Editor’s Note: Pam Johnson and her husband Woody are preparing to embark on a yearlong trip abroad, visiting 12 countries in 12 months. Pam will file monthly stories along the way.
By Pam Johnson
Call of the gull and gust of the wind
Hearty laughs spill from the village pub
Pipes playing and hearts dancing
Stark mountains, water tumbling down their sides
The Scottish Highlands hauntingly stirs the soul…forever.
Oh, Scotland. We were told we wouldn’t want to leave, and it’s true. We could happily stay here and not continue to our other 11 countries. But, alas, we must depart.
Not only is Scotland hauntingly beautiful, which truly does touch the soul. Not only is the history palpable with each medieval castle you spot crumbling on the banks of a loch. Not only is the food hearty and the whiskey first-class. But the people! For me, the people of Scotland are what makes me want to stay forever.
The crux of our journey around the world is cultural immersion. We want to be a part of each community we visit. Scotland made that easy. The people are friendly, inviting, warm, loving, generous, sincere, helpful, and full of fun and laughter.
We made our “home” in Muir of Ord, a wee village about 13 miles from Inverness. Small, yes, yet it offers so much: several restaurants (including fish & chips), a world-class golf course, and the almost two-centuries old Glenn Ord Distillery. We could not have found a better location to spend our month in this country.
We were welcomed with open arms at the Free Church of Scotland. The people became our people, and they are the hardest to leave. Chisholm, Deirdre, Karla, Craig, Stephen, Eva, Gordon, Eileen, John…the list goes on. If you ever find yourself in Inverness or Muir of Ord, visit this church. It will warm your heart.
My other favorite place is Bad Girl Bakery. Not only is the food and coffee exceptional, but the staff is delightful. I don’t think they were used to a digital nomad repeatedly coming in with a laptop and working while enjoying a latte, but they never chased me away, and always greeted me with a smile. And, like many places in Scotland, they had vegan and gluten-free options, a must for me.
We also had such a pleasant time with the village walking group, which is part of a popular program in Scotland: Paths for All, Health Walks. Its goal is to encourage active and healthy lifestyles throughout the country. Our chats with these locals were a highlight of our time here.
The people of this country are certainly very special. Then there’s the astounding beauty of Scotland. The rolling hills, the lochs, the mountains, the lush valleys, the castles and old croft houses, the sheep dotting the fields – it is breathtaking.
A must visit for everyone is the stunning Isle of Skye. From magical waterfalls, to a piper on the cliffs overlooking the sea, to the colorful town of Portree, Skye captures all the beauty and wonder of the Highlands. It’s definitely worth the extra effort to take an excursion there.
The scenic city of Inverness is nestled on the Moray Firth. Inverness Castle perches on the top of a hill, reminding everyone of the kingdoms that have come and gone over the centuries, and especially of the unrest during the siege of the Jacobites. (Any fans of Outlander reading this?) There are lovely walking trails along both sides of the River Ness, which runs through the town from Loch Ness, home of the Loch Ness Monster.
We did go out one day looking for Nessie (the monster). A bus dropped us off at the village of Drumnadrochit, where we took a boat around Loch Ness in search of its most famous resident. Unfortunately, we didn’t see her, though there have been sightings as recently as three weeks prior to our visit.
The Highlands of Scotland absolutely lived up to the fanfare. There is much more to see of this country steeped in so much history and legend. It’s now on our list of places to return. We hope you will get a chance to visit, too.
If you’d like to hear more about our adventures and see more photos, please visit my blog site at pamtheeditor.wixsite.com/amimionthemove and follow me on Instagram and TikTok: @amimionthemove.
Next stop: Bergen, Norway.