Dec 17

People we saw today

We ran in the cold, wet, early morning air. It was a 5K run benefitting the Houston food bank. I was in brand new running shoes. I bought them Thursday, laced them up and then shuffled through the 30-degree morning.

But before that, we met two Santas!

We got those hats and red shirts with a giant Santa beard print on the front.

This evening we went into New York City to have dinner with our friend Emily:

She’s an art scholar and world traveler and a wonderful person and it has been too long since we have seen her. (She’s probably been to two more countries by the time I finish writing this sentence.)

More on Instagram and, of course, on Twitter.

May 17

Today’s slow motion videos

Of course I shot more of these. They are rather hypnotic and fascinating, wouldn’t you agree? Check ’em out:

The first video was on the journey on Cape Wrath. We were sitting on the van and the road bottoms out to the Daill River drainage basin. I shot this through the glass, thinking you don’t see places like too often:

For an American, though, I suppose you could say that a lot about this part of the world. Check out this terrain:

Science is just a few steps away from proving that bodies of freshwater just look more exotic if you call them lochs:

Of course those hills and mountains and clouds making such a dramatic backdrop don’t hurt, either:

You’d have to work hard to top a view like this:

May 17

Cape Wrath and Smoo Cave, in Durness Scotland

There’s a ton of great stuff here. (The short version is, if you’ve contemplated visiting Scotland, you should make it happen.) In this post there are two videos, two dozen photos and a panorama at the end. They are all worth seeing, so let’s get right to it.

I took this picture thinking, really, how often are you going to see a lamb warning written on a tire?

Six times, as it turns out. Here are three of our Ovis friends now:

We visited Cape Wrath, on a whim, really, and it was worth it. I made you a video:

Only one person lives there now. There are a few houses, leftovers from the drovers and shepherds. And you drive right by the bombing range. It is a sparse and scenic one hour, 11-mile van ride to get up to the cape. The whole trip is worth it. Here’s some photo proof:

Cape Wrath is about a mile out of Durness, which is the little village on the northwest corner of Scotland. In that little quiet little place there are two small restaurants, an artists’ village, one gas pump, a hotel and Smoo Cave:

This area is dangerous for stick figures named Cliff. (The rest of us are on our own.)

Hey, sheep, your name isn’t Cliff, is it?

Finally, this panorama is from above the inlet at Smoo Cave. Way, way off in the distance to the left you could just make out Cape Wrath. And way off in the distance to the right, on a clear day, you could almost imagine seeing the far cliffs of the north east of Scotland. We’ll be there in a day or so. As always with the panoramas on the site, click to embiggen:

May 17

From Shieldaig to Overscaig – with so much in between

There are three videos, three panoramas and 10 photos below. You’ll enjoy them all.

If you’re just joining this story, we’re touring Scotland. It is a big tour and a grand place. It is worth your consideration.

We’re touring all of Scotland. This is what we are driving:

Vauxhall Adam

For scale, each letter above the car is the width of a quarter. Place them edge to edge, that’s the size of our car. It holds everything we brought to the UK, but only just. And all of the things must be configured in a particular fashion to fit. But we have legroom, it is pretty easy on gas mileage and our Vauxhall Adam cranks every time. Today, it got driven a lot. And we stopped and started our way through a great deal of this magnificent countryside today.

Here are a few clips from this morning’s drive:

The day’s first panorama was at your standard issue, beautiful Scottish loch. Click to embiggen:

loch panorama

You could get used to this sort of thing.

We also hit the beach!

Udrigle Beach

This is Udrigle Beach. White sand, mountain views, odd smells. There were a few people enjoying the beautiful springtime weather. (We’ve been lucking out on the weather so far.) There were a few dogs digging in the sand. I had a nice little chat with an elderly woman who’d walked down from the nearby lodge to sit and soak up the sun. It was a lovely day, she said. She said it again to someone else, so you know she meant it.

