Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Edinburgh visit (part one)

This will be a short entry,with more text and pics tomorrow. I left here in the dark (about8:30) and arrived back here at 8:30PM, in the dark, accompanied by a nice snow fall. I took a train to Edinburgh and spent the day there with a friend from the states, who moved several months ago. The one pic attached here was taken from the train. After returning I unpacked, called Jacqueline, then spoke to Ann Baird about some plans for tomorrow which might include a train ride into Glasgow, in preparation for doing the same on Sunday to visit the St Columba Church and hear a sermon in Scots Gaelic. I am doing well but too tired to write more at this time.

Darkness all over the town

It's about 08:00AM here, 3AM back on the east coast of USA. It's still dark, but getting lighter, outside. Think about that next time you wonder where is the sun. Off to Edinburgh.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Jetlag, Coatbridge, Airdrie ...

Jetlag caught up with me last night. I went to sleep around 7PM and did not wake up until after 9AM this morning. I ate a quick bite, drank some coffee, got dressed and headed to the train station ... about a 15 minute walk. First stop was Coatbridge, the birthplace/hometown of my Grandmother Susan Robson Bryden. I found (actually, I stopped in a church for directions and one of the parishioners told me "I have a few minutes, I'll walk you down there."") the street, Buchanan, she lived on but the area has been renovated. Based on discussions with residents, I boarded a bus to Airdrie, where my great-great Grandparents lived, to view pictures of Coatbridge (and Airdrie) through the years. A very helpful lady gave me directions to the street, Callon, that Oliver Bryden lived on. Returning from Airdrie, I asked some patrolling police officers if they could tell me where 117 Main Street, where my Grandmother was born, is located but alas, that too is gone. Ultimately, I arrived back at where I am staying at about 7PM. A long, but informative day. Apologies for the poor formatting (lots of white space) but it is late (almost 11PM), I am tired, and I have to rise early enough, tomorrow, to make it to Edinburgh.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Safe arrival

It's about 6PM in Scotland. I arrived safely in Glasgow where I was picked up Gordon Campbell who took me to his house for lunch, prepared by his wife Margaret. Lunch was holiday sandwiches of (melted) brie cheese with cranberry sauce. Very different and very satisfying. We visited for a while, I told Margaret why I was traveling in December (no migies !!!) and afterward they drove me to where I am staying, where I was helped tremendously by a friend of my hosts. I was also told that I was obviously dressed for the weather (wearing my usual shorts) there is considerable snow and ice. There is a train station a short distance from where I am staying so tomorrow I will walk to the train, and make best effort to catch a train to Coatbridge. In the meantime, I have been awake, more or less, since about 8AM yesterday morning and need some sleep.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Return to Scotland

For those readers who do not know, I am returning to Scotland. Today. The trip has been in the works for many weeks/a few months but due to the weather this time of year, I travel without Jacqueline. My goals are Glasgow, Coatbridge, Dumfries, Edinburgh, and ??? The purpose of the trip is to walk the same streets walked by my ancestors more than 100 years ago. I spent time online researching geneology and believe I have found residence addresses, etc.

This journey home would not have been possible without the encouragement of my wife, and friends. Also, God has blessed me with brothers and sisters in Christ, in Scotland, who are willing to spend time with me. Finally, but hardly lastly, I have been exceedingly blessed with a place to stay courtesy Pastor Paul Euliano, and his wife Heini, of Bridgeton Life Church in Glasgow.

