Fall 2017: Intro to Public History in Review

I’ll get back to Scotland and Ireland very soon, especially because I had a lot of great encounters with bodies, death, and exhibits in the last half of the trip, but I want to take a moment to reflect on my Fall 2017 Intro to Public History class.

Students at the Horry County Museum, Fall 2017

This was my third time teaching this course at Coastal Carolina, and I, for one, had a blast this time around. The class was often engaged in discussion and debate, even if that meant sometimes we got a little off the scheduled topic. We went to museums, exhibits, historic districts, an archive, and more. We had guest speakers on almost every topic we covered. We discussed everything from the ownership of history and objects, legislation in regard to history, museums and exhibits, interpretation, oral histories… the list goes on.

The students described the class on their website as:

Our course deals with discussions and readings that surround public history and all that it entails, this may include defining public history, understanding different legislation that has been passed to promote the preservation of different historic landmarks in addition to visiting museums and national parks and hosting guest lectures across the state of South Carolina to inform students of certain opportunities that are available if one would like to venture further into professions that surround public history. Public history can be viewed anywhere outside of academia such as museums, national parks, and monuments. Our class also consists of wide variety of individuals, who were put into this class to express their views on history and to gain a better understanding of what public history is.

In reading student reflections on the semester, the most impactful aspect of the course seems to have been our engagement with Reacting to the Past pedagogy. I’ve been familiar with RttP, but right before the semester began CCU hosted a training workshop in which we played the Greenwich Village 1914 game. I wanted to try out a game in my class, and with all our discussion on patrimony, preservation, conservation, etc, the Bomb the Church game seemed to be our best bet.

Students Reacting to the Past

Many of my students were Reacting veterans, and already knew the drill.  The great thing about the Bomb the Church microgame is that there is no required foreknowledge of the topic and no real preparation; it just throws students in their roles and they carry it along. The students were engaged in debate and persuasive speaking, and we all had a blast.

I plan to detail the second game (and Reacting in general) in another post, because it is one that I wrote especially for this and future classes. Considering it was a new game being play tested, again, I think it was a huge success, with special thanks to my colleagues Shari Orisich and Carolyn Dillian. Keep checking back for more on that game…
Another aspect of the HIST395 course this year was a class website and blog. Dr. Robert Connolly instilled in me the importance of a web presence when students are looking for jobs or even just when they are being Googled in the professional world. The class website includes information about the class, students, guest speakers, and each student was required to write at least one blog related to public history. The website is: www.publichistory52.wordpress.com – check it out!

In the coming weeks, I plan to share blogs from their website, so be on the lookout for that.

Thanks for a great semester, HIST395 Fall 2017 public historians!!

Highlands and History Part 2: Electric Boogaloo

After the great vacation injury of 2016, I was convinced we had to return to the Highlands of Scotland to finish the Great Glen Way.  We had some great adventures in Edinburgh at various museums and cemeteries, and then it was time to get on the train to the north.

IMG_20170515_132244868_HDR-01.jpgWe started the Great Glen Way in Fort Augustus this time, about halfway through the walk. Last year, the section between Fort Augustus and Invermoriston was our favorite, so I was happy to start the trail with some of the best views in the Highlands. Fort Augustus is home to the mouth of Loch Ness, a fascinating set of locks in the Caledonian Canal, and some great pub food. Up, up, up from Fort Augustus, we set out for Invermoriston, my favorite town in the Highlands. Views of Loch Ness and the surrounding hills were just as lovely this time.


Avoiding Injury

Into Invermoriston, Charles managed to avoid injury and I was a nervous wreck our whole time exploring the trails and paths around town. We made it down to the shores of Loch Ness after seeing it from up high all day. A wonderful dinner at the Glenmoriston Arms closed out our first day back on the trail.

