The Dublin Detour

I had only intended to write one post about Ireland but a spontaneous decision to go to Howth, a small coastal village not far from Dublin, sparked my imagination. Read on readers!


Howth is the last stop on the twenty minute train ride from Dublin. We pull into the station just as the low and purplish thunderclouds knit themselves into wet blanket.  The train station is the size of a one room school house. On the right a balding man sits in the ticket window. He warns those who have arrived that the final trip of the evening to Dublin is just three hours away. I nod and button up my coat.  As I leave the train station, I walk towards the harbor.

Photo Taken By JKC

Photo Taken By JKC

Its already beginning to rain. I spot a small cafe and head inside. It is warm and homely. The majority of the round wooden tables are empty. Part of the cafe is an ice cream shop. There’s a couple kids running around with dripping cups and sticky hands. I decide to have a bowl of clam chowder and wait for the rain to subside.

I’m just finishing up the last few drops of soup when the rain seems to break. I pay for the soup at the counter and hurry out.

I walk along the pier. The water is a nearly transparent aquamarine.  White sailboats bob along side orange buoys. There are cliffs with green foliage and little white houses. A small red and white structure (a lighthouse?) can be seen the distance. A small green craggy island hill juts up from the water.

Photo Taken By JKC

Howth’s the place where fairy tales  begin. It is the place where I would imagine mermaids, salty sailors, and exploration of uncharted waters. I take a few pictures  before heading back to catch the last train.

Photo Taken By JKC

Photo Taken By JKC

Photo Taken By JKC

Photo Taken By JKC

Photo Taken By JKC

Photo Taken By JKC

The Story Behind the Statue

I exhale slowly as I stroll around the Garden of Remembrance. I have just arrived in Dublin, Ireland and this is the first chance I have had to breathe.  Dublin is my first stop on my backpacking journey. I’m nervous! I’m estatic!

When I landed in Dublin Airport I realized I was not quite sure where I was going.  I made my way outside the airport and found a bus that seemed to be going into the center.  I got on.  Staring out the window I watched as the  nothingness transformed  into the built up, bustling city. Although I couldn’t be sure of my exact stop, my gut told me that I had arrived in the heart of Dublin. After settling in at my hostel, I decided to take a free walking tour.

Photo Taken By Jill Crotty

Photo Taken By Jill Crotty

A few others and  my guide found ourselves in The Garden of Remembrance, a site to honor all those who have given their lives fighting for Irish Independence. It is a serene place with lovely yellow tulips and a large tiled cross filled with water.  Our tour guide tells us the history of the place as we walk.  The statue of children clustered among stone swans catches my eye.

The statue tells the story of a man named Lir who  married a beautiful women named Aoibh. Together they had four children. Unfortunately Aoibh died suddenly of illness. The king of Ireland wished to keep the powerful Lir appeased and gave him another wife, Aoife. Aoife was terribly jealous of the children. She intended to kill them, but she couldn’t do it.  Instead she turned the children into swans.

Oddly just after the tour I spot four pure white swans basking in the Irish sun.  I can’t help thinking that they are watching over me as I begin my travels.

Photo Taken By Jill Crotty

Photo Taken By Jill Crotty

The Fairy Lights Under the Archway

Glasgow sparkles.

From the glitzy designer bags to the finest diamond jewelry Glasgow is Scotland’s largest city, and it’s most commercial.   Prada, Nike, and Gucci line the hectic streets. Musicians with open guitar cases strum wordless melodies.  Tourists and locals rush between the multi-level stores to the underground subway, and back again.  I find myself swept up in the crowd.

I enter the Princes Square shopping center.  It is surprisingly beautiful.  There are deep, red-brown wood accents, decorative white railings and spotless glass windows.  Although shopping is not one of my interests, I enjoy walking around the shops looking at the galleries and boutiques.  Feet aching I exit the center and head to Costa Coffee.


Picture Taken By Jill Crotty

 Dusk is falling as I make way through the hive of buzzing people.   I notice a small stone archway with columns on both sides.  Engraved at the top reads the Royal Exchange Square.  (Later  I would discover that over 500 people attended an enormous feast to celebrate the re re-opening of this square in 1829!).  Above the arch, my gaze follows  the fairy lights strung between two weathered stone buildings creating a canopy of  golden lights above me.  The sky is a vivid, velvet blue and the lights look like the brightest of stars. It’s a good night in Glasgow.

