The Reliable Rascal Record Company presents...

September 2009

intro

About This Travelogue

Harried capitalists, multiple-progenied parents, and the naturally short of attention can skip right to the tersely captioned slide show. You can brush your teeth and go on a virtual vacation at the same time, and not even have to think. If you want to see just a couple of highlights of the travelogue below, I'd recommend the bovine encounter and the ram sale

If you've got a little bit more time, the complete travelogue below briefly describes the customs, landscape, and livestock of Scotland.  Although my trip did include a couple of days in Ireland (Belfast and Dublin), the Irish will have to wait for (hopefully) another trip and another travelogue for their own unique ethnic behaviors will be documented.

If you have attention deficit disorder and a boring desk job, note that you can also click on all the blue hyperlinks. Many of these hyperlinked pages contain hyperlinks of their own- there's no limit to how much time you can waste!

 


Rules & Regulations

In the UK, more so than in the U.S., basic "services" are carefully regulated and very often carry a charge.  This makes sense, as anyone can see the importance of avoiding violations of unregulated rules and the use of services not carrying a charge.

For example, the use of many public restrooms in Scotland costs twenty or thirty pence.  Why pee for free? Usually this must be paid in exact change of ten or twenty pence coins.  One pence and five pence coins are not accepted.  Given this challenge, fluid intake is a delicate art form in Scotland.

If you're planning your own trip to Scotland, you can prepare by checking out WikiHow's How to Hold in Pee. This guide assures you that "you cannot actually 'burst' your bladder."

paytopee

“Coffee or tea?” the hostess at my bed and breakfast asked me.  I hesitated, indulging in a flashback of an experience in Edinburgh a few days earlier.

I had done my best to carefully monitor my water intake.  However, on reaching the Waterloo bus station in Edinburgh, I first thought of running Water, and then of the Loo.  I found a restroom in the main bus station down the street, which was guarded by a turnstile with a monitor displaying, “Credit 0.  2 x 10 pence, 1 x 20 pence.”  I happened to have a couple of 20 pence coins, so I was going to be okay.  I put my first coin into the slot, walked forward and then was jolted back by turnstile whiplash from a turnstile arm refusing to yield.  Then I looked at the monitor, which still displayed “Credit 0.”  I tried the coin return button, but no luck.

So, I put my other twenty pence coin into the slot.  I gingerly pushed the turnstile, but again no luck.  By this time there was a queue of senior citizens waiting to sacrifice their hard earned retirement funds at the soulless machine, so I dutifully warned them, “It doesn’t work."  This got them all worked up immediately, and all at once they carried on their own interpretation of my rant in three part spoken harmony: “Forty pence?!  You think this man can just give away forty pence?  For what?” “These machines never work!” "The bloody machine just ate all of the man's change!”

The agitated pack of seniors marched around the corner, and confronted the security guard.  The guard just shrugged his shoulders.  “There’s nothing I can do about that.”

My hostess looked me in the eye, the weight of her “Coffee or tea?” question still hanging in the air.  I would be at the bus station in an hour, so I reached into my pocket, and observed my change- a couple of five pence coins, a fifty pence coin, and three one pound coins.  That wouldn’t do.

“Neither, but thank you.”  I responded.  I hope she understood.

 


The History of the Pay Toilet

I just assumed that the use of pay toilets was a recent innovation destined for international adoption.  On returning home, I did a Google search on “pay toilet history,” imagining I’d find an exciting Times headline such as “Tony Blair Roars into Re-election on Strength of Pay-To-Pee Platform.”  Instead, I learned that the pay toilet may have been invented some two thousand years ago.  In fact the notion of not having to pay is more of an innovation.  Pay toilets were just banned in Chicago in 1973.

I will ask you to observe a moment of silence for the achievements of the Committee to End Pay Toilets in America – thanks for sorting this out before I was born. I will no longer take your achievements for granted.

(silence…)

 


The Wrong Side of the Road

Pedestrian crossings should really be learned at an early age.  How can you expect a grown man to re-learn the flow of traffic? Accustomed to cars on the left passing on the near side of the road and cars on the right passing on the far side of the road, I was so persistently confused by the odd angles of cars approaching in Scotland that I systematically just waited until there was no traffic on either side of the road before crossing.

If I ever had a car in London, I would make myself a bumper sticker if one didn’t already exist:

If you’re not driving on the right side of the road, you’re driving on the wrong side of the road.

