Journeyís StartThis is my eighth annual trip to Scotland. During the past seven years, I have discovered the joys of single malt Scotch whisky, and visiting distilleries and whisky shops has become a significant part of my itinerary. And thereís nothing I like better of an evening than to enjoy a nice dinner, good pints of real ale, a few drams, and the company of friends, old or new, in a friendly pub. I have my favorites, to which I return year after year; and Iím always looking for new ones.
But the product of hard-working yeast is not my only reason for visiting Scotland, of course. Iím interested in the countryís history, and enjoy seeing sites ranging from the prehistoric, through the medieval, and on up to the early industrial. As a mildly serious amateur photographer, I like to document these, and also the amazing Scottish landscape. The amazing Scottish weather does not always cooperate! Traveling in September and October, when I can take time off from my job, I miss the nesting birds and the purple heather, and I get more than my share of rain. But I miss the coachloads of tourists, for the most part, and the midges, as well. There are always trade-offs.
This yearís trip begins under a cloud. My father, who has had several strokes, has recently gone into a nursing home, and is obviously declining. I consider canceling, but everything is booked, and thereís no telling how things will go, anyway. And I have finally convinced my good friends Bobby and Ron to join me for a week in Edinburgh and Islay, and I donít want to let them down. So I say goodbye to Dad and, hoping for the best, go on my way.
The trip is scheduled from 18 September to 25 October, 2005, and the planned stops include Shetland, Craigellachie, Plockton, Skye, Knoydart, Stirling, Edinburgh, Glen Coe, Islay, and Galloway, with a few loose days at the end in which I intend to visit northern England. There is a good mix of old and new, and Iím looking forward to all of it. I barely realized when I was planning that I would be seeing Scotlandís northernmost and southernmost extremes, Muckle Flugga in the first week and the Mull of Galloway in the last. The two points seem fitting bookends for a visit to Caledonia. Both have lighthouses on them, one built by Robert Louis Stevensonís father, the other by his grandfather. There is an awful lot to see in between, and in seven years, Iíve seen a great deal. But thereís always more....