In a symbolically pivotal scene of the movie Braveheart, William Wallace bounds across the top of a mountain range in the Scottish Highlands to the tune of a bagpipe-dominated musical score. Intercut with this shot is a montage of Scotsmen spreading the word of Wallace’s exploits.
“William Wallace killed fifty men. Fifty.”
“A Hundred men. With his own sword. Cut through them like…”
“Like Moses through the red sea!”
The scene ends with Wallace standing upon a high crag, perched at what seems like the top of Scotland, as the musical track aptly titled “The Legend Spreads” builds to a crescendo. From an eagle-eye view, the camera slowly pans around William, revealing the highlands in all their glory.
I keep a mental bucket list of travel goals I want to accomplish in my life. The list is eclectic and includes both fairly cliché goals (witnessing the beauty of the sakura in Japan) and ridiculously random ones (drinking a fernet branca at a café on the banks of the Arno River a la Alfred in the Dark Knight Rises).
For as long as I can remember, the #1 item on that list has been the following:
“Run through the Scottish Highlands with the Braveheart theme blasting through my headphones.”
Well, I finally got a chance to knock it off the list when I visited Scotland in September of 2016 with my family. But a weird thing happened. My family and I traveled the country by car, and had so much to do – castles tours, loch cruises, Nessie sightings – that the whole week went by without a chance to get up into the mountains for a good hiking session. Whoops. I was a bit dejected by this failure, but was enamored with my trip so I told myself it didn’t matter.
After my parents left the country, I had a couple days in Edinburgh before flying to Iceland. So I decided to walk up to the top of Arthur’s Seat, “a hill for magnitude, a mountain in virtue of its bold design” as Robert Louis Stevenson said. Formed by an extinct volcano system, Arthur’s Seat provides a panoramic view of Edinburgh. And since Scotland is the stuff of legend, the area is often mentioned as one of the possible locations for Camelot, the castle and court of King Arthur.
I swear the next part of this story happened completely randomly:
As I finished the arduous ascent and scrambled up the sun-drenched rocks to the peak’s highest point, I heard a familiar sound: bagpipes. The theme from Braveheart had begun, blasting through my headphones via iTunes shuffle. Now, I only had like eight songs on my playlist that day so the odds of this happening weren’t small, but I’m still going to call it fate. And fate was glorious.
I sat at the top of Arthur’s Seat for the rest of the afternoon, listening to the movie’s score while enjoying Edinburgh views. It’s like I half-checked the item off my bucket list: it wasn’t the Highlands, but it would do for now – giving me reason to head back one day to finish my version of the legend.