The Travel Politic

In the Summer of 2016 I was on a more than amazing Scottish roam. The itinerary I had changed and rearranged many times before departing, and changed yet again when I got there, going where the heart pulled me. Never a typical tourist, I may climb castles and ruins enthusiastically,  but I find spending time in public transit and anywhere people gathered and talked to be the best places to be. Hearing spoken Gaelic being freely used was an amazing thing. You didn’t need to understand it to see how people communicated.  It is the perfect backdrop while taking trains through the highlands, listening to happy families speaking their language in pure joy. A language of green mountains and hills you won’t find anywhere else.

After the first foray into the Highlands, I swung back down and ended up in Oban. The sea was calling me. I had been reading headlines in papers at some of the train stations. Big changes were coming for the UK. And big changes in the US. When I feel any serious emotion, I have to touch the river or the sea. I was feeling a bit guilty, a bit escapist. I was ignoring the real world. It was after the Scottish IndyRef vote had not passed, and Theresa May had just taken office. With the way the US Presidential campaigns were going, it seemed inevitable that we were heading for a repeat of the Thatcher and Reagan era.

I was sitting on the rug in a great B&B I got for a steal. Beautiful view of the bay that I had just cruised through to get to the Isle of Mull. I should have been very happy. Suddenly it just hit me. I was at a loss. So, I sat on the floor with my phone. The world was really about to go into the funnel of a maelstrom or so it felt. Into some kind of void. It was like it was the very first time I ventured into the UK as a very young teen. Back then it was Thatcher and protests, the disenfranchised youth without work and no future. This new thing called Brexit, how the UK was trying to pull out of the European Union seemed a really bizarre idea. I wasn’t so sure what I would being going home to in my own country.

I put music on my iPhone, I needed comfort from old favorites. I started with John Lennon’s Imagine, singing along and tears streaming. I fell into George Harrison’s My Sweet Lord and Give Me Love. I had to have that cry out. Went to bed that night, decided not to stay the second day. I needed to get back to a city, to not be an escapist, not be in an idyllic, coastal Scottish town.  Needed that heart beat and throb. Edinburgh was calling to me, something in me said just go. So I arrived a few days early. It was one of the best decisions on that trip. 

Edinburgh has rescued many a soul. After walking the streets and climbing over and around graveyards for hours, I came out and wandered into a sprawling historic area. A protest parade had started. My internal forever university student drive kicked in and I made a beeline to it. Saltires and EU flags were flying, IndyRef badges and banners displayed. People still wanted their independence, but they didn’t want to be ripped from the EU without their say. Scotland Police were escorting and walking alongside. There were all ages present, children in strollers and on small bikes. People walking with dogs, a cat on a leash. Even a parrot. I spent a time trying to figure out the rules of the Scottish protest, can you just jump in, was there an end of the line you funnel in at. Someone said, “Come on”. It was strangely quiet compared to the American protests I had been to. So, I joined for a bit of solidarity. It was one of the highlights of that visit.

Sadly I won’t be traveling this year. I barely scratched the surface in Ireland last summer, much less Scotland. I plan to return in two years to bag my Munro. So many places I have yet to discover. Maybe I will find another parade to join.

Next weekend, June 30th 2018, is an organized protest supporting Families and Children in our refugee crisis with the Mexican border. Will you join us?

Families Together

London Protests

Glam it Baby in Glasgow!

Four decades after his untimely death, 20th Century Boy aims to shine a light on the man once dubbed “The Electric Warrior”, the “King of Glam Rock” and the “Godfather of Punk”, Marc Bolan. Setting out on a path for fame since childhood, the story takes us from young Marc Feld’s early years in Stoke […]

via REVIEW: 20th Century Boy – King’s Theatre, Glasgow — Glasgow Theatre Blog

So wish I could have seen this, 6k miles too far. If you are in town, chase it down. Gotta love the Glam!

The Outlander Effect on Historic Sites: Careful How You Tread

skye3Last travel season I hit up tours in Scotland and traveled the Bonnie Prince Charlie trail as much as I humanly could on a three week trip. Let’s face it, as filming continues on the fourth season of Outlander, the hit book and television series from Diana Gabaldon’s famous book series, there are many film locations across Scotland, Prague, and South Africa. Enthusiastic fans of both the books and the television series have traveled in epic numbers to reach Scotland, Prague in the Czech Republic, and may be doing so in South Africa. So, what does huge traffic and a huge amount of filming locations to track down mean for travelers, and the environment they trample on? It means Scotland needs to figure out how it will continue to handle the increased human traffic in its borders. Each historic site has seen large increases over the last three years due to the popularity of the series and films.

2018 Outlander Locations Map 

Outlander Filming Locations and Travel Table

Respect
When people travel, they have certain expectations of where they are going. We want accessibility and that the location looks like it does in brochures and travel books. It will never look quite like it did in the film, series, or travel book you bought. When filming takes place, areas are blocked off, and dressed for scenes. It can also be exhilarating and frustrating to fans who traveled to hunt down their favorite series, to get a glimpse of behind the scenes or be close to a star, but escorted off the property. Film crews are trying to work and bring you your favorite show. The instant gratification of selfies and pictures while filming have made some fans go to extremes to get pictures. Everyone becomes a Paparazzi. Producers and studios want to keep the element of surprise for the audience, keep that storytelling secret for the reveal. This can lead to some conflicts. Hopefully as a traveller, you can help promote responsible observance and help keep the area picked up.

