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I celebrated a birthday a couple weeks ago and it coincided with a planned weekend retreat that I had signed up for with my university department.  What retreat?  Well, let me tell you…

I am doing Celtic studies at Edinburgh and the department is quite small.  It is, however, very lively and very interested in communicating with others in the Celtic field.  So several departments, including those at Glasgow, Harvard, and Aberdeen, put their heads together and decided that a weekend retreat in which to gather and discuss Irish and Welsh texts would be just the thing to start off the summer.

I was, of course, delighted.  And to top it all off, the retreat would take place in a massive mansion-turned-B&B in the highlands.  Happy birthday to me!

I didn’t quite know what to expect, but The Burns turned out to be incredibly beautiful.  We all dropped our bags in the hall and joined the gathering ‘crowd’ (there were about two dozen total) in the drawing room.

Yes, there is a drawing room.  See?

We had tea and got to know each other and learned about the weekend schedule.  Oh and did you know that Queen Victoria once sat over by the fire and sipped tea in that room?  Oh, yes, she did!

The weekend was packed with small group discussions of two texts: Aided Medb and Branwen. I wasn’t familiar with the first one, which is Irish, but I had done a lot of work with the Welsh text Branwen.  The discussions proved to be absolutely fascinating.

Yes, I am that nerdy.  I loved it!

The food was wonderful.  We were summoned to the dining room by a massive gong.  After each meal, there would be tea and on Saturday, we took a walk around the grounds.

The walk was amazing.  Apparently, the house is quite close to a place where landmasses once came together and you can still see the jagged line where they met up who knows how long ago?

A rushing river flows right through the gap.  We walked along the edge of it and enjoyed the glimpses of blue sky through the clouds.  It had predicted rain all day, so the fact that we were only getting clouds and even some sunshine was an unexpected pleasure.

There’s a very precarious looking bridge across the river.  I didn’t cross it, though.

On the way back, we found a secret door into a mysterious wood.  Sadly, I didn’t get a chance to go through and test my passage-to-Narnia theory.  Next time, maybe.

On Sunday, we had to say goodbye to the beautiful mansion that had taken such good care of us.  There was plenty of discussion about next year’s event (which, sadly, I will not be able to go to).  But maybe someday when I’m doing a PhD in Celtic Studies, I’ll get a chance to rejoin the fellowship.  Here’s the Edinburgh group!I was whisked back to Edinburgh just in time to run up to my flat, drop off my things, and rush back down to hop a train to Glasgow.  One more birthday weekend bonus was a concert featuring Keith and Kristyn Getty and Stuart Townend, whom I love.  Who really needs cake for a birthday, anyway?