Picture Taken By Jill Crotty

Picture Taken By Jill Crotty

Monsters and Myths

Something lurks within its deep, blue watery depths.

There are sightings of a creature.  A creature with the neck of a plant eating dinosaur and the body of small whale. Reports of this animal began in the mid thirties and have been reported as recently as 2011. The world knows this creature as the Loch Ness Monster.


Picture Taken By Jill Crotty

My trip to Loch Ness (Lake Ness) began with a train ride to Inverness from the ghostly, coastal city of St. Andrews.  Undeniably, it was the most breathtaking train ride of my life.  The train twisted and turned through the snow covered mountains. Looking through the window reminded me of a charcoal drawing.  The black, dead vegetation contrasted sharply with the bright white of the snow.  In just three hours I found myself in the capital of the Highlands—Inverness.

After checking in at the hostel, I walked along the River Ness and meandered through the city.  I really wanted to see the famous Loch Ness though.   A couple hours later I got my chance.


I spot a large,  grey tour bus on the side of the road. For a second I hesitate.  Then I go up and knock.  A heavy set man, with a thick Scottish accent cheerfully opens the door. He tells me he is going to Loch Ness, the Urquhart Castle and the Loch Ness Center. I clamber aboard the empty bus gratefully. A young German couple and a youthful French man get on at the following stop.

Picture Taken By Jill Crotty

Picture Taken By Jill Crotty

We drive on the narrow, two lane road up the mountain and Loch Ness comes into view. The blue water stretches to a  distant, jagged mountain range.   Loch Ness  is the largest body of fresh water in all of Britain.  The tour guide tells us a few facts about the Jacobites, the supporters of King James VII who invaded long ago. I try to focus, but my mind is on the splendor of the lake and my nose is pressed against the glass.

It’s not until I am standing outside near the ruins of the Urquhart Castle  that I realize the strength of the wind. My hair whips against my face.  Small, white caps cover the lake. My eyes travel across the choppy water.

Then I see it.

The German couple spot it.

The French guy gestures at it.

We point without need, and reach for our cameras frantically. It is a once in a lifetime shot. There is a beautiful rainbow that stretches seemingly from the heavens to the pristine blue waters of  Loch Ness with a piece of weaponry from the castle.  They say the Germans have a word for everything, but my German companions are wordless. So am I for that matter. Not even a glimpse of the monster of  the deep can compare to this sight!


Picture Taken By Jill Crotty




The Time Traveler Blogger

To journey across multiple countries is an incredible feat, but to travel across time is a far greater accomplishment.  Unless your surname is McFly you probably haven’t spent much time traveling back to the future. No worries! Neither have I.  Those with a keen eye have noticed a discrepancy with my blog.  It is July, yet the date reads April.  The simple truth is that I am blogging about my past travels in the present. I change the date of each blog post to somewhat reflect the time when I was abroad.


Picture Taken by Jill Crotty

There’s a few reasons for my jumps in time.

 Long Days of Travel

 When I was backpacking I found that I was too exhausted to blog. After a long day of new sights, sounds, and people I crawled into my bed at whichever hostel I was at and promptly fell asleep.   In the mornings I would sent a quick email to family and friends letting them know my location.

 Hitting the Books

 Since I was studying abroad I was focused on academics for the majority of my trip.  I would go to write a blog post only to remember a text book chapter I had to read or a tutorial session that I needed to prepare for.   My blog had to take the back seat unfortunately. My time management has gotten better, but I still am a full time college student.  Priorities remain!

 The Full Experience

 The biggest disadvantage to blogging about past events is the potential to forget things thought in the moment.  Having pictures of all the places I’ve visited helps considerably though.   There are advantages to blogging after the fact. Reflection for one.  When we think of experiences we think of a single moment, or day, but that is not the full experience.  Sometimes the  greatest part of any experience is the hindsight we take away.

Other time traveler bloggers please comment below!

Along the Hidden Sea

I’m leaning against the cold metal railing. The smell of salt and seaweed fills my nostrils and the child-like caws of the seagulls echo in my ears.  I know the ocean is just a few foot drop, but I cannot see the waves. I can only hear as they crash against the rocky shore below. I squint uselessly into the fog.

