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The International Writers Magazine: SCOTLAND

My Sojourn in Scotland
• Neha Sharma
Shrill notes of a bagpiper cutting through the air, interspersed occasionally with ringing of the bells from St. Giles cathedral, aroma of the Haggis wafting out of the pubs as you stroll by the Royal Mile, a predominance of that red and black tartan pattern wherever you cast your eye and you know you are somewhere on the streets of Edinburgh - the national capital of Scotland.

ELephant House

My day begins with a steaming hot cuppa and a massive shortbread from the Elephant's house, the same cafe where JK Rowling over numerous cups of coffee bore that legendary world of witchcraft. Breathtaking views of the Edinburgh castle from the café room with soft music playing in the backdrop, ideas are bound to spring one may think. They sure did for Ms. Rowling whose pictures and newspaper clippings now adorn the cafe walls. 'Birth place of Harry Potter' beams the cafe entrance and as I step inside ,I notice a very visible presence of lifesize Elephant statues with their trunks raised as if in a customary welcome greeting to every visitor here.

After relishing my breakfast in the warm cafe surroundings, I head towards my next destination, the National Museum of Scotland. I'm soaking in the Scottish sun,which I hear is a rare phenomenon, given the incessant rain showers the country sees all year. I walk the short distance from the café to the museum.

Edinburgh Museum The museum is home to various arts and artefacts from ancient civilizations and diverse cultures all over the world. With so much to look around, one can easily spend days here soaking in the plethora of information the museum houses. I particularly fancied the Scots section which at first drew me to it with the soulful Bagpiper notes playing in the background. Even though a glimpse around town may provide ample opportunities to bask in the Scottish experience, but to be able to read and understand the rich history and culture behind it all, a visit to the museum is a must. The museum is home to various arts and artefacts from ancient civilizations and diverse cultures all over the world.
The Royal Mile is my next stop.The busiest street of the old town of Edinburgh. Royal Mile has very aptly earned the distinction of being the most popular and finest of walkways. The mile long street is your one stop shop to take in the Scots experience in all its glory. The street is lined up with numerous cashmere and souvenir shops, eateries, pubs and cafés with a very visible presence of the famous scottish shortbread on every cafe's rack. Scotland is very well known for its toffees and fudges and one is often lured into buying this stuff, not only for their divine taste, but also for the charming tinned boxes that contain them.
royal Mile

Not the one to be left behind when it comes to shopping, I did my fair share of indulgence, especially when it came to cashmere and shortbreads.

Another feast for the eyes here is the sight of scottish men dressed in traditional kilts,proudly portraying their story telling skills or serenading the tourists with awe inspiring bagpiper notes. As the music begins to echo in the air,it renders a very upbeat mood to the whole atmosphere and all you want to do is just keep listening and strolling along. Years after, when you run down the memory lane reminiscing your scots experience, a walk down the Royal Mile will definitely be one of the high points of your memories.

After having thoroughly enjoyed myself in the warm locales of Edinburgh,the next day I take a bus tour to the Scottish Highlands. Famous the world over for their breathtaking beauty,intriguing history and the very fascinating glens and lochs,the highlands took me to a completely different world. As we drove past snow clad mountain ranges,fairy tale like scottish villages and the mystical countryside replete with medieval castles, I felt like being transported to some magical world of sorts. And to add to that magical touch was our Scottish bus driver who had an enchanting story to tell for every sight in view.... From stories about Scots battles and battlefields,the famous massacres in history, to the long held traditional myths our bus driver had us all captivated with his story narration. But the bit that intrigued me the most was the Hogwarts express railway line that was accompanying us all along as we drove through. This is the same railway line that takes Harry Potter and his pals to Hogwarts school of witchcraft proclaimed our driver in a spooky tone. No wonder then I was feeling a bit like Hermione Granger myself!

Glencoe The Highland beauty left me completely mesmerized. Be it the charming highland sheep 'Hamish and Honey' with whom I went berserk clicking pictures,the picturesque landscapes with gushing rivers and centuries old bridges or the gracious people with warm and genuine smiles on their faces,this was one trip that will remain etched in my memory forever. After around 14 hours of a heavenly experience in the Highlands,we returned back to a lively Edinburgh. The bells from St. Giles cathedral were ringing and the city seemed to be bathed in a vibrant array of colors.

I looked outside the window of my inn and saw the diminishing Sun rays engulf the old town. The sky bore a deep blue aptly complemented by the deep blue waters of the sea just besides the city. It felt beautiful, it felt surreal.

© Neha Sharma December 2012
Email: neha_brit (at) rediffmail.com

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