 


An International “Institution”

Back at the Waterloo bus stop, I waited for the shuttle bus to my next hostel, with a large group of Europeans who smelled like salami.  The shuttle arrived, and everyone stepped out before the Europeans filled up the van.  I had to sit up front, so I walked around to the right side of the van and sat inside, startled to find a steering wheel in front of me.  “The other side, sir!” the driver told me.  I wasn’t in the mood to argue that it was in fact the steering wheel that was on the wrong side.

“One pound fifty” he demanded.  I’d never heard of a hotel or hostel charging to ride their own shuttle, but I didn’t argue with that, either.  The ride took some twenty minutes, and left us off in an isolated suburb of Silverknowes on the beautiful Firth of Forth, which as you'll note is fun to say.

The hostel consisted of yellow rubber floors and simple bunk beds, with public dining, lounge, and laundry facilities all carefully regulated by a series of rules.  A sign in the dining room regulated food intake: Continental buffet: two slices of bread, one glass of juice, one box of cereal, coffee or tea.

Like other kinds of accommodation, you never know what you’re going to get in a hostel.  At worst (or perhaps at best, from a 21-year-old’s perspective) they can be like drunken college parties.  This one seemed fairly quiet, until breakfast.  There was one hyperactive guy who kept pacing anxiously across the floor, climbing over the benches like a crab, and boasting loudly about how much he drank the night before.  Just then I noticed the inscription on his sleeve: “Staff.”

I was thankful that there was a laundry facility available, but nothing in my travels to developing countries such as Brazil, India, and Ghana could prepare me for such a sophisticated laundering process in this highly developed country.  Though laundry is a wildly unregulated free-for-all in most parts of the world, the carefully regulated seven step process at this hostel is as follows:

  1. Outside the main lobby, press a button on the wall to activate the "temporary unlock" feature of the door to the main lobby, and open the door.
  2. Buy a special hostel money card at a vending machine in the lobby.
  3. Go to the hostel shop and ring the bell. Wait for the shopkeeper to arrive to open the shop door.
  4. Using the special hostel money card, buy laundry tokens from the shopkeeper.
  5. Try to insert the laundry tokens in the laundry machine. They won't work, so you'll have to find the laundry attendant.
  6. Once you find the laundry attendant, she'll be able to start your wash using her special laundry machine override key.
  7. Give the laundry tokens to the laundry attendant as evidence that you've paid for your wash.

The bright side about facing such adversity in one's daily routine is that it provides the opportunity to meet strangers with whom one can take on the challenge together.  There’s nothing like the bonding power of shared adversity to break down national and linguistic barriers.  In the laundry room, I met a Spanish guy who happened to be an ethnomusicologist and only wanted to dry a pair of pants.  He was instrumental in helping me find the laundry room attendant and together, we faced the tribulations of Scottish laundry. This was no ordinary traveler; he is also the author of a hit song called Millions of Bagels.

 


st_abbs

St. Abbs

Much as I enjoy pay-to-pee machines and laundry tokens, I didn't experience "traveler's glow" until I left Edinburgh.  As I know from a decade in Chicago, big cities are unknowable in the span of just a few short days; the tourist layer itself can be a mile think and the outskirts just look like nameless rows of buildings.  On this trip, I purposefully left my itinerary unplanned so I could choose my next destinations one at a time.

An acquaintance recommended visiting St. Abbs, a town I had never heard of.  I read the description in the Rough Guide to Scotland and was immediately sold:

"Flanked by jagged cliffs, the remote fishing village of St. Abbs has a rugged setting, with old fisherman’s cottages tumbling down to the tiny surf-battered harbor.”

I found a nice bed and breakfast room in the front of a restaurant on the seaside.  The window of my room faced a table, so close that I could have reached out and taken a bite out of someone’s sandwich while they weren’t looking.  In many ways, this was a perfect room for me- just a small, quiet, and affordable place to sleep.  Despite my hostesses’ repeated apologies about the Englishness of the weather, I spent my whole day only outside, walking around St. Abbs Head National Nature Reserve, and then along the coastal path to Eyemouth.  The next morning, the sky cleared.

 “Lovely weather, isn’t it?” the host asked one of the other guests.

“Yes, but I wanted to hear the waves crashing and the wind blowing.” How can you experience Scotland without Scottish weather?

