SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2017
                                            
                           ON HIKING, HEATHER and HAGGIS
  
Morning light coming through the Cuillin Hills on the Isle of Skye.
 
 My recent three weeks in Scotland were a literal immersion in the landscape: hiking across the Highlands bookended by several days in Edinburgh and a quick day in Glasgow.  From the bare, open expanses of grassy, heathered moors to the rainforest greens of the woodlands, my friends and I walked, sometimes slogged, the 96 miles of the West Highland Way over eight days.  Walking through a country is an intimate way to learn about its geography.  You feel the expanses of open land  while having time to pause and look down at lichens, mosses, and flowers.  Along the way we encountered sheep and more sheep, a few feral goats, and occasional herds of shaggy, rust-colored Highland cattle.  Hailing from a variety of countries, fellow wayfarers, as walkers are called, shared easy camaraderie along the road.
 
         Four amigas, friends since University of Colorado days in the '70's. 
Scottish basics
                
Heather does indeed bloom almost everywhere, a bright and softening element in the rugged landscape.
 
 
Haggis demystified. Curious minds have been asking me about haggis, the disgusting-sounding mixture of sheep offal and oatmeal.  I can report from at least 4 personal instances, including haggis-flavored potato chips, that haggis is quite good. In concept it's not very different from sausage.  Widely consumed in Scotland, a traditional Scottish supper is haggis, neeps and tatties.  That is, a scoop of haggis served with mashed turnips and mashed potatoes, with a whiskey sauce or gravy.  Makes for good comfort food in the chilly dampness, especially after a long day of tramping on wet, muddy, rocky trails.
 
Whiskey.  Well, I tried more than a few times to acquire a taste, but it looks like I'm going to remain a wine girl.  I did, however, come to appreciate the bouquet (probaby not official whiskey terminology) and different styles (peaty vs. not so much),  and was able to enjoy the smoothness of a 21-year whiskey relative to a 6-year vintage.
              
Kilts.  Saving the best for last. A man in full kilt regalia is a handsome sight!  As a fashion statement, kilt outfits come with all kinds of variations from traditional to punk.

  Wedding party by St. Giles Cathedral in Edinburgh. 

Casual kilt with badger sporran
(front-worn man bag.) 
 
A couple of handsome devils fully outfitted at Skye Live music festival. 
 
I was more interested in this Scotsman's bespoke beer-can necktie, but he was wearing a simple black, contemporary kilt. 
 
The West Highland Way 
           
To share a taste of the Way with you, I've included two photos for each day of the walk, a panorama and a detail.  We worked with a company that set up our nightly B&B stays and transported our suitcases each day to the next destination, so we only needed to carry day packs with water, lunch and rain gear.    
 
The way begins in Milngavie (that's "Mull-guy") outside of Glasgow.
                 
Day 1 Milngavie to Drymen 
              Lucky to have sunshine and the company of some Highland cattle.
 
Day 2  Drymen to Rowardennan
      
Our first sight of Loch Lomond.  We'd be walking the length of its eastern shore.   
A custom-built wall made from stacked slate roof tiles, part of someone's holiday house.
 
Day 3 Rowardennan to Inverarnan
    
My friends and I concurred emphatically with the general assessment that this is the toughest stretch of the Way.  Along the edge of Loch Lomand, you must navigate up and down over boulders and slippery steps for miles and miles.  Kind locals set up a snack station for weary wayfarers.  Waterfalls, ferns and mosses all along the route. 
 
Day 4 Inverarnan to Tyndrum
        
Through farmers' fields and woods.  The wet, temperate climate provides a perfect habitat for lichens, mosses, and mushrooms of all kinds.  This strange-looking stuff is dog lichen.
 
Day 5  Tyndrum to Inveroran
     
  An easier day, ending at an old hotel in a beautiful, remote valley without the   distraction of wifi.   Dry stone walls crisscross the landscape with their textured, lichen-ornamented rocks.  Dinner shared with new friends from Netherlands and Germany. 
 
