Something that my parents instilled in me – whether because it is healthy, or because it was an inexpensive family activity that was easily accessible to us – is a love for mountains. We went camping and hiking throughout my childhood. My brother and I got lost in forests as we played Pocahontas or pioneers, and my mother took me to shower in cold showers on campsites. We learnt the use of sassafras leaves, rowed across lakes (in circles, in my case) in canoes, and saw bears in the Smoky Mountains. We cooked over fires and huddled under tarps on rainy weekends.
That love has not left any of us, I think, because when my parents visited me for Christmas, we were all three terribly excited to escape to the Highlands of Scotland. We knew that it would be much colder than London, but we didn’t mind. We didn’t even mind spreading our belongings across three rucksacks so that we could move from place to place with ease.
We were meant to drive to Scotland, but everything went wrong the weekend before we left. We ended up flying, and when we arrived on Boxing Day evening, it seemed that all of the buses weren’t running. We managed to find our way to the centre of Edinburgh, which was deserted but beautiful in the moonlight, from whence we walked the two miles to the Air BnB we had booked. When we woke up the next morning, it was still dark. The sun doesn’t rise until after nine o’clock in the morning in the Scottish winter, and we got to meet it on top of Carlton Hill as it rose above Arthur’s Seat.
From Arthur’s Seat, we walked to the Royal Mile, which was still deserted. We wandered in and out of shops, finding our surname on keychains and booklets, and my parents decided to queue to see the castle as I met my friend Rebecca. From there, we met at the station to take a train through the Highlands to Inverness.
I love a train journey. There’s nothing better than spending hours with your face pressed to a window as the countryside whizzes past. My father was just as excited as I was, and we spent the three hours to Inverness enthralled by the bare, snow-covered mountains. The sunset seemed to last forever, but when we finally made it to Inverness, it was full dark.
I always find it challenging to find a way out of cities once you have arrived in the centre of them. But we all knew that we had to explore the Highlands for themselves, and not just another city centre. I have wanted to see Loch Ness (for the loch itself, and not for the monster) since I was a little girl, and my father loves a good sea monster. We hired a local woman to drive us around for the day, and before we knew it, we were on a boat on Loch Ness. My father and I went out to the deck, coffee in hand, to watch the waves hit the boat. He spent the years before I was born on an aircraft carrier in the Pacific, and being on boats with him is another of my early memories. But flying across Loch Ness with him, with a castle coming in and out of view and the wind taking our breath away, is one of my dearest memories now.
Altogether, our time in the Highlands was too short. I do not see my parents often, and I would have loved another week to explore with them. But I also know that idyllic days don’t last for long, so I am thankful that our time in Scotland was short and full.
And every time I pass the train to Edinburgh in King’s Cross Station, I am tempted to hop on and return.
You are so talented, this is so beautiful! I can’t wait to read it out loud at the next Tongues of Fire event.