Valley Forge: An American Treasure Worth Saving — CCU Public History Fall 2018

This is part of a series of re-posts of student blogs from Coastal Carolina University’s Intro to Public History course in Fall 2018. Please visit the class website, https://ccupublichistory18.wordpress.com, for more information.

By Gert Hynes

In September 2017, a hurricane evacuation from South Carolina took me to family in Pennsylvania. While there, in an attempt to use our time wisely, we visited Valley Forge National Park, which was a first for me. I was shocked and amazed at the size of this American treasure, and embarrassed that as a former “northerner” I’d never been there.  It covers nearly 3,500 acres and is a short 12 miles outside of Philadelphia.

As we explored the grounds, it was easy to understand why Washington chose this place for his headquarters.  It sits high upon a mountain overlooking the valley below – an excellent spot for surveillance of enemy maneuvers.  Approaching this amazing building, you get a sense of admiration, not only for the architectural integrity of the structure itself, but for the wisdom of the “Father of Our Country.”  Visitors are free to examine the rooms inside which include an office with a drop-leaf table where business was conducted, circa 1740, a simple but elegant bedroom for George and Martha Washington, complete with a mahogany and maple bed, circa 1770’s, and a second bedroom that served as an additional office or room for guests if needed.

Outside, visitors can wander into primitive soldier’s cabins, explore the nearly 30 miles of hiking trails or enjoy the manicured lawns.  We took advantage of a warm sunny afternoon with a picnic lunch.  Leashed pets are welcome, and my dog Henley enjoyed her time there as well.  The park has many educational opportunities in the form of an interactive walking tour with a Park Ranger, trolley tours, and tales of bravery, spies, and heroism given by professional and amateur “storytellers.”

In 1993, a monument to the “Patriots of African Descent” was erected at Valley Forge National Park in recognition for the African soldiers who fought with Washington at Valley Forge in 1777.  This “monumental” monument was sponsored by the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Valley Forge Alumnae Chapter.

The park is also home to numerous wildlife species, including deer, foxes, Eastern cottontails, and even coyotes.  Birdwatchers have identified over 225 species of birds, including the bald eagle, osprey, and peregrine falcons.  The creeks abound with trout, bass, and catfish, and the meadows and forests attract not only butterflies, but a multitude of other insect species.

It all seems wonderful, however, nothing in this world is perfect, and amid the history and educational opportunities, problems also prevail.  In the late 1960’s a manufacturing company disposed of asbestos waste into sections of the Schuylkill River and quarries that became part of Valley Forge State Park.  After years of site clean-up, in March 2018 the National Park Service inspected the area and found it poses no risk to the ecology or humans, and tree replacement and site work was scheduled to be completed in late 2018. https://www.nps.gov/vafo/learn/management/asbestos.htm

Bridge and road construction projects have closed several park trails, one through 2020.  Mt. Joy, a “social” trail has developed a major problem involving erosion and damage to earthworks constructed by the Continental Army. Continuous hiking and steep hills have left much of the area vegetation unable to grow and soil is being washed away. Some sections of the trail intersect re-forested areas and allow invasive plants to eliminate natural rebirth of native plants. https://www.nps.gov/vafo/planyourvisit/conditions.htm

Climate change has also put this historical site at risk.  Recent intense storms have sharpened awareness of the damage flooding, wind-broken trees, and erosion can cause. https://www.nps.gov/vafo/getinvolved/climate-change.htm

I think we should take a hard look at the past to ensure that we don’t make the same mistakes with our future.  The time is now to face the truths about climate change, pollution, and development, and the effects of abuse they’ve instilled in our country.  These are sacred lands that our forefathers laid their lives on the line to protect – it’s ou turn to recognize our obligations to deal with the salvation of our heritage.

