I’ve been in Scotland for the first time this past week. It’s late March , mostly overcast, highs in the upper 40’s and low 50’s. So, the weather has not been great but it hasn’t been a major deterrent either. When I set up this trip I planned to look for my roots in the United Kingdom and Ireland. Until about a week before I left, I didn’t realize that I had ancestors who came from Scotland. I was gratified to find my 10th great grandmother, Isobel Glossop Gillies, was born in Bendochy, Scotland in 1554. This traces back through my paternal grandmother. So, on a very tenuous, long thin string, I trace parts of me back to this beguiling place.
My 6 observations about Scotland:
Left side. This is my first experience with cars on the left side of the road. It’s been quite disconcerting. I feel like I’m in a fun house of mirrors most of the time and end up triple checking both ways endlessly before crossing a road, and for the most part, have learned to follow a local like a lost puppy. It doesn’t help that so many cars are hybrid or electric so, I just can’t depend on hearing as a warning. There were several times where I saw children pop into the front right-hand side of a car and thought, “What the hell? Is that 10-year-old driving?” If I realize anything, there’s no way I’m renting a car while I’m here.
Museums are free (for the most part). I’ve been able to see several museums in Glasgow (where I’m staying) and I’ve been really pleasantly surprised that they have all been free including the Botanical Gardens, Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum and the ancient Glasgow Cathedral. They all accept contributions and each one had a way to do so by credit card so it wasn’t critical to have cash. The only exception was the Edinburgh Castle, which as a main tourist attraction and certainly the most popular place I went, makes sense if only to control the crowds.
Hou’s it guan? I was seated at a restaurant on the west end of Glasgow and the server came to my table and said “Hou’s it guan?”. I immediately said just fine. Then I realized she wanted me to give my order and she really didn’t care much about my state of being. I had to laugh at myself because I had watched a YouTube video about Scottish expressions and I recall that the woman said that this is just saying hello and you don’t respond with how you are actually doing. It’s funny when it actually happens to you and “Hou’s it guan” is really just a greeting and not a question.
Hairy Coos. I was so happy I planned a trip to the highlands and was able to see the Highland Cows. They are everywhere in the gift shops, stuffy cows with big horns and a big shaggy coat. We were able to see these gentle giants, as well has thousands of sheep, on the tour, but the Hairy Coos in real life grazing in a stone fenced field was terrific.
Dogs. I was pretty surprised that dogs are allowed on the subway, busses and a lot of restaurants. They are truly companions here. The breeds are quite different than what I am used to seeing in the US. Tons of Scottish Deerhounds, Shelties, Gordon Setters and Scottish Terriers. I haven’t seen any pit bulls or Rottweilers in the week I have been here.
Weather. My weather app might say it will just be cloudy all day but inevitably it will be raining when I walk out the door. My first day exploring it was overcast, then sprinkles, then sunny and then rain followed by a rainbow. If you don’t like the weather, just wait and it will change. I would take an umbrella but rarely bothered to get it out because then I would have to drag a wet umbrella around. I’ve slowly adapted to take whatever comes.
I have to say that the ancient architecture is amazing, the history incredibly rich and deep and the highlands and its stark austere mountains by pristine lakes, is not to be missed. I can’t wait to come back again.