See Scotland in a day
with Maggie Geha
She’s in Gotham
I checked with Wikipedia. An American actress… and model. That’s a start. What is Gotham? Is that Batman? Koala didn’t know either. But it’s on Netflix. Oh and she was in some Beyoncé video! She is famous! Ok let’s just pretend we know. We need not have worried.. Maggie is a star, in more ways than Hollywood.. which is good because Koala isn’t known to easily stand on ceremony and I’m from Yorkshire!
Maggie Geha bounded excitedly through the train station concourse towards us, to be brought to an abrupt un-Hollywood halt by an overweight Scotrail barrier attendant in a hi-viz. ‘You’se need yer ticket darlin…!’ Maggie smiled politely and looked desperately towards us for a translation. We liked her instantly. Her enthusiasm for a day of Highland adventure with us had built to boiling point over the preceding week.. Koala had her ‘cell’ number and WhatsApp had a new.. very busy connection.
This was going to be fun.. We had 12 hours to ‘do Scotland’, tick the boxes and give her the Koala experience! Perhaps this trip will test the true powers of versatility for.. ‘Poison Ivy’ I was however a little concerned. We had to get Maggie back to Edinburgh tonight! 12 hours to get the highlights that Scotland can offer! I rolled up the red carpet, threw the Koalacape in the back, fired up the Mitsubishimobile and set course for the Fortress of Solitude… sorry.. Glen Coe!
Maggie was immediately on a holiday mission and brimming with a positivity that was infectious. We would achieve this.. the stars would align. She said so. I wasn’t so sure.. But she had powers, I’d checked. Unusually, Koala and I did not need to debate the playlist for the journey to the Secret Citadel… sorry The Green Welly… as the chat and banter began immediately. Koala was in her element and Maggie was an entertainer!
‘If the security is good… I will touch people..'!’
I spat my teeth out and sent the Mitsubishi-mobile into a bit of a slide before she qualified the comment.. Fan Conventions, autographs, handshakes and the like. Ah! We laughed for the entire journey north. We were on the same wavelength and a video of her mom singing a rather operatic rendition of ‘Take the High Road’ confirmed it. We crossed the new Forth Bridge and seemed to have teleported up to the A82 and arrived at the Green Welly ahead of time. First stop and obligatory tourist shot outside. ‘Oh look at the fluffy white sheep!’ That wasn’t on the itinerary but tick it anyway. Maggie loved her animals and excitedly compared her Vermont farm childhood with Koala and her Outback adoption of animals! I felt a little left out.. I’m from Leeds. Anyway… Let’s hope to see a Deer or at least a Highland Cow?!
Sometimes you forget how epic the landscape of the Highlands is until you take someone there for the first time. Rounding the corner from Rannoch Moor was that occasion. The mountains grew in drama and silent awe descended on our passenger! First location and Glen Coe brooded. The weather had even turned up to greet the star from across the pond. Koala was animated. Maggie responded and got the ‘Most Professional Costume Change’ in a car award! Appearing as if from behind a curtain in a prop green dress that could’ve been made for Poison Ivy herself.. or perhaps Claire from Outlander.. but that’s another story!
The Ralston Pass was epic and the sun provided enough natural light to please Koala and her romantic Scottish image was created. But was I redundant..? No reflector required, no witty (?) banter to relax her into the shoot, none of my interpretation to decipher Koalas direction with this actress.. nope this girl is a pro! So I just held boots and socks. Maggie thrived and Koala beamed excitedly. I tried to join in and entertain with some historical perspective of Glen Coe and the massacre of 1692. Which was great, but only succeeded in prompting her to jig barefoot in a rock boulder to a rather unique version of ‘If you’re happy and you-want-to-be Scottish… clap your hands!’ The scene was hilariously breathtaking, if not a little surreal. Epic landscape… tick! History.. tick.. kinda.
As if on cue… the Glen Coe piper serenaded us down the pass.. the stars really were aligning! Maggie had her tourist snap as the skirl of the bagpipes echoed around the Glen. This was straight off a shortbread tin! I whispered to the piper that he was playing to a famous actress and offered to email the photo to him. He looked a little confused. I assumed, trying to place her face. She was on Gotham.. on Fox?! I advised. ‘Aye… that’s good son’. He replied. Completely clueless and whispered back to me. ‘I dinnae have a computer son… none of that email. An I don’t get yer telly show.. no signal in Fochabers!’ Ah.. ok. Perhaps I can post them to you then? Do you have a letterbox??
We continued on to the village of Ballachulish which lies at the foot of Glen Coe, where the mountains finally give way to Loch Linnhe and the Firth of Lorn. Just outside the village is the Church of St John, our next location. The graveyard bristles with orderly ranks of crosses and slate graveslabs, its setting is certainly spectacular. I did know a bit of the history but chose to perhaps save the detail of the preaching of Bishop Forbes in 1770 to myself. We had already ticked history box and Maggie was singing from behind a wall as she conducted another rapidly professional costume change! I’ll tell her later.. if she enquires. Despite the lack, in any quantity, of the famous graveyard bluebells.. the two of them set about recreating a film poster for a Gothic movie! I was redundant again..