Photo information: George Washington’s Headquarters at Valley Forge (1777-1778)

https://www.nps.gov/vafo/learn/historyculture/upload/Washington-s-Headquarters-Book.pdf

via Valley Forge: An American Treasure Worth Saving — CCU Public History Fall 2018

Meet MMM: Trish Biers — Mors Mortis Museum

More about Mors Mortis Museum this week! Read more about my amazing co-conspirator in all things death, museums, and human remains – Dr. Trish Biers!

I remember the night so vividly, my father and I stood behind a burgundy velvet rope waiting to go into the cinema. I didn’t know what to expect, it was quite a grown-up movie for me and the excitement around opening night was a big deal for a little girl. Seeing Raiders of the Lost […]

via Meet MMM: Trish Biers — Mors Mortis Museum

Repost: Welcome to MMM!

This post is from one of my new ventures with fellow museum/death colleague, Dr. Trish Biers. Read more about our work in public engagement, museums, human remains, and death at MorsMortisMuse.wordpress.com, and on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook at @MorsMortisMuse

Welcome to Mors Mortis Museum!

Screen Shot 2019-03-02 at 12.11.27 PMMors Mortis Museum began as an international collaboration between Drs. Trish Biers and Katie Clary in 2017. In 2019 we launched a social media presence, and we plan to continue to grow our collective with blogs, interviews, meet-ups, and workshops or a conference. One of the main purposes of the group is to foster conversation that will lead to better practice and protocol for how museums and institutions do public engagement with human remains. Additionally, we hope to help create conversation with new narratives about collecting and acquisition along with evaluating how museums are responding to increasing transparency about their collections.

Please feel free to contact us with questions, comments, pitches for blogs, more information, or just for a chat. You can also read more about us, our motives, and the people behind MMM on our About Us page.

We are compiling a working list of Information and Resources about death, museums, human remains, and more.  Please contact us or comment to let us know about resources we should include. This is a growing and evolving list that is no where near comprehensive (yet!).

Find us on Twitter @MorsMortisMuse, and on Facebook and don’t forget to subscribe or follow our our blog.

Looking forward to many conversations, workshops, and more in the future,
Trish + Katie

via Welcome to MMM! — Mors Mortis Museum

2018-2019 Academic Year in Review

Iceland is amazing! Go there!

As usual, the academic year caught up with me and threw me for a whirl. After a wild hurricane-riddled fall semester (one month away from campus!), and intense experiential learning semester in spring, and a well-earned holiday to Iceland, I am back again and ready to do this (at least until August).

Fall 2018

The fall semester was bizarre in many ways. The semester started out fine, with my usual Pre-Modern World survey, Intro to Public History, and a capstone for the MA in Liberal Studies. I headed off to DacNet and England the first week of September, and on the way home heard a hurricane was brewing. Hurricane Florence hit, and school was closed for 3 weeks. We came back the first week of October to try to recover some semblance of a normal semester. It went as well as it could, and everyone adapted, but it was far from a normal semester.

My Intro to Public History class went well, and I tried out a new project idea from Dr. Jamie Goodall which worked without a hitch. I was happy to have a couple of graduate students in that class. The class website included a space for blogs, which I will share over the coming weeks.

Yay Mandy! Enjoy MTSU!!

My MALS capstone student, Mandy Hamilton, worked on a very cool digital reconstruction project, which you can find here: https://amanda9917.wordpress.com. A very incredible piece of news, totally surreal for me, Mandy will attend MTSU in the Fall semester to pursue her Ph.D. in Public History with my dissertation advisor!

Spring 2019

The Spring semester was probably the best I’ve had yet as a professor.

I developed a new course on Great Debates in Public History and Cultural Heritage. This course was developed completely around Reacting to the Past pedagogy, in class debates, group presentations, and other in class activities. As part of this module in the course, I invited Chief Harold Hatcher of the Waccamaw people to visit the class and talk about his experiences as a Native American in our community. The “flipped classroom” nature of this course was challenging for me as an instructor, but many students seem to do more research and push themselves to see all sides of our historical debate topics in this class.

