Rain drops pounded the roof and wipers squeaked as the driver opened the door and announced, “Cross Roads”. It was time for us to leave the bus. Once outside my puffy, dry rain coat quickly flattened under the force of the rain and moulded around my shoulders as a slight chill crept in and replaced the warmth I had enjoyed on the bus. The thick cloud cover not only gave us a soaking but also robbed us of any moonlight. The single lane road leading to the hostel had no street lights or shoulder and its exact location from where we stood was unclear. Some would refer to that as being lost. Our plan was to walk the two miles from the bus stop to the hostel but considering the weather, darkness and the fact that we had yet to find the road it was time for a new plan.
We back tracked to a gas station near the bus stop. The fast talking attendant greeted me with, “Are yah lost? You’re in Glencoe.” I smiled and said, “I know I’m in Glencoe. I'm just not sure how to get to where I'm going. We want to get to the Scottish Youth Hostel.” She looked down and started flipping pages in a personal phone book. “Yah don't want tah walk down that road ta’night”, she advised in her Scottish brogue. Like a whirl wind she lifted up stacks of paper while she continued to speak to me, or herself, or maybe it was meant for both of us. Due to the accent and tendency of Scots to chop the ends off of words I didn't understand it all but it went something like this: “Where's me phone? Where’s me phone?… I don't know if he's drivin’ this late on a Sunday. Close thirty minutes ago myself weren't for the petro man here fillin' the tanks. He was suppose’ to have come five hours ago but it wasn' his fault… No answer. Guess he's not drivin’”.
She quickly punched in another number, started talking, then looked me in the eye and said, “He'll be here in twenty minutes. Just wait in here and stay dry.” Moments later she was serving us tea. As we waited she told us how she and her husband turned the single aisle gas station into the general store it is today. It's still small, three aisles, but contains an incredible range of stock including sleeping bags, skin cream, jumper cables, iPod covers, plumbing parts, milk… “Every time we got a few quid ahead we’d go to Fort Williams and pick up things that people on holiday forget.” I wanted to hear more of the story and she gladly would have told it but the taxi arrived sooner than expected. She poured our tea into paper cups then whispered, “He doesn't like you drinkin’ in the taxi but you can drink it when you get to the hostel. Have a nice holiday.”
The distance to the hostel was short but I had no regrets we took the taxi. The road was just as narrow and dark as expected and it was still raining. The Scottish hospitality continued at the hostel. The Glencoe hostel is segregated into male and female dorms. However the staff didn't want to “separate” Sue and I so they gave us a small six bunk room for our private use. Later in the week when a school group arrived and all the bunk rooms were needed they upgraded us to a private twin room at no extra charge.
When I lived in Virginia I read that a lot of Scottish-Irish immigrants settled in the Appalachian Mountains and were significant in America winning its freedom from England. Those Scottish-Irish roots live on today through the Highland Games, folk tales and regional music. But I also see a similarity in the Appalachian and Scottish peoples unpretentiousness, friendliness and genuine hospitality. I don’t claim any authority on the matter I simply see similarities and I am grateful to both clans for the kindness they have shown me.