BC: Haste Ye Back!
FC: A Glen in | SCOTLAND
1: Acknowledgements | This is the story of my #Homecoming2014 journey to Scotland. It is told largely in pictures and with a few added words and excerpts from my blog, www.agleninscotland.com. If it is true that a picture is worth a thousand words then this just might be my Scottish manifesto! Nothing in this book could have happened without great assistance from so many friends, some of them ballooning buddies I've known for decades - like my travel agent Cindy Rainwater. Others were only names from Twitter until we met face to face in Scotland. Some of them you will meet here, others you will not. Inclusion or exclusion is representative of nothing other than my forgetfulness to do the now socially required selfies from time to time. I am hesitant to name names for fear I shall omit and offend someone, but a sincere thanks must be said to a few. Principal among them are Lisa Henderson of MustVisitScotland.com who, in late 2013, introduced me to #Scotlandhour on Twitter and my life has not been the same since. We didn't meet until my last hours in Scotland. The trip would not have been complete without the dinner we shared my last evening there! Likewise Dougie Baird - founder of #Scotlandhour. His personal tour around Glasgow was a pleasure and he and the #Scotlandhour team honored me by allowing me to co-host the April chat whilst I was in Glasgow. Thanks are also due Susanne Arbuckle who shared with me the magic of the unexpected, the Isle of Bute; Natalie Rowan who joined me for an evening of music and drama at The King's Theatre in Edinburgh; David R. Faller and Willie Stewart who invited me on Inverclyde Radio not once, not twice, but three times to talk about my love of Scotland; Mhairi Mackenzie, Estate Secretary at Ardverikie Estate (Glenbogle) - my Scottish "Ground Zero"; Simon and Fiona Dodds, owners of the Rumblie B&B in Laggan who shared with me their amazing collection of props from Monarch of the Glen; Bonnie Tours Kevin Scullion who invited me onto his Passing Places podcast then met me for dinner at Edinbane on Isle of Skye; Nick Shone who created for me an original one-off ID bracelet I shall cherish forever (and his lovely wife Vicki); Scott and Lynn at The Wheelhouse restaurant who were so gracious in welcoming me twice; Kev O'Neil and all the 29ers at 29Studios; and David Williamson and Stephen Knight - two fellow "Boglies" who took time from their lives to welcome me to their homeland and everyone on the Monarch of the Glen fan forum. Lastly my thanks to Sam Kilday who shared a couple of drinks with me at the hotel bar at the midnight hour before my departure from Scotland -- a final friend made! A special thanks to the people of Scotland who, to a person, were gracious, warm, and welcoming. I've never been more proud to tell the world I am Texan by Birth, Scot by Ancestry! Glen Moyer
2: Texan by Birth Scot by Ancestry!
3: DEDICATION | DEDICATION This book is a collection of memories from my April/May Homecoming 2014 journey to Scotland. It was a journey that would not have been possible without the inspiration of Scot actor Dawn Steele. In her role as Lexie on the BBC drama Monarch of the Glen she introduced me to Scotland and ignited within me an interest in my Scot ancestry. In her later works, "Sea of Souls" and "Wild at Heart", (as my admiration for her continued to grow) she inspired me to embark on a dramatic lifestyle change. To see Scotland in person became my goal, my motivation, and eventually - my reward. The photographs on these pages, and the experiences and memories they represent, would not have been possible otherwise. I owe her a debt I'll never be able to repay. Glen Moyer
4: Why Scotland? I don't have a good answer for that question. I've been aware of my Scot/Irish ancestry since I was a young man, but paid it little attention. Not until I discovered the BBC drama Monarch of the Glen did I develop a real interest in Scotland. Once kindled, that interest grew like a wild fire and that flame burns within me even now. I've learned that my 8th great paternal grandfather was Robert Gabriell Barnhill, born in Glasgow in 1627. Perhaps there is an ancestral pull at work here. After all, Scotland is a land with a rich history of mysticism. I only know that having been there, my heart now yearns to return...
