An American Leslie in Scotland

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As children, we grow up listening to the stories of generations past. We have a natural curiosity to better understand our world and who we are, all the while coming closer to finding our place within it. The younger we are the grander the reality of the tale, imagining the characters and events to be larger than life.
But as we grow up, the magnitude of these stories begins to fade; the stories don’t change, but our perspectives do. In my more recent memory, my Grandmother has shared with me the stories she has uncovered about family members we never knew. In her research, she has linked our family to earls and lords and castles in the seemingly far off fairy tale land of Scotland. Scotland, for this reason, has been on our “must see” list since moving to Europe. Four years later it finally happened, but that’s better than never, right?

Though I didn’t keep myself awake with skewed childish fantasies of family royalty and lavish castles plastered with our name, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t curious about being closer to the shadows of Leslie’s of the past lurking in quiet corners of towns and vast green glens. Not much is written in the way of family history in Edinburgh, but leisurely strolling the Royal Mile drenched in the late morning sun made it somehow easier to place myself in this distant home away from home. Throw in some ambient bagpipe music and a kilt for good measure and suddenly I’m swept away with brotherly love for my long lost kin. This elated feeling of good tidings towards kith and kin hits its pinnacle when Jeff and I decide to tour the museum housed within the walls of Edinburgh Castle. Imagine my surprise when upon first entering the museum I come face to face with my first Leslie sighting. Family pride is spilling over at this moment as I read about Alexander Leslie, a famed and beloved general during his time. I can’t resist taking a photo and texting my sister to share the occasion. I may have become the ultimate cheesy tourist in that moment, but I just couldn’t help myself.

General Leslie in all his handsome glory. 

Leaving Edinburgh wholly satisfied, we loaded up the rental car, test drove it around the parking lot a few times for good survival measure, then hit the road chasing the rapidly fading daylight to the Highlands. After a time we came to the realization that neither of us had spoken since we had left the city. We both agreed that the scenery was far too beautiful for words and that talking would only distract us from the picture perfect canvas that lay before us. Grassy rolling hills of varying shades of green peppered with fluffy white sheep disappeared one inside the other. Monolithic crags plunged into the sparkling loch waters in the late afternoon sun. Skeletons of abandoned stone abbeys sat exposed in vast fields while majestic residences shied away from plain view. There are times when you are captivated by the unexpectedness of a place, but this time I expected Scotland to be beautiful. It’s beauty is legendary after all. I just had no idea the magnitude of its power. It literally rendered us speechless.

The remainder of our weekend tour was filled with castles telling tales of a barbaric past and castles from tales written by a literary genius. We indulged the child within us as we scoured the deep black waters of Loch Ness hoping for a sighting of one legendary monster. While Nessie evaded us, we did see friendly seals basking on the shores of Beauly Firth in Inverness. At night we flocked to the local watering holes and while Scotch isn’t our cup of tea, we held our ale with the best of them. In fact, we made several new friends at a locals only pub in Inverness who took very good care of us until the late night hours. Maybe they sensed a fellow clansman among them because the beer was flowing freely, karaoke songs were sung in our honor, and despite the fact we could barely understand anyone the good times were rollin’. Oh, what a night.

Book of family history and decorated with the Clan Leslie tartan

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