About me and about the why
In the eighties and nineties the Dutch Automobile Association (ANWB) was hard at work mapping the tourist attractions in Europe and storing the relevant details in a mainframe database called IDA. The company was solidly convinced it had a potential golden egg in the basket and fifteen 'database editors' were charged with getting Europe 'covered'. How different things turned out to be! The rapid advent of the internet took the world by storm and in 1994, after more than 10 years, the ANWB decided to cut it's losses and close the project down.
My colleagues at the time were relieved that the project, which had completely grown out of its seams, had finally been terminated. For me however it was a real blow and I went through, what can only be described as, a period of very serious mourning. My colleagues never understood.
I had loved my job so much that I decided to create my very own private project: Translating my enthusiasm for Scotland, its history and natural beauty into a book. Many years and several editions later that labour of love finally resulted in a pretty 300-page guide that ended up on my bookshelf (and nowhere else!) gathering dust. That was very anticlimatic. It made me restless! Was this it than?
The near endless possibilities of the internet however made me think again. Why not start afresh and make it a "virtual" journey: "Ha, I love a good project!"
But where to begin. There are so many websites dedicated to Scotland and all its natural and historic treasures. Why then yet another site? Could I come up with a new approach, a novel way of presenting Scotland on the www? The answer, I came to realize, had been there all the time! What drives me? What fuels this, I freely admit, almost obsessive fascination with a country not even my own? Why am I so 'enthralled' with Scotland? Is it the all pervading Britishness (sorry; Scottishness), the shape of the hills and mountains, the general 'lay of the land' or it's chequered history. Yes, all of that but the main reason for me though seems to be that perfect sense of being totally alone while following a twisting path across the moors, with the grey-green craggy hills left and right. There is the call of a lone bird wheeling in the windswept sky and the soft murmur of a peaty stream flowing through the heather. To tread where perhaps no man has trodden before. The land is pristine, untouched, unspoiled, but....there is an empty coke can in the grass and a jet flashes across the sky, ripping my perfect dream to tatters.......
Oh well. Probably it is just me playing these mind games, but then again, it is nobody’s mind but mine anyway. It's the only one I've got!
I love long-distance walking, have a somewhat romantic (read: "seriously flawed") view on the distant past and really like pottering about ruined time-worn buildings.
Add Scotland’s spectacular beauty and its proximity to 'the continent' into the mix and the rough outline of my ‘site-to-be’ slowly starts to come to the fore.
People sometimes ask why on earth I'm doing this. What's the point? The point is the fun in the creative process itself. It's the creation of something that's forever receding in the distance. You're just never done. Always new discoveries or another way of presenting something to the world.
This will be by no means a comprehensive listing of all the different attractions in Scotland. This is a very personal site that will reflect what tickles me and .....might tickle you too!
The scant ruins of Fast Castle just north of Coldingham are the perfect example. These ruins I find infinitely more intriguing (***) than the grandeur and splendour of castles like Inveraray or Dunrobin. These may be Scottish Highlights (**), but for me they'll never be ***.
No matter how imposing these castles with the perfectly manicured lawns and parks might be......I still prefer Fast Castle. I am looking for that haunting sense of time, grand vistas, spectacular settings or simply a good story. These will be my guiding principles. It’s all just a matter of taste!
Talking about castles: Although many castles have disappeared, there are still quite a few in existence (more then 2000!), most in ruins or modified to become family homes, but that still leaves the visitor with many interesting, sometimes even spectacular discoveries to make.
There are literally 100's of sites in Scotland where blood was spilt for many a different (and now often forgotten) cause. A very sobering thought if you ask me.
It’s odd, but the best known fields of 'honour' like Bannockburn and Culloden are so commercialised that visitors with even a minimal sense of history and no more than a thimbleful of imagination could very well be disappointed.
The grass is kept short, the hedges are well trimmed and, of course there is a visitor centre with a coffee corner and audiovisual show. Still, do go and see, because, although there is nothing even remotely reminiscent of yesteryear's strive, one can at least say: "Been there, done that".
There are lesser known sites e.g. Glenfruin or Red Ford or Redeswire where in the heather one may just hear the faint echo of steel on steel. Famous names which spring to mind are Rob Roy McGregor, Macbeth, Robert the Bruce, Eochaid ‘the Poisonous’ (How I love that name!) and William Wallace. Yes, they all had their day and they all saw the sun set over the green clad hills. Yet, no matter how important they thought themselves to be back then, there is no escape from "the way of all flesh".
Scotland's most impressive asset above and beyond is it's natural beauty. The vibrant and lush Cairngorms, the dreamy dales of the Borders region and the rugged mountains in the northwest. Its all there to be discovered. Torridon, Forsinard, Cape Wrath or Beinn Eighe are just a few examples.
I can't imagine Scotland ever disappoints, although the weather and especially the midges just might be a bit of a bother...........
This site is a serious effort on my part to somehow, make sense of it all. To create a viable and much more accessible alternative to the guidebook I mentioned earlier. It may not have the scope and depth of e.g. Undiscovered Scotland, but they've been around for quite a while and catching up is not exactly what I have in mind. I hope you'll enjoy this "labour of love" just the same!
I would like to extend a very warm thanks to my dear friend Judith Sleigh, owner of Tourism Scotland at Banchory. I have known Judith for about 35 years and she is very good at keeping me focused with my eyes 'on the ball'. A wonderful lady with a true passion for her home turf.
Revised site rating
- (***) This is a personal favourite! / No matter what it is.....I love it! It could be a Scottish highlight (**), a small museum or even a muddy field with a story (*).
- (**) A real Scottish highlight! / This site/place is generally seen as a must-see, although it is not necessarily a personal favourite of mine.
- (*) Have a look if you’re in the area. / An interesting place to visit if you happen to be near.
- (-) A hefty dollop of imagination is a must. / Could be just a muddy field, but if you know the story and can visualize what transpired here....it could be interesting.
You will not find a detailed description and the complete historical context. I merely intend to show you what is where, but I will certainly endeavor to tickle your budding interest (fancy). There are links on the right hand side of most pages to dedicated sites and don't forget the USEFUL LINKS page.
I am just pointing the way.
Dirk Jelier, Frederiksoord, The Netherlands, Autumn 2019