At 27 years old, after more than two decades of highland dancing, I finally travelled to Scotland – land of bagpipes, shortbread, and my favourite pastime.
On August 16, Heather and I flew from Vancouver to Toronto, and then onto Glasgow. Arriving at 9:00AM, we combed our hair up into buns and put on our stage make-up while seated on the floor of the rental car office, waiting for the vehicle we’d be taking up to the Glenisla Highland Games. Two hours later, we were en route, with me navigating and Heather bravely taking the wheel.
I felt almost delirious as we arrived at the games, pleading with the gate attendant to let us in as we’d neglected to stop for cash in our rush.
“We just got here from the West Coast of Canada,” we talked over one another in a panic.
“Well, that is a pretty good reason to let you in!” the gate attendant winked.
We got changed beside a creek behind the beer tent and hurried to the stage just as the Premier competition was about to begin. As it was a non-SOBHD competition, we got to experience some of the quirks I had only heard stories about: Number of steps determined the day-of, entries taken on the field, dancing the reel on a diagonal to fit across the stage, association dancers proving to be distractions with their wildly fun steps…it was an incredible experience!
We somehow managed to survive all six dances, and drove east towards Edinburgh, arriving just around dinner time. We took in the sights and sounds of Fringe, and hunkered down for a good nights rest at Heather’s friend’s place before tackling Arthur’s seat, clad in our kilts, the next morning. A day of exploring Edinburgh led us to reunite with a few friends, including Harry, Raeleen, Alison and Carol. One of the many highlights was taking in the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo. It was a bizarre experience to sit back and relax at a tattoo instead of dancing, but the show was spectacular!
In the blink of an eye, our weekend in Edinburgh was over, and we were boarding the bus up to Ullapool, where we were then to ferry across to Stornoway to meet Claire, Elizabeth C and Laura. The journey was long, but made entertaining by some islanders returning home from the RunRig concert! Once finally on the island, we settled in at Claire’s and spent the next few days balancing our time between living-room conversations, cozy by the fireplace, and exploring the idyllic scenery of the infamous Outer Hebrides. We even got a chance to put our ghillies on and co-teach a dance workshop for Claire’s lovely dancers.
The last leg of our trip was momentous; time for the Cowal Highland Gathering, home of the World Championship of Highland Dancing. Claire, Heather and I drove down through Isle of Skye towards Dunoon, where the rest of the Wilson family lives. We stopped in Portree for a “wee walk”, which turned into a morning of hiking the Quiraing, which is a landslip on the eastern face of Meall na Suiramach, the northernmost summit of the Trotternish (Thanks, Wikipedia!) My words cannot do this beautiful land justice; it was simply spectacular.
I don’t know if I will ever live down sleeping all the way through the drive through Glencoe, but I was awake for long enough to dance a fling accompanied by a piper in front of Eilean Donan Castle. We drew quite a crowd, but unfortunately the video evidence of this was cut short!
Once we arrived in Dunoon, we received warm welcomes from the Wilsons, and it felt like Christmas Eve as we cozied into their living room with tea and tablet, awaiting the arrival of more guests coming for Cowal. Elizabeth C and Laura caught up with us the following day, as did Elizabeth M and Jillian. It was a highland dancing extravaganza, and the weekend flew by with kayaking, Gig at the Gathering, the Cowal Games 5K race (in which Heather, James and I competed), and of course, the World Championship finals, which showcased the best of the best in the Highland Dance world.
The adventure concluded just in time for me to embark on my next big adventure: my graduate school orientation began the day after we returned to Vancouver.