The most time consuming and impactful work I did in Spring 2019 was in my HIST392: Museums and Communities course.  HIST392 serves to introduce students to the museum world, museum theory and history, as well as museum work through a hands-on community project. For Spring 2019, I partnered with Dr. Carolyn Dillian’s ANTH432: Cultural Resource Management class, as a natural complement to our project.

Our project was to  create an exhibit for people with disabilities and sensory differences through 3D scanning and printing of artifacts in the Horry County Museum collection. The students created the exhibit from the ground up in conjunction with HCM, local community organizations and partners, and other stakeholders. Students were at the The South Carolina Federation of Museums annual conference in March to present their work, and also to attend the conference and meet museum professionals from the state and region. Additionally, a panel on our work has been accepted for the SouthEastern Museums Conference in Charleston in October, 2019.

Best partner in crime ever

Dr. Dillian and I applied for an received 2 grants for this project, a South Carolina Humanities MiniGrant of $2,000 and South Eastern Archaeology Conference $2,000. We received both grants to complete this project.

The exhibit, titled Printing the Past: SC in 3D opened April 30, 2019 at the Horry County Museum.  The course website and digital exhibit is online available at: www.printingthepastscin3d.com. More on this in the coming months, I am sure. 

Just look at these amazing colleagues and students!

Somehow this seems to be turning into a rehashing of my year-end eval for the school… I guess you can just check my updated CV if you really want the details on everything else I’ve been up to. There were publications, conference presentations, a book proposal, and so much more.

I’ll give more updates on all of this and that over this summer, I hope.

In the meantime, brace yourself for student blogs from the Fall semester, coming soon!

AcWriMo2018 Results and Updates

DqTKz0pX0AIy4Q2.jpg-largeAt the end of October I set up (rather ambitious) goals to take part in AcWriMo2018 (Academic Writing Month). I was inspired by Katy Peplin, PhD who organized a bunch of us with the hashtag, slack channels, writing retreats, and more wonderful (FREE) resources. Check out her website at katiepeplin.com, or on twitter at @KatyPeplinCoach and @ThrivePhD for all kinds of great advice, coaching, support, and encouragement from grad school through to writing that manuscript. If it wasn’t for seeing her tweets and info about AcWriMo, I don’t think I would have done near as much as I did. That, combined with the support and checking in of friends and colleagues, digitally and through twitter, got me through the month with almost all of my goals completed!

Here are my goals, as stated November 1:

12 blogs- 6000 words
1 professional blog – 1000 words
Research notes – 250 words, 5 days a week (can roll over) – 5000 words
Book proposal – ? – submit by 30th
Statement for conference – 500 words
Co-authored article (maybe) – 5000 words – email with potential co-author on an outline/timeline for this
Total Words: Over 17,000

Here is what I completed:

10 blogs – 6433 words
1 professional blog – 806 words – Available here: https://www.mummystories.com/single-post/KatieStringerClary 
Research notes – 5321 words –  I am surprised I met this; and didn’t think I did until I just added them all up
Book proposal – 3493 – SUBMITTED TO SERIES EDITOR!!!!
Statement for conference: Instructions didn’t come through, but I did submit to 2 other conferences, and have another in the works!
Co-authored article – have some plans in the works, but no words to show for it really;
Bonuses: see details below – appx – 2500 words
Total: Over 18,533 words

Honestly, getting up to write this this morning I didn’t think I’d met all of my goals, and I still felt pretty good about myself. Now that I know I’ve done it (even if not in exactly the way I had planned) – how exciting!

