shewhomust: (mamoulian)
One of the questions in the pub quiz last Wednesday (in a round of questions about blood) was: "Which town in Scotland is known for its black pudding?" I had no idea. It rang no bells at all: surely black pudding comes from Bury, in Lancashire? The team discussed it, and nobody knew the answer. Eventually, the majority vote went for Dundee. I wasn't convinced: surely jam, jute and journalism are enough industries for one town? Besides, Dundee felt too big, I wanted a smaller town... But since I couldn't come up with a better answer, we handed in our sheet for marking, and it was returned to us with a cross beside that answer. We carried on kicking it back and forth, while we waited for all the papers to be marked, and somebody said "Tomintoul", not because he thought it was the answer but because it was a good Scottish town-name. Something about the metre of it threw a switch in my mind, and, dammit!, I knew perfectly well where it was, of course I knew -

That lightbulb moment )
shewhomust: (puffin)
Inevitably, I thought of [livejournal.com profile] sovay when I read this:
The Sound of Shiant is also known as Sruth na Fear Gorm, the Stream of the Blue Men, or more exactly the Blue-Green Men. The adjective in Gaelic describes that dark half-colour which is the colout of deep sea water at the foot of a black cliff. These Blue-Green Men are strange, dripping, semi-human creatures who comr aboard and sit alongside you in the sternsheets, sing a verse or two of a complex song and, if you are unable to continue in the same metre and with the same rhyme, sink your boat and drown your crew.

That's Adam Nicholson, in Sea Room, part of that book-haul I was so triumphant about at the time. It turns out to be a very good sort of book to pick up when you hace a wretched cold that won't go away, and you aren't sleeping well, and you want to take a break in the afternoon but you don't want to get too deep into anything. And if you drift off to sleep among thoughts of islands, there's no harm done.

Wikipedia knows these 'Blue men of the Minch', though its account lacks the charm of Nicolson's: they are kelpies, it says, if not Picts, or possibly Touareg.

If the weather had been more encouraging while we were in the Western Isles, we might have tried to find a cruise to the Shiant Islands: we did consider it, once we had worked out that the islands are the only place in the Hebrides where you see puffins. (See! puffins!) Puffins like it there, it seems, because they return year after year: puffins ringed on the Shiants in 1975 and 1977 were found there again in 2009 (and reported to be Europe's oldest puffins, though an Icelandic puffin site claims that the oldest puffin on record is one ringed in the Westman Islands which was 38 years old when recovered).

Now, the Westman Islands really are on my must-see list...
shewhomust: (bibendum)
Multi-strand holiday posting: are you confused yet? I know I am...

Three months ago, almost to the day, we were on Skye, on our way to the Long Island, the Outer Hebrides. But we had a little time to explore Skye itself, and the last time I wrote about it, we were leaving the Windrush café where we had acquired, among other things, directions to the broch we'd seen signposted as we entered the village.

Now read on... )

Soup for lunch in the café by the ferry terminal, and we were off on the boat to Harris - but I've written about that before...
shewhomust: (dandelion)
  • I wasn't consciously nervous about getting back on the horse after that total failure of my baking-fu. But somehow the next loaf didn't happen - that is, as the days passed and it kept being not convenient, and the starter aged, I eventually admitted defeat, used a spoonful of starter to seed the next batch and threw the rest away. The loaf after that, however, is a perfectly acceptable raisin and outmeal loaf: a little fragile, perhaps, but that's what you get if a loaf with a high oatmeal content rises nicely. I might try baking for (slightly) longer in a (slightly) lower oven, or I might not. Anyway, as [livejournal.com profile] weegoddess would say, I have toast - and that's the main thing.

  • Talking of [livejournal.com profile] weegoddess, she sent me this penguin mirror: it's a strange sort of mirror, and of course penguins aren't puffins, but we can't all be puffins. The fan is good, too.

  • I'm not looking for holiday ideas, thank you; and I'm particularly not looking for ideas for walking holidays, not until we've returned to walking more than we have been lately (one regret about our recent tour of the Hebrides is that I'd have liked less driving, more walking); I'd like to see more of Spain, though I was thinking of the north, not the south: despite all of which this looks fun.

  • The Co-op Membership Services e-mail me to say: "Every day is a picnic - You don't have to plan for a picnic when there's a Co-op nearby, so visit your Stornoway store for picnic inspiration, whatever the weather." And we did, it's true, visit the Stornoway store to buy provisions for a picnic, to be eaten in our B&B on a rainy evening. But "nearby"? Not really...