To add to it, the popularity of film and TV series like Outlander have lead to fans picnicking and causing erosion at historic sites such as Culloden Moor. At the Fraser stone alone, damage has been done due to trampling and it will now have to go through restoration of the surrounding soil to restore the erosion caused by multitudes of fans coupled with extreme weather. Let us not forget, this site has historic mass graves. Those that have fallen are due respect. Leaving tokens causes more work for the grounds staff.

Embrace Balance
When you are a guest in another country, or any historic site, you should always think about leaving it the way it was when you found it. As a society, we like to collect and grab things for remembrance. People also bring in things as tribute, and the curators then have to dispose of hundreds of items. Just think about how you might feel if something was defaced or trampled on and you could not enjoy it when you arrived.

Clan Fraser grave at Culloden damaged amid ‘Outlander effect’

NTS Applies to Extend Culloden Centre Hours

You should always check with a historic site if something is going on that day, or at the very least check out the local papers. Most historic sites have a web page with current conditions and closures listed. However, these may not get updated frequently. Face it, Scotland is now an ever increasing hotspot for film and television. There are websites for local papers and they love to cover filming and will tell you if filming is in the city, such as Glasgow, and what streets are blocked off. Also, go in mind that no matter how much perfect vacation planning you do, something is going to be blocked or not working at one of the places you really wanted to see. Adapt.

Channel 4 Bid for Glasgow

Budget and Transport
How can you get to cram in as many sites for filming a series as possible in a two week span and not blow what little budget you have? Could you do less damage and annoyance to the environment or any landowners if you took buses or bikes to a local site, and not hired a car? Face it, Outlander is an example of massive amounts of filming locations, spread all over Scotland, and some of them only accessible by car. Or are they? On my trips I was only able to make it to a fraction of the sites I could hunt down. I made it to several S1 and S2 sites, and then continued on the Bonnie Prince Charlie. How can you cram it all in? Some Outlander and Game of Throne tours will get you to many of the locations, but are expensive tours and booked very solid, months in advance. Make a list of the sites and find out how to get there on your own.

Roaming Rights in Scotland
Scotland has roaming rights. What that means in a nutshell, is that the public has the right to go to public historic sites without access being denied. Unless a historic site has hired itself out to be filmed in and is shut to the public. There are many historically significant buildings and sites that are on private land, or you may have to cross private land to get to it. Enter these at your own risk, property that has agriculture going on, many of these are adjacent to working farms. Private residences are not right to roam, even though a deer path may go through it. If filming is going on, and you are blocked, or you want to see the filming and think you can get around another way, watch it. Guards are posted and can make you leave.

Too Many Filming Locations
The best way to get to most of the filming locations is by car and hiking in. Problem is rental cars in the UK and Ireland are very cost prohibitive unless you are traveling with a group. Group tours can be expensive as well. Many of these sites are not happy with the excessive car parking, people damage, and noise occurring. So, is it possible to see these filming sites via train, bus and walking a bit? Yes and no.

On my last two trips, I divided up what I could according to the larger cities I visited, Glasgow and Edinburgh. I went two summers and still came back and had only seen a fraction of what there is being filmed in. To get in more sites and manage the traveling better, I started compiling a locations and places table in a Google Doc, with public transit accessible sites. I will be making this accessible to you, my fellow traveler. It’s a work in progress, so if you have had some good or bad experiences with public transit and Outlander sites, send me a line so I can add your info to the table.

It is possible to see many of these sites, if you plan around the larger cities and take trips in sections. Hiring a specialised tour will help, but you can get to many of these sites with planning and not be on a tour timetable.

Outlander Filming Locations

Outlander Travel Itinerary

Bonnie Prince Charlie Trail

Season Five Revealed for Outlander

http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-scotland-highlands-islands-44059430

Outlander Effect on Blocking Development at Culloden Site

 

Spring Travel: The Curse of the Caterpillar

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It’s spring. There is pollen everywhere and if you are lucky, some sun. You are suffering miserably. You are also looking forward to traveling on your spring or summer vacation. The dilemma of packing for travel. To bring toiletries or not bring toiletries, that is the question? And what it really means to deal with customs and travel with a portable medicine cabinet, because if you have allergies you are probably carrying creams and any other magical thing to ward off the sneeze or itch. But really, you should have they very basics that you need purchased when you get there, and a small first aid kit. Think of it as warding off all evil. It’s not worth being held up in customs over the littlest thing.