 


Black Pudding, a Formidable Foe

At the Springbank Cottage B & B in St. Abbs, I happily chewed my way through a sprawling and delicious Scottish traditional breakfast- porridge, Canadian bacon, fried eggs, potato scones, tomato, mushroom, cereal, and toast.  There was only one thing on my plate that didn’t fall into the “delicious” category; a small circular disc that looked like it might be a mushy slice of black rye.  I cut through it with my knife and took a bite- weird, and not in a good way.

“What is this,” I asked?

My only previous encounter with Black Pudding was in my childhood, during a game of Dungeons and Dragons.  This was a gelatinous blob sometimes ten feet in diameter that would often block off hallways - even a pencil sketch picture of the black pudding was enough to strike fear in my youthful heart.  If you were a nimble warrior you might be able to cut the pudding in half with a battle axe or sword, but this would only form two smaller puddings, each of which could constrict you and absorb you into its gooey mass. I graciously thanked my host and took the next bus to Peebles, leaving behind the tumbling cottages and the bisected Black Pudding.

 


hills

Lost in the Hills…

I’ve often taken exception to criticisms of my or anyone else’s "common sense."  Common sense is simply a reflection of that knowledge which a given society values, at a given point in the world’s history.  That doesn’t necessarily make it intuitive or particularly useful.

In this day and age, it’s perfectly acceptable to ask completely idiotic questions about nature, as most likely your subject will be just as ignorant as you.  After having walked the coastal path from St. Abbs to Eyemouth, I needed to make sure I could find my way back before dark.

I stopped inside a restaurant and asked the first person I saw.  “Excuse me, sir, could you tell me what time sunset is?”

“I couldn’t say.”

I didn’t respond, so he elaborated.  “I mean, I could tell you something.”  He paused for half a minute before concluding, “If I tried to tell you, I’d probably be wrong.”

The next night, my own lack of basic sense (but not common sense) was exposed.  Following the tourist office’s guide, Walks Around Peebles, I set out into the countryside on Walk #4, The Tweed Walk to Lyne, a "fine walk [which] explores the Tweed between Peebles and Lyne, using parts of an old railway plus riverside paths."  For those of you who don't have Scottish common sense, the Tweed here refers to a river, not an article of clothing. The guide is great, it tells you what landmarks to follow and where to turn.  You don’t even have to think!

Well, somewhere along the line I must have missed a turn, because I ended up at the end of a gravel road on a junction with a major road. I looked at my map, and it didn’t make sense.  I turned and walked a couple of miles down the road, hoping to run into the River Tweed, but no such luck.  Eventually, I encountered a bicyclist and asked for directions.  She could have told me north, and I would have walked north.  She could have told me south, and I would have walked south.  Who needs countryside navigation skills, when you have highway exit signs and buses? Anway, I followed her general direction that Peebles was just over a hill on the horizon.

As the sun began to sink over the horizon and I was still unsure of my way, I began to imagine the worst case scenario.  I might have to sleep on the hillside amongst the sheep and wait until the sun came back up.  It probably wouldn’t be so bad- isn't that just something everyone did at one time or another, 100 years ago?

Well, I may never know; just as the last rays of light disappeared over the horizon, I saw the old Peebles school at the foot of the hillside, and I made it back home to the comfort of my bed and breakfast.

 


Alisdair Fraser & Natalie Haas

Serving as an usher at the Old Town School of Folk Music has to be one of the best volunteer gigs on earth.  You show up, take tickets for fifteen minutes, and then get to sit inside and watch a show.  World Music Wednesdays are one of the best nights, as it’s an opportunity to regularly hear something completely new. Back in January, I got to see a wonderful Scottish fiddle and cello duo, Alasdair Fraser and Natalie Haas.  The music was good, and featured a much livelier cello arrangement than the standard dirge riff we're all used to hearing. But, the strongest point of the set was Alasdair’s charming inter-song banter and his Scottish step dance lesson. Though my initial attempts at the Scottish step dance were publicly disastrous, I scrawled practice Scottish step dance at the bottom of my to-do list as soon as I got home. Eight months later, I still hadn't gotten to it.

Well, that same duo happened to be playing in a town called Peebles during my trip, so I took his show as a reason to check out an otherwise random part of the countryside and work on my step dance.

As in Chicago, Fraser was clever and engaging between songs. A native of Skye, he encouraged the Scottish Borders audience to engage in “ethnic behavior.” He gave us a brief history of fiddle music and the dark era when it was banned for its association with “scandalous behavior.”

