – the early morning sun bathing the area in soft pastels. There is a loch beneath those low hanging clouds, and the single tree – standing up close in silhouette – contrasts to the sunlit mountains in the far distance; I could see for miles!

4. Beautiful Bute

I had absolutely no plans to visit the Isle of Bute until another online friend, Susanne Arbuckle, extended an invitation for a personal tour- and I am so glad I accepted. Her generosity of spirit and love of Scotland is immense. A completely unexpected thrill!

My host, personal tour guide, and now dear friend, Susanne Arbuckle. To see her tantalizing images of the Isle of Bute, follow her on Twitter as @ButeifulBute and like her page on Facebook  "Adventures Around Scotland"

My host, personal tour guide, and now dear friend, Susanne Arbuckle. To see her tantalizing images of the Isle of Bute, follow her on Twitter as @ButeifulBute and like her page on Facebook “Adventures Around Scotland” She was also just named as an official blogger for the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow this summer. Immensely happy and proud for her!

One of a group of three of the Kingarth Standing Stones. These are easily reached just off the Dunagoil Road on the way to or from St. Blane's Chapel. They are backed by a dense wood and visited at the right time, right conditions, one can easily imagine the mysticism of Scotland flowing through them. I did not however experience time travel ala Outlander.

One of a group of three of the Kingarth Standing Stones. These are easily reached just off the Dunagoil Road on the way to or from St. Blane’s Chapel. They are backed by a dense wood and visited at the right time, right conditions, one can easily imagine the mysticism of Scotland flowing through them. I did not however experience time travel ala Outlander.

Scalpsie Bay and raised beach looking south to the three hills Suidhe Chatain, Tor Mòr and Suidhe Bhlain.

Scalpsie Bay and raised beach looking south to the three hills Suidhe Chatain, Tor Mòr and Suidhe Bhlain.

3. The Kelvingrove

This museum and art gallery is one of Scotland’s true treasures. My visit was made even more special as I was honored to be given a personal tour by lifelong Glasgow resident, tour guide, photographer, blogger, and founder of the twitter chat #Scotlandhour, Dougie Baird.

The Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum is a work of art itself! (Photo by Dougie Baird)

The Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum is a work of art itself! (Photo by Dougie Baird)

The floating heads - expressions, exhibit.

The floating heads – expressions, exhibit. My absolute favorite!

Now this is art of a different color - a beautifully restored WWII Spitfire!

Now this is art of a different color – a beautifully restored WWII Spitfire! Whodathunkit? A Rembrandt, Van Gogh, Rennie Mackintosh and a Spitfire in the same gallery??

By far the move moving exhibit, an original Salvador Dahli of Christ on the cross.

By far the most moving exhibit, an original Salvador Dali of Christ on the cross.

I owe much to this man. Dougie Baird, photographer, blogger, world traveler, tour guide, and founder of #Scotlandhour on Twitter.

I owe much to this man. Dougie Baird, photographer, blogger, world traveler, tour guide, and founder of #Scotlandhour on Twitter.

2. 3 Chimneys

This could also have been labeled “The Bracelet!” Months before my departure I conceived an idea for a bespoke ID bracelet to commemorate my Homecoming – celebrating my Texas birthright and Scot ancestry. I commissioned Skye Jeweller Nick Shone of Alt Jewellery and he took my concept, added his design creativity and made a masterpiece. As a ‘thank you’ I asked he and his lovely wife Vicki to dine with me at the famed 3 Chimneys restaurant on Skye. The dinner was exquisite and topped off by his presenting the finished bracelet to me. A night I’ll always remember and more new friends made!

My ALT Jewellery Original! My name Glen in original Gaelic, the Texas 'Lone Star" and the Scottish 'Saltire' flags.

My ALT Jewellery Original! My name Glen in original Gaelic, the Texas ‘Lone Star” and the Scottish ‘Saltire’ flags.

Two of Nick's design additions, the blue bolo cord and the ingeneious antler button clasp!

Two of Nick’s design additions, the blue bolo cord and the ingeneious antler button clasp!

One of the eight courses in our Taste of Skye dining experience at 3 Chimneys - lamb and a haggis pasty!

