Discovering Peace in Scotland

Gaelen McCartney Glasgow School of Art, Scotland


October 13, 2015

During your time in college, you always find yourself having conversations about finding peace and discovering yourself. Throughout my time so far at Temple, I have found different things that lead me to these areas whether that is a place on campus that I can go to relax, or a neighborhood in Philadelphia that was peaceful, or people and friends that help me in discovering myself. The moments that I have in these situations have become very recognizable for me, and boy did that become some during these past two weekends.

The first weekend of October, is when I participated in the Arcadia Highlands Excursion, and it was absolutely incredible. We traveled all throughout the Scottish highlands seeing everything! Traveling from Perth, our first stop was at the Blair Athol Whisky Distillery in Pitlochry. After eating lunch, we traveled up to Kingcraig to see a sheepdog demonstration. Then we went up to the Battle of Culloden and then to Inverness where we spent a night in a youth hostel. Leaving Inverness, we went for a cruise on Loch Lomond to Uruqhart Castle. Then we traveled to the Ben Nevis Mountain range for a gondola ride. Our last stop was in Glencoe to take in the scenery and then we traveled back to Perth.

This trip was filled with beautiful scenery and moments that showed peace, and there were three moments that really showed me that:

I think the first place I saw this was in Kingcraig at the sheepdog demonstration. I love sheep and this demonstration was like the real life version of the movie, Babe. There was just something so beautiful about what we saw. This shepherd has eighteen dogs (not including the numerous amount of puppies he had) that he has trained by himself. There was even a blind dog that can herd the sheep by his sense of smell. The whole experience was honestly beyond beautiful. Not only was the herding of the sheep incredible, the whole scenery was amazing. I think what I loved most was the simplicity and old-fashioned aspect of sheepdog herding.

The second place was our night in Inverness. After having an amazing meal of fish-n-chips, we went to a traditional Scottish bar called Hootananny’s! It was so much fun. The peacefulness within this very loud and energetic bar came with the bagpiper playing. I’m still not fully sure why I felt so much enjoyment and peace within this place. I think the bagpiper reminded me a lot of my dad, because he plays the bagpipes, but it also reminded me of my heritage and life-ties to this area. Being Irish (and a wee bit Scottish, although not everyone might say that), I felt very much at home this night. It was a really enjoyable night and my friends and I started dancing along to the ceilidh music.

The final stop on the trip where I truly found peace and did a lot of self-discovery was on the Ben Nevis Mountain Range. Now try to picture the Scottish countryside but now with huge mountains and valleys all sparkling with beautiful greens, yellows, and browns. Picture yourself taking a twenty-minute gondola ride up to the top of the mountain, traveling through the pine trees and then straight through the heather and tall grasses, watching the trees disappear. Now picture bright blue skies sprinkled with clouds giving incredible shadows lingering on the land below. Then experience yourself walking along the ridge to a magnificent viewpoint. Climbing through the rocks while a little stream is on your side. This whole experience was telling me to become one with nature.

This past weekend, my flat-mate Bridgit and I went to the Isle of Arran. They say that Arran is a miniature Scotland, and they are very true about that. After completing our ferry ride we caught a bus that would bring us to the Machrie Moor Standing Stones. The bus ride was about an hour long and brought us all the way to the north end of the island and back around to the west coast side. I really wanted to go to the standing stones because I think there is something so beautiful about these structures. The bus dropped us off in the car park, and the walkway to the stones is through a farmer’s field. So we go through the gate and are surrounded by sheep. It was absolutely incredible. When we were looking at the stones, we met a couple that has lived on the island for the last three years but are moving soon to North England. They thought it was really cool to be having their semi-frequent coffee at the stones and to run into two students from New York and Connecticut. They were really nice and talked to us all about the island, Scotland, Glasgow, and just life.

A bit later some other friends of theirs happened to be walking through as well, and we talked with them too. The one guy told us a great story and history lesson about one of the stones there (be sure to remind me to tell it to you when I see you next). The land here was absolutely beautiful, and it was so quiet you could hear a pin-drop. It was breathtaking, honestly. After spending two hours at the Machrie Moor Standing Stones, we walked out to find the beach before waiting for the bus, because we wanted to see a Scottish beach. We happened to be walking out the same time as the very friendly couple, and they offered to give us a ride to the town Blackwaterfoot, which is one of the main bus stops. This simple interaction with them over those few hours really shows you the type of people I have interacted with during my time in Scotland; just people who are genuinely kind.

They dropped us off a few hundred meters from the little town right where the best beach was, and by golly was it a beautiful beach. It was low tide, so the beach was nice a long and there were tide-pools all over the place. We saw huge pieces of kelp and seaweed, a large jellyfish, anemones, and tons of barnacles and snails. We spent about an hour just playing and walking around on the beach. The water was quite cold and would be perfect to go swimming after a nice long run, because then you wouldn’t need to waste the time making an ice-bath. But now I’ve “swam” in the Atlantic Ocean from the other side of the pond. The Isle of Arran was another breathtaking and beautiful place that showed me peace and self-reassurance with nature.

I have forever been contemplating with what to do after I graduate from Temple University, and being on a farm or within nature is slowly becoming clearer to me. There is something so magical about being in the woods, about going back to the simple needs of life, about being one with the world. From the sheepdog farm to the Ben Nevis Range to putting my feet in the sand of the Blackwaterfoot Beach, I know that I have to continue doing something in my life that involves nature, or that I’m in an area with very easy access to nature.

For me, I find peace when I am in nature, when I am doing the simple things of life, and admiring the beauty of the world. I was so thankful for these two amazing weekends and it gives me so much excitement for my upcoming adventures. My first string of family is coming next weekend, and I cannot wait to show them Glasgow!