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St. Andrews Cathedral and Tower Hotel on the banks of the River NessNov. 18-20, 1998  Inverness, Scotland

We leave merry old England for the highlands of Scotland. Our destination is the northern most stop on the Great North Eastern Railway line, the town of Inverness. About halfway through the trip, I have the heavy urge to let the rocking of the train help me drift off for a light nap. I do my best to fight the feeling, as I do not want to miss even ten minutes of the incredibly enchanting scenery passing by my window.

The Scottish countryside delft us a developing panorama of nature, beginning our show with rolling hills covered with lush, moist, and spongy pasturelands full of puffy, lazy sheep busy munching on the thick, cool, and wet grass. This gradually transitioned into bumpy dunes of sand the color of aged tanned leather with crowned with sprouts of dark green sea oats as we passed by the coast. The next course of this feast for the eyes were the crags of jagged black rock jutting forcefully through the rich soil and thick coating of soft moss and glacier fed streams bubbling through the smooth rocks and under the white ice and snow that had formed, hanging on, around them.

Along the banks of the beautiful River NessEver so slowly, the patches of scrubby brush and moss yielded to full forests of birch trees wrapped round with white paper-bark spotted with knots of ink-like black dots. Intermixed were the leafless hardwoods, with their twisted and contorted branches, naked and exposed to the chilling wind. Lastly, there were the pines and other evergreens opting to keep their coat of dark green needles through this, and each, of the changing seasons. This entire scene played out before us on front stage, and against the majestic backdrop of snow covered, flat-topped hills whose once proud and towering stature as mountains had been violently abbreviated by shifting glaciers thousands and thousands of years ago.

Along the banks of the beautiful River NessSomewhere north of Perth, the conductor comes the PA on to tell us of mechanical difficulty with the train ahead of us (one of the problems with rail travel is that it’s difficult to ‘go around’ an obstruction in the path ahead). It seems there will be a slight delay for us as they work on that train. By this time, we’ve struck up a friendly conversation with a car mate sitting across from us. We find out his name is Neil, and that he claims Inverness as his home. We pass the time comparing notes on travel and our impressions of the differences in the cultures of the places we’ve visited. Our conversation is interrupted by another announcement, as apparently things didn’t look too promising for the train up the line, it becomes doubtful that we’ll be able to continue this night. The railway then transfers us to two busses for the remainder of our journey. Upon arrival in Inverness, our new friend insists upon not only walking us to a nearby hotel, but also greeting us to Scotland with a pop of - you guessed it - Scotch whiskey, to warm our chilled bones. Now THAT’S hospitality.

Along the banks of the beautiful River NessAs to make the most of the opportunity to take in the crisp, clean highland air and sunshine, we spend the next day exploring town and the surrounding countryside on foot. As the sun sets, we stroll along the banks of the River Ness, kicking up the fallen leaves of the trees which line our path. The naked, contorted branches reach out like crooked, aged old fingers grasping at what's left of the sun's fading light. Beyond their reach, light wisps of clouds dust the horizon glowing in the afternoon's yellow, orange, and pink light.

Along the banks of the beautiful River NessThe river and its banks are shrouded in a heavy, wet fog that adds to the mystery of this bewitching scene. The foggy haze seems to organize the soft sunlight into fuzzy rays that breach the top of the tree-line and shoot down to the river's flowing water in diagonal columns.

Along the banks of the beautiful River NessA white frost still remains, blanketing the patches of landscape that have been shaded from the warming rays of the sun that day. The still frozen grass and leaves crunch under our steps as we explore the banks, leaving the only footprints of the day.

As the sound of a church bell rings in the distance, we are reminded that we too will be covered by frost if we spend too much more time after the sun has set, out here by this sleepy river. Time to head back towards town. Time perhaps, for a bit of a nip to warm our chilly, but very content, bones.

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Last modified: June 01, 1999    Photographs and text 1998 Scott and Laura Kruglewicz. All Rights Reserved.

 

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