One of the eight courses in our Taste of Skye dining experience at 3 Chimneys – lamb and a haggis pasty!

Vicki, myself, and Nick doing the requisite group 'selfie'!

Vicki, myself, and Nick doing the requisite group ‘selfie’ on a clear Spring evening when they invited me to dine at their home on Skye.

1. Glenbogle (Ardverikie Estate)

There could be no doubt about the Number 1 on this list. Glenbogle was my original reason for going to Scotland. It is my Scottish ‘ground zero’ because my love for Scotland exploded from this place.

While the series featured many actors, both well established and those who MotG made stars - like my favorite Dawn Steele as Lexie, it was the house that was and is the real star.

While the series featured many actors, both well established and those who MotG made stars – like my favorite Dawn Steele as Lexie, it was the house that was and is the real star.

This vacant building was dressed as a pub for MotG, the Ghillie's Rest

This vacant building was dressed as a pub for MotG, the Ghillie’s Rest. While the ‘big house’ remains off limits as a private residence, I took a few moments at the end of my week at Ardverikie and sat on these steps and let the emotions of the moment sweep me away. It took months of hard work and dedication, resulting in the loss of 40 pounds, for me to make this journey and turn my dream into reality.

This beautiful sandy beach lies at the end of Loch Laggan, just at the start of the drive to the house. It was used often in filming, and through the magic of TV, you are left thinking it is much nearer to the house than it is in reality.

This beautiful sandy beach lies at the end of Loch Laggan, just at the start of the drive to the house. It was used often in filming, and through the magic of TV, you are left thinking it is much nearer to the house than it is in reality.

The selfie I crossed the pond to take!

The selfie I crossed the pond to take!

So there it is, my Top Ten Brilliant Moments from three glorious weeks in Scotland. There were of course many others. Meeting Lisa Henderson who introduced me to Scotlandhour, wrote a wonderful article about me for The Scotsman, and dined with me my final night in Scotland; my two visits to The Wheelhouse Restaurant at the start and end of my journey; the Falkirk Wheel; meeting fellow ‘boglies’ Stephen, David, and Margie; a Comms Breakfast in Glasgow with the entire team from 29 Studios; dinner in Edinbane with Passing Places podcaster Kevin Scullion; a visit to the Culloden battlefield; and not one or two, but three guest appearances on Inverclyde Radio with David R Faller and Willie Stewart – the list goes on.

Having visited Scotland, my attention now focuses to Part II of my dream – to make Scotland my home. I’ve no doubt there are many brilliant moments to come.

 

The Cottages

Any visitor to Scotland has options for accommodations. Hotels certainly; B&B’s abound – though they can be hard to book in the height of tourist season; holiday rental homes; and self-catering cottages. Each has their advantages, but for me, the self-catering cottage seemed the right option. I planned to base in one location, like the hub of a wheel, and then branch out like spokes to seek, see and visit people and attractions in the regional area.

A three week holiday meant three locations and I tried to make them as diverse as possible, while also satisfying my inner desires for the regions of Scotland I was determined to see – Glasgow, the Highlands, and the Isle of Skye. Each was chosen for a reason:

•Glasgow (rather than Edinburgh) because more of my online friends seemed to be near there, and because I felt it offered a greater range of potential employers to talk with, and that was part of my mission. Plus, ironically, as I learned during my visit, Glasgow is where my 8th great-grandfather was born in 1627 so perhaps there was something supernatural at work in my choice.

•Ardeverikie (Glenbogle) in the Highlands, if you know me, was a no-brainer. It was the filming location for Monarch of the Glen, where I lost my heart to Scotland. It was the initial reason for my trip, I could stay nowhere else!

•Isle of Skye – this location choice was set in part by photographic images shared by @landscapes365 on Twitter and by my desire to experience good live music and a suggestion that the Inn at Edinbame on Skye was known far and wide for its Sunday afternoon music sessions.

With my base locations selected I turned to the Internet to research self-catering cottages. I suppose a principal advantage of the self-catering option is that you can prepare/cook your own meals – a budgetary thing. I did not; well very few. For me the cottages offered a degree of privacy, more of a ‘coming home’ feel each evening, rather than trudging through hotel lobbies and dealing with front desk personnel and housekeeping. I ruled out B&B’s largely because most are residences where the owner lives downstairs and guests stay upstairs. With a couple of dodgy knees, I wanted to avoid stair climbing. While this limited my cottage selection sightly, it was no problem finding cottages that offered all ground-floor accommodation.