IMG_20170516_123922534_HDR-01.jpgThe following day we started a new (to us) section of the trail and headed towards Drumandrochit. What a day of hiking. We did some of the steepest sections of the trail, reached the highest point of the GGW, traveled through dense forest, trekked across a bleak moor, and finally made it into town. I believe my fitbit counted around 16 miles in this day and the most steps I’ve ever done in a single day (over 40,000). It was worth it! In Drum, we ate more great food, walked along some nice bluebell paths down to the river, and enjoyed the Fiddler’s Restaurant .


Attempting a trip through the stones

Our GGW booking with Macs Adventure included a transfer for the last section of the trail, which is over 20 miles. We were taken to the top of the hills between Drum and Inverness, and we walked down the hills towards town. What a relief! The people going towards Inverness spent their day walking uphill while we went down the hill happily past them. After the previous grueling day, this hardly felt like cheating.

Our last day on the trail saw us back in the cab to head back down the hill towards Inverness. This was another easy day of walking mainly downhill towards the capital of the Highlands. We passed an old asylum being turned into apartments, a set of standing stones, and the last of the River Ness before it empties into the sea. We wandered Inverness, checked into our lovely hotel along the river, and rested up so we could be ready for an early flight back to Ireland the next morning.

We did it! We finished the Great Glen Way! It only took us 2 years. Next up: West Highland Way, England’s Lake District, Japan’s Kumano Kodo,  Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way, Speyside Whiskey Trail… and plenty to do in the US as well.



Egypt in Edinburgh

I was so, so, so excited to visit Edinburgh while the new The Tomb: Ancient Egyptian Burial exhibit was on. Egypt, mummies, museum, and death customs; what’s not to love?

IMG_20170513_141345816.jpgAt the time of writing this, the exhibit has closed, but luckily the National Museums of Scotland have an excellent web presence, with information, interactive, videos, and even games and learning materials.

The exhibit is described on their website as such:

The Tomb was constructed in the great city of Thebes shortly after the reign of Tutankhamun for the Chief of Police and his wife. It was looted and reused several times, leaving behind a collection of beautiful objects from various eras. These are displayed alongside objects found in nearby tombs, giving a sense of how burial in ancient Egypt changed over time.

The Tomb’s final use occurred shortly after the Roman conquest of Egypt, when it was sealed intact with the remarkable burials of an entire family. The exhibition comes ahead of the new Ancient Egypt gallery, opening at the National Museum of Scotland in 2018/19.

Interactives in use!

When I visited in May 2017, the gallery was a bit crowded, especially with children.  This limited my ability to try out the interactive elements of the exhibits (get off my lawn – adults like play, too), but it was nice to see kids excited about history.

Like Jameson Distillery, the exhibit used multi-sensory engagement and technologies so visitors can learn more and connect with the past.


Touch, see, and smell table

I also really liked the exhibit text and content, which isn’t praise I give out lightly. I’m generally easily bored or uninterested in text, but the detail and translation of ancient funerary texts was fascinating! They also include a youtube video explaining the text on their website:

Next time I visit the museum, hopefully the new Egypt gallery will be open.  I can’t wait!

Auld Reekie: Murder, Cemeteries, & Plague… again.


View of the Royal Mile from our AirBnB Flat

The death theme continued once we got to Scotland, which was perfect for kicking off my new research agenda.

We arrived in Auld Reekie, known as Edinburgh in the modern age, and checked in to our 17th Century AirBnB rental off the Royal Mile. Once we got settled in, I read in the guestbook about the history of this close and the courtyard behind our flat.

Tweedale Court, it turns out, is the site of one of the most notorious and infamous murders in Edinburgh’s history (and there have been a LOT of murders there). The close was home to the British Linen bank, and according the the stories, “on the evening of 13th November a girl went out to a well to get the evening’s water. On her way stumbled across something lying in the entrance to the court. It was the body of bank messenger William Begbie, lying in a pool of blood and with a knife stuck in his chest. Earlier that evening he had set out to deliver a package of £4,000 in banknotes to a branch in Leith. Despite a major search for the culprit no one was ever arrested for the crime, although months later most of the money was discovered hidden in an old wall, roughly where Drummond Place is today.”

