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Issue 80 - What I Love About Scotland

Scotland Magazine Issue 80
April 2015

 

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What I Love About Scotland

A series in which well known individuals based around the world express their thoughts about the Scotland they know well

I grew up not knowing my familial connection to Scotland. In fact, when I questioned my paternal side of the family, they had no clue about the origins of the last name! It was only later in my mid-twenties that a friend’s mother revealed to me the etymology of my surname and the connections. Scotland, I thought, what is this country? So I began to read all I could about the Scots, their culture, and especially their history. The more I read, the more interested I became. Everything I read reminded me of my native mountain state increasing my aspiration to visit. Finally, while living in Germany, I was able to travel to the place I had read so much about. What I found surpassed all of my expectations.

Admittedly, my first trip to Scotland was done ‘American Style’ with long days and long miles to see as much as I could before departing. That trip began in Edinburgh where I was immediately captivated. As I walked Princess Street, took in the site of Arthur’s Seat, walked the Royal Mile, gazed at the Sir Walter Scott memorial, or took in the sight of Edinburgh Castle and Holyrood Palace, I became enchanted. To this day, Edinburgh retains a very special place in my heart.

The more I saw, the more I wanted to see and learn, so my wife and I took day trips to both the Highlands and the Lowlands. For the Highlands, we chose to travel to Loch Ness and see if we could catch a glimpse of the elusive celebrity. While we were not fortunate enough to see Nessie, we were introduced to the sites of Glen Coe, Ben Nevis, the Forth Bridge, the Great Glen, and even stopped at Kilmahog where we were introduced to the local star, Hamish the Coo. My wife was immediately smitten!

The Highlands hold a special place for me personally. This is not due to my Cochran family, a Lowland family, originating from the Highlands, but due to the fact that they chose to settle and live in the mountains and highlands of Appalachia. The Highlands and its people therefore remind me of home. For the Lowlands, we chose to travel to Rosslyn Chapel then on to Stirling Castle, Bannockburn, and the Trossachs National Park. We took in the site of Melrose Abbey with the mandatory stop by the resting place of Robert the Bruce’s heart.

Each and every place I visited increased my desire to see more. I was left with a feeling of belonging and history. When we departed my wife looked at me and said, “This is the first time I’ve seen you sad to leave a country and go home.” I promised her and myself that we would return, a promise that I have kept, returning twice.

My next two visits took in such national treasures as Loch Lomond, Paisley Abbey, Glasgow Cathedral, Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, and Oban. I was even privileged enough to be at the 700th Anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn. With each successive visit, I have left more excited than ever to return to explore and experience the sites and the history.

Yet of all the places I’ve mentioned there is one thing that far outshines all, and that is its people. They never cease to amaze me with their generosity and hospitality. On my first visit a gentleman, now living in New Zealand, asked why I was on holiday in Scotland? Five minutes later, he was inviting me to visit him and his family in New Zealand. On the next visit, I had dinner at the Cochrane Inn in Gatehead, Ayrshire. A lovely couple sat next to me at the bar and we watched Scotland play France during the RBS Six Nations Rugby. While Scotland failed to defeat their Gallic rivals, I had a fantastic time with this lovely local couple. They even went so far as to invite this perfect stranger back to their house for coffee.

Scotland for me is a land of legend. Its history, mythology, castles, landscape, and people amalgamate to create something akin to mythology.

Author biography
John Douglas Cochran, is a career soldier in the United States Army. He is the Shennachie of the Chief of Clan Cochran, and Clan Commissioner of North Carolina. He holds an honorary position on the board of the Council of Scottish Clans and Associations where he heads up the Small Clans Initiative. (www.cosca.scot)