Each of the cottages came completely equipped, comfortably furnished, and included internet, Each also provided easy access parking – a premium in some parts of Scotland. I chose each on my own, using only online research tools. My cottage on Skye was suggested by an online contact so my research began there. I see no reason why anyone could not do their own search and find suitable self-catering options, though there are rental agencies available who can assist and consolidate the search for you. Websites like mustvisitscotland.com can also help. So here are my thoughts on each and a few pics…

GLASGOW – GAVINBURN COTTAGES

Originally farm workers cottages, this old stone building is now remodeled into three charming original Gavinburn Cottages, including mine, the Glenmorangie.

Originally farm workers cottages, this old stone building is now remodeled into three charming original Gavinburn Cottages, including mine, the Glenmorangie.

These cottages are not technically in Glasgow – they are nestled into the hillsides above the village of Old Kilpatrick, near Dumbarton. The A82 sits conveniently at the bottom of the hill and City Centre of Glasgow was a short half-hour drive away. Gavinburn sits on land I’m told was once part of the Glen Lussett estate and offers five cottages – three in a wonderful old stone building that was originally farm worker cottages. Two new cottages were purpose built just a few metres away. I was fortunate that, while fully booked over the Eater holiday, for my week-long stay I was the sole resident in the complex – magnifying the magnificent tranquility this location offers.

These are the newer purpose built cottages at Gavinburn. Well appointed inside, I'm happier with the charm of the original stone building.

These are the newer purpose built cottages at Gavinburn. Well appointed inside, I’m happier with the charm of the original stone building.

Besides its convenient location, these cottages offer amazing views of the River Clyde, the nearby Erskine Bridge, and even Glasgow in the distance. Sitting out in the evening and watching the lights in the village below and the city afar twinkle on at twilight was an ultimate in relaxation.

And the view looking downriver toward the sea.

And the view looking downriver toward the sea.

The view looking up the river Clyde toward Glasgow.

The view looking up the river Clyde toward Glasgow.

My cottage, the Glenmorangie, was a single bedroom unit – what we in the States would call an efficiency apartment. A nice living area with a small dinette table, small but efficient kitchen, a well appointed ensuite bath with walk-in shower and a bedroom with great views. It was the perfect base to explore Scotland’s central belt as attractions in Glasgow, Falkirk and even Edinburgh were within an easy drive of an hour or less. A train station is just 5 minutes away in  the village. The cottages are also situated near the beginning of a nice hill walk to a loch higher up in the hills and walkers passing by were a common site every day, regardless of weather.

Enjoyed a small fire in the woodburner on my first night to take the chill off!

Enjoyed a small fire in the woodburner on my first night to take the chill off!

Living area

Living area

The kitchen

The kitchen

The bedroom

The bedroom

My cottage, being a one-bedroom unit in the original stone building, offered old world charm outside with modern clean lines and styling within combined with an overabundance of peace and quiet.

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ARDVERIKIE ESTATE – GLENBOGLE

This is THE house everyone knows as Glenbogle

This is THE house everyone knows as Glenbogle

Location, location, location! For my second week there was never any question where I would stay, the Ardverikie Estate – Glenbogle. The magnificent historic home was the prime filming location for the BBC drama Monarch of the Glen. The estate is opened to the public only once annually, so your only other option to see it is to either book a stalking party, sign on to the approved quad-bike tours, or let one of their cottages, which I did.

I selected the cottage named Pinewood. It is a modern two-bedroom unit that can sleep up to four. The romantic in me would have preferred the Cinderella-esque Gatehouse – which can be let – but its 3-level spiral stair case and my knees would not have been a good match. I’d have been sleeping on the sofa as the bedroom is at the top of the stairs.

Pinewood is a modern two-bedroom home that would fit right in at almost any suburban neighborhood.

Pinewood is a modern two-bedroom home that would fit right in at almost any suburban neighborhood.

