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Day 1: Kilted New Hampshire: The Highland Festival

After a short travel day from Chicago to Manchester to the middle of nowhere Waterville Valley, we began our first full day in New Hampshire’s White Mountains with tickets to the largest Scottish Festival in the country. Last weekend, 45,000 people went to Loon Mountain and created the biggest gathering of hairy men in dresses since last year’s Provincetown’s Bear Week.

This isn’t the reason we’re vacationing in New Hampshire, (although I would never admit it if it were) but when something like this is an hour away and comes up #1 in a Google search of “Things to do in the Granite State,” it must be explored.

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With only a single Saturday pass and a 9-month old, we didn’t get to immerse ourselves into what was a weekend of highland games, educational workshops, music and dance competitions and an endless supply of ear-scorching bagpipers. However, we did see enough to write something snarky about it.

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Over 50 clans came from around the country to pitch their tent, share their history and perform various feats of skills that may or may not have been useful in repelling the less fashionable British from their lands. Certainly, the aural power of 100 bagpipers marching fearlessly alongside thousands of burly, kilted men wielding huge axes and beards stained with haggis would put the fear into even the greyest of Earl Grey drinkers.

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Margo and Quinn taking a breather in the shade.

Joining us for the festivities was Elise’s childhood friend Margo, who, like myself, comes from a long line of Armstrongs. While our historically thieving, lawless clan didn’t have representation this year, the proud and storied Clan Buchanan offered up their knowledge about the Armstrongs, in particular, their skill in horseback riding that is showcased to this day in an annual cross-country race. The pointed mention about how the Armstrongs still make a habit of stealing chickens was never backed up with proof. For now, I’ll consider that fake news.

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Beer, dance and food rounded out the day. Having seen enough plaid to clothe Eddie Vedder a hundred times over, we boarded a shuttle bus back to the car and drove 45 minutes back to our mountainside resort. The conversation could be summed up:

“What the hell did we just see? And why is it in the middle-of-nowhere New Hampshire?”


PS. To readers who want to join the many lovely Scottish descendants that honestly and proudly share their culture with seriousness and intent to keep traditions alive, I’ll write something a little less snarky and more informative about our experience. Until then, keep your chickens close and your tartan held high!

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Finding Clan Armstrong

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Having traveled extensively in the past with an artist and educator schedule, I now spend my non-working hours calming a tired infant, searching for the best sazerac and getting the most out of our urban garden. As we inevitably write more about traveling with children, we'd love to read your comments about how you create the perfect comfort/adventure balancing act. Thanks for reading!

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