Scotland: Beyond Bagpipes, Kilts, and Nessie

Scotland: Beyond Bagpipes, Kilts, and Nessie
Edinburgh, Scotland

When my son was a little boy, one of his favorite films was Mel Gibson’s Braveheart. He could recite the words to the Freedom Speech from Braveheart by heart. From his childhood bedroom, the shouts of “Freedom!” echoed down the hallway. Although my boy has the blood of English, Irish, and Welsh ancestors running through his veins, it is the blood of his Scottish ancestors he identifies with the most.

I have only been to Scotland once, many years ago. What I remember is the glistening lochs, ringed by towering trees and green hills.

The fields atop Bennachie, Aberdeenshire, Scotland

The fields atop Bennachie, Aberdeenshire, Scotland

I remember the cobblestone streets of Edinburgh and its rugged castle. I read the words of Bobby Burns, sipped whisky in a dark pub, and walked through the Scottish highlands in the light of the midnight sun.

While I saw plenty of kilts, bagpipes, and t-shirts sporting an image of the Loch Ness monster, it is the legendary spirit of Scotland that I felt while there. A spirit that will always remind me of the pride it stirred in the heart of my young son.

About Eilidh

My contact for this post is Eilidh, a young Scottish woman who works for a recruitment company in Edinburgh. Originally from Aberdeenshire, Eilidh came to Edinburgh several years ago to study at the university there.

I met Eilidh through a fellow ChicagoNow blogger, Poppy Doyle. Poppy, who is British, writes Expat Mamma. It centers on her challenges and perspectives as the wife of an American, living in the Chicago area. Poppy’s brother, Andi, is Eilidh’s boyfriend.

Featured photo is a public domain image. All other photos supplied by and used with Eilidh’s permission.

Tell me about your name, Eilidh.

It’s pronounced ay-lee. It means bright. I don’t have much of a story behind it though, my parents just liked it. My middle name means pure and my surname means happy so it all goes nicely together I think.

Look out a window in your home and tell me what you see.

Edinburgh, from Eilidh's bedroom window

Edinburgh, from Eilidh’s bedroom window

My bedroom in my flat looks out over tenement buildings which are very common here. Edinburgh has a lot of old buildings that are used as flats.

What are your thoughts on Scotland’s recent vote for independence? 

Scotland pays more money than our population accounts for, per head. A greater percentage of our tax is spent than from those in the rest of the UK (allegedly). Huge amounts of the farming, fishing and oil industry for the UK as a whole come from Scotland so from that point of view we are losing out. On the other hand, we have support from the rest of the UK in terms of military defenses, support for free university in Scotland, free prescriptions, etc. Also, we have the security of the pound.

Before the vote, major banks in Scotland announced they would leave Scotland if there was a yes vote, supermarkets said there would be increased prices…so there were positives and negatives from both sides.

In the end, I’m happy that we didn’t get independence. I don’t think it’s the right time for us. But it will only be a matter of time before a referendum comes around again.

What myths or stereotypes about Scotland would you like to dispel?

We don’t wear kilts unless it’s a special occasion like a wedding. We’re not always drunk. Most things that are typically Scottish aren’t part of everyday life (for me anyway) like bagpipes and haggis. These are all things reserved for occasions or tourists.

What would you like Americans to understand about Scotland and its people (beyond bagpipes, kilts, and the Loch Ness monster?

There is a lot more to Scotland than that.

It’s a beautiful country. I’m particularly fond of the West Coast. When I was a child I used to go sailing every summer there with my family.

Sailing in Creran, West Coast, Scotland

Sailing in Creran, West Coast, Scotland

There is so much to see that people from outside Scotland wouldn’t realize. For example, Edinburgh has an underground city. They also have vaults underneath the South Bridge in the city center. They were initially built for storage but because of the damp they ended up being used as homes for poor people.

We have a very interesting past if you look into it. There are lots of gruesome stories.

What concerns do you have for the future?

I don’t tend to worry too much about the future. What will be will be.

What brings you peace?

I like to spend time with Andi (my partner). It’s nice to walk around Edinburgh together and just chill out after working all week.

Who or what inspires you?

My parents. I think I had the most amazing upbringing. They inspire me to be like them and to be independent. I know that they will always support me in any decision as long as I am happy.

What is your opinion of the United States?

All I really know about the U.S. is what we see on TV here. Apparently your food portions are huge and you have better TV than us.

Describe a perfect day/season in Scotland.

My ideal day is when it is cold but not raining, so you can wear a coat and scarf. It reminds me of Christmas.

What is your favorite traditional Scottish food or dish?

Probably stovies. Basically, it’s meat and potatoes mashed together but it tastes so good! We used to get stoves at school when I was little.

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