Monday, June 8, 2009

I'm on Top of the World

[Unfortunately, I am back home. Thankfully, I get to remember the fun I had as I go through the back posts I was unable to publish earlier because I lacked internet access. The entry below was written on 1 June 2009.]

Literally and figuratively. I love it here. So few people and stunningly beautiful scenery. We took a walk tonight around Ardnave Point and from the high dunes there were able to see many of the surrounding islands, including a couple with ruined buildings (no one lives there now; I wonder if we could buy it? A running joke of the trip has become that we can of course buy whatever we want because "we're Americans." We're going to march up to anyone whose property we want and -- preferably while chewing on cigars -- demand, "We're Americans, how much do you want?") In any case, from high up on the dunes, where we were able to see far off into the distance to other islands: Jura, Oronsay, and Colonsay, and also the Kintyre peninsula on the mainland, I really do feel like I'm at the top of the world. So I'm moving here. Forward my mail. Tell my cats that I love them... (just kidding, of course).

But seriously (no, not really), Robin and I are working on a business case for making a Thermo satellite office here. Or, we're going to open our own distillery. Unfortunately we'll need to wait at least 10 years until we can think about turning a profit.

We had another late-ish start today. It's nice when we don't have to be up for breakfast like we did when we were staying at B&Bs. The freedom of having our own space is very nice. We don't have to worry about waking up too late or staying out too late; we can eat when we want and what we want. We didn't have a plan on waking so we lingered over breakfast. I hung some laundry out on the line outside. We needed to stop into the estate office as the fees and the exchange rate of the bank transfer left them 14 pounds 12p short. The two women working in the Islay Estates Office are in a space that can't be bigger than 10x10 feet. I'd go completely mad.

We had more gorgeous weather today. First stop after paying our balance to Jane at Islay Estates was to the community centre in Port Charlotte where we had the first internet access in days. I was so excited to see what my friends had been up to on Facebook and had a quick chat with Anne, and posted one back entry on the blog (here I am blogging about blogging). Hopefully we'll be able to get back soon, but there's so much to do here, I'm not sure when that will be. The view from our outside table was of the vast Loch Indaal (which is really a bay). The sky was so clear today we're pretty sure it was Ireland we saw off in the distance.

Next we visited our second distillery of the trip, Bruichladdich (this is pronounced "brook-laddie" with the "oo" like in "loo." We're having great fun learning the pronunciation of these names; even with my experience with Scots and Gaelic, I often (mmm, always) get it wrong and am amused to find how different my pronunciation is from the right way to say it.)

Bruichladdich is a fine little distillery that has only been back in operation since 2001. After our visit we found the book Whisky Dream in the local Spar shop that describes how some enterprising men got the business back on its feet again. It seems that each distillery has its own character, and even though their processes are more or less the same, I think it is probably worth seeing each one. We were pleasantly surprised by the bright character of Bruichladdich (and they even gave us two free drams of tasting! One very peaty -- more peaty than Laphroaig I'll contend -- and one not so peaty). On a bulletin board in the shop were clippings of a bizarre story a few years ago where some arm of the CIA admitted to spying on them under suspicion of manufacturing weapons of mass destruction! (Read more on the story at Bruichladdich's website.)

Then back home for some food before heading out for our walk at around 6pm. We walked for almost 3 hours on the cliffs, dunes, and beach around Ardnave Point.

We still have wool fever and spent a lot of time as we started the walk gleaning stray wool that had been liberated from the sheep by the abundant thistle in the area. We didn't have a bag for it, so we ended up stuffing it all in my little backpack:

(No, I don't know what I'm going to do with all the wool.)

On the way back we passed by the ruined Kilnave Chapel that holds one of the island's famous crosses. We stopped the car to walk down and take some pictures. At 9:45pm the sun was just going down and made for some dramatic compositions. That's another fun thing about Scotland in summer: it feels like it's 7:30 in the evening for about 3 hours (the trade-off of course is that in the winter it feels like it's night pretty much all the time).

While Robin photographed the chapel and cross from many angles, I wandered amongst the stones, looking more at the oldest ones. This one in particular caught my eye:

The text is:

He lived beloved & died
Regreeted. What is said
to One, is said to all.
Watch, & be ye also READY.

We've booked ourselves on an 11am tour of Kilchoman Distillery for tomorrow: incentive to get ourselves going a little sooner. Also perhaps we'll get to Laphroaig, the granddaddy of the Islay distilleries. Maybe a crossing to Jura later in the week, but I have a feeling we won't be sailing to the island of Colonsay this trip. There's too much great stuff to see and do here on Islay.

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