Entry to the estate is marked by the Gatehouse. In MotG, Hector and Mollie, Archie's parents, set up house here having moved out of Glenbogle House in a family dispute. YOU can stay in this house, it is let as a self-catering cottage. I did not only because my bad knees would never survive the 3 floor spiral staircase that leads to the bedroom.

Entry to the estate is marked by the Gatehouse. YOU can stay in this house, it is let as a self-catering cottage. I did not only because my bad knees would never survive the 3 floor spiral staircase that leads to the bedroom.

Pinewood is just a short distance inside the gates to the estate which are controlled by an electronically coded barrier. A short distance away is another cottage that is home to estate staff, but I felt completely isolated and private surrounded by the deep woods of Ardverikie. This estate offers indescribable beauty – dense woods, Loch Laggan with its amazing sandy beach, and thousands of heavily wooded acres that are yours to explore.

This beautiful sandy beach lies at the end of Loch Laggan, just at the start of the drive to the house. It was used often in filming, and through the magic of TV, you are left thinking it is much nearer to the house than it is in reality.

This beautiful sandy beach lies at the end of Loch Laggan, just at the start of the drive to the big house and a short walk from Pinewood.

Less there be any mistake, the ‘big house’ is off limits. It remains a private residence and you are reminded to respect the privacy of the family – who were in residence the entirety of my week’s visit. That said, if asked politely and respectfully, you can walk up close enough to satisfy even an ardent fan like me in search of the keepsake photograph. I was astonished to learn though that some people actually walk up and try the doors, or peer into the windows. There’s no excuse for such disrespect. This may be – at least in part – because so many stately homes, especially in England, are open for tours even when a family may reside in private on the upper floors. That is not the case at Ardverikie/Glenbogle.

 

This vacant building was dressed as a pub for MotG, the Ghillie's Rest

This vacant building was dressed as a pub for MotG, the Ghillie’s Rest

Fans of the show will find other well know shooting locations both on the estate and off in nearby locations like Laggan, Newtonmore, Kingussie and Roy Bridge. Notable on the estate is the beach and a now vacant building used on tele as a pub, The Ghillie’s Rest. This building you can approach and explore from the outside. I took a few quiet, and I’ll admit, emotional minutes to sit on the steps and reflect on on my surroundings and all it had taken to get me there.

Pinewood would easily accommodate two couples or a family of four. The kitchen was huge, there’s a separate dining room, a small bath and an ample living area with sliding glass doors out into the garden. A picnic lunch enjoyed on the front lawn on a beautiful Spring day was a highlight.

A picnic lunch on the front lawn at Pinewood was like a welcome visit with nature.

A picnic lunch on the front lawn at Pinewood was a welcome visit with nature.

I was surprised that the decor, while very nice, seemed cold, almost harsh. Gavinburn’s Glenmorangie featured great photos of the Clyde and nearby Dumbarton Castle so I expected Pinewood to likewise feature decor highlighting the beauty that surrounds it on Ardverikie, but it does not. No photos, just nicely framed mirrors for decoration. Yet when you can hike or drive the short 3 miles down to a view of the ‘big house’ or out onto the Loch Laggan beach, I guess you don’t need photos?

The living area.

The living area.

The dining room.

The dining room.

The kitchen was quite large.

The kitchen was quite large.

One bedroom offers twin beds...

One bedroom offers twin beds…

... the other a queen size bed.

… the other a queen size bed. Both bedrooms offered large picture windows with views.

The bath is small but offers tub or shower.

The bath is small but offers tub or shower.

With the big house, the beach, and views like this, you won't be in the cottage for long!

With the big house, the beach, and views like this, you won’t be in the cottage for long!

ISLE OF SKYE/EDINBANE

For Isle of Skye/Edinbane I selected Tigh Dubh (pronounced Tie-Doe), one of two cottages offered by Alistair and Helen at On the Croft. For sheer cuteness factor, this quaint one bedroom cottage tops the scale! To me, everything about it screams Scotland, and friends who saw the pictures likened it to a Hobbit Hole! All it needed was round doors.

The main entry into Tigh Dubh

The main entry into Tigh Dubh

The squat stone construction screams quaint!

The squat stone construction screams quaint!