601995_3f6bc50a97f74403b3104f3650174d54~mv2The big thing was the book proposal, and I’m so thankful to all of you who looked over it and made incredible comments and just let me bounce ideas off of you and think out-loud via text. More to come on that in the future.  I know blogs don’t really “count” for anything, but I made them a goal to get myself just writing words and typing things out and getting them out of my head; and it worked! They were also a great way to feel like I was accomplishing something when other projects were stalled. The submitted blog was originally going to be something completely different until I woke up one morning thinking about the incredible Mummy Stories project by Angela Stienne. It was so fun to research Neskhons, the mummy who started me down all these various paths, and I hope he manages to make his way into my book.  Research notes were the hardest part of the process, since I’m working through my outline and manuscript at the same time. I still read some great articles and got ideas out into a doc, so that is what is most important.

sourceThe Bonuses I got done worked out to be: 2 abstracts for presentations at a Death Conference, abstract for a chapter proposal submitted, proposal to museums conference submitted, kept caught up on grading, discussions and putting out feelers for an edited volume with an amazing group of women, making progress on a collective of death studies individuals working towards radicalized death studies, got Zotero all set up for the new project, posted all of my student blogs (check them out at www.ccupublichistory18.wordpress.com), and just generally keeping up with the holidays and end of the semester.

giphy-2So final thoughts on this: no way would I have gotten as much done as I did without community and support from friends and colleagues (shout out to Twitter, for real). Having people just text and say, “are you writing today? let’s do a pom,” or listening, or sharing stupid gifs made a word of distance. Second, actually writing out these goals  (and rewards, which I haven’t gotten around to yet – tragedy!) and making a planDUH. I tell my students this all the time, and finally got around to practicing it, and lo and behold it actually works. Third: keeping a chart and spreadsheet to calculate that these goals are happening, other things I did, reflecting on the practice. Like I said above, who knew I actually met these goals! My spreadsheet did, and now I do, too.

Now: to keep up the momentum and keep setting and sticking to my goals. Get it!

 

England 2018: Trip 2 – September 2018

Prologue: If you follow my twitter or Instagram or this blog, you already know this has been a busy year. I’m fully taking advantage of #AcWriMo2018 this year, and with the support of colleagues and friends, I have a goal to write at least 12 blogs that have been sitting here in the draft list pile, along with many other goals for my Academic Writing this year. This is great news for my blog, but it means that my blogs are about to start a time wrap of slowly working their way back to the past. Therefore, you are first going to hear all about my SECOND trip to England this year, and then I will work towards my summer work and travel, then the Spring semester of 2018, etc. My dream goal is to get all caught up so I can begin again to post with some regularity and timeliness as an ongoing goal. Apology/not apology: My new work takes this Anglophile to England a lot, so be prepared for all things mushy peas and tea in the coming months. Ok, enough housekeeping: On to England!

Ok, so where were we…

You’ve already read my quick Fall 2018 update and that I was fortunate to present at the DaCNet II Conference at University of York last week. So what about the rest of the trip to England? I couldn’t very well fly all the way across the Atlantic JUST for a conference; I had to get in some research and planning there, as well.

IMG_20180901_050415_252Because of timing and a twist of good luck, my mom was able to join me on this trip as a research assistant extraordinaire and travel buddy! This was her first trip out of the country, and our first time traveling just the two of us, and turns out that we travel absolutely swimmingly together (unless one of us is slurping a hot drink or smacking gum and then things can get tense for a hot second). My mom was an absolute trooper on this trip; walking miles and miles across London, going to all of the museums and actually enjoying them, taking selfies without complaint, listening with actual interest every time I started off on a “DID YOU KNOW….“ tangent at a museum or historic place. So yeah, all of that to say, my mom is the best and I can’t wait to travel with her again.

DSC03072

So mom and I headed out from the Myrt early on the first Saturday in September to head for The Big Smoke. After a few delays and a smooth flight, we landed at Heathrow and made our way towards Convent Garden. This trip we stated at the Hilton Double Tree West End, and I highly recommend it for location, but mostly because our room was ready at 11am when we got there to drop off bags.

