Wednesday, September 11, 2013

AH, TO BE IN SCOTLAND AGAIN!


My guest is historical romance author Donna MacMeans. She shares her recent trip to Scotland with us.

Last year about this time I realized that if I was to set my next book in Scotland, I needed to “walk the land” -  get a feel for the countryside so I could present it accurately in THE WHISKY LAIRD (due for release in the spring of 2014).  So I packed my bags and booked a flight for Edinburgh.  As it’s a mind-melting ninety-four degrees here in Ohio, I thought I’d revisit that trip and cool off with a little nostalgia.  Want to come with me?





We stayed in the Grassmarket area in Edinburgh.  So named because long, long ago, horses and livestock there to be sold in the markets would graze in pens just beyond the western edge.  

As you can see from the picture, it’s below Edinburgh castle...way below.  Given that the Royal Mile, the main drag in Edinburgh, runs from the castle to the sea and that all the tour groups meet on the Royal Mile, we had to do some serious climbing to get to our tour bus - every day up, every day back down.  A quick way to get in shape is to vacation in Edinburgh LOL.






                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            


Lots of bars and all the patrons (and barkeeps) seemed engrossed in the same book!

Imagine that!





                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               



We took a number of trips that took us into the highlands.  I like this shot of the little town of Callander

  

One a hot day like this, the low clouds make me feel cooler.  We saw a number of waterfalls.
    

Notice that the water has a slight brown tinge.  This is due to the peat in the water.  You don’t see many houses throughout Scotland.  Most of the population lives in the cities.  The rural areas belong to the sheep!



Here’s a shot of Highland landscape and heather (always wondered what heather looked like)

                                                                                                                                                                


                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       

We spent a night in Inverness.  Just as Edinburgh is clearly a medieval city, Inverness has a more Viking or Norman influence.  Can you see it in this picture? 

Inverness Cafe


                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  

We spent a day at St. Andrew’s and saw this familiar guy.  He was playing for a wedding in the chapel adjacent to this courtyard. 


St. Andrews 


                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         


Jonathan
Of course, as THE WHISKY LAIRD pairs a Scotch distiller with a woman devoted to the Temperance movement, we visited the Blair Athol distillery.  Here’s a pic in the courtyard of the distillery - oh wait!  What’s the tour guide reading?  






                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          

I went to Scotland to become familiar with the scenery.  While on a tour bus going through some woods, I found myself thinking that much of the scenery reminded me of Virginia and North Carolina.  Right about that time, the tour guide mentioned that a few years ago, he had a geologist on the bus.  The geologist collected some rocks at one of the waterfalls and said that based on the limestone he found, Scotland was once part of the Appalachian mountain system of the United States.  Of course, it split and drifted away long before Columbus came to call.  But it struck me that I could have gotten a similar sense of Scotland right here in the States, but it wouldn't have been half as fun.
 

So how about you?  Have you been on a memorable vacation?  Ever been to Scotland?  Want to go?  

Someone leaving a comment will receive a copy of The Casanova Code - the book every one is reading? (grin).

49 comments:

Karen Walker said...

Oh yes yes yes, we went to Scotland and Ireland in 2009 and I fell in love with both countries. It's where the Muse visited me for the novel I am writing. These pics brought back wonderful memories.

Kat Sheridan said...

Donna! W00t! I can't wait to read Whiskey Laird. The premise sounds like so much fun and I can't wait to see how you get the heroine/hero together! And those photos are so beautiful! And I'm cracking up at the way you got so many folks to read your book! Scotland looks beautiful, but my heart belongs to Paris. I think I need to set a book there!

L.G. Smith said...

Wonderful. A little over a year ago I went to Wales to do research for my novels. We added an overnight trip to Edinburgh because I just had to see Scotland. Such a beautiful city. I can't wait to go back and explore a little further north some day.

And how fun that everyone there was reading your novel! :)

Johanna Garth said...

Those pictures are so stunning! They make me want to book a trip right this minute! And I bet the scenery feeds the whole writer's brain and need to write.

Donna MacMeans said...

Hi Karen! -

I so want to go to Ireland! We flew over it on our way home and it was so lush and green. My grandmother and grandfather came over on the boat from County Cork. I'd love to see those Irish roots.

Donna MacMeans said...

Hi Kat!