When it comes to a welcome Tigh Dubh also scored big points. Arriving about 3:30pm, after having driven for several hours from Ardverikie in the Highlands to Edinbane on Skye, I was greeted by a thermos of hot water, teas, milk, sugar and a small plate of homemade flapjacks, Mmm, Mmm, good!

A wonderful welcoming snack!

A wonderful welcoming snack!

In truth, Tigh Dubh also has a small loft, perfect sleeping quarters for kids, though a handrail on the log staircase might be a worthy addition for safety? I selected Tigh Dubh purely from On the Croft’s website (as was the case with the others as well). If there was an unexpected surprise it was the cottage (and it’s companion the Merman) are right out the back door of Alistair and Helen’s home. This is a working croft and between the cottages is a working barn/shed. Helen also offers massage and has a small hut and a separate office on the property. At first this felt a bit crowded – and to be honest the website left me thinking the cottage was more isolated – as was the case with Gavinburn’s Glenmorangie and Ardverikie’s Pinewood.

The oh so comfy living area.

The oh so comfy living area.

The master bed complete with crockery hot water bottle and furry cover that looked like an otter - so cute!

The master bed complete with crockery hot water bottle and furry cover that looked like an otter – so cute!

The kitchen...

The kitchen…

The natural wood and stone construction gave this cottage a unique feel all its own.

The natural wood and stone construction gave this cottage a unique feel all its own.

The bath...

The bath…

There is a loft that serves as a second bedroom - with my knees I did not explore it.

There is a loft that serves as a second bedroom – with my knees I did not explore it.

While I had a small concern about this upon arrival my concerns were unfounded. I had all the privacy I wanted/needed and yet it was nice to have both Allistair and/or Helen close by if needed. They were extremely helpful in suggesting sights to see and Helen was exceptionally gracious inviting me into their home when I needed access to a computer printer. My only disappointment – the cat, Mr. T never would let me befriend him while their dog Megan, was a great companion.

The view out the front of Tigh Dubh is nice but you don't stay here for the view, there are many far more dramatic and colorful places to explore on Skye...

The view out the front of Tigh Dubh is nice but you don’t stay here for the view, there are many far more dramatic and colorful places to explore on Skye…

Kilt Rock, Isle of Skye - so named for the way the sheer rock face seems to be pleated just like a kilt. Scotland does not lack for drama on its coastline, but this sight takes your breath away. If you look very carefully, there is a tiny speck just off the base of the most distant cliff. That dot was a ship at sea the morning I took this shot giving a sense of just how massive this rock formation is.

… like Kilt Rock – so named for the way the sheer rock face seems to be pleated just like a kilt. Scotland does not lack for drama on its coastline, but this sight takes your breath away…

...or the colorful seaside port of Portree.

…or the colorful seaside port of Portree.

Each property was exceptional and I was completely satisfied with all three. All were great value for the dollar/pound though you do pay a bit more for the access that comes with a let at Ardverikie and it was the only one to require a cleaning deposit (which was quickly and completely refunded following my departure). Each has its own special qualities that made my stays there memorable.

In summary, if you’ve not tried a self-catering holiday, I recommend it. I felt completely at home in each of these cottages. The freedom to keep my own schedule – to rise, lounge, sleep-in, work late or whatever, without concerns for other guests or housekeeping staff, etc. made my self-catering holiday sublime!

For more on my cottage choices check out these websites…

http://gavinburncottages.com/

http://www.ardverikie.com/

http://www.edinbane-self-catering.co.uk/

Scotland the Beautiful

Thanks to Late Night TV host David Letterman, “Top 10″ lists are very popular. During my 20-day Homecoming visit to Scotland I took, on average, 100 – 200 digital photos each day. I’ve well over 2,000 images to sort through. So to pick a ‘Top 10′ was no easy task – yet not as difficult as I might have expected. Like the old saying goes, ‘the cream rises to the top’ and as I sorted through image after image that became very apparent. The best images just jumped out at me.

Given the title I chose, I limited the selection to Scotland’s natural landscape, which eliminated the ‘Floating Heads’ exhibit at the Kelvingrove – admitedly one of my favorite ‘sights’ of Scotland. Also eliminated, a wonderful picture of Lionel Smith, conductor on the Strathspey Steam Railway from Aviemore to Broomhill (Glenbogle Station) and the most charming and unique gentleman I met in all of Scotland. This list, these 10 photos, celebrate Scotland’s natural beauty which is immense!

