May 17

Riding across the top of Scotland

We spent the morning and a bit of the afternoon in Durness, shopping and exploring the little artists’ village there. It was originally a military installation that never really got off the ground. Eventually the government invited some folks to come live and work there, and so the artists moved in. After a good long while, they were given the option to buy the little buildings. It is a great little walking area. Everything is close together, the tourists come and browse it all and, in our case, we hit about half the stores and picked up a few souvenirs from some of them. We had chit chat and got some tips for what to do on the last bit of our trip and generally had a casual time of it.

I said it was an artists village. Did I mention the chocolatier? There is a chocolate store there. They call it a factory. It doesn’t quite fit the sense of scale you might imagine, but you can … fudge … a bit on the details.

They also boast the world’s best hot chocolate:

You got to hand-select the bits of chocolate you would chase the hot chocolate with, so that was a nice bonus. And it may or may not be the world’s best hot chocolate, but we agreed it was tasty:

A few quick pictures on our way out of Durness:

And then our right turns continued. We are going across the top of Scotland today. We ran across this just after we’d left the village. Ceannabeinne Beach, is known in its Gaelic name, as the beach of the burn of bereavement and death. There’s a tragic old woman drowned here story. And, almost as sad, there are ruins of former farms where families were forced off their lands. But the beach, just down from the road, and isolated enough to be delightfully empty, is a lovely looking place:

Some time later we pulled into Dunnet Head. Today it was chilly and breezy and felt fairly lonely. You go there to see it. If it had been warmer we might have stayed a bit longer, and that would have been OK, too. Anyway, this is the northernmost point of the mainland British Isles.

Though Scotland also records its actual northernmost point on an island some 170 miles in the distance.

We did not swim out there.

We sea kayaked.

(We didn’t do that, either. Thankfully no one had that idea.)

That rock type is called Old Red Sandstone, by the way. You can see it here, Ireland, Norway, Greenland and on the northeastern seaboard of North America.

May 17

Edinburg to Inverlochy to Fort William to Inverness

We’ve set off for the Highlands on a grand adventure! And this is where the geography started to change.


You go over a hill, round two curves and the landscape is entirely different:


It is rugged and scrappy and harsh:


And it holds a brutal beauty all its own, which is impossible to capture in just one or two pictures:


So let’s try a panorama. Click to embiggen and scroll around:


This is St. John’s Episcopal Church. Looks ancient, but is pretty young for these parts. It was built in 1842:


That church is in the village of Ballachulish, which is where the mountains and a lake and a river estuary meet. This is the time of year to visit, because of all of the bluebells:


This church may well wind up as the video on the front page of the site, soon …

Opposite the church is Loch Leven. Pronounce it “Li’ un,” or, in the local Gaelic, as “Lee’ oon.” Click to embiggen and scroll around:


Lunch was in Fort William — a charming little tourist town with about 10,000 residents and a history dating back to the 17th century when the English were busy dealing with the Scots and, later, to control them through force. It is named after William of Orange, the Duke of Cumberland, who the Scots called “Butcher Cumberland.” I had a nice steak and ale pie there.

We stopped off in a light drizzle at Inverlochy Castle. I made a video:

And then we made our way up near Inverness, where our B’n’B is. We’ll stay for two nights in a room with a view of Loch Ness. As in …


Didn’t see Nessie today, though we have a fine vantage point:


After dinner in a pub in Inverness — I do enjoy pub food just a bit too much, I know — we got back to Kimcraigan just in time for a great light show. A double rainbow. Again, click to scroll around in the larger version:


Tomorrow, we’re finding Nessie.

May 17

Mondays never have clever post titles

The best restive kind of weekend. Slept in and and then did only what I wanted to do on Saturday. This included turning on lights seldom used and in random combinations throughout the evening. Also, I cleaned out the leftovers from the refrigerator. To most people this means dragging the garbage can over and doing the transfer of goods routine. Or the Transfer of Foodstuffs That Were Once Good and No Longer Are routine.

Me, I just ate them. Two dishes from last week that made their way into the fridge were lunch and dinner on Saturday. Then I cleaned my office.

Sunday, I made the mother’s day calls, went to the grocery store, watched a bike race and road my bicycle.

I made several passes on that deer, so I got plenty of fuzzy photos:


Also, nearby, was a rabbit:


Maybe they’ll both come over and help with the next set of leftovers.

Today, back to the office, where things are taking place and some work is getting down and meetings are being held. Then home and, while walking to the car, I saw another rabbit:


I’m guessing it was a different rabbit. It could be the same one. The two sightings were only about a mile or so apart. I don’t know why that first rabbit would need to hop this direction, but it is possible. (Not pictured, another rabbit, which was hiding in the shrubbery.)

And then another bike ride. I did an hour in a low gear, mashing and lifting the pedals as quickly as I can, on the flattest course I could find, where I still managed to gain 503 feet over 16 miles. But I held my highest pace of the year so far. That deserves a handlebar shot:


And another ride tomorrow.

May 17

From our long(ish) weekend ride

It was hard and slow, like all of my rides have been so far this year, but the weather was nice and the company was pleasant and the scenery was pretty. So you don’t complain. You do, but no one wants to hear about how slow you’re going. They just want you to keep up with them.

Anyway, it was a 45-mile ride and here are some of the pictures I took chasing The Yankee and our cycling club buddy Stephen around. Here’s one of the few flat spots, with wildflowers growing in the fields just off the roadways:


Two people riding better than me at the moment:


We went over a causeway on the lake. Still chilly, I’d bet, but awfully pretty:


Looking up through the trees as I went uphill one more time:


Where would you like to go next? They’re deciding, I’m catching my breath, probably:


Seriously, almost all day, just like this:


This picture doesn’t do it justice, but we topped off on a hill and the trees opened up and you could look down and out on what felt like just about everything. It is silly, no higher than we’d climbed, but it was a real top-of-the-world sensation:


And one more slight incline to enjoy.


They teach you, in a photography class, all about using lines in a composition to frame action and attract the eye. I often think about that when I’m shooting, of course. But not when I’m riding and huffing and puffing. It just worked out this time. That’s the great thing about a bike ride. It can be hard. You can be slow. It just works out.

May 17


Just another quiet Monday. Things are a bit slower at the office this week. It is finals week, so the activities change and that alters the complexion of the day. Seems quieter and slower, somehow. Anyway, the students are cramming and writing and working.

The seniors, meanwhile, are getting ready to graduate this weekend and head off for their next big adventure. So we’re saying goodbye to some good folks. I’ve only known them a year, but you still hope the same things. You hope you’ve done enough to help them. You hope you’ve done it right.

We went to the Surplus Store this afternoon. The entire university system sends all of their extras and leftovers to this one location and today and tomorrow they are having a half-off sale. So I bought two things.


I got this frame for $.50. I figured I’d take out the print and that text, which basically describes, in the most basic way possible, the traditional art of matadors. Bull fighting is just about the least interesting thing in the world to me, and not especially sporting in any sense. But, hey, how often do you get a decent frame and a matter for fifty cents?

So naturally The Yankee is teasing me, telling me I should hang it just as it is. I said I would, but only in the foyer, which is still looking for what we’ve come to call an accent piece. And that’s the wall it would sit on. Don’t you think the tones all compliment one another?

We’re not hanging the bull fighting photo in the foyer.