When I arrived yesterday in the coastal town of St. Andrews, known for being the birthplace of golf and its crumbling castle ruins, I could look out at the sandy beach from the street.  Not today. Today a persistent white mist has cloaked the town.  I have never seen a fog like this. It is so dense I could be a foot away from someone and not see them.

Picture Taken by Jill Crotty

 Picture Taken by Jill Crotty

 Since my time in St. Andrews is short, I decide to continue moving. For a while I walk.  My face is soon moist from the mist. The railing and the path are the only clearly visible things.  The fog abates slightly about a half a mile later.  Opposite the side of the hidden sea I spot a grey stone tower with a cemetery.

 Curiosity getting the better of me I amble over.  To my left is the  tower known as St. Rule’s Tower, and to my right is a solitary stone archway.  Between these two weathered marvels is an expanse of green grass with rows of flat lying stones. On each a faded inscription of a person’s name and their birth and death date along with a word or two more. I pass the tower and go further into the cemetery. Here are more elaborate graves carved into the walls.  Just a bit further I tell myself.

A note to my readers:  If you ever find yourself in a seemingly quaint coastal town in Scotland covered in a white mist, and looking like something out of a Scooby-Doo episode, do not wander aimlessly around ancient graveyards.  

 It’s after I’ve visited the last couple sections of the graveyard that I decide to go back to the tower.  It’s about then when I see a couple of figures in the mist ahead of me.  I watch the figures drift around a bit.  The fog’s still thick and their silhouettes seem fuzzy, like people on an old antenna television screen. After a couple of minutes I realize they are saying something. I inch closer, avoiding a headstone jutting up out of the ground.  I make out the words “lunch” and “harbor.”   Not ghosts, just a couple of fellow (hungry) tourists!

Yes I know it’s a rather anticlimactic tale.

Photo Taken by Jill Crotty

Photo Taken by Jill Crotty

If you’d like a true ghost story  about St. Andrews there is the story of the White Lady.  Two stone masons were fixing part of St. Rule’s tower  in the late eighteen hundreds. They entered into one of the chambers and found a woman lying there. She was dead and dressed in a white dress and leather white gloves.  A few have reported seeing such a woman floating around this sleepy town.



Feathered Men Don’t Fly

Royal births, gruesome deaths, elegant banquets and bloody sieges. It’s hard to imagine that the calm grounds where the tourists  now stroll was once home to such events.  As I walk through the stone arch entrance of Stirling Castle, I enter a small courtyard area. To my left is the Great Hall with a warm yellow exterior and a surprisingly simple facade. Ahead is the sloping stone path to the royal kitchens. However, my eye is on the incline tucked away between the Royal Palace and the archway.  I make my way up the slight hill to the relatively flat look out area.

Photo Taken By Jill Crotty

Photo Taken By Jill Crotty

It is one of the castle workers who is flapping his arms, and pointing towards one of the castle’s ledges that catches my attention.  I move toward the group that’s listening intently.  I’m instantly intrigued.  The story goes like this:

James IV, was one of Scotland’s great kings, who was known for his incredible abilities. He spoke six languages fluently, and amazed his people with his knowledge of everything from literature to dentistry. The idea of alchemy, or turning basic metals into gold,  sparked this young king’s interest as well. Meanwhile  John Damian, a foreign alchemist, was looking for funding for his research.  It was a perfect match. James eagerly invited Damian to work  at Stirling Castle. Damian accepted the invitation that included funding and plenty of whisky.

 However Damian’s interest turned from precious metals to the secrets of flight.  One day Damian strapped chicken feathers on himself with the intent to fly to France.  He launched himself off the rampart… and then fell. Fortunately, he only suffered a broken thigh. Damian later explained that the problem was the hen’s feathers. Hens don’t fly so eagle feathers should have been used Damian concluded after his failed attempt.

As I walk towards the Great Hall, I consider mankind’s stories of flight. From Icarus’s flight to close to the sun to  Leonardo Da Vinci’s brilliant drawings to Damian’s attempt at Stirling Castle, the idea of flight simply makes our hearts flutter.





Scotland: Beyond the Sheep

1. Transportation by Bus or Broom

Okay, so you cannot truly get around Edinburgh by broom (unless you’re on the University Quidditch Team), but transportation in Scotland is incredible.  The buses will get you anywhere in Edinburgh and trains run regularly up to the highlands. Taxi’s can be hailed at just about any hour and new trams in the city centre are being tested this month.