We napped then made our way out to take a quick open top bus tour of the city before grabbing a pub dinner. I can’t recommend Golden Tours hop of and off bus at all because their routes and times were terrible and an absolute waste of money and time, but at least for our first day it was nice to sit back and see the sites with ease. Same goes for the London Pass: everything is free that we wanted to see anyway, so don’t waste your money.

20180902_155037That said, we got to see Trafalgar, Tower Bridge, the Thames, and St. Paul’s Cathedral while still in a jetlag fog. Then back to rest so we could have a full day of museums and sites the following day… coming up: death tourism in London, Tower of London, Victoria and Albert, Natural History Museum, British Museum (redux), and Museum of London: Docklands!

Side note: my friend Casey made all the arrangements for this trip through her business She’s All Booked, and I can’t recommend her enough!!

Updates, News, and Fun, Fall 2018 Edition

What a year this has already turned out to be! I haven’t been as active here on the blog, but always check out @DrMaryClary on Twitter for lots of updates, and @KatieClaryPhD on Insta for current news, musings, and updates. As I am currently waiting impatiently for Hurricane Florence to hit, I’m hoping to get caught up on a lot of writing and blogging.

Here is a quick run-down of 2018 so far:

20180310_213200I accepted a new position as Assistant Professor of History, Public History at Coastal Carolina University in the spring! I’m thrilled to get to continue my work here in South Carolina with Public history, access, human remains, and cultural heritage.

NCPH 2018 was a blast as usual. I presented my new work on bodies and museums with a fantastic group of women and chaired a panel titled, “Death and Display, Bodies and Boundaries.” I hope to expound upon our panel at that work very soon.

IMG_20180419_130404_815

I took a vacation to England! I also did some incredible anecdotal research on remains in museums and saw artifacts I’ve been reading about for years at the Ashmolean Museum and others. I also managed to hike about 40 miles of the Cotswolds Way in the bizarre heat and sunshine of England in May.

I had an article come out based on my conference paper at the EXARC 2017 conference in Williamsburg, Virginia. The paper, “Public Access to (Pre-)History Through Archaeology” is available through the EXARC Open Access Journal at this link

20180907_180349Most recently, I traveled to the UK to do some research on human remains in several museums in London, and then I traveled up to York to present at the Death and Culture Network conference at the University of York. What an amazing conference and group of people to be a part of. I can’t wait to share more with you about the conference, potential projects coming out of it, and the rad people I met. In the meantime, check out the Hashtag #DC2 on twitter for highlights from myself and some other dedicated live-tweeters. As for the paper I presented, it should be coming out soon in the American Association for State and Local History quarterly, History News. I’ll share it when it is!

DSC03332~2This semester I’m working with a research fellow from my college to develop a full-scale Reacting to the Past game based on a mini-game I created last fall about the development of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act. What an incredible melding of all of my interests – pedagogy, game play, human remains, cultural heritage, and public history – all in one! Happily, my workshop on this topic with the incomparable Dr. Abby Gautreau and Dan Ott has been accepted for NCPH 2019; see you all soon in Hartford!

I’m also updating my interactive CV tab here to include my most recent work.

So busy, all the time, but loving every minute of it. Catch you soon, but see you on Twitter in the meantime!

Scotland 2016: Folklore, Legends, and the Highlands

img_20160520_125507229_hdrAfter the tragedy in Invermoriston there was to be no more hiking in our futures.  We were unable to finish hiking the Great Glen Way all the way to Inverness, but we still had accommodations along the way.  We took cabs instead, and still got to experience the beauty and history of the highlands without the hiking aspects.  The good news is, we have an excuse to go back!!

From Invermoriston we took a cab up to Drumnadrochit, where were told, the villagers had already heard all about the man with the sore leg.  Not to be totally hobbled by his accident and to his credit, Charles managed to limp around town to attractions and sites, and we had a whole day to explore the traditional home of Nessie, the Loch Ness Monster.

