Two-bit Tours.

It’s been a long while since I’ve seen my father and step-mother, who managed to squeeze some time out of their crazy schedules (with no small amount of coercing to leave the kids at home) to take a little trip to Scotland, and we finally had some time to spend two-on-one for the first time in roughly a decade.

Funny how no matter how grown-up and independent one feels crafting a path alone in a foreign country, as soon as the parents come around, a certain diminutive and almost regressive feeling crawls its way in…not so much one of comfort, but rather evocative of one’s younger years, still devilish and devious, awkward and head-strong. It’s not in their nature to be critical of me, nor to attempt to steer me to a path of their own liking; I’m extremely fortunate and thankful for that – and they’ve always been supportive of my endeavours, however foolish some may be. But when I get around them, I just feel like a kid, and it’s probably a case of Pavlovian contextual association more than anything else. I wonder if I’ll always feel this way around them, regardless of my age. Is a son always a son, or does he ever stand alone as a man and a friend?

Of course we’re different people, and some conflict shall always arise, but overall the trip northward was clean and good for a reconnection, despite the fact that my family is not very fond of the Scottish summer. That’s okay; it’s why I’m living here and they’re not. Give me rain and snow anyday over hot and humid. Seriously, I’m deathly afraid that I’ll melt when I get back home.

We saw a massive amount of sights in just a few short days, and it’s been a while since I’ve posted any kind of accurate photography of the things I’ve been scoping out of late, so here you go. Dad spent most of his time behind the camera, furiously exercising his ‘third eye’ but he did manage to actually physically look at some of the wonders of Northern Scotland, and even have a good amount of alcohol, to boot. Valerie very much enjoyed the terrain and the places that we stayed, but I think the battlefields and burial cairns and pervasive sorrow of the Scottish tourism identity got to her after a while. She never complained, not once, even as the boys hacked over the significances of battle lines and thanatological contexts.

This is not an ancient standing stone, but a sandblasted storefront in Ft. William. False alarm! It’s not that cool! But pretty, nonetheless.

And it’s a start…

We once again nabbed a sleek, black diesel-machine and puttered west through Stirling-shire where the congregation of park-bench Grannys in Callander was in full swing. I think Callander is where old Scottish women go to die…or to live on forever. Regardless, we weaved our way around the geriatric obstacle course and flew over to Balquihidder, where ol’ Rob Roy MacGregor lies beneath the ground.

Sadly, Liam Neeson was nowhere to be found, but we did appreciate the fact that there was no stone statue carved in his image, quite unlike Rabbie’s neighbor in Stirling, Mr. Wallace-Gibson.

We then wound through Rannoch Moor to Glencoe, where the sky went on forever and I once again got to relay the story of MacIain to the gang. There was a lone piper blaring at the base of one of the Sisters, and it was absolutely amazing how that sound reverberates through so much natural terrain. Almost as if it completes the landscape itself. Shockingly he didn’t get hit by any cars, so close was he to the A82.

Two of the Three Sisters of Glencoe – Gear Aonach and Aonach Dubh.

We hopped out of the car and followed the forest path through An Torr, where the fire to signal the start of the Macdonald massacre was lit by Glenlyon’s troops. No Campbells were still hanging around, but there was a polychromatic lurker just up the path from the Rock.


The view from Signal Rock – Meall Mór against a majestic sky.

Bending back around through An Torr on the way back to the car and on to circle Loch Leven.

At the head of the loch is where we stayed for the evening, in an establishment that was set up like an old coach-house in the town of Kinlochleven. I spent most of the evening in the adjoining pub listening to conversations, drinking many good things, and actually getting some work done with my continuing research.

By the time I came out, it was a perfect night for a perfect picture. 11:30 pm and cobalt all around; no sound and still waters.

Almost crunched this little friend on the journey back from lochside, but immortalized him in pictures instead. I’ve named him Ruiridh Ruadh, and he didn’t argue with the appellation much. Too busy putting all his faculties into crossing the road. Ah, to be so sure of one’s path!

Next morning was about exploration and hiking up to a waterfall sequestered in a sheltered cove. I was fool enough to go rock-leaping to get a better picture, and after plotting my course and navigating the sundered path of safety to the other side, I slipped on a patch of moss and sank into *very* cold water up to my shins. It was worth every chill.

As if in mockery, the very woodland itself laughed me out of the glade.

Lots of driving ahead, we blazed through Fort William and I let them off for a while to do some good shopping while I followed crawlingly from door to door trying to read a magazine and not look like I was interested in sundry tourist goodies. Strangely enough, I was. Might be because I’ll always be a tourist, even living here. Soon after an hour of shopping doom, I had to drag them on a side venture to Glenfinnan, where ol’ Charles landed and raised the standard of the Jacobite army in August of 1745. I hadn’t been there for some time and the day was perfect for it.