 2. Not a Wee Town

Scotland may conjuncture up idyllic country sides with grazing sheep; however Edinburgh is an international city.   About a third of the student population is international students.  I think I’ve eaten more Indian takeout food, than Scottish cooking.   In my dorm there are students from all around Western Europe, Asia and North America. The diversity was initially surprising, but I feel it adds a unique atmosphere to the city.

 3. Pints of Knowledge

 Across campuses in America, public safety officers futilely try to confiscate alcohol.   In the University of Edinburgh students can grab a pint at any of the multiple bars on campus.  During the recent student presidential election, candidates made promises of one pound shots.  They won’t prevent the flu, but you’re sure to forget about that sore throat.

 4. Beautiful Grime

 Look up and you’ll see the fantastical building of Teviot, the oldest student union center at the University of Edinburgh.  Its triangular slopping roof, beautifully constructed towers and Gothic architecture makes one think longingly of Hogwarts.

Look down and you’ll see the city street splattered with gum.  Cigarette butts embedded into the cracks of the concrete.  Glass bottles broken and shattered across grey sidewalks.  Forgotten bus receipts drift around.

Beautiful grime is what happens when ancient and modern collide.

Opening New Doors (Literally and otherwise)

The taxi has dropped me off in front of a weathered grey, two story building.  Multiple green trash cans and a brightly painted blue door contrast sharply with the bleak looking dorm. I pull my suitcase up the front steps and rummage for the keys I received. I put the first key in. I twist and jiggle the knob.

Come on I mumble pleadingly.

Out of the corner of my eye, I see the black taxi cab speed off down the road.   The second key goes into the lock smoothly.  I hear an audible click. Breathing a sigh of relief, I push the door open my hand gripping my rolling suitcase.

There’s another door, which leads into a small area with a staircase on the left. Slightly further, I see I can turn either left or right.  I choose right. I  peek into the kitchen area with bright red walls.  I continue, listening to the sound of my suitcase wheels on the tiled floor.  Looking around I don’t see anyone.  The numbers on the doors are going up, I know I must be close to my room.

Another flight of stairs.  My suitcase is too heavy to pick up. The wheels hit every step on the way up.  Clunk. Clunk. Clunk. Clunk. Clunk. Clunk. Clunk. Clunk.

I stop, breathing heavily, then continue.

Clunk. Clunk. Clunk. Clunk.Clunk. Clunk. Clunk. Clunk. Clunk. Clunk Clunk. Clunk.

I make it to the second floor. Groaning, at the sight of more stairs I check the number  on my envelop. I look at the door to my right. A match. I pull out my keys again.  The struggle between myself and the door continues.  A guy comes down the upper flight of stairs. I introduce myself and wonder how many people heard my elephant like thundering. He pushes against the door and it opens.  I thank him and we talk for a couple minutes before he leaves.  I fling my backpack on the open bed.

Then it hits me. I’m actually in Scotland.  Let the adventure begin.

Circles and Connections

Ten hours later I’m racing through the labyrinth of London Gatwick. I’ve made it off the airplane in record speed.  Ahead of the pack and breathing heavy, I run down the deserted hallways.  It’s only about 7:45 am in London and the day’s travelers haven’t arrived.

Further and further.  The stitch in my side growing.

At last I spot an information desk where three ladies sit. They don’t see me at first; they’re busy spinning out a long conversation. I raise my voice slightly and ask about immigration. They gesture ahead towards a few glass booths across the room.  It must have been good fate because there’s not a single person in line in immigration. I hand over my letter from the University of Edinburgh and identification.  The woman with the thick rimmed glasses, and plum colored lipstick takes her time. She consults another lady about student visitor visas. Finally, she stamps my passport. I jam it in my bag.

She points to her left and says “You go down the stairs, exit and up two floors” when I ask about departures.

It’s not until twenty minutes later, that I realize I have no idea where I’m going. I’ve passed the currency exchange place twice.  Circles. I’m going in circles.

I spot a bunch of passengers heading through a doorway. After a moment’s hesitation I follow.  Through more hallways then I notice an escalator. The ride up brings me to an open area where tired travelers wait in security lines.   After a minute explanation, a short grey haired women in an official vest leads me through.  Fingers crossed, I fervently hope I can make my flight.  Past security, with my belongs pressed to my chest, I find the departure board. I stare up at it to find my flight.  In glowing red I read “closed.”

Initiate Plan B.