On the Road

Whisky School at Strathearn Distillery, Perthshire, Scotland

The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men gang aft a-gley. So spaketh Robert Burns, and the words are as true today as they were in 1785 when he wrote them. I had intended to write a dispatch from Comrie last week, in the middle of my stint at the Strathearn Distillery whisky school, but I had not anticipated the intensity of the experience nor the frequency with which drinks were consumed in the evenings. One might say I had forgotten what a bro trip was like — the last one was my first trip to Europe back in 2003 — and I hope you will forgive my absence here last week. In my defense, I was active most days on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. If you’re curious what the trip was like in photos, check out those streams. Read more...

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The Pass of Killiecrankie in the morning mist

I have just returned home from a week touring around Perthshire by the invitation of Perth & Kinross Countryside Trust under the auspices of experiencing the autumn colors. It was my first visit to Scotland in the month of November, and I expected short days, chilly temperatures, and a thin stream of tourists. By and large those expectations were met, though it was busier than I’d anticipated because of the concurrence of Dougie MacLean’s Perthshire Amber music festival.

In a nutshell: It was a wonderful trip and I’ll have loads of posts in the future interspersed with yet more of my North Coast 500 wanderings from earlier this year. Read more...

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Keiss Castle, north of Wick, Caithness, Scotland

In Scotland’s far north, a land of rearing mountains and sweeping glens, you will find a corner that is broad, flat, and sliding down to the sea. This northeastern section, a region called Caithness, stands apart from its neighbors, and what it lacks in mind-blowing scenery it makes up with the highest concentration of people in the far northern highlands. The towns of Wick and Thurso, both near 8,000 people, stand on Caithness’s eastern and northern coasts, respectively, and dwarf Ullapool, the largest town on the northwestern coast. It’s easy to see why. The broad, float expanse of Caithness is ideal for raising livestock, and indeed sheep and especially cattle roamed pastures everywhere. Read more...

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West Sutherland Skyline

Take a look at the northern horn of Scotland and most of what you see is the region called Sutherland. From just north of Ullapool all the way up to Cape Wrath and Durness, Sutherland then swoops east almost to Thurso and south to Dornoch to include places like Clynelish Distillery and Dunrobin Castle on the east coast. Only the northeastern corner, an area called Caithness, is saved from Sutherland’s sweep, and I’ll cover that region next week. This is a truly large section of the highlands, and the irony is that much of it is inaccessible. Today, Sutherland is a sparsely populated corner of Scotland thanks, largely, to the Highland Clearances of the 18th and 19th centuries, which hit the crofting communities here extremely hard. Read more...

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One of the many gorgeous lochs in Strath Bran

I have returned home from my wonderful circuit of the North Coast 500 and so have I returned to blogging. I apologize for the couple weeks off — I traveled with family and decided to prioritize that time — but I did not forget to document my days and weeks, take scads of photos, and catalogue my thoughts as they happened. I like to write these ‘impressions from the road’ posts because they present an immediate reaction to a place before the oncoming months have distanced me from the experience.

I knew Wester Ross would be beautiful. I’d visited it in bits and pieces but never for an extended period of time. Read more...

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