Chapter 1. Scotland
Donella, known as Ella since she was a wee lass had dreamed of this trip for as long as she could remember. The 22-year old woman was rather small, being only five feet two inches in her stocking feet. It must be said she was proportioned in just the right places. She had slightly curly long dark almost black hair that she usually kept in a messy bun at the nape of her neck. Her eyes were a curious dark green that snapped when she was angry. Men usually took a second look when she walked by, but she was too busy to notice, what with all the ancient history she was usually mulling over in her mind.
Her friends knew how absent minded she could be when doing her research for the doctorate she was working towards. Her area of expertise was early medieval life in the highlands of Scotland mostly before or around the 10th century. She had even mastered the understanding of ancient Gaelic, well only the written form since present day Gaelic had changed substantially in the last thousand years. Being a quick study, she had also picked up four romance languages.
Donella's plan was to visit Scotland for a few weeks and absorb as much knowledge at some of the ancient sites as she could. Going to the source for the best details to fill in the gaps of her thesis was the main reason for her journey. Maybe even have some relaxation, if time permitted.
She sighed as the bus drew to a stop at the archaic village of Plockton in the northwest highlands of Scotland. It was a tiny village that overlooked Loch Carron. As the two other passengers took their leave thanking the driver, Ella got her overnight bag and purse from under her seat and made her way to the front of the bus. She smiled to herself as she remembered the lovely scenery that they had passed through. Photos never did justice to the real thing!
The driver was outside handing out the luggage from compartment underneath the bus. Ella adjusted her purse and made ready to take the large green suitcase with the small wheels. She thanked the driver remarking, “It's is so beautiful here, I know I have come to the right place to be making memories that I will always hold dear.” The man smiled in agreement as he closed the compartment door.
Just as he turned to walk towards the pub, Ella asked, “Where do I find the Hinde Inne?” She had booked a room in the old inn weeks ago. He pointed at the old stone building in front of them, one door to the far left of the building was the pub. It didn't have a sign as all the locals knew where the pub was. The fancy wooden door with a sign hanging over the top to the far right indicated an inn. The girl chuckled and thanked him again.
She gazed at the wooden sign with a deer carved in it with the old English spelling of “Hinde Inne.” Knowing it meant female deer she thought, “This is an ancient town, I know I'm just going to love it here!” Adjusting her luggage so she could pull it comfortably she headed for the door. Once inside, she found the interior to be rather dark after the bright sunshine outside. She walked up to the desk and rang the small bell. Within a minute, an older woman came out wiping her hands on a clean towel and said, “Good day to you.” She paused a few seconds before adding, “You wouldn't by any chance be Donella Smith would you?”
Ella sighed, “After this long day it sure was comforting to be expected.” She nodded her head replying, “Yes I am she, I am hoping my room is ready for me, I sure could use a rest about now." The older woman nodded her understanding as the girl continued. "By the way, please call me Ella, all my friends do.” Fiona, the owner of the inn, smiled warmly, as she reached for the keys and indicated that Ella sign the guest book.
Once the formalities were done, the woman said, “Well now my name is Fiona, just you follow me, and we will have you in your room in no time. If there be anything, you need I would be the one to talk too.” She called out to her son, Tomas, to help with Ella's big bag. As they walked up the stairs to the second floor, she continued. “The pub is where you will take your meals; it's open at six am until the last of the men are booted out after dark.” Both women laughed at that last remark.
Ella followed Fiona up the side stairs and down a rather dark hallway. Noticing the light bulb was out, Fiona asked Tomas if he would take care of it. He nodded his shaggy head and replied, “Yes Mum.”
They finally stopped at the end of the hall, where Fiona inserted the old fashioned key and swung the door open for Ella to enter.
“It will be nice and quiet at this end of the hall.” Ella nodded gratefully, as she entered, and was pleasantly surprised. The room was light and airy with beautiful furnishings from bygone eras. She was going to have an interesting time looking over each piece carefully. Once Tomas set the large bag beside the bed and Ella put her purse and overnight bag on the bed, Fiona and her son said their goodbyes and left.
Sitting down on the bed, Ella flopped back and gave a small whoop! She was finally here and knew deep in her bones that this was a trip she wasn't ever going to forget. She planned to get the maximum information and maybe even do a little socializing. But most important was knowledge such as the old ways and customs. Maybe even discover some new facts. With the material, she intended to uncover; she would be able to finish her thesis. After all the years of study and research, it would finally be complete. She sighed to herself in satisfaction; this was the last leg of a long journey to achieving her doctorate.
A few minutes later she got up opened her bags and unpacked her things. She hadn't brought a lot of clothes as she didn't intend to be very social. Therefore it didn't take her long to put all her things away in the antique chest of drawers and the tiny closet. Next, she took a shower in the small washroom provided, finishing up with brushing her teeth. Taking a deep breath, she felt one hundred percent better.
