Celebrating the best bits and bobs to be found while exploring Europe and North America. Much is inspired by real outings, whether they were walking, cycling or photographic in nature, while virtual blundering in the name of planning them has turned up some gems too. Regardless of how they were found, I hope that they keep coming so I can continue to share new things with you here.
My association with Scotland began when I first moved there to further my education. While formal education was what I had in mind, the experience taught a goodly number of informal lessons as well. Moving that far from a place that you would have called home is an act that needs at least some sense of self-reliance. Getting to know a different culture and heritage takes time too and avoiding howlers makes it worth the effort; I was hopelessly ignorant about the Scottish political situation and would have done well to learn more about the place before leaving Ireland but you learn as you live.
During my years in Scotland, Edinburgh was my base and it's a place that leaves me with fond memories. Yes, it's true that life had its ups and downs while I lived there but it is not so hard to "go and stand in a field" in a city with so many green spaces. Its many landmarks are a feast for the eyes too so it feels that you are living somewhere with more than a splash of character and a certain history to it too. The fact that there are well-known festivals hosted there helps too.
When you live in a nice spot like Edinburgh, the inclination to explore beyond its limits can be weaker than if you live somewhere more ordinary. Being a student means limited resources too and that constrains the extent of any such outings. Add to that, distractions like my interest in the world of computing and time becomes limited as well. This was the nineties when the internet was growing up and computer software was maturing so it now feels like I had a front seat view of some major changes. With all of this going on, it's little wonder that I got out at all.
It's amazing what knowing that a period in your life is coming to an end can do and I did start to go exploring parts of Scotland beyond Edinburgh. After all, it would have been a travesty to have lived in Scotland without having paid a visit to its renowned highlands. I had been to Loch Tay for a few days every year as part of a university research meeting but there were other places there too. A Saturday trip in May led me to Fort William and Glen Nevis for the first time. After that, I made for Inverness and Loch Ness on a grey day in July. Oban and the Isle of Mull saw me after that in June of the following year. A multi-day visit to Skye ensued. A visit from my brother saw a reprise of visits to Lochaber and Argyll even if blue sky and sunshine were both in short supply.
While there was a certain tentativeness in the amount of exploring that I was doing, these trips did leave me with a solid introduction to the wonders of Scotland. Not every sight did entice but many did. I'll never forget my first gobsmacking sight of Glencoe with hills emerging from the plain in a manner akin to the cups of an upturned egg carton. Skye was bewitching then and it remains so for me now. To the possible surprise of my parents, much of my journeying took the approach of an independent traveller and laid the foundations for much of mode of wandering the countryside ever since.
Leaving Edinburgh was a wrench for me but I needed to get a career started in order to gain financial independence. Having left reluctantly, I remain drawn to the city and have returned a good few times since, visiting friends on many of those occasions. However, the rest of Scotland has made good strides in usurping Edinburgh's place in my affections and I may have seen more of Scotland since I left it than when I lived there, in terms of variety if nothing else. The list grows long: Argyll, Lochaber, Skye, Highland Perthshire, Na hEileanan an Iar, Southern Uplands, Pentland Hills and so on. To be honest about it, I do wonder why I didn't frequent some of these locations while I lived within easier reach of them but the hill wandering habit was something that only came to prominence after I had settled in England.
Even today, I wouldn't object to the idea of returning to Scotland on a more permanent basis but there are no definite plans for that. Nevertheless, I plan to keep exploring the country's wondrous landscape and hope that they look after it in a sympathetic manner while continuing the enlightened approach to access that has come into place in recent years.
It's a country that's well worth getting to know so I have assembled an assortment of website listings that can be used for planning a visit and getting around using public transport while there. A listing of news websites is provided for those wishing to dig deeper and I have added a personal potted history of its reinstated parliament, an institution that is nearly ten years old this year. While some may have become disillusioned with it these days, it was a momentous political development when it happened and I had the good fortune to be in Scotland at the time and vote in that first election. I remain grateful for having the opportunity to continue my association with Scotland and hope that it results in my putting more things on here in time.