You can tell I’ve fallen in love with a city (or country) if I pick up a real estate publication for the area. If I wanted to move there, how much might a house cost? Over the years, I’ve considered Bruges in Belgium, Sanibel Island in Florida, and San Francisco. And now, Scotland.
Shall I compare Scotland versus America, weigh the pros and cons, the things my group and I noticed when we were “across the pond” recently? I think I shall.
As we drove from Inverness airport to Applecross Peninsula,
We never experienced heavy traffic.
Not once did we tarry in a stop-and-go line of cars. For this, we credited the Scottish use of traffic circles instead of traffic lights.
Scotland has few fast-food restaurants.
However, there are plenty of fish-and-chip stands. Usually with meals to “carry away,” not dine in. By the way, the single fish filet in your order will be nearly as long as your forearm.
We marveled at the rarity of emergency service providers.
In a week, we saw two police cars and one ambulance. I like to think the low supply is due to low demand.
Random observation: In nine days, I only spotted three homeless people, all of them in the city of Inverness.
The typical Scottish house is wee compared to those in America.
And much older. They possess more personality too. Brightly colored doors. Name plaques proclaiming, “Sanctuary Cottage” or “Old Post Office.” Beautiful, if tiny, gardens spill over with flowers and herbs.
Scottish schools are tiny too. At least the one in Applecross is. Applecross Primary has 14 students and one teacher. What a fantastic student-to-teacher ratio!
The weather may be the most startling difference between here and there. There is a meme going around that says, “In West Virginia, you can experience all four seasons in a day.” Pfft! That’s nothing.
In Scotland, you can experience all four seasons in an hour!
While in the highlands, you probably won’t need sunglasses, but always, always, keep your “waterproof” close at hand. Because in Scotland, on any given day, there’s a good chance you’ll encounter mist, showers, and/or sheeting rain. Plus wind, if not gusts. That’s the bad news.
The good news is, when the sun comes out during or after the precipitation,
There will be rainbows.
Glorious arcs of color. Scottish rainbows are superior to American rainbows because they are bigger and their hues, more vivid. To my delight, in Scotland I was often able to see both ends of the rainbow. Surely, if I climbed in a skiff, in head-to-toe waterproof gear, of course, I could paddle from one striped side to the other.
Not only are rainbows bigger and brighter in Scotland, more often than not, they’re a daily occurrence. Most days we saw two to four, but one day, we saw eight.
What we didn’t see often in Scotland was a plethora of screens: smart phones, tablets, laptops, etc..
I only remember seeing one television during our week away—a tiny TV in the pub at Applecross Inn.
Whenever we saw people focused intently on their phones (besides our group snapping pictures), if we heard the people speak, they were almost always American.
Random observation: Not once did I overhear a conversation about national or international news. How refreshing!
I was quite smitten by the United Kingdom’s sense of style.
In London and Scotland, people don’t wear trends. They wear tradition.
Tapered trousers on men and women. Crisp button-up shirts. Great blazers, always wool, some with elbow patches. For shoes, the men mostly wear oxfords, bucks, or stylish “trainers.” The ladies in the London airport wear fashion-forward flats or ankle boots. In Applecross though, women prefer knee-high boots, often “Wellies.”
On half a dozen occasions, we walked by men in kilts. Granted, some of these incidents occurred at castles, but we also encountered kilted gents on the sidewalks of Inverness. Colorful tartan kilts are worn with dress shirts and suit jackets, matching knee socks, and gleaming oxfords, some with laces that tie about the ankle.
(Me and my friend Megan Wright with Mr. Mcleod, a docent at Eilean Donan castle. Take note of our hair. It was that windy.)
Clearly, I have great affection for Scotland in general and Applecross specifically. So why not relocate with Tony Bear and Junior-Man, Bonnie Agnes and Boots Louise?
Because I’d miss Americans.
The people of Applecross are reserved, private. Some might say, stoic. Early in the week, our hostess Catherine Stewart warned us, Scottish folks don’t often smile. She was right. Nor do they wave as your vehicle squeaks by theirs on the Bealach na Ba.
Catherine, who I think of fondly as ‘The Most Interesting Woman in the World,’ also told us:
“If you are new to town, the villagers decide quickly and with no fuss if they are for or agin’ you.”
My friend Stephany and I experienced this first-hand. One afternoon, when we were “out for a wander,” we ventured into The Coal Shed, an Applecross gift shop. As I perused cards featuring Highland Coos and red deer, I asked the proprietor if she perhaps had a bag we could use to collect blackberries.
“Sorry, no,” the woman said primly. “I haven’t any.” A few minutes later, though, after I purchased five cards, she rooted in a corner piled high with bubble-wrap and cardboard boxes and produced one. “This might do, actually.”
After picking more than a pint of berries beside Applecross’s main road, Stephany and I headed back to the house. A car pulled alongside of us and the driver lowered the window. It was Coal Shed Woman.
“Find you some brambles, did you?”
Stephany proudly displayed our haul. “Would you like some?”
“Goodness, no. I’m done with brambles for the year, I’ve had so many. Cobblers and pies and crisps. Do enjoy though.” And off she sped down the single-track road.
As we climbed the final rise to Eagle Rock, navigating pairs and trios of spotted sheep, we celebrated that at least one Applecross villager was “for us.”
Even so, by the end of the week, I found myself longing for the warmth and openness of US citizens, especially West Virginians. Their waves, smiles, and inquiries such as, “How are you? How’s your family?”