We WERE cozy

No no no

Inviting via the negative. Indeed, we encountered neither insect, heat, nor humidity.

Also, good use of chalk colors on signage…. Here’s a decorated century-old chalkboard in the news today…. Pretty cool.

Random London…


Thames view

We went out on one last bridge to look at the River Thames. Tide out somewhat. Water murky. All active boats were tourist vessels.

Caution horses crossing

From the upper deck of a two-level bus, we learned that passing horses trump pedestrian regulations…and have the power to STOP vehicular traffic. Have a great ride!

Seven Dials symbol

This is the symbol for the Seven Dials neighborhood. A quick G**gle search and I find no explanation.

The Seven Dials part is easy. When platted in the 1690s, to get the maximum street frontage thus increasing the value of lots, the owner opted for a radial street pattern from a point, where a sundial monument was installed. There were/are seven streets, but only six sundials–with the seventh the pillar they are mounted on!

Cool Apple plug

We continued our practice of visiting Apple Stores in foreign capitals and large cities. The Guru asked about the new Apple adapter that has folding prongs and fits UK electrical plugs. The kindly Apple-lady said she hadn’t touched one, and opened a brand new package (was it £30? £25? I forget…pricy), so she and we could see/feel the smooth mechanism. The twin prongs move in the opposite direction from the third one, very solid mechanism. Lovely design. Points to Jony Ive, I understand. Thanks to our Apple-lady for modeling! (No points to me for OOF* image.)

* OOF = out-of-focus

Moving on…

B coach

Turns out we are B people; turns out B on this train is the quiet car…nice! The train-cars on this long-distance route (London–Edinburgh, I think) have alphabetical designations A through F, plus K and I forget what else. The Guru found mid-day, off-time tix for us for £13 apiece each way, London–York—a great deal!

While northbound our car, and I think the train in general, was lightly occupied; southbound, today, there were only a few empty seats. We got lucky, and only had companions at our table for about a half-hour of the ride, an older couple en route to visit their daughter in Sardinia for a month….

Henri Moore arch

The Henry Moore Arch, with a display-management strategy that imitates Stonehenge, where the hoi palloi are kept at bay by fences. Rabbits, however, at least here, were dining by the half-dozen on the edge of the fenced-off greensward. (Would not normally use that word, but it fits here in London….)

We’re staying in a “new” neighborhood, near Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens. They are one contiguous green on my smartphone map with two named zones, confusing…plus I found this on an official website: “Kensington Gardens covers 242 acres and was originally part of Hyde Park.”* We strolled in both, after an early dinner….

Queen vic relief

We started at the Italian Gardens, where we began to discover heavy use across the park at this hour by Iranian(?) couples and small groups. The women tended to accent black with florescent or bright orange, e.g., in sneakers. Is this some kind of nationalism? A signal of availability? Mystery….

This Royal Park celebrates many royals, including this relief of Queen Victoria in the Italian zone. The quoted price of making the stone sculptures in the Italian Garden was around £200, if I remember correctly. Not sure what that is in modern £s.

Prince Albert in gold

Check out this giant installation honoring a gold-crusted Prince Albert. He’s seated in a style we saw the Romans use, and I assume they borrowed/imitated from the Greeks. For the Romans anyway, seated on a special chair was a big deal for the leaders. I don’t know if it carried more status than seated on a horse, or if it was a different connotation entirely (e.g., referring to non-military leadership?).

Anyway, the sheer extent of this park in such a populous city is amazing. After all the cities we visited in Scotland, almost all with a castle on a high point, London’s layout, on comparatively flat ground, feels quite different.

* Apparently, in 1536 good ol’ Henry VIII created the park as a private/crown hunting ground. It was opened to proper members of “the public” (thus, only the few) in 1637.

Last hurrah in the English countryside

Castlerigg standing stones

We started our morning—look at that glorious sky!—at our last standing stone circle of the trip. This one is on a high hill surrounded by much higher mountains. I learned absolutely nothing about the ritual landscape…other stones, where settlements were, other architectural elements…. Sigh. I bucked up, though, and on we went!

Cud chewing

We motored up a hill, and discovered even the cattle enjoy lake-views…

Lake view

…and watching sailboats….

Topiary England

Remember, this is the Lake District, and people here tend to be flush and indulge their notions…can these be considered garden follies?

Yorkshire Dales view

We motored along winding roads into the nearby Yorkshire Dales, which we found stunning, yet rather sere in comparison, with rock outcrops and different land-use patterns.

Gypsy wagon stone barn Winsome sheep

With last weekend, we realized we had hit the summer festival season. I think this apparent gypsy wagon is advertising one.

That stone barn…there were lots of these in the valleys and often not very far apart, although each was in a different stone-fenced paddock. I pondered this quite a while, and eventually postulated that they were part of a transhumance pattern, with summer graze on the heights of the ridges, and wintering near these barns, which always had some height and at least two stories, I assume for storing winter fodder. Just a theory, though….

I doubt I’ll see any sheep close-up during the rest of the trip so one last sheep photo…and isn’t this a darned winsome sheep?

