We would have happily stayed for a few more days chilling with our new friends, but our plans lay further north, and neither Roman walls nor belligerent cows were going to keep us out of Scotland. It was a lovely day, cool and pearl grey with the sun occasionally slipping off her veil to waltz across patchwork hills. We hadn’t driven very far before the lure of an impromptu detour grew too strong, and we found ourselves piling out of the car beneath a patch of Stirling forest. Our real interest stood at the top of that patch of forest—the towering Gothic sandstone of the National Wallace Monument—but the hike itself proved to be the star of the show. When I announced that we were going to go exploring, you, Natalie, replied as drily as John Cleese on toast, “Indeed.” But after noticing the frequent switchbacks on the trail (“It’s wiggly!”) and the tall wildflowers flanking it (“So many magic wands!”), you decided a little woodland trek might not be the worst thing in the world after all.
You two have a gift for pure silliness, and it’s truly a delight to experience… especially when it turns an uphill hike into a hilarious obstacle course. We wiggled and waggled and jumped over logs and scaled boulders and raced and tripped and climbed trees and took our tennis shoes off-roading in all the best possible ways. Before your dad and I even had a chance to properly whine, “Are we there yet?” we were at the top drinking in the panorama. Below us, the landscape of Stirling rustled in the wind. Behind us, the Wallace Monument twisted into the clouds. In front of it, two pint-sized fairy princesses ran and twirled, zapping each other with freshly picked magic wands. Your dad and I have traveled to incredible places over the years, but it still blew our minds that we were spending the afternoon in the Scottish countryside with our precious little girls. (Scratch that; you, Natalie, just turned your sister into a toad. Oh, and you, Sophie, followed that with a grasshopper spell. Now, both of you are members of the crustacean family.)
After a while, the wind began to rattle our comfort levels into oblivion, so your wands were donated to hungry bees (Sophie’s idea), and we ran pell-mell down the hill to continue the next leg of our trip. The destination? Trossachs National Park. We stayed at a rather snooty campground that charged us twice as much for the privilege of following a hundred nit-picky rules and being spied on from camper windows, but that didn’t stop us from having a fantastic evening Bassett-style. We simply drove off into the surrounding forests, found a spot to park, and explored to our hearts’ content. As far as we could see stretched craggy hills mottled in endless shades of green with the occasional silver glimmer of a loch. We trekked over boulders, fallen trees, and friendly neighborhood slugs in between pauses to marvel at the view. You girls plopped down with me to test the napping potential of the pillowtop moss. We played I Spy Foxgloves. We made up marching songs. You could say we were enjoying our first day in Scotland.
Did I mention it was your dad’s birthday? So far, we hadn’t done anything specific to celebrate, unless you count the beautiful farm-fresh eggs I bought for his breakfast… and promptly emptied half the salt shaker into. (Me: “Ugh, these are the least edible scrambled eggs I’ve ever tasted. What should we do with them? Oh, I know—we can put them in the scrap bucket for the chickens!” Your dad: “…”) We headed back to camp in the lingering twilight for a birthday supper of hot dogs and midges and pickles and midges and Dr. Pepper and midges and midges and midges and a lovely Tesco birthday cake that we ate inside the tent to minimize the number of midges sticking to the frosting which still ended up higher than one would hope. You, Sophie, led us in a rousing chorus of “Half a birthday to you, half a birthday to you!” and then your dad opened his new Bliptronic 5000 with which you two generously volunteered to help play.