Summer 2017

Cows with bangs

So I’m concluding my series of Scotland pics with the amazing Highlander Cows. Because nothing is more glorious than seeing extremely hairy, hipster-looking cows.

The first time we came across them, we were excitedly following tiny, printed signs leading to narrow dirt roads in the isolated farming areas of Culloden, not realizing that perhaps these little signs may just be bait to lure clueless tourists like us to an unsuspecting serial killer/farmer. Thankfully, that wasn’t the case.

The farmer was a friendly fellow who apparently has a sister who lives in the same city where I am currently living (so if I ever came across a tall Scottish woman named Alison in the neighborhood, I’ll make sure to ask). He gave us the honor to named these two lovely ladies below, so we named them Ginger and Ebony. Of course, it did make us wonder why he had never named them in the first place, that is until he started talking about the deliciousness of Highlander beef.

And thus, began our journey to find this elusive Highlander beef (spoiler alert: we failed… le sigh).




The next time we came across these hairy, little mongrels, we were spending the night at this one haunted-looking castle ran by a French staff, but owned by a mixed bag of Americans, Europeans and a Vietnamese. We had dinner next to a small wedding party of American southerners dressed in evening gowns and kilts. Then we wandered about the castle, chitchatting with the staff who did not appear to be taking our questions seriously. Really, they were legit questions, like do they serve Highlander beef? Where can we find Highlander beef? What does Highlander beef taste like? Is the castle haunted?

Unfortunately, the castle wasn’t haunted. Darn.

And lucky for us, just outside the castle were these guys. My camera and I had fun with them.


While these guys, for the most part, prefer to stay still and stare off into space (thus making really awesome shots), they do tend to wander into my shots once in a while like a typical animal, as you can see below:


Thankfully, they’re not like corgis. They rarely photobombed each other. And dayum, do they pose so well!


And that is it for Scotland.



Elgin Cathedral

Still in the Highlands, we drove southwards to the town of Elgin to where we visited the ruins of the Elgin Cathedral, aka “the Lantern of the North.” Built in the 13th century, the cathedral had survived fires and wars, before falling into ruin and disrepair in the mid 16th century. Preservation began in the early 19th century, after nearly four hundred years of neglect.

Today, the site is now pretty much a burial ground. The Chapter house is the only structure still intact as it was often used as a meeting spot.

Interesting place. I bought a couple of cashmere yarns next door. I should start knitting again.


From the Culloden Viaduct to the Culloden House

So after a tour of the Culloden Battlefield and a quick stop by the Clava Cairns, we went to a little, unexpected detour around the farmlands to check out a native creature that, I think, should’ve been the official Scottish mascot. But I’ll get to that later.

The detour took us to one pretty cool looking viaduct that I’m sure is completely ordinary to the locals, but for us, it’s something new. Kinda like the Bixby Bridge in California. Shiny and new to tourists, but very common to the locals… Well, actually scratch that. The Bixby Bridge is pretty cool.

After the drive, we changed and headed to a luxury hotel, the Culloden House, for dinner. I know it looked more like a late lunch, but it was actually almost 9 PM when we got there and didn’t leave until after 10 PM. The sun sets after 10 PM.

Anyway, the property  was owned by the Mackintoshes and the Edmonstones and later sold to the Forbes family. The house, itself, is over 200 years old, supposedly haunted by ghosts from the Jacobite battles. After dinner, we took an impromptu tour of the house with one of the gentlemen working there, heading to the basement where all the laundry, linens and food were stored. There, we found bits of the past still lingering about: tiny windows used for shooting enemies outside, damages caused by bullet holes, hooks attached to the ceiling used for hanging meats and humans. Interesting, morbid stuff.

Oh, I should also mention the bagpiper. Looked spiffy and all in his getup, but after years of going to a school with a bagpipe club, I’ve heard better. That was the strangest version of “Amazing Grace” I’ve ever heard.


Culloden Battlefield

There wasn’t much to see in the Culloden Battlefield, but a marshy field (although coming from the dry parts of California, I did had an appreciation for the landscape). The site was not quite like the other sites we’ve gone to. It is, after all, a historical landmark that is more similar to Gettysburg in Pennsylvania rather than the castles and other touristy places we’d gone to.