5: Two of a group of three of the Kingarth Standing Stones found on the Isle of Bute. These are easily reached just off the Dunagoil Road on the way to or from St. Blane’s Chapel. They are backed by a dense wood and visited at the right time, right conditions, one can easily imagine the mysticism of Scotland flowing through them. I did not, however, experience time travel a la Outlander. Note the "mist" around the stone at left. Were there magical forces at work in this photo, unseen to the naked eye, or is it merely the effect of a few raindrops on the camera lens?
6: Glasgow & The River Clyde
8: Gavinburn Cottages, in the hills above Old Kilpatrick, a short distance outside of Glasgow, was base camp for my first week in Scotland. The views of the River Clyde, the nearby Erskine Bridge, and Glasgow in the distance were remarkable. With City Centre Glasgow a mere 30 minute drive away, it was the perfect retreat after a day spent in the city.
10: Dougie Baird is founder of the Twitter chat #Scotlandhour that was instrumental in my trip planning. It was #Scotlandhour that introduced me to so many wonderful people, like Dougie, whom I was able to meet while in Scotland. Dougie is a world traveler, photographer, blogger and sometime tour guide. As a lifelong Glaswegian, he (and his mate Gordon Bryden) gave me a personal tour of his hometown including the Kelvingrove Museum and Art Gallery, Transport Museum, and the Tall Ship (built in Glasgow) the GlenLee. (Except for above and lower right opposite, all photos here are Dougie's.)
14: IS CALLING | ADVENTURE | Stephen Knight is a Boglie, as am I. A Boglie is a fan of the BBC drama Monarch of the Glen and so named from the show's home location, Glenbogle. We met online on a fan forum for the show. On one of my first mornings in Scotland we met for brunch at The Wheelhouse Restaurant in the town of Falkirk. My full Scottish breakfast included my first Haggis and Black Pudding. Afterwards we visited the Falkirk Wheel - a unique canal lock system that rather than raising and lowering water levels, simply loads up the boats and like a giant Ferris Wheel, lifts them from one canal to another. It is an amazing display of Scottish engineering. Stephen also brought with him his two lovely bearded collies - Bonnie and Clyde. Meeting them was a real highlight for me. Sadly Bonnie (the blonde one) had recently gone blind from disease but she remains a very fun loving pooch!
17: The Kelpies The Kelpie, or water-kelpie, is the most common water spirit in Scottish mythology. They are most often described as a beautiful black steed living beside Scotland’s many lochs. Capable of shape shifting (even adopting human form) in its equine form, the Kelpie has the ability to extend the length of its back so as to accommodate many riders, carrying them into the depths of the waters. A kelpie is said to possess the strength and endurance of 10 horses. Today “The Kelpies” are the newest artistic work of sculptor Andy Scott. The shimmering (stainless steel clad) structures stand 30 metres high and weigh 30 tonnes each. They anchor a new parkland project, “The Helix”, built to unite 16 communities in the Falkirk area. They stand at the eastern end of a new extension of the Forth and Clyde canal. Although based on the mythical water horse, the sculptures celebrate the real world horse powered heritage of Scotland in industry and agriculture, as well as tow horses on the canals that connect the east and west of the country. Two Clydesdales served as models for the project.
18: Natalie Rowan is Marketing Executive at The Edinburgh Dungeon, winners of the 2014 Scottish Entertainment Award for Best Visitor/Tourist Attraction. Natalie was one of the first to extend the hand of friendship to me via Twitter. When I inquired about dining out before a night at the theatre in Edinburgh, she quickly suggested Illegal Jack's - a TexMex place with a Scottish twist - and at the time she knew little or nothing of my Texas upbringing! I knew then we would be great friends. My inquiry was because I had purchased two tickets for Opening Night to see a favorite movie, Brassed Off, touring as a stage play at the King's Theatre in Edinburgh. Having purchased two tickets, I was delighted when Natalie graciously accepted my invitation to the theatre, making the evening all the more enjoyable. In a touch of irony she had earlier worked at the National Mining Museum. Our time to meet and learn a bit more about each other was far too short and our goodbye was rushed, evidenced by the poor quality selfie. She deserves better here so I borrowed her Facebook profile picture. Next time I'll let her handle the camera. No, we did not make it to Illegal Jack's.