Dun dun dun! We never saw anything spooky in our time in the close, and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend the beautiful flat if you’re ever in Edinburgh! Just be aware of the spiral staircase to the top of the building…


Greyfriar’s Kirkyard

While in Edinburgh, we had to visit a few of our favorite spots: Greyfriar’s Kirkyard and the Frankenstein Pub (in an adaptive reuse church, of course!) nearby! After the last Scotland trip, while listening to the Lore podcast (seriously listen to this if you love spooky and history), we learned all kinds of folklore about the Greyfriar’s cemetery, so we had to revisit it. I love a good cemetery, and Greyfriar’s is one of the best. Supposedly, it’s one of the most haunted in the world, with “Body snatchers, violent ghosts, a loyal dog, and Harry Potter characters.” Don’t forget all the plague bodies, too.



In front of the Mackenzie Mausoleum

One of the best stories about Greyfriar’s was told in the Lore podcast mentioned above. According to the tales, the Mackenzie tomb is the most haunted. The “Bluidy Mackenzie,” a real jerk while alive, is supposedly still seen wandering near his mausoleum, knocking people over, making them faint, and generally wreaking havoc. Things get really gruesome in 1998, when (supposedly, apocryphally, i.e.: I can’t find many sources on this) a homeless man broke into the mausoleum seeking shelter from the elements. As he sheltered from the storm, the floor beneath him gave way, dumping him into a plague pit below of the mausoleum. Regardless of the truth of this tale, we still had to see the famous tomb. It was gorgeous, and we did not suffer any ill effects.

Oh and the beautiful, sloping landscape in the cemetery? It’s not a natural slope. It’s the thousands of bodies (possibly up to half a million) underfoot, buried on top of each other than create the terrain.

Later in the day, we ventured to see some corpses that were even older – Egyptian mummies at the National Museum….


Ireland 3.0


In the hills south of Dublin

Our third visit to Ireland… the first whirlwind wasn’t enough, and apparently neither was the second. If you’re going to do something, do it thoroughly. This whole 2017 adventure abroad to Ireland and Scotland was basically Honeymoon Part II: Electric Boogaloo, thanks to the infamous hiking injury; we set out to complete the Great Glen Way, and we couldn’t pass up a stop in Ireland along the way.


Hiking to Fairy Castle on Three Rock Hill with Dublin and Howth behind us

After exploring Jameson and the Museum of Modern Art, we set out south of Dublin for a beautiful hike to Three Rock Hill and the Fairy Castle. Our good friends at Extreme Ireland hooked us up with a moonlit full-moon walk up the hills, and it was fantastic! The hill walk was just a short ride away on the Luas (public transportation tram), and we will definitely return for another walk there on our next trip.


Trinity College Courtyard

In Dublin, we still had a few places we hadn’t been yet and a couple places we wanted to revisit. At the top of the list was Trinity College and the Book of Kells. On our previous visits to Ireland, the college was on a winter break, so this was our first opportunity to tour the campus and see the most beautiful library. Our tour of the college was a lot of fun, even if our guide was an American studying abroad. I was especially interested to learn that professors at the college are provided (unheated) lodging in a historic building. We also heard a colorful tale of a shoot out between a professor and his surly students at this historic building.

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A page from the Book of Kells

We were finally ushered into the library, beautiful in its own right, to see the famous Book of Kells. According to the library website, “The Book of Kells (Trinity College Dublin MS 58) contains the four Gospels in Latin based on the Vulgate text which St Jerome completed in 384AD.” It was probably created in a monastery in Iona off the coast of Western Scotland. While it is an important historical text, the Book of Kells is most famous for its beautiful illuminations. It is described as such: “the impact of its lavish decoration, the extent and artistry of which is incomparable. Abstract decoration and images of plant, animal and human ornament punctuate the text with the aim of glorifying Jesus’ life and message, and keeping his attributes and symbols constantly in the eye of the reader.” If you can’t make it to Dublin, you can view the Book of Kells online at this link.


