Although every day of travel holds magical qualities and opportunities, today on the sixth day of our adventure, the Divine was very much present, delighting us with unexpected surprises.
Journey along with us…
Our day began in high adventure mode. We rented a car. My sister Debbie was the designated driver. Perhaps because she is left handed…or perhaps because she has a natural ability to adapt quickly…Debbie amazed me with her skills at navigating through busy Edinburgh traffic and around countless round-a-bouts, all while driving on the opposite side of the road than is customary in the US! With Linda as her co-pilot and Ashley perched in the middle of the back seat offering encouragement and an occasional Left…Left, we safely arrived in the little town of Lauder in the Scottish borders.
We were excited to tour the Thirlestane Castle near Lauder. This residential castle is still home to distant, distant cousins. My roots are here. The Lauderdales of American came from the Maitland Clan. To be on the grounds and within the castle was deeply meaningful to me.
And here is where the magic began. When I visited the castle three years ago, photography was not allowed within the castle. I was disappointed but respectful of that rule. Today I noticed the signs inside had changed to No Flash Photography Allowed. No flash photography. I asked our kind tour guide and he confirmed that photos taken without flash were allowed. We promptly returned to the first room in the castle and began again, snapping pics.
How incredible to walk through this beautiful massive structure, learning about our ancestors, including the powerful Duke of Lauderdale, and seeing rooms where time appeared to have stopped. It was an enchanting couple of hours. We met more Joplin Lauderdales at Thirlestane, Bruce and Lori, who are visiting Scotland as well this week. Bruce is a cousin, sharing a common ancestor with my sisters and me, four generations back. We enjoyed walking through our ancestral home together and then having afternoon tea in the castle.
After we left the village of Lauder, we headed north past Edinburgh, our destination the town of Stirling, which lies on the edge of the Highlands. We had no plans, beyond reaching Stirling before dark. Debbie was driving successfully, using the car’s built in GPS system. In the quiet of the car, Debbie suddenly expressed concern that the GPS had malfunctioned and we were no longer on the correct route.
This is where the fun began!
Sometimes it is when we toss the map away, or in this case, lose accurate GPS readings, that we find what we are looking for. I have had a list of Scottish sites I want to see since my last visit to Scotland, things I did not see or get to do my first time here. Being allowed to take pics inside the castle was one. My niece Ashley has a similar list.
In rapid order this afternoon, by Divine appointment I believe, my niece and I got to scratch these unexpected surprises off of our lists:
• The Firth of Forth Bridges – the Forth is an estuary of rivers, including the Forth, that converge and flow into the North Sea. Ive seen photos of the famous bridges that span the Forth, including the newly completed Queensferry Crossing, but I have not seen the bridges up close. Today we crossed the Forth, twice, as we attempted to correct navigation! The bridges are stunning.
• The Kingdom of Fife – doing a U turn to head back across the Forth placed us in the Kingdom of Fife, which is a real place. Part of Scotland, Fife was once a major Pict Kingdom and the ancestral home to many Scottish monarchs. I can now say that I have been there!
• The Kelpies – these mythological water beasts represent the powerful lineage of Scotland’s heavy horses in economy and industry. Standing 100 feet tall, the modern sculpture display, created by Andy Scott, was opened to the public in 2014. I did not get to see the Kelpies when I visited that year. In fact, I didn’t know where they were located. As she drove on our new route, Debbie exclaimed What’s that coming toward us? I looked up in alarm, expecting to see an out of control bus careening toward us. Instead, the majestic kelpies appeared above the treetops! Ashley and I screamed with excitement. We couldn’t believe it as we drove right by. How beautiful the sculptures were.
• The Wallace Monument – we knew the monument, a memorial to Scottish hero William Wallace, was located somewhere in the general area of Stirling. As we approached our hotel, the monument rose from the trees nearby, an impressive tower 220 feet tall. I can see the monument from my hotel window, lit against a dark sky.
What a special day this has been, that unfolded entirely as it would. We have simply traveled the road that appeared before us. If the GPS had not changed our course in the car, we would have missed most of these treasures, these desires that Ashley and I carry on mental bucket lists. We weren’t able to get good photos, but we didn’t need to. We saw them.
I love these Divine nudges and surprises. With an open heart and open mind, I can receive without expectation or demand. The gifts are freely given, with a playful spirit that moves me deeply and brings me joy.
I am reveling in this travel adventure, this magical journey. I wonder what lies just around the river bend or beyond the turn in the road or over the craggy mountain? Anticipation courses warmly through my veins.