God is handing out the countries: ‘You will have ice-capped mountains, pure water running down the streams and majestic deer roaming the verdant valleys.
‘You will be great explorers, missionaries, inventors, dreamers, poets, entertainers and educationalists.
‘And have the spoils of the land and sea to put on great feasts and the purest whisky to toast.’
The Archangel Michael pipes up: ‘Have you not given these Scots too much?’
The Lord shoots back: ‘Look at the neighbours I gave them.’
The charms of Scotland, my home country which I am reacquainting myself after a 13 years adventure in Ireland, are evident.
But as is often the case there is so much under my nose without me knowing.
And that is where I have Visit Scotland www.visitscotland.com to help.
It is always a good idea when relocating to another country, or just going on holiday, to check out the country’s tourist board website.
And so while the borders were closed (and some of the best still are) I was checking out where I still haven’t been in my homeland.
Up Helly Aa in Shetland
The Shetland Islands: And I’ve been trying to get up to Scotland’s most northerly islands since making friends with Shetlander Shona at uni in the Eighties.
And when we moved in to a new house in Aberdeen www.visitabdn.com Elizabeth whose parents hail from Shetland, and Scott lived opposite.
And now they have relocated to Shetland I’ve been making not so subtle hints about going up for Up Helly Aa, the January festival when the locals burn a Viking ship.
Roll out the Barra
Barra: I sat down to write a maudlin letter about how homesick I was on my first day in halls in Aberdeen University.
Before meeting up with my old schoolpal Martin, meeting a girl, and some Western Islanders and never looked back.
Just my luck then that my pals got together in my future Best Man’s island of Barra before Christmas. My family put the foot down.
Barra http://www.isleofbarra.com/ is regularly on the list of the world’s most beautiful islands and has a Tintin connection.
And this is a holy island where St Columba is believed to have come and set up base to spread Christianity throughout Scotland.
Many spiritualists and New Age hippies and Eastern mystics have made pilgrimages since.
When you leave the fabled John O’ Groats, the northernmost point on mainland Scotland, and named after a Dutchman, you’ll get to the Orkney Islands.
The Orkneys https://www.orkney.com/ too have an international connection with their Italian Chapel built by Italian prisoners of war.
And long before Christianity the pagans worshipped the Sun and you can see how in their stone circles.
I do… the Isle of Ewe
The Isle of Ewe a one-family (the Grants) off Wester Ross has become something of a cult island.
For young lovers.
Because put the words together and you get I love you.
Which is why imaginative young romantic men are taking their young ladies there to propose.
For my first wife it was Malta Malta pleaser. And after that jibe I’ll have to make some big romantic gesture.
And remember the most romantic way to travel is Caledonian Mac Ferries https://www.calmac.co.uk/.