  • Other people's holiday shopping is more glamorous. J. invited us to dinner on Sunday, on the pretext that she wanted to empty and defrost the freezer. Dessert, however, was a tasting of Valrhona chocolate which she had bought, after much sampling, at the manufacturer's shop in Tain l'Hermitage: four bars of dark chocolate from different parts of the world, to be tasted in a specified order. I didn't take notes, and the website isn't helping, so all I can say is that they were all good, but that we disagreed with the recommended order, and thought #4 was an anticlimax after #3. All four were 62/64% cocoa solids, which supports my theory about the prevalent fetish for 85% (in brief, that it's a mistake. Or rather, that it's fine for cooking with, when you might as well start as high-cocoa as you can, since you're going to dilute it with other things; but if it's for eating, higher fat gives a better mouth-feel).
shewhomust: (bibendum)
As we all know, Flickr has its funny little ways. There doesn't seem to be anything to be done about this: you ignore it you find a workaround, or you go elsewhere. I'm not enthusiastic about its new trick of adding tags to my pictures, but mostly I pretend not to notice.

I have just uploaded the last batch of photos from Skye (so there may be another holiday post quite soon) and this was one of them:

Sheep


I tagged it with the location 'hebrides, skye' and then on second thoughts went back to add 'sheep', because I might want to find all my pictures of sheep, sometime. Flickr had got in ahead of me, and added the tag 'sheep'. Also 'outdoor' 'animal' and 'carnivore'.

Do they know something I don't?
shewhomust: (bibendum)
From Talisker we went to our hotel, the Rosedale in Portree, three fishermen's cottages right on the harbour now converted into a family-run hotel with many stairs: it was friendly and comfortable and, provided you can cope with the stairs, I entirely recommend it.

Dinner at the Rosedale )

Dinner at the Bosville )

Neither of the above )

After which, it was time to go and look at the broch. But that's another story.
shewhomust: (puffin)
The winner of the poll for Britain's National Bird was announced this morning: it's the robin. On this morning's Today programme the interviewer - was it John Humphrys? - was unimpressed: he'd been backing the blackbird, which came third. David Lindo, the ornithologist who came up with the scheme, explained that the blackbird had seemed set to come second, until they counted the votes of the schoolchildren who had voted on election day: a surge of support for the barn owl ("the Harry Potter effect") pushed the blackbird down into third place. But Lindo seemed pleased that 60% of voters were not associated with any wildlife organisation. It's a clever piece of PR for birds in general, though I see it more as further proof that if you solicit the opinions of people who are not really interested, you will end up with an uninteresting answer.

[ETA: Stephen Collins dishes the dirt on the lovable robin.]

Naturally, I voted for the puffin, with my usual instinct for the popular choice: it came tenth (that is, the least popular of the shortlisted birds; the full list is here). I could make a case for the puffin as our national bird: it is found all round the coast of Britain, and we are a maritime nation. I didn't expect it to win, but I didn't expect it to come last, either. Clearly not Britain's most popular bird, then, but perhaps our most relentlessly marketed.

We didn't see any puffins when we were in the Hebrides (we probably saw more starlings than anything else): I'd have been more disappointed if I'd been less surprised. Puffins on postcards, on mugs, in artworks of all qualities and none, in calendars, yes, and I may have purchased one or two. But the actual puffins nest in specific places, and these are on the smaller islands. We could have taken a boat trip from Stornoway to the Shiant islands, and if it hadn't been so wet and windy we might have, but as it was, the prospect wasn't inviting, and no right-thinking puffin would have hung around outside its burrow. Likewise, if we had made it to St Kilda, we'd probably have seen some puffins there.

This is what Martin Martin wrote about his visit to the island in 1695 or thereabouts:
The scraber, so called in St. Kilda; in the Farn Islands, puffinet; in Holland, the Greenland dove; its bill small, sharp pointed, a little crooked at the end, and prominent; it is as large as a pigeon, its whole body being black, except a white spot on each wing; its egg grey, sharp at one end, blunt at the other.

...

