Thursday, August 15, 2013

Authenticity is Everything in this Counterfeit World

I had a birthday the other day and was given a cd by Hugh Laurie (thanks Jamie) who apologises in the liner notes for being a white middle class Englishmen offering songs from black Louisiana in the early 1900s. He goes on to talk of 'furniture dipped in absinthe and towed behind a truck from Nice Table all the way to Wow, What's the Story Behind That???' suggesting that, 'Our alienation from the land, our inoculation against disease, our cultivated fear of hot things, sharp things, fast things... has made us hungry for the real thing, for Truth. If we don't get it we'll settle for its distant cousin, Authenticity.'

Earlier this week I was guiding clients in their clan lands, pulling out scraps of history and relating them to what's there now on the ground. The rocks, the rivers, the corries and to some extent the churches, are easy but most buildings are far removed from those ancient Truths. I'm grateful for the Authenticity of monuments and graveyards.

On Tuesday night I was at a B&B - a typically Scottish Victorian villa  in a small Perthshire town with a lovely garden. We've used it for clients before and they've had a great welcome. As did I, from the charming young landlady and her partner who produced an excellent breakfast. This couple have had the house for a year. They come from Roumania. So, not really authentic. But what if they had been from London, or Glasgow, or Inverness, or the next town down the glen?

Ideally the landlady would have been born and brought up in the town; but there aren't so many of those about. Truths are often hard to pin down - intellectually, historically or for a tour guide on the ground. But for our Clans and Castles clients we serve up as much as we can of that distant cousin, Authenticity.

Book a trip with us and there's one very nice B&B that you won't be staying in.

Friday, May 24, 2013

The Hill Road to Roberton

The hill road to Roberton's a steep road to climb,
But where your foot has crushed it you can smell the scented thyme,
And if your heart's a Border heart, look down to Harden Glen,
And hear the blue hills ringing with the restless hoofs again.

When I moved back to the Borders last year, I was looking forward to living near lovely Tweedside Abbotsford, home of Sir Walter Scott, which reopens to the public on 4 July. But I had forgotten about Will H. Ogilvie who wrote that great poem, The Raiders (too long to quote here but follow the link - it's a wonderful evocation of the romance of the Borders). 

I was recently in Galashiels on a lovely spring afternoon and decided to return to Hawick via 'The Hill Road to Roberton' where Will's ashes were scattered, and pay my respects to his cairn (below). 

It's a beautiful, undulating, moorland road which I will make a point of revisiting in August when the heather is out. But I'd forgotten that as I wound down into the valley of the River Teviot I would pass by 17th century Harden Tower, once home to Auld Wat of Harden (depicted below), one of the most notable of the Border Reivers. 

Which brings us back to his descendant, Sir Walter Scott, who wrote so effectively about 'Auld Wat' in the 'Lay of the Last Minstrel'.

Do make a point of visiting Abbotsford - a lovely and fascinating house with a well designed visitor centre.