The Bonnie one certainly chose the right place to set foot on the mainland, but I’m not so sure about his aptitude for final battlefields…

Yes, this is the viaduct from the Harry Potter film, and yes, more people were at Glenfinnan to see this than the place where Scotland was changed forever by the ambitions of a handful of men in nice clothing. And in the Visitor’s Centre, books and information about a dire point the country’s history are unabashedly mollified by full-colour posters of everyone’s favourite little wizard bastard. If you display it, they will come.

But turning around again is the true jewel of the journey that will always outshine popular facination with the cute and quaint.

We headed up Loch Ness into Inverness, where we managed to grab a place right on the river with a fine view. If anyone’s going up that way, let me recommend the Winston or Whinpark Hotels, both owned by a great family there. It has truly been my home away from home. After gorging ourselves on good Italian food, I showed my parents the view from the Castle before heading back to catch up on some work.

Computer Work
Not a bad view or studying environment, eh? Somehow I still managed to procrastinate further…

Next day was Culloden, Clava, and then down through Badenoch and Strathspey to Pitlochry in Perthshire, and with a final tilt of our hats to the Highlands, it was back to ol’ Edina. And as always, coming home is the best part about seeing the rest of the country. Only a few more months of this, so we have to get it in as often as possible.

26 Responses to “Two-bit Tours.”

  1. angledge Says:
    July 11th, 2004 at 10:36 pm

    I love living in a country where even the fake-old decorations of a tourist shop are really, really beautiful. Not to mention a country where you can take photos at 11:30 PM that are as amazing as the one you snapped at Loch Leven.
    I don't think the woodland spirits were giving you two fingers, BTW. I think they're reminding you of the snail!

  2. FunkyPlaid Says:
    July 15th, 2004 at 10:50 am

    Yes, I agree completely. I got really lucky with that particular shot. Part of me wanted to dive right in but I couldn't justify breaking the immaculate calm of the surface tension below me.
    That, and I didn't want to freeze my nuts off.

  3. avalokita Says:
    July 12th, 2004 at 12:57 am

    Wow, that is really, really beautiful…

  4. FunkyPlaid Says:
    July 15th, 2004 at 10:50 am

    Glad you liked it.

  5. pisica Says:
    July 12th, 2004 at 1:46 am

    Well, look at it this way: if 100 people go to a place because of the Harry Potter connection, maybe a few of them will find the more historical meaning there? Kind of like when a 'cool' musician becomes popular for some freak reason; there will always be people who simply hop on the bandwagon, but some might stick around and listen to their older stuff (this happened to me with Vonda Shepard [sp?] – the Ally McBeal singer).
    Heh heh. The forest flipped you off.

  6. FunkyPlaid Says:
    July 15th, 2004 at 10:52 am

    Ever the optimist!
    Actually, right after the train went by, the entire mountainside of people disappeared, got in their cars, and left the premises. See, they were waiting just long enough to snap that same picture that I did, and with their lives complete, off they went to show their sonically-vibrating kids. But it would be nice to think so, wouldn't it?

  7. pisica Says:
    July 15th, 2004 at 7:54 pm

    Why do you always kill the thing….
    Oh, wait, that's *your* line!

  8. inithica Says:
    July 12th, 2004 at 4:18 am

    Hello. I hope you don't mind me commenting in your journal, but i was rather taken by your commentary about the seemingly unwillful childhood regression that happens in response to being near one's parents. I feel like I'm in a similar boat as I'm leaving for Poland next monday to visit my folks, whom I don't see often either, and I worry about this very pavlovian response aforementioned in your LJ. 😉 It's a very stubborn thing, and it forces me to question whether it truly is an unruly response to my parents, or is it some sort of deep rooted psychological habit threaded into my entire behaviour towards everything. -If that's the case, perhaps its only something that gets amplified when in their company. I tend to think it's a psychological habit woven into all behaviour, I have a hard time believing these are simply localized responses…I'm ranting off, what do you think?