Driving on to Fort William, Ben Nevis loomed high over the town, as we pulled into Morrison’s Supermarket to pick up a traditionally Scottish lunch… well… a £3 Meal Deal… Sandwich and Irn Bru! It was a little unusual I guess to escort a whimsically costumed American actress to the customer toilet… but the local shoppers seemed to take it in their stride and assisted her in a shared experience with a rather troublesome soap dispenser!? I’m not sure we will ever know the exact detail but the hilarity was fuelled for the next leg of the journey. Maggie and Scottish Culture. Tick.
The smirry rain now descended and fog hung dramatically over Glenfinnan. The unpredictability of Scottish weather. Tick. We were setting a particularly high bar in the trip so far but I wasn’t sure Harry Potter was in town to meet us? Another dress change, tartan.. and my waterproof jacket. As we walked toward the epically famous viaduct, among hardy Italian tourists who were quizzically snapping our entourage, a Landrover approached. I was beginning to believe that this actually might be a wizard!? But no.. it was only the wonderfully eccentric landowner of the Estate! Bedecked in Tartan Trews he dazzled our star with tales of Jacobite romanticism and a certain Bonnie Prince. Maggie was enchanted by his retelling of history and I wondered why she was suddenly interested and not casually performing a jig to him?? I really must refine my presentation skills. He didn’t however know who she was either but he did have a ‘private’ email address and actively encouraged the forwarding of any potential pictures of Maggie and his bridge. Appears he liked the tartan dress.. and red heads!?
The rain fell and the wind blew through the Glen as Koala led a undeterred Maggie into the gorse above. Had the stars began to fade? Was the weather to defeat our quest? As I wondered, the wind dropped and a distinctive chug of industrial locomotion filled the air. The ‘Jacobite’ Train Service rounded the historic bend on its way to Mallaig. I’m no train spotter but the sight of the LNER Peppercorn Class (No. 62005) ‘Lord of the Isles’ – a 1940s development of the K4 design, is a truly wonderful sight! The steam trailed over the viaduct and the whistle sounded in response to a.. now speechless American who couldn’t believe we had actually arranged the whole thing for her…
The bar was getting higher and now I too believed
Time for a celebratory dram and a toast to positivity and the universe, for the alignment of.. whatever needs to be aligned to tick all the boxes. I went along with that one, unsure of my spiritual stance and poured the malt unceremoniously into our tin mugs. The day was progressing well so I didn’t feel it was appropriate to suggest savouring the fruit notes, the waves of sherry, dried fruits and cinnamon!? The epic landscape of the Buachaille that dominated the vista from the lay-by. The girls were unconcerned and the 12 year old Jura was rather ‘knocked back’ in an irreverently colonial kind of way. Thoughts of Empire raced through my head but I refrained.
We hadn’t ticked the Heilan Coo box yet but perhaps there would be Deer at Kings House? How could I have doubted of course there would be.. this was Maggie Geha! As if waiting for her arrival, the young hind appeared for autographs and happily allowed herself to be touched, despite the lack of security! Maggie was a fan and emotionally kissed the unfazed animal on the nose. Did we have insurance for transmissible disease?
On to the iconic Black Rock cottage and an opportunity for whisky fuelled artistic expression!? A fusion of antipodean insta video and Hollywood method actressing! A unique mix that somehow morphed into a promotional video for a friend walking the the West Highland Way for the SSPCA animal charity. I somehow found myself laying face down in the heather acting out a rather difficult technique of complete emotional identification, in the part of ‘Dead Ben’. I should’ve had a dram too. But time was running out and back to the Lowlands we drive. Ironically stopping for a quick selfie with a Highland Cow in a field by the roadside! Perhaps not an iconic or strictly true location but we took it anyhoo! Tick.
The road back to Edinburgh is not usually a description of epic but as we passed Doune Castle, famously used in a rather popular tv show, the sun was beginning to set. As if to remind us of the beauty of Lowland Scotland, the splendidly historic monuments of Stirling Castle and the Wallace monument were lit up as the sky erupted in pinks and red. This was sensory overload and Maggie fell asleep, just in time to avoid my brief outline of the Battle of Bannockburn. Koala wasn’t interested either and we drove in awe filled silence as fading sun continually produced a spectacular backdrop. First the Kelpies by the M9.. Maggie woke to the scene as if on cue! This wasn’t normal! Was it? Is this Scotland? Then, fittingly to end our adventure, Edinburgh castle and Arthur’s Seat caught the last rays of pink light and exploded like the ancient volcanoes that they once were! Underlining an emotional end to our day. We’d ticked the boxes.
This is Scotland and Scotland had pulled out all the stops for our visitor from across the pond. The battered Mars bar would wait until next time.
About the Author
I was born in Leeds and grew up in the military. Which thankfully has put me in good stead to 'look after' the Koala. I carry the tripod, hold the reflector, drive the truck, make the sandwiches and ensure that the clients have everything they need. So basically I do everything apart from press the button... sorry.. shutter! Apparently I am a hidden literary gem so I get to write the blog and provide creative input when asked!