The Book of Kells was impressive, but the real star at the Library at Trinity College is the Long Room. The architecture and gravitas of the space are breathtaking. In the long room antique books are displayed alongside the busts of famous men related to the college, and an original copy of the 1916 Proclamation of the Irish Republic which was read outside the General Post Office by Patrick Pearse at the start of the Easter Rising.

All in all, a successful day in Dublin! Next, we were off to Scotland again to finish the Great Glen Way (spoiler: we did it!).

Multi-Sensory Exhibit Design: Jameson Does It Up Right

In May I visited Ireland (again..they can’t keep me away…). On one of our first days in Dublin, my husband and I decided to visit the Jameson Whiskey Distillery.

We started our visit with a trip to the bar housed in the historic building to try a signature drink while we waited on our tour to start. As we took in our surroundings, we noticed the floors were open to show the historic structure and storage areas below the floor. As a fan of all things old, I really appreciated this touch! 

Soon our tour began, and we were taken with our group to a small exhibit of the history of the building and the story of the Jameson family, their endeavors in whiskey production, and the history of the brand. Though this is definitely a corporate tour, the information was still very interesting and the exhibit design is top notch.

Next we visited a room that incorporated primary sources, technology, historic artifacts, and second person interpretation from our guide. The technology used was very similar to what we saw at the Tenement Museum in March, and though we did not each have our own station to choose the artifacts we wanted to learn about, it was still interactive and informative.

From there we entered my favorite part of the tour; a multi sensory journey through the production of whiskey. Now, I am not generally a fan of whiskey, but this aspect of our experience was by far the coolest. In groups of 6, visitors surrounded a table that engaged all of our senses. The guide told us what to do taste or smell and when, and the flow of the interpretation, technology, and engagement was perfect. As you can see in this image, we had the opportunity to smell different types of aging casks (sherry, wine, etc), taste and feel malted grains, watch the process on the screens at the front of the room, and hear our guide talk us through the process.

The last part of the tour was teachable tasting. We compared various whiskeys to the Jameson brand and our guide helped us understand the composition of the whiskeys and the complex tastes. We exited through the gift shop, and got our daily grog!

If you find yourself in Dublin, I recommend a trip to the Jameson Distillery for a specific history of their brand, or the Irish Whiskey Museum for a more comprehensive look at whiskey and its history over time in the Emerald Isle.

New Research Projects, Travel, and… Death?

Lately I’ve contemplated where my research will take me following the publication of my manuscript on accessibility for people with special needs, the publication of a chapter on accessibility in education in The Manual for Museum Learning, 2nd Edition, and continuing my work towards truly accessible museums.

I’ve decided to take a new track based on the historiographical work I did in my dissertation on museum history and the use of human bodies and human remains in museums. My previous work focused on living humans, often billed as “freaks“, in museums and other exhibitions; now I want to focus on the corporeal remains that we still see in museums today: mummies, bog bodies, medical specimens, skeletons, relics, shrunken heads, and so much more.  What laws (aside from NAGPRA) govern the display and collection of human remains? What are the ethics involved here? How does the public react to these remains? These are just some of the questions I hope to answer as I embark on a new research plan.

I have organized a roundtable at the National Council on Public History meeting in 2018 in Las Vegas, Nevada to present preliminary findings and bring together a fascinating group of women who study these questions. Our presentation, “Death and Display, Bodies and Boundaries” will explore our own work and also encourage participation from our audience. I’ve invited my former college roommate, Shelby Judge, a modern funeral director; Laura Anderson Barbata, artist and activist; Dr. Trish Biers, osteoarchaeologist at Cambridge University museums; and Kristen Semento from Winterthur Museum and Gardens.

As I planned my most recent trip abroad, I knew I would have the opportunity to visit international museums that are working with these issues. What I didn’t know was the amount of opportunities that would present themselves on my trip. My future blogs will detail some of the places I visited and some of the remains I encountered in Ireland and Scotland.

