Neither your dad nor I had ever experienced anything close to what the next few hours entailed. Our first mission was to extract you girls from your side of the tent, dress you, and get you safely to the car. This was no small feat as the wind would have happily whisked you off to sea, and by the time you were buckled in, we had lost three hats and were all sopping wet. I gave you girls the last of yesterday’s snacks from the front seat (“Stale pretzels for breakfast, isn’t that great?!”), then your dad and I screwed our courage to the sticking-place and went to take care of Everything Else. Perhaps this is where I should point out that we had unloaded the entire car the night before. Usually, we only get out the food and clothes we need, but since we had planned on staying in Glenbrittle for a few days, we had unpacked everything. Clothes, books, toys, food, electronics, cooking gear, bedding, toiletries, kitchen sinks—every last item in our possession needed to be fit Tetris-style back into the trunk before we could do anything else. The tent wrapped itself around our heads as we packed, and the wind shoved freezing rain into our pores as we ran each load to the car. Nature was definitely winning, and it wanted our tent for itself. Fortunately, another camper came to our rescue and held the canvas with all his might so we could fold it up and stuff it wet, muddy, and misshapen into our trunk. We were soaked, we were frozen, we were hungry, and we didn’t know where we were going to sleep that night, but by Saint Ninian, we had survived!
The big question, once our bellies were full and our clothes wrung out, was what to do next. Here we had a wide open, albeit stormy, day on our hands and all of Scotland at our disposal. We weren’t going to be scaling any mountains (our insanity does have its limits), and our apartment in Edinburgh wasn’t available for another few days. So we did exactly what any family would do upon finding itself homeless and purposeless in a foreign land: We pulled in at the nearest castle and whiled away the afternoon pretending to be royalty. (I should note that you two didn’t need to do any pretending as you were clearly born princesses.)
Eilean Donan Castle (more or less pronounced “EE-len DUN-en”) is one of the smaller castles we saw over the course of our trip, but it was the only one we paid to go into, and with absolutely no experiential proof to back me up, I think we chose well. Sophie, your favorite part was leaning over the castle wall to look for sea monsters. In fact, you were the sole one among us to spot one, much to your sister’s chagrin. Natalie, your favorite part was peering through the spy-holes on the main staircase. (Just wait until you’re old enough to read Nancy Drew!) My favorite part was pretending to be a scullery maid in the kitchen, and your dad’s favorite part was rescuing the rest of us from the various parapets, dungeons, and dishwashing stations into which we wandered. At least, that’s my interpretation, and I’m sticking to it.
Maybe it was all the sea monster talk, but we decided to head to Loch Ness for the night. After all, why not? Along the way, we ran into some car trouble and discovered that the famous Urquhart Castle has a strict no-kindness policy toward little girls who need to pee. (It also has huge fence in place to make sure that no one can steal a glimpse of the lake without paying the lofty entrance fee. I’m starting to think that it probably deserved all its sackings.) However, when you wake up camping in a hurricane, all other attempts of a day to sabotage your happiness seem a little lackluster. We were survivors! Let loose in Scotland! Discouragement didn’t have a fighting chance. We found ourselves a peaceful little campground in nearby Cannich, unfurled our bedraggled tent directly on the playground, and got busy relaxing.