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!

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!

Donald, Where’s Your Troosers?

Lately, I have missed my music! While lacking time to do concerts, I still enjoy playing my Strumstick at the Farmer’s Market, around a campfire, or the occasional small presentations that come up. Last weekend, Chad and I hosted a small party in Hillsdale, honoring Mom and Dad. Towards the end of the evening, we sang songs by lantern light, courtesy of Dr. Jordan. 

A “Twitter friend” shared a song recently that I was unable to get out of my head, so it wasn’t long before I searched for the chords and began practicing. Songs like this provide a strong connection to the Highland Scots, who have always held a dear place in my heart. The Scottish people are some of the most stubborn, difficult, hard working, and tough individuals I have ever met. In fact, during wartime, the kilted Highland brigades were known as “The Ladies from Hell.” If you ever get the chance, read “Born Fighting” by James Webb, and you will see how unique the Scottish (and Irish) are through their love of “the good fight” and how that toughness was a large part of the shaping of America.

So here’s my rendition of “Donald, Where’s your Troosers.”

Thanks for reading and listening!  Happy Fall!

For Auld Lang Syne, My Dear

family pic

 

Ever since I could remember, our family had a tradition. We would join hands at midnight on New Year’s Eve and slowly walk in a circle and sing, “Auld Lang Syne.” The tradition can be traced as far back as my Great Grandpa Stewart, born in Nova Scotia, a proud descendent of those re-located through the Highland Clearances.

Auld Lang Syne was a poem written by Robert Burns. Upon further research, I learned there are several versions of the tune, including Burns’ original “Scots verse” and an English translation. My family, apparently, was singing a mixture of the two.

I couldn’t resist pulling out my Strumstick and “giving things a go.” So here’s my rendition of this song, honoring my Scottish history. May your endeavors bring you bounty, may your children bring you joy, and may your lives bring you laughter and peace.

Here’s to an excellent 2015!