Bagpipes, Thistles, and a Wee Dram, Part Three

For the final leg of our adventure, we headed south to the coastal village of Oban and finished with a few days in Edinburgh. Oban (which means “The Little Bay” in Scottish Gaelic) offers miles of gorgeous shoreline to explore and a foodie’s choice of seafood shacks for delicious meals.

After checking into our B&B, we walked up the hill to McCaig’s Tower. The tower, commissioned and designed by John McCaig in 1897, looks like a Colosseum on the hill overlooking Oban Harbor. The tower was never finished. At the time of McCaig’s death in 1902, only the outer walls were complete. However, the tower remains a popular site where visitors can walk within the structure and enjoy the public garden and stunning views of the bay.

From McCaig’s Tower

For dinner that evening, we enjoyed one of the famous seafood shacks on the docks. Here, travelers can enjoy fresh seafood, often taken right from the fishing boats and cooked to order. We enjoyed a giant basket of fresh mussels, sautéed in garlic, onions, and butter. Meals were enjoyed on picnic tables on the docks, where ships constantly come and go in the busy harbor (and travelers can take the public ferry to the outer islands).

We also toured Oban Distillery, still located in the heart of the city where founded in 1794. In addition to a whisky tasting, the tour includes a whisky glass to take home. Of the three distilleries we toured, I think this was Chad’s favorite!

After a few days in Oban, we headed to our final destination, Edinburgh. First, we drove a few miles south of the city to tour Rosslyn Chapel. Built in the 15th century, the unique chapel, covered with ornate stone carvings, took four decades to complete. The many intricate carvings and symbolism served as inspiration for Dan Brown’s “The Davinci Code.” Visitors can attend Mass, hear presentations, and even descend into the oldest part of the chapel, the crypt.

Our final two days were spent exploring Old Town in Edinburgh. Our hotel was a few blocks from Greyfriar’s Kirkyard. This site was made popular by J.K. Rowling, as she spent much time here writing. In fact, some of the names on the gravestones served as inspiration for characters in the Harry Potter Series.

Greyfriar’s Kirk

Creepy Stone “Non Omnis Moriar” (Not all of me will die)-Perhaps this is where J.K. Rowling came up with the idea of horcruxes.

Edinburgh also offers a variety of Ghost Tours, including several in Greyfriar’s Kirkyard. Instead, we took the Edinburgh Haunted Underground Tour (Mercat Tours), exploring the Blair Street Underground Vaults. While quite an unsettling experience, we enjoyed all the history in the vaults beneath South Bridge: A tavern, wine cellar, body snatching, smuggling, and housing for Edinburgh’s poorest.

Just down the block is the Greyfriar’s Bobby statue and pub.

Across the street is the National Museum of Scotland. A popular (and free) museum in the UK, visitors would require days to see all the displays and reach the top, where tourists have the opportunity walk out on the roof and see a unique view of Edinburgh!

Dolly, the sheep

The Lewis Chessmen (Did you hear a family in Edinburgh recently discovered one of the missing Lewis chess pieces in a drawer at home?)

As with so many trips, we ran out of time to see everything on our list, the perfect excuse to visit this lovely country at a later date.

Thanks for reading!

Bagpipes, Thistles, and a Wee Dram, Part One

Bagpipes, Thistles and a Wee Dram, Part Two

Farmers’ Market Season has begun for Cairn Hill Farms! Below is my Summer Newsletter, including a coupon. Can’t make it to the market? Use my On-line store. Interested in a custom product? Please message me!

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Bagpipes, Thistles, and a Wee Dram, Part Two

After our adventures in Stirling and Inverness, we headed to the Isle of Skye for a few days. The drive south took us through Loch Ness. Driving Road A82 south along the Loch reminded me of the Pacific North West with the many moss covered trees, stones, thick woods, and rocky shoreline.

The Isle of Skye is among the largest of the main islands in the Inner Hebrides. To access the island, travelers must drive to Kyle of Lochalsh and cross Skye Bridge (or use a car ferry). The winding roads through Skye offer beautiful views, scenic pull offs, and frequent locations to stop and “wet your whistle.” I was surprised to see so many campers and campgrounds. Skye offers the ideal locale for camping and hiking.

Speaking of hiking, we had the opportunity to visit The Fairy Pools, a picturesque series of falls in Glen Brittle. Hikers must traverse rocks across streams and climb a rocky, moderate incline to reach the top. The views are worth the effort!! Hikers will also find many areas to stop, take photos, and wander the water carved rocks.

We also visited the city of Portree, the capital of Skye and its largest town. We enjoyed browsing the many shops and wandering the quaint streets, including lovely paths along the waterfront.

Just a few miles out of town, we stayed in an 1800s Crofter’s House. This cozy cottage provided an ideal place for the two of us to relax, cook some seafood, and explore the island.