Any such list is hugely speculative but that’s why this is MY Top 10 list… so here goes…

Number 10

One of a group of three of the Kingarth Standing Stones. These are easily reached just off the Dunagoil Road on the way to or from St. Blane's Chapel. They are backed by a dense wood and visited at the right time, right conditions, one can easily imagine the mysticism of Scotland flowing through them. I did not however experience time travel ala Outlander.

One of a group of three of the Kingarth Standing Stones on the Isle of Bute. These are easily reached just off the Dunagoil Road on the way to or from St. Blane’s Chapel. They are backed by a dense wood and visited at the right time, right conditions, one can easily imagine the mysticism of Scotland flowing through them. I did not however experience time travel ala Outlander. Scotland has many standing stones, some perhaps far more impressive, but what makes this one of my favorites is the mysterious white mist encircling the top of the stone. In reality I think this might have been simply the effect of a raindrop or two on the camera lens, but was it?

Number 9

A view of the River Clyde from the hills above Old Kilpatrick. This was my first view of the Clyde the evening of my arrival at Gavinburn Cottages.

A view of the River Clyde from the hills above Old Kilpatrick. This was my first real view of the Clyde and indeed, Scotland, on the evening of my arrival at Gavinburn Cottages. With the river spread below me, the grazing sheep, the scene is so very pastoral. I think I exhaled a long sigh and at that moment realized I really was in Scotland! My dream had come true!

Number 8

A "surprise" provided by @ButeifulBute. A view of Bute (on left) from the Tighnabruaich Viewpoint on the mainland.

A view of the Isle of Bute (on right) from the Tighnabruaich Viewpoint on the mainland. Scotland is one huge ‘scenic overlook’ and some might say views like this are a dime a dozen. The photo does not do it justice. It is special to me in part because a new friend, Susanne Arbuckle – an avid photographer hobbyist who lives on Bute – had saved this view as a final surprise as she gave me a personal tour of her island home. It was the moment as much as the view that will always make this picture a special memory for me.

Number 7

I don't recall the exact location of this shot. It was on the drive from Glasgow, along Loch Lommond, through Glencoe and on to The Highlands. This photo image struck me because it speaks to the remoteness of some Scottish locations. A single home set against an overpowering landscape.

I don’t recall the exact location of this shot. It was on the drive from Glasgow, along Loch Lommond, through Glencoe and on to The Highlands. This image struck me because it speaks to the remoteness of some Scottish locations. A single home set against an overpowering landscape. It also says volumes to me of the rugged determination of the Scot peoples through the ages to conquer any obstacle.

Number 6

The Glengarry Overlook - famous for the lock that looks like a map of Scotland. If ever Mother Nature painted a landscape, this was it!

The Glengarry Overlook – famous for the loch that looks like a map of Scotland. If ever Mother Nature painted a landscape, this was it!

Number 5

The Cillie Choirill church and graveyard. There is a famous song, 'Highland Cathedral" and this must have been the setting for the writing of that song. Set in the hills above Roy Bridge it is well hidden from the passerby. It was one of the many highland locations used for the BBC drama Monarch of the Glen. When I visited to photograph it I was there all alone. There was cloud obscuring the near mountaintops. It was completely quiet and the solitude of the place was almost overbearing. Yet the peace and tranquility was quite soothing. Sitting on a small bench overlooking this scene I could not help but think of my Scot ancestors and I said a little prayer for them, that they might know that I was there, in Scotland, and that I loved the place as I think they too must have in their days almost 400 years ago!

The Cillie Choirill church and graveyard. There is a famous song, ‘Highland Cathedral” and this must have been the setting for the writing of that song. Set in the hills above Roy Bridge it is well hidden from the passerby. It was one of the many highland locations used for the BBC drama Monarch of the Glen. When I visited to photograph it I was there all alone. There was cloud obscuring the near mountaintops. It was completely quiet and the solitude of the place was almost overbearing, yet the peace and tranquility was quite soothing. Sitting on a small bench overlooking this scene I could not help but think of my Scot ancestors and I said a little prayer for them, that they might know that I was there, in Scotland, and that I loved the place as I think they too must have in their days almost 400 years ago!

