November 2014

Cave Point, Door County, Wisconsin

It may come as a surprise to you to learn I am not Scottish nor do I live in Scotland. I am of Scottish descent (and also German and Italian), but I spend the vast majority of my time at home in Wisconsin where I was born and raised. Most people who contact me assume I’m a Scot living in Scotland, and many are downright shocked to learn I’m an American. I get it – those reactions make sense. After all, it makes sense logistically, financially, and, well, by default to be living in and from the place one passionately writes about.

But travel shows us otherwise. How else can we explain the deep desire to go elsewhere… Read more...

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Scott's View of the Eildon Hills, the Scottish Borders, Scotland

Just east of Abbotsford lies one of the Scottish Borders’s greatest viewpoints: Scott’s View. This was the place where Sir Walter Scott would stop on his way home to Abbotsford and take in the gorgeous Tweed Valley and Eildon Hills. He halted here so often, the story goes, that his horse would stop of its own volition, and, in fact, this is said to have happened after his death as the horses carried his body to Dryburgh Abbey.

Over time the view acquired his namesake, and I imagine it is as stunning today as it was back in the early 19th century. There are few places that provide a better feel for the heart of the central Borders. Read more...

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Sir Walter Scott's Abbotsford

In 1811, Sir Walter Scott, prolific novelist, poet, and creator of the classic Scottish identity, purchased the small farm known to locals as Cartleyhole (read: muddy hole). With an imagination that made him the first English-language author to achieve international fame, Scott set about transforming what he described as a “bare haugh and bleak bank by the side of the Tweed” into a vision. His first order of business was to rename the place Abbotsford after the abbots of nearby Melrose Abbey who used to cross the River Tweed at the ford below the house. In the years to follow, Abbotsford grew into a rambling, whimsical manse that would ultimately bankrupt the wordsmith, for such is the capriciousness of the written word. Read more...

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Smailholm Tower, the Scottish Borders, Scotland

In the rolling farmland between Kelso and St. Boswells in the Scottish Borders stands one of only eight sites in all of Scotland to receive five-star status from VisitScotland, and one that feels forgotten in the shadows of the nearby abbeys: Smailholm Tower. The tower house stands watch upon lands that form the marches between Scotland and England, and once served a defensive purpose for the people of this area who sought refuge from border reivers following the Wars of Independence.
From my accommodation at Whitehouse Country House I could see the battlements of the tower poking over the hills and decided, on a whim, to drive out and find this curious place. Read more...

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