I keep talking about getting #Fitby50, sort of the same way I went on and on about becoming Fit by 40. Though I have made some strides to get healthier, I have a very long way to go.
There are less than 30 days until I turn 49. FORTY NINE – How is that even possible? It is one of those birthdays that remind you that the life you were planning to create, well boys and girls, this is it. You get one shot. And though I may be turning 49, there is no reason I can’t pull a Betty White and keep going! But that is going to require some more lifestyle changes, as well as keeping some of my new habits going.
If you would like to join me on this quest, I encourage you to do so! I’m going to be documenting my experience, to the best of my ability over next “birth” year – as in Feb. 16, 2022 until Feb. 16, 2023 – when I turn 50.
Here are a few of things I will share and/or continue to do:
Work with my nutritionist (Yes, I meet with a nutritionist every other week to discuss my goals.)
Get back in the gym (I do already have a membership, I just need to go!)
Meditate Daily (I am currently on a 20 day streak of meditation! I use the Calm App)
Stretch/Yoga (I typically stretch during/after my meditation each morning.)
Devotion/Prayer (Incorporate some form of spiritual practice/study/gratitude.)
Walk/Play with Dorian (I’m currently signed up with Run America for daily walks.)
Spend quality time off social media
Read More (I read a lot now, but this goes back to the social media post. I need to get off of it!)
Write More (This is just good old fashioned therapy for me.)
Learn something new
I have lost 31 pounds over the past year. That’s not too shabby. I have a very long way to go! My knees are shot, I am tired and stressed a lot of the time, and well, life is what it is. If I can do it, I think you can too! (Please join me, I really need some people to vent to!) If you are interested in feeling better over the next year, then make sure to subscribe to this blog. (Go to the home page and scroll all of the way to the bottom and put your email in!) Or simply follow on FB! Make sure to leave comments and let me know how you are doing!
I’ve been holding onto a very interesting journal for over a year now. It is called, “A Year of Zen” by Bonnie Mayotai Trease. What makes it so cool are the daily prompts. The journal breaks up the year into seasons. Obviously, we are in Winter, so I decided to kick off the journal on Sunday in the section titled accordingly.
The theme of this week is carrying extra baggage in your life and how to let go of that which weighs you down. Coincidentally, I am doing this course on happiness in the Calm app and today’s lesson was about letting go.
Not an easy task, depending on what it is you are carrying around.
According to “A Year of Zen,” winter is a time to shake off the leaves, allow the snow to fall on the ground and wipe the slate clean. It is a shedding of sorts and baring your branches (soul) and creating a new you. I like the idea of shedding the old and starting anew.
The past few mornings, I’ve kicked the morning off with stretching, meditation and a walk, or like today, a walk in the afternoon. I’m learning to be quiet with my thoughts and honestly, to allow myself not to think.
This is something I struggled with up until my experience this past summer in North Carolina. I attended this retreat for healers in Hot Springs and had a very transformative experience. I went deeper than I have ever gone spiritually, and I came out on the other side with an incredible sense of peace. Sure, as time went on, I sort of lost my way again, but with this past week of relaxation at home, it seems I have found my center… hence the journal prompts.
The picture above is of the labyrinth at the Laughing Heart Lodge in Hot Springs, NC. I took this photo just before the morning meditation. I still remember how panicked I got as I walked through the labyrinth, trying to calm my mind or repeat a mantra. My anxiety took over and I almost bolted in front of the group. But somehow, as I got closer to the center, the heart center, I began to slow my breathing and focus. As I exited the labyrinth and began the journey back through, I was in a new space. I let go of the control. I released my worry.
It wasn’t serving me.
What are you carrying around right now that is not serving you?
Let’s be honest here for a minute, it has been one hell of a year for all of us. The highs were really high and the lows were ridiculously low. It is as if 2021 suffered from Bi-Polar Disorder. Look, 2020 was what it was – a pandemic year. 2021 was bat-shit crazy.
How to recover from a year like this one? Is it a matter of looking at it through a different lens? Perhaps we should glean the lessons we have learned?
I don’t know about you, but I don’t seem to have the patience to do so.
With that being said, I hope each of you had a decent holiday season. As for my family and I – I would give in a solid 8. Presents were awesome, food was delicious, everyone that could get together, did get together. All in all – not too shabby. However, now that I have the week off, and I am home alone and can decompress, it was a lot of juggling and handling of people’s feelings. We just lost Tim’s mom and it has most of his family on high-sensitivity alert, as expected. But when you are an empath and you are trying to coax and help shift energy, it can be extremely draining. I found myself on more than one occasion “stepping in it,” and just trying to dance my way out of whatever accidental thing I might have said/did/etc. When you are as open and just authentically yourself as I try to be, you can guarantee there will be multiple times you get poo on your shoe.
We are getting closer and closer to the New Year! Have you set your intentions or resolutions? I have a basic idea and just so I am not overwhelmed the first week, I am trying to ease myself into them this week. For example, Dorian and I have started daily walking. I know, I know – I have bum knees, but after the cortisone shots, I’m doing 85% better. I found this app/program that I think is going to help me get moving again: Run Across America. It is time for their Winter Warmup! Now, I am in no way a runner. Not in the least bit. Nor do I ever plan to be. Not with these knees, anyway. However, walking and logging a daily movement is a wonderful way to hold myself accountable. And get this – there is a challenge. (Oh how I do love a good challenge!) You get your friends to sign up for your team. Good news for you, I created a team – Team Dorian! I figure a lot of us have dogs, and we all have to walk our dogs, so why not log our daily walks? If you want to join my team, download the Run Across America app and enter the code: KVTCF1 And boom, we are connected. Just log your daily walks and the goal is to get to 50K by March 14th! PLUS, proceeds from the app go to Feeding America!
With all of that being said, obviously, movement is a big intention of my mine for 2022. SOME type of movement daily.
I am going to go to my gym a few times a week, take any random-fun classes I see posted around town, and also practice stretching/yoga and basic movement at the house. I think not only will it benefit me, Dorian is going to be better for it.
I’m going to continue to work with Sue with Eating With Intent, LLC. She is my nutritionist and we are working on MACROS and I have downloaded the app that is called MACROS. I’ll keep logging my food, water, movement, and weight in that app. That covers the basic health piece.
