In late 2013 I found myself about to experience a dream come true; I was going to Scotland. It would be my first (but certainly not my last) visit to Caledonia. Friends and family were excited for me and many wanted to follow me on my adventure, to travel with me, even if only virtually. A regular user of Facebook and Twitter, once I announced my plans the requests to share photos and information on my travels became quite numerous. How best then to meet this demand? As a writer I'm often not one for brevity, though perhaps I should be. I knew there were be much I would want to share of my adventure but I also knew lengthy social media posts are not often read. I knew the term "blog" but had no real idea what one was. My ignorance was quickly erased with some simple online research, and so, I decided boldly, I would BLOG about my trip - and this site, "A Glen in Scotland" was born!
This was never meant to be a professional blog, one that could/would garner thousands of followers who could/would wait anxiously for each and every new post. My "blog" was never going to be more than an online personal diary. I never anticipated that anyone other than friends and family would be interested. After all, what appears here is merely a record of my one-man journey of discovery of my ancestral homeland and the place I still dream of calling home someday.
So off I went to Scotland for three glorious weeks in the Spring of 2014, to Glasgow, the Highlands, and the Isle of Skye. I wrote of my experiences and shared the many photos I took along the way. Friends and family followed and even a few strangers stumbled onto the site via my Facebook and Twitter posts. My blog was a "success."
Visits to places like Black Rock Cottage, Loch Ness, the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum and of course Ardverikie Estate (aka Glenbogle) helped my first blogging experience find an audience.
Upon returning back to the States (I say back because I now considered Scotland home and did not want to leave) I soon found it difficult to keep the blog alive. It was a travel blog and now I was no longer traveling in Scotland. How does one write a travel blog and not travel?
Along this journey I've developed a deep pride in my Scot ancestry, so much so that I largely ignore that I am in fact Scots/Irish. My Scot ancestors moved, with many thousands of others, to the Ulster Plantation and then two generations later to the USA, making me Scots/Irish. But I maintain they were Scots first, and so while my direct Celtic ancestor arrived here in the USA having been born and raised in Ireland, I proudly proclaim that I am "Texan by birth, Scot by ancestry."
As my time in Scotland expired, I found I had enjoyed this new blogging experience very much and did not wish it to end. Yet how to blog about Scotland without being there? I had found, and continue to do so, many similarities in my native home of Texas and my ancestral home of Scotland. Indeed many Scots played prominent roles in the history of Texas and so I sprinkled the blog with examples of these Texas/Scotland connections but soon even that well began to run dry.
The story of the Scottish piper at the Battle of the Alamo in Texas, and a look at the Scottish Bluebell vs. the Texas Bluebonnet were among the Texas/Scot connections that help keep this blog alive when I'm not traveling in Scotland.
It was during this time that I'd begun to consider an alternative idea - a podcast! I've almost 20 years of radio and television broadcasting in my background, from DJ to News presenter. Indeed I had done some other podcasting, first for the Balloon Federation of America, and most recently (right up until my departure for Scotland) for Aero-News.net. Both of these were news programmes, but what I had in mind was an interview show where I could talk with guests from all walks of life in Scotland about all sorts of things Scottish.
Just as this idea was growing on me, fortune smiled and I found myself returning to Scotland for a second time. This trip, over Christmas and Hogmanay 2014/2015 and including much of January breathed new life into my blog with new experiences, new photographs, and new friends made. While this was exhilarating, I knew that not long after my return to the USA the well would again begin to run dry. I shared the idea of my podcast with a few friends and finding no negative reactions, decided to move forward.
My second trip to Scotland found me discovering the "lowlands", the magic of Edinburgh at Christmas, and experiencing a live concert and "meet and greet" with the amazing Red Hot Chilli Pipers, all blog worthy subjects that breathed new life into this project. Click on each image to enlarge
Thanks to my previous work I already had the necessary hardware, software, and home recording studio set up. With the technology of Skype it is amazingly inexpensive to talk with almost anyone, anywhere in the world. To interview people in Scotland all that has to be overcome is the 6-hour time difference! But would I call this new podcast?
Under the Tuscan Sun is a favorite movie of mine. It's the story of a woman at a crossroads in life who unexpectedly moves to Italy finding new friends, a new culture, and learning about life through her new experiences. It is a story to which I can relate. I wanted my podcast to be all encompassing about Scotland's people, food, drink, music, fashion, and so on. I also wanted it to be immediately recognizable as a podcast about Scotland and nowhere else. What covers all of Scotland? The Sky! What is unmistakably recognizable as Scottish? Tartan! "Under the Tartan Sky" was born and launched in June 2015.
In the 16 intervening months I've been fortunate to interview a host of interesting Scots, including:
•Craig Munro, Managing Director of Wallace Bagpipes and piper with the Red Hot Chilli Pipers
•James MacSween, co-owner of one of Scotland's largest haggis producers, MacSween Haggis
•Pauline Speitel, Senior Editor at the Scottish Language Dictionaries
•Brian Wilton, MBE, Scottish Tartan Register
and most recently, Dougie MacLean, Scotland's beloved singer/songwriter.
The podcast has explored such iconic Scottish subjects as tartan, whisky, and the worldwide community of Scots Diaspora.
I've shared the stories of entrepreneurial Scots like Donna Bradley and her small company, Wee Sweeties; Trish and Harry Tracy of Truly Truly Tartan; and Lisa Henderson of Must Visit Scotland. Plus there have been inspirational stories of people like Graham and Liz Gaffney-Whaite working to restore the abandoned Dalmally Railway Station as a home and business, and Lorraine Johnston who lost a career in health and safety to MS only to reinvent herself as a writer.
My first job in broadcasting in 1973, KFDM-TV booth announcer. At work on the podcast at my home studio 2016
In short, the podcast is allowing me to share so much more of the Scotland that I love than any blog could ever write. While I love to write and the blog reignited my joy of writing, I've found that broadcasting is my first love. Plus, I've discovered there are many other travel bloggers who are far better at what they do than I, like my friend Susanne Arbuckle and her amazing Scottish travel blog, Adventures Around Scotland. So while I will continue, from time to time, to add new posts here, my main focus continues to be on immigrating to Scotland, to make my home in Caledonia, and to share my passion for Scotland through my podcast. If you're a fan of this blog, I invite and encourage you to visit the podcast either on iTunes or its own website, www.underthetartansky.scot.