The final battle of the Jacobite Rising took place here in 1746. If you are unfamiliar with the Jacobite Rising like I was, it was basically an uprising in which a group of Irish, English and Scottish people known as the Jacobites rebelled against the British government in hopes of returning the throne to James VII of Scotland, a Roman Catholic king from the House of Stuart. In this case, the Jacobite Rising of 1745 was instigated by Charles Edward Stuart, the grandson of James VII and the Jacobite army consisted mostly of Highlanders. They were defeated in a final battle here in Culloden. Markers inscribed with the names of the fallen clans can be found in the fields, next to the memorial tower. The red flags, below, marked where the English army lined up.

It is more of a memorial, hence why I didn’t take too many shots.


Urquhart Castle

Situated next to the infamous Loch Ness is the ruins of the Urquhart Castle. Once used both as fortress and as royal castle, this structure has endured numerous conflicts, particularly the Scottish war for independence, throughout its thousand years of existence, before finally being left in ruins during the Jacobite Risings.

Getting to the site was pretty tricky. The castle remains hidden from view on the road and the parking lot. You first had to go through this generic-looking building, tread down these stairs, walk through the gift shop and the cafeteria before finally emerging out to this spectacular view.

Thankfully, the weather was awesome. No Nessie sighting, though.



After a few days in Ireland, we flew off to Scotland, landing at Glasgow. From there, we rented a car and drove off to some of the most pretty nerve-wracking drives ever. I wasn’t driving, but the whole left/right switcheroo had me close to becoming a hysterical backseat driver which luckily never happened since I totally would’ve been giving the wrong directions.

Anyway, we drove up north to the Highlands in the valley of Glencoe. Where do I begin? This place was awesome! I’ve been going to Europe to visit historical cities and sites, but never have I ever been to see natural wonders and boy, was this a shocker. Sure, I’ve read quite a few books about the Highlands (trashy romance novels about them unrealistically handsome, husky lairds to be exact, *wink, wink, nudge, nudge) and have seen a few movies about it, and yeah, I knew what to expect, but it’s really quite different once you’re there. Jet lag, heavy rain, cold wind and marshes really added to the effect of it. It’s like Yosemite and Zion except greener, wetter with helluva lot more mini waterfalls (like, at least ten to a mountain) combined with Lord of the Rings. I wish I could’ve taken more photographs if it wasn’t for the unpredictable roads, wind and rain.

Now for little history: A massacre took place in Glencoe some 300 plus years ago between two clans, the Campbells murdering the MacDonalds, including women and children and burning their village to the ground. Survivors fled to the mountains, only to later die of exposure. Today, Glencoe is rumored to be haunted. Screams, supposedly, can be heard on the site of the massacre. Pretty dark stuff.

You know what was also some pretty dark stuff? Haggis. Tasted like a meaty oatmeal. I will forever remember Glencoe as the place where I first tried haggis.


Blarney Castle

Ugh, the news was giving me a headache. So here, go look at photos of Blarney Castle and read about it.

Built around the 1200’s, Blarney Castle was used more as a military fortress than a palace for living. It was passed around from family to family and today lies in partial ruins.

What attracts tourists the most to this site is the legendary Blarney Stone. According to the most popular legend, Cormac Laidir McCarthy, the builder of castle, was facing legal troubles and prayed to the goddess Clíodhna who then instructed him to kiss the first stone he comes across on the morning he goes to court. Apparently this gave him the gift of eloquence and he was able to win his court case. The rest is history.

The stone has since been moved to the top of the castle where lines of tourists would lie on their backs on the rain soaked bedding, facing the cold drops of rain and then pulled to the very edge of the top of the castle to kiss the stone in the hopes of being gifted with the same gift of eloquence.

Me being a short person that’s can’t even reach the highest part of my kitchen shelf and with a lots hair that always gets in the way to boot, this was quite terrifying. Did it work? Well, considering I still cannot complete a coherent sentence and my Filipino accent still comes out when I’m nervous, I sincerely doubt it. For all I know, the stone could’ve been on the other side of the wall and everyone’s been kissing the wrong stone all these times.

Fun Facts:

  • Did you know Winston Churchill kissed the stone once? He could’ve been kissing the wrong stone like the rest of us.
  • Nearby the castle is a poison garden. One of these poisonous plants is cannabis. Why those sneaky Irish…