The Scottish Highlands

Spring has sprung in Moscow. The sun is on the horizon until nearly 9pm and tennis season is in full swing. Per usual, time is flying and it barely seems possible that only two weeks ago I was in Scotland.

My friend Katie and I had been planning this trip for nearly a year – she’s a fan of the TV show Outlander and I was interested in seeing where the MacPherson side of my family came from. I’d spent a couple of days in Edinburgh a few years back and was really excited to explore into the Highlands.

We started back in Edinburgh, where we enjoyed dinner at the Queen’s Arms. It was a rainy, chilly night when we arrived in town and the pub proved a perfect spot to celebrate the start of vacation.

The next day we headed north, with the gradual crawl into the mountains reminding me of my drives to college up into Vermont. However, this time I was driving manual on the wrong side of the road! I was up for the challenge and once we hit the mountainous incline, the views proved the perfect distraction.

Our first stop was Newtonmore, population 982. Two hours north of Edinburgh, Newtonmore’s downtown consists of a single shop-lined strip which can be walked end-to-end in approximately 10 minutes. The views and the warm-hearted townspeople make this little town a true treasure.

The unfiltered beauty of the small town loch. Also the site of our first introduction to Jeff the dog and his owners. We ran into Jeff repeatedly over our three days in town.

We walked the Wildcat Trail, encircling the town, on a crisp and clear April morning.

Rising quickly in elevation, the trail provided stunning views as we passed through local farmers’ fields, alongside many a sheep. Katie likes to say that our hike came to an end when I stepped in a large cow patty which is, though not the full story, fairly accurate.

Spotted in the local cemetery – another MacPherson/Cameron pairing, like my own parents.

The Wildcat Trail – quite a tourist attraction, so we’re told – also features over thirty sculptures of the famed local feline, all decorated by the local school children. The Where’s Waldo of Newtonmore, cats can be spotted everywhere from rooftops to stream side. Here’s one at the local diner, below. Katie’s face reminds us that no matter where you go in town, there is most definitely a wildcat watching you.

The real impetuous of our trip to Newtonmore was to visit the Clan MacPherson Museum. Many in my family have made the trek and I was eager to explore for myself.

Housed in the old town post office, the Museum has expanded over the years and is host to the annual Clan Gathering in August.
Found in the registry of visitors – entries from my brother and cousin. The MacPherson pride runs deep.

The Museum was an intense experience – so much information, such a cheerful curator (dressed in a kilt). We took a few hours to take it all in and I pieced together some of the history I had heard from Grandad over the years. The visit was somewhat bittersweet as I would have loved to have shared what I saw with him in person.

Further evidence of the family legacy at the Highland Folk Museum. Doug – future career move?

While in Newtonmore, we did manage to complete perhaps the only pub crawl in the history of the town (self-designed), stopping at all three available establishments, at least one of which could surely be considered “dodgy”. The town proved a true highlight of the trip, definitely more than we’d bargained for. And, after a few quiet days, we were off again – this time headed to Mallaig to catch the ferry to the Isle of Skye…

The viaduct leading into the Bay of Mallaig.