Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Weekend in Scotland: The Highlands and Loch Lomond

My mom's family is all Scottish or Irish. My brother and I grew up listening to Irish music, playing Irish music, going to Irish festivals and sitting in on sessions-it was a huge part of my life and still is. I knew I had Scottish ancestors, but I didn't know much about it beyond a few Scottish tunes and going to the odd Scottish festival. I liked Scottish culture and history, I just wasn't as entrenched in it the way I am with my Irish roots. Visiting Scotland was a really cool experience because it made me feel like this other part of my heritage was suddenly all the more real to me.

Before our trip I researched where my ancestors had traditionally come from, which turned out to be the area around Loch Lomond. I booked a day trip though Highland Experience that would take us to Loch Lomond and the surrounding area plus all the way to the west coast since Fionn was really interested in seeing the Highlands.

While Fionn doesn't officially claim any Celtic ancestry, I'm pretty sure he has some. We even found a clan tartan with his surname on it! I'm working on bringing him into the fold-by the time we have kids he needs to be able to handle me dragging them to Irish festivals and teaching them "Whiskey in the Jar" and "Johnny and Molly" as their first songs... ;)

Anyway, Sunday we were up bright and early to start our adventure into the Scottish Highlands. After a quick drive through Glasgow, we made our first stop-Loch Lomond!

It was fiercely windy and threatening rain, but we took our chances and took a short walk along the yon bonnie banks and braes, even meeting a few ducks along the way. The surrounding mountains  were so impressive, we were disappointed we didn't get to see all their colors in the sun!

So this is where my people come from, eh? I can deal with that view...

From there we continued to the seaside town of Oban, where the seafood is super fresh and the wind threatens to blow you over the first chance it gets!

Oban has its roots as a Victorian seaside tourist town, so the buildings look newer than other villages we passed (and by new I mean less than 200 years old...)

We stopped for lunch at a local seafood restaurant where they listed each seafood item, the local fisherman who catches it, and where they caught it. Pretty cool, right?

I decided to face my fears and order the seafood platter, refusing to let my seafood poisoning nightmare in Barcelona last year ruin any tasty opportunities.

Don't worry, no one got sick this time! :)

After lunch Fionn and I explored Oban. We gave into temptation and tried the amazing caramel-chocolate-shortbread treat we'd seen in all the bakeries in Scotland. It was SO good!

From there we walked around a bit more and stopped into another Scottish military history museum where we met a very friendly old veteran who'd once trained in Germany. He was full of funny stories, but we had to continue on!

Next stop was St. Conan's Kirk, an old church perched right on the edge of Loch Awe. It was beautiful. Can you imagine getting married there?

Gorgeous, isn't it?

Bunnies for rain gutters!

From there we stopped for some views of castle ruins...

Then we moved onto the town of Inveraray, a town in Argyll on the shores of Loch Fyne. It had a nice castle, but we decided to see the town instead. Our guide described it as a "very Presbyterian town" with only black and white buildings. Having grown up Presbyterian, I got a laugh out of that one ;)

Inveraray Castle

Proper Presbyterian streets

We stopped there for some tea and scones and got to listen to an impromptu pipe band performance (there was a bagpipe and drums competition going on that day) before heading to our final stop, way up into the Highlands.

I look like my mom here!

The Thistle, the symbol of Scotland

It was crazy windy up there, but it was incredible. The soaring mountains, the wind, the dramatic sky-it was everything you imagine the Highlands being, and it was incredible imagining the kind of people tough enough to make a life there. Probably the kind who decided to up and move to the rough Appalachian Mountains and make a life in the new world. Hmmm... :)

That was the end of our highland tour! We got back late but happy. What a great day :)

Oh, I nearly forgot! We saw the Elephant House on the way back to our hostel. For Potter fans out there, this is where J.K. Rowling did some of the early writings for Harry Potter! :)

More Scotland adventure updates to come!


  1. As always, this blog is amazing and your writing and photos make me feel like I'm there with you. How was the seafood platter? Oh man, it had to be such a strange wonderful feeling to stand in the same place where your ancestors walked!

    1. Aww thanks! :D I'm trying to do more pictures and less rambling haha. Seafood was oh so tasty and it was amazing being in their footsteps. It's very humbling being in the same place your people come from. :)

  2. Scotland is probably the favorite place that I have visited so far! And you can't beat the Highland bus tours, they are the best way to see the countryside without having to deal with renting a car :)

    saying hi from casey's blog hop!

    1. Me too! It is such an incredible place (and so many nice people!). And I'm always up for letting someone else do the driving! ;)

      Glad you stopped by! Nice to see a fellow GA girl! :)