Catherine and I consider ourselves city girls. We feel at home in a city, we love the energy and the diversity and all the stuff there is to do. I can marvel at quiet, beautiful, open-spaced country, but it intimidates me a little.
So it says a lot that the reason Cath and I fell in love with Scotland many years ago was not because the gorgeous city of Edinburgh alone wooed us, but because we saw the Highlands.
A little background for those of you who haven’t been, the Highlands are the hilly and more mountainous bits of Scotland that start north of Glasgow and Edinburgh. Depending on how technical you want to get, the Highlands make up more than half of the land mass of Scotland, yet most of the population live in the cities. So when you are tramping around the Scottish countryside, you can go for miles and never see another soul.
Sure, the Scottish Highlands have been overly romanticized (overly Brigadooned), but I think you can forgive the marketing people who push the rolling hills, William Wallace version of Scotland. It really isn’t too off the mark. I mean you don’t see men running around in kilts, but the austere beauty is totally real.
What makes it so stunning, even to a city mouse, is partly the emptiness. There aren’t many people or trees — just stretches of dramatic hills and mountains covered in burnt colored peat and purple blushed heather.
It is “Skyfall” without a de-jawed Javier Bardem. It’s Brigadoon without the kitschy tartan costumes. And it’s most definitely this Johnny Walker ad with Robert Carlyle.
But it’s also way better in person than on the big screen. It rains a lot and there are often moody looking clouds, but the air feels so clean and untouched. I almost prefer the Highlands because of their broodiness (clouds, misty, fog). The Highlands are beautiful in the sun, but they are perfect on rainy days with bruised skies.
Last weekend Matt and I took a train two hours north of Edinburgh to hike around the hills of Pitlochry. One down side to falling in love with the country? You end up forgetting about your urban sartorial trappings. I used to try to do a more glamorous hiking look (pretty boots, nice jeans, layers of jackets) — but that totally gets in the way when it’s rainy and windy and your legs ache from propelling yourself upwards for three miles. Also, you kind of don’t care how you look because you’re distracted by the beauty of the landscape all around you (until someone reminds you how weird you look on Instagram – gak!).
Strange for city girls to fall in love with a rugged, windy, lonely place. I guess it’s true that opposites attract.
So what are you? City or country mouse and has any place in the world made you want to dip your toe in the other?
One of my happiest memories will always being taking trains around Scotland with our Historic Scotland passes. Wasn’t that the best? Next time we are in Edinburgh together we have to castle hop.
Also. I MISS YOU!