Every once in awhile, quite often, almost daily, more times than necessary, all the time… I have flashbacks of places I’ve been around the globe. To the point that… I believe I’m actually there. Personally, I’m blaming it on the Texas heat. 107 F (41.7 C) today to be exact. Is it just me… or, is that TOO HOT? Right now, even people in Saudi Arabia are agreeing “Man! That’s pretty hot!” and they live in the desert. Of course, I live in Austin, Texas, so that’s my fault. That’s like living in Bora Bora and complaining about the sand. Although, what mad man would do that? Yeah, I need to go there. Soon. Fiji, Hawaii, or Maldives would be quite nice too. Anyway, so my most recent flashback interruption occurred while I was attending an important corporate meeting this afternoon.
**FLASH!!! BOOM!!! KA-POWWW!!!** I don’t have any fancy James Cameron Avatar like graphics, so just imagine that’s me taking you back in time.
The year was 2004, on a cold November evening in the Highlands of Scotland. Our destination – Bunchrew House – a 17th Century Scottish mansion, located on the outskirts of Inverness along the banks of the Beauly Firth. (Shhh… my wife still thinks it’s an old haunted castle). After a delightful 5-Star culinary experience in the main dining room, we adjourned to the library where we were warmly welcomed by a jovial bartender. As I semi-surveyed the bar menu for my favorite Scottish ales, we couldn’t help but be in awe, as we absorbed the history throughout the room. A crackling fire was the dominating statement of the room, surrounded by authentic antique furniture and masonry. It was as if we had gone back in time. As we turned towards the bartender, two small whiskey glasses were placed in front of us. Then we heard a voice I’ll never forget… “Do yer drink scotch?”. I think I might have said “Huh?”; but, for journalistic interpretation, let’s pretend I said “I beg your pardon sir?”. Across the room, an old man with his wife sat comfortably in a tartan driving cap. “Do yer drink scotch?” he kindly repeated in an accent that was the Scottish of all Scottish accents. Hey, I’m in The Highlands of Scotland, just outside Inverness – down the road from the ever fabled Loch Ness. Hell yeah I drink scotch! For the record, I’d never had scotch, and neither had Anna. He politely nodded in acceptance, and before we could say the words “Thank” and “You”, the bartender went to the TOP of the bar and removed an old bottle that looked as though William Wallace himself had purchased it. That’s the dude Mel Gibson played in Braveheart – in case you don’t know what the heck I’m talking about.
We grasped the glasses and headed over to their table. Introduced ourselves and began to talk. Turns out that they were from The Outer Hebrides – located on the outer edge of Europe in the far North West of Scotland. Also known as The Western Isles. It’s the kind of stuff I used to read about in old leather bound encyclopedias, before the Internet was invented by Al Gore. You wonder if these places are real, and then you meet people that blow you away with unparalleled generosity, warmth and character. They were on their 50th Wedding Anniversary. WOW! If that’s not enough… they spent their honeymoon at Bunchrew House. DOUBLE WOW! But wait… there’s more! In fact, they’ve spent every single anniversary – #1 to #50 at Bunchrew House. Triple Wow? Nope. That deserves double dream hands!
I know it sounds like I’m making fun of the situation. Trust me… I’m NOT. We truly were blown away. They were probably two of the nicest people we had ever met in our lives. After about 30mins of conversation, they called it a night. Before leaving, they wished us the best of luck and predicted that although we were just boyfriend and girlfriend at the time, they said we had “the stuff that love is made of” and knew for a fact that we would be married before long. Sometimes people just have genuine hearts. That was this couple that had lasted together in The Outer Hebrides for 50 years of marriage. They were right. About 18mos later, we got married – May 2006. That’s still not the most fascinating part of the story. After they left, the bartender came over and told us that the gentleman had received that bottle of scotch as a wedding gift. When he got it… it was already 200 years old. He keeps it at the bar. So, I know most of us failed nonlinear optics of nanostructures and photonic physics; but, if my 2nd grade math still serves me well, that would put the bottle of scotch at 250 years old! That’s crazy talk! True story!
I don’t know what made me think of that couple today; but, I’m glad I did. Oh, now I remember… the 107 F (41.7 C) Texas heat. Sometimes, you just have to go to a place that provides fond memories, or creates new adventures. To stand on the shores of Loch Ness (no, we didn’t see the monster) and explore the ruins of Urquhart Castle, or walk through the historic Eilean Donan Castle is something special you can only appreciate once you are in The Highlands. To gaze upon Ben Nevis – Britain’s highest mountain, and hike along its Glen is something straight out of Braveheart. Literally. If you prefer to trek in remote locations, I highly recommend you consider the Isle of Skye. A remote and beautiful landscape that beckons you to make your own path amongst the jagged Cuillins Mountain ridge ( (Scottish Gaelic: An Cuilthionn).
The pastel colored homes in the village of Portree (had a great cup of hot chocolate in that place! – Just sayin’). We had another great cup of hot chocolate at The Scots Kitchen in Fort Augustus – a small village at the southern end of Loch Ness on the Caledonian Canal. What can I say… we love hot chocolate, and let’s be honest… it was C-O-L-D in Scotland. Heck, it was November! There’s about a 97.345% chance I probably was complaining about the cold weather (at the time). Oh, how I would welcome that cold air right now during our Texas heatwave of 60+ days over 100 F. This really is madness. Bring on the Fall!
Other than the scotch story at Bunchrew House, one of my fondest memories of Scotland was watching daylight diminish at 2:30pm on The Isle of Skye, while gazing upon the glorious mirror image of The Old Man of Storr. Legend says that long ago giants lived on Skye and when the Old Man died he was covered up by the earth with only his thumb left sticking out. Makes you wonder if 800 years ago, tartan kilted clansmen had the same vision. Beautiful landscape. Everlasting memories.
Scotland – The Highlands and Isle of Skye is the quintessential Bed & Breakfast destination. Filled with unbelievable history, natural beauty, fascinating people, great beverages, and fine cuisine. What more could you ask for? I’m smiling right now, just thinking about our trip in 2004. If you’re interested in planning a trip to The Highlands, I highly recommend you get you in touch with our Scottish tour guide (and friend), Nicola Fraser at Highland Journeys. I promise you, Nicola will create an experience you will never forget. Bottomline… she knows her Scottish history, and is an absolute pleasure and joy to be around.
That’s what travel is all about. Taking that plunge. Exploring the unknown. Learning a new culture. Making new friends. Sharing stories. Imagining the next trip. Get out there! Even if your camera sucks – like mine did back in 2004 when I took these pictures in Scotland – Who cares! I captured the moment and now I’m able to share them (almost 7yrs later). Join the conversation!
TRAVEL | EXPLORE | DREAM | DISCOVER