Al­ways up for a chat in friendly old Scot­land

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Travel & Indulgence - KAREN MITCHELL

I WAS born in the deep south of New Zealand, home to many Scot­tish mi­grants. The far­ther south you ven­ture the more you hear the use of the word wee in con­ver­sa­tion and the rolling Rs of the Kiwi ac­cent.

Mem­o­ries of the winds that blow in from Antarc­tica and feel as though they could slice clear through lay­ers of merino and Gore-Tex come back to me when I arrive in Ed­in­burgh on a chilly Septem­ber morn­ing. I im­me­di­ately feel a fa­mil­iar at­tach­ment to this coun­try of bleak weather, craggy out­crops, cairns and girls named Morag.

The Scots I meet say what’s on their mind, and of­ten. The gar­ru­lous taxi driver from the air­port speaks with con­vic­tion about al­most ev­ery­thing for the en­tire jour­ney. The fish­er­man whose cottage I rent and whose fam­ily has lived in the same house for 400 years seems to have risen up from the sea sur­round­ing his home, talk­ing and talk­ing.

The two mid­dle-aged women be­hind the counter at the lo­cal women’s as­so­ci­a­tion, their hand­knit­ted ar­gylepat­terned cardi­gans held tightly over their soft bo­soms, gos­sip qui­etly and seem­ingly end­lessly to each other while as­sid­u­ously ig­nor­ing their hun­gry cus­tomers.

I have a lengthy and an­i­mated con­ver­sa­tion with the owner of a cafe with­out cus­tomers or cake who sug­gests I visit her mar­ket stall ‘‘for home-made chut­neys and doll’s-house fur­ni­ture’’.

When I men­tion my birth­place, I am greeted with mono­logues of length and vigour about rugby, a sport that in­ter­ests me not a jot. These wordy Scots don’t seem to notice my eyes glaze over. This is not to say they are un­in­ter­ested in what other peo­ple have to say. Rather, I sus­pect the Scots are more ex­citable than their melan­choly rep­u­ta­tion sug­gests.

While in the High­lands, I read a book writ­ten in 1886 that fea­tures his­toric char­ac­ters with evoca­tive and faintly funny names such as Big Dun­can of the Axe, Alexan­der the Up­right and Macken­zie of the Nose; there are bru­tal tales of Vik­ing in­vaders and the tragic love story of a dead princess be­ing borne across the black wa­ter to be buried on an is­land in Loch Ma­ree.

Peo­ple in these spell­bind­ing val­leys have re­tained an an­i­mated ec­cen­tric­ity that is ex­pressed in their sto­ry­telling and en­gag­ing with oth­ers. But al­ways on their own terms. RANT OR RAVE Send your 400-word con­tri­bu­tion to our Fol­low the Reader col­umn. Pub­lished colum­nists will re­ceive a Kath­mandu dig­i­tal travel scale ($59.98). This de­vice, with a high­pre­ci­sion strain gauge sen­sor sys­tem, is ideal for weigh­ing lug­gage at home. More: 1800 333 484; kath­mandu.com.au. Send your con­tri­bu­tion to: travel@theaus­tralian. com.au.

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