The bouger, by those in St. Kilda so called; coulter-neb by those in the Farn Islands; and in Cornwall, pope; it is of the size of a pidgeon, its bill is short, broad, and compressed sidewise, contrary to the bills of ducks, of a triangular figure, and ending in a sharp point, the upper mandible, or jaw, arcuate and crooked at the point; the nostrils are long holes produced by the aperture of the mouth; the bill is of two colours; near the head, of an ash colour, and red towards the point; the feet are yellow, the claws of a dark blue; all the back black, breast and belly white. They breed in holes under ground, and come with a south-west wind about the twenty-second of March, lay their egg the twenty-second of April, and produce the fowl the twenty-second of May, if their first egg be not taken away; it is sharp at one end, and blunt on the other.
I knew that puffinus puffinus is not a puffin, and presumably Martin's scraber / puffinet is some kind of shearwater. The bouger, or coulter-neb is the puffin. A coulter is the blade of a ploughshare, so coulter-nose is a fine tribute to the puffin's impressive beak.

And one last piece of ornithological etymology, to which I was directed by one of WordSpy's Monday round-ups. I know the Yiddish word to kibbitz, to spectate with audible and unwanted commentary (I associate it with the game of chess, but not in a good way). I hadn't known that it derives, according to the Online Etymology Dictionary, from the Middle High German word for a lapwing which apparently has "a folk reputation as a meddler. ... Young lapwings are proverbially precocious and active, and were said to run around with half-shells still on their heads soon after hatching."

Which brings me back to my starting point, because my second favourite bird (one which didn't even make the top 10) is the lapwing.
shewhomust: (bibendum)
To fill in the gaps between what I posted while we were in Scotland: starting again from the beginning.

I left us at the Glenspean Hotel, with its Durham émigré proprietors, preparing to take the road to the isles. I had haggis for breakfast (with poached eggs on top) after which I felt ready for anything, and we embarked on another spectacular drive, through Glen Shiel, past the Five Sisters (a ridge of five linked summits), along the little rushing stream and its waterfalls. The silver lining of a summer full of rain clouds is that all the waterfalls are at their best.

Road sign of the day: Feral goats for 2 miles - but disappointingly, we didn't see any feral goats.

We stopped for coffee at Eilean Donan. It's a long, long time since we were last there, and the image in my mind was - well, the famous image, the castle reflected in the gleaming water, the one that you know if you know any image of a highland castle at all. I had managed to forget that the water is a sea loch ("where three great sea lochs meet," says the castle's website), and was taken aback at the site of the castle on its rock rising out of the mud and seaweed of low tide. I hadn't forgotten the visitor centre, that simply hadn't been built at the time of our previous visit, but we managed to snag the table by the window, the one with the view:

The cafe at Eilean Donan


It was beginning to rain as we left, and was pouring down by the time we reached Kyle of Lochalsh, so we stopped only long enough to pick up a few essentials (cash, throat sweets, a paperback from the charity shelves at the pharmacist's) and then crossed the bridge to Skye. That too hadn't been built at the time of our previous visit: technically it's two bridges, a short hop from the mainland to Eilean Bàn, and then the longer crossing to Skye.

There was rain and sunshine and surprising gusts of wind and more rain. The old joke about forecasting Scottish weather goes: If you can see the hills, it's going to rain; if you can't see the hills, it is raining. We could only guess at the bulk of the Cuillin as we skirted the island, and took refuge from the rain at Talisker.

The distillery tour was - well, it was OK, but it wasn't the best I've done. How could it be? A combination of health and safety legislation and economies of scale means that, as distilleries market themselves more and more as tourist destinations, there is less and less they can actually show the visitor. When I first visited Highland Park, we tiptoed around the malting floor, hoping for a glimpse of Barley and Malt, distillery's the legendary cats; Talisker boast that they malt their own barley, and they do, but at another distillery in the group, not here. Still, every visit has something new to offer: at Talisker for the first time in my life I added a drop of water to my whisky - or rather, on our guide's recommendation I invited her to do so. She delicately released a single drop of water from a glass rod; I could not detect any difference. I might have been tempted to acquire a dropper of my own, as a souvenir and for showing off purposes, but they weren't on offer. I wasn't impressed with the shop, which majored on sweatshirts, and offered the entry level Talisker at only a few pounds more (once you claimed the reduction included in the price of the entry ticket) than I had paid in Tesco's for [livejournal.com profile] durham_rambler's birthday present.
shewhomust: (bibendum)
My travelling companions (and this is the first holiday on which all of my reading matter has been supplied by my Kindle) were James Boswell's Journal of his tour to the Hebrides with Dr Johnson, and, when I finished it (on the ferry across the Sound of Harris to Berneray and the Uists) Johnson's own account. I wrote most of what follows on the MV Clansman, sailing from Barra to Oban, and finished the post at home this evening.