Highland sampler

Hold onto your shorts; we covered a lot of ground today, the weather included blue skies (!!!). Here’s a great sample from our day, and yet I am skipping many beautiful moments captured without the help of Kodak.

Glen Nevis

Glen Nevis.

Loch Nell

Loch Nell.

Montaine moors

Moors in the glaciated mountains…at least, I’m pretty sure this vegetation qualifies as moors.

Kilmartin Glen

Kilmartin Glen Neolithic ritual landscape…one of the rock cairns.

Standing stone cup marks

Kilmartin Glen standing stone with pecked “cup marks.” No idea what they were meant to convey.

Dun Add afar

Dunadd landform from afar. Dun means fort, usually always a fort atop a high-point.

Dun Add atop

View northish from the summit of Dunadd, from the part described as the great hall and citadel. The later occupation here maybe began in the late 500s and lasted into the 900s. This was the capital of the native Scoti peoples and their “empire” Dál Riata….

Now, back to the present….

Loch Lomond

Loch Lomond. We did not cruise it.

Logging Scotland

Active logging, Scottish style. The log piles show the neatest/tidiest stacking jobs I’ve ever seen. Still hurts to see trees whacked in their prime….

Time changes (noun verb)

We moved through the landscape like we were nudge-budging time.

We began with an unexpected tire event…on the OTHER rental car…. Some confusion on my part, as we both, that is each couple, arrived here in a white rental car…. After several attempts, I finally got straightened out…and permission was given for tire replacement/fixing to happen, using a nonspecified contractor…. Then we discovered that the tyre business we could find (TY, G__gle!) in these parts is closed Sat and Sun, so the next phase of the tire fixing event will happen Monday…. The “boys” installed the “real” spare, and the car is back safely in the driveway, awaiting the weekday opening….

Calanish standing stones 01 Calanish standing stones 02

Our first (scheduled) stop was this fantastic four-pointed array of standing stones with a circle of stones and even a burial cairn in the center. What we see today is the result of several hundred years of additions and modifications…. Plus agricultural use as late as fifty (I think) years ago, when this was a potato field (if I have it right).

For me, the space and place was magical in that this hilltop and the laboriously erected stones seemed like a place where peace reigned. My projection? Probably.

Broch dun carloway distant Broch dun carloway inside

This magnificent circular structure dates perhaps a millennia closer to our own times, but still in the distant past. We read that no one knew the purpose of these huge circular buildings, and we also read about how it contained multiple levels of living spaces, likely used by several…families…. This broch (Friendly Autocorrect: plz don’t change it to broth again!) is huge and within the two-walled enclosure were steps and passages that permitted movement up and down, from level to level.

Very moving. Very different from the standing stones/stone circle….

Blackhouse village

We also visited a blackhouse village (that’s blackhouse not blockhouse, Friendly Autocorrect). The last residents moved out maybe in the 1950s(?), and about 15 yrs ago preservationists began to reconstruct and preserve this cluster of blackhouses. We found displays and people here extremely informative…but I neglected to discover the reason behind the naming…. I heard that previously there were white-houses, hence the name as the structures contrasted in some way. I also heard that the peat fires inside blackened the interiors. Mostly, I just absorbed what it might have been like to live in spaces with your sheep/cattle, to have a dirt floor in your house, and to nearly always have your nostrils filled with the scent of burning peat. My imagination may not match reality.

Rabbit village

Adjacent to the blackhouse village was a rabbit village. [Rabbit is more central and in the fore-ground than sleeping lamb. Rabbit’s friends and relatives didn’t make this crop….]

Fresh cut peat

Still trying to figure out the complexities of peat cutting and drying. From my limited understanding, this bunch of peats is in the first stage of the drying process, which may take at least six weeks and can be longer if it’s repeatedly rainy.

Very exciting day all around. Plus, we watched the moon above, and we have seen the loch in front of our rented cottage in the hinterlands become still-surfaced. Given the constancy of the wind, I was very surprised by this…nature-mirror…moment.

From violence-bracing to violence

RoughCastle Roman fort

This may be the last about Roman occupation on this trip. This is a turf fort on the Antonine Wall, called Rough Castle. The Romans took twelve years to build this wall, and after eight more years they abandoned it (the forces of political economy…). To the right is the land of the barbarians, with a ditch and rampart in the mid-ground, facing the threats…to the far left is the fort, and I am standing on a gate (I assume; one sign on the whole fort…). This is the second-smallest fort along this wall, and the best preserved. It’s rough, humpy ground surrounded by a ditch, and would be a royal pain to sketch-map with a compass by pacing.

FalkirkWheel drone

By the time we got to the other side of the hill (roughly speaking), the sun was out, and we found two guys and a drone watching the Falkirk Wheel. This is some major industrial engineering to bring boats up/down between two canals at very different heights. The drone is left of center near the top and the boat is at the bottom ready to enter the lower basin. The arm takes the boat and water on side, with a counterbalance on the other. This lift replaces eleven (I think) locks that used to be used to span the 79–foot elevation change.

Sun plantationtrees

As we climbed, we saw many plantations, including bits of Tay Forest. Some of Tay Forest is old(er) growth…. And rivers, some with rocky beds and rushing water. Elevation….