I also have booked all of my important doctor’s appointments: Yearly gyno, mammogram, FITT Test, etc. Make sure to check what you should have done based on your age, For example, in 2023, it will be time for me to get a colonoscopy. Fun.
As for my mental health, I downloaded the calm app, paid the sort of high fee for it, and I am using it some. I plan to increase my usage as time goes. Plus, I have a ton of great spiritual books to read that will address many of these issues.
As for the rest, well… that is something I’m pondering. I still have my Rosetta Stone. So there is the French to study. I still have my fancy camera, so there is no reason I can’t work on my photography. There is this blog. There is the cooking. There is the wedding planning for my friend’s daughter.
So. Many. Options.
But what is going to be new this year? I’m trying my hand at embroidering. That is something, but that is not enough. Decisions. Decisions.
I want to hear about you. In the comment section here or on FB, share with me some of your resolutions. Perhaps you will inspire me!
Today I went and visited my Mother-in-law’s resting place. It seemed so humble and small next to the the strong personality of the woman buried beneath the freshly tilled Earth.
Strong women leave such a void when they are gone.
Kind of like Alice Roosevelt, the sassy daughter of former President Teddy Roosevelt. I just finished the book, American Princess and I wanted to share with you a little tidbit about the story.
First of all, at the end of the book, I was left wanting to know more about her – but in a good way. I love learning about strong women, specifically strong American women, and how they lived their lives free from regret. She died in her mid-90s and lived a life so full, so well-lived (in the grabbing life by the horns kinda-way,) that you can’t help but adore her.
The book was written by Stephanie Marie Thorton, a history teacher that was enamored with Alice’s father, Theodore. While doing a little research, she came to understand that Alice was a force of nature and her story needed to be told.
I could not agree more.
Without giving too much away- basically, Alice was the first real media darling in the 20th century. She was constantly seeking approval from her father, who honestly spoiled her to a fault, however, she could never quite see that. She later ended up as a socialite and made friends with, well… with the wrong girls. Both of whom tried to take her beau away – Nicholas. Yes, that is a story all unto itself. You follow through affairs, world travels, politics, suicide, war, greed – the whole gambit. The hardest part of the book is getting past the silliness of her late teens, early 20s. The writing gets more mature as Alice matures. In other words – stick with it.
Once she ends up in China, you will fall in love with her!
If you are a fan of historical biographical fiction and adore stories about strong women who rock the boat, then this book will be a fun one for you to read. (I mean, she even went to war with sweet little Eleanor Roosevelt! That is a hoot! AND she ignored President Carter when he was in office because she felt he was not very dignified.) Ha!
I’ll end this by leaving you with a famous quote by the main character, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, then come sit by me.” ~ Alice Roosevelt.
Thank you guys so much for joining me on this magical journey.
I realized, as I was reading it over, that I did very little to truly describe what I saw and what I did. I do believe that there are absolutely no words. NONE – that will ever be able to share how gorgeous and other-worldly Scotland is.
Here we are on the last two days of my trip. Let’s see what I can conjure up in imagery.
We got up super early and hit the road. And boy oh boy was it snowing! I was half asleep, and every time I opened my eyes, I would see huge snowflakes pounding the windshield.
As we were driving, and I want to say it was near or outside of Fort William, we came across this little village in the night. Telisa pulled our rental over and we just got out and listened to the complete quiet and calm. This perfect blanket of snow was creating an ethereal carpet before us. The little Inn had the twinkle lights all along the edge and we just stood there in awe. Such a fairy tale moment for us.
It was as if Scotland was teasing us and willing us not to leave. I joked that my ancestral pull was giving me that feeling of home and I really, REALLY just wanted to send for my husband, my dog, the cats, and my things. I would have been content to live right here.
We got a little closer to Glencoe and saw this little bridge that had this gorgeous little stream. We pulled over on the one lane road and took some pictures. All Telisa and I could keep saying was, “Wow.” “Oh my God, do you see that?” and “Is this even real life?”
Then it happened.
We made it to the famous Glencoe. For one, it was famous for the clash and deception between the Campbell clan and the MacDonalds, but it also is known to have the most hairy coo. I was banking on the latter.
As you can see, it looked like where the Wildlings lived in Game of Thrones. Cold, barren, and just breathtaking. Miles and miles of mountains and snow.
But still no sign of Hairy Coos.
But we did see several herds of White Stag just chilling out on the side of the road and once, while we were standing outside taking photos, I did hear the familiar, “baa,” but I knew better this time.
When I tell you that I was mesmerized by the beauty of Scotland, I think that is a complete understatement. From the fresh air, to the kind people, to the simple way of life – The Highlands, in particular, are amazing.
We spent the next several hours weaving in and out of the mountains of Glencoe. If you look real carefully at the picture above (or any of the pictures of Glencoe,) you will see the road we were traveling. Winding, snowy, and hilly.
Wondering a little about the area? Glencoe is regarded as the home of Scottish mountaineering and is popular with hillwalkers and climbers.
On the February 13, 1692, in the aftermath of the Jacobite uprising of 1689, an incident known as the Massacre of Glencoe took place there. Thirty-eight men from Clan MacDonald of Glencoe were killed by government forces who were billeted with them on the grounds that they had not been prompt in pledging allegiance to the new monarchs, William II and Mary II. They actually worked out a deal with the Campbells to sneak in at night and kill their neighbors. To this day, if your last name is Campbell and you enter a bar, they will (not-so-politely) ask you to leave. Yep.
The Glen is named after the River Coe which runs through it.
One last look….
Alright, by the time we got to Glasgow (the home of my ancestors!,) it was a little after lunch time. We found a really cool old pub called the Horseshoe Bar. At 104 feet and three inches, their grand Victorian bar is apparently the longest in Europe and merits an architectural listing all of its own. It’s the center of the Horseshoe, where we were able to get great value pub-food.
As always, there was a soccer match playing on one of the 11 big screen tvs they had hanging around the place. This place dates back to about 1884. Funny to think I still had my direct ancestors living there at the time. It was sort of fun to think that maybe, just maybe, they sat at the same bar I was sitting at.
We ordered the food and then headed back toward our car. Along the way we saw some interesting sites:
We finally started heading out of town and made our way to a little village outside of Edinburgh which had the castle/manor home for Jamie Fraser from Outlander.
