See

Summer’s grip slips from the world’s northern rim. Standing on an archaic emerald archipelago as the day, packed beneath colorless clouds, suddenly burns with vespertine brilliance. Blades of equinoctial light slash the overcast sky into blue ribbons and send black shades stretching from Brodgar’s obstinate stones. A golden pall falls upon the Ness of Brodgar, and the wind, feeling its impotence, disappears like the last bedeviling sorrows scrabbling for our strands.

Salt Knowe rises west of the standing stones, a mound curious for its height and apparent lack of purpose. As I turn toward the season’s parting kiss, that purpose appears stark. Read more...

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Beyond The Minch’s watery grasp and Loch Broom’s beckoning finger, north of the Summer Isles spilled in the shimmering sea, and west of all man’s thoroughfares, the Coigach peninsula reaches for the sun and stars. Lochs patter upon the intervening glen, tears from a blind god, as the earth throws wide its embrace. Stac Pollaidh, Cùl Mòr, and Cùl Beag bark in the mist ‘yond the wind-blown gorse. This is a chance, an open window, a doorway cracked and illuminated.

How wonderfully intuitive and unexpected, this, that venturing to the sacrosanct corners of our long-neglected but sought-after selves requires physical emplacement…
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Castle Varrich outside Tongue, Sutherland, Scotland

The north coast of the North Coast 500 is the least exciting span on that mammoth road trip of marketing genius. As you move from west to east the landscape steadily shrinks back into the earth, and the span from Tongue to Thurso is especially unremarkable with only a few small settlements and sites of interest. The northwestern horn including Durness, Loch Eriboll, and Tongue, however, has a few incredible stops. Chief among those is Castle Varrich, a small, ruined tower house on a hill opposite Tongue.

I had no expectations once we rounded Durness and began heading east. Read more...

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In the north, where the mountains breathe and the roads are but ancient paths slithering between gorse and heather, time and memory unfold, a brief flowering upon the moor. Between their amber petals remain the great works of long-forgotten kings, sights fit to make stars of your sockets, vistas of such magnetism they will rake you back across the fields of the earth. Here is one such spell. Strathmore keeps warm the Iron Age amidst winds roaring from Ben Hope’s mammoth slopes and red deer tracing the ridges, following the silent river to the sea. There is no anchor when Dun Dornaigil broch looms from the mist, piercing like a spear flung from the past.

What have we stopped looking for?
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Winter’s distant light bursts like an epiphany over Loch Voil and the Braes o’ Balquhidder. That luminant lathe cleaves off the fatigue of waking half a day and a world away. Brisk air rolls down the hills, the loch’s fresh water overflows the shores, and everywhere light takes shape. At dusk the sundering sun flings light into Voil’s mirror to send the shadows skyward. Such beauty lies down many a fold in the heart of Scotland, through narrows long forgotten and over hills graced only by the sun’s daily tread.

From Ireland long ago came a man of Christian raiment to the Braes o’ Balquhidder… Read more...

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