19: Brassed Off is the story of the trials and tribulations of life in the 1980's in a small British town dominated by a coal mine where most of the men work and where the greatest source of pride is the award winning colliery band. Against the backdrop of a vote to close the mine, the band’s director, stricken with Black Lung disease, is determined to see the band through to one more national championship. The play featured the Dalkeith and Monktonhall Colliery Band performing on stage. My paternal grandfather (seen kneeling on the left in the photo here, and through whom my Scot ancestry is traced) played percussion in brass bands most of his life, including a refinery band. I too played trombone from childhood through university and my high school band director, who inspired my love of music and aviation, was a lifelong friend until his death from liver cancer, so the show holds special meaning for me.
20: Susanne Arbuckle and I met via Twitter where she tweets as @ButeifulBute. She is an avid amateur photographer and when she learned I was in Scotland she offered to show me around her home, the Isle of Bute. It was not an area I planned to visit but I accepted her invitation and am glad I did. We spent a delightful afternoon together as she showed me the sights of her island home - from the Kingarth standing stones (pg 5), to the magnificent Tighnabruaich Viewpoint. She did this on her day off from her 9-5 job. Susanne has a deep passion for her home country of Scotland and she loves to share Scotland via her blog adventuresaroundscotland.com and Facebook page of the same name. Her generosity of spirit was overwhelming. (Opposite page - the Isle of Bute Museum and Visitor Center and the beach at Scalpsie Bay, looking south to the three hills Suidhe Chatain, Tor Mr and Suidhe Bhlain. one of Susanne's favorites. Following pages - Spring color at the visitor center and the Tighnabruaich Viewpoint)
24: Glencoe The Saddest Place I Know
25: Leaving Glasgow you drive up through the Trossachs and along the bonnie banks of Loch Lomond. It’s a beautiful, heavily wooded drive, a drive that can be mesmerizing. Then suddenly it’s as if you’ve emerged from a tunnel, out into the glaring brilliance of a rugged, windswept, majestic, landscape. Your pulse quickens, your breath shortens – you are in Glencoe. Volumes have been written about what happened here on 13 February 1691. It’s not for me to recount the tale but for those who don’t know the story, members of the MacDonald clan had taken in members of the Campbell clan – given them food and shelter, shown them hospitality for ten days. The two clans were on opposites sides of a power struggle between the ruthless ruling central government (Campbells) and the more freewheeling sometimes lawless Highlanders (MacDonalds). King William III had offered the Highlanders a pardon for fighting against him provided they signed a loyalty oath. The MacDonald clan chief reluctantly left to sign the pact but went by mistake to Inverlochy in Fort William instead of going to Inveraray near Oban. He arrived a week late but still signed the oath. It was too late. | It was no mistake the Campbells had sought the hospitality of the MacDonalds. They’d been dispatched there with orders to exterminate them, and on 13 February they murdered 40. Scores more would die from hunger and exposure in the aftermath of the violence. That the Campbells had accepted such hospitality from the unsuspecting MacDonalds before turning on their hosts is what makes the crime so heinous. Pending more research into the very recent discovery of my 8th Great Grandfather, Robert Gabriell Barnhill, born in Glasgow in 1627 – I know my other Scot ancestors, the Breckenridges – while not a clan of their own, were under the influence of the Campbells of Breadalbane. As I stood looking out onto the majesty of Glencoe, I could not help but wonder – were my ancestors here on that fateful day over 320 years ago? It’s a question I’ll likely never know the answer to and that’s fine. I probably don’t need or want to know the answer. But how very ironic it is that my love for Scotland, and my desire to explore my Scot ancestry was sparked by a fictional TV family of MacDonalds and that my search would lead me to the Campbells. There’s a reason I chose an image of Glencoe as the featured image for this book and my blog – A Glen in Scotland. Glencoe is the saddest place I know.