The first stop on my trip to Ireland was the Irish Museum of Modern Art. I had just arrived in Ireland, my hotel room was not ready, and my husband and I needed to get out and see the sights while we waited. The only problem was: I don’t think I have ever been as exhausted as I was on this museum visit. I was jet-lagged. I was running none hour of plane sleep. It. Was. Awesome.

Image result for living need light dead need music

You may have read my thoughts on art museums in the past; in short, I’m not their biggest fan. IMMA was in a great historic building, and there were some interesting exhibits while we were there. However, there was one exhibit in particular that spoke to me through my sleepy haze and has stuck with me. It also set the tone for my exploration into death and bodies.

In the back of the museum, in a quiet, dark room with benches (the initial attraction, let’s be real), I encountered a film installation. The piece, titled The Living Need Light, The Dead Need Music by The Propeller Group is probably the best video installation I have ever seen.  Their description reads:

The Living Need Light, The Dead Need Musicis a visual and musical journey through the fantastical funeral traditions and rituals of south Vietnam. It attempts to engage in dialogue with funerary traditions that pulsate in the same vein throughout the global south. The film merges documentary footage of actual funeral processions with stunning re-enactments that bring the film into the realm of the abstract, poetic and metaphorical – a rumination on death and the lives that pay homage to it.

I encourage you to watch the video in its entirety if you can. It is so fascinating, beautiful, disturbing, scary, and amazing all at the same time. The fact that I was almost at a hallucinatory stage of tiredness only heightened by appreciation for the piece. However, it stands up even as I re-watch it today.

So that’s it! I’m on a new program of research, and I’m so excited to have already been welcomed with open arms by so many Death Historians and Death Academics. Thank you, and I can’t wait to let you all know more about my research!

Reflecting on Wineburg and Core Courses, Continued

Final Thoughts, Lessons, and Musings from 2012 on Wineburg. This is an excerpt from my reflections after my first year of teachingAs I look back on this, students 5 years later still don’t question bias or question me as a source. This is particularly interesting in our current political and media climate. I’ll be interested to see where things are in another 5 years. Here is my previous post about Wineburg’s influence in my classes. 

Image result for the midwife's talePrimary sources are another resource I used in my World Civilizations class.  Wineburg included an anecdote of a teachers’ workshop that explored the classroom textbook and The Midwive’s Tale.[3]   Many students, and surprisingly their teachers, believe that the textbook tells facts and “how things were.” Bias is ignored and students and their teachers do not often think to question the textbook’s story.  The Midwive’s Tale was previously seen as trivial information, in spite of the important bits about daily life and people that can be gleaned from it.  I hope that this will continue to change as we strive to personalize the past.  One of the most important things I tried to get across to my students was that they CAN question everything: the textbook, authors, and even their instructors.

Finally, there are three other concepts from Wineburg’s book that I particularly enjoyed.  Wineburg’s explanation of context and strangeness through Marco Polo’s excerpt on unicorns/rhinoceros is a great example of people interpreting what they see and learn through their own knowledge and ideas.[4]  It is an important thing to remember both in my own personal studies and in teaching undergraduates.

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A Mayan Plaza

Presentism, viewing the past through the lens of today, is another important concept for my students.  Trying to get students to remove themselves from the present and look back is a hard thing to do.  When we covered the Mayans and bloodletting rituals this was particularly evident.  My students were appalled and could not understand why people let mutilation and “torture” happen.  It was hard to explain to them that their worldview and religions were different, and that perhaps the people who were being sacrificed or who were mutilating themselves to give blood to their gods did so willingly.  At the same time, I tried to explain that they were people and not that different from us even though they seem so strange.  I used the analogy of wrestling or cage fighting today and even the ancient Romans and gladiators to explain the allure of seeing executions.  At the same time, there was a difference in Mayan culture because of the religious meanings behind sacrifice and bloodletting rituals.  Lastly, this chapter introduces context; this word is from the Latin “to weave together.”[5]  History and context are inextricable, and historians and teachers must connect the past into a pattern to understand what happened, why it is important, and what we can learn from it.

