Pine

I was in Dublin not too long ago, in an independent book shop that someone had recommended to us, having the inner struggle I always have in book shops, where I want to buy everything and also I don’t want to spend my whole budget on books. I had already chosen a few books by Irish authors and decided that that’s enough, when I saw this gorgeous book cover on the shelf – Pine by Francine Toon. Reading the back cover told me that this is an eerie story set in a small village in the Scottish Highlands, surrounded by a pine forest. It took everything I had to step away from the shelf, telling myself that I have already gotten enough books and I wasn’t prepared to leave any of them, especially because I wanted to focus on Irish authors this time. Two days later I ended up at this book shop again and my will wasn’t strong enough, so I bought the book. And I am very happy I did.

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The Highlands

A year ago, when travel was considerably less risky than it is right now, I went back to one of my favourite places, Scotland. As it was my second time, I used the chance to travel outside of Edinburgh. I took a day trip to Loch Ness through the Scottish Highlands. I spent several hours on a tiny bus, looking out at the magical, mossy landscape, lochs and mountains. Our Scottish guide, sporting a kilt, told us about monsters and monarchs and about the time this area had mountains higher than the Himalayas. After centuries of ice pressing down on the Earth, the mountains are much smaller than they used to be, but they are still the highest in Great Britain. During our stops I walked on the soft, bouncy ground, made up of many layers of turf and dreamed of riding through these hills on my trusty horse, not meeting anyone for days. I think I would have enjoyed that.

Loch Ness

Loch Ness totally lives off the Nessie hype, but hey it’s better than what most places have. A legendary prehistoric monster beats a tired ghost story any day. I went on a search for the monster myself during my visit to Scotland last month. My boyfriend and I took a one day tour from Edinburgh to the Highlands and Loch Ness. It was 12 hours, at least 7 of them spent on a bus, but the scenery and the driver’s stories kept me entertained, so that I didn’t even want to take a nap, in order to not miss anything.
We stopped at Fort Augustus in the afternoon and had time to walk around the lake, buy some fish and chips and expensive souvenirs (there are places where you just have to buy a touristy souvenir and this is one of them – I settled for a Nessie tea infuser). The village is a small one, but it’s thriving because of the tourism (check out the monster themed beers in the gas station). The lake itself is the second biggest in Scotland and it may or may not be an actual home to a giant monster. There are also boat tours from the village, for those who want to explore further.

I remember watching a documentary about Loch Ness and the monster when I was young. I was fascinated by it and I wanted to go there, but I didn’t really think that I would. It seemed so far away to a small, poor child in Eastern Europe. Now that I finally have the chance to travel, I am glad I went there. Even though we spend just over an hour there and we couldn’t explore the area as well as I wished, it was definitely worth it.