28: Glenbogle (Ardverikie Estate)
30: Glenbogle – this is my Scottish ‘ground zero’. This is where Scotland stole my heart. It will always be my favorite wee bit of this magical country. Glenbogle is of course, fictional. It is the setting created by Sir Compton Mackenzie in his novel Monarch of the Glen. Written in 1942, Monarch of the Glen became a successful BBC television series over half a century later. Filmed on the Ardverikie Estate in the Scottish Highlands, Monarch of the Glen ran for seven very successful seasons from 2000 to 2005. The story line in a very simplistic sense is of a young Scott, Archie MacDonald, called home from London to try and save his family’s historic estate in the Scottish Highlands from bankruptcy. It is, in my opinion, some of the finest family television I’ve ever seen.
33: LLo | Loch Laggan runs the length of the estate and the sandy beach found at the end nearest the estate entrance featured in many episodes. The small log cabin featured in an episode where Duncan confused a group of naturists for naturalists! Following page - the Gatelodge and bridge, and the falls on the River Pattack were also filming locations. The drive from the Gatelodge to the main house is incredibly picturesque!
35: This building on the estate was "dressed" as a pub, The Ghillie's Rest, for Monarch of the Glen. The light fixtures, and the sign over the door are the only remaining evidence of this. Note the brass lamps on the wide exterior wall - they were used to light the pub's sign. The building is vacant, has no water or power. Filming was done using generators.
36: Shooting Locations - top right - Laggan Stores was "The Mall"; center right - a school house; bottom - the Cillie Choirill Church and Graveyard; and below - the Laggan Community Office doubled as a petrol station and post office. Opposite page - Katrina's croft.
38: The building above was used as Meg's Dance Studio. The car, a Citroen, is now in the private collection of Simon and Fiona Dodds owners of The Rumblie B&B in nearby Laggan. When the show wrapped virtually everything was sold at auction. Opposite page - more props from the private collection of the Dodds.
39: Top left - collection of autographed cast photos Top right - various sign props Center left - McDonald clan banner Center middle - one of Andrew's many paintings Center right & opposite - Simon displays the 'one off' custom blue bear Duncan gave to Jess upon his return to Glenbogle in the series' finale.
40: "Goodbye Lexie McDonald" | One of my favorite, but most painful, scenes from Monarch comes early in Season 6 when Dawn Steele/Lexie left the show. In her last scene she boards a steam train and, with tears in her blue eyes, rides away from the home she holds so dear – Glenbogle. As part of my visit here I wanted to ride that same train – the historic Strathspey Steam Railway, and I did. Originally opened in 1863 (the time of the American Civil War) and run by the Highland Railway Company, the ride today is from the town of Aviemore to the village of Broomhill – dressed in Monarch as “Glenbogle Station." Besides the scene noted above, the station made other appearances in the series, including when Archie and Lexie returned from a business trip to London having shared a sleeper compartment well before their romance blossomed. I booked First Class afternoon tea service and was not to be disappointed when greeted with white tablecloth, tea, sandwiches, a variety of scones, pastries, cakes, and a sizeable portion of clotted cream. The compartments, as you would expect, are like stepping back into every old train movie you’ve ever seen. It was brilliant, including the tartan upholstery! The ride takes you along the River Spey with the magnificent Cairngorm Mountains as a backdrop. It is incredibly scenic – but my mission was the Glenbogle Station, where every self respecting Monarch fan has to snap a couple of selfies and I was no exception.
