Well, we’ve had a very busy few days in Scotland. Arrived Saturday and although exhausted hit the town. We explored Edinburgh Castle. An absolute must a place that will hold a soft spot in my heart forever, but that is a long story best left to another time. Saturday evening, we went to hear traditional Scottish music at the Ensign Ewart tavern, just a block away from Edinburgh castle. There we enjoyed a couple musicians singing and playing traditional Scottish tunes. I was pleased that I knew many of them. We were graced by a Sgt. Major from the fort in full regalia who came and played the bagpipes for us. We had a couple moments to speak with him. On our back to our hotel, we also went to Ghillie Dhu’s a more modern music scene, but interesting to hear their take on some American classics.
On Sunday, we got our rental car. Driving on the “Wrong Side” of the rode is something I’ve stressed about for months. The first 5 minutes were pretty scary, no lie; but I got the hang of it and we got out of town with no incident.
Our first stop was the Torphichen Preceptory. This is an ancient church outside of Edinburgh, which housed the Knights of St. John. It was given to the Sandiland family by Mary Queen of Scots and remains associated with them until this day. This was on my list as the Sandiland family are one of the Scottish families in my family tree. A beautiful church with wonderful acoustics. I would have loved to have a harp with me to play; however, since none was to be had I sang a verse or two and listened to the beautiful echo back from the stone walls.
From the Preceptory, we travelled a short distance to Cairnpappel, a 5000 year old burial site. From the top of the cairn we could see out past the Forth of Firth on one side and out to the Arran islands on the other. Definitely, a fantastic view across Scotland. We then ventured north above Inverness. Figured that driving thing out really quickly.
Today is Monday, and we started our day picking up a loaner harp courtesy of Cheyenne Brown in Strathpeffer. Picked up my harp from the Orchard House and home to Ardival Harps. What a lovely area, no wonder they are inspired to create beautiful instruments.
We drove South again to the town of Balquidder. Really, it is a cross roads in a remote area to the west of Loch Lomond. There I made my first video recording ever at the Balquidder church near the grave of Rob Roy. I have always loved the songs The Braes of Balquidder. The words are by Tennyson and the song is for runner to the more modern song Wild Mountain Thyme. The church was very remote and we had quite a time getting there. We only had a few moments to set up and record as we had to make a check in deadline for our lodging. For such a remote place, there were a good number of visitors who had questions. One lady was surprised that I was an American to begin with and that I was there “paying homage” to Rob Roy. Not the best set-up due to the lack of time, but at least I got to achieve that goal.
We are now on “the bonnie, bonnie banks of Loch Lomond” where we enjoyed a beautiful sunset watching the dark pink and purples in the sky reflect on the water and stain the mountains as the sun went down. Looking forward to visiting some more ancestral spots tomorrow and looking for inspiration for a few new tunes.