Essay: An Inspiring Literary Road Trip Across The Pond

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I’ve had the privilege of flying over the Atlantic or “The Pond” quite a few times over the years, but the time I went in 2013 was extra special to me. For one, it was the first time overseas I’d ever visited the same place twice since I’d been there six years earlier at the exact same time of the year. So, when I disembarked the plane in Edinburgh, Scotland I was already feeling a bit of déjà vu. The second reason it was special was I was on the trip with my dear friend and writing partner, Carole Lehr Johnson.

Our lodging was a lovely and historic 1800s garden apartment–or flat–in the lovely Drumsheugh Gardens, a quiet area just minutes from the city center.

On the first night, we headed via taxi to a neat little dinner locale called The Elephant House. The quaint eatery has excellent food and a lovely view of Edinburgh Castle – but its most famous aspect is as the birthplace of Harry Potter. (J.K. Rowling wrote her early manuscripts there.)

I tried haggis there too, which is one of Scotland’s most popular traditional dishes that consists of the heart, liver and lungs of a sheep or calf minced with beef or mutton suet, onions, oatmeal and seasonings that is packed inside a sheep’s stomach and boiled.

You heard right.

I tried exactly one bite. It didn’t taste bad, but now I can say I tried it and that’s that. There are so many better things to eat in Scotland. Sticky Toffee Pudding for one…but I’ll get there in a minute.

The trip held a few literary highlights–many unintentional but equally inspiring for any writer or lover of books in general.

One of our prime destinations was Cruden Bay’s Slains Castle. A must-see for us since it’s the setting for one of our favorite split time novels, The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley. But first we had a nice lunch at the quaint hotel, The St. Olaf, where Kearsley stayed while researching for her novel. The dessert was quite memorable–a wonderful dark sponge cake covered in steaming butterscotch sauce with a scoop of vanilla ice cream at the side. I now declare it Scotland’s national dessert!

Then, after a very out-of-the-way walk, we finally found the castle at the end of a muddy footpath. Even teetering precariously at the edge of a sea cliff and much of the castle laying in ruins did not remove its splendor. It was truly breathtaking! And so surreal to walk where not only Kearsley’s characters in the beloved novel had but also the author herself.

And, furthermore, on the way by train from Scotland down to England we passed a rail station for Berwick-Upon-Tweed near the Scottish-English border and at that exact moment I was reading another of Kearsley’s novels, The Shadowy Horses, and guess where the main characters happened to me.

Of course, Berwick-Upon-Tweed. It was certainly an interesting merge of fiction and reality.

What’s your favorite literary location you’ve visited?
Or which would you love to visit?


  1. Blanche Smith

    I am looking forward to reading your books. Thank you.

    • Morgan Tarpley Smith

      Thank you so much! I’ll keep everyone updated as soon as that’s a possibility. 🙂


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Meet Morgan

A world traveling journalist and author who writes inspirational stories that transport women to faraway places and weaves past and present to explore questions of truth and faith.

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