I’m a Scot at heart. My roots lie there, deep in the soil of Strathlachlan, Argyll.
even have a ruined castle, Castle Lachlan, which was bombarded by the
because my clan, the MacLachlans,
the Jacobites at Culloden. A new castle
was built in the late
eighteenth century and the twenty-fifth clan chief still lives
My great-grandfather (aged 21) came out to Australia from Scotland in 1875 on the clipper ship City of Adelaide. His amazing handwritten (in pencil) diary of the voyage is now in the Mortlock Museum in Adelaide, South Australia, preserved for its historical importance. Consequently I have extraordinary déjà-vu feelings when I return to the haunting, picturesque country of Scotland. One day I'm going to write his story as a novel, but it will be a work of passion, and will take more than a little time and energy!
City of Adelaide (seen here) is
one of only two
clipper ships left from that era. Originally docked on the River Clyde,
in a storm and for years lay abandoned in a yard as a wreck. It has now
transported back to Adelaide where its restoration will take many
years, but will
be of much historical significance to families like my own.
Recently, I made a pilgrimage with my daughter back to Scotland. It was fantastic, and something I can now look back on with much pleasure. I took many photos, the best of which I have now placed into a gallery for my own, and your, enjoyment. Please take a look. If you would like to keep one or two I do ask that you place $2 for each in my Paypal account and I will send you the original. (It helps pay for more travels!)
'Mist rolls in from the sea' on Mull
'Mist rolls in from the sea' on Mull
how listening to a certain song can immediately conjure up a place and
I was tuned into a program about Sir Paul McCartney and his songs. The presenter played Mull of Kintyre and of course the drone of the bagpipes took me straight back to Scotland, the place of my ancestors, and my recent trip to the Isle of Mull.
But into my mind's eye came not an image of the tiny villages of white and grey cottages clinging together, or formidable grey stone castles perched above cliffs, or a restless sea slopping onto a grey rocky shore, but one of a bleak, wild, windswept moor between purple-brown hills, cradling three small lochs, like mirrors of ice. It wasn't Sir Paul's Mull of Kintyre, but it was close enough.
When the song finished I took out my diary, which strangely fell open at the very page where I described my trip on that day. (Scotland is a land of ghosts, myths and legends, so why was I surprised it would do that?) I had already written, "I am blown away with Scotland - I had no idea it was so beautiful." But the Isle of Mull, it seemed, had sheer taken my breath away.
I had been lucky, for the May weather was bitter, but calm and clear. The sea had been a millpond, and the sky cloudy but benign. On the day of my journey, the road from Craignure to Fionnphort (what a lovely Gaelic name) wound through those rugged craggy hills topped with purple bald heads, so alien to a city-bred Aussie, and I was captivated.
'Up there,' said the tour guide. 'Can you see him?'
We craned our necks. See whom? What?
'The Monarch of the Glen. Up there on the highest crag of the hill.'
He was there indeed, sentinel of the moor and the lochs, huge antlers raised in challenge, a magnificent Highland deer. He disappeared from view in an instant as our bus took us onward.
Little silver streams bickered through the valleys of those awesome crags, which gave way to wild fields edged with low stone walls. Shaggy tan-coloured Highland cows cropped short green-brown grass. Groves of firs marched along the contours. Around the huddles of white houses, bright blobs of yellow clustered - gorse bushes in riotous flower.
Our bus rattled along the very edge of the island, where the water lay calm and peaceful, fringed with little white and grey stony beaches, mossy mud, and tiny promontories of washed up detritus snagged by pirate rocks. But, stretching away to the distant hazy mountains, was a treacherous sea. That day it was playing tranquil and serene, but tomorrow? Would it be a raging monster? Would the wind be ripping along the crags and flinging sea spray onto the windows of the white cottages? Or would it be grey and placid beneath shrouding white mist, the tiny town of Fionnphort emerging from time like "Brigadoon"?
But whatever happens in the world, my three lochs and the brown moor with its protecting Monarch, will never change. Is a deer there still? Sniffing the wind and staring at the tourist buses as they roll along the road, guarding his territory from two-legged invaders?
There'll be a next time for me. Whenever that is.
My recent trip to the Emerald Isle was something I had always wanted to do but never accomplished. Loved it - and yes, it's green! Very friendly people helped me all the way, and my journey took in the usual tourist venues. Even so, I felt the attraction of the country - the ageless charisma of ancient sites, towns and cities, represented in myth, legend and song. My camera worked overtime once again, and you can see the best in my gallery (under the Scottish ones) – all for sale if you wish, for $2 each.
I've just discovered the United Arab Emirates - it being the stopover point on the flight to Athens. Fourteen hours on a plane from Australia and you are ready to shout "Get me outta here!" And there you are in Dubai, or Abu Dhabi, depending on your carrier.
Well, you either love it or you
hate it, and I have to say I
LOVE it! The city itself appears "kitsch extraordinaire", with fanciful
buildings designed by architects from La-la Land, or so it seems - some
like birthday cakes gone wrong.
But it has a certain je ne sais quoi, producing smiles, and feelings that can only be described as awe.
My favourite treats in Dubai
are: the Red Bus rides with hop
on, hop off options and the great cruise along the Creek; the Dubai
shopping heaven, plus its fish aquarium wall, and dancing fountain; the
the Emirates for the indoor ski slope; the Burj Khalifa; "The Palace
- the Old Town" and its amazing Arabic architecture (one of the staff
called Aladdin); the Wafi, where you think you've suddenly done a Dr
ancient Egypt; the museum in the old fort.
And the souks! Well, they have to be seen to be believed, especially the shops with gold bling - totally mind boggling.
On the last trip I did a tour to the canyons and mountains, through the desert, past a camel farm, and into Oman. Fabulous! And I did love the picnic lunch in among the rocks and cliffs - laid out on real carpets.
I rank my trip to Israel among
my special treats, for my
dear friends took me everywhere for a wonderful overview of their
was amazing - seeing for real the places I'd heard about, but never
would ever visit. Highlights: Tel Aviv; the magnificent Holocaust
Jerusalem; the old town of Jerusalem itself; the Sea of Galilee;
the Dead Sea; Jaffa; a night in a kibbutz; the ruins at Masada; Old
much more. I just loved it.