Castle Urqhart from the vessel Nessie Hunter

Castle Urqhart from the vessel Nessie Hunter

We started our time in Drumnadrochit with a ride around Loch Ness on Nessie Hunter. Our guide himself claims to have seen something unexplained in the water, and we also got to learn about the history of the area, the geography and geology, and folklore surrounding Nessie.  The guide also pleasingly sounded just like Sean Connery. Back on dry land we headed to the shops to stock up on Nessie gear.

Perfect rainy day with Tony Robinson and Time Team

Perfect rainy day with Tony Robinson and Time Team

In addition to the exploring and good food, we also had a lot of time to experience the awesomeness that is British television.  From the shocking (to our US sensibilities) Embarrassing Bodies, to vet shows, to cop shows, and the Benedict Cumberbatch version of Richard III and my favorite, Time Team, we had plenty of telly time.  Our second day in Drumnadrochit was rainy and perfect for TV times and snacks and hot chocolate and leg recuperation.

img_20160522_114943The next day was our final leg (ahahahahaha) of the Great Glen Way, and we arrived in Inverness not in a triumph having completed the 70+mile hike but instead limping out of a cab.  We still took a picture with the Great Glen Way sign, because one way or another, we traveled it all.

I got a Cafe Nero fix, and we explored the town as best we could.  Our last B&B on the trip, Inverglen Guest House, was a delight, and I’m still thinking about the chai muffins we had for breakfast there, Susan.

Our last full day in the Highlands, I booked a day trip to the Isle of Skye, since everyone we know who had been to Scotland said we couldn’t miss it.  As I was reading the description of the tour the night before, I noticed we would make a stop in Invermoriston to see the Telford bridge and falls.  Charles was not as please, but I was thrilled to have a chance to revisit the scene of the crime and get some more photos.img_20160523_100814123

From Invermoriston (again), we headed west to the Isles of the Highlands. What a simply breathtaking area.  All of our friends were right.  We stopped at Eilean Donan castle by Kyle of Lochalsh, which is one of the most picturesque and most photographed castles in Scotland.  Along the road to the Isle of Skye we saw Wild Goats, which if you know anything about me, completely made my trip. A tour around the island, a stop in Portree for snacks and souvenirs, and before we knew it we were back on the road to Inverness.

img_20160523_113410819-01On our last morning, we explored Inverness one last time, and found the famous Leakey’s Bookshop and a few charity shops.  At a shopping centre I came across a music store and impulse bought a practice chanter so I can learn to someday play the bagpipe.  Or just stick to the chanter to the delight of my dog and cat who LOVE to sing along… so far I can play the Skye Boat Song (Outlander Theme), a few Christmas songs, and the Olympic Theme (which I played at every opportunity last summer.  Everyone loved it).

That Isle of Skye tho

That Isle of Skye tho

After a few hours on the train we were back in Edinburgh where we had a chance to explore more of New Town since our previous visit had confined us to Old Town and the Royal Mile.  A Sainsbury’s run for tea and Mars Bars and Toffee Crisps, one last tea experience, last souvenirs bought, and it was back on a plane to the US before we knew it.

Bye, Edinburgh! Until 2017!

Bye, Edinburgh! Until 2017!

It was a fantastic trip and everything we could have imagined.  The leg injury turned out to be a boon; because of it, I’ve managed to convince Charles that his mistake was going to cost him (us) another trip!  Next week we head back to Scotland, with a side tour in Ireland, to wrap up the Great Glen Way.  From Fort Augustus to Inverness, we will do the last half of the hike and truly earn our GGW hiking patch and certificate. Bon voyage!

 

Scotland Travels 2016: History, Hiking, and Heritage; Pt. 3: Highlands

Can we move here please?

Can we move here please? Views from the train

After our adventures in the lowland cities of Edinburgh and Glasgow, we hoped on a train and headed to the highlands; first stop: Fort William.

