Walking in the World

Monthly Archives: June 2015

Beachcombing on Iona

We arrived on the Holy Isle of Iona yesterday afternoon, and after a leisurely visit to the sacred sites, we headed to the beach for an evening of sea life and shell collecting.

And on the way home we pitched in for a bit of neighbourly support:

28 Jun 2015

On the Move

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Today was about travel as we made our way down Loch Ness on the mainland then out to the island of Mull in the Inner Hebrides. It is a slightly complicated journey at the best of times, but that complication was compounded by a one-day strike by Scotland’s CalMac ferry company. We were, in the end,  among the lucky few – our day played out perfectly and we arrived without trouble or delay.

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We stopped for a stroll through colourful Tobermory before heading to our hotel where we’ve been well fed and are now watching the sun set over the Sound of Mull.

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26 Jun 2015

Change

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True confession: I have a favourite labyrinth. I absolutely love the Touchstone Maze in the forest above Strathpeffer in the Scottish Highlands. An arts project created in the 1990’s, it features standing stones imported from all over Scotland.

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Walking up into the woods this morning, we were shocked to see that danger signs had been posted, and it was clear that some major devastation had taken place. Huge trees had been completely uprooted, and even the familiar path was diverted. We later learned that the trees had toppled like dominoes during a mighty storm in January. 

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I held my breath, scarcely daring to look, but to our amazement the trees had fallen all around the labyrinth without obscuring a single path. The
labyrinth has certainly changed, but it is both safe and walkable.

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The miracle? By opening the labyrinth to the light, new flowers are already appearing, including these tiny orchids. The mighty stones have survived the storm, and a new chapter is beginning. My heart is filled with gratitude.

25 Jun 2015

Resilience

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This is the Italian Chapel on the tiny island of Lamb Holm, Orkney, is a modern miracle that stands as a testament to the human spirit. Built by Italian prisoners of war in the 1940’s, it is loved and honoured today because of its ingenious hand-crafted beauty and the story it tells of faith and resilience in the face of struggle and deprivation.

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I recommend Philip Paris’ book The Italian Chapel to our tour participants, but I think it’s actually an important read for just about everyone.

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After our exploration of the Churchill Barriers, we wandered through the streets of Orkney’s two main towns, Kirkwall and Stromness. I suspect our suitcases may have become a wee bit heavier over the course of the day!

24 Jun 2015

Keeping Warm on Orkney

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Monday’s Post: You’d never know it was summer up here on Orkney. Fortunately, the rain was chased away by today’s chilly winds, so we dressed in our winter layers and spent the day amongst the island’s ancient monuments.

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The bleak and wintry weather made us appreciate the ancient people who were so ingenious in creating a life for themselves. Over 5000 years ago, people built comfortable and functional homes into the earth next to the sea at Skara Brae, complete with dressers for storage and tanks for holding the shellfish they caught.

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Later,  visiting the more modern Broch of Gurness (only 2000 years old!) we marveled at the warmth we found at the center of the structure.

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Created from stone, the massive broch is a well thought out structure that provided shelter and protection to its community of inhabitants.

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Humbled and awed, we returned to the comfort of our hotel to warm up.

22 Jun 2015

Heading North

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We left the Highlands behind this morning and sailed to Orkney. The Hamnavoe is a lovely ferry, but I fell in love with this Lego model displayed in one of the foyers.

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It has been too rainy to get out and about on the island this afternoon, so we declared this to be a day of rest…. An idea that apparently appealed to the local wildlife as well.

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21 Jun 2015

Dailiness

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The dailiness of life fascinates me,  and is,  perhaps,  the driving force behind my love of travel. How do people live on a day-to-day basis, what matters to them,  how do they make sense of the world?

Travelling along the edge of the world like this raises and addresses those questions as we stop to visit examples of the various abodes that people have called home over the centuries.

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We’ve seen castles,  huts, farms,  and forts. Yesterday we clambered around the Dun Carloway, the ruins of a 2000 year old stone broch just up the road from Callanish.

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Today we visited a traditional black house that was inhabited right up until the late 1960’s.

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Can you imagine cooking over an open peat fire like this? People were still living in this house in my lifetime, right up to  when I was starting high school in far-off California.

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Across the road is a wood framed house that is more like what I remember from the 1950’s. I don’t consider myself vintage, but I remember some of what’s on display.

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Times change, and technology is moving us at unprecedented rates, but my overriding sense is no matter where we live, home matters. People matter. Dailiness matters.

20 Jun 2015

Ageless Companionship

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We have arrived at the great Stones of Callanish. This part of the journey always feels hushed to me; I feel quiet and small as I stand in the presence of the ancient stones. They are so solid that I take heart from their patience and reach down to feel my own roots, and I ground, deeply and calmly. When I stand in the circle, I have such a strong sense of procession, and I am aware of so many others who have come here over the  centuries, to stand where I stand now. I become one with the ancestors.

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I have been here enough times to recognize that Callanish has moods. This morning the mood was mystical, almost brooding, as the stones stood shrouded in mist. There weren’t many people here, and most of us were walking silently and alone, pausing to touch a stone or simply stand in ageless companionship.

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When we returned this evening, the mood had changed. The small group that gathered in the early evening made up for the lack of a sunset with drumming,  dancing, singing, and processing….  the respect was palpable and collective, the joy contagious.

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The world is full of Mystery.

19 Jun 2015

Island Hopping

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We started our morning with a bracing boat ride across Castlebay to explore Kisimul Castle. Once inside it looks like this:

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We couldn’t stay long as we needed to catch our first ferry and begin our journey up the chain of islands that make up the Outer Hebrides. It has been a wonderful day of mystical landscapes, amazing wildlife sightings, and local culture.

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18 Jun 2015

The Castle in the Bay

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We left  Kilmartin under heavy skies, making a farewell circle around the valley before driving off towards Oban. We detoured a few miles to cross a beautifully arched 18th century bridge that famously stretches across the Atlantic (or at least a small finger of it) to the island of Seil.

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From Oban we caught the ferry that winds out through the islands towards the romantically named Castlebay at the bottom tip of the Outer Hebrides.

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Can you see Kisimul Castle out in the bay? We will take a small boat out tomorrow morning to explore the castle before we start our journey up through the Hebridean island chain.

17 Jun 2015

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