I seem to have had quite a lot to say on the subject )

What I hadn't realised is that Boswell and Johnson did not visit the Outer Hebrides. They landed on several of the islands of the Inner Hebrides: Skye (which they refer to as 'Sky', throughout), Raasay, Mull, Coll (unintentionally), and a number of smaller islands, including Iona. Did they ever intend to go on to the 'long island'? Possibly not, as they were constrained by Boswell's professional commitments (it is Johnson, not Boswell, who spells this out: they are traveling later in the year than is ideal, to fit in with legal vacations). The outer islands are barely mentioned: "There is not," says Johnson, "in the Western Islands any collection of buildings that can make pretensions to be called a town, except in the Isle of Lewis, which I have not seen." Oddly, though he mentions Lewis only twice, and Harris not at all, there are three references to the most remote of all the islands of the Outer Hebrides, St Kilda. (Boswell refers to the notorious story of Lady Grange, which Johnson doesn't feign to notice). Much of their narrative is taken up with the journey through mainland Scotland to and from the islands, in which they followed a route complately different to ours, so our itineraries only coincided on the Isle of Skye, and even there, they spent much of their time enjoying the hospitality of the Macdonalds at Dunvegan, which we - didn't. In fact, the closest we came to the footsteps of out predecessors was at Talisker - but that's another story.
shewhomust: (dandelion)
We lunched yesterday at the Café Kisimul in Castlebay:

Kisimul Café


It may not look anything special, and the eclecticism of the menu is disconcerting (" A family run licensed restaurant specialising in Indian and Italian cuisine and local seafood") but the food is terrific: we should have tried to get in the previous evening, instead of eating at the big hotel where we were staying - we might even have had a bottle of Château Musar with the local lamb. For lunch we had scallop pakoras (sweet local scallops in the finest crust of spicy batter), a spinach and chickpea curry to share, thick and warming, and a delicate lemon tart ('mellow yellow' on the menu). If they'd just do away with the accompanying jazz it would be perfect.

At 3.30 (slightly late) we sailed out of Castlebay on the MV Clansman:

Leaving Castlebay


(Photo taken through a water-spotted window - please make allowances). It's a long trip back to Oban, especially as we called at Tiree and Coll; we had time for both sunshine and showers, and a double rainbow, and twilight and sunset:

Sailing homeward


before we came into Oban at 10.30. And today we drove home. There was more rain, and memories of our first visit to Oban, one bright frosty November, and there was the long road alongside Loch Lomond, with the water high in the loch to our left and woods full of bluebells sloping up to out tight. There was a lunch break at Cairn Lodge, the motorway service station by the gates of Castle Douglas, and there was a visit to Waitrose in Hexham to pick up supplies.

And there will be more holiday posts in due course, but right now, we're home.
shewhomust: (bibendum)
  • Drive out to the airport: the road - like so many Hebridean roads - is single track with passing places, and it skirts Tràigh Mhòr, the Big Strand, the beach which is also the airport's runway:

    Keeo off the beach...


    and then you can have coffee and a cranberry scone in the airport café.


  • You can read about the tragic story of the Clearances, and what happened to the village of Balnabodach - and then you can try to spot the site as you drive round the road that girdles the island. If the rain eased up, you could maybe stop and see whether you could locate the remains, but it doesn't, so maybe you don't.


  • You could visit Dualchas, the Heritage Centre, and learn many more sad stories about the history of Barra and smaller islands like Mingaulay, and the misdeeds of the landowners - and the odd more cheeful item, like a book of music which once belonged at Eoligarry House, and contains such songs as the Skye Water Kelpie's Lullaby (children, do not listen when the water kelpie sings you a lullaby).


  • After this, you could restore yourself with more coffee! more cake! (I recommend the chocolate and peanut butter brownies) and staring out of the window to see if it's brightening up at all - I think it is...

    Has it stopped raining yet?


    Macroon's Tearoom has only been open three days, and it's quite well hidden, in the Post Office, so we were pleased to have been tipped off about it.