Sheep traffic jam on the road in front of our house…

Exploring the beach near the cottage…

Finally, I had the opportunity to perform at a local pub! The folks at Seuma’s Bar in Sligachan were a pleasure to work with, special thanks to Afreka. The crowd was attentive and lively, and we were delighted to visit with a few of the locals afterward and enjoyed a bowl of Cullen Skink (a tasty cream based fish chowder, served with crusty bread).

I prepared an hour of American folk music mixed with bits of history: Sharing stories from my home state of Michigan and singing a tune about “The Mighty Mac,” telling of the lively times in Colorado and Kentucky mining towns (and the story of Great-Grandpa Stewart in Leadville, CO), and including a few Scottish tunes in honor of our hosts.

Come back next month to hear about our final leg of the journey in Oban and Edinburgh! Thanks for reading!

Bagpipes, Thistles, and a Wee Dram, Part One

Chad and I recently returned from a grand Scottish adventure! The Scottish countryside was some of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen. We also met interesting people and enjoyed delicious meals.

Our first stop was Stirling. After being up most of the night, we rested during the afternoon at our B&B but enjoyed a walk in the evening and explored the city. The Old Tram House was a short drive from The Wallace Monument. Unfortunately, the Monument was closed for renovation, but we were able to hike up to the immense building and explore the grounds.

We also found a unique bit of Scotland, The Devil’s Pulpit. The name refers to a particular stone that usually remains uncovered as the stream runs through Finnich Gorge. The name may also refer to the eerily red tinted water (the effects of the red sandstone).

To explore the gorge, travelers must descend steep, slippery steps (with no hand rail). Chad braved the mossy, overgrown descent and was rewarded by spectacular views. I, on the other hand, have enough trouble balancing on flat, dry land and opted to take pictures from above.

We also stopped in Stirling’s oldest pub, the Settle Inn, founded in 1733. We cozied up by the fire for a pint of Guinness and were surprised when the bartender sent us to the back room, which was a cave carved into the hill!

Later, we headed north to Inverness, the Capital of The Highlands. Ever since we started saving for this trip seven years ago, one of my top destinations was Culloden Battlefield (located a few miles from Inverness). Growing up in a family of history majors (and being of Scottish descent), I heard many stories of the Jacobite uprising and their defeat (and end of the Scottish Clan System) in 1746 on Culloden Moor.

This history major also learned a thing our two when touring Culloden! Many assume the battle was only Scottish Highlanders vs. the British. However, the Battle at Culloden was actually a Civil War with soldiers from Scotland, Ireland, Wales, France, and even English, fighting for freedom from England.

The day we visited was the one time the Scottish rain got the better of us. We spent most of our time touring the extensive visitor’s center and took a brief excursion on the battlefield.

We found the line of stones honoring the individual clans, headstones marking mass graves of Jacobite soldiers.

The Memorial Cairn (1881)

Leanach Cottage where injured Jacobite soldiers took refuge after the battle (and were later executed)

After warming up, drying off, and enjoying a wee dram at Leanach Farms, a working sheep farm and B&B, I gave a welcome home concert for the father of our host (He had just come home after a lengthy stay in the hospital).

Finally, we explored Clava Cairn, a short distance from the B&B. Clava Cairn is a series of Bronze Age stone circles with entrances pointing toward the south west. I was amazed how peaceful the stones were! We spent quite some time slowly wandering the grounds. The location would be ideal to meditate, write, or spend time in deep thought.

Next month, please come back and read about our time on the Isle of Skye.

Thanks for reading!

A Grand Weekend

Last month, I tagged along with Chad while he attended a work conference on Mackinac Island. This lovely historic landmark encourages visitors to slow down and relax. Visitors travel the island with bikes, horses, or on foot, no cars allowed. Horse drawn taxis wait near the ferry to slowly take travelers to their destination.

We had the opportunity to stay at the Grand Hotel. While my husband would rather enjoy a bonfire by a hunting shack, he was so moved by the bright florals and broad stripes in this Victorian Hotel that upon entering our room, he said, “It looks like a clown threw up in here!” 🙂

I have fond memories staying at the Grand Hotel on one special occasion as a child. My parents attended a work conference the same weekend as my sister’s birthday. She was surprised with birthday cake in the Grand dining room, and Gordon MacRae sang Happy Birthday to her. From that moment on, I wanted to celebrate a birthday in the same way!! For years, as a child, I believed my parents’ white lie that we couldn’t go to Mackinac in May because the Straits were still frozen over. In reality, my parents always worked the weekend of my birthday as it was Hillsdale College’s Commencement.

My favorite activity on the island is renting a bike and enjoying the 8.2 mile trip round. Other pleasant activities include browsing the many shops on Main Street, sampling the island’s famous fudge, and watching the sunset on the world’s largest porch at the Grand Hotel.

Planked Whitefish at The Village Inn (just off the Main Street through town)

Enjoying the beautiful views from The Yacht Club

An evening at the Pink Pony

No trip to Mackinac is complete without a visit to the local fishery just outside Mackinac City to bring home whitefish.

Thanks for reading!

