Whiskey, Kilts, and the Loch Ness Monster: Traveling through Scotland with Boswell and Johnson

Whiskey, Kilts, and the Loch Ness Monster: Traveling through Scotland with Boswell and Johnson

Whiskey, Kilts, and the Loch Ness Monster: Traveling through Scotland with Boswell and Johnson

Whiskey, Kilts, and the Loch Ness Monster: Traveling through Scotland with Boswell and Johnson

Synopsis

Whisky, Kilts, and the Loch Ness Monster is a memoir of a twenty-first-century literary pilgrimage to retrace the famous eighteenth-century Scottish journey of James Boswell and Samuel Johnson, two of the most celebrated writers of their day. William W. Starr enlivens this crisply written travelogue with a playful wit, an enthusiasm for all things Scottish, the boon and burden of American sensibility, and an ardent appreciation for Boswell and Johnson--who make frequent cameos throughout these ramblings. In 1773 the sixty-three-year-old Johnson was England's preeminent man of letters, and Boswell, some thirty years Johnson's junior, was on the cusp of achieving his own literary celebrity. For more than one hundred days, the distinguished duo toured what was then largely unknown Scottish terrain, later publishing their impressions of the trip in a pair of classic journals. In 2007 Starr embarked on a three-thousand-mile trek through the Scottish Lowlands and Highlands, following the path--though in reverse--of Boswell and Johnson. He recorded a wealth of keen observations on his encounters with people and places, lochs and lore, castles and clans, fables and foibles. Starr couples his contemporary commentary with passages from Boswell's and Johnson's published accounts, letters, and diaries to weave together a cohesive travel guide to the Scotland of yore and today. This is a celebration of Scottish life and a spirited endorsement of the wondrous, often unexpected discoveries to be made through good travel and good writing.

Excerpt

The plane eased through the silver sky toward the sun-swept runway at Edinburgh International Airport. “Looks like we caught a good trade-off this morning,” said the flight attendant as she herded the last group of empty peanut wrappers into her portable depository. “We’re three hours late, but it’s usually pouring rain when we get here. Not bad, huh?” No, not at all. A first-time visitor to Scotland might assume the appearance of the sun to be perfectly ordinary, but then you remember the joke—at least it’s supposed to be a joke—that the Scots offer this greeting to visitors: “Hello; sorry about the weather.” And then there are the words of Edmund Burt, as true today as when they were written in 1720: “In these northern parts, the year is composed of nine months winter and three months bad weather.” Or Edward Topham, who wrote in 1774 that “the winds reign in all their violence, and seem indeed to claim the country as their own.” Of course, anyone who reads a travel guide should know to expect the worst, for this is a country that embraces magnificent climatological legends. All true and all understated.

They begin with rain followed by showers, followed by a heavy rain, drenching rain, a bit of rain, light showers, a soft rain, lightening showers, driving rain, a forcing rain, easing showers, a touch of dampness, pouring rain, horizontal rain, sleety rain, rainy sleet. And did I mention the wind? Howling, screeching, relentless, hurricanelike, a hard blow, a light blow, pushing breezes, gusts, gentle gusts, hard gusts, moderate gusts, intense gusts, and, one of my favorites, blowing gusts. Winter gales start in September and can last until the end of April, when they become only intermittent, says one American who has lived for a dozen years in the Outer Hebrides. Wester Ross is the wettest place in all of the United Kingdom and gets more than two hundred inches of rain each year. And everywhere in the Highlands and Islands gets not only rain but that seemingly never-ending wind as well.

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.