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Herbalist On The Road: Scotland

ancient castle ruins in scottish highlands; herbalist travel content creator
castle ruins in the UK

Herbalist On The Road: Scotland

Travel has always been a love of mine and when I became an herbalist it gave me even more reason to explore. Aside from getting to soak up the local flavors, culture and history, I now had a path into discovering and studying healing traditions in new places with new plants.

One of the most beautiful things about herbalism to me is how universal it is. Every place has it's own plants and ways of using them as well as ancient practices and rituals around healing. A bonus when visiting the UK is that I speak the language so uncovering and discussing these pockets of wisdom becomes more easily accessible. While I am almost always on the hunt for a quality apothecary in my travels, the places where I soak up the most applicable herbal knowledge are almost always in the least expected ways and through the act of just exploring.

Want to travel along with me and see how I approach travel as an herbalist? Keep on reading to enjoy this season's edition of Herbalist On The Road, Scotland!

Finding Magic In Everyday Places

While I am firm believer that magic can be found in the most mundane of moments, I often find that finding the magic when traveling is all about getting off the beaten path, and letting yourself be drawn to the nooks and crannies that call your name. Oftentimes this includes getting into nature and exploring the smaller spots along the map. How do we find our magic pockets? Every trip includes a bit of history, a bit of the rural landscape, a stay in a city, local foods, and a walk through the paths and trails frequented by the locals. We've stumbled into some pretty fantastical pockets through our travels, and they almost all started from a curious inquisition into a relic, food, or experience nearby. On our trip we visited the regions of Edinburgh, Inverness, Speyside, and Loch Ness by car and we re amazed at how much we could see in just 10 days of fly-by-the-seat of your pants traveling.

Uncovering Parts of The Past

History has truly become one of my greatest doorways into experiencing a new place. Ancient ruins, museums, cemeteries, churches, and more - there's something about simply being in a place and learning about the past that helps create visions and sensations of what times were like in the days of yore. Through understanding and feeling the past, you open pathways in your heart and mind to greater understand the why of how people did things in that region. When we understand the why (and the natural environment) it helps us to piece together why certain plants and practices likely stood out.

On this trip we visited castle ruins, old cemeteries, druid sites, and traversed the vast countryside in the cold of winter, giving a glimpse into the harshness and (beauty) of Scotland, and a peek into how their traditions may have sustained them in the coldest, wettest, and darkest times of the winter months. From ancient energy of the Druid site at Clava Cairns to the mystical streets of Edinburgh at night, Scotland truly delivered when it came to magic moments. Culloden battlefield was another favorite, with it's whispers of the Scottish spirit and their true commitment to preserving their freedom and ways of living.

Plant Paths in Other Lands

Every trip we take includes adventures into nature and walks in local woods both on and off the beaten path. As a biologist and herbalist one of the ways that I begin to understand and feel the plant community in a new place is by getting out in nature and soaking up the environment. Landscape, climate, plant communities, waterways, and the energy of an area all help me to understand the types of plants that may be local to the region, as well as what they may have been used for. Ecology truly is a vast doorway into understanding why plants are used the way they are and for also understanding the hardships that people may have faced by being a natural part of their environments. What is in abundance during summer and winter, and what plant communities did folks have access to? What qualities would these plants have had and how may they have been used to help support the local people.

Another favorite path into the folkloric traditions into a region is by learning about and exploring the folkloric traditions from that geographic region, and Scotland had plenty. From Kelpies to Fairies, Unicorns, and Nessie herself, Scotland's rich history of folklore is one of the elements that brought us to this enchanted land.

Tasting The Flavors + Culture

As an herbalist, holistic chef, and former pastry chef, you can bet that the food is always a major focus on our travels. From tasting local dishes to shopping in local grocery stores, we make sure to soak up everything we can when we're traveling. As a general rule of thumb, we try to hit cafes and restaurants in less touristy areas, and always always ask the locals where to eat. Purchasing items from the small local grocer is another excellent way to explore the real local food. My favorite from Scotland? Definitely the Fish and Chips made with local cod enjoyed by a warm fire in a cozy pub sipping on cask ales. Scotland (as an island) is surrounded by sea making it an excellent place to sample seafood. We also enjoyed our fair share of "The Full Scottish" breakfast which is pretty standard throughout the UK and includes eggs, sausage, bacon, beans, tomatoes, toast, and black/white pudding as well as haggis in Scotland. Though food was not the main focus of this trip we did get a chance to do some snacking, and our favorites were: Lannan Bakery, Scran and Scallie, Coates Cafe, The Cawdor Tavern, The Tomatin distillery, St. Bernards Bar and the Stockbridge Tap.

Fun Fact - beer is often much lighter in the UK and the ABV is typically much lower. The delight of a cask ale is one I thoroughly enjoy from the UK and a brewing style I desperately wish the USA would adopt. If you have a chance to go to a small pub and try a more traditional style ale I strongly recommend it! One of the funny quirks we noticed in Edinburgh was how the pubs would all fill like a wave freshly after work and then die down about an hour later.

Where Should I Go Next?

Every time I travel I fall in love with it all over, getting me ready for the next adventure. If I had to pick a second job, it would most definitely be a travel content creator and travel blogger.

I've been to the UK twice in the past year and Mexico before that, so I think it might time for a change of scenery. Wherever I go you can bet that I'll be looking for herbs, uncovering magic, and getting lost in the visions of the people who roamed the land before me.

Travel writing and exploration is one of my great joys in life and I truly enjoy sharing those experiences with people looking to travel different. If you own an amazing spot that you want me and Herbalist On The Road to come check out and write about, reach out! I'd love to talk.


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