I will be relying on God, friends and public transportation to make my way around between the various sites, and I endeavor to take pictures and blog each day. Jacqueline has insisted that this time I be in some of the pics. So, I will be in some of the pictures.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

18th Century Ball, Tablet at Marshwood High (Eliot, ME) Craft Fair

On the 21st November, 2009, in Greenland, NH, the Greenland/Seacoast class, Boston branch, of the RSCDS (Royal Scottish Country Dance Society) held an 18th Century at the Parish House in Greenland, NH. The reference to 18th century is that many of the dances are from that time frame. Jacqueline and I had been interested for some time in learning SCD and are taking lessons. This event would mark the first time our rank-amatuer-ish-ness would be exposed to others outside our wee weekly group. Other SCDers from Brunswick (ME), Nashua (NH), Salem (NH or MA?) and Cambridge (MA) attended and, as you can see, there was a sizable group arrayed in a wide variety of costume. We had a grand time. Sorry, nae pics of myself; not that none exist but you lot will not be seeing them !!!
On December 5 we attended our first ever craft fair to sell J's Bluebell Butter Tablet, and it was a great success. We met many nice folks (vendors and customers) and everyone was very complimentary to the quality of Jacqueline's product, as well as the attractive packaging and presentation. Despite what some of the regulars told us was a thin crowd, in comparison to previous years, we sold about 30 pounds packaged in bars, bags, and boxes. Praise be to God !!! for that encouraging, and fun time together, and the great location where we would not be lost in the crowd of vendors. Sorry the picture seems a bit out of focus but the fluorescent lights were bothering me quite a bit that day, and I took the picture before the show officially opened.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Folk music, Tablet, Scottish country dancing

It's been a while since the last post. I had wanted to post right after seeing Malinky perform at a local folk club on Sept 30, but events happened, one day turned into three, then a week, etc. Finally, I've spent more than a week battling illness; fortunately it is not the dreaded H1N1 but it did knock me about quite a bit.

Anyway, my planned posts were about the show, tablet, and Scottish country dancing. So I will combine the three and go for it.

First up: Malinky. They performed in Rollinsford, NH a week after the Highland Games @ Loon Mt., in Lincoln, NH. I attended the show, Jacqueline was unable to and very disappointed that she missed such a brilliant performance. They performed many tunes from their Flower and Iron CD, and also performed, at request, The Wild Geese/Norland Wind. Here's a link to Youtube and that particular song, which is one of my favorites.

At the show I asked if they would be willing to taste-test, and approve or not, a batch of tablet that my wife made. She (we) hope to sell it in our area, and who knows where that will lead. Well they were willing to taste it and pronounced it very good. Here is a link to the front-page, and their endorsement of the product, with a picture, on our website.

Finally, one of the things my wife and I wanted to do for a long time was learn to dance. We took ballroom lessons but the end result was not as we had hoped. Much of that is my "fault" as I am not a particularly good dance leader; what should be finesse most of the time devolves into my dragging her around the dance floor. Fortunately we decided to learn Scottish country dancing and a few weeks ago took our first lesson. It's great and we highly recommend it for the sheer fun of the group experience. I too found it to be more to my liking than ballroom style dancing; perhaps, probably, because of the Scottish blood flowing in my veins. Later this month the group will be holding an 18th century dance, complete with many folks wearing appropriate costume, and I plan on taking some pictures and posting them to the blog.

Meanwhile, slainte !!!!

Monday, September 21, 2009

New Hampshire Highland Games at Loon Mountain

We travelled north for a couple of hours to attend the first day (Friday the 18th 2009) of the New Hampshire Highland Games at Loon Mountain. What a thrill to enter the Governor's Lodge to the sounds of John Carmichael singing "Westering Home". We also heard, and saw, Malinky, The Red Hot Chilli Pipers, Albannach, and Brigadoons.

I did not take many pictures during the day but I have posted a few, along with one taken a few years ago of a solo piper who, late in the day, climbed onto a large rock in the middle of the river that flows near the games.

One of the more interesting "findings" was Clan Bell in the clan village, with their shirts that stated "Border Clans Can Be Beligerent". For those who are not aware, families such as Bell belonged to what are collectively known as "The Border Reivers." My maternal grandmother was a Robson, another of the Border Reiver families; one of the more notorious I might add. Anyway, over the past few days I have been wondering how many of the Highland Games or Clan Gatherings have a strong, if any, presence of representatives of the "Border Reivers".