This leg of our trip was devoted to the Great Glen Way. We used the inimitable Mac’s Adventure travel group to plan and make this trip a reality, and I can not recommend them more.  The long-distance trail is about 71 miles long, through the highlands, and links Fort William to Inverness. The trail follows the major natural faultline of the Great Glen which divides Scotland from coast to coast.  We decided to do the hike over 7 days.5932-56-userimage5-500x500

We started with an extra day in Inverness, which gave us the opportunity to hike to the top of Cow Hill and enjoy the continued amazing spring weather. Before we started our hike, we went to a little shop in town and got the most delicious filled rolls. We saw sheep, a couple of dogs, and a cat, but sadly no coo. We also got to see Ben Nevis, the highest point in Britain.  Someday we hope to return and scale the mountain!

Views from Cow Hill

Views from Cow Hill

Inverlochy Castle

Inverlochy Castle

The next day we prepared to start our 71 mile hike.  We stopped in town at the West Highlands Museum to learn more about the Jacobite rebellion and life in the northern reaches of the British Isles.  At the beginning of our hike we got to stop in and explore the Old Inverlochy Castle ruins. Magical! We grabbed lunch on the sides of Neptune’s Staircase loch system, then got to the real business of the walk. The rest of the day was spent walking along the canal towpaths, a real feat of Scottish engineering. We stayed at a nice B&B in Gairlochy, and grabbed the most delicious dinner in Spean Bridge at Russell’s.  I must be hungry, because all I can think about is all these great Scottish meals we had… After dinner, we were exhausted by the first day of hiking, and looking forward to another day on the path.

img_20160518_145631The next morning, we met a great couple, Matt and Sandy, at breakfast.  They were also on the hike, and avid walkers from England. We ran into them at several of our accommodations and along the trail, and they were a delight! The most important thing they taught me was to bring a thermos on the next trip to take tea for a mid-morning hiking break.

We continued on Laggan the next day. This was a memorable day with nice weather at the beginning of the hike, lovely woods and shoreside hikes, and a nice detour into Cameron lands. Sadly the Cameron museum was closed, but we did have the opportunity to take a nice side-tour to see the Chia-aig waterfall, of Rob Roy fame. We crested the hill, greeted by sheep, and headed down the hill into Laggan.  A small town, our hosts were nice enough to drive us to a hotel for dinner (steak and ale pie with chips!!).  We spent the evening in the parlor with some British couples, and rested up for yet another day of hiking.

Charles and Nessie in Fort Augustus

Charles and Nessie in Fort Augustus

From Laggan, we moved on towards Fort Augustus, one of the larger towns in the Highlands.  Most of this day was canal paths, woods, and old train routs.  When we reached the end of the canals, we saw a new, welcome sight!  Fort Augustus is home to the end of Loch Ness, so we immediately began looking for the monster. We stayed in a neat place called Abbey Cottage, built in 1760. Little did we know we’d soon make a return journey to Fort Augustus…

img_20160519_114004242_hdr-01The next morning, the real hiking began. We were no longer on nice flat canal tow paths or gentle hills along the lochs.  We were through the woods, steep steep, up up, all the way to the top of hills just like you’ve seen in the movies.  Below us, Loch Ness, the tiny speck of Fort Augustus and the canal locks behind us, and wilderness all around.  It was perfect and beautiful, and made even better by the bacon sandwich I had saved from breakfast for the moment we crested the hills. We enjoyed the views all morning, and by the afternoon we were headed down the path into the small village of Invermoristen.

More on Invermoristen and the tragedy that occurred there next week!  Here are some photos of the way so far:

 

Scotland Travels 2016: History, Hiking, and Heritage; Pt. 1

And now for something completely different from the most recent series. Travel. Travel that involves history and hiking. Living the dream.

Cemetery times!

Cemetery times!

