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Through Caledonia: Whimsy in Scotland 7/2/24

Through Caledonia: Whimsy in Scotland

By: Gwen Akers

The Ashland Beacon


Caledonia, Latin for Scotland, is the name of a country that has always seemed like a fantasy land to me. A land filled with history, fiddle music and rolling green hills.

I never thought I would find myself standing in front of the most breathtaking mountain I had ever seen–staring up at the rocky ridges and greenery all around me humbled by the impressive beauty of nature, let alone staring up at these mountains in Scotland. I have grown up in Appalachia, and lived among the mountains for many years, but never have I been so enthralled by a scene. I am convinced that what I was looking at was a painting that had to be commissioned by the divine.

I have always loved history and learning about the places around me. So much of my years I have spent reading the novels, studying the photographs, and visiting the places in my hometown that helped create it. When I first had the opportunity to study abroad in Scotland, I was thrilled but also curious to know if it would be possible to truly understand a place in that short amount of a time.Turns out, I may never truly know Scotland completely, but I can do my best to understand it.

Scotland is said to have been settled in the 5th century, sprawling over the northernmost part of the United Kingdom. It is a cultural mecca, the birthplace of Harry Potter, the inspiration of Sir Walter Scott, and maybe one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen.

As a budding writer myself, I felt as if this place must be the inspiration I was looking for. Never having been abroad before, let alone on a plane, I wanted to experience life from a new perspective, and chase that adventure that all the great novelists seem to have experienced.

I remember waking up on the plane, only thirty minutes from touching down in Edinburgh and looking through the thin wisps of cloud–dotted farmland and a promise of excitement lying down below.

In my first few weeks here, I have settled into my flat and I have begun navigating this new city. Once confined by walls to protect themselves from invasion, Old Town Edinburgh is crammed together–each cobblestone street filled with cafes, bookshops, stores and tours. Monuments stand in the midst of it all, reminding passers-by of days long past.

The streets are colorful here, the famous Royal Mile stretching from the looming Edinburgh castle that stands atop the remains of a volcano down to the Palace of Holyroodhouse at the end. The shops are painted bright blues and pinks, beckoning to those out on the streets. The streets may be cramped, but they are cozy yet–opening their arms to let you into the warmth and light of the inside. For me, I could definitely see how Harry Potter’s infamous Diagon Alley was inspired there.

Yet, even with all the tall buildings and cobblestone roads, you were never far from a loch, the ocean and even the mountains.

Museums and galleries are commonplace celebrating the art, culture and beauty of the Scottish people. Their doors are always thrown open to first time visitors and old-hands alike. These open doors calling to me, waiting to share stories about becoming, unbecoming and finding oneself all again.

It is this language that spoke to me, the language of stories. As I dive deeper into what this means, into what the history, people, and culture here have to say–I hope that I can only remember the ancestors and storytellers that came from Scotland and landed in the mountains I now call home.


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