Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Fàilte gu Alba

Welcome to Scotland! At least, that's what will be written on the signs I hope to see this time next month!

I'm taking mom and we're heading to Scotland. Pardon me. I need to pinch myself. Again.

Warning: If you've ever wanted to go to Scotland, what follows is a disgusting amount of chatting about where I hope to take us. Consider yourself forewarned! 

I rented a cottage in a small village inside the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park, less than an hour northwest of Glasgow. And get this: I'll be driving. Yep. I hear UK drivers are nicer than American ones, so I hope they'll be patient with me. If you're reading this and you live in Scotland, I'll be the one going really, really slow in the tiniest and cheapest rental car possible, with a woman in the passenger seat yelling, "Stay LEFT, LEFT! No, your other left!"

This is a hiking, local yarn-hunting, and unique site-seeing holiday, with a heavy emphasis on relaxation. Although I realize we could probably make it all over the country during our time there (2 full weeks), I do not plan on being away from the cottage for more than an overnight trip.

The one overnight trip we're considering is a loop:
Day 1: Set out early and head north to Glencoe; next to Fort William, in order to follow the Great Glen northeast; picnic lunch at Urquhart Castle and maybe a cruise on Loch Ness. We'll stay in a lovely guest house with a sea view, located in Nairn, down the coast from Inverness.
Day 2: After breakfast at the guest house, we'll visit two other Nairn locations, and the order of which will probably be determined by the weather: Cawdor Castle and the Nairn Wool Shop. If we feel up to it, we'll pick one other castle for the return trip: Braemar, located within the Cairngorms National Park; Scone Palace, near Perth; or Glamis, because...well, I was an English Literature and Creative Writing major with a Masters in Library Science, and once I've seen Inverness and Cawdor, obviously I must consider seeing Glamis, regardless of the distance. (And, before you ask, of course I'm rereading Macbeth.) Now that I think of it, maybe we should see Cawdor on Day One and push on to Glamis for sure.

(Now you may be thinking that we planned that loop around the castles and Loch Ness, but, actually, that yarn shop had a super major role to play.)

I plan on a Stirling and Doune Castle day, both of which are within an hour of the cottage. Doune Castle starred in Monty Python and the Holy Grail and featured as home of Clan MacKenzie in that recent Starz television series based on some book with a hot ginger-haired Scotsman and his sassy Sassenach. Stirling, on the other hand, played a critical role in the actual history of Scotland, but may not be near as well-known to the last several generations of television-viewers.

Of course there will be an all-things-woolly day. The Scottish Wool Centre is just a hop, skip, and a jump away. Then I plan on a loop to New Lanark, where the wool mill has been running for two centuries, over to West Kilbride, home of the Old Maiden Aunt Yarns independent dying studio and Craft Town Scotland, and back to the cottage.

What am I doing in preparation, besides reading? I'm knitting, of course! Among my tons of ongoing projects are two hats designed by Kate Davies and I'm using her Scottish wool, Buachaille. Scottish wool to keep our American heids (heads) warm in the unpredictable weather of the September southern Highlands. I finished her Scatness Tam last week, but it was knit in Knit Picks Palette (decidedly not Scottish wool).
There's a wee error in colors, but I think only experienced Scatness Tam knitters would notice it...I hope.

But that hat is very much inspired by Scotland, ancient ruins in Shetland in particular.

And for my truly knitty nerd friends, I even braved a shot of the inside!
I just finished the Epistropheid in Buachaille colors Highland Coo and Squall.

The yarn is wild and smells so sheepy! I love it! Next up is Funyin in Buachaille colors Haar and Yaffle. 

Why am I going to Scotland? Well, it is not because I'm a die-hard fan of Diana Gabaldon's Outlander book series or the related television series (although I did enjoy the first book). I'm not a beach person, or a tropical paradise person, or someone who enjoys cities, except for the historical types (I really would like to explore Edinburgh, though). Although I can (roughly) trace my genealogy to four brothers (probably one generation removed from Scotland or of Ulster-Scot origins) that entered North Carolina from Pennsylvania via the Great Wagon Road, that is also not why I'm visiting Scotland.

I love history. Especially land that has a history that can be read on its face still. Land that is not yet denuded of character and paved into submission. I love textiles and Scotland weds its wild history with a rich textile tradition that is still to be found in some parts. If anything, deciding on the country was easy. Deciding on a location within Scotland was more difficult. Shetland? Edinburgh? Loch Lomond? The Hebrides? The Cheviot Hills?

Why a cottage in a tiny village in a designated national park? To maximize the potential for relaxation. And because Kate Davies, the talented knitter who designed the hats shown above, has introduced the world to just that neck of the woods via her blog. It has beautiful forest trails, beautiful views, beautiful lakes, beautiful trees, and why not? There's a river running through the backyard. A tea room and a pub within strolling distance. Loch Katrine and a steamboat named the Sir Walter Scott within minutes driving. Did I mention the beautiful trails? And when all else fails, when blisters from walking and sore muscles keeps us inside the pub, we'll sit and knit and be joyful that we're in such a beautiful place. (Which is precisely how I wish I remembered to feel everyday here in my beautiful Smoky Mountains.)

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