September 2011

I chase ghosts down the sea road bordering the west of Arran. On this visit to the small isle I vowed to rectify a journey doomed to failure by low clouds and repellent rain five years earlier. Now, a cool wind peels off the sea and tears apart the clouds for the winsome Scottish sun. I trudge down a familiar dirt track as sheep dart away like a white sea parting. The moor is lush in its own way, and the essences of turned soil, damp salt, and green heath fill my mouth and sinuses. Jubilant winds roar across the open moorland. Still, somewhere a lamb mewls for its mother. After cresting a rise, a disused farmhouse marks the path to a series of standing stones. Alien worlds.

Red sandstone pillars spear the sky in unfathomable arrays.
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The Douglas Hotel, Brodick, Isle of Arran, Scotland

I walked into the stout, red stone building overlooking Brodick Bay and set down my bags with a thankful sigh. It had been a long day of travel involving countless drives, flights, and ferries, and I’d finally made it to my first stop: Brodick on the Isle of Arran. More specifically, I’d arrived at The Douglas Hotel, which would be my home for three nights thanks to arrangements from Visit Arran. Sorry, I meant the next two nights; delays on U.S. Airways shaved off a full day from my trip and I lost a night from my stay in Brodick.

I looked around the small, cozy lobby with its dark wood floor and thought about how The Douglas Hotel had just re-opened this season. Later I’d hear that the building had been an eyesore for a long time before this re-opening. Not so, now. Read more...

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View of the Goatfell from Brodick

Of all Scotland’s islands, the Isle of Arran must be one of the easiest to visit. From Glasgow airport it’s just a 45-minute drive west to the ferry terminal at Ardrossan and then less than an hour by ferry before you can be in the heart of Brodick, Arran’s primary town. Trust me, that’s about as easy as it gets from Scotland’s main cities.

It’s a worthwhile trip. Sarah and I briefly visited Arran in 2006, and based on our favorable impressions I decided to spend three nights there on my most recent trip to Scotland. U.S. Airways obviously thought this was a bad idea as their inability to fly on time wound up shaving an entire day off my trip. Nevertheless I persevered through the incompetence and enjoyed two solid nights on Arran in early September. Read more...

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Across the street from my guest house a fence separates me from this Victorian vision of pastels and the past. Every walk home to Glasgow’s west end detours into a sunset marriage of architecture and light: Glasgow University’s quadrangle and bell tower lording over Kelvingrove Park. Vapors of aged learning paint the cloudbellies the same yellow of the tomes mouldering in campus libraries. The noise of Scotland’s biggest city falters at the park’s bowling green; the clack of bocci balls, the bell’s somber gong, and the clatter of skateboards off in the trees float like dandelion seeds through the peace. Read more...

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Traveling Savage Pulling Pints at the Bon Accord, Glasgow, Scotland

And I’m back.

Home that is. And just in time, too, because tomorrow is my four-year wedding anniversary (yay us!).

As much as I love savagely traveling around Scotland, there’s something beautiful about stepping through my front door when I return home. I’ll be busy doing all the things I love about autumn in Wisconsin over the next couple months. You know, watching the Packers, picking apples, carving pumpkins, raking moldy leaves and pruning back plants in suddenly cold weather.

Well, nothing’s perfect. Read more...

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