Udrigle Beach

And here’s a beach panorama. Click to embiggen:

loch panorama

We watched the ocean from the roadside for some time today, too:

I realized I tend to take a lot of panoramas with water as a main focal point. So I changed this one up and put a person in one corner of the shot. Look how The Yankee is peering through her camera allllll the way across the shot. Click to embiggen:

Udrigle Beach panorama

We also saw this today:

Corrieshalloch Gorge

Let me explain.

We found that gorge along the way. This wasn’t one of our planned stops. It was just a name on the map. But you have to learn to be curious about names on maps. That curiosity often rewards you.

Down from the Victorian-era suspension bridge there is a viewpoint, where you see the gorge from a better perspective:

Then we saw a castle:

Ardvreck Castle

And you know what that means, right? Castle selfies:

Ardvreck Castle

I put the details of the ruins into a video package which is conveniently located here:

I don’t know how the routines in your life treat you, but we seldom get to take castle selfies, so we took another:

Ardvreck Castle

And now we are in Overscaig, which is about the most middle of nowhere place you can ever be. Over the last few days locals have been asking us our next stop. We’d tell them and they all said, “Where is that?” No one knows. And that’s a shame. It is simply stunning up here:

Vauxhall Adam

We’re dining in with our bed and breakfast hosts tonight. I have some more videos to show you after that. I’ve discovered a new technique that I’ll no doubt use far too often …

May 17

Where am I? Who am I?

We flew all night. Because red eye flights give one character. We flew on the Dutch airline, which is happy to feed you as long as you are happy to eat. And I watched three movies — The Founder, Reacher and something I’m already a bit foggy about. It was a long night, you understand.

And so we landed safely in Edinburgh, Scotland, which was the plan. We exited the plane onto the tarmac into a slight chill and a light sprinkle, feeling every bit like world weary rock stars in the world’s largest band that requires a plane with an upstairs level which I never checked out.

We shuffled through the U.K.’s Border Force version of customs and then began an approximately 10 minute walk to the car rental desks. Got our car, reminded each other to drive on the left side of the road and off we went, to check in to our AirBnB, where we’ll sleep all of this off in just a bit.

Met the owners, a lovely older couple, and then walked down the street to the Grassmarket, which has been a central part of the city since the late 15th century. Today, of course, it is part of the tourist path.

Just above, the famed Edinburgh Castle:


The timeline here is incredible. The castle sits above everything, and even today dominates the city’s skyline. There is archeological evidence of people there for perhaps more than two millenia. The castle has been there for at least 800 years, and was actually a royal residence until the 15th century when it became more of a military installation. Today: they give grand tours, I’m sure. In fact, it is Scotland’s most popular paid attraction.

We stayed below it. But, inside, you could see the Stone of Scone, or the Stone of Destiny. Scottish kings, and now the UK’s monarchies, are installed on this stone. The Scottish crown jewels are also on display there. The crown dates to 1540, the scepter to 1494 — it was a gift from Pope Alexander VI.

Mon’s Meg is also on display. This is a canon that could send a 330-pound projectile two miles downrange … in 1457. That’s state-of-the-art. It was used in actual combat for about 90 years.

St. Margaret’s Chapel is up there, too. It was built in the mid-12th century, which makes it so old that its historical origins were forgotten and then re-discovered in the mid-19th century. Otherwise, Wikipedia tells me, not many of the buildings at the castle are older than a 16th century siege. Newbies.

Walked by this:


At 17 feet by 14 feet, about 20 people can stand in there, they say. Notice, it is Scotland’s smallest, so I guess there is a bar somewhere in England that is more wee than this one.

We saw Boston’s smallest bar in 2005. It closed soon after, because the world needed new condominiums. Sometime later I heard the owner opened a new smallest bar in Boston and it closed, too. More condos. So watch out, Edinburg.

And we saw this. Interesting to see that this debate is ongoing in Scotland:


When, obviously the answer is Roger Moore.

Anyway, we have our car, got our bearings, had fish and chips and we stayed up until bedtime (which is the key to minimizing jetlag) and are now ready for our big trip. Tomorrow, we go north.