Not surprisingly she felt her stomach rumble loudly, reminding her that she had just a light lunch before getting on the bus late this morning. The day had been long, but the overall trip over the ocean and then from the airport to the various buses she had to transfer to get here was even longer. She knew deep in her heart it had been worth every uncomfortable minute! Glancing at her wristwatch, she was surprised how late it was. “No wonder my stomach is grumbling...it's way past seven pm!”
Throwing on a sweater and jeans, she quickly wound her wet hair into a bun, grabbed her purse and headed downstairs to the pub. As Ella walked up to the bar, the patrons in the pub all stopped talking and watched the newcomer. Feeling a bit uncomfortable, Ella ordered a sandwich and the local ale before finding a small empty table near the door. When the people started talking again, Ella relaxed as she waited for her meal. Glancing around, she found the pub to be a mixture of old and newer styles. The bar itself looked well, ancient, while the stools were more contemporary. A few minutes later a young waitress brought the food and waited while Ella dug in her purse for some money. Once the girl had gone, Ella took a sip of the ale. She tried not to make a face at the bitterness of the drink. She never had been a fan of ales and beers but thought it better to blend in with the local people. She then took a bite of her sandwich. It was a bit dry, but she was hungry, so she dug right in.
She was halfway through her meal when she heard a chair scrape the floor. Glancing around, she noticed a rather wobbly man with a glass in his hand was getting up from the table, he and his buds were sitting around. Straightening up as best he could, he gradually headed in her direction. Ella watched as he swayed his way across the room and finally stopped beside her. When he kept looking down at her, she asked, “Well sir? Can I do something for you?” His eyes widened for a few seconds indicating he was trying to get his thoughts together or decipher her accent.
Finally, he mumbled, “ My name's Fin and I just wanted to warn you to be careful if you go out on the moors. Lasses have disappeared in these parts for as long as anyone can remember and even longer! Ya, ken?”
Ella smiled up at him replying, “Thank you for the warning, I will certainly keep that in mind!” He stood for another few seconds nodding his head before taking another sip from his glass. Satisfied that he had done his duty, he slowly stumbled his way back to his cronies. They laughed as he sat down once more, one saying something about, “Old wives tales.” Fin mumbled a few words Ella couldn't hear, and they all looked at her again.
Ella tried to smile, “These local people ...where do they get these stories? I admit it is part of their charm.” Trying to stifle a yawn she found she couldn't finish her food; she was just too tired. It had been a very long day. She took another sip of her ale before standing up, she dug around in her purse and left a small tip on the table. As she left the pub, she yawned again and grumbled to herself, “I just need a good night's sleep and will feel right as rain in the morning.” Once she was back in her room, she quickly washed up shed her clothes and put on her favourite long t-shirt. Five minutes later she was fast asleep.
The next morning Ella was awake at the crack of dawn ready to face the day. She lay in bed for a while making her plans for the day. “I think I'll do some sight seeing today. Maybe take a picnic, a book and find a quiet place on the moors. That way I can begin to soak up the atmosphere that is Scotland. Yes ... that sounds like a splendid idea to me!” With that thought, she bounced out of bed and walked to the closet. It didn't take long to look at the few dresses she had brought with her. Most of her clothes were practical, but today she didn't want practical she wanted to feel and look like a woman of leisure. Ella reached for her green dress, the one that made her eyes pop. It hugged her figure then flared out at the waist plus at the same time it was comfortable. Mumbling happily to herself, she said, “Yes, just the dress for a day of leisure!” After quickly dressing she put on some pretty sneakers. She looked and felt good. All that needed doing was her hair. Within minutes, her messy bun was in place at the nape of her neck. With one last look in the dresser mirror, she grabbed a small plant field guide and stuffed in the pocket of her dress. Hoping to find Fiona at the front desk Ella went down the stairs.
Luck was with her, Fiona came out as soon as Ella's hand hit the desk bell. They had chatted about the weather before Ella got down to business. Telling Fiona her plans, the older woman nodded her head in understanding. As for a vehicle, Fiona said she would lend a grateful Ella her car for the day. All she needed to do was fill it with petrol. Preparations were made while the girl went to the pub for a quick breakfast. The coffee and fresh rolls with Lorne sausage, fried egg and onions was more than ample. Before long, she was stuffed and ready for the day. As Ella took the last sip of coffee, Fiona came in and announced, “When you're ready your picnic lunch of fruit, salad, crusty bread, and cheese will be waiting for you. I even put a nice bottle of wine in as well.”
Ella replied with a happy grin, “That sounds great, thank you so much!”
Nodding her head, Fiona enjoyed the younger woman's enthusiasm. “All will be ready when you are,” she said before turning to leave the bar. Ella quickly went to her room to clean up before going back downstairs and outside.
Tomas helped put the basket of food and a blanket into a small blue car that was parked in front of the hotel. Ella thanked him before asking directions to the moors where the Heather was now blooming. He pointed in the direction for her to take, while she slid in and started the car. She waved happily as she drove off.