41: The top photo on this page is a screen shot grabbed from Monarch of the Glen, Season 6, Episode 3. Dawn Steele, as Lexie (in pink coat), prepares to board the train and leave Glenbogle forever as members of her family look on. Note the engine in distance. Now compare the other photo - my photo- taken from near the same location. The engine was behind me as I took the photo not ahead of me as it was in the scene from Monarch. It normally does not travel left to right as in the top TV shot, but instead, right to left as seen in my photo... They turned the train around to get a more scenic final shot for the TV show!
42: Lionel Smith is a remarkable man. He is the volunteer conductor on the magnificent Strathspey Steam Railway. He is a 25-year Army veteran. He played percussion in his regimental band with which he toured America (my own grandfather was also a drummer). He’s been a volunteer on the Strathspey Railway for 15 years – including the years when Monarch was filming. He regaled me with his recollections of his days of interacting with the actors and film crew. I was transfixed. (He worked as an extra in the show and could be a great Winston Churchill). About Dawn, he told me the crew used to joke with her saying she had the “prettiest bum” they’d ever seen. Now I’m not one to argue, but for me, it’s always been her eyes that melt my soul. They are the bluest eyes in Scotland. The band Restless Heart did a song a few years ago – "The Bluest Eyes in Texas" – and every time I hear it I think of Dawn Steele and that scene of her on the train. Chatting with Mr. Smith (by the way – what a name for a man who works on a train – Lionel!) was pure joy. His sharing with me his personal recollections of the days when Monarch was being filmed here added a completely unexpected thrill to an already brilliant and memorable experience. | "Old Steam Trains"
44: The Tipsy Laird is the pub in Kingussie the cast and crew of Monarch used to frequent for a bit of nightlife, like karaoke. Here I met David Williamson, from Glasgow, and Margie and Donna from San Diego, CA, who, like me, were visiting Glenbogle - staying at the Gatehouse. We enjoyed a wonderful dinner together as new friends who shared a passion for a favorite TV show. It was a perfect evening to cap my visit and stay at Glenbogle!
45: Glenbogle (Ardverikie Estate) - this photo is not mine, it was taken from the Internet. This view, of the front of the castle, can only be had from Loch Laggan. The A82 runs along the loch and you can catch a glimpse of this view as you drive but photographing it can be precarious at best. Ardverikie, the ancestral home of the McPherson family, has burned to the ground twice. This version of the house was built in 1877 by Sir John William Ramsden. This magnificent 40,000 acre estate, as the fictional home of the McDonald family in Monarch of the Glen, has likely done more to bring the beauty of the Scottish Highlands into the hearts of people around the world than any other single location. It certainly captured my heart.
46: Loch Ness & Urquhart Castle | Loch Ness - No self-respecting tourist can go to Scotland and NOT do Loch Ness. I didn't find Nessie (though my friend Steve Lombardie suggested it was because I was too busy doing selfies) but the Jacobite Cruises boat ride was fun. A highlight is the opportunity to visit Urquhart Castle, once one of Scotland's largest castles. The views of the castle from the loch are impressive!
48: Isle of Skye
49: The Isle of Skye is the second largest Scottish island at 630 sq. miles. It is the largest and northernmost isle of The Inner Hebrides. Connections to the mainland are by ferry and, since 1995, the Skye bridge. Geographically it is dominated by the Cuillins (opposite), mountains that reach 3,225 ft. I chose Skye as my destination for the final week of my visit largely because of its incredible scenery from the Cuillins to Kilt Rock to Old Man of Storr to Portree, it is like one giant picture postcard. My cottage, Tigh Dubh (Tie Doo), meaning blackhouse, is a traditional style dwelling in the Scottish Highlands, the Hebrides islands and Ireland. This one is located on a working croft (farm) in Edinbane and was quaint and cozy - a real delight. (Below: The beach at Staffin Bay)
50: Kilt Rock, so named as the vertical columns of rock seem to be pleated, like a kilt. The Mealt Falls is fed from nearby Mealt Loch. The cliffs here are 90 metres high, near 270 feet. Both sites are visible from the same public viewing station. It's a long way down!