One of these days I hope to visit Paris. This year marks our 40th anniversary and we always said we'd go to Paris on our 40th - but I don't think that's going to happen. Bummer. One of these days though...life is to short to procrastinate these travel dreams.

Michael Di Gesu said...

Hi, Sia,

I've been wanting to go to Scotland for YEARS... It's one of the few places I haven't visited in Europe...

Thanks so much for sharing your trip with us.. Yes ... steamy here in Chicago too...

Summer is VERY LATE. It figures too. The heat wave hit almost the same day I was run down by that cyclist. Not fun wearing a cast in these temps...

But the cool Scottish landscape is definitely helping....

Donna MacMeans said...

Hi L.G.

Edinburgh was so cool. Did you do the haunted Edinburgh tour? We did. There's a section of Edinburgh that is underground vaults connected to the building of a bridge. Cold, dark, dusty vaults - you can just imagine the horror stories that could be set there.

I'd love to spend more time further north and west myself. We didn't make it to Skye or the Hebrides or the Orkney islands - I'd like to take a long trip and explore those places as well.

Donna MacMeans said...

Hi Johanna -

We were in St. Andrews when a wedding was taking place. As I was walking up one of the main drags, a group of young men - obviously groomsmen - in full kilts and jackets with buttonieres came striding down toward me. Talk about gorgeous!!! Now that was a scene to inspire romance!

~Sia McKye~ said...

Morning all--

Any of the pictures on the blog can be clicked on to enlarge.

Donna, my sister Nan and I have talked about going to Ireland. And you already know I want to go back to Scotland.I wish we had the time and money to do a long trip and do both. The Highlands are amazing. We have family in Ireland too.

I loved the shot of Callander! St. Andrews is awesome.

~Sia McKye~ said...

KAREN-- how cool! I think there are so many places in Europe that feed the senses. Maybe because there is so much history there and somehow, you feel all that history.

LG--I haven't been to Wales, but I know its a beautiful place and also rich in history. Interestingly, the Welsh, Scot, and Irish are all considered Celtic.

JOHANNA--Me too!

Crystal Collier said...

I haven't been to Scotland, but it's on my list for "one day." You know--that distant day when you have no kids or obligations? (Other than a writing career--hah!)

~Sia McKye~ said...

MICHAEL--summer, or the normal hot part of summer, came late here too and with a heat wave. Not anywhere as brutal as last year. The only thing that tells me fall is close is our walnut trees. They don't care if feels like fall, which it doesn't, or not. This the time of year they start thinning their leaves and with a hint of yellow.

Glad you're feeling better Michael!

Rita L Smith said...

My dream vacation is Ireland, but first I will be meeting my love in Florida for a Caribbean Cruise.

Donna MacMeans said...

Hi Michael -

LOL - I was in a bar near Cleveland Ohio waiting to meet the in-laws for dinner. I was talking to the guy next to me who was from Chicago. We checked temps on his phone and it was hotter the further north you went that weekend. Actually, this summer has been beautiful except for these last couple of days. But a storm just blew through so I'm hoping the temps will drop.

Bummer on the cast :-( .

Donna MacMeans said...

Crystal -

Well, my kids are all adults now - but LOL on the no obligations - does such a time exist? About the time you lose the employer that restricts vacation time, you start worrying about finances without that steady paycheck coming in.

I imagine if one is fortunate enough to make big, big $$$ with their writing, suddenly it's even more imperative to stay glued to the keyboard and not take time for trips. It's a crazy life :-)

Donna MacMeans said...

Hey Rita! Good to see you here. Hope you have a fabulous time on your Carribbean cruise. Sounds very romantic (wink, wink). Just think how much fun it will be when you and your love explore Ireland together. Life is good.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I've been to Edinburgh and Inverness - amazing towns to explore!

Donna MacMeans said...

Alex -

Aren't they so different in personality? Even to the architecture. This really surprised me. We didn't make it to Glasgow but I imagine that was different as well.

Anna Campbell said...

Hi Donna! Hi Sia! Goodness, this is my second visit here this week. You'd better remember how I take my coffee! That's all I'm sayin', in the words of Bandita Cassondra M.

Donna, what gorgeous photos and I loved how your books are so well beloved everywhere you went in Scotland. And good on you, getting so many MEN to read them!!! ;-) I'm currently pining for the Highlands so your post hit exactly the right spot for me.

