|In case you hadn’t heard, Ron and I have just returned from a 10-day Scottish 20th-anniversary trip. What a beautiful place it is. I have always wanted to see it as I am amazed by the history and contributions to modern society that this small rather remote Isle has given us. Not to mention the Edinburgh International Festival and the accompanying Fringe Arts Festival that takes place in August. Magnificent all around!
All Things Scottish
We began our Scottish adventure in the beautiful medieval city of Edinburgh. In August, the population doubles as people from around the world flow into this charming city where the Edinburgh International Theatre Festival has been launched for 70 years, accompanied now by the sprawling Fringe Festival, Beer Festival, Cocktail Festival, Gin Festival, and Table Tennis Festival, to name a few. Edinburgh is a mecca of creativity. Some of the Western World’s leading minds and creators have come from Scotland. In the mid 18th century, this small bit of island had a 51% literacy rate; the highest by far in Europe. To this day the universities have always been and remain free of tuition and non-denominational. Which, for a place built by and ruled from the church, is a big accomplishment.
A Bit of History
Looking back in time, unlike its English counterpart, Scottish Isles were never conquered and settled by the Romans. Instead, the Roman army built Hadrian’s Wall to keep the savage Scots to the north at bay in their rough terrain. Originally, it was the Catholic Church, and then the Protestant Kirk, that tamed and ruled this wild and beautiful land. The many Gothic castles and churches are proof of a religious presence.
The many thinkers and artists that emerged from the population of such a seemingly remote island are significant. Mostly a result of the British colonization of the Americas in the mid 18th century, Glasgow and Edinburgh became prosperous, thriving cities. Being port cities, an influx of goods and knowledge were constantly flowing through them. Students from around the globe came to learn and live in the northern part of Great Britain. Edinburgh and Glasgow became a mecca of creative inspiration, technical ingenuity, and progressive social thinking. All apparent in the architecture and museums of both cities.
An Abundance of Art
We began our art journey at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art in Edinburgh. There we saw a broad selection of contemporary works. Most notable, Nathan Coley’s Lamp of Sacrifice, 286 Places of Worship, Edinburgh 2004, presented a city of religious houses from plain cardboard. Complex yet simple all at once.
We found support for local artists all across the country as we traveled north through Perth, Inverness, and northwest to the beautiful Isle of Skye. Everywhere we went there were local art galleries and museums.
Our final destination was Glasgow where we visited the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum. We were treated to a free pipe-organ concert in a truly magnificent building that holds an impressive collection of artworks from past and present artists. Here I learned about the Glasgow Boys and how they pulled Scotland away from the traditional Victorian style of painting and into the modern world of color and light. Dali’s Christ of St. John on the Cross is a favorite of locals and tourists alike. And Sophie Cave’s Floating Heads Installation is magnificent.
All in all, it was a creatively inspiring and truly fantastic trip. The Edinburgh Festivals are not to be missed. I have always wanted to go there and explore the Scottish Isles and now I just want to go back. Yes, we ate haggis and liked it!