Scotland the Brave (and beautiful)- Part 1

Hello world! Sorry I’ve been absent for a while- I’ve been moving house. It’s been a slightly traumatic experience because the new place has had no internet for way too long.

The first couple of nights I think I was in a state of shock, and railed for some time about how obscene it is for any house in Sydney not to have an active phone line for the internet. The other night, though, I picked myself up and decided to go through the boxes that have been living under my bed. Many have not been opened for years- particularly one with a label taped on the front saying “POSTERS AND POST CARDS- DO NOT THROW OUT”.

Posters and post cards indeed. Some are silly decorative things I remember having stuck around my dorm. Others, posters of my favourite DJs and actors.

The majority, however, were a stack of post cards from Scotland.

They are not to anyone or from anyone; just post cards I’d bought so I could always look upon the most beautiful country in the world. (You can try to argue with me, but my opinion is unwavering.)

Scotland in postcards
Scotland in postcards

I have a total love affair with Scotland.

It started when I was 14 and went over for the first time to watch my brother fence in the Junior Commonwealth Games.

The timing was excellent! We got to watch the Edinburgh Military Tattoo, and that year- not only did the athletes (brother included) get to walk out in to the stadium- Australia was the guest performance country.

For anyone who doesn’t know what the Tattoo is, it’s a big military Pipes and Drums demonstration. Every year, apart from the pipes and drums bands performing, they invite performers from two other countries.

In the year 2000, that was Canada and Australia. The Tattoo is ENORMOUS fun, and when Yothu Yindi performed you could spot the Aussies bopping up and down in the audience.

This first trip to Scotland was fairly minor compared to others I have done- but it was the start of it all.

We got a great introduction to Edinburgh by Scottish friends of ours; taking us to Prestonfield House for tea, and then out to Roslyn Chapel.

Roslyn Chapel is magical. It was meant to be just one chapel in a larger Cathedral, but Oliver Cromwell came along and ruined those plans. He also burnt down the castle next door and used the entirely master-stone-mason-built chapel as a stable for his horses. What a muppet.

My parents and I then ventured further north on to Balquhidder, where my ancestor, Rob Roy MacGregor, is buried.

…and there I had my moment.

Like all teenagers, I didn’t really feel like I fit in anywhere. I was very uncomfortable in my skin, in my school, in everything!

But there, standing in Balquhidder, turning from my ancestor’s grave to look upon a waterfall splitting a hillside in half, it hit me. Home. I truly felt at home somewhere, for the first time in my life.

I’m a big believer your blood can call you back places, can remember things you’ve never experienced- and my blood called me home that day. I’ve not let go of Scotland since.

From Balquidder, we turned west and travelled to the other coast – where my cousins lived.

The west coast is a wild beauty unlike anything you’ll ever see. Battered by winds, storms and the sea- it shows itself mainly in shades of steel grey and heather purple. It is also almost totally treeless. The story goes that in a by-gone era, giants cut down all the trees for their own use, and now there are none left.

The first stop on the west coast is Oban. A beautiful sea-side town that looks out on to the Inner Hebrides; a small string of islands, just in view. Sometimes, standing on a hill in Oban, looking out to the Inner Hebrides- the steel grey sky becomes infected with the heather purple, and ethereal light breaks forth from the formidable clouds. It shines like a spot light on one of the islands and you get the impression this place is extraordinary in some way.

In some way it is, according to history and myth. Iona, one of the islands, is said to be the cradle of Christianity.

My cousins lived beyond Oban, almost as far west as you can get, on the Isle of Seil- which used to be entirely slate quarries. If you get sick of the grey- you can find the brightest colours down the quarries, now filled in with the spilling sea and shining deep aqua-marine.

Big-city girl though I am, there is some tremendous peace to be found walking about in the whipping winds of the west coast of Scotland- surrounded by… absolutely nothing.

The closest town to my cousin’s is a little fishing village called Easdale- arguably the most beautiful dot on the map. The village is about three blocks long in total, and made up of low, white cottages- the kind that have deep windows and low beams you bump your head on. They are charming and serene in their isolation.

Years after I first visited Easdale, lying on the floor in drama school (you lie on the floor a lot in drama school), I was told to close my eyes and go to a place where I felt at peace. Eyes shut, I stood in the little white fisherman’s cottage in Easdale. Total quietude.

After Easdale, our cousins took us to two of the Inner Hebrides- Mull and Iona.

Mull is particularly notable for Australians, as it’s the final resting place of Governor Macquarie. Iona, as mentioned before, is famous for its Christian roots. It is the site of a monastery- built around 500AD-ish (later destroyed), and now an abby from the 13th Century. It is a bubble of time in to which you can step and stand still for a moment.

Sadly, that was about all we had time for that trip; we needed to get back to my brother’s competition. Naturally, he’d aced it. 4th in the whole Commonwealth. Go bro!

I will tell you, returning to Australia was a little hard. I knew where I belonged now, and it was difficult trying to fit myself in somewhere else.

14 years later- I have a stack of postcards, and when I close my eyes; I’m in Scotland.

Easdale painting
Easdale in hyper-colour



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