Day 6  Inveroran to King's House
                  
A perfect morning began as the sun blazed through the mist on the fields and mountains, and continued as we traversed Rannoch Moor.
This morning deserves an extra photo:
 
Day 7  King's House to Kinlochleven
         
Up the Devil's Staircase, which wouldn't have been so bad but for the rocks and the rain.  But then, without some rain it wouldn't have felt authentically Scottish, right?
Red moss, heather, grasses decorated our way.  We arrived in Kinlochleven wet and bedraggled to find ourselves in the most plush, well-appointed B&B we could have wished for.  Spent the afternoon drinking tea in the fluffy bathrobes provided. 
 
Day 8  Kinlochleven to Fort William
     
 
Our final, and longest day, 17 miles, in the rain.  Slogging over the rough surface of an old military road, we navigated through mud and rocks and lost count of stream crossings. We passed to ruins of an old drovers' inn and some inquisitive sheep.  Finally, the sun broke through, giving us a clear view of Ben Nevis, Scotland's tallest peak.
 
  Yessss!  still in rain pants and muddy boots at the conclusion of the trail.   
    Proof. 
 
 Jewelry news break
For any of you wishing I'd provide some jewelry-related updates, I've been off for a month.  Here are two important show announcements, and for those interested in a bit more about Scotland, I'll resume after this.  All new one of a kind pieces are now posted on my website. 
 
October 13-15, Trunk show in Sonoma at Terra Firma Gallery  
For details please check the gallery website.    
Mark your calendars:  November 3-5  Atlanta Contemporary Jewelry Show
For details check the show website.  


 
   
Isle of Skye
After celebrating our walking accomplishment with Indian food and wine in Fort William, the following morning three of us continued on to Isle of Skye.  Think clan battles, Middle Earth, Game of Thrones, Outlander, Harry Potter.     
   Eilean Donan, restored 13th c. castle of clan McCleod.  
The Quiraing, a craggy, otherworldly landscape at the northern tip of Skye.   
   
  In a country steeped in myth and legend the fairies feature in magical-seeming landscapes.
  The Fairy Pools  
      
     Fairy Glen
 
 Skye feels remote, but hardly frozen in time.  Modern Skye has great food, fun music, and some of the friendliest people I've ever met.
  Skye Live music festival. 
At the festival, the most cheerful police ever! 
 
Music festival-goers. 
 
Yasmine, a knitter whose studio/knitting shop we visited in the countryside. Living with her husband, two rescue donkeys, and her sheep, Yasmine and her fellow textile artists produce wool for sweaters and even handmade kilts.  We learned that 8 yards of wool go into a man's kilt! 

On the recommendation of several people, we lunched at the legendary Three Chimneys restaurant way out in the country on a single track road.  People travel far to enjoy their elegant food, with focus almost entirely on local ingredients. 

These lovely orange flowers, Crocosmia, originally from southern Africa, have fallen in love with the wild Scottish climate and naturalized along roadsides on Skye and elsewhere. 
 
  
 Coral Beach.  Since our last day was sunny, we wanted to try the beach renowned for its white coral sand.  What we ran into was a film crew constructing a 14th c. village for the following week's shooting of an upcoming Netflix movie about Robert the Bruce, Scotland's legendary early hero.  We met the prop master, who filled us in on a few details, and watched the set-builders struggling to work in the fierce wind.  Thatched roofs and spinning wheels co-mingled with power drills and duct tape.   

   
 
And finally it was time to get back to Glasgow for a short visit, and head home.
Sunrise as we drove away from Portree, the main town on Skye.   
 
So that's it for now, friends.  If anyone finds themselves wanting to walk in Scotland, please feel free to email me for info on travel resources and foot care!
 
I hope you're all enjoying fall, the best season of the year. 
--Sydney 
 
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