In today’s installment of the Ten Times to Be Happy challenge I take you on a whistle stop tour of some of the places that make me feel positive, inspired and happy. And surprisingly, most of them are in Scotland! :p
Glenfinnan, on the shores of Loch Shiel
I have Highlander to thank for this. My obsession with the TV Series during my teenage years was instrumental in my decision to run away from home in 1997. For some reason I needed to visit the location of my fictional hero’s birth. I needed to walk the glen that had featured so prominently in the episode Homeland. When I arrived in Scotland I walked twenty-six miles to Drumnadrochit, on the shores of Loch Ness, before catching a bus to the quaint town of Fort William (see 4). Once in Fort William I hopped on a train for the twenty-minute journey to Glenfinnan. And as the train weaved across the viaduct (made famous in the Harry Potter films) my heart skipped a beat at the most beautiful view I’d ever seen; the glen opened up, all eyes leading toward the loch, and the Highlander statue that stands at its tip. I was instantaneously smitten.
I have returned to Glenfinnan many times in my life. After that first visit it quickly became my favourite place on earth. I loved the serenity of the glen. I loved the beauty of the loch. I loved that it always provided me with such peace and solace. Although it is tinged with sadness (it being the site of a suicide attempt in 2000) it has never failed to bring me positivity, inspiration and happy fuzzy bunny feelings. I cannot speak highly enough of this magical place. It is a location that everyone needs to visit at least once. It is a site of such majesty, such ravishing beauty, it cannot fail to move you.
The following video was made in 2008, during my return to Scotland (and Glenfinnan) after six years in Australia:
When I first visited Berneray in February 2000, I fell instantly in love with this far-flung island of the Western Isles chain. A tiny island off the coast of North Uist, Berneray is blessed with a rugged beauty that few places on earth can match. Home to otters, a flower covered machair, and miles of unspoilt white beaches, you could lose days of your life exploring this magical, inspiring locale. As I have done over the years. But Berneray means more to me than just another ravishing Scottish Island. It was the place my life changed when I met Louise at New Year 2000, and it was the place where I lost my virginity, one wind-swept New Years day. And ever since that magical moment occurred, I have loved Berneray with an intense passion.
My home in Scotland. My love affair with Inverness began in 1997, when I stopped off there during my ‘runaway’ period. I fell in love with the river Ness, that winds effortlessly through the heart of the city. I fell in love with the islands, a chain of small islets in the middle of the river. I fell in love with the cobbled streets and myriad of independent shops that populated them. I fell in love with Leakeys, the finest bookshop I’ve ever visited. I fell in love with the music that played in pubs and clubs on a nightly basis. I fell in love with Craig Phadrig, a forested hill that dominates the skyline. I fell in love so quickly, so hard, that I began dreaming of this fair city. In 1999, during my backpacking odyssey, it was always my final destination; the city that I had chosen to make my home, and for many years, it was. I attended college in Inverness. I fell in love in Inverness. I lost my soul to Inverness. Even now, tens of thousands of miles on the other side of the world, my heart yearns for that majestic city in the Highlands. One day, I will return. That much I know to be true.
If Inverness is my wife, Fort William is my mistress. Many times whilst I was living in Inverness I would travel the 66 miles to this quaint little town to spend night after night in its warm, loving embrace. I fell head over heels for its location on the shores of Loch Linnhe, for its arts scene, for its mountain festival, for its proximity to the mighty Ben Nevis and beautiful Glen Nevis. Fort William burns in my heart. It always will.
I’ve only been to Orkney twice. Once in 1999 during my backpacking odyssey around Scotland and once in 2001, when I visited it with Louise and her parents. On both occasions I was overwhelmed with the beauty of this fair isle. I fell head over heels for its history, for the neolithic sites, for the serenity of Scapa Flow and its turbulent, tragic history. I fell head over heels for its fishing villages, Viking lineage and treeless landscape. This love was cemented when Louise and I appeared in the Orkney tourist brochure; gleefully smiling away in the shadow of Kirkwall Cathedral. Of all the Scottish islands, this is my favourite. It has always been inspiring. It has always filled me with joy and happiness. I love it. Truthfully and totally.
The Western Isles
Berneray (see 2) is the jewel in the crown of this archipelago. But it has stiff competition. My first visit to this island chain was in February 2000, when I traveled the length and breadth of it with Deborah and Elle, two friends I met in Inverness. I was overwhelmed by the Callanish Standing Stones. In awe of the mountainous Isle of Harris. And moved by the majesty of North Uist, Benbecula and South Uist. To this day I regret visiting Barra, the southern most island of the archipelago, but deep down I know that one day I will walk upon its unspoilt beaches. Like the Orkney Mainland, I carry the Western Isles in my heart, and regret living so far away from this magnificent collection of islands.
And so we leave Scotland and travel several hundred miles south, to the greatest city in the world. I have loved London for as long as I can remember. When I was in my late teens I would house-sit for my Aunt and Uncle, traveling the thirty minutes into the heart of the city each day to explore the history, architecture and art it had to offer. I would spend days of my life walking the stone streets of England’s capital, my heart singing with every mile walked. I would visit its plethora of theaters. I would wile away the hours in its shops, stores and shopping arcades. There is nothing you can’t do in London. There is nothing you can’t help but fall in love with. From the mighty river Thames, to the back streets of Soho to the expanse of parkland in the heart of the city. It is a wonderful, inspiring and altogether glorious city that burns in your soul whenever you are apart from it.
My home in Australia. For the first ten years that I was in Australia I lived in Melbourne. It’s laneways, coffee shops, wide streets and intricate inner suburbs were my home. And later, it’s parkland, alleys and litter strewn streets, my bed. My homeless period in Melbourne has stained my love of the city to some degree. The memories of this traumatic, brutal life tingeing my memories with sadness and rendering me unable to love the city as much as I once did. I used to be able to spend days exploring the laneways and streets of the city, engaging in the vibrant arts scene and wiling the hours away in its beautiful art galleries and museums. But now when I think of Melbourne I think of curling up on stone concrete for a restless nights sleep. I think of the abuse I received from its residents; words and actions that made me think I was less than human. I think of the pain and trauma that my mind and body went through during those dark, joyless years. But I still love Melbourne. I still miss is. It is, after all, my home in Australia. It always will be.
This quaint little fishing village on the southern coast of Victoria, Australia, has always shone in my soul. From my first visit there with my parents in 2004, through to the traumatic breakdown I experienced on my last visit there in 2007, it has always been held with high regard in my mind. I love the wide streets. The expansive beaches. The plethora of outdoor activity. And the annual folk festival that fills the town to bursting. I love how the quiet allowed my soul to sing as I explored the township and fell in love with the inspirational arts scene that runs through the village. I miss Port Fairy. I used to go there often. Two, three times a year I would leave Melbourne to refind myself in this delightful town. But since the breakdown. Since the darkness that clouded my last visit. I don’t think I would ever return. Too much pain. Too many bad memories. But not even to dampen my love for Port Fairy. It will always be one of my favourite places in Australia.
The Wodonga Public Library
This is the only place in Wodonga, the town I currently call home, that I like. I visit it several times a week, losing myself amidst the stacks of books and piles of DVDs, allowing the knowledge and intellect contained within them to wash over me. I cherish how it soothes my troubled soul. I love how it calms my anxiety. I love how it provides me a moment of solace from the usual chaotic nature of my life and illness. I have always loved libraries, ever since I was a child, and Wodonga library will always be one of my favourites. And not just because I have a crush on one of the hot librarians who works there! :p
~ All photos in this post are © Addy Lake ~