  • And by now perhaps you might risk the boat trip out to Kisimul Castle - it'll be worth it:

    Kisimul Castle
shewhomust: (bibendum)
The short version is that we did not make it to St Kilda on either of the days we might have gone, and that instead we spent two days having fun exploring Harris, and have now moved on to Lewis. Also, thankyou to everyone who has said nice things about wanting pictures: the photographer is willing but the broadband is weak. But I have uploaded the first few, and here they are. - under the cut, as usual. )
shewhomust: (dandelion)
Despite alarming us with reports of high winds and an amber alert (risk of cancelation) the ferry from Uig to Tarbert - from Skye to Harris - was only a little delayed, and the crossing was perfectly smooth and comfortable. We sat in the observation lounge of what is, by Orcadian standards, a large and modern ferry, and drank surprisingly drinkable coffee and watched the islands come and go in the mist.

It's a pleasant drive from Tarbert to Leverburgh, where we are staying (in Sorrel Cottage). At first the scenery seemed very like that of Skye, without some of the grander flourishes, but then I began to see diferenes. We drove through uplands in which brown heather and grey stone were woven together like tweed, dotted wih mirror-like pools of water and finished off with a single button, a discarded hub cap propped against a boulder. At the far side of the island, the mist thined, the sun began to gleam on pale sands and a sea like turquoise satin.

It looked tranquil and mild - then it unleashed a sudden squall of rain, just as we arrived, and we scurried into Sorrel Cottage, deferring unloading the car until it stopped - which was only ten minutes. Since then it's been a fine sunny evening, with a chill wind. No-one seems certain what this means for sailing to St Kilda tomorrow, but we've been told to assume we will go, and to be down at the pier at 7.45. So it's an early breakfast tomorrow and an early night tonight.
shewhomust: (mamoulian)
When our hosts at the Glenspean hotel learned that we came from Durham, they each talked to us about the place, she last night and he this morning. I promise that we did not start it, and that while we may have expressed some reservations about 'isn't it a lovely place to live!', it was they who commented on the domination of the city by students. As we were leaving our host told us about a couple from Durham who visited the hotel regularly: they had lived all their lives in Durham, but were now moving out. They had had enough.

We are now sitting in the bar of the Rosedale Hotel in Portree, reading the documents which have just appeared on Durham County Council's website: it seems that the Council are seeking a judicial review of the Inspector's condemnation of their Plan.

Damn it, we are supposed to be on holiday.

In other news, we are on Skye and it is raining. We are having a lovely time.
shewhomust: (bibendum)
If one of you wants the crab cocktail starter, and the venison (with haggis mash) for the main course; and the other chooses the smoked haddock fish cakes and the vegetarian main course, which is a stack of Mediterranean vegetables layered with goat's cheese; what wine will you choose to drink? We cut our losses on the starters - once upon a time we'd have ordered a half bottle of white, but we don't have the stamina these days (even if there'd been anything on the list to tempt us) - and went for the Small Lot Mendocini Zinfandel, which I liked very much: fruity and ot over-tannic, which worked with the tomato sauce on my vegetables, but complex. structured, not over-bright.

"That's not a Durham accent," said the proprirtor, who served us. "Whereabouts in Durham do you come from?" "Durham City." "Ah. I'm from Langley Park."

I wished I'd taken my camera down to dinner. For one thing, the food was elaborately presented. Anything that could be piled up, was: that vegetable stack, obviously, but even the fishcakes were balanced one on top of the other, and as for the chocolate dessert...

For another thing, the dining room has a panorama of mountains. It's perched above the road above the Spean, and looks across to the slopes opposite, and down the valley to more snowy summits. Once upom a time, says [livejournal.com profile] durham_rambler, it wasn't the Glenspean Hotel, it was the Nevis View - and yes, that is Ben Nevis just visble beyond smaller but closer peaks.

Tomorrow we will drive down that road and take a closer look.
shewhomust: (bibendum)
Road works on the A1 provided a reason to take the A68 north, riding roller coaster up through Northumberland, between shades of yellow: rape fields in lemony acid full bloom, gorse deep honey golden, verges bristling with cowslips - what's going on? I think of primroses as common, cowslips as rare, yet here they were, and no primroses south of Perthshire.

A late lunch at M&S on the Edinburgh bypass, and by mid-afternoon [livejournal.com profile] durham_rambler had to wake me up: "This isn't the time to nod off, we're getting to the pretty bit!" The Highlands were splendid in the sunshine, which picked out the silver birch trunks and the brightest of the spring-green leaves, and the patches of snow on the higher slopes.

