Highlands Tour and Ghost Walk

Wednesday July 29th- Today was a long, exhausting yet utterly fabulous day! A few of us decided to take a tour of the Scottish Highlands and I think I speak for the group when I say we saw some of the most amazing and beautiful sights that we had ever seen.

Where to begin… We started our morning with a visit to Hamish, the Heilan’ Coo (that’s Highland Cow for all you Americans). He was certainly a sight to behold, one of the many mascots of Scotland and the Highlands. We then began to make our way up into the Highland where we took in some breath-taking sights, check out the misty mountains.

By early afternoon we had made it to Urquhart Castle on the banks of Loch Ness. It was raining when we got there but as we walked around the grounds the rain stopped, the fog lifted, and we were able to see the whole of Loch Ness (which stretches out over approximately 24 miles). So beautiful.

We also took a boat ride on Loch Ness and we kept a lookout for Nessie, unfortunately she was too crafty and evaded us. The tale of the Loch Ness Monster is a great one and I look forward to sharing my pictures and stories with the kids at the library when I return to the States.

As we made our way back down into Edinburgh, we were treated to even more wonderful sights; how the scenery became even more beautiful with each passing mile is beyond me, but it did. I am officially in love with Scotland!

Believe it or not, our day got even cooler once we arrived back in Edinburgh. A bunch of the group put on a brave face and decided to take a ghost tour. We were treated to spooky tales of ghosts and ghouls who apparently still haunt Edinburgh today. We were even taken down into “the Vault”, an area below South Bridge which at one time (almost 200 years ago) served as storage and work space for many merchants of Edinburgh. However, after flooding and a few too many unfortunate accidents, the Vault was closed although many a poor person found themselves lost down there, never to be found again…

The Vault under the South Bridge is said to be one of the most haunted places in all of Scotland and many a visitor has had a ghostly encounter…

A great end to another amazing day!

National Archives of Scotland

Tuesday July 28th- Today we visited the National Archives of Scotland. We were first provided with a presentation on the history and inner workings of the Archives. A few interesting facts we picked up were that the archives are broken up into two divisions, the Record Services Division and the Corporate Services Division, the documents in the archives span over 70 kms worth of space and the dates of the information held by the archives range from 12th century to the 21st century.(photo courtesy of the National Archives of Scotland)

We were later given the opportunity to look at a few examples of the types of documents that the Archive collects. There was a recipe book from the 19th century as well as documentation of the treatment of female suffragettes from the very early 20th century. We were also directed to a website that allowed many of us with Scottish ancestry to look up our clans tartans. Very Cool!

Scotland Libraries

Monday July 27th- This morning we visited the National Library of Scotland and were given the opportunity to learn a bit about how and when the library was founded. From 1689-1925 the National Library of Scotland was known as the Advocates Library and today it holds approximately 14 million books and manuscripts, 2 million maps, 300,000 music scores, 32,000 films, 25,000 newspapers and magazines and on average it receives 6,000 new items a week. Pretty impressive!

We also walked through the exhibit on emigration from Scotland. The exhibit was a display of actual letters home from Scots who had emigrated to various places around the world, items they might have taken with them and statistics relating to how those who emigrated faired in their new homes. It was an amazing exhibit.

This afternoon, before we met up at the Edinburgh Public Library, we ventured over to the Elephant House which is know known throughout the world as “the birthplace of Harry Potter”. This cafĂ© was the place JK Rowling would sit in day after day, working away on the first Harry Potter book so as to save on her heating bill. Needless to saw we were in awe and many of us felt inspired by sitting in a place where such an amazing book was created!

Our final stop of the day was at the Edinburgh Public Library which was built by Andrew Carnegie between 1887 and 1890. He donated approximately £50,000 for the library to be built. The library was designed and built by George Washington Browne in the French Renaissance style. Above the entrance into the library is the inscription “let there be light”, it was put there at the request of Andrew Carnegie.

After our tour of the library, we had tea with a few of the librarians. We were introduced to Colm Linnane, a Children’s and Youth Librarian who provided us with several tricks of the trade as well as with the crafty analogy of “make reading seem more like cake than spinach”. His work with children from all ages, stages and backgrounds was inspiring to a lot of us and sounded challenging but very interesting. It was clear that he loved his job. We were so fortunate that he and a few other librarians gave up much of their afternoon to sit and talk with us. Overall it was a very inspiring day.