“I’ll be looking around the room as I play to see if there’s anything scandalous happening,” he notified us, his eyes slowly panning from the left side of the auditorium to the right.

Just as in Chicago, he ended the show with a brief lesson on the Scottish step dance.  “It’s quite simple,” he told us (step step heel toe ... hop!), but the dance devolved into freeform chaos.  I thought the Scottish would do better, but I was wrong.

 


The Glorious Monastic Life

When I was in grade school I loved wearing hooded sweatshirts.  My older brother told me that if I kept the hood over my head while I was studying for exams it would help keep the information in.  Though I’m sure he was right, I just liked hoods because they were comfortable.  By association, I learned to love monks as well because I thought they dressed fashionably in their hooded robes.  It was an added bonus that they were known to dine simply on bread and cheese, which is exactly what I would eat when I reached an age when my mom expected me to cook for myself.

On my first trip abroad nearly ten years ago, I was fascinated with old castles.  I’ve long since overdosed on castles, but I was thrilled by the prospect of visiting an abandoned monastery in nearby Melrose.  I took a day trip by bus to visit the Melrose abbey.  The ruins inspired me with the same sense of awe as the abandoned Michigan Central train station I saw in Detroit a few weeks back, though the story of the rise and fall (exceptionally well-told on an audio recording) was quite different.

At the tourist office, I found a brochure for The Borders Abbey Way, a loop walking path through the Scottish borders which covered 68 miles and passed four 12th Century abbeys.  This wasn't part of my rough itinerary, but the next morning the clouds parted miraculously for the first time in a week, and my choice was made for me.

melrose

walking

elderly_people

The Lost Art of Walking

To me the single most appealing facet of Scotland is the fact that, not only can you get just about anywhere without a car, you could even have a rewarding vacation without so much as riding a bus or a train.

The 68 mile Borders Abbey walk isn't even one of the better known paths in Scotland; this path crosses through the ancient pilgrimmage route St. Cuthbert's Way. One of the most popular walks is the 95 mile West Highland Way connecting Glasgow to the west coast seaport Fort William, but the longest trail is the 212 mile Southern Upland Way.

Some parts of the trails in Scotland do run along roads, but generally the roads were thoughtfully designed with a grassy roadside "verge" for walking. The abundance of pedestrian-only footbridges is remarkable.

That's not the case at all in America; even our national parks are generally only accessible by automobile or often at best a once-daily bus stop. Are Americans so reliant on the automobile because walking paths and buses are so limited, or are walking paths and buses so limited because Americans are so reliant on the automobile? In the Scottish Borders, it's easy to imagine a very different but perhaps more sensible reality.

Interestingly, about 90% of the travelers I encountered on the Borders Abbey path were senior citizens, and even one blind person.

 

 


Planning Your Itinerary: Book Ahead or Be Spontaneous?

My first day of the Borders Abbey Walk should’ve been fairly easy- even after getting lost a couple of times, it was still just a three hour walk to the Dryburgh Abbey.  Though I had been reassured at the Melrose Abbey that I’d probably have no trouble finding a place to stay around Dryburgh, I had no luck in the neighboring town of Newton St. Boswell’s, and the only open space I could find in Regular St. Boswell’s was a few miles down the road.  In all I spent an additional four hours walking before I found the Clint Lodge.

The next morning at breakfast, a couple staying at the Clint Lodge seemed envious of my spontaneous itinerary.  “It must be wonderful to wake up every day and decide just then where you’ll go next,” the woman marveled.

Well, yeah, it can be nice, but spending half your day on travel logistics isn’t always fun.  There were also times when I sat by a riverside and was thinking something like, “I hope I can find a place to stay tonight,” rather than, “That stream sure is nice.”  Though September is reputedly an easy time to travel in Scotland, the spike in tourism this year caught everyone off guard- after a miserable summer, this was the best weather they’d seen all summer.  The couple remained unconvinced that four hours of hunting for a place to stay in any way diminished the freedom of an open schedule.  Maybe they were partly right.  After a week of traveling, I settled on a comfortable middle ground, planning my trip just a few days at a time.

 


bovine

An Introduction to Bovine Psychology

Following the instructions in the Borders Abbey Way guidebook, I followed the trail between Dryburgh and Kelso along the river bank, turned up the path and walked through a gate “where livestock are often grazing.”  There I stood, face to face with about twenty cows blocking my path.  Each of them turned to face me and look me straight in the eye. Cow to man. Man to cow.

