The Larks are excited to welcome author, Molly Ringle, to The Nest today. Andrea is a huge fan of Molly's work.
Molly is taking our readers on a tour of the sites from her novel, What Scotland Taught Me.
Madainn mhath! That's "Good morning" in Scots Gaelic, which I use because Andrea has asked me to show you around the sites in my novel What Scotland Taught Me. But don't worry, I include the Gaelic only for flavor; no foreign language knowledge is required for this tour.
In the novel, American protagonist Eva, straight out of high school, does a grand job of mucking up her romances and friendships when she takes a work-abroad trip to Edinburgh, Scotland. Meanwhile, her ghost-hunting friend Amber ends up chomping off more than she can chew when she goes looking for the many restless spirits of Edinburgh. When I graduated from college, I spent three months working in Edinburgh myself (minus most of the relationship drama, and definitely without seeing any ghosts), so I have firsthand knowledge of many of the locations. The others I checked out either through websites or through asking British friends. All destinations are sure to make Scotophiles and Anglophiles drool.
Ready? You don't even have to fasten your seatbelt. Unless you regularly fall out of your desk chair; then maybe it'd be a good idea.
The Royal Mile - http://www.edinburgh-
The Royal Mile--"actually 1 mile and 107 yards in length," its website informs us--stretches from Holyrood Palace on the lower end to Edinburgh Castle at the top. If you find yourself panting for breath on the steep climb, you can slow down and admire the brick-paved streets; the pubs and souvenir shops; the statues, churches, and cathedrals; and the tall stone buildings, many of which date from the 16th century. Branching off the bustling main street you'll notice lots of creepy narrow alleys, some of which are called "wynds" and others "closes." Several of those, along with plenty of the buildings you're passing, are said to be haunted. Mary King's Close is the most famous, where several victims of the Black Plague were supposedly bricked up--alive--and left to die rather than allowed to spread the disease. Dark. So! Come see the castle.
Edinburgh Castle - http://www.edinburghcastle.
As you'll have noticed, there is a big stone castle looming on a cliff right in the center of the city. Edinburgh Castle was begun as a hilltop fort back around 900 BC, and has been slowly built upon and improved ever since. The teens in my novel take a tour of the castle--as you can too, if you fork over the entrance fee--and Amber, the ghost-seer, senses some despairing spirits in the dungeon. On a different visit, she spooks her friend Eva by chatting about the ghosts of the roughly 300 "witches" (almost certainly innocent women, of course) who were executed outside the Castle in centuries past. But while you're up here on the rock, do take a moment to admire the view of the city and the Firth of Forth--the body of water leading out to the North Sea. Brr! It's windy. Let's go back down.
Princes Street, and Princes Street Gardens - http://www.princes-street.com/
Parallel to the Royal Mile runs Princes Street. It's not "Princess," it's "Princes," named for two royal boys back in the 1700s. Shopping is mainly what you do here--shops line the street, along with cafes and restaurants if you get hungry. Also along this street you can find Princes Street Gardens, a park stretched along the foot of the Castle's rock. In my book I employ the gardens as a handy place for my characters to sit on benches and have arguments. Fun fact: for a couple of hundred years, the green valley that is now the gardens used to be the Nor Loch, a moat of sorts for the Castle. But when it became polluted with all the stinking waste you'd expect in a city, it became too disgusting for anyone to live with, and was drained. It now hosts trees and flowers, and trains run along the valley's bottom. Speaking of trains...
In my novel, this train station in the middle of Edinburgh is the site of Eva doing something she perhaps shouldn't, and getting caught. In addition, North Bridge, a road and pedestrian overpass, stretches above the station and its tracks, and is another minor location in my story. A character admits they considered jumping off it once. Morbid.
Greyfriars Churchyard (or Cemetery)
This graveyard caught my attention in reading about Edinburgh's famous ghosts, because "Bloody" George Mackenzie, who is buried here, is one of the most troublesome spirits in the city. On one night, my characters go looking for him near his grave. Not something I'd do for fun, personally.
Canongate Kirkyard (or Cemetery)
When Eva needs a break from Edinburgh, she takes off for a visit to the south of England--Canterbury, specifically. Its main attraction is Canterbury Cathedral, which has been, in Eva's words, "the town’s big tourist draw since the Middle Ages. I worked on my distraction technique by looking at the spot where Thomas Becket had been brained by swords, and pondering how unpleasant that must have been for him." Okay then--back north we go!
Edinburgh isn't actually in the famed "Highlands of Scotland"--it's in the Lowlands. But Inverness, 150 miles north of Edinburgh, is considered the hub of the Highlands. By the time you hop off at the station in Inverness, the railway signs are displaying Gaelic as well as English, and the clusters of towns and cities have given way to rugged stretches of heather-covered hills. Inverness is a quiet city with a fantastic selection of single-malt whisky (you're also now in the heart of single-malt Scotch country), and the gentle River Ness runs through it--from, you guessed it, Loch Ness. (You're also not far from Nessie now, if she exists.) In my novel, a sentimental reunion takes place on the white footbridge that crosses the Ness, so wander out there and indulge in an emotional sigh.
And I don't know about you, but I am now positively PINING for a ticket on British Airways, leaving today. But I can settle for a dram of whisky and a good book. Happy holidays and happy reading!
To enter to win an ebook copy of What Scotland Taught Me, fill out the rafflecopter form. The giveaway runs from December 19-26. The winner will be contacted via email on December 27. Good luck!