I should really wrap up my Scotland posts, shouldn’t I? After all, this is a blog about chickens, and I miss writing about ’em! This will be the last post involving my travels.
We attended the Highland Games the next Saturday- A big, green field with an amusement park on one side and a large arena with the actual events on the other. There were large men in kilts throwing hammers, scrawny farmers carrying 300 kg worth of stones, beautiful sounding pipe bands, young women hopping from foot to foot in the Highland Dancing competition, and lots and lots of food (including a very special creation: “haggis on a stick”).
The next day we left for Puffin Rock. After parking our car on the side of the road, we took a thirty minute hike through sheep pastures and a gorge (where we found an adder, eek!). We reached a cliff, at which point my aunt said,
“Okay, let’s go down.” And I looked at her blankly and pointed to the vertical grassy slope that ended in a fifty foot drop into the Atlantic and said
“Um, what?” Her friends (all pretty much in their fifties) were already climbing down the slippery grass as if there wasn’t a possibility that you could accidentally step on a loose rock and go tumbling to your doom. I looked down at my flat-footed rain boots, thought about my great hiking boots she had told me to leave in the car, and then looked at her friends, already perched at the bottom of the cliff. Dammit I muttered as I started downward, my knees already shaking.
I’m not great with high risk situations.
See, in this photo I am attempting to get back onto solid ground. My body is vertical, and the only place I can hold onto to support my weight is wet grass. Below my giant rain boots is rocks and ocean and death. Pretty darn scary.
Okay, so I’ve made my point. But the peril was worth it, because when I got down there I had a direct view of hundreds of puffins and puffin burroughs. It was simply amazing to see the little guys soaring around, their bright orange beaks in stark contrast with the temperamental gray sky.
We then hiked through the marshy pasture back to the car, and drove West, to Tongue where I witnessed white sand beaches, clear waters, Highland “Coos” (cows), and dramatic mountain ranges. It was Scotland in a nutshell.
That Monday my aunt and I took a ferry to Orkney Islands for a day-long bus tour. We saw ancient stone hedges, Skara Brae- The remains of a 5,000 year old community, explored a cathedral, and visited the Italian Chapel.
The Italian Chapel was built by Italian POWs, when they were forced to build a defense mechanism for the British naval base located in a sheltered Orkney harbor. They took one of their housing facilities, and utilized bits and pieces of old buildings and sunken ships to create a masterpiece dedicated to their faith (even diving under water to retrieve bathroom tile for the flooring of the chapel). Using paints, they painted the plaster ceiling, walls, floor, and picture of Mary. One particular Italian, named Pulombi, created a stunning gate out of melted down nails and bits of metal. This man fell in love with a local girl, Barbara, despite his wife and children back home. When the war ended, he decided to go back to Italy and his wife, letting the Barbara know that she shared his heart with another woman. He left a small iron heart at the foot of the chapel, saying that “he left all of his heart here” for the girl. Pulombi never returned to her, but she visited the chapel every day. On one of these particular days, after the man had long since died, his daughter came to view his works. It was there that his daughter, named Barbara, discovered the existence of her namesake.
And that, my friends, was the last big event on my adventure.