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 Passion for Philanthropy

I recently came across a memorable post on LinkedIn:

Want to be happy for a day, take a nap.

Want to be happy for a year, collect an inheritance.

Want to be happy for a lifetime, find a way to help others.

Do you enjoy giving your time to help others? While volunteering is a fantastic way to begin, have you ever thought of donating your talent? Perhaps you are an avid runner and enjoy donating time to local family fun runs or hosting a chapter of Girls on the Run. Have a talent working with animals? Perhaps you donate time at a local shelter or raise a PAWS with a cause puppy. I challenge you to do more than volunteer, combine philanthropy with your passion!

Many of you know I love my music. For the past year and a half, I have been working with a talented pair of ladies, crafting music, a mixture of Irish, Scottish, and Americana. Each member brings special talents:

Colleen-Our fearless leader, whose talents include lead and back-up vocals, guitar, cajon and percussion

Paula-Sharing her skill with lead and back-up vocals, guitar, cajon, and percussion

Maggie-Sharing lead and back-up vocals, Strumstick, viola, and tin whistle

As a result of the Celtic influence in our music, March remains a busy month. However, we found time to help a local charity dear to my heart, Kyomi’s Gift. This organization was created after the loss of my dear niece, Kyomi, at only 4 months of age. The Murphy Family wanted to give back, so Kyomi’s Gift was formed. For the past 14 years, we have raised money to help parents with sick children, so they can spend more time together.

This year, Kyomi’s Gift is hosting an afternoon of Irish fun in Hastings! There’s something for everyone: Irish trivia, Silent Auction, Irish jig competition, Corned beef and cabbage supper, Cash bar, and…

Kilkenny Corker’s in Concert!

Here are a few tunes from a recent practice:

See you on March 16!

Thanks for reading!

Can’t make it? Interested in donating to Kyomi’s Gift?

Kilkenny Corker’s on Facebook

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!

Civil War Sweethearts and a Character Witness for a Cannibal

Alferd_Packer

 

Once or twice a year, I like to share an earlier, memorable post.  This one is from my father’s unpublished memoirs regarding a bizarre family connection to America’s first convicted cannibal:

…My dad’s family roots were Irish on his father’s side and Scots-Irish and Welsh on his mother’s side. The Roche’s were Baltimore Catholics from County Cork, following the 19th Century lure to the “land of opportunity.” The next generation, my Great Grandfather Roche came to Denver as a young man, following the lure of the West. My Great Grandmother Roche was quite a character. She had been a former girlfriend of General Lew Wallace, Civil War leader, governor of the New Mexico Territory and author of Ben Hur. From all family reports, Great Grandfather Roche remained jealous of Lew Wallace for his entire married life. The colorful General Wallace was a frequent cause of controversy at the Roche dinner table.

Your colorful Great Grandmother Roche had another claim to fame as well. In the San Juan Mountains of southwestern Colorado during the rush of silver and gold strikes in the 1870s, a party of five miners and their guide, Alferd Packer, were trapped in a crushing blizzard and were not seen again that winter. The next spring, Packer walked out of the mountains, alone.

Subsequent investigation revealed that Packer had survived the winter in a cave, where he had killed and eaten the five prospectors. At the trial, the judge, in his summary to the jury, addressed Packer, “There were only seven Democrats in Huerfano County, and damn you, Alferd Packer, you ate five of them!” That summation to the jury became the basis for an appeal and second trial some years later. Packer was already a confessed murderer and cannibal, so the second trial revolved around questions of Packer’s character.

In the famous second trial, a case watched closely across the country and especially closely in Colorado where the trial occurred, his attorney’s defense was based on finding anyone who had known Packer during his life and had a positive comment to make. Great Grandmother Roche had grown up in the same Pennsylvania town as Packer and had known him as a boy. There was nearly a divorce in the family when Great Grandfather Roche discovered that his wife was to testify as a character witness for America’s only convicted cannibal. My Grandfather Roche would seldom mention these stories and when he did, it was always said with a pronounced sigh.

Today, you can see a plaque at the University of Colorado, Boulder’s cafeteria, fondly named by the student body in the 60s, “The Alferd Packer Memorial Grill.”

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!