I took one step to the left, and they all took one step to the left... in unison.

I took one step to the right, and they all took one step to the right... in unison.

Being a city boy, I assumed cows were peaceful, but this peculiar behavior made me a bit nervous.  I took a few quick steps to the right and back; one cow, apparently the leader, charged across the field and out of the way.  The other cows remained in place, and so I cautiously walked past them and rejoined the trail.

It wasn’t until I was well past them that I felt pangs of regret that I wasn’t calmer and didn’t have my presence of mind.  I daydreamed about a better outcome:

I took a step to the left, they took a step to the left.  I took a step to the right, they took a step to the right.  I spun around on my right heel, and they spun around on their (back) heels.  I said, “moo,” they said “moo,” I said “MOOOOOOO!” they said “MOOOOOOO!” I did the moonwalk, they did the moonwalk.  I did the jitterburg, they did the jitterburg, I hollered “Let’s get funky now!” And that was just the beginning of a wild interspecies dance party.

 


Lunch on the Trail

I didn’t have the foresight to pack a knife, so lunch on the trail consisted of taking bites into a whole tomato, a loaf of naan bread, and a block of cheese, alternately.  I found this just as satisfying as a traditional sandwich.  In fact, it was so satisfying that I suspect everybody else secretly eats this way when there's no one looking.

As you probably have in your solitary eating, I had time to reflect on the process.  My mouth is too dry, switch to tomato; too acidic, switch to cheese, etc.  Clockwise on the tomato->cheese->bread wheel proved to be better than counterclockwise (i.e., tomato->bread->cheese).

 


!!! RAM SALE !!!

ram_sale It just so happened that I arrived in the town of Kelso after a 13 mile walk on the night before a glamorous ram sale.  I could not find a place in town (“sorry, there’s a ram sale tomorrow”), so I called a dozen places each in two neighboring towns, and they were also booked solid- something to do with a national walking festival (?!).  I thought that would finally be the night when I would have to sleep in a bush, but as (very mild) luck would have it, I was able to book the same spot I had stayed the night before at Clint Lodge.  Though it had taken me all day to get to Kelso from there, the bus ride back took just thirty minutes.

After all that buzz about the ram sale, I woke up the next morning with just one thought on my mind.

MUST… BUY… A RAM!  I took the bus back to Kelso to check it out.  It can’t really be described in words.  Unfortunately, I was also a bit shy with the camera, for fear that lifting my arm with the camera would be mistaken for a bid.  But I did get an audio clip that attempts to capture the spirit of the event.

To hear audio clips of the ram sale, click on each of the auctioneers pictured below. To get a sense of the energy of the ram sale, listen to all three at the same time.

auctioneerB auctioneerC auctioneerA

 


Whisky Tasting

After I tried a couple of unique and interesting beers including the Alba Pine Ale, Martin, the bartender at Ceilidh Place asked me what I thought of whisky.  “I don’t know how to drink whisky,” I responded honestly.

He wrinkled his nose.  “It’s not that hard…”

He got me started on the Ardbeg 10 year.  It was very good, probably the best I’d had, though my gustatory memory is such that I probably say that after every drink.  “I can’t put my finger on what I’m tasting, it’s all sort of intangible to me.  It must be a real skill to be able to articulate taste.”  Martin helped me out by sharing a hardcover guidebook to the whiskies of Scotland.

The Ardbeg was described as having a sweetness of 2, and a peatiness of 10.  The nose is “full-bodied, earthy, smoky, peaty and rich with touches of coffee/chocolate and tarry ropes/creosote”.  Tarry ropes?  Creosote? Yeah, that's what I tasted. Wait, what is creosote? I don't know, but the bartender explained to me that a tarry rope is just a rope covered with tar.

Some of the other descriptions were even more interesting, such as the 1991 Ardbeg:
“big, sea-tained, characters of seaweed, hospital wards and bandages and a slightly earthy, cocoa note to the peat.”

Or the "finish" of the 1967 Ardbeg: “Long, medicinal, and smoky with a note of burnt Christmas cake richness on the tail.”

I hope that some day I too will have such a refined taste for Scotch that I could write a review like this one for the 1979 Linkwood: “Big-bodied, burnt wood peatiness, a dark nuttiness, medium dry with the soft aroma of one of Leith’s old tea warehouses.” Though I've never been to a warehouse in Leith, I could tell the world exactly which whisky has a nose exactly like the ocean-soaked muskiness of a Mattapoisett labrador.

