Local Travelers Heed Call of Scotland’s Landscapes, History

Local Travelers Heed Call of
Scotland’s Landscapes, History

Old Man of Storr, Isle of Skye. (Photo by Trista Haggerty)
By Trista Haggerty

Scotland had been calling to me for several years. Its moody skies and mist-shrouded lochs, meandering stone walls and wandering sheep all stirred a sense of returning home. As a tour guide to ancient sites, it’s the perfect place to bring a group because there is so much to discover—ancient ruins that predate Christianity by a few thousand years. And a landscape that invites you to explore its mysteries and unveil truths long forgotten.

Our journey began as I guided my group to the top of Dunadd in Kilmartin Glen, the oldest prehistoric site in all of Scotland. It’s where the kings placed their feet onto the stone atop the hill, and “married” themselves to the land. By this, they swore to rule the kingdom in service to the goddess, dedicated to following the guidance of both cosmic and earthly wisdom. We each took a turn, placing our foot into the well-worn footprint embedded in the stone. In our own way, we each made a commitment to serve both humanity and the earth in accordance to natural law.

From here, we traveled around the Isle of Mull, traipsing through both heather and marshland to an ancient stone circle, medieval castles, and an old, but still active, woolen mill. By the end of the day, our ferry to Iona was waiting for us.

(Photo by Trista Haggerty)

As I stepped onto the shores of Iona, a small island that’s part of Scotland’s Inner Hebrides, I felt a wave of contentment envelop me—an inner peace that is often felt when you enter a holy site. As I walked down the cobblestone street, I passed the ruins of the old nunnery. The Irish influence was noticeable as I saw the worn etchings of a Sheela-na-gig carved above the entryway. She is an ancient Celtic goddess and indicative of how long the goddess culture persevered, unwilling to be buried and, instead, taking up residency above the entryway of an otherwise Christian place of worship.

We spent five days here, hiking through high winds and harsh rain to her furthest shores, up a hill to a holy well, and to the abbey’s chapel for moments of contemplation, ending our days warming our feet by a cozy fire. It was a time for deep reflection while letting go of things in our lives that no longer served us.

From Iona, we sailed back to the mainland and headed to the Isle of Skye—a magical landscape created by landslides and often used as the backdrop in movies such as “Braveheart” and “Harry Potter.” Skye’s unique culture is steeped in both mystery and myth, with countless tales and legends of faeries. They were the spiritually advanced race also known as the Tuatha dè Danann who held special powers. My group spent time wandering the faerie hills as a way to connect and reawaken their ancient knowledge.

Our trip concluded with a drive through the iconic Glencoe region to our final destination, Rosslyn Chapel. Further mysteries were unveiled as our local guide led us through the mystical chapel that gained notoriety from Dan Brown’s book, “The Da Vinci Code.”

I returned home to our equally beautiful landscape, and ever more aware of the similarity between our own Lake Otsego and Scotland’s many lochs—with the Kingfisher Tower donning a plaque that reads, “Dedicated to the Lady of the Lake,” alluding to the Arthurian legends that are so much a part of Scotland’s culture. My next sacred journey takes me far from familiar terrain and all the way to the dry deserts of Egypt. However, there is a strong connection between Egypt and Scotland, and I’m looking forward to guiding yet another group into discovering some of the lesser known truths of our ancient ancestors.

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