sometimes ignorance is bliss. so it was that i went to scotland with very few stereotypes in my head and, from my own observations and experiences, came to the very same conclusions of which stereotypes are made.
my only thoughts of scotland were beautiful landscapes, bagpipes, whisky (spelled the scottish way) and haggis. so yes, scotland is beautiful. the highlands are rather like the pocono “mountains” here in pa, except with lots of sheep.
each mountain is referred to as a munro – after sir hugh munro who wrote up the first list of munros. the scottish are outdoorsy people and hiking is quite the pastime and competitive hiking or “bagging munros”, complete with web sites and maps where hikers can tic off their conquests, is a thing.
we hiked only a short time, but the trails were filled with hikers of all ages with their dogs, which made the hike all that much better.
as for bagpipes and haggis…
well, yes it is not unusual to see and hear bagpipers in scotland and for that matter it is not all that unusual to see men dressed in kilts. it was a little unsettling for us to hear and see bagpipers only because here in the eastern us bagpipes are associated with funerals of either police or fire personnel.
as for haggis, i know it gets a bad rap and i think the scots are in on the joke of how horrible haggis is. okay, so it’s made with some rather unsavory parts of a lamb, which i’d rather not remember especially because i’m not even a fan of the so-called good parts of lamb. but the haggis i had was delicious. think of the very best brown gravy you’ve eaten and add some al dente steel cut oats and some finely chopped onion, carrot and celery and you’ve got haggis. better still, add a poached egg on top and you’ve got some mighty good eats.
but here’s the revelatory part of scotland for me: the scots are an angry people. don’t take my word for it, even a scottish psychiatrist says so.
not to say that our interactions while in scotland were unpleasant – far from it – just that the history of scotland is tied up with anger and slight, battles, revenge, conflict and just a wee bit of drinking. okay, maybe a lot of drinking.
a lot of scottish history is about scottish royal women marrying into other nations, then escaping and returning to scotland to reclaim their rightful throne only to be removed by a male relative (or someone), then marrying an english king but being beheaded by that king then armies of angry scots righting for scottish freedom and more fighting and a whole lot of weapons and… i was kind of exhausted listening to it all.
alongside the scottish crown jewels in edinburgh is the stone of destiny, sometimes referred to as the coronation stone.
this is the stone upon which scottish kings sat to be crowned. and as such, it was the stone that was swiped by the english in some or other conflict with the scots and taken back to england. not surprisingly, it was taken back to scotland by the scots amid bloodshed. then it was swiped again and taken back to england. then there was peace between the two nations and as a kind of sign of unity the stone is placed beneath the throne when a new monarch is crowned in england.
but the last time it was used for the current queen elizabeth, the stone was not promptly returned and the scots will tell you their annoyance about that. so when the new king of england is crowned, you now know that under the ornate throne will be a big, scottish rock, which is surely more comfortable for the royal tush. the scots will likely start demanding the return of the stone soon after the coronation and add each day of delay to their list of grievances with the english.
the scots are a proud people. so proud that they take credit for a lot of inventions and achievement in the entire world, though they bear no blame for any ne’er do wells. for instance, they claim neil armstrong, first man on the moon, but not lance armstrong, cheating liar of a cyclist. they adore sean connery and consider him the only james bond worth remembering.
they brag and laugh that average white band were scots but don’t ask about the bay city rollers.
if you ever saw that movie my big fat greek wedding, then you remember how the greek father was so proud of his heritage that he found a six-degrees-of-separation way to lay claim to everything good in the world. so it is with the scots.
yet i’ll be you’ve never even heard of the kelpies, giant metal horse head sculptures that are a monument to horse powered heritage across scotland. they are magnificent! and yet they didn’t even warrant a stop on our tour and only a few words from our quintessentially scottish tour guide.
with great honor they spoke of both their anger at losing the recent vote for independence and how it was a democratic vote and not a violent clash (although i got the impression that some might have wanted another war of independence).
probably the most intense event of the lead up to the vote was the building of a cairn along the scottish/english border.
this kind of sums up the personality of the scots.
don’t get me wrong, i loved scotland and the scots and i would go back in a heartbeat. but i’m afraid if i stay there too long i’m likely to take up the anger/resentment that lurks just beneath the surface of a sober scot and is easily released with a bit of whisky. and i do like a good whisky.