Number 4

Kilt Rock, Isle of Skye - so named for the way the sheer rock face seems to be pleated just like a kilt. Scotland does not lack for drama on its coastline, but this sight takes your breath away. If you look very carefully, there is a tiny speck just off the base of the most distant cliff. That dot was a ship at sea the morning I took this shot giving a sense of just how massive this rock formation is.

Kilt Rock, Isle of Skye – so named for the way the sheer rock face seems to be pleated just like a kilt. Scotland does not lack for drama on its coastline, but this sight takes your breath away. If you look very carefully, there is a tiny speck just off the base of the most distant cliff. That dot was a ship at sea the morning I took this shot giving a sense of just how massive this rock formation is.

Number 3

I'd never seen this view of the house before today, anywhere. I discovered it quite by accident as I was driving back down one of the single track roads I was told I could explore as far as I felt my AWD Volvo would take me. I'd gone high up onto a munro (Scottish mountain) and this view simply emerged in front of me as I returned. I think it may be my favorite.

Ardverikie Estate, just outside Laggan and near Newtonmore and Kingussie in the Scottish Highlands. Famous as Glenbogle, setting of the BBC television drama Monarch of the Glen. This is my Scottish ‘ground zero.’  It’s where I fell in love with Scotland and where my heart still lies today. I’ve seen every episode of MotG (twice) and I’d never seen this view of the house before.  Most people (myself included) try to get as close as possible to the house for a keepsake photo. I stayed a week on the estate (in one of its self-catering cottages) and I discovered this view of the house quite by accident. I was driving back down one of the single track roads I was told I could explore as far as I felt my AWD Volvo would take me. I’d gone high up onto a munro (Scottish mountain) and this view simply emerged in front of me as I returned. The massive house, seems almost in miniature in this image, at the far end of a natural treed lane and with the mountains as a backdrop. I think it may be my favorite picture of the house.

Number 2

Another location I cannot pinpoint, except it was on an early morning drive from Skye to Fort William. The moring was perfectly still and the lochs, like this one, seemed as if made of glass. There are mirror tricks and even apps these days that can take almost any photo and make it a mirror reflection but I used none of them You'll just have to trust me when I tell you this is a completely naturally occurring photographic reflection.

Another location I cannot pinpoint, except it was on an early morning drive from Skye to Fort William. The morning was perfectly still and the lochs, like this one, seemed as if made of glass. There are mirror tricks and even apps these days that can take almost any photo and make it a mirror reflection but I used none of them. You’ll just have to trust me when I tell you this is a completely naturally occurring photographic reflection.

Honorable Mention

Glencoe. I didn't have a lens wide enough to capture the true stark beauty of this place. It's possible my ancestors, aligned with the Campbells O Breadalbane might well have been here during one of Scotland's darkest moment in history, I hope not. So this place evoked mixed emotions as I stood and took in the view. I add it as an Honorable Mention for that reason. The title photo for my blog - which is not my image - captures it better than my own.

Glencoe. I didn’t have a lens wide enough to capture the true stark beauty of this place. It’s possible my ancestors, aligned with the Campbells of Breadalbane, might well have been here during one of Scotland’s darkest moments in history, but I hope not. So this place evoked mixed emotions as I stood and took in the view. I add it as an Honorable Mention for that reason. The title photo for my blog – which is not my image – captures it far better than my own.

Number 1

Eilean Donan Castle. If you've ever heard of the 'one shot wonder' then this is certainly it. I'd love to take credit as a master photographer for this picture but I cannot. I was approaching the castle across a bridge headed to Fort William. I will take credit for having the 'eye' to see the image. with traffic following me, I could not stop, but did slow as much as I dared, stuck my point and shoot Canon G12 digital camera out the car window and "click"!  One lucky (jammy) shot!

Eilean Donan Castle. If you’ve ever heard of the ‘one shot wonder’ then this is certainly it. I’d love to take credit as a master photographer for this picture but I cannot. I was approaching the castle across a bridge headed to Fort William. I will take credit for having the ‘eye’ to see the image, but capturing it was sheer luck. With traffic following me, I could not stop, but did slow as much as I dared, stuck my point and shoot Canon G12 digital camera out the car window and “click”! One lucky (jammy) shot!

