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Three Village Historian

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The stark beauty of Glen Coe complete with a piper. Photo from Beverly Tyler

By Beverly C. Tyler

Scotland is a wonderful, wild and surprising place to visit.

A part of the United Kingdom, Scotland demonstrates an independent spirit, single malt whisky and haggis, a traditional food that defies categorization. Scotland has many wonderful heroes, and movies have been made about some of them.

Scotland also raised poets, writers and scientists as well as a number of kings, queens, lords and ladies, some of whom literally lost their heads. Growing up, I was thrilled by the adventures of Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott. Abbotsford, his home and gardens are an hour south of Edinburgh.

My wife, Barbara, and I have wanted to visit Scotland for a number of years, and this June we spent a week exploring some of the Scottish Highlands and the Trossachs National Park around Loch Lomond and Loch Katrine.

We drove a rental car from Manchester Airport to Edinburgh, where we spent the first three nights. We started the first day in Edinburgh by taking a one-day, 12-hour small-group bus tour to Glen Coe, Loch Ness and the Scottish Highlands.

It was a wonderful introduction to Scotland and we had a very knowledgeable and good-natured driver and guide.

We stopped at Glen Coe, where we took in the stark beauty and listened to a Scot playing the bagpipes. There, a most tragic and moving story was played out in 1692, when 38 men of the Clan MacDonald were massacred by the Campbells who had accepted their hospitality, on the grounds that the MacDonalds had not been prompt in pledging allegiance to the new monarchs, William and Mary. Another 40 women and children died of exposure after their homes were burned.

At Fort Augustus, we watched boats going through the three locks between Loch Ness and the canal that took them to the next lock. Loch Ness, reputed home of the mythical monster, and Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in the British Isles, are both scenes of landscape beauty. The weather adds to the overall effect.

In contrast, the next day, we toured The Royal Yacht Britannia, which was a favorite of Queen Elizabeth II. It is now permanently berthed in Edinburgh and the self-guided audio tour was the best organized. In the tea and lunchroom, we were treated like royalty and the story of the ship, the royals who lived on it and the men and women who worked on it was clear, informative and enlightening.

We walked the Royal Mile in Edinburgh from the castle to the Palace of Holyroodhouse. We especially enjoyed The Scotch Whisky Experience tour and learned a lot about single malt scotch.

We also enjoyed the gigantic Museum of Childhood and the John Knox House. We learned a lot about Knox, his life and his turbulent relationship with Mary, Queen of Scots. We also toured St. Giles’ Cathedral where Knox preached reform leading to the abdication of Mary.

We learned about regional differences in scotch whisky as well as a great deal about the relationships of the people of Scotland to each other and to the English. It is a turbulent history of a strong, self-reliant people.

The next three days we headed north and west into the area of the Trossachs National Park. This is one of the most beautiful areas of Scotland. We drove first to the tiny village of Balquhidder and along its narrow roads, often sharing them with bike riders. We then drove farther north to Killin, which is known for the falls that flow through the town and at one time provided milling power. Here and throughout Scotland and England are walking trails that go along lochs (lakes in England) and through fields, farms and villages. It was a delight for the eye and refreshing beauty for the soul. To be continued.

Beverly Tyler is the Three Village Historical Society historian.