I had hoped yet hadn’t intended to visit The Highlands, but– there I was. I was at the bottom of a brown valley with waterfalls as far as the eye could see– more than thirty! I’d counted. Their tails cascaded down the slopes, digging thin trenches beneath them. Each ribbon traveled inward to this middle point, me. A pair of stags rose out of the tall grass on the valley floor; their antlers dripped. This valley was instantly burned into my mind forever as I became lost in a reverie.
Do you like endless landscapes where the sunlight and rain create art in the sky? Then you’d love The Highlands. Like shaggy Highland cows whose hair match the color of the grass? Me too. You’d love The Highlands.
I sifted through a thrift store searching for antique jewelry and blue patterned china. Elderly ladies lifted their eyes as they noticed my accent in Kingussie. Loch Ness crept up on me then surprised me at how incredibly never-ending it was. Even more impressive than the lake, was the history of Urquhart Castle– where I learned about kilt patterns and Celtic knots. After studying the Wars of Independence I’d arrived at the opinion that England had colonized Scotland, stolen their land, and in years past intentionally attempted to commit cultural genocide. Nevertheless, the Scottish culture has lived on. Why doesn’t the rest of the world advocate for Scotland and Northern Ireland like they do for Palestine? I desperately wished the world could somehow right that wrong. We were visiting at an interesting and hopeful time– where Brexit ignited whispers of a free and independent Scotland once again.
It had been drizzling for days. We had no place to stay on New Years Eve.
I’d never hear of Hogmanay before.
When the Skye Bridge came into view, we figured that it’d be best to stop for an accommodation. After a quick Google Search, we called The Bankhouse to inquire about a room for the night. EVerything else was closed. The innkeeper squawked over the phone in his adorable accent, “Oh yeah, I was just about to put some sausages on for the night. Where are you? In the store parking lot? Oh yes, I see your headlights over there. I’m just across the way”. Our charming quirky host was surprised that we’d arrived at his bed and breakfast that used to be the town bank. He declared again that we had “Arrived just in time” because he was “Just about to put some sausages on”. We shared tea as I observed the charm of the old wood and the peeling wallpaper. He showed clips of American Idol on his television-computer combo. I didn’t know any of the contestants that he liked from years past, but I pretended and played along because I could tell that he was lonely. He shared that he and his wife had moved from the city, to achieve their dream of owning the place. We learned that she had passed some years back. The way he spoke of her I could tell that he loved her dearly. Then we talked about sausages more as he poured more tea. Then he pointed out the window to share how surprised he was to see a pod of dolphins bob by one day. He insisted that because it was Hogmanay, we couldn’t simply slip up the stairs and head to bed. We had to go out. And it would be okay if we came back late, as late as we wanted. And it would even be okay if we went from house to house of all the the neighbors. I rose my eyebrows in suspicion. Like I said– I had never heard of Hogmanay. We settled for pizza as we watched a few local fisherman get chummy at a local bar and dove into a few rounds of billiards. I received a few strange looks and comments, being the only “lady” in the establishment. All local rowdy bachelors; what was it with this place and sausages?
Then on the first day of the year we crossed over the Bridge to Skye to search for ferry pools and the Old Man of Storr. Scotland, myths, landscapes, history, and people that I’ll carry with me forever.