A Sunday Afternoon in the ByWard Market (Ottawa)

A Sunday Afternoon in the ByWard Market (Ottawa)

Category Archives: Scotland

Culloden Battlefields

Actually, our trail of the Jacobites ends with Stirling and the William Wallace Monument, but our visit of the Culloden Battlefields was quite moving; and its history (versus that of the Braveheart movie!) gave us a good sense of the Jacobite rebellions. These fields were, after all, the place where the Jacobites, after 60 years of English resistance, were repelled for good. You can feel the bloodshed and the crushed dreams of freedom in these desolate fields. Just thinking how the Scots were reprieved from their customs, culture and even lands for 40 years, makes you ponder on the desire for freedom.

Funny how Braveheart was pivotal for so many of us in terms of Scottish history, yet this award-winning movie is full of historical blunders. And after Mel Gibson’s debacle, the whole thing somehow turned sour; which is somewhat unfortunate for the real William Wallace whether he be known as Braveheart or not.

I’m so glad the Scots were able to reintegrate their wonderful culture into their everyday lives. They may not be a republic, but they have an identity that is theirs and is to be preserved and valued. They have been nothing but welcoming to us, especially in the highlands. I wish my pictures could give a true sense of the vastness and beauty of the mountainous countryside, but like my pictures of sheep from the car which look more like fluffy dirty snowflakes in the fields than actual sheep, the mountains and fields in my pictures end up looking like bland empty hills.

Glenfinnan Viaduct

We did, however, get some great shots and we were very lucky in getting to the right place at the right time, like arriving the exact moment when the Jacobite – or Howards Express 🙂 train went across the Glenfinnan viaduct.

Eilean Donan Castle

But one of the best pictures, I believe, is of the Eilean Donan Castle which has a Mont Saint-Michel quality to it. And, like Mont St. Michel, the same picture has been taken over and over, yet it is breathtaking every single time.

Having a vehicle for our travels this time, we have been able to visit hidden gems all over the country. One of these gems was the town of Dunkeld with its centuries-old Cathedral of St. Columba on the banks of the River Tay. This little town also had the most pleasant townfolk and wonderful cafés. One eclectic furniture shop was in an old renovated church. The surroundings, as well as the furniture, was quite stunning. It certainly made us want to buy one of these old buildings, going for next to nothing, and renovate it to its glory days. We have nothing to sell, nor do we want to take care of a B&B or even need such a place to live-in but the dream is real!

Our sojourn in Scotland in coming to an end, but our journey in the Scottish world is far from over.

I love Scotland’s history of rebellions and peace with the English! Not that I am on a quest for rebellion chronicling per se, I am a Canadian after all, but… Irish blood does run through me, and my inner fighting soul can certainly appreciate and romance somewhat William Wallace’s and Robert the Bruce’s efforts. 🙂

In any case, we arrived in Scotland, more precisely in Edinburgh (or EDinbraaaah- how I do love the accent!), a couple of days ago by train from Paddington station. Our ride was punctuated by scenic fields of yellow and green with sheep of all sizes lazily grazing under the mid-day sun. It was beautiful and relaxing. It gave me the opportunity to start reading a much overdue book, 1984 by George Orwell. Hard to believe I never took the time to read it before, but I thought it was quite appropriate at the moment since Orwell wrote most of it while sequestered on the Scottish Island of Jura.

Reading 1984 as a 40-year-old, my view of the world is sufficiently biased to accept such notions as the resignation that a system may be more powerful than its individuals even though I am one to constantly overthrow such notions. But should I have read it while in university, I’m sure my idealism of the time would have made the book an entirely different read and may well have pushed me towards philanthropy much sooner (now looking back at a 20+ years career of bureaucracy!).

Nevertheless, Edinburgh has much to offer in terms of history and architecture. I loved strolling through the old town on the Royal Mile, from the Castle all the way to Holyroodhouse where the Queen resides when in Scotland. The neoclassical or ‘Georgian’ style of the new town, by contrast, is so well planned and executed. The axis of the main cross-streets is stunning with the National Gallery centered on one end and the tall tenements of the old town on the other.

As a side note, I find Scottish traffic engineers particularly insightful by maintaining red lights for all vehicles, leaving crosswalks completely empty for pedestrians to criss-cross without fear of collision, making this a truly safe environment for all involved.

More to come as our trail continues on.