Mark Koopmans said...

very cute idea with the book and readers :)

went to Scotland once... loved it... but they talk funny... not like me :-)

~Sia McKye~ said...

MARK--'R ye tellin me ye've lost yer Orish brogue, boyo?

You know, when you go back to visit yer da he's going to tell you that you speak funny. :-) Gonna have all that Yank in your voice, lol!

~Sia McKye~ said...

ANNA--I do indeed. And I have a handsome waiter to serve you as well. Oh, you don't mind him being without a shirt, do you? Bit warm here today so he's just wearin' a light weight kilt. Watch out for that pin--we wouldn't want him to be loosing that kilt....

;-)

Annalisa Crawford said...

What fantastic photos. I'm off to Scotland next year - straight up to the Highlands. I went a few years ago and spent a lovely day in Inverness, probably in that cafe at some point.

I might have to set my next book in Hawaii, if visiting is an important part of the research :-)

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Oh my goodness yes - walking all over Edinburgh will get you in shape. Same with London. No wonder those people there are skinny.

Yolanda Renee said...

Such great pictures and congratulations on getting them all on the same page! :)

Congratulations on your soon release! I'd love to visit all of Europe, starting in Paris, France!

Donna MacMeans said...

Hi Anna!

LOL - Well it helps to have your books well read when you pull them out of your purse and hand them to the person LOL. It was a fun trip but far too short. i'd like to go back and see all that I missed.

Donna MacMeans said...

Ah Mark - You've been outed by Sia. I'd love to hear your sweet Irish brogue and hope it hasn't been too yankified. (grin)

Donna MacMeans said...

Annalisa -

I wish we would have had more time in Inverness. Heck, I wish we would have had more time in Scotland! I hope you have a great trip in 2014.

Of course Scotland was a bit more than just the landscape. I taped the language to help with dialect, sampled foods, and tried to be very attuned to the weather. I think walking the land is important - but yes, set the book in Hawaii!! Not only do you get a trip to remember but if you publish, you can a tax break (grin).

Donna MacMeans said...

Diane -

I still maintain they should have a tow rope on Victoria Street to help pull you up that hill. My dh still joke when we're out walking if we have to plod up a hill that "at least it's not Victoria St." I have one of those pedometer things that measures steps taken and I measured over 25,000 steps a day while in Edinburgh. Guess that explains those fine looking thighs and calves under those kilts!

Donna MacMeans said...

Yolanda -

Sia deserves all the credit for getting the photos on the page. I sent them over to her and she took over. She's great.

Thanks for the congrats! There are so many places I'd love to see including Paris. Hey, maybe I need to set a historical there. Road trip!

~Sia McKye~ said...

YOLANDA--I'd love to take a summer and wander around Europe again, but that ain't happenin' any time soon.

As for the pictures, it took some time to get them all arranged for the best effect. There are some great shots there.

Biggest job was getting Blogger to upload them faster than a snail's pace. I'll admit to coming into my office last night, after walking away for a half hour, and yelling at my computer and blogger. WHAT? You're still uploading 7 pictures and only have THREE done? Well, I might have mumbled, okay, I yelled, a few unmentionable words...

But they turned out well considering that I prefer not sizing the files down a fraction bigger than thumbs so they load quicker but you can't enlarge them if you click on them.

Trina Morgan said...

I would love to visit scottland....and yes donna macmeans has the awesomest books. I been wanting her new book for some time and cant find it at any book stores

~Sia McKye~ said...

Annalisa--I hear you on going straight to the Highlands. They're magnificent. There are places in Scotland, but especially in the Highlands, you can actually feel the people who walked before you were born.

When you listen, history whispers in your ear and brushes your skin as you look. I think that's true in any place that society has existed hundreds or even thousands of years. I'm not talking haunted places but the feel when you walk into a cathedral that's 1200 years old, see worn steps, touch the walls. Atmosphere, I guess you call it. :-)

~Sia McKye~ said...

DIANE--they walk a lot more than we do or use bikes. :-)

Trina, thanks for stopping by. Yes, Donna writes some awesome stories!

~Sia McKye~ said...

Donna--I like the idea of being able to write off a trip. :-)

Roz @ My Written Romance said...

I lived and worked in Edinburgh for a couple of years. Such a gorgeous place - and yes, rather cold on occasion.

I was lucky enough to be able to explore the east and west coasts as well as the Highlands. The scenery is simply breathtaking in places.