At the back of the program was a coupon good for $15.00 off any two bottles of whisky with a total value of at least $50.00. Well, one of the illustrated bottles was Ardbeg's Supernova, and I thought "Schweet". Sadly, they have not had any for quite some time. :-( Nor do they have any Uigeadail or Airigh Nam Beist. I guess, until we return to Islay we will have to be content with the 10YO.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Wobbly glasses, whisky, and Westering Home

While on Islay for the 2009 Feis Ile, we visited all 8 distilleries, and obtained a whisky glass (or two at Bowmore because that's how they were packaged) from each. The glasses came in various shapes and sizes, some round "tumblers", others square, still others recognizable as tasting glasses.

But probably the most unusual glass was obtained at Bunnahabhain. Iain Shaw told us it was to simulate being onboard ship, enjoying a dram. There is a picture (not the best I've ever taken) of said glass, and if you look at the base you'll note that it is convex in profile. Hence, when you place it down, it tilts !!! I must confess that I don't actually use the glass though because when I did, once, and placed the glass down without thinking about the bottom the whisky 'sloshed' a wee bit. I thought of how easily one careless move could knock the glass completely over and I'd rather not spill whisky. So, it remains in a cabinet on display.

While on the subject of Bunnahabhain, during our journey home we purchased a bottle of Darach Ur (Scots Gaelic for new oak) and it's an interesting dram. The aging cask was made from new oak, rather than a used bourbon or sherry cask. A picture of the (almost empty) bottle is attached.

Lastly, Bunnahabhain packaging/labeling shows an Islay man "Westering Home" to Islay, and if you look closely at the label you'll see him. For those who've not heard the song, here is a link to a youtube video:

Monday, August 3, 2009

Made in Scotland

While surfing "the web" for even more information about Scotland, I came across this:

It's 4 parts, and about 5 minutes into part-2 there are several minutes about Islay. I have no idea how long it will be available for viewing but it brought a tear to my eye.


Saturday, July 18, 2009

Returning to Islay for 2010 Feis Ile

We decided earlier this month to return to Islay for the 2010 Feis Ile. But this time, rather than a B&B, we want to try a "self catering" (renting a small flat for the week) in order to reduce eating expenses, and hopefully overall expenses.

Obviously the first thing to do is find accomodations. I (Mike) sent out a few dozen emails knowing full-well many of the self-caters would be already booked. Happily there were a few available but many of them are intended for more than 2 people and hence the rent can be dear.

One that was not too dear ( , and we considered for a moment or two, was ruled out simply because its location, although spectacular,) was too far from a primary road. In the future we will make a plan to stay there for this, our second trip, we wanted to stay somewhere closer to the center of Islay, if possible.

Happily, we received an email from a woman who has a nice, reasonably priced flat in Ballygrant. When I looked at the picture I said "We stopped at the wee store there on our way to Finlaggan." I've posted a couple of the pictures I took so you can see how similar our picture is to one on the Craigard website.

I have posted a map (from of Islay with three red circles; one near Port Ellen (southern part of Islay) which is where we stayed for the 2009 Feis Ile, another circle up in the north west near Saligo Bay (the not-too-dear-but-too-isolated rental) and the 3rd at Ballygrant which is where we plan on staying.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Antidote to Dreich Weather in Maine

Monday, June 29, 2009

The Scots word dreich best describes the weather pattern we’ve endured in Maine since our return from Islay on June 1: bleak, dreary, miserable, dismal and cheerless. According to Bath, Maine Weather, ( ) 7.99 inches of rain have fallen throughout 16 days this month. ‘My Corner of Maine’ blogger Paula ( recalls only 3 sunny days all month. Today’s “forecast-at-a-glance” is worded thusly: “cool temps” (mostly around 58-60° F or 10°-15° C) “clouds, drizzle, rain likely, chance of showers, fog and/or mist” all the way through July 6th at which time, temps may rise to 76° F (24.4°C).

