Digging into the archives, I came across some photos from my time living in Scotland in 2003. (Ignore the chipmunk cheeks to follow. I enjoyed the Baked Potato Shop just across the street from my flat and the discovery of Strongbow cider about 15 pounds more than I should have.) When it came time to do a long homestay weekend through my American study abroad program, my friends were shipped off to the Lakes District or Stirling, and when I found out I was going to a farm in extremely rural Scotland, I was less than pleased. At first.
But that was before I found out I’d been staying with Edna Penny. (And yes, she was every bit as charming as the name would suggest.) And Edna definitely did not live on my definition of a farm. She had a lovely country home with a living room, two dining rooms, four bedrooms, a kitchen and two luxurious bathrooms.
Two other girls from my Butler program—Colleen from Vanderbilt and Lauren from Connecticut College—were also staying at Edna’s, and we even each had our own room with huge beds. Edna was this tiny, hip lady pushing mid-70s; she was a firecracker with more energy than the three of us combine, racing us all around the surrounding area throughout the weekend and cooking us ridiculous amounts of starchy foods. Edna had five grown kids and about 100 grandkids it seemed, and by the end of the first day we were already calling her Grandma, too. But she was the cool Grandma, the one who kept us up past midnight, chatting tirelessly and making sure our glass was always overflowing with red wine.
After the first day getting acquainted with Edna, we met up with the other dozen students in our program and their host families to explore the Inverurie area. Edna lives in a town just outside of Inverurie called Insch that had something like 10 residents to its name. Or rather, 1,630 people, says Wikipedia. But I still think that’s a stretch.
First, it was off to the Stone Circles of Daviot.
Then, to Castle Fraser. One of Scotland’s greatest draws is that you can’t drive far without running into a castle. This was far from the only castle we’d visit while living abroad.
That afternoon, we all went back to Edna’s for a huge picnic lunch, then that night it was off to her daughter Ann’s house for an even bigger feast. And some musical entertainment by some of my other friends in the Butler program.
On our final day in Insch, Lauren, Colleen and I spent the whole morning and afternoon alone with Edna. And the woman had no qualms about dragging us out of bed at 6am to attend “the largest car boot sale in the Europe” (allegedly). Still, like every other flea market, it was a whole lot of junk, people’s smelly old shoes and yellowing comics originally purchased for a penny, and nothing worth toting back to the States—but a memorable experience nonetheless.
Then, Edna took us Archaeolink, a geologic theme park, which I’m pretty sure was meant for kids half our age. Or maybe not, seeing as it didn’t take us long to assume the roles of modern day Vikings.
Inverurie was spectacular, and I will never forget Miss Edna Penny. But one thing left me bummed: During my time in the Highlands—and my subsequent visit later that fall—I was were never able to track down an Heilan’ Coo (or Highland Cattle for you English speakers). All the more reason to book a flight back to Scotland, stat, I suppose. (As if I needed yet another lure back to my favorite country.)