Visit Scotland, I Command Thee

Edinburgh Castle

Sorry about that, the Scottish landscape makes one feel a bit regal…

I have to say that I greet September and the coming of winter with a special feeling of melancholy – it is the beginning of the end of a remarkable period in my life. September heralds the start of the last six months or so of my two year expatriate assignment (less an “assignment” and more of an opportunity, really) with Oceaneering in Scotland and though I am very excited to experience the next stage of my life and career in the land of my birth (I really, really miss SEC football),  I also am experiencing a profound sadness to even contemplate leaving such a remarkable, wonderful and magical place and people.

Kilchurn Castle

Scotland is truly a land of mystery, of history and of a welcoming, magnanimous and glorious people. We Americans tend to “homogenize” the people of the United Kingdom (Scotland is a separate country within the UK) – but rest assured, the culture that exists north of Hadrian’s Wall is as distinct and unique as any. I have found that I am a better fit in the lands of the Picts, the Celts and the Gaels than I am south of the wall.

Edinburgh Military Tattoo at Edinburgh Castle

We have had a remarkable two years here. We have connected with family histories that we never knew existed and we have explored a land that is the mother of so much in America.  Modern industrial America owes much to Scots like Andrew Carnegie, Alexander Graham Bell, Adam Smith and James Watt.

Using the beautiful capital city of Edinburgh (it is pronounced “Ed-in-burh” not “Edinboro”) as a base, we have traveled, met people and seen things that we never would have had the opportunity to see from a base in the States. We have experienced the Edinburgh Military Tattoo, Burns Night Suppers, I have seen the one room flat where Andrew Carnegie was born and lived as a child, we have seen King Robert the Bruce’s burial site under the altar at Dunfermilne Abbey:

Resting Place of Robert the Bruce

I’ve developed an affinity for black pudding and yes, even haggis. I’ve been here long enough to start pronouncing words with a weird redneck/Scots enunciation and saying “proper” in place of “good” or “appropriate” (as in “that is a proper cup of tea”) and “aye” in place of “yes”. I’ve been here long enough that American money looks strange and now 50 cents comes out as 50 p (for pence) – I can even make a pound sign (£) and do multiple currency conversions in my head (Dollars, Pounds, Euros, Norwegian Krowne)…and in perhaps the greatest sacrilege of all, driving on the left side of the road and shifting with my left hand has become a natural act.

Gargoyle at Melrose Abbey in the Scottish Borders

But perhaps most important of all, we have a new family – we have grown close to new friends and created bonds here that will be with us always.

Scottish Highlands Near Ben Nevis

While Scotland is small by US standards (5.2 million people, 30,414 square miles – a land mass about the size of South Carolina), it is a land of unexpectedly stark contrasts and contradiction – from the urban hustle and bustle of Edinburgh and Glasgow to the isolation and raw natural power of the Scottish Highlands, from the pastoral villages of the lowlands to the violent shores of the Shetlands – it is never exactly the same. I would wager that you could live here a lifetime and still see something new every day. Scotland is a land of ingenuity and invention, its greatest export is its people. A friend of mine jokes that the Scots never could defeat the English kings over here, so they exported people to America where they could!

The Royal Standard of Scotland – The Lion Rampant

If you ever have the opportunity to come, I can guarantee that a week in Scotland will change your outlook and a month will change your life.

It has changed mine.

Just a note: all those pictures except the Lion Rampant are mine and are high resolution, taken with my Canon T1i (EOS 500D) – if you want to get up close and personal with Scotland, click on the pictures once to enlarge to the first step and then again to get them to full size. Blow the Kilchurn Castle picture up and you will see a black Range Rover and a driver out front – there was a wedding in the ruins that had just finished when we visited…

5 thoughts on “Visit Scotland, I Command Thee

  1. I wish you all the best in your personal endeavors, and I envy you your extended stay in such a fascinating place.
    I prefer ‘live-in’ vacations; getting to know one place real well beats getting on a crowded bus and taking the same pictures that one can buy at the gift store. But 2 years is a wee long, lad, a month or two at best wad be more t’ma likin’.

    • Thanks, Greg.

      Now that it is drawing to a close, it feels more like two weeks than it does two years.

      The weird thing about it is that it has never not felt like “home”. I don’t know how to explain it but I’ve traveled to many places around the world and almost all of them have felt “alien” in some way – even London – when we go there, it feels like a temporary vacation. Scotland is certainly different from the US (and even from England) but it doesn’t feel alien…it has never felt temporary. We don’t feel out of place or have a sense of urgency to leave because of a feeling of not belonging. We feel a connection to the land, the people and the culture.

      It is really strange – but I feel as if I have lived here before, it is like the feeling that you get when you go back to a familiar place that you haven’t been since you were a kid. I almost believe that we have a genetic memory coded in our DNA that identifies things that are passed through generations – both my wife and I have lineage to the Royal lines of Scotland (hers also goes to the Royals in Norway, England and France – but then she always has been a bit of a “princess”!), so I have to wonder if we don’t have a little of those memories in our genes.

      Maybe it is just the direct and blunt manner of the Scots that meshes with my personality…I have been blessed with a fantastic team of people at work that I now count as friends and you can walk in to any pub in Edinburgh and never be a stranger…the outward appearance of the Scots is as a bunch of rough and rowdy curmudgeons but 5 minutes after you meet someone here, you are family.

      There is the family “pull” to get back, of course, and that has increased with the passing of my wife’s grandfather a few months ago and my dad’s passing a couple of weeks ago, but if it weren’t for that, I’m convinced that we would be staying longer.

      • I’m sorry about your father.

        I should like to go to Scotland one day; it looks magical, like Ireland. I understand the deja vu feeling to which you speak. While visiting France, it seemed so familiar to me, as if I had been there; it was very odd.

        Thanks for sharing your lovely pics…….. ma wee one!

  2. I’ve always felt a tug when I see a picture of a market or harbor anywhere on the Mediterranean., I see myself buying a loaf of bread to go with the fish I bought at the market for tonight’s supper. Sometimes I see the road climbing uphill ahead of me.
    Other than knowing the fact that I am half-Italian, and loved mama’s spaghetti growing up, I was never immersed in Italian culture or language; my Italian relatives i met once.
    Scientist say that most DNA is considered ‘junk’,maybe they just haven’t found out its purpose yet. It may be that we somehow retain memories, as you suggested.
    I hope to test my theory in Parma in a couple of years. Vino, donne, e canto!

Talk Amongst Yourselves:

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.