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Borders countryside, © Robin Simpson

June 27 – A Castle of Kings
Journey Into Scotland

Early morning and we're all packed and ready for a long drive. The gentle rain that was falling last night has stopped and we stand in the courtyard, looking into Scotland at a well defined weather front. The steady rain that's predicted for today hasn't arrived in Catlowdy yet. The sun is shining brightly, but a thick bank of clouds slashes across the sky to the north like a grimace. Beyond, there's nothing but gloom. We don't care. There's no amount of rain that can dampen our spirits today.

After a hasty, but filling, breakfast Dana and I stand by the car smoking (cough) while Robin settles our bill with Margaret. A final scratch behind the ear for Smudge, thanks and farewells, and we're on our way.

In no time at all we're driving through the border land on the motorway following signs to Glasgow. "Welcome to Scotland," the sign reads, and Robin predicts that, from her experience, the roads will be much better marked for this part of our journey. I'm barely listening, I'm barely breathing; I'm swallowing a lump in my throat and blinking back tears as the road climbs ever upward.

We've all brought audio tapes that we recorded from home, so eager to share our favorite Celtic music with one another, and listen to Dana's Capercaille tape as we travel north through Lanarkshire. The hills rise here like green velvet domes and scroll out for as far as the eye can see. As enchanting and mystical Gaelic vocals pour forth from the speakers I can picture men on horseback appearing over the rises. Men with swords strapped to their backs; men with a mission in life – to free their land from oppression.

I am in Wallace country. My heart is full as I look out on this land that I've loved from afar for so long. I feel as if I'm returning home; it looks exactly as I've pictured it.

Soon we are on the outskirts of Glasgow, keeping an eye out for the junction that turns east toward Stirling. The hills moderate somewhat and there is traffic and buildings; big tall apartment buildings painted in the colors of fruit sherbets ... orange and raspberry. "Look at that!" Robin exclaims. "How could they build that in my Scotland?" Dana and I have a good laugh at her outrage, but agree with the sentiment.

I pop in one of the tapes I've brought along – The Tannahill Weavers, as traditional Scottish folk as you can get. My foot taps along to the music and Robin's fingers keep time on the steering wheel. To an accompaniment of guitars, fiddles, tin whistles and bagpipes we drive straight into the bank of clouds we'd viewed from back down the road in Catlowdy.

I don't mind these clouds at all though. The day has grown quite warm and humid, and I have hundreds of stairs to climb today.

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