My father’s birthday & an excuse to finally get to Scotland led us on our road trip. He’s a fabulous companion as he is up for any adventure & considers himself a road warrior. His thoughts of Scotland ran to checking out caramel shaggy longhorns, trying out some single malts, island hopping in a cream Defender, and putting on a Scottish accent with little success. I had visions of Charles Darwin foraging at the Firth of Forth, falconry & archery, castles, moors & the Highlands, taxidermy, trophy heads & tartan.
We caught the train from London to Edinburgh, and travelling up the east coast of Scotland saw the haar roll in. This coastal fog comes in off the North Sea and smothers everything in its wake. Grey had to be one of the colours in the Scottish palette, although for most of the rest of our trip, the weather couldn’t have been better. The soft grey was there, too, in the weathered stone of Edinburgh’s buildings, slated roofs and cobblestone streets, in lochs and in the Loch Ness monster, although he was too shy to reveal himself to me.
Roads in Scotland are lochside, one lane and super thin with a tiny overtaking bay every now and again. You can go for a long time without seeing anyone, save a sailing boat on the loch you’re passing by. Essentials for a road trip: map, fruit knife, oat biscuits, aged cheddar, good music, Dad. Always look out for a knife while you’re travelling, it’s a great little souvenir and super handy on the road (just make sure not to leave it in your carry-on luggage on the way home).
The Gulf Stream is a powerful, warm and swift ocean current that starts at the tip of Florida and makes its way across the Atlantic Ocean to northern Scotland. It creates an unexpectedly warm climate in what is otherwise known for wet, rug-up kind of weather. The Highlands are typically mossy, scrubby and lush but at Inverewe Garden you discover plants that normally sit on a tropical island or in the desert! It was all so unexpected – to invoke this, make a decorative arrangement out of something unusual like prickly pear. It is mind-blowing to discover a tropical oasis amongst the Scottish Highlands. Forty hectares of woodlands shelter 21 hectares of botanic gardens. Think giant gunnera, beautiful specimen rhododendrons, waterlilies, bamboo, and even vegetable gardens all despite the northerly latitude. A true representation of countries from across the world, don’t be afraid to fill your own backyard or balcony with plants that do not match.
One of my main reasons for visiting Scotland was to follow the footsteps of a young Darwin, once a student of Edinburgh University, who used to scour the shores collecting barnacles & other specimens. Do your own foraging & fossicking, locally or while you’re globetrotting, and display in a personal cabinet of curiosities. You may not write the next Origin of Species, but it creates a lovely quiet moment in your home to admire as you pass by. A large part of visiting Scotland is about walking. Even though my dad turned up with shoes that were not waterproof and had small holes in them, we forged on. Cruise around and wander off the beaten track. Re-create the scent of the forests by sprinkling pine needles underfoot in your home. When you step on them, the smell is released and I promise it’s not that messy.
Our last night in Scotland was at Bramble Bield, in a gypsy caravan for Dad & a 1920s travelling caravan for me, in gardens with glasshouses full of luscious young seedlings & vegetable patches, all very Peter Rabbit-y & story tale-ish. A cluster of two old wooden gypsy caravans and a 1920s travelling car, all restored with love, are parked in the grounds of Powis House alongside picturesque fields of woolly sheep. I had opted for the dark green gypsy caravan ‘Holly’ painted with a prancing horse for Dad, and ‘Bramley’ the traditional travelling caravan for myself. Holly comes with its own mini pot-belly stove that’s fed with tiny kindling & miniature quarter logs, a large floating bed covered with a handmade quilt & fairy lights to boot. A hand-painted zigzag-topped pot houses some lovely old wooden gypsy pegs.
Bramley is simplicity at its best: a cream painted interior furnished with bunk beds made in the old campbed style of canvas, eyelets & rope, a spindle back chair, green wooden chest of drawers and sheepskin on wooden floorboards. A piece of dried fungus & a tiny hand-painted tile of a long-horned cow adorn the walls.
The gardens of the house are worth a wander with glasshouses, a vegetable patch, high-rise rabbit warrens (yes, they live in the trunk of a tree), a weeping elm & moss-covered sheds to explore & discover.
Scotland's earthy beauty quickly informed my colour palette of vibrant greens and subtle caramels. Explore my Scottish colour palette.