Another year, another fine adventure! It starts with a long-overdue visit to Stonehenge in the deep south, loops up
through Wales and into the historic walled city of Chester, makes a brief detour into old haunts in the Yorkshire Dales,
and then enters familiar territory in Scotland. A highlight there is a stay in remote Knoydart. Kenny and Nick and Ian
show their faces, and Ron and Bobby join me for a trek from Butt to Barra in the Outer Hebrides. A triumphant ascent of
Bidean nam Bian and a sleepless night in Glasgow watching the Red Sox in the World Series finish it off.
As noted elsewhere on the site, photography is digital now, which eases the process in several ways. I have a better choice of photos to show, and an easier time selecting and posting them. The really exciting development for me is the advent of digital infrared photography (the black-and-white photos presented here). These are made with the aid of a Hoya R72 infrared filter, which is very nearly opaque to the naked eye. I'm very happy with the results--it's finally possible to let loose with infrared, without worrying about the expense and difficulty of handling of infrared film. I hope you'll forgive me if I was a bit too much in love with it the day I was at Caerphilly, a day when the light did not justify it. It was a chance to experiment, and part of the learning process. Other images make it very much worthwhile in my mind, and I hope you agree.
You'll note that I've sprinkled the text with links to other websites that will give you much more information on the sites I've visited. Please note that the links following the italicized More photos of xxx at... are to internal Portfolio pages with more of my own photos of that particular subject. I've done this to resolve the conflicting objectives of showing lots of photos of, say, Stonehenge, on the one hand, and trying to keep the pages from getting too large, on the other. They are large enough as it is--the photos are many and big. Please be patient when waiting for the pages to open.
And now, let us board NW98 bound for Amsterdam....
|Monday 24 September 2007 It's fitting, perhaps, that as I depart New England for Old, with Scotland my eventual destination, that my last view of North America in the gathering twilight should be of New Scotland--specifically, Halifax, Nova Scotia.|
Tuesday 25 September 2007 After a three-hour layover in Schiphol--mind your step!--I arrive in Bristol, England, pick up this
year's Punto (black), and head for Salisbury. Stop briefly in Warminster for supplies. As I approach Salisbury, I see signs for Stonehenge, and
decide to go there straight away.
There is an absurd moment when Stonehenge first comes into view, and one thinks to one's self, is that it? Well, what else can it be? It's an odd sensation, to be sure, to see it with your own eyes at long last. Who hasn't seen ten thousand photos of it (two more below)? It's so familiar...and yet, until you stand there yourself, you don't really know what it's like. Unfortunately, they don't let you get up close any more. I look at the stones for a long time, feeling alternately blasť and astounded. Finally, I decide that the original stones are actually in a British Museum warehouse, and these are styrofoam copies.
You can find out much more about Stonehenge than I can tell you at www.stonehenge.co.uk.
I find my B&B in Salisbury and have a short rest, then head out for a bit of a pub crawl. I start at Deacons, picked out of CAMRA's Good Beer Guide. Order a pint, and halfway through it, nod off to sleep. The cool evening air refreshes me, and I repeat the nodding trick in several more pubs.
The pub that makes the biggest impression on me is the Royal George. Low ceiling beams. Now I'm awake!
Wednesday 26 September 2007 I go to Stonehenge again this morning, very pleased that my membership in Historic Scotland gives me
free entry to English Heritage sites, as well. After another good look, I drive up to Avebury to see the ring there. Along
the way I espy one of the dozen or so White Horses cut into the chalky hillsides in and around Wiltshire. Most of these are
two to three hundred years old, and this one, at Alton Barnes, dates from the early 19th century. The one I'd really like
to see is in Uffington, which is too far for me to travel today. It's thought to be about 3,000 years old, the only one
known to be of prehistoric origin, and, unlike the stiff and straightforward representations of the more modern White Horses,
was done in an appealingly abstract manner, as if by a few artful brushstrokes. The Georgian Brits apparently thought it
primitive and vulgar. I console myself with a postcard photo taken from the air, and the knowledge that its odd position
makes it difficult to view from the ground. You can learn more about White Horses, and see photos, at
Wiltshire White Horses.
