A Guid Crack

I’ve been out in the world again, this time with my friends Meg and Shirley, at the Scottish International Storytelling festival.

It happens each October in the ancient and storied city of Edinburgh.

The Storytelling Center is in a house built in 1490, the last residence of Protestant reformer John Knox.

The festival opened with Scottish stories, although this year’s focus was on South and Central America.

Two doors down from the center was our flat, with a splendid view.

What a treat to arrive at the height of the autumn color!

Every day we filled up our story banks. In Scotland a guid crack is lively conversation, the sharing of gossip, news, stories. Over lunch, Meg’s brother Jim told ghost stories, personal stories, and history fun facts.  The storytelling gene clearly runs strong in their family.

We picked up stories and histories from the castles, and a few from Holyrood Palace…

…where Mary, Queen of Scots, once lived (in the older wing).

We visited The National Portrait Gallery, The Edinburgh Museum, The Museum of Childhood, and the photography exhibit in the Parliament Building.  The People’s Story was a museum highlighting the changing conditions and the continuing pursuit of social justice for the people of Edinburgh, including women and the LGBTQ community.

I was intrigued by a painting hanging on the wall of The National Gallery.  It depicted the very room it was displayed in as it had appeared when painted over a century before.  Not much had changed.

We popped into Jenner’s, an elegant department store built in 1895, where they weren’t allowed to remodel, because it was a ‘listed’ historic building.  Meg grew up in a nearby village and would ride the train to town with her mother to shop, but they went to the C&A down the street. Meg remembers window shopping at Jenner’s as a college student.

Mostly we just did window shopping.

But you know…

…in Edinburgh even window shopping is quite special.

I’d heard of haggis as a delicacy unique to Scotland, but nobody ever said anything about macaroni pie.

I loved the Tartans.

And there’s nothing like a kilt to make a man look his best.

But even in Scotland accessories can make–or break–the outfit.

Everywhere we went, we were just steps away from natural beauty.

There were ancient churches and cathedrals around every corner.

Steep narrow passages called ‘closes’ spread like ribs from the spine formed by The Royal Mile.

Edinburgh looked like a city on tiptoe…


…with so many layers of mystery and history just waiting to be discovered.

Meg had to translate the words on this sign for me.  It says, “Long may your chimney smoke,” but it means, “May you always have fuel for your fire,” which is a cozy way of wishing someone a long and healthy life.

I never did discover the answer to the vital question most visitors wonder about when they come to Scotland, but are too polite to ask.  

Which is probably all for the best.

All words and images ©2016 Naomi Baltuck.

Click to visit Meg’s blog, Story Twigs the Imagination, and her post about our trip.

Click here for more interpretations of The Weekly Photo Challenge: Transmogrify.

Click here for more interpretations of The Weekly Travel Theme: Hills.



  1. Judith Black says:

    OK, now I am singing all the songs from Brigadoon! Thank-you for bring us to Scotland. I so wish all cities were wrapped in the natural world like this one.

    1. Hi Judith! Thanks for the visit. It was indeed an eye-opener to find a capital city, at least where I was, with so little urban sprawl. It was a walled city and as such grew up instead of out, making a much less intrusive footprint. I suppose it could be spilling out the other side, but even as I drove in the other direction, back to the airport, it didn’t seem to have the same kind of unending urban sprawl that we have in this country. I hope you are well–it’s good to hear from you.

    1. You should know, Meg! What a great trip–SO good to see you again. Thanks for showing us around your old stomping grounds.

  2. Lon Reek? City on tip toe. So many take always. And all the views. Really enjoyed it all

    1. Thank you, Carol! Editing photos after a trip is a nice way to ease yourself back into reality. It was fun to look back and realize how much we did.

  3. megan hicks says:

    …like a city on its tiptoes.

    You always make me smile.

    1. Thank you, Megan, and thanks for stopping by. It’s always good to hear from you–saw that the progress on your house is going well.

  4. Elyse says:

    Ah, thank you for taking me back to Edinburgh! I’ve been many times — my husband went to University there and fell in love. In 1985, he took me and that’s where he proposed — on top of the Salisbury Crags at sunset overlooking the castle — your picture of them is magical!

    1. How romantic! Thank you for sharing your story, Elyse. Now, whenever I think of the Crags and the caste, I will have that sweet memory in mind.