51: Macleod's Tables are two table-topped mountains which dominate the skyline of Duirnish. They're named after one of the best-loved Macleod chiefs - Rory Mor. On a trip to the Royal Palace in Edinburgh, the gallant and cultured chief was teased by Edinburgh courtiers, who believed Skye was a barbaric island at the back of beyond. They asked if he had ever been in a more elaborate banqueting hall, or seen more precious candelabras or even eaten at a larger table than the one he was sitting at. To which, Macleod merely invited the catty courtiers to visit him in Skye. They duly arrived at Dunvegan and towards evening Macleod took them up to the top of the mountain, where he had a banquet laid under the roof of the sky. As night fell, his clansmen stood round the table with flaming torches so the feast could continue. Macleod then retorted that no man had ever made a more spacious banqueting hall than the one they were sitting in. No candle holders could be more precious than the ones standing around them, and he believed his table was larger than any other table built. That put an end to the snide remarks and gave the mountains a name.
52: The Old Man of Storr (right) is a large pinnacle of rock located on the north of the Isle of Skye, in an area known as ‘Trotternish’. The 50 metre high rocky outcrop is prominent above the road 6 miles north of the pastel colored port of Portree (opposite) and can be seen for miles around. It is also the highest point of the Trotternish Ridge. The entire Trotternish ridge area was formed by a massive ancient landside, and the Storr, which is composed mainly of ancient lava flows, is the most easily recognizable landmark on the island and one of the most photographed. Legend has it that the Old Man of Storr gets its name because the rock outline and the protruding pinnacle resemble that of the face of an old man. Two Churches Walk (below) on a beautiful Spring day is a 45 minute circular walk around the ruins of two churches near Dunvegan Castle.
53: Skye is also the home of Nick & Vicki Shone who enjoy a magnificent view! Nick, owner of ALT Jewellery, is the artisan who crafted my special bespoke bracelet (pg 58) that I received when we dined at the famous Three Chimneys restaurant on Skye. A few days later I was their guest for dinner at their home - both were evenings I will long remember!
55: "All Aboard" The Hogwarts Express
56: I’m not a fan of steam trains, nor am I a devoted Harry Potter fan. I can honestly say I’ve never seen an entire Harry Potter movie from beginning to end. I’ve seen bits of two or three, but never an entire movie. So it wasn’t either of those factors that to led to my being aboard the Jacobite Steam Train as the finale to my three week #Homecoming2014 journey to Scotland, it was the pictures; online photos of the train traversing the magnificent Glenfinnan Viaduct, a scene, a view, I had to experience! The Jacobite is a steam locomotive hauled tourist train service that operates over part of the West Highland Railway Line in Scotland. It has been operating under various names and with different operators every summer since 1984. It has played an important role in sustaining a scenic but otherwise remote and unprofitable route. The Mallaig Extension of the West Highland Railway opened in 1901 and was operated by the North British Railway. It was intended to help open up this rural and remote part of the Scottish Atlantic Coast, and the building of the line was heavily subsidized by the British Government. | Regular steam services over the West Highland Line were withdrawn in 1967, in line with the Brit Rail Modernization Plan which outlined the replacement of all steam locomotives with more efficient and reliable diesel locomotives. In 1984, Brit Rail re-introduced a steam-hauled service over part of the line in an effort to encourage tourism and boost income on the heavily subsidized line. In 1995, following the privatization of Brit Rail, the operating license for the West Highlander trains was granted to the West Coast Railway Company, and they began operating the service that summer under the new name of “The Jacobite” (after the historic Jacobite political movement which has many local connections). The actual journey departs from Fort William, largest town in the Scottish Highlands situated at the base of the UK’s tallest mountain, Ben Nevis. The line covers 84 miles round trip and 6-hour round trip (2 hours up, 2 hour lunch, 2 hour return) is just the right length for a day trip. This has been called by some the greatest railway journey in the world. In First Class, where I traveled, you can close your eyes and reopen them to find yourself transported back in time to the luxurious age of steam travel. This is a very family friendly trip – adults will marvel at the scenery and wax nostalgic at the steam locomotion, while the kids will love the Harry Potter connection. It was the perfect way to conclude my dream trip to Scotland!