Yes, boys and girls. We found Lallybroch!
Also known as Midhope Castle.
Telisa was beyond fan-girling out! She wore her Je Suis Prest! shirt, the motto of the Clan Fraser.
We took our time wandering the grounds of this castle.
Unfortunately, they were not accepting visitors at this time.
We were thrilled to get to visit!
Once we left the area, it was farmland and the hills got smaller as we got closer to Edinburgh.
We saw so many grouse or pheasant, I am not sure which. Plenty of sheep and plenty of beautiful vistas!
As we inched closer and closer to Edinburgh, I sort of gave up on the ability to see my hairy coos. Seriously! It had been eight days – sure I had seen tons of post cards, stuffed animals, magnets, T-shirts, and mugs with these adorable Hairy Coos… but for whatever reason, and lord knows, we covered most of Scotland, I did not see one single one.
The roads started getting a little more complicated, while the lanes went from one to two, to three, to maybe five on each side and the sun was setting, Telisa asked which exit to take.
Well…. I screwed up.
But I’m so glad we did.
Yes! Right off of the highway.
We shot up the road to the next exit and found the street. Telisa parked the car and I skidded my way (it was icy!) down this one lane road to this field and came face to face with my very FIRST HAIRY COO!!!!!
This baby just stood there watching me watching him/her! I couldn’t believe it. I tried to get a little closer and ended up getting tangled up in some thorny vines….
But it was so worth it.
Yes, on my last night in Scotland.
We left the area, both content with our checklist of things we wanted to do and we made our way back to the airport to take our covid test and return the rental car.
After we dropped off the car, we walked back to the airport to hail a cab to take us to the Grassmarket. Nestled in the heart of Edinburgh’s historic old town, behind the castle, the Grassmarket neighbourhood is one of the most vibrant, picturesque and lively areas of the city. A paradise of independent merchants, designers and artisans, the area was bursting with some of the best shopping Edinburgh has to offer. The area is well known for being home to some of the best restaurants in Edinburgh as well as some of the most animated and eclectic bars.
We were staying in an apartment on the third floor of this old building. More circular staircases, but just an adorable spot. We sorted through our stuff and headed out for dinner.
We ended up choosing the Beehive Inn right across the street from our apartment and right at the foot of the Edinburgh Castle. We could even see the Castle from our apartment.
It was your typical British pub where I ordered a burger and I really can’t remember what Telisa ordered, but we both agreed it was good. (WE WERE SO TIRED.) To think we drove from the North all of the way to Edinburgh and to process the things we saw….
It was amazing.
We decided to go back to the apartment and take showers, pack up and get ready for our 6 am scheduled taxi ride back to the airport. We were leaving Monday morning to head back home.
The next morning, we made it to the airport in perfect time and boarded our first plane to Amsterdam. Once in Amsterdam, we high-tailed it to our gate and almost immediately boarded the plane for Atlanta. An almost ten hour flight home and we stood in line at customs for almost an hour and caught the MGA Lux driver service back to Warner Robins, where my sweet guy was waiting for me. Tim and I drove home and I slept sooooo hard that night.
It was an amazing opportunity! I am thrilled that she and I got to travel together. Yes, we hit some speed bumps along the way (all of it outside of our control,) but at the end… Telisa would ask, “But did we die?”
Nope. We did not.
But four days later, my mother-in-law would.
I’ll share more about that heartbreaking story tomorrow.
Saturday morning we woke up to a little less wind, but a whole lotta snowy conditions. Nothing was really sticking, but it came down fairly fast and right into the eyes. It was our last full day in the Isle of Skye.
We decided to stop by a convenient store and purchase some breakfast. I opted for fresh fruit and a piece of bread. It was at least carbie enough to get me through some of the hiking we would have to do.
We headed up into the mountains and our first stop was Lealt Gorge.
Lealt Gorge got its name because the Lealt River passes through it into the sea. This space was absolutely breathtaking!
The Gorge is 90 meters deep. Now, I don’t really know how deep that actually is, but rest assure, it is VERY deep. I kept getting vertigo.
By the way, these photos will NEVER do what we saw justice. Just know that this area is a MUST see if you ever find yourself on the Isle of Skye.
We shimmied along the edge, trying to get as many cool pictures as possible. There were no ledges or wooden barriers keeping you away, it was a definitely an “Enter At Your Own Risk” situation.
While there, I suddenly heard that familiar “baaaa.” I turned around and there were a herd of sheep! Of course, I tried to get close enough to pet one, and of course, they ran off.
After we left the gorge, we traveled up a little further to see the Old Man of Storr.
I was thrilled to find there was a public restroom at the base of the trail and took the opportunity to relax a little and try to warm up. At this point, the snow is coming down and beginning to stick!
Due to the slippery and freezing cold conditions, we did not hike out there, but instead, got as close we could and snapped a pic. See those rock formations sticking up. Yeah… that’s it.
This is probably the most famous walk on the Island and definitely the busiest. The ‘Old Man’ is a large pinnacle of rock that stands high and can be seen for miles around. As part of the Trotternish ridge the Storr was created by a massive ancient landside, leaving one of the most photographed landscapes in the world.
After we found ourselves winding up and down the mountains, the next stop was the one I was most looking forward to: Kilt Rock and Mealt Falls!
Talk about a show stopper. I FINALLY got to see these cliffs I had often seen in movies overlooking the Atlantic!
I can’t even put into words how absolutely glorious this was. I definitely cannot even begin to explain how absolutely bitter cold we were, or how bad it hurt every time sleet hit my eyes or how hard the wind was pushing me.
Oh yeah, baby.
Next up was
Quiraing was up next! We had to hike up and over to get the view from this area. Just what is it?
It is a landslip on the eastern face of Meall na Suiramach, the northernmost summit of the Trotternish on the Isle of Skye. The whole of the Trotternish Ridge escarpment was formed by a great series of landslips; the Quiraing is the only part of the slip still moving – the road at its base, near Flodigarry, requires repairs each year. And boy was it a heck of a road. We encounter many of these right at it’s edge.
And did I mention the road was one lane going straight up or down with massive curves and limited visibility.
Oh yeah… and it was snowing.
