Edinburgh's Old Town Majesty

There are so many reasons to love Scotland. The wonderful pubs, castles, history, nature, whisky — not to mention the incredibly welcoming people! But if I’m forced to provide one reason for why I keep going back to Scotland and have written about it every week for 5+ years, it has to be the constant beauty that fills the eye everywhere it turns. There’s a primal quality to Scotland’s beauty that connects one to something older and forgotten, the rediscovery of which, at least in me, requires art to be expressed. That’s why I’ve written 100+ Picture This posts.

The best way to see this beauty is to rent a car and just get out there and drive. Read more...

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The cliffs of Sumburgh Head, Shetland

Today’s most northerly outpost of Scottish civilization was for most of its human occupation a Norwegian settlement, and this ancestry shows prominently in Shetland’s culture and place names. For reasons I still can’t fathom, I expected Shetland to be a gray and rocky monotony, but I found a hilly and windswept landscape saturated in green and glittering blue. Brilliant white sand beaches hopscotched earth-tone pebbled coves sparkling with bits of sea glass. Along the perimeter of Shetland’s mainland and out to Unst and Yell great headlands rise up as if to fight the incessant sea, and in that clash are born towering sea stacks and cliffs pocked with seabird colonies. There is a distinct edge-of-the-world feeling to Shetland, and few beaten paths out here under the wide northern skies – plenty of space to listen to that interior vibrating voice so often lost… 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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Trad Music at Sandy Bell's Pub in Edinburgh

My Best of Scotland series continues to roll with today’s post, in which I focus on a handful of places to reliably find excellent traditional Scottish folk music. My early trips to Scotland invariably centered on finding those places where local musicians united in darkened pubs, as if drawn together by Hendrix’s All Along the Watch Tower*, to play traditional Scottish tunes. I had my share of successes, and those nights at Sandy Bell’s or the Port Charlotte Hotel quaffing pints to the wildly talented strains of local folk music are some of my favorite memories.

Trad music isn’t hard to find in Scotland. Musicians gather in pubs and community centers all across the country to weave their melodies and rhythms. The trick, for visitors, is to be in the right place at the right time. Read more...

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Shetland’s skin is a green tarpaulin hammered by the sun, scoured by the wind, and measured in sheep and stones and fence posts. The west mainland is a beguiling array of coastline notched with tongues of sky-blue water. There are coarse beaches studded with green, brown, and blue chunks of seaglass gone round and frosted from untold years tumbling in the surf. I pick up the sandy baubles and tuck them into my flanel’s shirt pocket, another small act that reminds me of distant loved ones. My guy ropes have come undone. I think Shetland must be the last place in the world to say goodbye to the sun. Read more...

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