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I now use the CRAAP test with my core courses as a way to analyze sources.

The second section of this book is called, “Challenges for the Student.”   Chapter 3 again looks at reading history and understanding the bias that is present in all writing and sources.  Wineburg suggests having the students think aloud as they read.  I have experimented with this to some extent in my own classroom with group primary source interpretation.  Next time we do a similar activity I will try to explain to my students that,  “The comprehension of text reaches beyond words and phrases to embrace intention, motive, purpose, and plan- the same set of concepts we use to decipher human action.”[6]  School texts and their expected level of trustworthiness are somewhat disturbing: students take the text at face value.  They often believe that the textbook is the source.  Students, and sometimes teachers, reason that the text is written by nameless important editors, so it must be true.

Students must be taught how to decode the text and ask such questions as what is the author really trying to say? What is the author’s purpose? Students should engage with the text, and they should not just read it.  This raises a question to myself about my own class and methods.  I require students to read the text before coming to class so that we can engage in discussion about the concepts they read about that relate to my lecture for each day.  I have built in five pop quizzes to the semester to make sure that my students are doing their homework and coming to class prepared.  The tests are made up of five multiple choice questions that cover the bigger concepts and important “facts” from the pages they were supposed to have read.  They are designed to make sure the students are doing the readings and to judge their reading comprehension.  Perhaps they are learning to list useless facts, but perhaps reading comprehension and actually looking at the text is the first step to analyzing the words they read.

Image result for interpretation tildenIn many classrooms it seems that there is no interpretation of history but rather the presentation of a chain of “facts.”  To me this immediately raised the question, “are there really any facts?”  Students also do not ask how something happened, just know that it did.  Instructors and history teachers should strive to explain the implications of each “fact.”

Also in this chapter Wineburg claims that in many classrooms knowledge is detached from experience; how can we incorporate more experiential learning into secondary education and college-level survey courses?  Many students do not come to school with a motivation to learn.  This brought to mind the concept of “edutainment” that has been discussed in museum classes and conferences I have attended in the past five years.  It is still somewhat controversial; are we entertaining or educating our students?  Does it matter as long as students are engaged and learning something?  If edutainment can happen in museums and institutions of informal learning, can it or does it already appear in classrooms? Perhaps some of the experiential learning concepts can be brought into the traditional classroom to engage students and help them learn in another way.

In my own class I have developed four homework research assignments to try to engage students at their level using entertainment.  The first assignment, which was generally well-received and successful, asked students to think of three references in popular culture to ancient, classical, or world history.  Many of their examples were things I had not even thought of, and we were able to open discussion on whether or not we can learn anything from popular culture, the motives of advertisers or writers who use popular culture, and the validity of historical content found in popular culture.  I hope that this, and the future assignments in the class, gets my students thinking about history in the sense of their everyday lives rather than as the distant and strange past that is presented in the textbook.

This book helped spark a lot of thoughts on my own study of history and how I taught the students in my World Civilizations class.  I have often wondered why exactly it is that I study history and what I want my students to learn through my class.  I do not necessarily want them to learn dates or a chain of chronological events, but rather I want them to understand the bigger concepts, critical thinking, globalization and worldview changes, how to study for a test, how to think critically, how to be a citizen in a global world, and to some degree empathy and understanding of difference in culture throughout the world.  I wish I had more time to plan and to give them more resources that are “fun.”  Next time I teach this course I want to give the students more hands-on and interactive opportunities instead of just lecture with powerpoint slides of pictures.

