Scenes From Scotland: by CURTIS OWENS

One of the most scenic, beautiful, and peaceful drives in my life happened just recently, on route A82 from Glencoe/Ballachulish to Edinburgh on the western coast of Scotland.

There were mountains, valleys, streams and beautiful lochs. The landscape was stark at times, reminding me of the deserts or at least what I’ve seen of them in my limited travels in the western United States.

You could see a long ribbon of road running through much of the open plains. Train tracks with occasional long trestles spanning gorges and rivers.

Many of the mountain tops were shrouded in clouds, dotted with occasional trees and many sheep and cows. Large rocks, holding their place in the earth or on the side of hills throughout history, some rough and craggy and others worn smooth from weather and time.

This drive may have been the highlight of our trip through Scotland, at least for me, but it was by no means all that I recall of our travels.

Our stay in Edinburgh was amazing, seeing the history there, building upon building from hundreds of years ago, built by master craftsman with carved and cut stone.

Seeing some roads 3 or 4 stories down, knowing that in that ancient city, the buildings were built up and up, and wondering what it truly looked like for our ancestors 50 generations or longer ago. Small alleys between buildings with hundreds of steps and hundreds of people daily making their way up and down to different parts of the city.

We got to experience the ancient art of Falconry, holding the birds of prey on our arms, watching their keen eyesight focus on the treat to lure them in and gliding so gracefully and skillfully from their high perch then alighting onto our leather glove covered arm.

Of course the birds were well trained, but you couldn’t help but realize that they were efficient and skilled hunters and feeling a bit unnerved looking into their black eyes.

We toured a small distillery named Glenkinchie, makers of fine scotch whiskey. The processes have progressed with the technology of our time, and it doesn’t take as many craftsman today as it did 100 years ago, but they still put out hundreds of casks every week of the same delicious drink that’s been enjoyed by aficionados throughout time.

I mentioned Ballachulish, and the small hotel sitting on the shores of a loch where we were only able to enjoy one night held some of the most memorable scenery of our trip. The waters edge, more rugged mountains, and small communities all around the area.

We sampled many, many bottles of whiskey while in Scotland. Different brands, with varying age statements, but primarily highlands scotch with a taste and finish that our fine KY bourbons mimic. Brands like Aberfeldy, Dalmore and Oban, and favorites like Glenmorangie and Tomatin.

The one standout that we truly enjoyed was a 15 year old bottle of Glenfarclas that I regret is not available in the States. There were other bottles from other regions, like Bunnahabhain from Islay and Aberlour from Speyside, that were also enjoyable drinks.

Then we headed back to Edinburgh for the flight out, for the end of fantasy and the return to the reality of day to day. I am extremely thankful for the trip, that we were able to go and enjoy it, and experience some of the culture and history of our brothers and sisters from Ireland and Scotland upon which much of eastern KY was built hundreds of years ago.

With our plane landing in KY, and the drive back to our home, seeing what appeared to be more of the same hills, trees, and cattle dotted landscapes, it’s no wonder those early Irish and Scots chose KY as their home. 

In many ways, experiencing much of the scenery in those other countries, I felt as tho I’d never left East KY. While home now, enjoying the beautiful hills and hollers of my home, I feel as tho I’ve never left the beauty of the land of my ancestors.