Balds snow

As we climbed higher, we got above the treeline (or at least where trees have not returned since the last glaciation), into glacier-rounded peaks and valleys, with some snowpack remaining. The dark brown landcover is heather. The lambs up here are much younger than at lower/warmer elevations, and most were hunkered down napping, not gamboling about, as we have seen everywhere else.

Highlands distillery

We have driven past several whisky distilleries, but have yet to stop. Crazy, eh?

Culloden marker

Many men died on this relatively flat moor, properly called Drumossie Muir/Moor, including Scotsmen fighting on both sides. This is where the Blàr Chùil Lodair, or Battle of Culloden, happened beginning about one in the afternoon of 16 April 1746. The Jacobites, who sought to restore their beloved Stewarts to the throne, opened with cannon fire, and English forces answered with their own cannon. As the National Trust for Scotland puts it:

Bombarded by cannon shot and mortar bombs, the Jacobite clans held back, waiting for the order to attack. At last they moved forwards, through hail, smoke, murderous gunfire and grapeshot. Around eighty paces from their enemy they started to fire their muskets and charged. Some fought ferociously. Others never reached their goal. The government troops had finally worked out bayonet tactics to challenge the dreaded Highland charge and broadsword. The Jacobites lost momentum, wavered, then fled.
Hardly an hour had passed between the first shots and the final flight of the Prince’s army. Although a short battle by European standards, it was an exceptionally bloody one.

Culloden was the last pitched battle on the British mainland, and the ramifications for the Scottish people have been immense. The English subsequently sought to suppress ethnic Scottish behaviors, including kilt-wearing, the Scottish Gaelic language, and the clan social structure. The effect of these changes was a depopulation of hinterlands, and disruption of pretty much everything Highland.

This and other rough stone markers were installed in the 19th-C. Archaeologists have used non-destructive, remote sensing techniques to define the areas where bodies were buried in mass graves.

Culloden marsh

Another problem for the Jacobite troops was that the part of the battlefield they sought to cross was even wetter than today, slowing the advance of a major portion of the line. Indeed, this was a little marsh we found that would have been difficult to slog through.

Managers of the battlefield are encouraging the plant species that were here on the day of the battle, and the moor is turning from pasture into…gorse and grasses, along with wildflowers and other woody plants. One type of feature that was here in 1746, but is mostly gone now, are stone field enclosures…. The powers-that-be are also trying to convince landowners in the preservation area to refrain from tree plantations.

Such are the cycles of land management.

ONC!! and Knag Burn

Rolling rowcrops

We saw the landscape change today, first as we drove north, eventually through the Pennines, and then as we drove east, descending the Tyne drainage. We saw more critters than people throughout most of it, I daresay.

Pasture stonewalls

We watched the row crops yield to pasture, with fields defined almost exclusively by stone walls.

We did this in Our New Car!! Yes, new to us, but ALSO it had 40-some miles on it when The Guru received the keys! New car smell! Shiny white!

Sheep dots stonewalls

The rolling countryside became treeless….

Pasture notrees

And we were on the open range, driving between the snow-sticks, and watching for “LAMBSONROAD.”

Housesteads Hadrians wall

Even more exhilarating, we visited a Roman fort…. That’s the land of the barbarians on the left, and down at the bottom of the hill…the creek…that’s Knag Burn. Burns are creeks. Other things, too…. Many of the trees in this area were pine plantations, and some were newly logged, but not these “forests.”

Northsea night

Our east leg took us to the end of the wall/road, and we watched the afterglow on a North Sea seawall.

Technical report: we’ve been using Goog__Maps to do our navigation, with Miss Voice turned on. She mentions nearly every roundabout, even the ones that are just a big white dot in the middle of a circle of pavement. Keeping us on our toes. Every once in a while she skips one, but our route is obvious. Sometimes she over-narrates curves and turns. Today she totally skipped one, and we had to backtrack. I think it was a new subdivision that wasn’t there in her world, although it was on the map. Still, using technology makes the whole process quite smooth compared to scrutinizing printed maps…without the magic blue dot of self-ness (as in, I am here, right HERE, therefore I exist…).

Traveling road show…embarks

Airplane salt pepper wine apertif

Ah, high-flying style for cocktail hour…love those wee chubby airplane salt-and-pepper shakers!

Dawn in new place

Sometimes the sun comes up and you have a new outlook on the world. Sometimes the sun comes up and you are in a new place.

We had some of both today.

Beach front fun hibernating

Deflated amusement park….

By day’s end, we had slogged through miles of rain (in “Bono,” which has the license licence plate BNO), and found ourselves in a holiday and fishing-fleet town (that’s diversity!) where nearly no one was out and about—too wet; too windy; have to get up early to go fishing…. Until the sky began to turn blue and the puddles began to dry up…then we saw dog-walkers and exercisers…and a few locals getting from here to there….

Fishing fleet work buildings

Long day! But fruitful….

May Day!

Babettes manhattan

We did a bunch of spring cleaning, then some celebrating, of this May Day!

No ludi for this Floralia—instead, long-time friends in town from far away where the green is just beginning to arrive(!), and heaps of talking and laughing.