The weather has traditionally been the conventional topic of conversation among Mainers as was true today with much grumbling and dismay that our long-awaited beautiful summer is not likely to arrive until mid-July, if at all. And in the blink-of-an-eye, following our 4th of July Independence Day celebration, another long and dreich Maine winter will again be nipping at our heels; all very tiresome and dispiriting stuff that sends my mind journeying back to Islay and the warm sunny days that graced our May holiday there.

Although we experienced some cool, windy, misty days on Islay, our time was finished out with sunshine, warmth and bright, astonishingly blue morning skies, the likes of which I’d never seen before. I would awaken at dawn to find a sky bursting with the noonday brilliance of our New England summers.

As I sat here in our chilly, damp, musty cottage in Kittery Pt. Maine, wearing a fleece pull-over and woolen socks, bemoaning the deprivation of sun and sandals, I visited Armin Grewe’s wonderful Islay blog and read of the lovely summer being enjoyed there. The photos of bathers cooling off in Port Ellen waters give the appearance of a tropical paradise. The videos of the recent Islay Beach Rugby Tournament show the enviable bare-footed lads and lassies frolicking in the sand wearing wee tees and shorts. Armin mentions his fatigue from the “heat wave” that temporarily sidelines his writing, an impressive 23.4° C (nearly 75° F) in Port Ellen (30° C, 86° F forecast for mainland UK). Finally he writes about the Ileachs’ anticipation of cooler evenings that usher in spectacular summer sunsets, photos of which Armin featured on today’s blog. Lovely!

Perhaps the only way to remedy my Maine dreich is to plan a return trip to Islay and begin counting down the days till Michael and I behold the extraordinary beauty of her radiant skies, sandy beaches, craggy hills, pristine lochs, lush green fields, her friendly faces, gently lilting voices, her eager, helpful hearts, and her ever-sunny frame of mind. Dian a thoiseach! (God willing!)

© Jacqueline Small

Friday, June 19, 2009

Tablet ...

Friday, 19 June 2009
Jacqueline here on ‘Tablet’— One of the Seven Wonders of Scotland.
Michael and I first discovered tablet, Scotland’s age old national sweetie, at the village store in Ballygrant on the way to Port Askaig one day. Feeling travel-weary, cranky and in need of a snack to sweeten my mood, I couldn’t resist the scored squares of fawn-colored confection in wee cello bags near the check-out. Back in the car, it was pure heaven, buttery sugary grit melting on our tongues, delivering smiles and renewed energy. Once on our way, it wasn’t long before I began pilfering the bag to savor another tantalizing square. Travel is long exhausting work so one must do whatever is necessary to keep ones energy and spirits up. For me, Scotland’s tablet proved to be the solution. Once the squares were gone, they were easily replaced because we found tablet for sale in all the village stores! And judging from the labels I saved, we bought at least three packages of Islay’s An Gleann Butter Tablet. We indulged in a variety of their samples served at many of the events we attended, including single malt whisky flavored tablet (my preference being the pure plain butter tablet). An Gleann (the glen) is a cottage business located in Port Charlotte, Islay. Their tablet is exceptional; its attractive packaging captures the essence of Islay and their web site itself,, is delicious—crisp, clean, and inviting. Nicely done An Gleann!
This week, after finding a recipe on line, I succeeded in making a lovely batch of tablet only to realize that it is auspiciously akin to the beloved confection my Canadian grandmother made throughout my childhood. I’d like to imagine that the original centuries-old tablet recipe came to Canada with our Scottish ancestors who emigrated there—feeding my sense of connection to alainn Alba (lovely Scotland), just as tablet satiates my inherent sweet-tooth.

