Well, here I am again, writing about this unbelievably beautiful country.
This past Christmas I asked for the Ancestry DNA test - when I received it back, the results were surprising in the sense that I assumed I had a higher percentage of German and Sicilian blood due to my surname and mother's maiden name, but it turns out, I am largely descended from the Outer Hebrides of Scotland.
Once I read that, I felt a certain level of validation - I have been drawn to everything about this country all my life, hence why it was my first stop when I finally got my passport a couple years ago.
After the ridiculousness that was 2020 and COVID-19, so many things changed and so many things were brought into perspective. One of those epiphanies was: Do NOT wait to chase what or who you love. Seriously.
So, as soon as the restrictions in Scotland lifted enough for me to make a journey over there; I made a lengthy preparation checklist, coordinated all the extra testing expenses, had a few low-key anxiety attacks > and off I went.
By the grace of my unbelievable partner (and personal tour guide), and with LOTS of covid testing and precautions - I was able to see more of Scotland than I ever have.
This kind and kilted man hauled my ass over hundreds of miles so that I could take photos and videos in the pouring rain, at lochs, in glens, and over rivers hidden in forests. But this time around, I made sure to keep my phone away more than I had it out - because nowadays I refuse not to get blissfully lost in breathtaking moments.
Falkirk & Linlithgow
This trip began in Falkirk, part of the "midland belt" between Glasgow in the west and Edinburgh in the east. A largely suburban and industrial town, with a beautiful spot called Helix Park set in its midst.
The capital city of Scotland will always have a place in my heart. I'll never forget stepping up onto the high street from Waverly station and my jaw fell to the ground. I love Edinburgh because everywhere you turn the ancient world and the modern world collide.
Journey to The Highlands
From Falkirk up to Inverness, we made several scenic stops - and many more while we were in the Highland Capital for a few days.
Setting Out from Inverness
Inverness is known as the Highland Capital. The land that extends north from Stirling (The Gateway to the Highlands) is known as the Highlands. In history, the northern region of Scotland had a culture all its own, many who descend from the clans in the Highlands do their best to keep the traditions alive today.
Inverness is actually a relatively new city compared to places like Edinburgh and Stirling, but it's an amazing place. Set on either side of the River Ness (which empties into Loch Ness), Inverness has everything you could need or want as an inhabitant or a tourist - including AMAZING food.
From Inverness we got to visit The Highland Folk Museum, the Clava Cairns, Ruthven Barracks, and the unbelievable Glen Affric:
*cairns essentially means "standing stones"
On the way back down to Falkirk, we made stops at the Dalwhinnie lifting stone, The Queen's View, The Hermitage (my favorite of the whole trip), and the seemingly endless Loch Lomond.
Fife & St. Andrew's
To finish up my incredible trip around this incredible land - is the coastal region of Fife and the city of St. Andrew's. Fife being home to villages built in the 1500s and St. Andrew's bearing the ruins of a 14th century cathedral, a castle and a mist coming in from the sea that is so thick it hides things not more than a 100ft ahead of you (Scots call it "The Haar"). Naturally, my nerdy little heart was thrilled.
Back to Boston
If it's not apparent from my writing or my photos - Scotland has got a substantial share of my genetics and an even larger share of my heart. Its landscape leaves you speechless, its people leave you smiling, its culture leaves you feeling like you're welcome to stay awhile and did I mention damn near everywhere is dog friendly?
If I have my way, in the very near future I will no longer have to feel my chest ache when I look out my airplane window and see the Forth bridges disappearing behind me in the distance... ;-)