November 2011

Traveling Savage on Staffa

We’re one step closer to bidding 2011 goodbye. It’s hard to believe it’s been a year since I wrote last November’s State of the Savage from Argentina, but then again time seems to always flummox and confound those who study it. I’m one year into my allotted two-year sojourn to make Traveling Savage into a new career. How is it going?

I recently described my state of mind to a friend as “feeling like I’m stuck in a rut in the middle of limitless forest for as far as the eye can see.” Okay, that’s a bit redundant, but it shows the strength of the feeling. I continue to write about my escapades in Scotland and plan new trips, but I have always had the long view of life, and if belief in the financial sustainability of a venture fades so increases the feeling of its frivolousness. Read more...

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The View Toward Tobermory, Northeast Mull, Scotland

The Isle of Mull, the second largest of the Inner Hebrides, hunkers down in the sea just 45 minutes west of Oban. The Morvern and Ardnamurchan peninsulas of the mainland cup mountainous Mull against the coast of Argyll, all of a similar kind yet separated by waterways. Mull’s history is splashed with sunken Spanish galleons, the Lordship of the Isles, and the backdrop of Robert Louis Stevenson stories. Perhaps more than anything, however, Mull is known as a wilderness burgeoning with wildlife like eagles, deer, seals, otters, and dolphins.

My previous travels around Scotland had taken me through Oban and around Scotland’s west coast, but I had never made the journey to Mull until my previous trip … Read more...

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The sunlight strikes purple on the hillside sprinting down to the ocean. Gauzy and warm like a child’s blanket, the air is a physical body filling my lungs and draping the landscape in veils of cloudy blue. There is a disappearing path running around the cliff tops, happily bereft of rails and warnings, sustained only by the infrequent tread of the curious. I cross over clefts that drop away to the surging sea and over spongy patches of gorse and heather buffeted by the Atlantic gales. Every labored breath passes over gritty earth and sea salt. In the distance, the headlands of Islay ceaselessly clash with the sun, sea, and sky.

I don’t know where I’m going. Eventually I stop before a simple wooden post with an arrow pointing to the heavens. Or is it forward?
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The Seaside Town of Portnahaven

My week on Islay this past September was full of picture-perfect scenery, extended explorations of local distilleries replete with copious drams, and austere moments of introspection. While you will surely read the occasional post about Islay here in the future, this post is intended to collect the bulk of my writings on Islay and serve as a convenient jumping off point. To add a little something extra, something fun, I’ve included a series of the “best” moments during the week. Read on good Ileach!

I kicked off my time in Islay by writing my so-called “vignettes” during the trip. The Kildalton Cross had a magical air in the southeast of Islay where there’s little more than sea coast and trees. Read more...

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The Lost Drams Diary

by Keith Savage · 3 comments

The Entrance to Caol Ila Distillery

Of the eight, I visited six and a half. My malt marathon around Islay was hacked short with the missing experiences and lost drams coming from a couple of the island’s biggest and most well-known distilleries. Getting an inside look at all eight of Islay’s distilleries in one week requires the right contacts and precision planning, both of which I had, but also a bit of calendar luck. Sadly, this is where the bottom dropped out and my dream of “hitting the cycle” on Islay ended. I couldn’t wrap up my Islay posts without at least a few words about Diageo’s boys on the island: Caol Ila and Lagavulin.

With the Port Ellen ferry terminal currently shut down for renovations, all ferry-goers arrive on Islay at Port Askaig in the northeast. Read more...

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