My first trip to the United Kingdom started in the Highlands of Royal Deeside, Scotland. Braemar to be exact. Braemar is a tourist village with a minimum of three tour busses every day. The big numbers come in during ski season and the Highland Games, a rousing, yearly sporting event of traditional Scottish games that if you don’t have tickets now, you’re too late. There’s Braemar Castle, Balmoral Castle, hiking/walking trails, and scotch distilleries for your touring pleasure. And if you go to Scotland and don’t go the Highlands, then you haven’t seen how truly beautiful Scotland is.
We rented a self-catering cottage in Braemar as our base for day trips. Victoria Cottage was a well-furnished little cottage with one drawback that we weren’t prepared for—meter reading with coupons. All of the electricity was powered by £5 coupons we inserted into a box by the front door. This caused some anxiety about running out of electricity, so my thrifty husband remedied this by refusing to turn on heaters or lights in any room we weren’t in. Now, it was October, with temperatures in the 40s/50s (F) during the day, lower 30s at night, and being from southern Texas, I was cold. There was a stove in the living room with a bucket of coal and a basket of wood and newspapers beside it. Have I used the term “Spoiled Americans”? We weren’t very good at lighting the stove, I’m afraid, so I spent most of my time in the cottage turning up the space heaters with my husband coming behind me and turning them back down. It was, however, a pretty comfortable cottage and was within walking distance of a pub, a definite plus.
The days were filled with sunny, clear skies and a lot of wind. Of course, saying it was windy in the Highlands is like saying the summers were hot in San Antonio—bit redundant. Our day trips consisted of driving up the curvy, 23-percent grade roads of the Grampian Mountains, resulting in my first experience with car sickness. We visited 10 percent of the scotch distilleries in Scotland and spent the rest of the time trying to see as much as we could squeeze into one short week.
So, after that much activity, you would think that I would sleep well. But at night, the clear skies were replaced with storm clouds carrying torrential rain, pushed along by gusting winds. Too say it was dark would be an understatement. There were no street lights up where we were, and our bedroom had paneling on all four walls plus the ceiling. It was like sleeping the bow of a boat. I would lie curled up under the down comforter, listening to rain and wind slap against the cottage, knowing there were ghosties about. How could there not be? All I could think about was Wuthering Heights. I knew Catherine was outside my window, tapping with the rain saying, “Let me in. Let me in.”
And of course, since it was the middle of the night and I was awake, I had to go to the bathroom. So, I nudged my husband awake and said, “I have to go to the bathroom.”
“Then go,” he mumbled.
“You have to go with me,” I replied, but it was too late. He had already drifted back into a peaceful sleep. After all, he didn’t hear the ghosts rapping on the window or walking in the loft above us. So, I gathered all my courage to face the ghosts and the cold, not knowing which one I was dreading more. I grabbed my flashlight (thank God I brought a flashlight) and headed off for the bathroom in the back of the cottage.
As I entered the living room, I braced myself for what I might see. I fully expected a Gollum-like creature to be squatting in front of the stove, putting logs in while mumbling, “Gollum freezing. Silly hobbitses don’t know to stay warm. We hates them!”
But it wasn’t there. Only shadows and the sounds of rain and wind followed me to the bathroom and back to bed.
Seven nights in that cottage and I never saw a ghost. I read through the guestbook and searched in between the lines for hints of paranormal visions or thoughts experienced by other visitors, but it seems I’m the only paranormal one. Since I now know what to expect, a self-catering will be easier next time, but then again, there’s something to be said for a nice, warm, ghost-free B and B.