by Jane Shortall
Places to visit in Scotland, are what many visitors have a challenge with, as there are so many beautiful sights to see, and so many historical buildings to visit, how do you know which ones to fit into your trip?
Below you can read Jane's account of one trip she made to Scotland, as a guide for a group of students, and how Scotland's history and natural beauty enthralled her.
My Cousin Miss Brodie and the Kilt Connection
As a child, I lived in Dublin, Ireland and each year our Scottish relatives came over to visit us. This was a time of great excitement as Auntie Maggie always came laden with gifts.
When I was nine years old, out of her big, brown leather case came a kilt; brand new, with blue and green squares and red lines woven through. It had a proper shiny silver pin and two real leather fastening straps.
The kilt became my favorite item of clothing. I wore it until I simply couldn't fit into it any more. I wished I could stay nine years old and so be able to wear it forever. It was the real thing, with its straps and its big pin, made in the Highlands of Scotland, a place I would fall in love with just ten years later.
At nineteen years old I found myself conducting educational tours in the UK and Europe. I spent a lot of time in Scotland, and I fell head over heels in love with the enchanting countryside that is the Scottish Borders.
One evening, leaving Abbotsford, the home of Sir Walter Scott, having seen the amazing library, the stunning collection of armory, the peacocks on the lawns, we headed for our destination for the night, the magical Trossachs hotel.
But the coach driver, unfamiliar with this particular trip, took a wrong turning and we completely lost our bearings. The coach party couldn't have cared less if we never got to our hotel.
They were happy, carefree students who, despite feigning interest, found the whole trip just one big joke.
We drove for ages, through the gold and purple shades of a Scottish evening in autumn. We passed a lone piper, playing in a dream landscape. These were the days before mobile phones, so I couldn't let the hotel know we were lost. But by then I honestly didn't care either, as we were seeing so much of the spectacular countryside.
The ruined abbeys of Melrose and Kelso, Jedburgh, the fabulous Trossachs hotel with its turrets, where I stayed in a room overlooking Loch Katrine, were all enchanting places to me.
I always wished I would see the White Lady, reputed to haunt the place, as she floated across the loch. But despite my best imaginings, and many nights staring out at the loch, willing her to appear, I cannot claim to have made her acquaintance.
The city of Edinburgh, whose magnificence stunned me from the moment I saw it. There is something so majestic about the place that no matter how many times I left Charlotte Square for another tour of the city, it was always an exciting, fresh experience.
I loved it all and happily explored the lesser known areas while the students enjoyed shopping breaks, buying vast amounts of shortbread in tartan patterned tins, complete with pictures of Robert Burns on the lids, as presents for their mothers.
The Castle, the Royal Mile, Greyfriars Bobby, Holyrood Palace; I felt very much at home here, now a frequent visitor to so many fascinating places.
Mary Queen of Scots had become something of an obsession and Antonia Fraser's wonderful book was just the right reading for a romantically minded tour guide.
Fotheringhay, Lochleven, Inverness; the names were like old friends to me. What amazing good fortune found me in so many historic places, walking in the footsteps of Queen Mary? It still astonishes me, even now, all these years later.
As well as the palaces and castles, following the lives of many historical figures, I was welcomed into some enchanting private houses, met some special people, owners and guides who truly care about the past, people who work so hard to preserve history for future generations.
I have traveled a lot since then, but that part of Scotland remains special. My memories are of a thoroughly magical place. The mountains, huge, rugged and wild, where the Monarchs of the Glen live. And the lochs; mysterious, secretive places. The purple heather covered hills, where a lone piper might play.
I live now in southwest France, near the Pyrénées, where the surrounding countryside is well, wild. It is from here that I contribute to various journals and magazines, and am, of course, in the process of writing a book, or three.
However, much more importantly, I keep up a lively correspondence, of which I am without doubt the beneficiary, with one very special, senior woman. My Scottish cousin and wise woman, the splendidly named Pearl Brodie, whose mother once gave me the gift of a Scottish Kilt.
I would like to thank Jane for contributing her page on places to visit in Scotland, and below you can find links to other related pages.
Highlands of Scotland
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