  5. You guys are having TOO MUCH FUN!!! Glad you got to hang together in Meg’s old stomping ground. 🙂

    1. Hi Margie! We had a blast (or should I say, ‘We had a hoot, mon!”) So interesting to see where she grew up, and meet her friends and family. Thanks for stopping by and checking in. I hope you are well.

  6. scillagrace says:

    How I love remembering the time I spent with my husband in Edinburgh! Thank you for bringing back memories and expanding my dreams of possibilities. It’s good to get back into your world, my friend. This move has been a long, tough slog.

    1. Hi Priscilla, I can only imagine what the move must be like, especially with all the books. Just that thought is enough to keep me deeply rooted! It has been six weeks since I’ve posted, and I’m behind on everyone’s news. I hope everyone in your world is well. xoxo, n

  7. Lee Carlson says:

    Lovely post, lovely pictures, gave me a sense of longing! Maybe some day I will be able to talk my husband into a trip overseas.

    1. I hope so, Lee. It’s not that hard, and not much more than a trip to California. But if not, maybe someday we can go. Love, n

  8. Mama Cormier says:

    Lovely post. Makes me want to go to Scotland right now.

    1. If I didn’t love my husband so much, I might turn right around and go back again! I hope you get there soon. Thanks for the visit and the kind word.

  9. Dahlia says:

    Loved the virtual tour – the footnotes spiced it up and added zing to it. Thanks for sharing 🙂

    1. Thanks so much for stopping by!

  10. I won’t ask THAT question either. I’ll let my imagination do the work. ;-D
    Stunning photos. I want to go now. Enticing. Thank you for this tour, Naomi. ❤ 🙂

    1. I’ve been swamped, and it has been a long time since I’ve posted–it’s so good to hear from you, Tess. Thanks for the visit and, as always, for making me smile.

  11. Mary Brugh says:

    You really know how to have fun! And take a picture.

    1. Thanks, Mary! I hope you are well. How was the festival in Jonesborough?

  12. What a lovely peek at Edinburgh! and what a lovely occasion to visit!

    I just watched a documentary on telly the other day featuring Dalmore & Edinburgh and that took me back to when I visited eons ago! The city has obviously changed, and yet not.

    I love your sun-drenched view of the castle, and that macaroon display! fabulous!

    1. Thanks so much! It is amazing how little the city changes, while keeping up with the times. I loved your post about traveling with your kids–it reminded me so much about when ours were little. We did so many of the same things. Travel is the best education you can give a kid, especially when you include the museums and cultural activities, as you do.

      1. Absolutely! We find that travelling affords so much discovery & growth!

        Although now that the kids are older, we are enjoying our own city much more. One of the perks of homeschooling!

      2. Wonderful! Brings back some of the happiness memories of my life.

  13. thanks for a great tour and Edinburgh is one of my favourite cities.

    1. Mine too now! Thanks so much for stopping by.

  14. restlessjo says:

    So much to see and do in Edinburgh, Naomi! I was there for a couple of days in September, meeting Jude from Travel Words/The earth laughs in flowers. Naturally we had to add the Botanic gardens to your list 🙂 🙂 Very best wishes to you and yours!

    1. How fun, Jo! I’ll have to catch the Botanic Gardens next time. You are fortunate to be so close to everything in Europe. My sister was telling me about bargain flights from England to Norway for thirty dollars! Thanks for the good wishes. It’s great to hear from you–I hope you and yours are well and happy!

      1. restlessjo says:

        Dad died last month, Naomi. Suddenly and while I was away in the Algarve. Hard to get used to, but otherwise we’re fine.

      2. Oh, Jo, I’m so so sorry. Sending wishes of peace and comfort to you and your family.

  15. Grace says:

    Hi Naomi! Thank you for taking us with you through these wonderful pictures and narratives. I’ve never been to Edinburgh….you just made me want to go. 🙂

    1. Hi Grace, it’s kind of you to stop by and share your response. Now is a really great time to go, as the pound has lost a lot of its value and traveling there is so much more affordable than it was a few years ago. If you go, I’d love to hear what you think of it. Warm wishes to you and your family.

  16. For some reason, when I logged into WordPress to read your blog this morning, all the links for the images appear broken? Not sure what’s up with that?

    1. Thanks for the heads up–I will check the connection.

  17. Shirley Routliffe says:

    Such a fabulous time..you captured it perfectly😊Thank you!

