April 2013

Rising Gael

So this is insane.

In over three years of writing the Trackpacking series highlighting musicians that inspire me to travel, I haven’t once written about a Celtic music band. Not once. And this being a blog dedicated to exploring Scotland! I’m not sure what that says about me – I DO listen to a lot of Celtic music – but I can’t help feeling a little embarrassed.

That all changes today, and for the rest of this year I promise Trackpacking articles will focus on some of my favorite Celtic musicians. It seems so right to start with a band from my own backyard with whom I’ve recently become quite good friends: Rising Gael.

Rising Gael is a foursome hailing from Madison, Wisconsin whose signature sound is a creative blend of contemporary arrangements and classic Celtic instrumentation. Read more...


A thousand breaths fill the air above the threefold loch. The watery triptych aborts my drive, pulls on all the metal in my bones like a vast and irresistible magnet. I crouch in the moor scrub along the edge of the vacant road and watch those breaths pour into my throat with each inhalation. There is a faint ringing in my ears – a phenomenon I’ve experienced across Scotland at places like this – that only now strikes me as someone–or something–calling. Clouds scrape over the hills and ripple the water with their incorporeal bellies. There are unseen forces at play, but I can hear them, feel them.

My mind reaches. There are three roots on the Norse World Tree, Yggdrasil, where Odin endured a threefold death.


The Bon Accord, Glasgow, Scotland

Lord knows I spent far too much time in pubs on my last visit to Glasgow. It didn’t help that there were several excellent drinking holes near my guesthouse by Kelvingrove Park in Glasgow’s West End. Well, it didn’t help my liver – all those arduous hours tasting cask ales and single malts while chatting with happy-go-lucky Scots – but I’ve managed to turn the whole sordid ordeal into a new entry in the Savage Pub Crawls series, my first in Edinburgh’s sibling to the west: Glasgow.

Glasgow’s West End is one of my favorite places in any Scottish city. The beautiful greenery of Kelvingrove Park mixes with the University of Glasgow’s student vibe and a varied restaurant scene. For my money, this is the place to be… Read more...


Wending through the trees, on the slopes above Pitlochry, following the shadows where they lay. The sunlight shatters in the canopy. All the pieces drop along the path beneath my feet deep with orange pine needles. A signpost points up to Craigower and north to Killiecrankie. I stalk north marveling at the interlaced boughs trying to catch the pieces of light like fingers in the rush of a waterfall. Pollens sparkle in the still air, though wind roams the edges of the forest like a ravening beast behind bars.

Which one of us is the imprisoned? This is a fae place – a thin space – where the veil between the world we know and a world we’ve never guessed at has lost its opacity. Small clusters of mushrooms with spindly stalks…


On the A84 Through Stirling

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: One of the most worthwhile activities in Scotland is simply to get in the car and drive. Scotland is such a beautiful country that you will find yourself pulling off to the side of the road to snap photos more often than you’ll reach the speed limit.

Driving in Scotland is truly a voyage of discovery. Follow the small, unmarked roads into the hills and through the forests and stumble on ancient bridges, wild vistas, and pockets of wilderness untouched by the advance of time.

If you need help making up your mind on whether or not to rent a car in Scotland, I hope this article settles the matter. Read more...