Our room in a former sea captain’s home offered Pamelia a scenic sill for her art materials.
If you drive on the wrong side of the road until you reach what seems like the wrong West Coast ocean—the Atlantic—you’re either dreaming or in Scotland, or maybe both.
Pamelia, my parents and I continued our unique family/Naturalist’s Notebook adventure by heading west and north from Edinburgh to the Scottish Highlands and the Isle of Skye. The frequency of rainbows—about one an hour—and the beauty of the scenery suggested that we might in fact be dreaming.
The Isle is rugged, rocky and surprisingly large—about half the size of New York’s Long Island.
It’s odd, given the natural beauty of Scotland, to realize how unnatural the landscape is. Until the Romans invaded almost 2,000 years ago, the British Isles were 98% forested. The old line is that a squirrel could go from the south of England to the north of Scotland without touching the ground. By the end of World War I, the forest cover was down to 3%.
When walking through fields and along the coast, we often had company. Thousands of Highlanders were kicked off their land in the 1700s to make room for sheep. Many of them—the Highlanders, not sheep—were forced to immigrate to Canada, especially Nova Scotia, which still has a significant Gaelic-speaking population.
This mountainous section of Skye, known as the Quiraing, is still geologically shifting and has dramatic features called the Needle, the Table and the Prison. It also had 45 mph winds blowing when we wandered around it.
These gray seals were among the wildlife we spotted. We also saw many hooded crows (which are a mixture of gray and black), a couple of gray herons (similar to the blue heron we see in Maine) and several gannets, along with countless gulls.
Lovely grass-rimmed pools like this dotted the edge of the intertidal zone.
Centuries of sheep trails have carved permanent wrinkles into the rounded hills at Fairy Glen.
We walked in the footsteps of giants; Skye was once prime dinosaur territory.
The winds at one spot topped 60 mph and nearly blew my dad over. This sign sums it up nicely.
The only blights on the landscape were recent timber-company clear-cuts such as this. The good news is that Britain is now trying to increase its forest cover by planting more native trees.
Speaks for itself.
The fishing village of Portree, in which we stayed. Sad to say, overfishing has taken its toll in Scotland just as it has in the Northeastern U.S. (and virtually everywhere else in the world’s oceans).
Sunrise in Portree.
On our way back down through the Highlands we stopped at Loch Ness, where my dad says his camera jammed right when he saw Nessie. You music fans may be amused to know that there’s an annual festival near the lake called Rock Ness.