We didn't enjoy the scenery as much as we might have, because we'd half-seen warnings of a road closure, signposted far enough ahead to make us fear it was major. There were points where the road being closed would have forced us to detour via Inverness, so we were jumpy until, beyond Dalwhinnie, we turned left and the road to the right was closed: phew!

I don't think it was just relief that made the final stretch, along the valley of the Spean, the loveliest of all: the wooded hillsides came down to a series of lakes, dotted with buildings from the Extremely Silly end of the Scottish Baronial range.

And now we are in the bar of the Glenspean Hotel, and the staff are keen to serve us dinner. I shall allow myself to be persuaded...
shewhomust: (dandelion)
We have now completed the booking of our trip to the Western Isles in May: hotels, ferries, the lot. It was more challenging than we had expected: I had thought that May was before the summer season really began (and was a little smug because we would have the benefit of holidaying off season, plus the best of the weather, not to mention that it's too early for midges but not - I hope - for puffins...) but it's quite busy enough for peak season. This is a little random: some things we were able to book without hesitation, as if there was no problem about availability, others we had to try several options before we found anything. The Highlands were as difficult as the islands. Well, if we have booked unwittingly into some festival, we'll find out - it's not as if we had any choice of dates, those are fixed by other commitments.

Anyway, all sorted now, and I'm very excited about it. We drive up, with an overnight in the Highlands on the way, then two nights on Skye, where D., who is travelling by train, will join us. We travel together to Harris, and spend a couple of days there, during which if all goes well we will visit St Kilda. Then north to Lewis to see the standing stones at Callanish, after which [livejournal.com profile] durham_rambler and I will deposit D. at Tarbert so he can travel home, and continue our explorations in the north of Lewis, then work our way island-hopping south, with overnights on North Uist, South Uist and Barra, from where we take the ferry back to Oban.

Which should give us time to get home for Wonderlands.
shewhomust: (dandelion)
I read - and enjoy - the Guardian's Travel supplement on Saturday's in a spirit of contradiction, of disbelief: is this really how people spend their holidays, flying halfway across the world, visiting places that I think of as unbelievably exotic, accessible only to the most intrepid explorers? Or, indeed, do they travel thousands of miles to spend a brief weekend at their destination? Do they organise a weekend break by selecting the hotel first (basing their choice on the quality of the toiletries) and then finding something to do in the neighbourhood? Not to mention the descriptions of glamping, glamorous camping, if ever two concepts did not belong together... And of course they do, many of them do, I am the one who is out of step.

This does not spoil the fun of reading about it, on the contrary. So when the first supplement of the year offered a list of 40 holiday destinations for 2015, I felt quite smug that not one of the 40 matched my plans. It took a degree of literal-mindedness to achieve this neat zero: one day I do hope to visit Yosemite, but not this year (California is just so 2014); I would like to visit Porto, and the Faroe Islands (though not in March, for the eclipse); it's not impossible that we might find ourselves in Rodez, I am plotting to be in the south-west of France this autumn...

Why does it become a point of pride to distance myself from the list of recommendations? I think there are two reasons. One is pure perversity: there's enough here that doesn't appeal that I refuse to want any of it. The other is vaguer, but it's something to do with not liking to be presented with a list to be worked through: not so much the 'bucket-list' as such - well, maybe it is. It's the idea that everything worth doing, everywhere worth seeing could be narrowed down to a list which someone else has compiled. I want the whole world, and you offer me a choice of 40 destinations -

Yes, it's completely unreasonable of me.

So it serves me right that the week after the article which promoted all this reflection about how out of step I am with the Travel supplement and all that is in it, it should carry a review of the Bridge Inn in Ratho, where we stayed before flying out of Edinburgh to the US; they liked it, and so did we.

Likewise, I may - I do - reject the whole idea of scoring items of a list, but I have just booked what my guidebook describes as "the ultimate tick for island collectors". Yes, we are going to St Kilda in May. That is, we will attempt to go to St Kilda: you book the boat for two consecutive days, in the hope the trip will be possible on one of them at least. But I shall be positive. The next task is to arrange a brief tour of the Western Isles around that fixed point: [livejournal.com profile] helenraven, I shall be picking your brains about Skye.

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