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 2016: The Tragedy, the NHS, and the kindness of Highlanders.

img_20160519_133805358_hdr-01Invermoriston is a darling village with some beautiful historic bridges, a hotel with restaurant, a couple B&Bs, a public restroom, a tiny shop, and a crafts shop.  And that’s about it.  It is perfect.  We grabbed lunch (and a sticky toffee pudding!) at the hotel, dropped our bags at the best B&B in the Highlands, Craik Na Dav, and headed down to visit the craft shop and see the beautiful waterfalls.

This is where things went bad.  If you are squeamish at all, turn and run. Hide. Don’t read on.

img_20160519_165324610_hdr-01We enjoyed the beautiful falls and woodlands trails, and along the way back I lost the small trail and stepped in some mud.  I made my way through to get some shots of the historic bridges, and called back to my husband to be sure to stick to the trail so he didn’t get muddy.  He didn’t hear me.  Rather than going through the mud, he decided to do something he’d done a thousand times – hop a fence. Only, fences in the UK are much older than the fences here. When he hopped this auld, stone fence, the stones came with him.  I saw him falling, and figured he would be embarrassed. He was. But when I called to ask if he was ok, he tried to stand up. He pulled his pant leg up to check the damage, and from across the street, I could literally see his shin bone [tibia?] (sorry, I told you this was graphic).

Charles and his shame.

Charles and his shame.

Once I made sure he wasn’t bleeding to death, I ran up to the little shop. I said something along the lines of “My husband fell and he’s bleeding, but he’s not dying or anything, so who do we call?  It’s not like a 999 emergency or anything, but we’re also hiking, and American.” They were so nice.  Of course, because this is Scotland where the people will totally judge you and laugh at you, but be so helpful and nice while doing it.  We went back to the injury site, where a few cars had stopped along the road to help. A medic lived across the street, and he came out and diagnosed Charles a need for some stitches. It was decided that we didn’t need the hospital in Inverness, and a local GP was willing to treat this ridiculous accident-prone American. We got him back up to the shop where we waited on a non-emergency ambulance to pick us up and take us to a doctor.

Good ole NHS healthcare.

Good ole NHS healthcare.

Everyone was so nice.  I know the NHS has it’s problems, but everyone was so great. They ambulanced us to Dr. Jill back in Fort Augustus who stitched Charles right back up. After she looked at the wound and realized it wasn’t going to bleed out, she turned to me, Charles, and the ambulance drivers and said, “ok, well, who wants tea?” Perfect!! After 3 stitches, we took our ambulance back up to Invermoriston just in time for our dinner reservations at the hotel (the only place to eat in town).

img_20160519_192151267Small towns, man.  They are the best.  And the smallest.  The lady in the shop had called the sisters who run the (amazing) B&B we were staying in to let them know what happened.  They, or someone, in turn called the (amazing) Mac’s Adventure company who called repeatedly to check on us.  The hotel/restaurant got wind of the accident and canceled our reservation thinking we wouldn’t be back in time to make it. Charles was officially known as (and probably is still known as) “the poor man with the sore leg.”  Luckily, there was room in the bar for us to eat (more steak and ale pie!) and we bought a round for the ambulance drivers once they got off shift as well.

We hobbled up to our B&B where Lindsey and Manda took the best possible care of us.  Nurses themselves, they had a look at the sore leg to assuage any of Charles’ worries, and they also left a few drams of whiskey in the room for us, as well. My favorite quote from Invermoriston was when Charles’ constant apologies and self-deprecation were met with replies of, “well, it was dumb. but these things happen.” or something along those lines.  My thoughts exactly!  They also accused us of vandalizing the village. Thanks, Charles. Now we’ll be banned for life.


Right before the tragedy

Charles went to bed thinking he’d be fine for the hike to Drumnadrochit the next day. Turns out he was so wrong. He limped around on that leg for a good month after we got back, and I’m pretty sure that bone was cracked or fractured at least a little. He has a glorious scar and can now tell when it will rain via shin injury. After a great breakfast at Craik na Dav, the sisters were so kind to call us a cab to Drum, since there was no way we were scaling highland hills.

Onto Drum in the next episode.  In the meantime, enjoy these photos!