Tag Archives: Scotland

Happy Hogmanay

For most of the world December 31 is New Year’s Eve, but in Scotland it’s something much more important: Hogmanay. So what is it? Hogmanay is a very big deal in Scotland. It’s the biggest day in the festive calendar, a celebration that makes Christmas Day seem very small indeed. It’s what the Scots call their New Year’s Eve celebrations—but these celebrations date back centuries, indeed, Hogmanay’s origins are viking. Norse invaders celebrated the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year, with wild parties in late December. Those parties began to incorporate elements from the Gaelic Samhain winter festival, which celebrates the beginning of winter, and Yule, whose celebrations were known as ‘daft days’ in Scotland. Like many annual celebrations, the end result is a mix of its various influences.

Why is it such a big deal? Because until very recently, Scots didn’t do Christmas. The party-loving Protestant Reformation effectively banned Christmas for 400 years, and Christmas Day didn’t even become a public holiday in Scotland until 1958 and Boxing Day didn’t become a holiday until 1974. So while the rest of the world celebrated Christmas, the Scots toiled. Their family get-togethers happened at Hogmanay instead.

Edinburgh’s Hogmanay is the biggie: it starts with a massive torchlit parade on December 30, includes a huge fireworks display, has musical performances, and pulls a crowd from more than 60 different countries. Other Scottish cities have big parties too, but Edinburgh’s one is the biggest.

How can one celebrate Hogmanay properly? There’s no right or wrong way to celebrate Hogmanay, but if you want to do what many Scots do you’ll have a nice meal with family and/or friends with plenty to drink–including whisky, of course–to toast the new year.

So, I wish you Happy Hogmanay and Happy New Year! Sláinte!

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I’m Leavin’ on a Jet Plane…

I’m leaving for my book tour / research trip to Ireland and Scotland tomorrow. Today was spent packing and finishing last minute details. Check out Roarke’s new hair cut.



In this photo, you can see the bits of black in his coat. Haven’t seen that since he was a wee pup. To see those pictures, go to my website at http://www.jordanbernal.com and click on Media Kit.

I’ll check in and post next in Ireland!!


Filed under 2014 Ireland /Scotland Trip, Writing

St. Patrick’s Day

Happy St. Patrick’s Day. Please check out the video of my poem and photographs entitled: Coming Home: To The Place Where I Belong



Filed under Ireland 2011, Scotland 2011, Writing

Century House Poetry, Aug 21, 2011

Century House Poetry invited one and all to an open mic afternoon celebration of the poetry of ‘Coming Home’. Here is what coming home means to me.


I’m coming home, to a place I’ve never been before

I’m called, to a land of my dreams and my destiny

I feel at peace, standing in the center of stone monuments erected centuries ago

With the shrubbery covered arch, a perfect frame to St. Declan’s Well

Peat bogs and mountains of Connemara, peeking thru the mists and gray-blue skies

The whitethorn and stone ruins littering the landscape

So many shades of green, there are no words to describe

A modern city, cut in half by the sluggish flowing River Liffey

Trinity College with the Book of Kells, the festive pubs, and forever the craic

I’ve come home to the place where I belong, to the fairy isle of Ireland

I’m coming home, to a place I’ve never been before

I’m called, to a land of my dreams and my destiny

I feel at peace, atop the fortress battlements, with the boom of the 1 o’clock gun

With panoramic views of Edinburgh Town, both old and new

Visiting the Crown Jewels and The Stone of Destiny

Bagpipers in full dress regalia play to the crowds along the Royal Mile

The lochs and glens rising north in the Highlands

Long ago battlefields and castle ruins lay under stormy rainbows

Stone dances, both known and obscure, used as burial sites and ancient calendars

I’ve come home to the place where I belong, to the magical place of Scotland

I’m coming home, to a place I’ve never been before

I’m called, to a land of my dreams and my destiny

I’ve come home to the place where I belong

Not to the land of my birth, but truly to the lands of my heart

D. Jordan Bernal         August 2011

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Trip DVD is ready

Eureka!! It must have been the offerings to the chocolate donut gods (thanks Lani & Marlene). I was finally able to figure out why the DVD of my photos and video clips from the trip wouldn’t burn- the menu screen had animation that kept the DVD from encoding. Once I stopped the animation, I was rewarded with a freshly burned DVD (believe me, this was a good thing).