Parts of the distinctive landscape have earned particular names. The Needle is a jagged 120-foot-high landmark pinnacle, a remnant of landslipping. Northwest of it is The Table, a flat grassy area slipped down from the summit plateau, with vistas of the Torridon Hills and the mountains of Wester Ross. Southwest is the Prison, a pyramidal rocky peak which can look like a medieval keep when viewed from the right angle – the ascent of this is an airy scramble.
The name Quiraing comes from Old Norse Kví Rand, which means ‘Round Fold’. Within the fold is The Table, an elevated plateau hidden amongst the pillars. It is said that the fold was used to conceal cattle from Viking raiders.
And be forewarned. These Highlanders aren’t playing around.
This is how far I could see from the top!
Note that you can see the curvy road here AND the sea waaaaay out there. And snow.
Lots of snow.
At this point, we were spent. Freezing and hungry. We headed back to the biggest city on Skye – Portree. Which is not really all that big. I would say smaller than Americus, but bigger than Plains.
We got into town and started walking down the hills toward the coast in search of fresh seafood.
Once we got down the steep hills, we soon discovered that most of the restaurants were already closed. Yes, we missed that window of opportunity again.
But while down there, we decided to just enjoy the views and sort of get a game place together.
Luckily, the bookseller turned us onto THIS restaurant:
The Cuchullin Restaurant in Portree was an excellent option.
I went for the carrot and tomato soup, baby potatoes and cheese board. Telisa got the Seafood platter.
While enjoying our lunch, suddenly, a parade of Santas with bagpipes and real reindeer gave an impromtu parade down the Main Street!
Seriously – it was one of the cutest things we had ever experienced.
After our lunch, it was starting to get dark, so we headed back into town to do some last minute shopping and even a little grocery shopping. We bought items to make the steak pie and a few other goodies and enjoyed having a small feast at the cottage.
I think we were both so sad to be leaving the Highlands the next day, we decided to just take it easy. We went to bed early, so that we could hit the road before light, and make our way through Glencoe, Glasgow and back to Edinburg.
We woke up on Friday morning to the beginning of blizzard-like conditions. A little nervous about our one and a half hour drive to the Isle of Skye with icy roads, we decided to just buck up and make it happen.
It was bittersweet to leave Inverness. We sort of fell in love with the quaintness of the town and the kindness of her people. The Highlands were totally inching their way closer and closer to my heart and I just felt this overwhelming feeling of joy and gratitude for getting the opportunity to explore her grounds.
Above is the Shepherd’s Hut we were staying in. I checked under the deck, and it did, indeed, have wheels. It appeared to have been a caravan of sorts. Such a cool space to spend the last few days. If you haven’t read the other blog posts, simply scroll to the days before to follow the adventure.
With a sad farewell to the space, we decided to go check out the Hebridean Sheep were told about that live on the farm. The very same sheep that my new sweater’s wool came from. I felt they needed a little squish squish.
Please note – it is snowing and freezing. We drive up to the gate of the field, open the gate and approached the sheep with caution. No sooner did they get a whiff of me they stampeded off. I am not exaggerating. I apparently repel sheep.
Day Six and still no Hairy Coo.
As you can tell in the photo above, the roads were covered in snow and the mountains were beginning to get ice caps. We kept the faith and kept heading across the North of Scotland to Skye.
And man oh man…. was it beautiful.
Right before we got to the bridge that links you to the Isle of Skye, we decided to stop by the Eilean Donan Castle.
This 13th Century Castle was absolutely adorable! The name Eilean Donan, or island of Donan, is most probably called after the 6th century Irish Saint, Bishop Donan who came to Scotland around 580 AD. There are several churches dedicated to Donan in the area and it is likely that he formed a small cell or community on the island during the late 7th century.
The first fortified structure was not built on the island until the early 13th century as a defensive measure, protecting the lands of Kintail against the Vikings who raided, settled and controlled much of the North of Scotland and the Western Isles between 800 and 1266. From the mid 13th century, this area was the quite seperate “Sea Kingdom” of the Lord of the Isles where the sea was the main highway and the power of feuding clan chiefs was counted by the number of men and galleys or “birlinns” at their disposal. Eilean Donan offered the perfect defensive position.
Telisa decided to storm the castle, as I had a weird feeling about the place and chose to order a coffee from the little stand outside of the castle and just sit and enjoy the space. When Telisa came out of the castle, she told me she had the weirdest feeling in a few places inside. She couldn’t even go into one room.
It is definitely haunted. We both felt it and never said anything before the castle, but when we shared our whys and whats – we knew.
Onward to the Isle of Skye!
We got into town and found our adorable cottage in the Breakish side of Skye, right on the sea.
Clearly, our little home for the next three days was very old and traditional.
The owners of the home live just behind the space in a Crofter’s cottage. Apparently they restore and repair boats!
We fell in love with our little home. FINALLY we had a place with two beds and a little privacy. Look, let’s be honest here for a minute, two strong women need their space!
One thing that was happening to us here were the 50 mph wind gusts! I had never experienced anything like it before. It was both windy, sleeting and snowing all at once!
We drove up the street a little to find one of our picks prior to the trip: Deli Gasta. They had deli organic sandwiches, artisan coffees, and fresh seafood!
I opted for the croque monsieur and parsnip and maple soup. It was delicious!
After we warmed up and dared to drive out and attempt to find the fairy pools, we got back in the car and started our adventure again.
To say my mind was blown by the beauty is an absolute understand.
Everywhere you turned was breathtaking.
And I mean everywhere. It was a picture postcard moment.
Well… the snow started falling harder the higher the elevation and our navigation sucked and the sun was setting….
So we struck out on the fairy pools.
Instead, we did a little shopping in the village of Broadmore and then went out to eat.
We made it to the Claymore by the skin of our teeth! The wind was soooo strong that it almost completely blew Telisa down and it totally slammed me back into the car.
We got it, got situated and proceeded to have a proper dinner.
I opted for the Fish & Chips and Telisa went for the Curry Lobster Tail. (I think!)
I ate a little of mine, trying to remove as much of the skin as possible and I have to say, for someone who doesn’t eat fish – it was cooled to perfection! Fresh Haddock!
Of course, Telisa ordered the Sticky Toffee Pudding… I mean, we are IN Scotland.