As soon as our final grades were submitted at the end of our first academic year at Coastal, my husband and I finally left the country on our honeymoon.  #ClaryWeeHighlandHoneymoon2016 was an amazing success. Walked/hiked: over 115 Miles. Spotted: a million sheep and bebe lambs, 1 Elton John twin, a handful of coo, a couple dozen deer and stags, 2 wild goats, 1 Prince, and a hundred black slugs. Gained: 3 stitches and a highland battle scar, as well as a bruise that goes on for days, lotsa tweed, a fancy sporran, one bruised ego, a bagpipe chanter, and lovely memories to last a lifetime. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

We started our trip in Edinburgh, Scotland.  Soon after we landed in Auld Reekie we set out on the town to see Greyfriar’s Kirk and cemetery and a quick jaunt up Arthur’s Seat. After a delicious dinner at our hotel (which used to be the old Edinburgh Bedlam Asylum – perfect!) and a fried Mars bar, we rested up for a full day of exploring.

img_20160511_115410160Our second day in Edinburgh, we headed to the National Library of Scotland where we had noticed the day before they had an exhibit on about Plague! Very fortuitous that all my favorite things were happening while we were there.  The exhibit was a great display of documents and records, books, related sources, maps, and a lot of wet specimens the library had for whatever reason (that I highly approve of).  The exhibit cases were especially impressive, as they were coffins you opened to see the info inside!  Marketing for the exhibit, which caught our eye the day before, was also brilliant, as you followed rat stickers up the steps to the exhibit. Perfection.

img_20160511_160324A bit of meandering and lunch at the library, and we were off again.  We caught all the main sites: Edinburgh Castle, the most amazing vintage store ever, Armstrong and Sons in Grassmarket, Elephant House where JK Rowling wrote the first Harry Potter book, and the Tartan weaving exhibition that explained how kilts are made. We also stopped in the oldest pub in Edinburgh, which became a theme of the trip (oldest pubs in towns, not just pubs in general, though, that, too).

Gorgeous National Museum of Scotland

Gorgeous National Museum of Scotland

Next, we stopped in the National Museum of Scotland, but we only had a short amount of time, as they were closing in one hour.  We did a quick tour of the natural history, saw some Robert the Bruce and William Wallace swords, played with the interactive, and headed on out as the docents closed things down.

After shopping and wandering, we decided to give Mary King’s Close a shot.  I was a bit wary of the set-up, since I’d heard it was a bit cheesy and silly, but I also didn’t want to pass up the chance to see a set-up of a reconstructed close.  The close in Edinburgh was a staple of life for people in the overcrowded city, and still is today to an extent.  Closes today are no longer (usually) cesspools of disease crammed with tenement housing, though if you head off the Royal Mile you may see one.

img_20160512_002531Heading into Mary King’s Close to purchase tickets, we noticed a crowd outside St. Giles Cathedral.  We asked a policeman what was going on, and by the saints, THE PRINCE was inside.  Not Prince William or Prince Harry… and the Queen and Kate Middleton were no where in site… but Charles, Prince of Wales, future king of England (unless EII outlives us all).  We had already purchased timed tickets, so I resigned myself to not getting to see royalty on this trip and headed into eh undersides of Edinburgh.

The Mary Kings Close attraction was actually a delight.  We had a fantastic guide (Thanks Chris. T!!) and the site made good use of personal stories, creepy mannequins, and technologies.  We even got a photo with Chris T. as a souvenir.

The Prince!!

The Prince!!

We left Mary King’s Close to head back to the asylum, er hotel, and lo and behold – the Prince was still at the cathedral.  A very nice officer allowed us to stand with him to watch for the royal to leave.  And I had the absolute best possible view as he drove by and on to Holyrood.  I finally got to see a royal.  He may not have been my 1st, 2nd, or 6th choice, but he was a royal and it made my day.  History!!!

Next day, on to Glasgow, home of my ancestral spirit animal, Great Grandma Greta. Coming up next….