Wednesday, August 17, 2016

isle of islay, continued

I'm looking out over the waters of Indaal at sunrise. So calm! Will the midges come out if there is no wind? I've heard grumblings about them from visitors who were on the beach at dusk. Not for long -- they were chased away! (I myself have felt none of the bugs' presence thus far.)


Breakfast. I'm at the bay window today.


Andrew is asking if anyone wants a wee dram with their Scottish breakfast. You would never consider this at home or elsewhere, but on Islay, whisky stirs complicated passions and tasting it in this way reminds you of where you are and what keeps this island humming.


Very soon I see that this day will be even sunnier, even more brilliant than the already grand yesterday.

I have one of my usual morning email exchanges with my Warsaw architect-designer extraordinaire and in chatting to her about colors, I realize how much I have grown to love the pastels over the bolds. (A metaphor perhaps...) And as you'll see, this day will be one of the most sublime pastels.

I decide to repeat and extend a walk I did my very first time on Islay. It wont have the heather. But it will have the ocean. And it will have the sheep. Oh, will it have the sheep! They are goofy in their movements and quirky in their habits (from a human perspective), but they are, in my mind very very photographable.

I drive toward Loch Gruinart. Again, it's not really a lake but a bay that spills out into the ocean. At low tide, its tip is more of a soggy place where farmers harvest oysters.

Once more I need to follow a three mile rutted and hole-filled single lane to get to the tip of the "loch" where my hiking will start, but this road is easier to navigate as you can see what's up ahead. You can be ready for that car or tractor that comes barreling straight at you.

The sheep watch my progress.

In fact, you can see that the sheep share in their preoccupation with the passerby. Here they are, staring at me...



Or, they're in my way. Because they must cross just as I approach.


I arrive at the farm gate. This is where I leave the car and continue on foot.

Sheep, everywhere sheep. Here's a panoramic sweep (the bay, opening up to the ocean) where they simply fit into the picture by virtue of being at the right time in the right place.


Again, staring at me...


And in the next breath, attempting to get away. Sheep are not especially polite.






In my way!






Toward the sea.

Ah, the sea! Now I switch focus. I am no longer in the grazing fields (and so I see flowers again -- they're chomped down in places where there are sheep).



I'm feeling confident. The walk is beautiful, the sky is clear. I'm wearing wellies, but really, are they necessary? My little local guide mentions no bogs to cross, no swampy mess to navigate.

And then, out of nowhere, boom! A river to cross. How did I miss catching that on my map? No matter -- I have wellies! I poke with my walking stick to find a spot that's less than knee deep.


Success! I am on the other side!

Dunes. And the ocean.


Remember how I thought it would be a still day? Not anymore! The breeze is strong! And it feels so refreshing in the warm (yes, warm, on Islay!) sun.

Waves, with misty sprays as they are pushed back by the wind.


I put down my pack, place my camera on it and do what must be done on this great expanse of beach in the UK: my Chariots of Fire moment.



...set, go!


The many great uses of wellies.

I have such a good time running in the waves that I do not notice that the tide is coming in. Until a wave gently nudges my back pack, there on the sand. Oops.

(Looking toward the other side of the bay...)







(Hey, little one -- aren't you doing this upside down?)


(There: your buddy has it right! Or, am I voicing an opinions on a subject about which I know nothing? Humans are good at that.)


Sands shifting  by the bay.


Last day of vacation.


Abandoned farmstead.


A farmhouse that once stood tall and strong.


In my way!


I'm back at my car.

And again, in my way!


I come to the main road. It's the afternoon. I have a bit of time. I'm close to a distillery and so I decide to stop by. No tour, not even a sampling of whisky (though they offer!). I just want to look at this old place that was shut down until recently and now it's reopened and has a bit of a reputation for being great at marketing its way straight to your heart. (Bruichladdich: they call themselves the progressive distillery and if you know its history -- openings, closures, reopenings, very different design, different recording systems and a total commitment to Islay, being one of the few companies that bottles its whisky here, making Bruichladdich effectively the largest employer on the island. Oh, and if that's not enough -- since 2011, they are also the producer of Islay's superb artisanal dry gin - the Bottanist.)

I poke around. I taste the Bottanist over ice. All free, all lovely, all supremely interesting.

Across the choppy bay, you can see Bowmore-- my village!


And in the late afternoon I go to the village Co-Op to purchase a few nibbles of the healthy kind (otherwise I'd be constantly munching the numerous cookies and sweets left for me by my hosts). Blueberries -- from Poland!

I eat dinner tonight with my fantastic hosts: grandma Sue, Alison and Andrew, and their spunky and disarming two daughters, Eliza and Lily, who are growing up way too fast!


Beautiful sunset after a most beautiful Islay day.