My absolute favorite place in the entire world is Scotland. If I could move tomorrow and have a way to support myself, I would go without looking back. Sadly, I haven’t been able to move there yet, but I have been fortunate enough to travel there on more than one occasion. In doing so, I found the perfect setting for my very first book.
Glenfinnan is a tiny village in the Highlands of Scotland, home to few people and occasional travelers. I first heard of this place in the 1986 movie Highlander. Fascinated with the story, I can’t tell you how many times I watched it. But it wasn’t just the story that drew my attention. It was the historical aspect of Scotland- kilts, clans, Scottish brogues and the most stunning scenery I’d ever seen. When I made plans to visit my family in northern England, I decided to take a trip up to Glenfinnan as well.
I took the train from Edinburgh, a several hour trip through cities, towns and eventually, mountains. When I got to the start of the mountains along the route, my heart expanded and I could almost hear the bagpipes playing in my head. Even with the drizzling rain and dark clouds, the mountains and green hills held such beauty.
Arriving in Glenfinnan, I was treated to a glorious view of the Glenfinnan Monument and Loch Shiel. Green hills with puffy white clouds dusting their tips, full trees blowing with the wind, and waters sparkling like diamonds took my breath away. Indeed, the train actually slowed down so the travelers could take pictures.
While there, I stayed at the Glenfinnan House Hotel (www.glenfinnanhouse.com), which was situated several yards back from the loch. The hotel was big and comfortable, with a fireplace right in the lobby that had crackling flames the day I arrived. With a fancy dining room, a lounge with games and books, and its very own pub, there was truly a room for everyone. Each of these rooms had giant windows overlooking the loch. The second floor held the guest rooms and I was a bit surprised and uncomfortable when I realized they had no locks on the doors. How could I trust my possessions would be safe without a lock for the door? But the way of life in this Highland village was much different than my American city, and soon, leaving my door unlocked felt more like the norm rather than the exception.
I spent quite a bit of time writing, going from room to room with my notebook and pen. I even sat in a comfortable chair in the lobby being warmed by the fire as I detailed my surroundings so I could use them in the book. I treated myself to a homemade scone and afternoon tea while I plotted my Highland love story. After dinner, I listened to locals in the pub with faint Scottish music playing in the background, and soon I too exchanged stories with the staff.
Sadly, I could only stay two nights. I had planned to take a boat ride on the loch, but the rain and cold weather (forcing me to wear my flannel pajamas in June!) prevented me from doing that. I did get a chance to walk down to the Glenfinnan Monument and to shop in its visitors’ center, but I chose to spend most of my time writing in the hotel. I had to find a way to share this place with my future readers.
As I stood waiting for the train back to Edinburgh, my heart squeezed a bit. The sun was shining, a slight breeze blew my hair, and tears stung the corners of my eyes. It may seem silly, but from the moment I first stepped off the train, I felt I had a connection to this Highland village with kind locals and gorgeous scenery. And you know what? I think a part of my heart stayed behind as the train chugged along the tracks, back toward the big city.
As soon as I returned home, I transformed my thirty handwritten pages of notes and scenes into my typed, organized romantic suspense story, Her Highland Champion. It took me a couple more years to revise it and find a home for it, but now I can share my “happy place” with readers everywhere. And someday I’ll make it back to Glenfinnan for that ride on the loch!
Here’s Alexa’s latest book, available in December.