February 2016

Dryburgh Abbey, Scottish Borders, Scotland

Ruined abbeys are some of the most austere and commanding places you’ll find in Scotland. Mere shades of their former glory, these structures are magnificent even in repose. Appreciating their grandeur does not require a religious heart. On the contrary, for those who ascribe to no particular faith, like myself, wandering among the ruins provides a spiritual uplift. These places held power long before Christianity swept across the British Isles in the first millennium AD, for such is the nature of conversion that even the places of worship are repurposed for a new religion. Something of the old gods remains, just beyond perception, thrumming a melody we might one day hear again. Read more...

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Robert Burns, the national poet of Scotland

The weeks and months following the holidays are a dark, drear time where the world, at least in the northern hemisphere, is full of freezing, shuffling zombies. But in Scotland and in many other places around the globe, people gather for a particularly Scottish celebration that brings a bit of light and frivolity to January’s cold darkness.

I’m talking about Burns Supper.

No, it’s not an evening of ritual scarification. Burns Supper is a celebration of the life and poetry of Robert Burns, Scotland’s national poet. What began in 1801 as a small gathering to memorialize his death has become something of a national holiday celebrated by Scots and Scotophiles. Read more...

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The Wallace Statue on Bemersyde Hill

The Scottish Borders are rife with so many antiquarian treasures that even H.P. Lovecraft would struggle to believe it’s true. But the heart of the Borders is no fiction, for among the bends of the River Tweed you’ll find ruined abbeys, stout tower houses, a wondrous manse, and a singular view. You may also find a peculiar monument tucked away in a strip of woods along Bemersyde Hill: The William Wallace Statue.

The era of Romanticism led to many interesting works across Scotland, from the follies atop Calton Hill in Edinburgh to Ossian’s Hall in the Hermitage outside Dunkeld, to this very statue overlooking the Tweed and the Eildon Hills. Read more...

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Eating Around Appin

by Keith Savage

The view across Loch Linnhe from Port Appin

Last spring I spent a week in Appin along the shores of Loch Linnhe at the Ecopods. This beautiful part of the west highlands lies wedged between Fort William and Oban, straddling Argyll and Lochaber, and makes an excellent base from which to hike, explore, and relax. One of the great things about this trip was that I had companions! Sarah joined me, as did our friends from Melbourne, Michael and Katherine, and this was particularly nice because this part of Scotland can feel pretty out there. Whenever I travel with others, inevitably I wind up eating out at restaurants more often. Since there aren’t that many options in this region I thought it would be useful to provide an overview so you know what to expect when you visit Appin. Because you should — it’s gorgeous and a little off the tourist path. Read more...

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