Where I worked was in St Andrews Square, and it was incredible to be surrounding by all this magnificent old buildings. It often felt like I was in a BBC period drama.

~Sia McKye~ said...

ROZ--St Andrews is a gorgeous area and I can see why you felt like you were in a BBC period drama. What's your favorite area in Scotland?

Shelley Munro said...

Loved the photos. Hubby and I have visited Scotland twice - I mean we had to with a Scottish surname. We visited Foulis Castle and spoke to the laird of the Munro's, which was very cool. My favorite holiday is always the last one we've had :)

Melissa said...

Wow. What a lovely place!

One of these days, I'd like to visit the settings of my stories. Luckily, both are set in the US. Not sure what I'll do about the year, though. One is a historical set in 1850. Anybody have a time machine? ;)

Melanie Schulz said...

My family was from Edinburgh, and it's always been a dream of mine to go there- your pictures make me want to go even more!

~Sia McKye~ said...

SHELLY--how cool you were able to see Foulis Castle and speak to the laird while there. I think the sign of a good vacation is when you think the last one is the best one!

MELISSA--If I find a time machine in good working order I'll be sure to let you know. :-D

MELANIE--Hope you get to go and see.:-)

Donna MacMeans said...

Hi Shelly -

This may sound stupid, but I never realized my husband's surname was Scottish. Somehow I'd gotten the impression that his ancestors were really McMeans or Irish and a mistake was made along the way to make it MacMeans. Anyway, his family never mentioned Scottish roots. Anyway, while we were in Scotland, we passed a roadsign pointing the way to the Menzie castle. It wasn't until we were back home that I learned that MacMeans is part of the Menzie clan. I mentioned that to my husband and he said - I knew that. Grrr... You'd think after 40 years of marriage, he would have mentioned that to me BEFORE we went to Scotland.

Very cool that you've been able to meet the laird of Foulis Castle!

Donna MacMeans said...

Trina!

I'm so sorry you're having difficulty finding my books in a bookstore. The industry these days is so crazy. Bookstore shelf space is ungodly precious - especially with the demise of Borders bookstores - that the chains only carry the bestsellers. However, if you ask at the customer service desk, they'll happily bring in a book for you. I just wish they'd carry less children's toys and more books!

Everything is going digital these days - and while I prefer the feel of a book in my hands - downloading to a kindle or nook is just so darn easy and fast that I do a lot of it. Fortunately, all my books are available for download.

I hope you make it to Scotland one day. It truly is a magical country.

Donna MacMeans said...

Roz - I'm absolutely jealous of your experience!

I'd love to explore the Eastern and Western (and Northern) coasts of Scotland - and explore them in a somewhat leisurely fashion instead of "you have one hour to explore than back on the bus" version.

I had that sense of being in the middle of history when at the St. Andrews gift shop (I love gift shops). The store was filled with medieval replicas and histories of the area. Lots of stained glass light catchers that you could hang in a window (I got a few -grin) that made you feel like it was part of a castle's stained glass window. What an amazing experience you must have had.

Donna MacMeans said...

Melissa -

Where are your stories set? I've only written two novels and one short story set in the US. One (unpublished) is set in San Francisco - and I did manage to go there. The other I set in my hometown in Ohio. It was part of my "write what you know" phase. But those were both contemporaries. I hope you get to go to where your stories are set because I'm sure there are historical societies that have lots of information about the place in the 1850s.

If you find a working time machine, let me know. So many places and times I'd like to visit!

Donna MacMeans said...

Melanie -

I'd love to go to my ancestor's home. I hope someday you'll make it to Edinburgh. It really is a beautiful city awash in history.

One of these days I'd like to go to Ireland where my mother's family is from. My grandfather on my father's side was adopted and his "true" family history is a bit obscure. So tracing family roots is a bit difficult. But my mother's family came over relatively recent so I might be able to find a trace of them in Ireland.

Donna MacMeans said...

Sia -

Writing off a trip is definitely a perk of being a published author (and a CPA). Now if I can just find a way not to have to pay for it in the first place - I'd be traveling a lot more than I do now. (grin)

Anne Leah said...

Great place for adventure! I would really enjoy going to the outdoors and exploring the wonderful corryvreckan whirlpool. It's really famous and I love to try boating in there. It would be so thrilling!