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Scotland, More Than I Expected

Scotland, More Than I Expected
Leaving the warmth of the Indian Ocean and the beauty of Sri Lanka was hard to do when faced with the knowledge of 30˚ weather and wind in Scotland. However, I had no idea what wondrous things awaited me on the Isle of Iona and all the rest of Scotland! I don’t think I could have been prepared for what we experienced there.
Karina was to leave us before we went to Scotland.  We flew into Heathrow in England and over-nighted before our flight to Edinburgh and Karina’s flight back to the United States.  It was hard to let this bright, Hemingwayish character go.  She had been an inspiration, a confidant, a hospital nurse, a literary companion, a roommate and a friend for two months. In the morning we took separate flights about the same time.
Flying into Edinburgh, I knew that we would have a few days before the tour started.  After we landed, we picked up our rental car and drove to our lodgings. That night we had dinner with Finbarr’s brother and family and the next day we left for the Isle of Iona.  It was such a great experience to drive in a car over the hills and dale of this magnificent land!  The beauty of the rugged mountains, the stillness of the lochs and rivers and the greenness of the land in the cold of March was breathtaking.  The sun through the clouds made dynamic shapes and pictures for the camera.
As we came close to a village, we looked for someplace to stop for tea and some soup.  Finbarr spotted a quaint little place along the way and we pulled in.  Walking in, it was like stepping into a picture book, such a tiny little place with four tables or so, a tiny bar and a nice fireplace with a roaring fire.  It was in this little corner of paradise that I had my first taste of ginger wine.  It was a feeling of lingering warmth all the way down that warmed my body as well as my heart.  Welcome to Scotland, I told myself!
We had to take two ferries to reach the Isle of Iona, an island about a mile by three miles, population 130. The people working on the last ferry were so lovely.  I admired one young man’s Wellies and on a return trip he told Finbarr to “tell the lovely lady she can buy Wellies at the corner shop on Oban” (the next island over). That’s how I found the people in Scotland, the most friendly, kind people you’d ever meet. Now I know why I enjoy Craig Ferguson so much!
The two of us left on the second day to drive to Glasgow to meet the people who were to be on the tour and Kenneth, our driver, who I’d met on my trip to Ireland.  I was excited to be reunited with the wonderful Irish character.  The road to Glasgow was full of curves and hilly and the most invigorating drive.  Driving on the left side of the road, stopping sometimes to let another car go by on a very narrow stretch… it was like being in the Indy 500 with lots of shifting.  It was one thing to drive in the States like that but in Scotland on the left side of the road, it took an expert, and that wasn’t me, but Finbarr who had learned to drive on roads like these.
After picking up the bus and the pilgrims we began our trek back to Iona. Our first stop was not too far from Glasgow at an ancient stone circle at Kilmartin Glen. In this area, we not only saw the stone circle but also burial cairns and a henge monument.  It was just as powerful as the ones I’d seen in Ireland. As I lay my head against one of the tall standing stones, I immediately got the picture of the Mason’s symbol.  What?  This must be my imagination because what does that have to do with this stone circle.  I forgot for a little bit to trust my visions. Later Finbarr reminded me that this was a place of the Templars also and that the Masonic symbol would be right on.
As we toured the site, we found another powerful spot that was encircled with a very large, wide path of stones.  As I walked around it, I was going to enter across the stones and walk to the square indention in the center, but I didn’t feel right and I went further around. Soon it felt right to walk across the stones, which I did. I climbed down into the indentation that was probably three foot deep and stood there.  I had a hard time keeping my balance and felt as if I were in a whirlwind going up and then going down.  Others felt the same thing and others something different. I asked Fibarr if this was an opening to something, because on a larger standing stone I saw steps leading downward as the picture of this site formed in my mind.  He said, yes but it was covered now with earth.
Further down the path we came to a mound with flat rocks standing to form a cave like place.  We were told this was an initiation chamber. There was a much smaller one beside it that I crawled into.  It was like a sarcophagus and the story is that a person spent three days in it.  I would have had a hard time spending three hours in there, covered by a big flat stone!
From there we were glad to get back on the bus as the rain and damp had begun in earnest and we were ready for a cup of tea.  Kenneth, our driver, is a very nice fellow.  He had his iPad set up to video the sites and roads through the windshield, so that if he sent another driver on a tour with Finbarr here, he would be able to see how to go.  He also had some lovely music that was just my style on there and he played it and asked how I liked it.  I moved up to Finbarr’s seat by the driver when he began his moving about the bus to talk to the people.  Kenneth liked older music from the ‘70s and great movie themes.  He is about my son’s age, so it was nice to chat and hear his political views as well as his jokes.
The drive was a long one.  The bus could go across on the first ferry; however, on the second ferry no cars were allowed to go to Iona unless they belonged to the people on the island.  So we de-boarded the bus and pulled our suitcases onto the ferry for the 10 minute ride to Iona.  It was to be the most magical six days of Scotland!  The view coming in on the ferry is outstanding.  Of course, I had already seen it, but to know what my fellow travelers were to see and feel ahead of time made it that much more fun.  To top it off, I already knew several of them as they had been on other tours I’d been on.  My friends, Angela and Coleen were to add a great deal to my own experience on the island.

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