around Scotland without a plan

I arrived in Glasgow a week ago and asked my sisters the question friends had been asking me. Why are we in Scotland? I was a late addition to the trip and had no idea why anyone would want to spend a week in Scotland. Turns out the Outlander series had piqued interest in Scotland so Becca and Maiya booked accommodations, talked Julie into the trip and texted me until they caught me at the right moment – over cocktails on a ski trip when both boys were behaving beautifully. Ariel, being my encouraging and supportive husband (as usual), asked me why I was even considering not going. So the plan was formed for our sisters getaway.

Our first three days were spent in Edinburgh, our base a small modern flat on a quiet cobblestone street in Stockbridge. Quiet, except early mornings when the workers doing the historical renovation across the street arrived and started up the power tools. No matter. Early mornings are meant for exercise, right? Julie (impressively over-packed) brought three sets of workout clothes. My suitcase fit one plus my TRX straps, a tennis ball and The Stick. (The two bits of research I did for this trip involved booking a dinner reservation and searching for playgrounds near our flat where I could hang the TRX.)

The walk to Inverleith Park was peaceful in the early morning and there were no kids to scare away from the swings as I set us up. We alternated using the TRX and attempting to find appropriate playground replacements for each exercise. We were able to take single handles and stabilize each other for a few of the one arm and single leg exercises. Coordinating our timing exactly and not knocking each other off balance was a challenge but when you’ve been working out with someone for so many years, you find a rhythm easily. After TRX we took to the field and did a run-walk until I decided I was bored and my knee had had enough pounding. We wandered toward the cute MILK coffee kiosk where we received both tips on what to see in Edinburgh and the tastiest flat white coffee of the trip.

 

The following days were filled with walking the city, exploring Edinburgh castle and climbing Arthur’s Seat. I video-chatted with my boys from the castle and Aviv asked if the King and Queen were still there.

We had no plans other than a single dinner reservation at Timberyard, where we indulged in six-course veggie and fish tasting menus. A couple of us began with perfectly crafted cocktails followed by wine pairings. It was a delicious and entertaining meal for all. Especially after I walked mistakenly into the men’s bathroom and came back to share my story. Julie wasn’t quite under the table laughing.

Each morning in Edinburgh we picked up pastries, cheese and eggs for breakfast. Two of three evenings we ate Indian food at Dishoom. I’ve never tasted Indian food like it before. I didn’t expect this trip to be memorable for food but Edinburgh most certainly was.

On the final morning Julie and I wandered along the water of Leith. I was excited to find a dirt path near the river for our run-walk. We alternated minutes of each until we reached Inverleith Park and my favorite coffee kiosk again.

These run-walks can be frustrating and barely feel like exercise but I’m taking baby steps toward a healthy knee and am not about to slow recovery just to sweat more. Fortunately, for a few days I had a sister to keep me company!

Becca bravely offered to be the wrong-side-of-the-road driver for our journey north. She also found us a challenging hike along the way. The same day as our river run we climbed Ben A’an. I found the hike to be enjoyable, though mostly treeless and the lighting quite flat. The view of the surrounding lakes from the top peak made the climb worthwhile and my knee ached only minimally on the steep walk down. I’d been very consistent with stretching and roll-outs throughout the trip so this helped.

We eventually arrived in Ballachulish and found the Craiglinnhe House, where its charming proprietor, Lawrence, greeted us as if we were old friends. We took a post-dinner sunset walk near the lake then settled into the lounge with whiskeys in hand.

The next morning, over a tasty breakfast, Lawrence helped us plan a day to the Isle of Mull and Iona. With five ferry crossings it would’ve been a dream day for my boys. We spent a good portion of the day on scenic single lane roads, at one point cruising behind a pack of cyclists who all braked suddenly as a sheep sprinted across the road. There were frequent pullouts to allow cars coming from the opposite direction to pass. Becca was soon expertly pulling to the side and swerving around other cars, politely waving a hand every single time. The constant waving was a source of entertainment to us all, as we diagnosed each passing driver’s personality and mood through his or her wave. The few that didn’t wave we labeled either stressed out tourist drivers or locals totally fed up with the whole tourist traffic situation.

We eventually floated into Iona’s deep blue waters and saw the white sand beach Lawrence had spoken of. We hadn’t seen or imagined we’d find anything like it in Scotland. The island is a special, spiritual place. I felt this strongly as I stepped inside the grass-covered stone remains of Iona’s nunnery. The convent was founded in 1200 and for 400 years the area was known as “hillside of the nuns”.

Yesterday was our final day in the Highlands and once we eventually left the house we made our way to another trailhead. We managed to walk completely the wrong direction and miss a turn-off but when there aren’t any firm plans, this isn’t really a problem. We did eventually find the waterfall we were looking for and the second loop of the hike. Each portion of our hike allowed us different scenery, from the refreshing cold waterfall, to the moss-covered trees (how we assumed Scotland would look), to an ancient military road with mountains in the distance, to completely cleared logging spaces.

After a (surprisingly delicious) vegan lunch in a nearby town we drove out to the Harry Potter Viaduct, actually know as the Glenfinnan Viaduct. In 1745 the Jacobite rising took place here and since then it has appeared in four Harry Potter movies.

Last night Lawrence made us a reservation at a waterfront seafood restaurant. My fish and vegetables (yay for vegetables!) were perfectly prepared and I tasted sticky toffee pudding for the first time. Now I need to figure out how to make it. My view in one direction was the sunset over the mountains. In the other, an older gentleman wearing a kilt, sitting with his legs wide open. Nothing obscene, but still completely unnecessary.

We finished the evening with more whiskey, drunk in the company of our new German and Scottish friends, also guests at the Craiglinnhe House. Lawrence popped in to say goodbye, tell us the history of the house and mention that mine and Julie’s room possibly has a friendly resident ghost. Luckily he didn’t mention this until after we’d slept in the room a couple of nights, or Julie might have slept in the car.

That wraps up our amazing journey, though I can’t possibly leave out today’s true “training on the go”.

This morning we arrived at the airport three hours early (this has never happened to me before, nor will it ever again) so I made the most of it. I figured, since I’ve worked up the nerve to do my squats and lunges on a pool deck in my swimsuit (chiropractor’s orders) I could probably survive a couple sets in an airport. I did several and decided to film it just as my flight was called for boarding. I began a quick set then found the whole thing too entertaining and had to quit. Laughing makes balance difficult!

 

As I board my flight back to the states, I’m realizing how having a full week of unplanned time with my sisters in a country I now love was truly a once in a lifetime experience.

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