We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
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Monday, July 17. 2017
Our group of 8 assembled at the Inverness train station, and proceeded by van through the mainland Highlands to Skye.
Highlands, where they cut down all the trees centuries ago:
Like many or most of the place names in the Hebrides, "Skye" is Norse. And speaking of languages, 60% of Hebrideans speak "Gallic." That's the Scottish Gaelic. All signs are in "Gallic" and English. Luckily, they also speak a strange form of English which is possible to understand at times.
Once over the new bridge to Skye, we took a 2-hr warm-up hike during which the weather changed from fog to drizzle to heavy rain to peeks of sun. A good intro to island weather. Not for sissies.
Lotsa stuff below the fold. We do it for you -
Then we proceeded to our inn on Skye, the Stein Inn (that's the Norse, not German, Stein). An inn since 1790. Cramped quarters but hot water and plenty of good simple food including raspberry-lemon curd crumble.
Front yard of the inn, morning. Yes, some palms. It never freezes and never warms.
Did I mention Scottish toilets? Three-flushers. Low-flow must be an EU rule to "save water" in the wettest place you can imagine.
The little pub in there boasted 125 varieties of malt whisky.
On Skye, we hiked up to touch the base of The Old Man of Storrs (legs, do your thing) in rain, slippery trails and terrible footing. It's a lot further than it looks.
Very bouldery on top
Views from up there when the weather cleared up a bit
We did the Quiraing Hike which was hairy and treacherous at some points. I sort of hate jumping across gorges to land on slippery boulders that you had to grab with your hands, but the only alternative was shame. We got all the way to "the prison" though.
We also had some less-strenuous walks, but we had to get to the top of every high spot, like that rock. It's just human nature
Did I mention that there are sheep and sheep poo everywhere? Obnoxious critters but the wool has value.
The harbor in the metropolis of Uig, from which we took the ferry north to Tarbert on Harris
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So why no second growth forest or trees? It isn't dry like Easter Island.
I assume they cut down all their trees to build ships, but I've always wondered why they never grew back. The weather suits me, but it looks like the most boring landscape I could imagine.
A 125 varieties of whisky?!
The decline of Scottish trees started with the Romans who needed timber for forts and lots of firewood for heating. The English took what was left and the locals finished them off clearing land for crops. There are trees, just not a lot and not in the highlands at all. Scotland is a fairly poor country so planting trees must be a low priority.
Luckily, they also speak a strange form of English which is possible to understand at times.
IOW, typical Scotsmen.
I once looked at monthly temperature data for some places in the Hebrides, such as Skye. There was less winter-summer variation than in most places. For being so far north, the winter temperatures were balmy compared to more continental climates, due to the Gulf Stream. I also noted that summer temperatures in the Hebrides were quite similar to winter temperatures in Texas- 60/40 highs and lows. I LOVE Texas winters. Overall, even with the rain, the Hebrides climate sounds fairly pleasant.
An aunt of mine had an interesting reaction to visiting Scotland. She told us she felt as if she had come home. As her maiden name was Scott, I guess she may have had some reason for doing so.
Surprised you did not mention the sunset at 10 pm and sunrise
at 5 am. That is one of my memories of Scotland in May a few
years ago. May was pretty dry.
The coast of Maine and many of Maine islands are much prettier.
Would like to know whether you planned your own trip or went with a travel service. I am going to the Highlands and outer islands in March. I know the Lowlands but need help beyond Inverness.
Unless you have a specific purpose like hiking I'd say do it yourself. The drive from Inverness to Skye through Fort William, Rannoch Moor, and the Glencoe Mountains. Once on Skye take a left to Elgol for a night then take a boat to hike around Loch Coruisk, a place so ruggedly beautiful it's said that Victorian women would faint at the sight of it. At Uig take the ferry to Tarbert on Lewis and explore to your heart's content. The beaches on Lewis and Harris are breathtaking and there is no such thing as a wrong turn. Work your way north to Stornoway and take the ferry to Ullapool, we think the prettiest town in Scotland. Drive the coast road to Applecross and over the pass to Loch Carron and from there back to Glasgow.
We rarely make B&B reservations and have never had to sleep in the car. In close to 50 B & B nights there has only been one we'd never go back to and several more that we wouldn't choose again for various reasons.
You might be interested in reading Swiming with Seals, about swimming off the Orkney Islands.
Amazon doesn't have a review yet, but The Scotsman does. Book review: Swimming With Seals by Victoria Whitworth
There’s no shortage of books about wild swimming out this month and next, to the extent that some larger bookshops may soon need to think about making space for a dedicated wild swimming section. In Floating (Duckworth Overlook, out now), journalist Joe Minihane follows in the footsteps (breaststrokes?) of Roger Deakin and embarks on a wild swimming odyssey around the UK, while in Turning – A Swimming Memoir (Virago, 4 May), Jessica J Lee sets out to swim 52 of the lakes around Berlin, sometimes using a hammer to break the ice before taking the plunge. There’s some wild swimming history, too, in Swell by Jenny Landreth (Bloomsbury, 4 May), which tells the story of the “swimming suffragettes” who, in the early decades of the 20th century, made swimming – both in artificial pools (probably best not to say “man-made” in this context) and in lakes, rivers and seas – the egalitarian pastime it is today.The Orkneys are further north than the Hebrides. Not everyone swims in such cool waters, but some do.
Perhaps the most intriguing prospect of the lot, however, and certainly of most interest to Scottish readers, is Swimming With Seals, by the academic and novelist Victoria Whitworth. Ostensibly, it’s a book about her experiences of swimming off the coast of Orkney (wetsuit-less, since you ask, and yes, all year round) where she lived for several years. But there’s so much more going on under the surface – so many interesting undercurrents pulling the reader in different directions – that to simply call it “a book about wild swimming” would be to miss the point.
Although she swims off different Orkney beaches at different times of year, sometimes with members of the local wild swimming club, sometimes alone, Whitworth’s typical routine involves a solo swim in the waters of Eynhallow Sound, between mainland Orkney and the island of Rousay. “To the uninitiated eye,” she writes, “the vista is barren, treeless, sparsely inhabited, raw, wild, as though time and humanity have no effect here.” The great thing about Whitworth, however, is that her academic interest lies in the culture and society of Britain in the Early Middle Ages, particularly in relation to death and burial; so whereas a tourist might see a certain “minimalist appeal” in the stark Orkney landscape, to her it is a place overflowing with layer upon layer of hidden meaning.
“The truth is,” she writes, “the landscape in front of me has been overwritten many times across thousands of years, scraped back by forces of geology and weather as well as human activity, revised and inscribed again.” Later, she explains how, against this ancient backdrop, “time feels gossamer-thin”.
No bathing attire. I would have jumped in the beaches in Harris.