Written by: Denise Stewart
The event was scheduled to take place at the Hartwood Acres Stable Complex, just north of Pittsburgh, PA. Called the Hartwood Highlander Happening, it was touted as a celebration of all things Outlander, a day promising to be filled with an Outlander experience… oh, and a whisky tasting too! As the day approached, the weather forecast was becoming less and less favorable for an outdoor event—unless said event was to be one giving its visitors a full-on Scottish experience. In that case, the weatherman did not disappoint. The rains were always present and, at times, downpours threatened to hinder events (but never succeeded), while the temperature sat happily in the mid-40s (Fahrenheit that is). But the atmosphere was set, and our hosts assured us that they did not pay extra for the authentic Scottish weather.
Early May in southwestern Pennsylvania is very green. The leaves on the trees are young and new. When it rains, it seems to amplify the colors and the greens seem even more vibrant. Although the day was gloomy, as I turned onto the gravel road towards the stables, there seemed to be a bit of glow from the green. We were told that there would be signs and maybe even a kilted man to guide us when parking. What we weren’t told was that the man might resemble a certain show runner that we have all come to know and love!
I’m not going to lie. I really wanted to squee a little as I got out of my car. This was really happening! (Can you imagine if I ever make it TO Scotland?) I met up with Bitsy (“said friend” mentioned above) and her sister, Marcie, and we proceeded to the check-in table. The sounds from a lone bagpipe set the atmosphere for the day. And we had to keep our eyes open for every little, and big, detail that our hosts put out for us. One of the first was this lovely sight…
….now, if I can only find the owner of that shirt. Jamie?! Jaaaa-mieee!
We were given a swag bag that included a lavender sachet, whose instructions included placing it under our pillow to “ensure sweet dreams” of a handsome Highlander. Um, all I can think of now is BJR when I smell lavender, so maybe I’ll save it for somewhere other than my bed. Also included were coins for “The Green Owl Tavern,” bottles of Highlander water for “deoch uisge”(drink of water), honey sticks, a pocket guide to some common Scottish-Gaelic phrases, Walker’s shortbread, and a beautiful charm bracelet with a charm of the Ahtlander Pittsburgh tartan and a symbol from one of the books. My charm was the Scottish thistle.
After check-in, we headed to the stables where merchants were set up in different stalls. As I stepped into the stall area, I felt as though I were transported back in time to a small marketplace. Each of the vendors displayed their merchandise so beautifully. One vendor sold Scottish items, including charms, shortbread, necklaces and many small knick knacks. Another sold her crocheted items, including arm warmers, cowls and blankets. A spinster sat at the wheel making shawls and wraps (many I’m sure were bought out of necessity for this cold and windy day). Another stall featured teas, oils, balms, and stones. Cloaks and hats were a great item for the inclement weather as well. And if you wanted to take a little bit more homemade home with you, another lady sold her own jellies, jams, and canned goods.
Easter eggs were hidden throughout this marketplace while signs of Jamie and Claire were everywhere, from the “Wanted” signs to the J. Fraser wine merchant table. The watering hole, meanwhile, was flanked with signs of Castle Leoch and the Fraser clan. Visitors could also have photos taken with a life-sized Jamie, Claire, or Donas.
The first scheduled event was a performance by the Pittsburgh Scottish Country Dance Society. This group of vibrant adults performed under the tent outside, and kept their spirits—and their audience—nice and warm on this less than warm day. They wore authentic Scottish kilts and arisaids of the varying clans. It was quite a sight. By the time they were done, everyone was tapping their feet and clapping their hands with big smiles on their faces. It was quite the remedy for a chill to the bone.
|Pittsburgh Scottish Country Dance Society|
Lunch was next! For our pig roast luncheon, we expected a buffet of fresh fruits, hearty bread, roasted potatoes and roast pig. We did not expect to have the experience of having the roast pig paraded through the crowd escorted by the bagpiper! It was a marvelous sight… and the meal was delicious.
On our our way to the Green Owl Tavern, we felt as if we were on a path down history. The “streets” if you will, were covered in cobblestone/brick, and uneven and muddy in spots. Once again, so authentic. Robert Gangewere was our authority on Scottish Legends and Lore. He is an author who has a lot of expertise in the history of Andrew Carnegie and the Carnegie Museums as well as the Library of Pittsburgh. We had the pleasure of sitting with him during lunch. He provided us with a lot of information and history about the Carnegies and Pittsburgh. Great for a history nut like me.
Finally!!! We were invited to join in on the experience and education of whisky tasting. I have had some Scotch whiskys before, but had never experienced a tasting! The Laphroaig representative provided us with information about the history, manufacturing, distribution, and tasting of the whisky. It was a welcome drink on this day. It made me realize just why whisky was such a popular drink in this region of the world. It warms the soul for sure.
I had to bid my goodbyes at this time, which unfortunately was before I got to listen to a fine lady speak about the Healing Herbs of the 18th Century. I am hoping to hear her someday. I mean can’t everyone use a little healing at times?
As I was leaving the stables and heading to my car, I glimpsed up at the hillside and caught a glimpse of something. Could it be? I had to check it out! Yep….
…our very own standing stones! I didn’t have the time to touch them now—my real life was waiting for me on the other side of the glade. But maybe someday… in my dreams… in Western Pennsylvania??
Special thanks to the hostesses of this event, Toni and Patti, and their team. They paid such attention to every detail! There were little Outlander nuggets everywhere. And I even felt like the weather contributed to the whole experience, giving me all the feels! It was INCREDIBLE! I can only say that for this being my first experience, it will be a hard one to beat. Thank you for a wonderful day!