February 2013

Blocks of basalt and red sandstone shift beneath my tentative steps, call out in hollow clacks and stony clattering to the levitating gulls overhead. Every day the salty North Sea swallows this stretch of beach on the edge of Orkney’s mainland. When the tide goes out, there are new stones and missing ones. I see chipped bones, the insides of a planetary gullet, jewels. The ruins in the distance grow dark beneath trailing veils of rain from the Orcadian squall that roils the sky in draconic splendor. Feeble light glints off water in the air and gives this lone moment a dreamlike quality. How did I get here?

Orkney jars one off the rails of time. It is a nexus point, a confluence of eras that cuts across what has come before rather than lays them end to end.
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The Orkney Crofts

When it comes to my favorite place in all of Scotland, the one place that has a deep, personal meaning I can’t quite explain, none can challenge the Orkney Islands. Specifically, mainland Orkney with its twin towns of Kirkwall and Stromness, twin distilleries of Highland Park and Scapa, and bevy of ancient, eye-popping monuments like Maeshowe and the Ring of Brodgar, whose purposes are lost in the mists of time. But there’s also an intangible, unquantifiable, mystical something in the air in those northern, sea-girded climes, which, I think, is my true captor.

I returned to Orkney for my third visit on my most recent trip to Scotland. Five years had elapsed since I spent part of my honeymoon here… Read more...

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Somewhere along the belly of Arran I am kicking across sandy turf where boats are beached and a handful of world-weary buildings face the sea. The music in my headphones tethers me to a life in stasis. Cold winds dent my jacket, claw my hair. A mown ramp leads to a bench, a rocky crevice, and perspective. In the sea beyond Arran, Ailsa Craig rises, suspended on the horizon, like some abandoned, ley pyramid. I pluck headphones from my ears and let this scene rest in my sight like a butterfly in the hand. I’m waiting for it to disappear in the sea mist, for a blink to send it into memory. Moments of clarity are just those.

Fairy rock, refuge of Catholics, bastion against the spectre of invading Spanish, land for sale – Ailsa Craig has been all these things, still is those things.
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The Clynelish Knot

by Keith Savage · 6 comments

Clynelish Distillery

Halfway from Inverness to Orkney on the A9 stands the small town of Brora, tight against the North Sea. It makes a perfect stopping point on the long drive through Sutherland and Caithness on the way to those northern isles, both for its serene beauty and the distillery that sits just outside of town: Clynelish.

Clynelish is another feather in Diageo’s whisky cap, but whereas others are more often in the spotlight, Clynelish has flown under the radar for a long time. Clynelish has produced a distinctive single malt for over a decade, and, as far as whisky hunters are concerned, the distillery has one of the most interesting histories in the industry. Read more...

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Wind ramps over the hood of the car. Trees and grasses bend. Clouds elongate, then bunch. Mountains materialize, then disappear in veils of mist. Setting sunlight hums from the blue, all the world below fanning its plumage. I am looking through the glass, the car jostling and rattling beneath me. My camera catches this firefly in the jar, not me. Every other photo is a blur, the sky, mountains, and villages streaking like paints running on a palette. There is a window between us. And a fence. And an ever-widening chasm of time.

I don’t know where I am except on one of Skye’s lonely roads.
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