Saying Goodbye…

Here we are on the last day of April, and this month’s post remains incomplete. I planned to share pictures of our baby goat. However, I either recorded the dates incorrectly in my calendar, or that goat ain’t pregnant! I can always count on humorous chaos from the goats. It was appreciated this weekend.

Once or twice per year, I like to include an earlier, memorable post. After the loss of someone special over the weekend, I knew which post to share! Reflecting over the past few days, I encourage you to take time to connect with loved ones. Have time for a visit? Stop by! Too far to travel? Send a note or call! I’m grateful that I had the opportunity to spend a long weekend with Donna last summer, and while difficult this past weekend, I’m grateful that her son held the phone to her ear, so I could say a few last words. Has someone special been on your mind? Today is the perfect day to get in touch!

RIP, Donna

Seeing America: The Long Weekend Road Trip

Originally published, July 6, 2017

By Maggie Murphy

The summer remains a busy time around here with gardening, the farmers’ market, summer classes at the college, and the upcoming county fair. However, Chad and I recently found time to enjoy a long weekend in Tennessee. The primary reason for the trip was to visit an old friend, Donna. Growing up, the demands of my parents’ work kept them from home for months each year. Donna worked for my parents for over 25 years. She was there to greet me most mornings, often provided rides to Fowler’s farm where I boarded Goldy, was there for many overnights when Mom and Dad were fundraising for the college, and was always a phone call away for any of us kids.

Donna commanded respect. She was one of the few people who would tell Dad if she disapproved of his actions regarding the kids, and he would even seek her advice during our difficult teen years. Donna also never hesitated to put us kids or our friends in our place. When she used my first and middle name, I was in trouble!

We had time for several visits with her and dined at her son’s restaurant in Knoxville. We even arrived in time to watch the prep work for the smoker. Chad particularly enjoyed trading poultry smoking tips with Donna’s son, Randy. On a later visit, there was time for an impromptu concert for Donna and the other residents at the senior living center (Strumsticks are perfect for road trips!).

We stayed in a lovely one bedroom cabin, just a stone’s throw from Marble Springs, the home of Tennessee’s first Governor, John Sevier. We found time to hike the grounds and view the log cabins on the property. Our cabin also had a covered front porch with rocking chairs, perfect for sipping morning coffee, reading, and even playing music.

On our last day, we headed south to the Great Smoky Mountains and hiked Middle Prong trail and drove Rich Mountain seasonal road near Cade’s Cove. The long weekend went so quickly! I look forward to returning someday for more hiking, fishing, swimming, good eats, and perhaps even some white water rafting.

(The Sinks-A swimming hole near Townsend)

Thanks for reading!

(Traveling to Knoxville? Check out Mario’s Pizza and Grill-10943 Kingston Pike)

Move over Fondue: Introducing the Raclette Grill

We finally had the opportunity to try out a new foodie toy: The Raclette Grill. Historically, the Raclette referred to a block of hard cheese shepherds packed for long treks with their flocks. At the nightly camp fire, they would heat one side of the block and scrape softened cheese on their bread.

While this is one tasty aspect of the modern Raclette, many more food choices are available. This is similar to fondue, but rather than using pots of heated oil, people gather round a grill. Adding a light coating of oil and a dash of salt on the grill surface, diners enjoy a healthier option, avoiding the vast quantities of oil required for fondue. The Raclette also offers a broiler section with individual pans, so diners can utilize two cooking areas at the same time.

The broiler section is best for melting cheese, poured over potatoes or baguette slices. We also broiled pear slices with some dark chocolate and later topped with whipped cream.

Other items we enjoyed included steak, shrimp, oysters, mushrooms, zucchini, and summer squash. Items can be grilled individually or on skewers. There were even enough choices to keep our resident vegan busy!

Finally, Raclette Grills are affordable, ranging in price from $50-250 (Based on size and extra features, such as a marble cooking top). I highly recommend gathering around the table with friends or family and trying this wonderful tradition!

Thanks for reading!

Introducing Kilkenny Corkers

Recently, I performed at a new venue, the house concert!

According to Wikipedia, “A house concert or home concert is a musical concert or performance art that is presented in someone’s home or apartment, or a nearby small private space such as a barn…or back yard.”

Such performances provide a more meaningful experience, as the music fills the room, the artist has the opportunity to share more stories and later visit with the audience (Where else could I share how Great-Grandpa and his graduating class were kicked out of medical school?). Ideal for acoustic music, the atmosphere is casual with each guest usually bringing something to share.

Colleen, Paula, and I are proud to present, Kilkenny Corkers. We are a Celtic music group, performing Irish and Scottish folk music. Our music includes a mix of slow ballads, history, a few family stories, and those fun, rowdy pub tunes. An evening with Kilkenny Corkers goes well with a few pints and a few friends.

While we are “moms with day jobs,” we do still have limited availability for the St. Patrick’s Day season. Need Celtic music for your venue? Please share your request on the Contact Information tab.

Thanks for reading!