Just outside Avebury is Silbury Hill, a 4700-year-old manmade cone of earth, 130 feet tall, its base covering five acres. I occasionally run into individuals who have difficulty stifling a yawn when I am prattling on about stone circles and chambered tombs, and, looking at Silbury Hill, I have some understanding of how they feel. Remarkable neolithic engineering achievement that it is, enigmatic of method and motive, it is still, as far as I can see, a pile of dirt. There is some surveying and restoration work being done on it; the inevitable Peter Gabriel running through my head notwithstanding, it isn't possible to climb it.
English Heritage's Silbury Hill page will explain to you why it is thought necessary to restore a pile of dirt. It's really much more interesting to read about than to see!
The Avebury circle is a slightly less familiar site than Stonehenge, and it's easier to look at it without preconceived notions. I know well that the circle is very large, but I am surprised by the size of the stones--they are massive. Photos don't seem to convey it. The surrounding ditch is very impressive, as well. The village of Avebury sprouted up within the circle, with roads passing through, which seems very charming if you are in the village, and a bit consternating if you are out trying to contemplate the circle itself. It is interesting to learn that in medieval times, many of the stones were buried at the urging of the church, which regarded them as pagan symbols. In latter years the marmalade heir Alexander Keiller (I'm not kidding) bought up much of the town, and set about restoring the ring. (The remains of one unfortunate fellow were found under one of the stones--the pagan gods' revenge, no doubt!) It's not all there, of course, but what is is marvelous. The Stonehenge site linked above has lots of info on Avebury.
Not far from Avebury is a chambered tomb called the West Kennett Long Barrow. It's interesting to compare the styles of the various tombs in different parts of the British Isles.
My landlady in Salisbury has suggested a visit to Lacock, a pretty unspoiled medieval village (if you don't count hordes of tourists as spoilage). There is an abbey off to one end of town that looks as though it would be well worth visiting; I have arrived rather late in the afternoon, however. I poke around the four main streets, laid in a square. I'm told the village is often used as a set for television and films. Stop for coffee in the George Inn, and find that one of its attractions is a dog wheel. A small dog placed in the wheel, like a hamster, turns the spit in the main fireplace. Apparently it is no longer used.
On the return to Salisbury, I stop at Stonehenge once more. It's too late to enter, but I take more photos over the fence, in the light of the setting sun.
Thursday 27 September 2007 I spend the morning in Salisbury, first visiting the magnificent cathedral. It's
notable for its rapid construction, as medieval cathedrals go, having been started in 1220 and largely completed by
1258. (The spire was added later, done around 1330.) It is thus unusually architecturally coherent. Inside, among other
things, are Europe's oldest working clock, and an original copy (d'oh!) of the Magna Carta.
The Salisbury Cathedral website has lots of information.
After, I take a stroll around town. It's market day, and I always enjoy poking through the stalls. There is lots of produce, cheese, and the like, and it seems to me that most of the stallholders are French.
I'd like to visit Old Sarum, the site of the original town, but decide I need to get a jump toward Bristol. It's a smart choice, as the traffic is heavy on a Thursday afternoon. I meet my whisky forum buddy, Sion, and we sample a number of drams at his flat before going out to the Port of Call for the evening. Sion puts me up for the evening, and sends me away with lovely parting gifts, as well: a half-bottle of Sainsbury's twelve-year-old calvados, and samples of Van Winkle Family Reserve Rye and Lagavulin 21. Thanks for all, Sion!
For those interested, here are the whiskies sampled at Sion's:
Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban, 46%
Bushmills 16 Malt, 40%
Glen Elgin Signatory Vintage CS Collection 60.8%
Scapa Chivas CS ed. 60.6%
Redbreast 15 46%
Balblair 16 Cadenheads 58.5%
Ardbeg 13 Cadenheads 61.1%
Lammerlaw 10 Cadenheads 47.3%
Ardmore 1990/14 G&M Cask 55.8%