After dinner, we headed back to get a good night’s sleep before our super active day on Saturday!
Stay tuned for some of the most gorgeous pictures you have ever seen!
As I have been researching facts about Scotland, I found it unintentionally appropriate that our travels took us from Edinburgh to Stirling, then to Inverness and onward to Skye. Especially after reading the meaning behind the original Skye Boat song.
Speed, bonnie boat, like a bird on the wing, Onward! the sailors cry; Carry the lad that’s born to be king Over the sea to Skye.
Loud the winds howl, loud the waves roar, Thunderclaps rend the air; Baffled, our foes stand by the shore, Follow they will not dare.
Speed, bonnie boat, like a bird on the wing, Onward! the sailors cry; Carry the lad that’s born to be king Over the sea to Skye.
Many’s the lad, fought on that day Well the claymore did wield; When the night came, silently lay Dead on Culloden’s field.
Speed, bonnie boat, like a bird on the wing, Onward! the sailors cry; Carry the lad that’s born to be king Over the sea to Skye.
Though the waves leap, soft shall ye sleep, Ocean’s a royal bed. Rocked in the deep, Flora will keep Watch by your weary head.
Speed, bonnie boat, like a bird on the wing, Onward! the sailors cry; Carry the lad that’s born to be king Over the sea to Skye.
Burned are their homes, exile and death Scatter the loyal men; Yet ere the sword cool in the sheath Charlie will come again.
It is a song about the Bonnie Prince Charlie and how he fled the battlefield at Culloden and escaped to Skye. The adaptation of the song has become very popular after the hit TV show, “Outlander” debuted. Not only is the song popular, but American women have been flocking to Inverness just hoping to run into Jamie Fraser, the fictional male lead from the show.
Well… we also went to Inverness, for many reasons. One of them was the fact that we both love Outlander. But also, because we are history nerds.
We woke up to a SUPER cold morning. We got the fire going and slowly roused ourselves out of bed and lo and behold – COWS.
If you will remember from the previous post, we were staying in a Shepherd’s Hut on the Black Isle Brewery Farm just outside of Inverness.
I had to go out and make friends. I’ll have you know that it was slightly snowing and I was still in my pajamas. This little fella was not interested in me. He wanted to scratch his body up against a post instead.
This guys is a different story. Maybe it was a girl. I have no idea. I’m a little obsessed with cows, specifically hairy cows. These had a little hair, just not the flowing locks. Either way, I got to squish them a little.
Finally we get ready and head to one of the most important spots in Scotland: The Battlefield of Culloden.
I could go into the long history of the quest for Scottish independence from England, but at the end of the day, I think this one plaque spells it out. THIS is what happened to the Highlanders.
The battle, which lasted only 40 minutes, resulted in bitter defeat for the heavily outnumbered Jacobites. Some 1,000 of the Young Pretender’s army of 5,000 weak and starving Highlanders were killed by the 9,000 Redcoats, who lost only 50 men.
A devastating blow to the Bonnie Prince Charlie and to the Highlanders who supported the Jacobite cause.
We wandered the grounds, taking in our own little battle of sorts: blustery wind, snow, and freezing cold temperatures. I was probably the coldest on this very morning.
We wandered the grounds as we were waiting for the museum to open. We saw this adorable thatch-roofed home right in front of the Highlander’s side of the battlefield.
We came upon the moor where the clans were buried in mass graves. We found Clan Fraser and sort of fan-girled out. The main character of Outlander is based on this clan in particular.
We finally got inside of the museum and took a bathroom break and snack break. We skipped breakfast and we were both cold & a little hungry. I opted for a flat white coffee and croissant with clotted cream.
Oh clotted cream. Be still my beating heart.
The museum at the battlefield was so well done. Minimal entry fee and you get to see the weapons and so many other items the Highlanders and the Red Coats used in the war.
After touring this amazing and truly sobering spot, we decided to drive over to Loch Ness and look for the lake monster Nessie!
The picture above is the one and only time we used my new selfie stick. Why? Because my phone fell out of it and crashed onto the stones below. Yes, a completely cracked screen. But, Loch Ness is behind us.
It is a BEAUTIFUL lake or loch as they call it. The winding roads, the green hills, the leaves on the trees changing colors – it was a beautiful Thanksgiving day. Oh yeah… it is Thanksgiving.
We kept driving around the lake and saw the signs for Urquhart Castle. The present ruins date from the 13th to the 16th centuries, though built on the site of an early medieval fortification. Founded in the 13th century, Urquhart played a role in the Wars of Scottish Independence in the 14th century. It was subsequently held as a royal castle, and was raided on several occasions by the MacDonald Earls of Ross. The castle was granted to the Clan Grant in 1509, though conflict with the MacDonalds continued. Despite a series of further raids the castle was strengthened, only to be largely abandoned by the middle of the 17th century. Urquhart was partially destroyed in 1692 to prevent its use by Jacobite forces, and subsequently decayed.
The castle, situated on a headland overlooking Loch Ness, is one of the largest in Scotland in area. It was approached from the west and defended by a ditch and drawbridge. The buildings of the castle were laid out around two main enclosures on the shore. The northern enclosure or Nether Bailey includes most of the more intact structures, including the gatehouse, and the five-story Grant Tower at the north end of the castle. The southern enclosure or Upper Bailey, sited on higher ground, comprises the scant remains of earlier buildings.
After we plundered the castle, we decided to head back to this little area that had restaurants and gifts shops. It was almost 2 pm and we had not eaten anything since around 9 that morning. And guess what? NOTHING was open. One of the biggest rules I would give you is know that the kitchens close at 1 pm. Plan accordingly.
We decided to head back to the brewery to see if they served food there. We knew they had a restaurant, we just weren’t sure where.
Once we got inside, we realized that they had the cutest gift shop. So I bought a cap, a t-shirt, bag and the coolest pullover!
From the very sheep outside of out door.
And for the record, I repel sheep. They see me coming and run the other way. EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. I only wanted a little squish – squish.
Finally, we head back into the town of Inverness for our Thanksgiving feast. It was around 5pm and we finally found the Black Isle Brewery Pub.
I went for the Pepperoni, Chili & Honey Pizza: passata, mozzarella, pepperoni, red onion, chili, mascarpone, honey and oregano.
