State of the Savage: May 2015

May 27, 2015 by Keith Savage
Hiking through Glen Coe, Lochaber, Scotland

I returned from three weeks in Europe this past Monday. It was mostly a vacation, a gluttonous couple of weeks staggering through searing southern Spain on dirt-cheap wine and free tapas followed by a lush, wet week in the highlands of Scotland with friends from the other side of the world.

The trip was also the perfect milestone to force me to finish the first draft of my novel (I did) and forget about it (I mostly did) so I could return to it with analytical, editor eyes in place of creative, writer eyes. Interesting fact: I have two sets of eyes.

In between the gallons of wine, horns of whisky… Read more...

Marveling at the Falkirk Wheel

May 6, 2015 by Keith Savage
The Falkirk Wheel and the Mini-Kelpies

Most of the sites I visit in Scotland are of the historic type, and by that I mean old places reminiscent of bygone times thick with the atmosphere of age. I love the transporting effect of being in such places. But there are other sites worthy of visitation, sites that transport you into the future. Take, for example, the Falkirk Wheel.

In what world does this marvel of engineering belong? Tell me, what do you see when you look at this immense contraption?

If you guessed “boat lift,” you have a perceptive eye… Read more...

Powis House, a Stately Mansion in the Ochil Hills

April 29, 2015 by Keith Savage
Powis House, Stirling, Scotland

Stirlingshire is an area of Scotland I’ve passed through many times on journeys further north. This is the northern edge of Scotland’s populated Central Belt, and the gentle landscape turns into rolling hills before rising up into the highlands beyond’s Stirling’s watchful gaze. I’ve spent hardly more than a handful of nights here, and, unfortunately, that didn’t change on my last trip to Scotland. I had only a single night in charming Stirling to hit the town’s high points, and I chose to stay at Powis House which stands just a few miles northeast of the city center.

Powis House’s location was perfect for me…

A Prisoner to Hailes Castle, Jewel of the Tyne

April 22, 2015 by Keith Savage
Hailes Castle, East Lothian, Scotland

During my brief stint in East Lothian I received a tip from the proprietor of Traprain Cottage B&B that would prove to be priceless. Tantallon Castle has a high level of notoriety and even Dirleton Castle possesses some celebrity among locals and those in know, but there’s another castle that only the sagest of East Lothian’s denizens champion: Hailes Castle. It is hidden along the River Tyne in a cleft in the pastoral East Lothian countryside, as if the land sought to swallow it whole, and the castle possesses quite the historical pedigree.

The day was gray and rainy when I parked my car on the side of a narrow farm road beneath Traprain Law… Read more...

Getting to the Core of Thistly Cross Cider

April 15, 2015 by Keith Savage
Thistly Cross Cider, East Lothian, Scotland

In recent years I’ve become a hobbyist cidermaker back home in Wisconsin. It’s not too fancy. I purchase fresh apple juice from local orchards, pitch it into a big glass carboy with some yeast, and let the magic of fermentation take over. I may not truly understand what I’m doing, but the end product usually tastes pretty good.

Part of my pre-trip planning process involves seeking out producers of Scottish beverages. I’ve been to countless distilleries and a handful of breweries in my travels around Scotland, but never a ciderworks. When I learned that Thistly Cross Cider was in East Lothian, I knew that would change. Read more...