So, to recap: I whittled down over 3500 photos and 50 video clips to a more respectable DVD slide show (complete with music) and short video clips of all three locations (Ireland, Scotland, & England). And, the whole show is just under one hour.

Tea & biscuits, anyone? How about tea & Scottish whisky? Or Guinness? For all my friends close by, I’ll send out some invites for the viewing party. We’ll probably need a few different days and times to accommodate everyone.

Slainte mhath! (To your very good health!)

Me and Newgrange, Co. Meath, Ireland


Filed under England 2011, Ireland 2011, Scotland 2011

Scottish Highlands – May 19

May 19: Day 2 of the Highlands tour and we are off to see Clava Cairns – 4000 year old stone circles and burial mounds. Let me just say: Awesome!! So like the ones in Ireland. When I write book 2, my Scottish dragons will need to reside near these stones to pull their magic from this place.

We continued to Culloden Moor where Bonnie Prince Charlie’s Jacobites were finally defeated by government soldiers in April 1746. After reading Diana Gabeldon’s Outlander series, I have a loyalty to the Jacobites and seeing this battlefield and the many headstones of the Highland Clans was heartwrenching.

Onward through the Cairngorms National Park toward Pitlochry. We stopped briefly at Ruthuen Barracks, another stategic government stronghold of the time.

Lunch in Pitlochry. Notice the McKay?? Ancestors of mine?

We toured the Blair Athol Distillery. They produce excellent Scottish Whisky. No photos allowed inside due to the high alcohol content within the buildings (risk of sparks from electronic devices).

Our last stop of the tour was at the Hermitage, where we hiked a lovely path to a waterfall and got to see some forest.

The tour concluded back in Edinburgh. Our tour guide, Bill, told wonderful, rich stories of all that we saw. I met some wonderful peopleKen and Connie from Canada, Andrew and Lisa from Tasmania, and the rest of the baker’s dozen. I am so glad I found this tour and was able to join in. It had everything I wanted to see in the Scottish Highlands and more. Kudos to Heart of Scotland Tours.


Filed under Scotland 2011

Scottish Highlands – May 18

May 18:  I embark on a 2 day tour through the Highlands. After meeting tour guide Bill and the twelve other passengers, the 15 seat bus headed out of Edinburgh. We passed Stirling Castle, but had no time to stop for a tour.

Our first stop was in the Trossachs to meet the living legend, Hamish the Hairy Highland Cow and his young offsping, Honey.

Next, we stopped in Glen Coe, perhaps the most famous Scottish glen. This narrow valley is where the bloody massacre of the Macdonald Clan by the Campbells took place in 1692. The landscape is gorgeous, volcanic mountains carved from thousands of years of glacial ice.

Onward we pressed to Glenfinnan. There we saw the Glenfinnan Viaduct which has been featured and made famous in the Harry Potter movies.

Glenfinnan is historically important as the landing site of Bonnie Prince Charlie in mainland Scotland to begin his 1745 Jacobite Rebellion. (More on this later). Glenfinnan Monument erected in honor of the Bonnie Prince.

Due to the incliment weather, we could not see the whole of Ben Nevin, Britain’s highest mountain. So, we travelled on to Loch Ness and Urquhart Castle. The castle was attached, but never breached- though the garrision there were determined to keep it from Jacobite forces and eventually tried to burn in to the ground. What remains today is as close as they got to completely leveling this strategic location.

It rained hard for some time while we explored the ruins, then we were treated to a fantasic rainbow over Loch Ness. (There may even be Nessie in the picture somewhere).

We concluded day 1 in Inverness (which translates to: mouth of the river Ness). A great first day in the Highlands.


Filed under Scotland 2011