The view from Islay

Islay is a place of dreams for many, a peaty island nearly equidistant from mainland Scotland and northern Ireland that embraces this liminal situation. It is a land of soft, rolling hills, sandy seaweed-strewn beaches, and rich, smokey whisky aging in countless warehouses overfilled with barrels buffeted by the salty, oceanic winds. Life happens here at a slow pace, a measured pace, that has more to do with treasuring moments than with any curmudgeonly disdain for the more populated regions of Great Britain. There’s a strong sense of pride for the people and products that hail from Islay – the Ileachs – and gratitude for anything and anyone that has found its way to their shores, for Islay is not the most bounteous of places nor is it the easiest to reach. As such, there’s a distinct lack of apathy in the air, and what a refreshing lungful that is. Read more...

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The peat fire at Stein Inn, Isle of Skye

There are few things finer than a good Scottish pub. Happily, Scotland’s littered with them. Just about every town has at least one cozy watering hole for locals and travelers alike and often a handful to choose from. Even the forlorn and unpeopled glens and hills often have, as their sole outpost of civilization, a fine institution of the dram and pint, places like the Grouse Inn and the Old Forge. Indeed, finding a fine Scottish pub is not hard.

Finding a pub that beguiles you for a lifetime, that draws you back across oceans and seas to step through that doorway to a tin-ceilinged, peat-smoky memory of old, where a healthy dose of camaraderie is doled out to every patron, well, that is a bit harder. Those pubs are the rare pubs. Read more...

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Shetland Beach

Scotland is not the first place that comes to mind when one considers a beach vacation, but the quantity of pristine, largely empty beaches scattered across the breadth of Scotland will blow your mind. From white sand wonders to pebbly quilts littered with hunks of sea glass to entire shores composed of tiny shells, Scotland’s beaches cover the style gamut. In this week’s round-up of the best of Scotland, I’ve collected a handful of my favorite beaches.

Many of Scotland’s most beautiful beaches are in incredibly out-of-the-way regions, but there are a huge number of gorgeous swaths within easy reach. Fair warning: While these beaches are awesome places, it’s best to keep your dreams of tropical drinks and skimpy swimwear in check. Read more...

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Dalwhinnie Distillery

A new week brings a new best of Scotland collection! I’ve already provided the building blocks of a great visit to Scotland for nature lovers and history buffs.

Today is for whisky enthusiasts.

This list was ridiculously difficult to cobble together. I opted against listing whisky regions, meccas like Islay and Speyside, because that level of detail would leave you wanting more granular recommendations. This decision propelled me to look back through 40 posts I’ve written about whisky here on Traveling Savage. Read more...

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Lagavulin Bay glimmers behind its namesake distillery, one of three titans along Islay’s whisky coast. I have the urge to curl up in the bushes while the waves gently slosh upon the rocks and listen to the wind speak the passing time. The rich, sherried whisky of Lagavulin tingles on my tongue and evokes leather armchairs, dusty libraries, and Cuban cigars. It is another moment when Scotland overloads my senses and recalibrates my sensibilities. There are literally castles in the sky here. What life have I been living?

The background of the world is all blue – rippling cobalt, misty periwinkle, and flat cerulean – yet everything I can touch is green. Whisky works its alchemy upon my vision as I stand looking across the bay to distant Kintyre.

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