Thursday, August 18, 2016

isle of islay, continued

This morning's glorious view is up toward the sky.


Of course, I know better: there is no promise of sunshine. I expect the clouds to take hold. Still, the rains are staying away. I am grateful.

I take a break from the perfect Scottish meal of eggs and salmon. I have a large dinner before me -- time to scale back and do the familiar: porridge. This time with the blueberries from Poland.


And then I head out. I've gone east the first day, north the next. Today I go west.

Just out of Bowmore, I see the hills in the misty light. I am always enchanted with this isolated set of white houses. Today I pause to take a photo.


Once more I turn into a single lane road. Initially, there is heather to tickle my senses. Quick photo, before I get hit head on by an oncoming car!


By a stone wall, I catch the full display of "lilies."


These guys run from me, despite my cheeper calls.


Finally, I am at my destination -- Machir Bay.

This is vast expanse of sand that spills out into the Atlantic. Today, the wind is not just brisk, it's daunting!


My booklet of good hikes suggests a walk into the hills, all the way to the ruins of an ancient chapel. As I begin the climb (wellies much needed for this one!), I look over my shoulder toward the stunning view of the Bay.


I cannot count how many pasture gates I go through on my walks. Some of them have elaborate shutting mechanisms. Others, like this one, are a bit loosey goosey.


On the other side, there will be sheep. I know there will be sheep. I've been thinking that I should do a little book of sheep photos for Snowdrop when I get home. There is a ridiculous and therefore funny book that we've been reading called "Sheep in a Jeep," which has simple rhymes and a bit of drama which she does not yet like. In my head, I make up rhymes that I could include in my own little book. Here's some that stuck in my mind:

Knee deep
  in sheep.
Sheep sleep.

Sheep in a heap.
That hill is steep!
Sheep leap.

Sheep stare.
Over there.
At the fair!
Sheep's wool everywhere.

Sheep gaze,
Sheep graze,
Sheep amaze!
Sheep stay out for days.

Ewes in twos.
Ewes with views.
Ewes need shoes!
Ewes in the news.

Sheep, every day.
Sheep, go away!
Sheep stay.
Sheep, have a lovely day!

Or something.

Here's a possible candidate for this book:


Oh, but now I have my own bit of drama: we have an interloper!


A young Scottish Highlander -- that's bad news for me!

Especially since he is separated from her:


Who has now joins forces with them:


There's no "nice bessy-ing" my way around this one. There are too many young ones in the pasture, and too many vigilant parents. I have to retreat. Hastily.

I notice a small group going cross country, up the steep hill from which an old radar station once operated. So there must be a way to the summit. I tag after them.

The cattle, the sheep -- far away now. Oh but the views!


At the summit, I pass the group.

Where are you from? (One asks, beating me to this ever common question.)
The US.
Where in the US?
(Giving him permission not to have heard of it...) You probably haven't passed through.
Actually I have.
I was in Madison. I met a professor there, at the University. A paleontologist. I went to his lecture -- he was explaining how the small framed human survived probably because he could hunt animals from a tree. I imagined his students going to Africa and attempting to shoot spears from trees to test his hypothesis! Strange fellow.

Oh dear.  

And you're from...?
London. This chap's from here. He waves his stick to point to a man with a dog on a leash. He's showing us the views.
The Islay man frowns: a bit too hazy today...
I think the view's grand! I was going down that way, but the cows scared me off. So I followed you here.
The London man boasts: I had a friend who stood broad and tall and opened his arms and all the bulls and cows parted to make way!
There was a young one...
The Islay man comments -- you're better off letting them be.

Do you want us to take a photo of you?
I'm self sufficient. But thank you.
I go off to have a contemplative moment.


I then leave their booming voices and retreat down to the beach.

The waves are significantly larger here. There are warning signs indicating strong currents. It all looks rather threatening, in a beautiful sort of way.


When the wind gusts, the sands chase each other across the wet shore. It's enchanting to watch, if you're walking with your back to it (as I am right now).


A flock of small birds rises almost in unison when they see me approach.


Another trots briskly.


A dog, a border collie, runs along the water's edge. It's rough going into the wind!


It is, in the end, a lovely hike!

It's mid afternoon. A good time for small peeks and pokes into favorite spots.  For example, the Community Gardens just outside Bowmore. How do they look in August?

In fact, there's much there that reminds me of my own flower borders and fields. Yes, you can still find deep swaths of color, but the weeds have taken hold and no one bothers clearing spent blooms -- there are too many.

Still, the montbretia, the rosebay willowherb -- they're here and going strong!


Then there are the crossovers: from Wisconsin to the Western Isles of Scotland! I have plenty of these in my own garden.


Back in Bowmore, I stroll down the village street. The kids are done with their first day of school (out at 3:30).

(One with a towel for a swim, the other on a bike...)


I'm impressed how easy the start of school is here. I asked Eliza and Lily, the daughters of my hosts, what supplies they needed to get for school. They stared at me in that puzzled way that kids have when an adult asks a completely off the wall question. Alison, their mom, said -- I suppose they need to take a pencil. I laughed. Our kids get lists that you spend the summer filling. If you wait too long, the best and cheapest markers, erasers, rulers, pens, pencils, glue sticks, clips, binders, folders, notebooks and a million other things will have been snatched off the shelves. It's a project!

(Two high school girls, at the bus stop, catching up.)


I decide there's still time for me to make my annual pilgrimage to the Bowmore Distillery. Of the whisky I take home (most, if not all, for gifts), one bottle will always be from this distillery that I got to know so intimately on my first Islay visit.

I'm treated to a (free) sampling of their most precious bottles. I make my selection, convinced that this is the finest of the fine spirits. (At home, I try to recreate that moment of stunned surprise with a sip and it never quite measures up to what I experience here.)

And I do pause at the Cafe (at the Celtic Shop). I bought a sweater here one year. Today, I just run my fingers over the fine wool and sip my macchiato. With a ginger cookie, because the British make good use of ginger in their biscuits!


(The Cafe window sill has various gift items for purchase. The views are to the village street.)


Evening. It's time for dinner and today is the day Andrew (assisted by Alison) is making his special sea food extravaganza. A family from Australia (parents, daughters, husbands -- sounds familiar!) and a couple from Switzerland join me for this.

Andrew comments -- we almost didn't get our lobsters! The fishing boat's engine caught fire and they had to be hauled back to shore by the coast guard. They just brought in their catch a few minutes ago!

Here, he's cracking and cleaning the crab claws.


The lobster meat:


The Islay scallops:


He adds salads and breads and a fine potato casserole. It's a wonderful meal -- memorable and not easily replicated elsewhere. Certainly not in Wisconsin - which is more than a thousand miles away from any sea or ocean.

The sun has long set when I return to my room. Will I see it again on Islay this year? You never can tell...


  1. I want that house in photo # scotland.62. That is where I want to live.

    1. And I'll visit you, Bex ;)

    2. OK JoyD. I'll put the kettle on....

  2. Close encounter, Nina! You could (should) (might?) write a book.

    My husband, when he was a young grad student in environmental biology, did a lot of field work collecting soil and water samples, and he did have to RUN FOR HIS LIFE on more than one occasion! Don't mess with the bulls.. or the mamas.

    Generally a good life lesson: don't mess with Mama.

    Today I most enjoyed the HAPPY DOG! What a life.


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