Not your typical American Thanksgiving feast, but it wasn’t too shabby! All of the ingredients were grown or raised there on the farm and is organic!
After dinner, we headed back to the Shepherd’s Hut and chatted it up with the owner’s son, who happens to be from the Clan Fraser. He brought us some more fire starter, because a blizzard was expected to come that night. Telisa and I snuggled into our bed, I in my thermals, and read until I fell asleep.
Our time in Inverness was coming to a close and it was time to get ready to head to the Isle of Skye, just like the Bonnie Prince Charlie did hundreds of years ago.
The quote above should have been our mantra. Expect nothing. Appreciate everything.
We woke up on Wednesday morning anxious to set off on the more adventurous part of our journey. With a promise from Air France that Telisa’s luggage would arrive by 10 am, we decided to slowly pack and then head downstairs for breakfast at The Scott House.
Just like the day before, we chatted it up with Jemima, thanking her for her hospitality and enjoying a nice homecooked breakfast. As it got closer to ten, we realized, her luggage was nowhere to be found. Air France said the courier service at the Edinburgh airport had it, and the courier service said that Air France had it and everyone was just being rude. They kept telling Telisa that there was nothing they could do about it and that it would be delivered to the address we gave them. Telisa tried to explain that we were leaving Edinburgh that morning and yet, still, there was nothing they could do. Luckily, Jemima said she would hold her luggage until we got back to Edinburgh…. in five days.
Five days without a coat and we were heading to The Highlands. Hoooo boy.
We reluctantly got in the cab and headed to the airport where Hertz Rental was located. Telisa decided to upgrade to an automatic, since driving on the other side of the road, on the other side of the car was hard enough, using her left hand to change gears might push her over the edge.
On the way over, we ended up in a cab with a woman who did not speak English very well. Clearly middle eastern, she wore a hijab and I recognized her accent right away; we tried to give her all of the information she needed to get us there. She got lost.
Yes, the cabbie got lost. She explained in broken English that she had only just arrived in the country and it was one of her first days working. I thought Telisa was going to blow a gasket. It was just too much. I decided to play good cop and tried to explain, in the easiest way possible what we are looking for. She finally stopped the cab, got out, and came around to my side. Telisa was on the phone with Daniele (her husband) and was venting to him. As I was talking to the woman, I realized that she had no idea where we were asking her to take us. I took it upon myself to type in the HERTZ and we finally got there. THEN she said the one thing she shouldn’t have, “No worry, I won’t charge you for us getting lost.” Telisa bolted upright and headed out the door. I used her credit card, paid the lady and grabbed a few pounds out of my pocket and handed it to her. She kept saying, ” No, no! I no accept.” I insisted and said, “It’s okay.” She thanked me profusely with tears in her eyes and drove off. I figured at the rate we were going, some good karma couldn’t hurt. Sometimes… kindness is all a person needs. I had a feeling that lady was going to have some difficult days ahead and maybe, just maybe, she will remember there once was this little American girl that showed her kindness.
You just never know.
So with a full tank of gas, full-coverage insurance, and a car of a brand we had never heard of – we packed it up and decided to head to Stirling.
Telisa tried to get in on the left side and just busted out laughing. Think about it….
That’s the passenger-side. Ha!
So we get situated and then started to take off. I wish I could share the video with you, just go to Tik Tok and look up QueenBeeNicole05. You will see the whole hilarious adventure unfold in video. We nearly get side-swiped, because, well, it was all different and I was a terrible navigator. I am married to a dyslexic and the words left and right mean nothing to him. I have to point and say, this way. Well… I was doing that for Telisa and she was super frustrated. Eek. I corrected my errors and we drove down the highway to the beautiful city of Stirling.
Stirling is a city in central Scotland, 26 miles (42 km) northeast of Glasgow and 37 miles (60 km) north-west of Edinburgh. We got to our next destination fairly quickly. I wanted to eat at this adorable restaurant I found online called the Lion and the Unicorn. It is a traditional family owned country hotel, pub & restaurant situated in Thornhill just outside Stirling. One of the requests Telisa had was for us to go to an old restaurant that had a roaring fire. This place had three log burning fireplaces! The restaurant had been serving food and ale since 1635! That’s crazy. And it was everything!!! One of the best meals to date.
The little town of Thornhill is absolutely adorable. Very quaint, very quiet, and the hills were dotted with sheep.
This is the picture I had in my head when I thought of Scotland.
Once we got situated, I ordered a latte to warm my bones up. We could definitely feel the change in weather and both agreed that it was time to order some comfort food.
As I took a gander at the menu, I could not stop laughing at the toppings for their baked potatoes. Creamed Haggis? Tuna Mayo? Holy Moly. I’m definitely not in Kansas anymore. I’d be lying if I started getting a little nervous about heading into the Highlands. I thought to myself, “Uh-oh. This might have the feel of Appalachians.”
Then the main courses appeared and all was right again. Telisa opted for the Roast Rib Eye of Beef with Yorkshire Pudding and Red Wine Gravy and I went for the Homemade hand-cut local farm assured steak pie topped with puff pastry lid.
This was the first time in two months I had eaten beef. I only took a few bites, just to savor the taste, and it was one of the best things I have ever eaten in my life.
We both savored this comfort food and discussed what we needed to do to remedy the luggage situation – 4 days later.
Telisa ended up finding a courier service that would pick up her luggage from the Scott House and deliver it to the farm in Inverness (our next stop.) It was going to cost her over $400. But she coughed it up.
As we were wrapping up our lunch, we realized there was something amazing on the menu that neither of us had ever tried. Apparently, sticky toffee pudding is a thing in the UK. So….
I took one bite. And it was the best bite of my life. Telisa, and I quote, said this was one of the top ten things she has ever put in her mouth.
That’s what she said. 😉
We hopped in the car after our awesome pit stop and regrouped. Off to Stirling proper where the William Wallace monument was located and Stirling Castle.
If you don’t know, William Wallace (c. 1270 – 23 August 1305) was a Scottish knight who became one of the main leaders during the First War of Scottish Independence. Along with Andrew Moray, Wallace defeated an English army at the Battle of Stirling Bridge in September 1297. He was appointed Guardian of Scotland and served until his defeat at the Battle of Falkirk in July 1298. In August 1305, Wallace was captured in Robroyston, near Glasgow, and handed over to King Edward I of England, who had him hanged, drawn and quartered for high treason and crimes against English civilians.
