Scotland Adventure 2019: Day Two


‘Enjoy the journey of life and not just the endgame.’ Benedict Cumberbatch

After a wonderful night full of new experiences and a day with only about two hours of sleep, I had slept soundly in anticipation for the next full day of adventures we were about to embark.  Yet even on vacation I woke up at my usual early morning start, but well rested. My day was about to begin, however before I could do anything I had to have something I was anticipating from the moment I landed in Scotland; my first traditional Scottish breakfast of the trip.  

A traditional Scottish breakfast

Last year I was pleasantly surprised when I had my first traditional Scottish breakfast.  I have been looking forward to the breakfasts as much as the scenery itself.  Just to wet your whistle; a traditional Scottish breakfast included a fried egg, Scottish bacon (similar to pea meal bacon, only better), sausage, a tattie scone/potato scone (potato pancake), a fried tomato, haggis and black pudding. Black pudding, if you are not aware if it, it is a type of blood sausage that is common to Scotland, Great Britain, Ireland and many parts of Europe. It is made of pork or beef blood and oatmeal and then fried. I grew up eating this in Malta and my mom would make it occasionally. With every bite the memories of last years trip and moments from my childhood came rushing back to me.  I know I was on vacation, but for some reason at that moment all I could feel was, “I’m home.” 

It might sound and looks like a rather large breakfast but what we had planned for the rest of the day, it was just enough to fuel my next little adventure. We would be leaving Glasgow and heading north to the Isle of Skye.  It would be a long journey of about 5 hours but we knew that the scenery would be breath taking.  

I was the second driver on our trip and I had no problem giving the other driver a rest on our long journey.  He drove out of Glasgow and once out of the city we fuelled up and I began a wonderful drive north to Skye.  

Our Ride

I have driven many places in Canada, the United States, Malta and Scotland was as wondrous and majestic a place as any.  I must admit I do enjoy driving and for me the destination has never been the most enjoyable part of the trip, but the journey.  Today was no exception.  I was grateful for the GPS and after about five minutes I felt comfortable driving, ever on the left side.  I took my job as driver seriously and focused on the road, but I stole a few glances at the wonderful scenery that Scotland had to offer.  We had to stop at a few parking areas on the way north to stretch our legs but also to take in Scotland herself.  The only thing I had to truly focus on was the fact that it had snowed the day before and at times it was snowing as we drove through the higher elevations.  Wouldn’t you guess, no matter where I go, snow seems to follow this Canadian.   

About half way to Skye we stopped at Fort William for some lunch yet we found out that the bridge to Skye was closed do to high winds.  We thought, crap we will have to take a detour to make the ferry. But after calling the ferry company they said that there was no more room.  We weren’t sure what to do so we called our Bed & Breakfast (B&B) Breton House.They told us that they don’t close the bridge unless it was severe weather and all we had was some wind and rain. Therefore we continued our journey reassured that our way onto the Isle of Skye would be open.  

I kept driving until we came to a familiar place we visited last year, Eilean Donan Castle.  We just stopped to stretch our legs and take a few pictures, but the place was as magical and memorable as the first time I saw it. I even indulged in collecting a few rocks from the area so I can incorporate them into my miniature Christmas town and train this year, as I did last year.  

We were about 10 km away from the Skye Bridge and we were relieved to see that it was open and we were welcomed to Skye by a rainbow.  So with that warm welcome we made our way onto the Isle of Skye.  For all the snow we had earlier in the trip, Skye was a lush green everywhere you looked.  The landscape reminded me of when i drove in Nova Scotia, which was funny considering Nova Scotia is Latin for “New Scotland”.  

After an hours drive with beautiful views, the sun was beginning to set on our final leg of our journey.  We arrived at the small town of Portree on the north-eastern side of the island at around sunset.  A beautiful town but exploring it would have to wait until tomorrow.  For the moment we needed to settle in at the “Breton House” which was situated on a hill across the bay from Portree.  Right away we were welcomed in typical Scottish fashion and we knew that the long wonderful journey to Skye was over, however the fun and adventure was about to being. 

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Friday Two Cents: Scotland Inspired Christmas Creation


With the Christmas season upon us I indulged on a yearly tradition of setting up my Christmas town at school. A couple of students asked how long I have been setting up the town at the school. I told them it is the 9th year I have set it up, yet I started building the town about 10 years prior to that starting with only 5 buildings that I hand painted and with a simple train. Today it has grown to over 50 builds, all hand painted and some that I built myself.

This year I added a new building or to be specific buildings and hill.  I had built a hill with a tunnel for my castle, but this year I wanted to add something new, something that I was inspired to create when I went on my trip to Scotland.  My trip to Scotland was filled with endless wonders, from the beauty of the Highlands to the wonderful interaction with the people.  With all those experiences, the one thing that suck out for me was the rich history created or forged by the Scottish people. I am talking about the endless castles and medieval ruins everywhere you go.  From Edinburgh Castle to Eilean Donan Castle, Scotland is replete with castles dotting the landscape.  My exploration of these historical sites inspired me to create a new castle and hill for my Christmas Town. 

