August 2015

Castle Tioram, Moidart, Lochaber, Scotland

The Scottish highlands west of Loch Linnhe are something of a black box. The loch, an enormous arm of sea water, thrusts into the highlands all the way up to Fort William, clefting Lochaber in twain. If you look at a map, this severed land seems to hang down into the sea, barely holding onto the Scottish mainland at Arisaig and Glenfinnan. There are three access points to the lands of Moidart, Morvern, and Ardnamurchan, none of which are particularly convenient: The car ferry at Corran, the A861 south of Lochailort, and the ferry to Kilchoan from Tobermory on Mull.

Hard to reach, out-of-the-way places? My kind of places. Read more...

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Edinburgh's Beltane Fire Festival

From time immemorial, Celtic pagans have celebrated four great festivals that straddled the equinoxes and solstices: Samhain, Imbolc, Beltane, and Lughnasadh. These festivals were both practical and mystical in nature, tied as they were to the herding of livestock and the appeasement of capricious spirits and faeries.

Beltane historically occurred on the first of May to mark the beginning of summer and the time when the cattle were driven out to summer pastures. Arcane rituals using special bonfires were performed to protect the cattle, crops, and people. Fire played an integral role in the ceremony as a protective buffer against evil. Feasts and drinking added a celebratory nature to the proceedings, and yellow flowers symbolically representing fire were strewn over dwellings for yet more protection.

Sounds like fun, doesn’t it?

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Wildest Drams on the Royal Mile, Edinburgh, Scotland

Serendipity never tasted so good.

While chatting with random people is the name of the game for traveling extroverts, it usually takes a beer or two for introverts like me to get anywhere near that mental space. It can be uncomfortable, but travel has a way of greasing the social gears, and so this story begins in my favorite Edinburgh haunt: The Bow Bar.

As is typical for me…

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Hadrian's Brasserie at the Balmoral Hotel

Edinburgh has no shortage of amazing places to eat. From traditional Scottish dishes to every type of ethnic cuisine you can imagine, Edinburgh provides one of the best foodie scenes (along with Glasgow) in the whole country. Now, I love a fine dining experience, but I tend to gravitate toward more affordable options just to stretch my dollars further. Every once in awhile, however, an opportunity to break from my self-imposed foodie exile presents itself. When I contacted The Balmoral Hotel, perhaps Edinburgh’s most famous hotel, I found just that opportunity. Hotels, however, are not the places you generally look for memorable meals — to wit, most hotel meals I’ve had have been both over-priced and unremarkable. Read more...

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