Handa Island, Sutherland’s Far-Flung Refuge

November 22, 2017 by Keith Savage
Birding at Handa Island, Sutherland, Scotland

One of the first realizations upon joining the North Coast 500 is the sheer breadth of excursions at your fingertips. Ruined castles, sandy beaches, rocky cliffs, windswept heath, lonely islands, magnificent hikes, and some of the best open-road, big-sky driving are part and parcel of Scotland’s most northwesterly driving tour. Neither a vacation nor a lifetime is enough to see everything on this massive circuit, but with careful planning and a discerning eye you can fill your days with the best northwest Scotland has to offer, Handa Island, the subject of today’s post, among them. Handa Island wasn’t on my radar before we took to the North Coast 500. As is typical of any travel around Scotland, the people I met filled me with ideas… Read more...

Picture This: Autumn Equinox Beyond the Ring of Brodgar

November 15, 2017 by Keith Savage
Autumn sunset on Salt Knowe at the Ring of Brodgar, Orkney Islands, Scotland

Summer’s grip slips from the world’s northern rim. Standing on an archaic emerald archipelago as the day, packed beneath colorless clouds, suddenly burns with vespertine brilliance. Blades of equinoctial light slash the overcast sky into blue ribbons and send black shades stretching from Brodgar’s obstinate stones. A golden pall falls upon the Ness of Brodgar, and the wind, feeling its impotence, disappears like the last bedeviling sorrows scrabbling for our strands.

Salt Knowe rises west of the standing stones, a mound curious for its height and apparent lack of purpose. As I turn toward the season’s parting kiss, that purpose appears stark. Read more...

Line of Sight: Glimpsing the Future of The Orkney Distillery

November 8, 2017 by Keith Savage
The Orkney Distillery under construction, Kirkwall, Orkney Islands, Scotland

Long ago, the vikings sailed the seas by line of sight, naming land masses, bays, and promontories by their physical appearance so that anyone could navigate the wild oceans to distant lands. In Orkney, a land with deep Norse roots, this system is readily apparent the moment you peer at a map of that northern Scottish archipelago: Deerness (a deer-shaped headland), Hamnavoe (safe harbor), and Kirkwall (church bay) appear amongst many other names. Such is the tale Stephen Kemp, founder of The Orkney Distillery, told me as we explored The Orkney Distillery’s construction site along the Bay of Kirkwall. I caught wind of The Orkney Distillery earlier this year during my stint working at Strathearn Distillery in Perthshire. Read more...

Delectable Dining at Knockendarroch Hotel

November 1, 2017 by Keith Savage
Pre-dinner canapes and wine at Knockendarroch Hotel, Pitlochry, Perthshire, Scotland

Last autumn I had the opportunity to stay in Pitlochry at Knockendarroch Hotel, a place that had long been on my radar. Struan Lothian, the man behind Knockendarroch, managed the Kylesku Hotel and Torrdarach HouseĀ once upon a time, and my stay at the latter five years ago was a highlight of the trip. My stay at Knockendarroch was similarly excellent, and as part of it I had a chance to experience dinner at the small hotel.

Dinner at Knockendarroch Hotel worked out perfectly as it was my first day of the trip and I usually don’t like having to seek out restaurants when I’m jet-lagged and grumpy. Whatever grumpiness I had was soon to be dispelled… Read more...

A Night of Folk Music at the Perthshire Amber Festival

October 25, 2017 by Keith Savage
Dougie MacLean Performing at Perthshire Amber

Year after year Scotland brims with traditional folk music festivals from Edinburgh to Orkney, Glasgow to Skye, and many small towns in between. The musical heritage is so rich that no matter the time of year you’re bound to find a music festival near wherever the road takes you.

That’s what happened to me last fall.

An opportunity to visit Perthshire at the peak of autumn colors arose on short notice, and I quickly threw myself into researching how to best fill my week-long visit. I chanced upon a serendipitous discovery — Perthshire Amber… Read more...