 


 

Scottish Music

Aside from the Alasdair Fraser show, I didn’t have much luck with finding traditional Scottish music.  Like anywhere else in the world, Scottish musicians don’t live up to their stereotypes 100% of the time.  Most mainstream sets, even those advertised as “traditional,” focused on an international blend of British and American pop music and classic rock with a particular emphasis on “Sweet Home Alabama.”

Even after the end of the Fringe Festival, Edinburgh supported a fairly vibrant live music scene. For me the high point in Edinburgh was seeing Sawyer, a Rush tribute band, in the tiny confines of the Bongo Room.  Rush is one of those bands that you either like or you don’t.  About 95% don’t like them, and the other 5% follow them with the fevered devotion of a stalker.  True to form, the tribute band played a series of Rush tunes note-for-note down to the exact cymbal crashes and solo notes as performed on the original studio albums.  All requests and solicitations for audience interaction were ignored and the set list was played exactly as preordained except for one song which had to be skipped due to a "computer glitch."  There were times when the lead singer opened his mouth without a sound- I couldn’t tell if he couldn’t reach the signature Geddy Lee high notes or if I’ve just lost the upper range of my hearing with age.  It didn’t matter, it was a great show as the other eight equally dorky men in attendance would surely agree (and, in case you're in the 5%, they surprised us with both Xanadu and Digital Man).

The award for the most “culturally dense” town would have to go to Ullapool.  With just 2,000 residents, the town featured at least four venues with regular live music. Though the promising Ceilidh Place was quiet in anticipation of an upcoming music festival, the Argyll Inn hosted a traditional session on Monday and an open mic on Tuesday.  The open mic was intimidatingly intimate; performers sat around a table, and more often than not the other performers would accompany you with harmonized vocals and guitar/fiddle accompaniments.

I could have stayed there all night if not for an 11 pm curfew at my B & B, where the hostess stared out the front window like a widow whose husband was lost at sea, her sole companion a squawking bird.

argyll_open_mic

Lochs + Religion + Whisky = ???

Though I got to see many lochs (a loch is just a lake or a sea inlet), I didn’t stop by Loch Ness.  There were so many other fables surrounding various lochs that it seems unfair that the Loch Ness monster gets so much attention.  What about the Loch an-Ordan Black Dog?  As the tourist brochure at Inverkirkaig describes it, the black dog was big as a cow; one witness claims to have been overtaken by the horned dog, at which point the dog let out a peel of diabolical laughter before disappearing.  My mom's current theory is that the art of seeing creatures of the lochs requires a combination of fervent religious beliefs and the right blend and quantity of local whisky.

loch_kirkaig

The Long Ride Home

To save on airfare I returned home through Dublin rather than Edinburgh.  The long ride from Ullapool to Belfast involved three buses and a ferry.  Having already witnessed the striking landscape of the Cairngorm Mountains and the rolling hills of the Borders, I devoted my attention to reading and witnessing the epic battle of a passenger in front of me whose coat fell on him from the overhead rack at each stop. One of the highlights of the ride back was overhearing a group of Japanese tourists making fun of each others' pronunciations of "Perth."

In contrast to the ferry across the Strait of Gibraltar where practically the only sound is the sound of mothers smacking their children, the Stenaline HSS embodied the chaotic commercial frenzy of a mall- featuring a convenience store, internet kiosks, manicure shops, coffee shops, bad pop music and a fast food restaurant.  Due to a failure of planning, I made the crossing at night, which forced me to focus inward on the mall.  At one point, a cascade of coins poured out of a slot machine, a white-haired senior scooped up his earnings and shuffled away.

 


My Red Heritage

One of the primary inspirations for my trip was the Scottish Highlands festival in Oak Brook.  Arriving at the festival grounds, the first thing I noticed is that almost everyone had the same bushy eyebrows as my dad.  Then I noticed that my last name Reid was listed under the tent for the "Donnachaidh clan."  I introduced myself as a Reid, and the next thing I knew I was marching in a clan parade, battle axe in hand, with the likes of Russ Reid and Bob Robertson.

Unlike my Poland trip, I was unable to turn up any distant relatives in Scotland, but I did find a family history book that posed a theory that was new to me- that the name Reid is a derivation of the color red.

donnachaidh_march

The Slide Show

You can't walk too far in Scotland without encountering striking scenery. Here's the slide show, just a sample of the hundreds of pictures I brought home with me.