    1. You ought to know! Favorite shot of the trip was you in your highland outfit–I’m waiting for the right moment to break out that one! Still coming down from such a great trip–and it was lovely to be able to share it with you and Meg.

  18. Wow! What great photos, Naomi! You’re right, the autumn colors are stunning. I’m happy you had a nice trip.

    1. Thanks, Jill. I find that I prefer autumn travel to summer, not only because of the beautiful leaves, but at least in this part of the world, tourist traffic is lighter and the weather is not too hot, but not too cold. I hope you’re well!

  19. Welcome back, Naomi. It sounds as though this was a wonderful and all that sunshine as well!! Your photos took me back to some years ago when our younger daughter and I were in Edinburgh and had a wonderful time. She ordered a bespoke kilt, which we began to think would never actually arrive. It must have taken half a year! While I enjoyed all the photos, the one that made me smile the most was the window shopping photo. I like the way the three of you lined up just right for the reflection over the display.


    1. Of course, that should say “was a wonderful time.

    2. Hi Janet, What a sweet trip to share with your daughter! I looked longingly at the kilts, not for my daughter but my husband. As I mentioned in the post, there’s nothing like putting on a kilt to make a man look his best! We had fun there, the three of us, and Meg and Shirley are photographers and quite a agreeable if I take a moment to arrange a shot…”A little bit over to the left, please…now one step to the right…” Thanks for the visit and taking a moment to share a sweet memory and a kind word.

      1. When getting that man-kilt, don’t forget the Sgian Dubh, that very cool dagger that goes with it. 🙂

      2. My vegetarian husband can use it to peel his potatoes!

      3. That works. 🙂 I don’t think they were to kill animals, anyway, at least their primary purpose.

      4. Actually, people used to carry their own spoons around with them–very practical, and I expect the knife was a practical choice of equipment to have around in any situation.

      5. True. This just seems more like an anti-enemy (human kind) weapon. But of course you can always use it to protect yourself from a rampaging potato. 🙂

      6. Ha ha! You never know!

  20. diannegray says:

    An International Storytelling festival? Wow, what a treat. And that sporran is just a little too much! I really don’t know who would wear that, but they would have to be brave 😉

    1. They would have to brave the animal rights people, as well as the fashion police! Thanks for the visit, Dianne. It’s good to hear from you.

  21. That Scotsman’s sporrin is a hoot, but doubtless a target for animal right’s activists! As for what’s under Scotsman’s kilts, it must be darned drafty if there’s no underwear to break the chill of Northern climes.

    1. No doubt about the animal rights folks, not to mention the fashion police! As for The Big Question, I can’t imagine!! It seems rather impractical, as you say, in such a chilly climate.

      1. The chill factor of going without underwear should make kilted Scotsman more fertile!

      2. Ha ha! I honestly never thought about that aspect of the matter!

  22. Fabulous! I’m sure you’ve learned tons and what beautiful scenery and city to be in. And I think the answer is no by the way but not sure. Sounds like that would be rather drafty!

    1. Thanks, Lisa. I loved the city and surrounding countryside–it’s so beautiful, talking to the people and going to the museums help us appreciate where we are and what we are looking at. Once you know the story, it really opens your eyes to that person, that place. As the The Big Question, I’ve heard the rumors… Thanks for making me smile!

  23. Roy McCarthy says:

    Looks a great place to visit, yet I’ve yet to venture north of the Border and maybe never will. I’m pleased you had a great trip, both story-telling and site-seeing. Thanks for the pics.

    1. Hi Roy, it’s so good to hear from you! I do hope you get there one day. It was a very easy place to get around, and rich with history. Thanks for the visit–I hope you are well!

  24. Tom Siewert says:

    I went to the festival many years ago and stayed at a youth hostel right near the venue. A wonderful time!! So glad you enjoyed it. And great pictures.

    1. Hi Tom, it’s a beautiful venue for storytelling, and what lovely city! Thanks for the kind words. How are you doing these days? Eli and I were briefly in Taiwan for the last ten days or so, but didn’t make it to China. I hope you are well–it’s good to hear from you.

  25. Dorota says:

    I don’t need to travel. I can just read posts and see photographs from your travels. Thank you!

    1. Hi Dorota,
      So good to hear from you. You guys are so much better at getting your photos and adventures out there. Your last trip to Poland looked fantastic!

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