Since his death, Wallace has obtained an iconic status far beyond his homeland. He is the protagonist of Blind Harry’s 15th-century epic poem The Wallace and the subject of literary works by Jane Porter and Sir Walter Scott, and of the Academy Award-winning film Braveheart. I had to get that iconic “FREEDOM” shot.
But to no avail. We simply could not find. And apparently it is HUGE.
Just look it up. It is simply shameful.
Then we see Stirling Castle waaaay up the hill. We enter it into navigation and start heading that way. Maybe a castle would save this side trip!
Stirling Castle is one of the largest and most important castles in Scotland, both historically and architecturally. The castle sits atop Castle Hill and is surrounded on three sides by steep cliffs, giving it a strong defensive position. Its strategic location, guarding what was, until the 1890s, the farthest downstream crossing of the River Forth, has made it an important fortification in the region from the earliest times. Most of the principal buildings of the castle date from the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. A few structures remain from the fourteenth century, while the outer defenses fronting the town date from the early eighteenth century.
Before the union with England, Stirling Castle was also one of the most used of the many Scottish royal residences, very much a palace as well as a fortress. Several Scottish Kings and Queens have been crowned at Stirling, including Mary, Queen of Scots, in 1542, and others were born or died there. There have been at least eight sieges of Stirling Castle, including several during the Wars of Scottish Independence, with the last being in 1746, when Bonnie Prince Charlie unsuccessfully tried to take the castle.
You can see why we HAD to see it.
And yet… we didn’t.
Navigation SUCKS in Scotland.
If we took one more second left at the round-about.
Abort. We aborted the mission and put in the address, or what we THOUGHT was the address for Black Isle Brewery in Inverness.
And off we went. To The Highlands of Scotland.
The altitude began to change, the sun began to set even quicker – it was 2:30 when we left Stirling, we had a 3 hour drive and the sun would set at 3:30 pm. Yep.
We stopped once for fuel and snacks and I noticed that snow was beginning to come down. I decided to check my trusty phone and this is what I found:
Alright, not to shabby. BUT… driving in the mountains in fresh snow… um…
And then we got a little further. It was pitch black outside, maybe close to 5ish and we are very close, when suddenly, we get this:
A freaking blizzard!!!
We end up in the Black Isle area, waaaay up in the north of Scotland and we can’t seem to find the farm. It is dark as can be, it is snowing, we are freezing and HUNGRY and finally, after about 30 minutes of phone calls and realizing to navigate up here you have to put in the postal code, because, we were apparently staying on an unnamed road, we made it to the Black Isle Brewery, which is located on an organic farm. We had the privilege of staying in the Shepherd’s Hut, right on the farm.
Armed with open handed mittens I picked up in Edinburgh…
We lugged our stuff up and basically had a quick confrontation (also known as releasing angst,) self-corrected and then the mood changed completely because…
Reunited and it felt so good.
Okay, now that we had EVERYTHING, it was time to heat up this… caravan of sorts.
We had to get a fire started in the wood burning stove. Yep.
And we did!
Next up – to navigate our way back five miles to Inverness to find food on a Wednesday night. We headed to the Scotch & Rye, but they were no longer serving food and found Platform 8, instead. We found a little corner, ordered up some grub and settled in to watch the Porto versus Liverpool soccer match. Because… when in Inverness…
We ate some medicore food to just have something and then stopped by a gas station to pick up breakfast and snacks.
I got a full night’s sleep, which is always a blessing on the first real night in a bed. I slept the sleep of the dead starting around 8 pm and woke up somewhere around 7 am on Tuesday morning. Telisa and I slowly got moving and started making a plan. We decided to wait an hour or so and just enjoy a leisurely breakfast as we waited for her luggage to arrive. We knew it was going to be in the upper 30s and it was paramount that we got her coat and a change of clothes, so she wouldn’t have to brave the elements and over pay for something that was about to arrive.
So… we made it down the three flights of stairs to the formal dining room of the Bed & Breakfast we were staying at.
There was quite a feast set up for the guests. At this point, the only people staying there was us and a young couple originally from Russia, now living in London. We spent most of the morning enjoying conversation about the cultural differences we made note of the night before. Everything from the use of the “f-word” to how kind everyone seemed to be. Our host, Jemima, shared her story of how she once lived in the Caribbean and the states and how she met her husband in the Philippines.
Her husband also happens to be a chef and was cooking up a delicious breakfast for us.
Since I am still trying to eat a little better, I opted for the scrambled egg and none of the fatty sausages or country ham. What was added to it was baked beans (a staple for the British breakfast,) a potato scone, hashbrown and the eggs. I grabbed some homemade yogurt from the bar and added granola and nibbled on a piece of cheese and fruit. We filled up, shared stories with the other guests and host, and waited. And waited…
And the luggage did not arrive. Telisa asked Jemima to please give her a ring if her luggage made an appearance, then we called an uber and headed to Holyrood Palace.
Apparently, the Queen was not receiving guests today. Or tomorrow. 😉 That’s right, the palace is closed on Tuesdays and Wednesday and we missed our appointment the day before, as we were stuck in line for Telisa’s baggage claim. Boo on Air France and Boo on the palace for not being open. Regardless, we snapped a few pics and decided to actually walk the Royal Mile (which is actually NOT a mile, more so a few kilometers) to Edinburgh Castle.
As we started up the hill Telisa was freezing – and rightfully so! All she had was a shawl and since we had already had two little disappointments (her luggage not showing up and the palace being closed,) I thought we might need to find a place just to get our bearings. As we were walking, I spotted a tea room and thought – PERFECT! A little British culture and a place to relax out of the elements and get it together.
We found Clarinda’s Tea Room on the Royal Mile, very close to Holyrood Palace. This adorable space was the quintessential tea room with rose chintz wallpaper, tea cups hanging on the wall, and quiet classical music playing in the background.
The first thing I noticed was a scrumptious array of sweets on the sideboard. I ordered a piece of apple bread, flat white coffee, and the strawberry & kiwi herbal iced tea.
We relaxed a little and Telisa warmed up quite a bit. After a few laughs and tasty treats we started our nine hour shopping, sipping, oohing and ahhing of Edinburgh.
