I’m planning a trip to Scotland and England for the summer of 2014. Currently I am trying to decide upon what I actually want to see before I dig into the details of price, schedule, transportation, etc. I thought this would be the fun, easy part but it’s proving more difficult than I anticipated. As is the case in most areas of my life, when given too many choices, I can’t focus.
From the outset I knew I wouldn’t want to spend a large amount of time in London itself, since I’m uncomfortable in big cities, but so far the only must-see thing seems to be taking a ride on The Eye. There is an abundance of history in London but when weighed against other options with time constraints in mind, I’m fine with not indulging in it. As long as I get a photograph of those iconic red telephone booths and a “mind the gap” sign, I’ll be satisfied!
I think I’d rather spend that time driving through the Cotswolds, with it’s charming country cottages, and possibly touring Bath. This revelation surprised me a little, for I always imagined myself going in the opposite direction, through Jane Austen country. No matter, this is good. Bath has a rich history and peeking in on nearby Oxford will please my intellect (because it’s where Harry Potter was filmed!)
As I move on into Scotland though, the heart of why I am willing to endure a nail-biting oceanic flight and be away from my kids for more than two days, choices become more important. I have been in love with Scotland for many years now, thanks in large part to Diana Gabaldon’s historically abundant Outlander novels. But what do I absolutely have to see?
I’m most interested in the scenery, but what stops do I want to make along the way? I don’t believe I’ll be required to go as far north as Inverness
My hearts in the Highlands, my heart is not here; My hearts in the Highlands a-chasing the deer.
but I do desire a stop at Culloden battlefield, I think. I’ve read several books about the subject of the 1745 battle and the events that led up to it. Will standing on official ground distract me from the fact that it’s still just a simple field?
And speaking of Prince Charlie, what about the Isle of Skye? It looks breathtakingly lovely, and is how I always imagined Heaven to look like, as a child. Should I leave that innocent image untouched, or color it with an adult palette?
Speed bonnie boat, like a bird on the wing, Onward! the sailors cry. Carry a lad that’s born to be king, over the sea to Skye.
I’m not sure I really need to visit Loch Ness, I’d much rather see Loch Lomond, but I suspect my husband will want to. I won’t be going out on a boat (not because of the monster but because deep water makes me very nervous) so I’m not sure what the point would be, unless we visit nearby Urquhart castle.
It seems, after researching and contemplating, the place I’m most looking forward to visiting is Edinburgh. I don’t know why this surprises me. It’s a city rich in the kind of historical architecture that I adore and is overflowing with pure history itself. Edinburgh has beautiful vistas, ethnic charm, and multiple tourist opportunities.
The simple fact is: I’m nervous. Not only for the realistic fears of traveling and homesickness, but what if the adventure doesn’t live up to my expectations? Scotland is my dream, and it can remain safe if I keep it a dream.
While writing this post, I was reminded of an excerpt from a story I wrote years ago. It illustrated my fears, even then:
What if the images that had lulled [ ] to sleep as a child, products of her grandfather’s bedtime stories, didn’t live up to his embellishments? She didn’t expect to encounter the Loch Ness Monster or run into any little people hiding among the fairy hills, but she did have certain hopes. [ ] wanted to be engulfed by the barrenness of the Highlands and wrapped in the cool dense sweetness of the mist. Maybe the rocky crags would feel as rough as her grandfather’s beard, the bubbling brooks and burns sound as comforting as his lilting voice, and the deep blue-green lochs would be as beautiful as his eyes.
A little bit farther on in the story, I also found this:
The out-of-the-way places are best. There’s a pretty little village along the banks of Loch Lomond that is one of my favorites. Or the enchanting row of Mill-houses tucked under a bridge in Edinburgh, that’s a rare delight. The view from Arthur’s seat is quite breathtaking…
It seems I could have saved a lot of time trying to decide what to see, if I had just remembered this passage.