New Castle/Citadel

Stage 1) I began by creating the basic shape of the hill and buildings using plastic cardboard.  I wanted a hill with a tunnel and a multi-layer hill design similar to the castles I saw in Scotland.  I also created the basic shape of the main buildings for the castle.  I wanted one large structure and a couple of smaller buildings again similar to castles I saw.   

 

Stage 2) I then got plaster of Paris and coated the entire hill and buildings. It did not look pretty but I knew that I would be adding more and moulding the plaster to what I had in mind. This stage was the most time-consuming and labour intensive.  I could not simply scrap or chisel away.  I had to be careful not to press too hard or the plaster would crack.   Instead I used coarse sand paper to help smooth and shape the hill and buildings.   The buildings required two layers of plaster to get the right look but the hill took several. 

 

Stage 3) With the building shape relatively done the hill required more attention.  I did not simply want to use plaster to create a wall around the compound, therefore I created one with grey pebbles.  I used the plaster as mortar and created a multilevel wall with battlements. I also moulded and carved the sides of the hill to resemble a cliff face making the entire structure look like a citadel.

 

Stage 4) I then painted the buildings and the citadel with a base white. Once dry I began painting the buildings and citadel the way I envisioned.  If you look closely you can see that I incorporated three stones from Scotland (near Eilean Donan Castle) into the citadel final design. 

 

Once done, I brought in the new citadel into the school as part of my Christmas town set.   Everyone loved the new citadel and castle.  Thank you Scotland for the inspiration.  

 

Scotland Adventure: Day Three


We had a wonderful night and we were beginning to relax and enjoy our vacation. We went to bed a little later than normal, but still after my normal six to seven hours of sleep, I was the first of our group to wake up with the sun. I did not want to disturb my friends so I quietly got up, dressed and I decided to take a look around. What I saw as I walked outside the inn was nothing less than breathtaking.

As I stated in the previous post we arrived in the pitch black with only the car’s and the inn’s lights to illuminate the darkness. I had no idea what to expect when I walked outside. Almost immediately I was taken aback by the view. A brilliant blue sky provided a backdrop to splendid snow caped mountains that flowed effortlessly into a greenish-brown valley, as far as the eye can see. We were staying at the Cluanie Inn but as I looked around the area, I could see that this was the only building or signs of civilization for hundreds of kilometres. The inn was slightly higher than the valley floor and I simply stood there marvelling at the sheer natural beauty before me. It looked unspoiled by the presence of man, a lesson that nature has been here billions of years before us and will continue well after. I walked around the inn for what seemed like hours but in truth, 20 -30 minutes passed while I was busy taking picture after picture.

Soon my stomach reminded me that it was time for breakfast, so I went back to the room and we all made our way to experience my first Scottish breakfast. The previous day I had breakfast that was very similar to what I would get back in Canada, however this morning I got a pleasant surprise. I ordered a Scottish breakfast, which included a fried egg, Scottish bacon (similar to pea meal bacon, only better), sausage, a tattie scone/potato scone (potato pancake), a fried tomato and black pudding. I was familiar with everything on the plate except the tattie scone, yet it was delicious. However, what caught my eye was the black pudding. I have not had black pudding in what seems years. Black pudding, if you are not aware if it, is a type of blood sausage that is common to Great Britain, Ireland and many parts of Europe. It is made of pork, beef blood and oatmeal and then fried. I grew up eating this in Malta and my mom would make it occasionally. I was pleasantly surprised to have it for breakfast and it tasted like I was eating a bit of home. Its sounds like a rather large breakfast but what we had planned for the rest of the day, it was just enough to fuel my next little adventure.

At Eilean Donan Castle

Afterwards we packed up the car and made our way to our next destination, Eilean Donan Castle. If you are not aware of this historical landmark, Eilean Donan, which simply means “island of Donnán”, is a small tidal island where three sea lochs meet in the western Highlands of Scotland. It is one of the most recognized Scottish landmarks that appear in photographs, television and in film (Highlander, 1986; The World Is Not Enough, 1999; Elizabeth, The Golden Age, 2007). It is a magnificent castle with a rich history of the MacRae clan. There was even a Canadian connection to John McCrae the writer of “In Flanders’s Fields”. Many people think that he is related to the MacRae clan but he is not. Yet there are a few artefacts that are related to the poem. The Clan MacRae Roll of Honour outside has a few lines from the poem.
The majesty and picturesque castle was one of the major stops that we had to see. We spent several hours here and took quite a lot of pictures. For me, I spent the entire time observing taking photos and coming up with several ideas for many art projects I can do when I get home. The more time I spent here the more inspirational ideas came to me. They say sometimes a place speaks to you, well Eilean Donan Castle was speaking so much that I had to stop on several occasions to take it all in and not feel overwhelmed.

As amazing as Eilean Donan Castle was, we had to move on to our next destination. Along the way we took in the amazing landscapes and we stopped a few times for some photos and the occasional mountain goat. It was a rather long journey but in the end we made it to our next stop in Glencoe. There we enjoyed the accommodations and rested up for the next day’s adventure.

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