Back from Scotland
I met an old friend on the Isle of Eigg a couple of weeks ago. Hiking down to the beautiful ribboned beach at Laig Bay on a brilliant sun-washed day (such things do happen in Scotland) I was greeted by the border collie that lives in the beach house.
“I know YOU!” I said, “you’re the dog that makes me play your game on the beach, aren’t you?” Indeed, I’ve met this dog three times now, and every time she’s out like a shot when she hears beach visitors coming, finding a stick and teaching them to play her game. It makes going back to Eigg and happy homecoming for me in the islands of Scotland.
Astute observers will have noted that Kathy and I have been tootling off to Scotland — again! If you browse through the cards here in Small World Gallery, you'll discover scenes from a lot of my explorations into the Highlands and Islands. I don’t think a year has gone by that I haven’t schemed a way to get back, always on a quest to find ever more remote treasures.
All this began when National Geographic gave me my first Scottish assignment in 1995. My knowledge of Scotland was pathetic, but I managed to pull of the story pretty well, as it turned out. And that started a string of subsequent stories that took me back over and again. Orkney followed soon after, Edinburgh’s Festival and Fringe, too, and then whisky country, an assignment quite hard to turn down.
Soon I was being asked to accompany cruises in Scotland for National Geographic Expeditions, such as aboard the Lord of the Glens that takes the Caledonian Canal down Loch Ness and out into the Inner Hebrides. Besides talking about photography I could offer insights into Scottish culture and throw in a whisky tasting, too. (It’s popular.)
That’s where Kathy and I were this time -- revisiting old favorites like the Isle of Iona. (We like offering Iona crosses from Aosdana, you’ll note.) And then we escaped up to Orkney, favored for its rural ambiance where cattle loll about lush pastures next to 5,000-year-old stone circles. Archeologist Nick Card joined us for dinner and brought us up to date on the new dig season at Ness of Brodgar, which I covered for National Geographic in the May 2017 issue.
Finally we added a few days in the Borders for National Geographic Traveler to fill in a couple of holes for an upcoming Scotland story being planned.
Photographers like me need an identity, and Scotland has become part of mine. Publications come back to me quite often now. (I’ve pretty well been transformed from idiot to expert by now.) It’s a rich part of my photographic life, which you’ll appreciate if you ever get me started on Scotland travel advice when you come into Small World Gallery.
And I’m delighted whenever I run into an old friend on an island beach who insists I take time to throw a stick for a while.