This week I watched Outlander on Netflix and was reminded of the beauty of Scotland. Three years ago I was traveling through some of the land I saw in those episodes. After our time in Paris that I described in last week’s post, my husband and I took the Eurail to London, then took ScotRail into Edinburgh. From the comfort of a fifteen-seater tour bus, we were driven on a rainy day by a kilted guide up into the Highlands. Watching the MacKenzie clan riding their horses across that same land in Outlander, I could fill the dampness in the air and smell peat smoke in the distance.
When we finished our day on the bus, I was filled with expectation about exploring more of Scotland the next morning. David would fly back, as scheduled, to the States, while I continued on the next leg of my trip: my solo journey to Iona.
I boarded the train in Edinburgh and headed west on the two-hour trip to Oban. Unlike the day before that had been drizzle and fog, the sun was shining and the weather was splendid–especially for September in Scotland. The couple sitting in front of me were very friendly and like often happens when you’re traveling alone, they wanted to be helpful. They were from Scotland and were going on holiday in an area near Oban.
“There’s lots of nice places to eat there– if you have time before you catch your ferry,” the husband told me.
We stopped at a small station that was barely more than a platform right by the tracks. A tall, dark-headed man with a walking stick and a daypack boarded and sat across the aisle. Soon, he joined in on our conversation and told us he was meeting his walking club at a trail on up the line. When he asked about my destination, he smiled when I said I was going for a week at the Abbey at Iona.
“That’s a wonderful place for a spiritual retreat,” he said. We passed his Presbyterian church and he told us he was an elder.
We were all looking out the windows and enjoying the clear view. There was a peaceful rhythm with the train’s gentle rocking as we traveled eastward, climbing steadily.
The couple told me they lived near their daughter and helped take care of their grandchildren.
“Yeah, we spoil them quite a bit,” she said, and chuckled. “Spend a lot of money on those wee ones.”
“I’m going to be a grandmother in May,” I told her.
“That’s great,” she responded. “Do you know if it’s a girl or boy?”
“No, but we should be hearing soon,” I told her. Later, I would learn from a text the night before I flew back that we’d be having a grandson.
It was nice riding the train and having the companionship of those folks. I’d carefully planned my trip and now I just had to follow through with each portion of the journey. I felt relieved to not be worrying about safely navigating David through the crowded train stations, fearing he’d re-injure his leg.
The tall man got off before we reached Oban, turning to wish me a great week at the Abbey. His hiking group had gathered near the trailhead, greeting each other, smiling, looking like they were ready for an enjoyable day together.
After stopping at a couple more stations, there was an announcement that we were approaching the final stop in Oban.The couple pulled their belongings from the overhead rack.
“You have a nice holiday. And best to you with your new grandchild,” the husband said and wife smiled as they made their way into the aisle and exited the train.
There was no time to get lunch at any of the restaurants he’d suggested. I just had enough time to walk down the street and board the ferry to Craignure on the island of Mull, the second-largest island in the Inner Hebrides.
After being inside the train, I was glad to stand outside on the ferry for the forty-five minute ride, pulling my jacket tight to counter the chill in the air. The sun shining on my face and the cool breeze off the water were refreshing, awakening me to the vast expanse of beauty and possibility in front of me.
I’d enjoyed the company and conversation with the Scottish passengers on the train, but now I needed to be alone. I hadn’t had time by myself to take in my surroundings. I wondered what was ahead for me in Iona.
Part of a great journey, whether by air, car, train, or boat is to have time to anticipate the place that you’ve been longing for. I wondered who I’d meet at the Abbey and what would they be like. Iona was a historic pilgrimage site and while it was originally riddled with fairies they were later replaced by angels when the monks arrived. Would I feel a sense of that mystery? Was it a magical place or was that just hype?
I was headed into the unknown. After the ferry I’d catch a chartered bus to the village of Fionnphort where I’d spend two nights before crossing over the sound to Iona.
I had to wait to arrive in that ‘promised’ land–that place where things happened. Until then, I just wanted to relax and enjoy the journey.
How About You?
In what way are you on a journey to an unknown land?
How can you relax and enjoy the journey, waiting to enter your ‘promised land’?