We woke in the morning and found ourselves in Aberdeen. We took our time getting off the ship, since we had until 9:30 and I didn’t get much sleep.
At 9:30, we were off to Loch Ness. It was about a three hour drive–a long drive in UK standards. We stopped in a tiny little town called Nairn along the way so that I could take out some money. Those who have been following us on Instagram already know of our celebrity encounter in this no-name town; we met the lovely and enchanting Tilda Swinton!
Because I’ve been more or less typing non-stop for the past 24 hours, I’m just going to copy and paste what transpired.
We parked, we crossed the street, and suddenly, there’s Tilda freakin’ Swinton, walking towards her car with her friend. Tilda was carrying a basket filled with stuff, so I figured they were running errands. Doris and I made eye contact with each other with bulging eyes and telepathically yelled at each other, “IS THAT HER?!”
She saw us staring like a couple of slack jawed yokels and laughed. I professed our love to her and she ACTUALLY said, “I’m sorry for startling you like that.” I just thought that was such a funny, humble, perfect, and genuine response. And think about it, are you generally that pleasant when you’re out and about running errands?
Turns out she lives in Nairn. I told her that we’re brother and sister travelling through Europe together for a month and about my big travel plans, and she said she was happy that Scotland was part of our plans, because people too often overlook it. Then she very kindly agreed to take a picture with us, and Doris and I were left completely shaken for the rest of the morning.
It must be said that The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe was one of Doris’ favourite movies as a child. She was terrified of the White Witch. Meeting her was pretty surreal. She was so sweet and…normal. Imagine if you met the guy who played Freddy Kreuger and he turned out to be a total sweetheart! It’d mess with your head!
Since we were going to arrive in Loch Ness a bit early, Eamon, our host for the evening, suggested we stop by Inverness and check out Leakey’s Bookshop. Dammit, Eamon! Don’t you know I can’t resist a bookshop! I need to curb my spending!
But just look at this place!
I ended up buying a beautiful copy of One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez for $50 because, well–dammit, I don’t have to justify myself to you people! (Besides, Doris was the one who’d have to carry a dozen books home in her luggage, not me. Heheheh…)
As 3:00 approached, we got back in the car and headed for Loch Ness. Little did we know what we were in for when we arrived at our host’s place in Loch Ness. Little did we know.
When we arrived, we were greeted by our host’s 13 year old daughter, Rihanan. We took off our shoes and left them in the endless graveyard of dead shoes that sat by the door entrance, and we followed her into the kitchen, where we met one of the most wonderful human beings I’ve ever come across: Eamon, our host for the next two nights. We also met two fellow Couch Surfers from Germany: Anna and Yana.
It was a small house. The living room looked more like a library; it had books about everything from how to make zombie puppets to–well, that alone tells you the variety of their reading tastes. The room doubled as a guest room. This was where we were sleeping for the next two nights.
On the other side of the floor sat a compact kitchen with a dinner table shoved in the corner. A pile of magazines and paperwork sat on the counter right beside the table, with a ukulele sitting atop the pile. Pots and plates were also stacked on the counters, as well as in the sink. There was clothes drying over the sink and above the doorway that led to the backyard, where we could see two fat bunnies playing. A pair of acoustic guitars stood on the floor beside the kitchen counters; they went nicely with the trio of electric guitars that sat in the living room. The washroom was the only “normal” room on the first floor.
More clothes, as well as bed sheets, hung drying on yet another clothesline as you walked upstairs, where there were three bedrooms, a washroom, and a makeshift bedroom that was hidden behind a bookshelf. The washroom also doubled as yet another small library.
If this house sounds like a chaotic nightmare to you, that’s only because you haven’t met the MacLeod family: Eamon, his wife Verena, and their children Malcolm, Rihanan, and the little one. (I can’t remember the youngest boy’s name, as he only came into the kitchen in brief bursts to grab a quick bite from the fridge before going back to his room.) The words “organized chaos” were thrown around during our stay there, and the words described the MacLeod household perfectly. They managed to fit themselves, as well as myself, Doris, Anna, Yana, and on our second day, two French gentleman, and Lena (another German girl)–a family of five, plus seven surfers–all in that tiny house! It was spectacular!
When we first got there, myself and Doris stood in the kitchen talking with Eamon, Yana, and Anna for a good while. There were only three seats, so we sort of rotated who was sitting and who was standing for a good while. The cozy and intimate setting, combined with the amount of STUFF everywhere and the number of people under one roof, reminded me a lot of the Weasley household. Throw in the fact that Eamon looked like, sounded like, and had the tender and loving nature of Hagrid, and Doris and I were in Heaven. Eamon is also one of the funniest people I’ve ever met. The man has an infinite well of jokes and stories for every occasion, and every single one had me laughing until my sides hurt. My personal favourite stories: Not knowing how he woke up in a different country, and almost being eaten by a shark.
That first night, Anna and Yana took Doris and I out to explore the grounds of an abandoned castle ruins of Urquhart. Yana had stayed with Eamon last year, so she was familiar with the castle and acted as our tour guide. The castle was closed, so we just hopped the fence and explored on our own. When we heard police sirens in the distance, we joked that they were coming after us.
Apparently they do weddings at the castle. It’s easy to see why…
Verena came home later in the evening after a long day of working in the hospital as a nurse. We all had some delicious dinner, and then we headed to a nearby stone circle that dates back thousands of years. I couldn’t take pictures because it was practically pitch black, but it was pretty cool.
The structure looked like a large dome made of large rocks, but with no roof so you could look up to the sky. We crawled under the small tunnel entrance and emerged in the…temple? I don’t know what the Celtic tradition called this structure. Eamon explained that this stone structure had been here for ages. Every rock represents a person that has passed away.
Eamon is dedicated to his faith and is a Master of Ceremony of sorts for what he called rebirth ceremonies. In these ceremonies, a person enters naked into the middle of the structure carrying whatever burden it is that is weighing heavily upon them, and they emerge reborn, leaving their burdens behind them. They then walk around the structure three times. Anybody is welcome to participate in a ceremony.
Eamon also conducted several ceremonies for gay couples, as well as friends who wanted to be recognized as brothers or sisters. Though he is not a religious person, I can understand why Eamon is so passionate about this practice. It’s more of a personal spiritual connection than your typical faiths. It feels more intimate. But that’s just me.
After he was done telling us about the ceremony, we crawled back out of the structure and climbed on top of it. Eamon gave us each a gummy candy to give to the fairies, as he explained that they love sweets, and we climbed back down.
Sadly, we apparently just missed a meteor shower a few nights earlier.
And that was our introduction to Eamon.