Along the Royal Mile you will find a Close, which happens to be an alley-way that leads you to private gardens, churches, and a whole slew of other places and things. We happened upon a beautiful Kirkyard (Churchyard) that had a really old cemetery. We wandered around this peaceful little nook tucked off the street.
Many of the graves had fascinating stories. I love walking through, judging the age differences between the husband and wives, checking out what they did, or whatever little insight I could find into the lives of these people who walked these streets hundreds of years ago.
We stopped in multiple stores and bought random souvenirs and trinkets for our friends and family. The architecture was just perfection. Absolute perfection. I could totally see where the inspiration for Harry Potter came from and why they chose to film so much of it here.
At this point, things are still looking up (as far as luggage goes,) and we decided to stop in a pub to allow Telisa to warm up a little more (remember, she doesn’t have a coat yet,) and try to get the vibe from the locals.
We happened upon The World’s End Pub. I had remembered reading a little about this space and so we decided to mosey on up to the bar – I ordered a water, while she ordered a mulled wine. This pub is a 16th Century listed building in Edinburgh’s historic Old Town. The gates to the city used to be situated outside the pub, and the brass cobbles in the road represent their exact location. The building has had a few incarnations over the years, from bakers to wine merchants, and finally as a traditional old-style pub.
Our bartender, Graham, did a fantastic job of entertaining us! At some point, I think it was when Telisa ordered a second drink, a traditional hot toddy, that she asked where she could find a Glasgow Rangers shirt in the area. Oh boy did the entire pubs ears perk up. ANYTHING that has to do with the Rangers or the Celtic, are a big no-no in Edinburgh. Suddenly, everyone was piping in – and it was good fun, and we ended up laughing with the entire bar. Our bartender put it lightly, “If the Ranger’s were playing child molesters, the entire city would cheer on the child molesters.” Yep. They take football (soccer,) that seriously!
After some good laughs and good advice, we headed back out to do a little more shopping. Telisa finally decided to cough up some cash and bought this gorgeous sky blue cashmere sweater to help keep her warm.
As we were wandering, I am pretty sure Telisa spent a good amount of time trying to call Delta and the Edinburgh airport and Air France just trying to sort things out. She was getting a little more aggravated and there really wasn’t anything I could do to help the situation. I just tried to keep moving, keep the conversation light and well… what do we do in the South? We eat our feelings. So I found a little cafe down a close and we stopped for some munchies.
We found The Thistle Stop Cafe. A darling little place with a handful of tables. There were probably three other couples in there, so we just sat down and ordered our lunch.
I ordered a cheese & ham toastie (grilled cheese sandwhich) and a jacketed potato. (loaded baked potato.)
The mood was not the best, as Telisa was on the phone with Air France. She was really letting them have it – since her luggage had STILL not shown up. As she was chatting with the folks on the phone, she got a little louder and a little angrier, and I noticed the ladies behind the counter started giggling, as well as the couple across from us. I sort of smiled and laughed along, but knowing that this was no laughing matter. I got up, went to the counter, paid for our lunch and explained what had happened to her. The ladies were so sympathetic to her plight and understood why Telisa was so heated.
We were both basically finished eating, so I asked was she ready to go. I think I picked the wrong moment, because she was not ready and sort of barked something to that point. I knew she was just frustrated and decided to go ahead and let her finish up either a phone call or her food and just get some air. It was hot as hades in the place and I was really enjoying the fresh air. Luckily, there was this adorable courtyard.
We finally left the area and made our way over to St. Giles. There was this girl in the middle singing opera and it was just so magical – the sun was setting and the backdrop of this gothic cathedral was everything. Telisa sort of took off on her own through the church and I followed up behind. I wanted to give her some space. Once we rounded the corner, I did a temperature check and she seemed to have relaxed a little. Beautiful spaces do that for you. I asked to come sit with me on the chairs in the sanctuary and I basically said a little prayer out loud for things to work out for her. We left in better spirits and headed even further up hill toward the castle.
St Giles Cathedral was founded by King David I in 1124. Yeah… it is that old. Click on the link above and learn more about this amazing space. I feel blessed just to have experienced it!
As we were trudging uphill, I suddenly realized we were just steps from Edinburgh Castle! Yes, we had made it up that mountainous hill to the very steps of the castle.
And yes, it was everything.
Edinburgh Castle is alive with exciting tales of its time as a military fortress, royal residence and prison of war. When you climb Castle Hill, you walk in the footsteps of soldiers, kings and queens – and even the odd pirate or two. It is one of the oldest fortified places in Europe. With a long rich history as a royal residence, military garrison, prison and fortress. As I mentioned above, it was home to kings and queens for many centuries. Queen Margaret (who was later made a saint) died here in 1093. The chapel built in her honor by her son, King David I, is Edinburgh’s oldest building.
As we approached the area, I moved over to the right to just take a seat on the stone wall and just take it all in. Telisa had moved to the other side and was not really talking very much. I felt kind of helpless in the moment, knowing that anything I said was not going to help matters and I figured the best thing was to let her process what was happening to her. But I wanted to share my amazement with someone – so I called my husband. I literally had tears in my eyes – not tears of sadness or anger, but amazement at what I was seeing. That castle was absolutely beautiful at night.
After I hung up and sort of took a deep breath, I turned around to find Telisa and see if she was feeling better. Lo and behold, she came over and sort of laughed and shared that she had a zen moment and sort of let it all go. I smiled, honestly thrilled for her, because at the end of the day, there was nothing any of us could do. We were at the mercy of the airlines. She told me she and her sister had this saying, “But did you die?” and it sort of put everything in perspective. No one died. We were in one of the most historical and beautiful cities in the world and we were able to laugh and move on.
Once we got back to the B&B, we freshened up and headed around the block to Barony Bar for dinner.
We had small feast of sorts: Scotch egg, Cheese platter, Chicken, Chips, fried prawns and so many other little things.
We ended the evening on a high note- bellies full and a promise from Air France and the Edinburgh Baggage folks that by 10:30 on Wednesday morning, Telisa would indeed have her luggage.
We packed our bags up because the next morning we had another adventure: Driving to Stirling and Inverness! Stay Tuned for that HILARIOUS leg of the trip!