  9. FunkyPlaid Says:
    July 16th, 2004 at 3:53 am

    I absolutely don't mind your comments at all, and indeed welcome them!
    I think either of the possibilities you brought up are entirely possible – if not both, but the latter is more likely, at least with myself. I feel deeply ingrained behaviours coming out with different people I'm used to being around: old girlfriends, co-workers, colleagues…people whom I've spent many years around. This pales in comparison to the first 18 years of one's life, and the established patterns of behaviour that come out when subjected to those familiar environments and audiences.
    Can we shirk it? I think so, but it takes consciously and deliberately moving the old people to new contexts, even if it's just in our minds. Of course, doing it physically seems to help it along, as well. But overall, I don't know if it's possible to ever escape the creeping doom that is parental deference.
    Glad we're on the same page, though. 🙂

  10. dichroicynosure Says:
    July 12th, 2004 at 4:36 am

    Where ever to begin with the accolades on this one…Ruiridh Ruadh for a start! (and the beetle–here I thought you were squeamish!–remind me to post some european black slug images from the west coast!)
    I love how much you see/know and how you retell the seeing/knowledge. This was a much needed vicarious exposure to the beauty of Scotland. Thank you!

  11. FunkyPlaid Says:
    July 16th, 2004 at 3:56 am

    Oh, I am *so* squeamish. Especially with creepy-crawlies. But get me drunk enough and I'll eat anything.
    Did that even make sense? 🙂
    As for vicariousness, it's fun to rely on each other for that, because I'm totally with you over there, as well. I could trade posts with you until the beetles crawl home…

  12. shawree Says:
    July 12th, 2004 at 5:53 am

    It's a natural thing really, isn't it? When you're around someone who used to make decisions for you you instantly feel 12 years old all over again. I wonder if this changes for women when they become mothers themselves… I know that my relationship to my Mum has changed now I'm in the married boat too, though I never thought it would.

  13. FunkyPlaid Says:
    July 16th, 2004 at 4:05 am

    Couldn't agree with you more. But we become less interested in following the decisions they make.

  14. velvetdahlia Says:
    July 12th, 2004 at 8:09 am

    Fabulous post! I love the ruminations on the snail. What a delight.
    I still feel that way around my parents, but a little less. Strangely, the book has made things easier– it is something they understand. Plus, older family dies off, and we are left smaller and smaller. I think this helps them to see me as an adult, sad as it sounds.

  15. FunkyPlaid Says:
    July 16th, 2004 at 4:08 am

    Well, it's true as well as sad, and we all must deal with it, right?
    Yes, something they understand…it's as much up to them as us to approach a more equitable relationship – more based on friendship and less on authority. Some parents don't seem to be able to lay that one down, eh?

  16. spiffington Says:
    July 12th, 2004 at 12:00 pm

    It was the perfect night for the perfect picture.
    You and Rudy Red there should enjoy the glorious bask in that cobalt splendour together.
    You for your wonderful eye and skillful story telling and him for his nonchalant, composed meander through the lands of beauty that are his home.

  17. FunkyPlaid Says:
    July 16th, 2004 at 4:11 am

    Nonchalant until that lumber lorry comes and repaves his protoplasm. 🙂
    Thanks for your kind words; now it's your turn to do some travelin'!

  18. agntprovocateur Says:
    July 12th, 2004 at 12:11 pm

    gorgeous capture of things vast, teensy and mocking….

  19. FunkyPlaid Says:
    July 16th, 2004 at 4:13 am

    I put him in my pocket to bring back for you, but he didn't last very long…

  20. agntprovocateur Says:
    July 17th, 2004 at 4:24 am

    silly goose!
    that's cause your back pocket is NO place to put a living creature!!!!
    now, the front pocket….. that's another story. LOL!

  21. Anonymous Says:
    July 15th, 2004 at 2:58 pm

    great pics!!!
    What wonderful pics and story-like presentation. Glad to hear you are experiencing all that you can while in such a magical place. Seeing these photos makes me miss Scotland and more so miss you. I look forward to catching up with you this weekend…
    Hugs and Head-Butts;

  22. FunkyPlaid Says:
    July 16th, 2004 at 4:12 am

    Re: great pics!!!
    Thanks, Carrie. Be seeing you and Torgs in just a few short months!

  23. friendsofgumby Says:
    July 16th, 2004 at 4:26 pm

    what kind of camera do you have?

  24. FunkyPlaid Says:
    July 17th, 2004 at 2:33 am

    Well, I'm working with a Nikon Coolpix 885 right now, but it's having white-balance issues, I think. Don't say it too loudly, but I see a replacement somewhere near in the future…
    *killed in my sleep by my camera*

  25. friendsofgumby Says:
    July 18th, 2004 at 5:49 am

    It definately does an amazing job from what i have seen of your photography. I'm thinking of investing in a nice digital camera.

  26. FunkyPlaid Says:
    July 18th, 2004 at 6:31 am

    So glad you like it. I would certainly recommend any of the newer Nikon models.

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