58: Glen wanted a momento of this, his first visit to Scotland and supplied the brief - "An I.D. bracelet, featuring both the Texas (Glen's birth-state) and Saltire (Scottish) flags and his name in Gaelic, possibly featuring blue leather in the design." The rest of the design was mine, including the Skye deer antler button fastener, the various fittings and the use of braided, "bolo" cord for the strap. The design was chemically etched into the silver and the recessed areas oxidised to highlight the design. I managed to get hold of some local antler and carved the button fastener and the whole thing was assembled with the use of stitching in beeswaxed, English (sorry Glen !) linen thread. I was pleased to finally present Glen with his bracelet [on a] Friday evening at the famous Three Chimneys restaurant on Skye where Vicki & myself were delighted to dine as Glen's guests.... | I think it's fair to say that Glen was very happy with his new bracelet and put it on immediately as we sat at our table in the Three Chimneys. Gravity, however, had other plans and before long each of us couldn't help notice that the bracelet would rotate as he moved and the heavier I.D. plate would end up below his wrist with the antler fastener uppermost time after time - the tag was too heavy... A little dismayed, I took the bracelet home after our fabulous dinner and set to work during the weekend adding weight to the button, hopefully without detracting too much from the design. In the end I hammered a sheet of heavy-ish gauge silver sheet to closely match the profile of the back of the button and soldered a lip around the edge to contain and "frame" the button, thereby adding the necessary weight to ensure that the bracelet "wants" to sit with the (now) heaviest element - the clasp, under Glen's wrist where it should be. A lesson learned. It is vital to consider the mechanics of the design of a piece of jewellery and all the forces of physics and nature which may act upon it as it is worn. The final version of this piece has been hard won, but it has been an honour to make and I am very happy with how it has turned out. Hope you enjoy it Glen - See you soon ! Cheers, Nick. | The Bracelet by Nick Shone / Alt Jewellery
60: Scotland the Beautiful
66: Sam Kilday learned via Twitter I was spending the last hours of my last night in Scotland at the Glasgow Airport before an early morning departure. He and his partner Jane live a stone's throw from the airport so he tweeted me asking if I had time for a nightcap. It was nearing 10pm, I was in my room following a 6-hour drive from Skye to Glasgow, and then an evening spent in Falkirk (30 minutes away) for a final dinner with Lisa Henderson and Steve Sadler. I was tired and feeling downhearted at the thought of leaving Scotland. My body said it was time for bed, but my heart said "Why Not?" We met at the hotel bar (another online friend now met in person) and spent a couple hours getting acquainted over a couple of tall scotches (Jura - as suggested earlier in the evening by Lisa) and my entire mood changed. I was laughing and joking and excited again about being in Scotland. Meeting Sam was the perfect send-off and I can't thank him enough for what he did for me that evening. His hand of friendship, extended that night, completely unnecessary but so welcomed, is everything that I love about everyone I met in Scotland! He and Jane run a company (Juniper and Jane Textiles) offering contemporary Scottish homewares (juniperandjane.co.uk) and Sam presented me with a wonderful tea towel with a map of the Isle of Skye - my last destination in Scotland. If he hadn't been there to lighten my mood it might have been used as a crying towel. As it was, I was able to close my eyes for a final time in Scotland with a smile on my face (and a bit of a buzz in my head!). Thanks Sam!