The fashion statement of small cosmetics bags should just be for cosmetics, and that’s it. Even these should travel in a clear bag. Even if you are a seasoned traveler, the ports of call can be a challenge with the toiletry and meds dilema. You will be stopped and asked questions, just accept that you will. So make it easier to deal with. If you are on medications, you need these to be clearly labelled and kept with you at all times. You may wish to keep a copy of the full description your pharmacist prints for you. For the most part, prescription meds make it through okay, but packs of allergy meds that can be used to make recreational drugs are very regulated. Don’t bring large blister packs of allergy meds through customs. Packing liquids and lotions still requires that you store them in small, less than 3 oz. bottle and it’s best to just use a clear zip bag. Have these out and ready for declaration. All airports require a clear bag of some kind and people have been forced to repack and use airport provided bags in some cases.

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Apothecary

Which comes to the next part. Plan to get to the pharmacy or apothecary upon arrival, and stock up on travel sizes there. The £/€ 20 is worth not being hassled at the airports. I discovered over the years that stuffing little bottle full of products that you will have to have tested by customs officials, and told you cannot take it, and toss is more expensive in the long run. Now this may be difficult if you are going to Asia or a country where you may not speak or read the language printed on containers. Let’s face it, personal grooming products are recognizable for the most part, but it may not be made or have the ingredients you approve of or can tolerate if you have sensitivity issues. If you are the average Joe or Jane, you can get by with the minimal and maybe share with travel companions on shampoos and such. Washing powder for laundry is another issue for sensitive skin and nose people.

Health and Wholefoods Markets are Your Friends

They can be your saviour if they are open when you arrive. One of the first things I did when I hit Glasgow or Dublin again was find the whole food mart. Unscented soaps and laundry detergents and toiletries can be found here,  not to mention organic foods and veg you can get up to your room. Many Gluten Free options as well. You will benefit from keeping fresh fruit around if you are in a place for a few days, it helps your immune system and is cheaper than always eating out. Grab a tube of Aloe Gel to help with sunburn and other scrapes. Natural sunscreen can be grabbed. Yes, I got sunburned in both Dublin and Glasgow last year, go figure.

Flora

If you know you have severe allergies, skin and pollen related, you will need to plan to bring what you can. However, in many English speaking countries, the U.K. and Ireland, you can find the allergy over the counter meds you are used to in the US and Canada. Keep in mind that there are different flora and fauna in these countries than you are used to. I found that because I was also going between islands, I had to plan to have to dump things for all airports if I had over 3 oz in any container.In the U.K. and Ireland, brands like Zyrtec and Benadryl and other allergy medications are known or have equivalents, so if these work for you you can get them there.

You will always find a Boots, or other apothecary. But if you are into whole foods and the whole body approach, you may want to research this a bit for each large city you may visit. I found this really helpful when I was choosing a place to stay as often I would have to rely on the whole market for meals because kitchens had closed at restaurants early or I needed things with ingredients I could decipher.

And Now for the Creepy Crawlies

March of the caterpillars may make your spring really unpleasant. A particularly pesky crawling teen, the larva of the Processionary Moth, can be seen in lines, end to end roaming London. Eradication crews are on the loose throughout the city, and it is thought that this creature came from Southern Europe to invade the shores. Why the fuss? Because the tiny hairs that are shed by this inching creature can cause severe rashes and bronchial problems in unsuspecting humans. 

 

 

Caterpillars in London

Midges are the scourge of the Highlands, and yes, right in Glasgow off the Kelvin. If you are near any waterway in the spring and summer months, these flying fiends bite and some people are very allergic to them. You can get repellents, but the clouds of them are so big, you can just find another way around them. Long sleeves are good for the river hiking and running you may do.

Ticks are a danger in the isles and Europe as they are in the US and Canada and some carry Lyme disease. As you would in any wooded area, check your clothing for the tiny, expanding arachnids. Clean wounds well and monitor. Again, when you are at the chemist, you may want to pick up anti itch and antiseptic creme to be on the safe side.

Health Food Stores

Glasgow https://www.organicfacts.net/organic-products/organic-stores/glasgow.html

Dublin https://www.organicsupermarket.ie/

Edinburgh https://www.realfoods.co.uk/

London https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2007/nov/03/ethicalfood.fooddirectory2

Postcards from Dublin..while waiting for the train — A SILVER VOICE FROM IRELAND

While waiting for my train this week before returning to Cork, I took advantage of the lovely Spring sunshine to stroll around the area beside the Irish Rail Dublin terminus at Heuston. We rush in and rush out of this building, eager to catch a train or a bus or a tram, too busy to […]

via Postcards from Dublin..while waiting for the train — A SILVER VOICE FROM IRELAND

‘BLOODY HELL Robert the Bruce movie Outlaw King will feature some of the bloodiest battle scenes in cinema history’, put Braveheart in the shade and boost tourism like Outlander. — Talking-up Scotland

© Daily Record That’s the typically restrained headline from the Sun, above, for the new £100 million epic being produced for Netflix, on the life of Robert the Bruce. It’s expected to have levels of violence comparable to Game of Thrones and, I expect, a bit more accuracy than Braveheart as it will be scripted […]

via ‘BLOODY HELL Robert the Bruce movie Outlaw King will feature some of the bloodiest battle scenes in cinema history’, put Braveheart in the shade and boost tourism like Outlander. — Talking-up Scotland