As I noted, it’s difficult to pull 10 photos of nearly 2,000 and call them the best. There are countless others I could have included and, if viewed by someone else, indeed might replace one or more of these. These images were photographed by me, on my trip to Scotland, and so this is MY ‘Top 10′ list – I hope you enjoyed them!

The Kelpies

You’re driving across a small part of the Scottish central belt near the town of Falkirk and suddenly you blink your eyes and do a double take. There, just ahead of you, are two larger than life horses heads, shimmering in even the dimmest light of day. You’ve just found Scotland’s newest art sculptures – the Kelpies.

The Kelpies can force you to do a double take at first sight!

The Kelpies can force you to do a double take at first sight!

The Kelpie, or water-kelpie, is the most common water spirit in Scottish mythology. They are most often described as a beautiful black steed living beside Scotland’s many lochs. Capable of shape shifting, even adopting human form, in its equine form the Kelpie has the ability to extend the length of its back so as to accommodate many riders, carrying them into the depths of the waters. A kelpie is said to possess the strength and endurance of 10 horses.

Today “The Kelpies” are the newest artistic work of sculptor Andy Scott. The shimmering (stainless steel clad) structures stand 30 metres high and weigh 30 tonnes each. They anchor a new parkland project, “The Helix”, built to unite 16 communities in the Falkland area. They stand at the eastern end of a new extension of the Forth and Clyde canal.

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Although based on the mythical water horse, the sculptures celebrate the more real world horse powered heritage of Scotland in industry and agriculture, as well of course as tow horses on the canals that connect the east and west of the country.

Heavy horses like Shires and Clydesdales were used as tow horses pulling barges along Scotland's canals.

Heavy horses like Shires and Clydesdales were used as tow horses pulling barges along Scotland’s canals.

The Kelpies sculptures opened to the public just days before I arrived in Scotland in a blazing display of color, light, sound and fire. The visitor center, still under construction, will open later this summer. Sculptor Andy Scott also completed to pair of ‘miniature’ 1/10 scale models called Maquettes. These have been on display throughout Scotland and in the US as well — most recently during Tartan Week in New York City, again, just days before I arrived in Scotland. Consequently, I was excited at the opportunity to see these magnificent new works of art and I was not to be disappointed!

 

Opening Night for the Kelpies! This photo courtesy of my friend Susanne Arbuckle. See her amazing album of photos from this celebration here: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.297072790449674.1073741827.297070447116575&type=1

Opening Night for the Kelpies! This photo courtesy of my friend Susanne Arbuckle. See her amazing album of photos from this celebration here: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/set=a.297072790449674.1073741827.297070447116575&type=1

I made the trip to Falkirk and The Kelpies just a few days after my arrival. Later, as I continued my three-week Homecoming visit, whenever I mentioned having seen the Kelpies, locals were quick to ask about them. I felt lucky (jammy the Scots might say) to have seen them when so many who live in Scotland have not yet had the privilege of doing so.

 

From near or far, the Kelpies are impressive. Guided tours allow you to go inside the towering sculptures.

From near or far, The Kelpies are impressive. Guided tours allow you to go inside the towering sculptures.

While their tremendous height and stainless steel cladding guarantees they will shine starkly against any sky, clear or cloudy, you might want to time your visit for the evening hours when they are floodlit, adding to the awe of their presence. As with most Scot attractions, it is a considerable walk from the public car park to the site. While the sculptures can easily be seen from the car park, they are best enjoyed up close where their height adds to their overpowering presence.

 

The Kelpies tower above their human admirers!

The Kelpies tower above their human admirers!

The heavy horse like the Shire and Clydesdale played an important role in Scotland's industry and agriculture.

The heavy horse like the Shire and Clydesdale played an important role in Scotland’s industry and agriculture.

The water horse is an integral part of the mythology of Scotland. The horse, especially the heavy horse, like the Shire and the Clydesdale, carried Scotland on their backs for many decades. It is altogether fitting that there should be such an inspiring monument to their role in Scottish history.