Another week has passed already? Sheesh!

My last night in London involved (all together now) dancing. This time it was outside in a large park next to a tiny lake (large pond?). It was a small group of us dancing, but we made up for it in spirit. This is a regular event, so I am looking forward to returning.

Saturday I set off to Scotland. I first visited Edinburgh, which was thoroughly enjoyable! It is a rare town where I find the word 'charming' applicable and it still feels authentic. (Salzburg, for example, had gone off the deep end in tourist traps). Equally surprising, is that a culture sprung from clans warring against each other would produce something so charming. But they did, and I lapped it up.

Edinburgh Church
Flowers by the Cathedral

Georgian Houses
Georgian Houses

Edinburgh Hotel
Historic Hotel

Most memorable was my tour of a preserved Georgian mansion. Each room was staffed by a little old Scottish lady from the preservation board. Some, such as in the first room, were absolutely fabulous. She was happy to promote Scottish culture, and throw in sly jabs at the British. We kept busy comparing accents. I continue to be hard for people to place.

The lady in the next room brought 'doddering' to a new level. She was a tiny thing, and so sweet, but really had very little idea what was going on around her. The ladies were to hand out cards in various languages for us to read, and she eventually popped a synapse and thought that the German visitors were Spanish. She was so very excited to show us what was in the room, that you had to love her though.

Flag at the Castle
Flag at the Castle

At the Castle

After a couple days I ignored the forecasted 80mph winds and headed to Oban, where my MacDougall ancestors hail from. They left in the 19th century, and we aren't in contact with anyone there now, so I was curious what I would find. I've focused very little on my heritage, so I found myself wondering very basic questions: What is the meaning of returning to Oban? Should I feel some connection with the place? What did it mean to live in Oban when my ancestors did? What does it mean to me to be Scottish? And am I just some starry eyed clueless American who wouldn't know his heritage if it ran up and bit him? I fear the answer to the last one may be 'Yes'.

My dreams of meeting my clan leader were dashed, as my current clan leader does not live in Scotland (is that allowed???). The previous leader's widower is in town, but has changed phone numbers, so I don't expect to find him (I've saved tomorrow to try some more).

MacDougall Tours
MacDougall Hardware Store
McDougall General Store
...and more McDougalls!

As I walked through town, I started seeing signs for places named "MacDougall's", or some derivation thereof. A general store, a tourist office, an alarm company, etc... Very strange! I began to get a sense that I belonged here somehow. There are three castles that we are connected to, which I visited. The first is just on the edge of town and in ruins that one can go through. Another is on the island across the bay, also in ruins, but blocked off for repairs. Both of these have about the same square footage as my house. A larger one, and one that is partially restored, was just outside of town. It was sacked by the Campbell's way back when, so technically it's no longer ours. I've sworn off soup.

Dunollie Castle
Dunollie Castle
Gylen Castle
Guylen Castle
More pictures of Gylen
Dunstaffnage Castle
Dunstaffnage Castle

Today was the most exciting so far. I rented a car and drove out to the house my ancestors lived in at the time they emigrated. All I had to go on was a photo my Uncle took some years back, and a rough idea of which country road it is on. No problem! The current residents were thrilled to have this piece of history show up at their door, so I got to go inside and see the whole thing. Fabulous!!!.

Old Hearth
The Great Hearth

What have I learned? Well, no great revelations. Our clan motto is "Conquer or Die", and it seems the MacDougalls often did the latter. I am motivated to do research into my genealogy when I return, and hope to learn more then.

Sunset in Oban
Sunset in Oban
At the top of the hill overlooking town is an unfinished 'Tower' that actually resembles a coliseum. A park is in and around it now, and it is considered THE place to see sunsets. As I sat there last night I wondered if my ancestors contemplated the same view and searched for the meaning in their own lives. Maybe I'd found that connection to the past after all.

The people I've bumped into have been charming. It's so nice to speak the language. A woman a the bus stop was telling me about Oban during the war. A man on the street shared his love for Oban, and how he returns frequently. An Irishman at my B & B spoke of Ireland, and assured me the Troubles would not be a problem for me (Perhaps because I'm neither Catholic or Protestant?). A woman at the War Memorial (peppered with MacDougall's) urged me to see this site and that.

Driving was, as one might expect, a little disorienting. The first agency I went to couldn't rent to me because I'm American, and their insurance is scared of our tendency to sue all the time. I ended up wit a Fiat, and quickly adjusted to using the left lane, and shifting with my left hand. Don't tell the Fiat folks, but I lost track of how many times I bumped the left curb, because I instinctively felt I was not centered in my lane!!! Back to walking for me!

Next week: Ireland!