“Then something Tookish woke up inside him, and he wished to go and see the great mountains, and hear the pine-trees and the waterfalls, and explore the caves, and wear a sword instead of a walking-stick.”
-J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit
I find myself indebted to J.R.R. Tolkien for creating the hobbit species, for in doing so he provided a very clear definition for a particular type of person: those who love their home, the simple life, yet every so often find themselves on very big adventures. As this blog is certainly evidence of, I see very much of myself in Bilbo Baggins, always running off into the blue to stare at old trees and climb mountains. Luckily for me, I am fortunate enough to have a father who is, without a doubt, exactly the same. For spring break this year my dad has once again travelled from home to spend a week with me and I could not be more thrilled.
This year, as he has more time to spend, we decided to pack up and spend three days in the Highlands. Though many would argue that it is a “touristy” location, we set our sights on Loch Ness since it is unquestionably too beautiful to ignore. Plus, my father the avid photographer was so sure he would capture the definitive photo of Nessie. While we did not see that majestic beast of lore, we did see three rainbows, so I still count that as a fortuitous occasion!
The whole train ride up I had “Over the Misty Mountains Cold” score from the first Hobbit film stuck in my head, the one that triumphantly plays as Bilbo ventures further into the wild lands beyond the Shire. Such describes exactly how I felt: leaving the safe shores of St Andrews behind for the wilderness ahead. While Loch Ness and Drumnadrochit aren’t exactly rough territory, it still counts as an adventure beyond the everyday hustle and bustle of St Andrews life.
So the first day was spent traveling to our location. Yet on the next day we headed out to Urquhart Castle, right on the shores of Loch Ness, to begin our adventure. Though the castle is in ruins, it is still an impressive sight. It really makes you appreciate the skill, courage, and hardiness of medieval peoples; they built such a stronghold right on the edge of a tempestuous Loch, all with primitive equipment. Also, a lot of Urquhart’s history is guesswork, as most of the castle’s stone was taken to build surrounding houses. In all the bustle of deconstructing and restoration, several artifacts that would provide clues to the castle’s history have been lost. Such mystery! Loch Ness is also incredibly beautiful; luckily for us, we got a sunny and blue sky day to see the castle and the Loch, which only added to the experience.
After our venture to the castle, we returned to Drumnadrochit, the town we were staying in, to do some hiking. We took the “difficult” trail that runs through the Craigmonie Wood surrounding Drumnadrochit. The trail was mostly uphill with a few difficult rocks and roots, yet nothing we couldn’t handle. At the very summit of the trail one could see all of Drumnadrochit and Loch Ness in the distance. What a sight to behold! There was a large rock at the top that I could have sat on for hours, merely contemplating the peaceful solitude. And, seemingly just for us, a rainbow lazily stretched across the sky over Loch Ness as we approached the summit, making the adventure all the more magical.
We ended the day with a delicious, locally sourced burger at the Benleva Hotel, a cozy wee in nestled in Drumnadrochit. The inn was wonderful and so homey; tartan carpeting, a roaring fire, and books in the corner: almost like the Green Dragon! The owner of the inn even let his two dogs romp around the restaurant and bar, eagerly greeting every patron. I think this is one of the things I love most about Scotland: the simplicity and sense of home one feels, being welcomed by good company and quiet relaxation after a long day.
I am also so thankful that my father is able to go on all of these wondrous adventures with me. I feel so lucky that he shares my similar sense of adventure; though we are both incredible homebodies, we do love to simple tramp around the woods for a while, getting lost in the simplicity of nature. I think these times spent with my parents will amount to some of my favorite experiences in my time at St Andrews, for I get to share this place I love so dearly with two of my favorite people. Also, since my parents were the first to kindle my love of adventure, it feels only right that I return the favor somehow, opening up these new experiences for them as I venture further out into the world.
The week is winding down a bit, but I could not be happier. I spent a wonderful three days in a beautiful corner of the world with my favorite fellow hobbit, ate good food, and simply enjoyed life. The rest of the week holds a few more indulgent meals, a jaunt to Anstruther, and a look around the St Andrews museum. While I wish my father could stay longer, I am thankful for the time he took to visit me. I will no doubt cherish these memories of castle exploring and Nessie hunting with my best friend: my dad.
Originally written 20 March 2014