In late May-early June 2016, I traveled with my wife to Scotland. I took lots of pictures, drank lots of whiskey, saw lots of stones, and took lots of notes, then I came home and wrote about it. Here's my experience of many Scottish places in word, photo, and video, just for you, and you, and you. Click on any of the names or photos below to get with my experience of these places.
"...For the first of many times over the ensuing week, we looked out on water that was not grey but blue. This first time, as we were crossing the Kessock Bridge over the Beauly Firth, was a moment that I immediately and unconsciously knew I'd been within before, despite the fact that I'd never been near here. It wasn't until a week or two later that I remembered dreams I'd had as a child after visiting the Ozark Mountains. In the dreams I flew over a wide expanse of blue that extended into the horizon behind the mountains, an endless expanse that was both water and sky. I probably still have that dream now, but I no longer remember it when I wake. I remembered the dream only on remembering that moment. I now remember that moment as the first time I felt at home in Scotland..."
"...I thought, as my wife excused herself to use the restroom and I watched a father and his grown son play pool, that this has happened not just for decades but for centuries. Not the pool game necessarily - maybe it was dice, or other games of leisure and chance with which people have kept themselves busy and in company. This universal impulse - to drink fermented beverage and do nothing together - has sustained culture just as reliably as building fortresses, fighting wars, and sustaining family lineage. Looking out at the craggy mountains littered with the stony remains of pre-organic volcanoes, drinking made more sense to me than perhaps it ever has..."
"...We arrived at Kinloch House after 1 a.m. Not wanting to wake hotel visitors who were staying in rooms overlooking the entrance, we parked in the far lot. Out ran a man in the most well-pressed suit, with the most perfectly trimmed beard and the most well-enunciated English, who seemed a bit put out that we didn't invite him to carry our luggage but invited us once we were settled to come out to the fire with him and have a drink. "After a long journey," he said, "everyone deserves a seat by the fire." My most pressing thought was an intense, almost shameful self-awareness that we have the money to be rewarded for our mistakes by drinks at the fire with well-dressed men with perfectly trimmed beards who speak perfect English..."
"...We followed along with the leadup to the EU referendum, and also as the verdict was handed down in a horrific child murder case involving a two-year-old boy who was beaten to death by his mother and her girlfriend...this two-year-old boy had fallen off the social radar after his daycare workers had noticed signs of abuse, and had spent months thereafter in a cage in their home. He died in their bathroom of a ruptured heart caused by blows to his body. Everyone in the bar stared at the TV, in shared horror at the crime that had not receded in the months of the trial. I saw no relief on any of their faces at the just verdict. For the rest of my trip, continuing to observe the ruins of empires and the lives and deaths of important, historic, abstract visages while hearing and seeing about the latest battle for sovereignty, I thought most about that boy and his tiny, destroyed heart..."
"...I always have a hard time adjusting when arriving in a city I've never been to; I think this might be at least in part because I want to feel at home immediately, as if there is some urbanite code I'm proxy to. But cities just don't welcome strangers that way. They might feign a welcome at tourist destinations like the Royal Mile and the Grassmarket where we were staying, but even a little perception makes it abundantly clear that this city, as with any city, existed well before you, and is functioning just fine without you, thanks. But the early glimpses are the ones that stay with a visitor - angles, openings, perceived familiarities, all of which greeted us when we left the apartment to venture forth into the Edinburgh evening..."