Friday, June 12, 2009

A Few Memories, Faces, and Impressions

In the midst of the stress and turmoil of my job, I find myself missing Islay and wanting to travel back there if only in my memories. Michael and I, by no means, relaxed on our island holiday last month, yet, in the swirl of my current reality, I find I can return to Islay’s tranquility, its diversions, its magic, its people and its serendipity at every bend in the road—every bend in those skinny roads alone, were discovery for these two American travelers.

I’m keenly aware that my favorite color is green when I think of Islay’s fertile landscape and of the comfort gleaned from its vast open-airy-ness, its sheep-garnished hills, country crofts and ancient stone structures. We delighted in its hidden cottages, tucked into the hillsides that frame the Sound of Islay, as well as in its neat rows of colorful houses that knit together each distinctive village—their homey greens and squares, sandy beaches and sentinel lighthouses, and the prevalence of the island’s ‘beasts’. One such bend in the road treated us to the amazing scene of a herd of cattle ambling across a beach near Bridgend one evening (Traigh Cill an Rhuba, tidal sands of Loch Indaal). While searching a lush rain-soaked field of grass for the remains of the medieval era Kilmeny Parish Church (there is a new church as well ) an exuberant border collie appeared out of nowhere, knocked me down and ravished my face with kisses. I was suddenly six years old and giddy with laughter.

I remember the faces of people we met, the older gentleman smoking a cigarette seated on a bench outside his granddaughter’s home in Portnahaven. Once a Glasgow boy, he found this place too quiet. The hilltop lane he lived on offered a stunning uncorrupted view of the wild Atlantic, my kind of ‘quiet’. One day while madly snapping photos of ruins and cemeteries, the postman came dashing over hill and dale in his wee red truck. To our delight, it was Alan, Michael’s chess opponent of the previous night. I still see the grin of recognition on his face when he stopped to say “hello” and then the red blur of his Royal Mail truck buzzing away along the winding pathways of moor and meedie.

In Port Ellen we happened upon the Celebration on the Green, a children’s festival which was heralded by the Islay Pipe Band marching through the streets. But what equally thrilled us was the sight of jubilant kids and dogs running on the beach there, where we also sat to eat our fish and chip lunch served up by the cheery ladies in the local Nippy Chippy van.

Well, that’s it for today; I don’t want to overwhelm you with all my memories at once and my own rambunctious border collie needs a walk before I return to reality and head off to work. Yet of this I am confident—God’s grace will keep me far above it all.

Mise le meas (Yours faithfully)

Friday, June 5, 2009

Tour of Bunnahabhain ...

Friday, 05 June 2009

It’s good to be home in Kittery again just in time for a beautiful Maine summer and to have returned while so many of our spring perennials and flowering shrubs are in bloom. After catching up on some much needed rest, Michael and I have been able to view the dozens of photos we took which we plan to compile onto a CD to share with all of you. While re-reading our journals and remembering all the interesting people we met on Islay, I thought I’d comment on one individual whose captivating character greatly enhanced our Islay experience. Iain Shaw is a nineteen year old young man who has been working for just six weeks, in the visitor shop as well as a tour guide at Bunnahabhain Distillery.

Iain’s attentiveness to us not only made us feel comfortable and welcome, it served to endear us to this establishment in particular. We found Iain’s ample self-confidence and ambitiousness to be pleasantly balanced by buckets of personality, charm and quick wit; his colorful Scottish expressions were highly entertaining and his detailed knowledge of the distillery’s workings was impressive and informative. Some may say Iain’s just a cheeky wee lad, but who knows? Upon re-visiting Bunnahabhain in years to come, we’d not be surprised if we were greeted by Iain W. Shaw, Distillery Manager. Thanks Iain, for making our May 2009 visit so memorable. Michael and I are confident that the contribution of your gifts and talents will make for a long and prosperous career at Bunnahabhain.

Bu thoigh leam d’aire a tharraing ri (I’d like to call your attention to) the lovely setting into which Bunnahabhain nestles, as well as that of Coal Ile Distillery (pronounced culleela, the Sound of Islay) just a wee jaunt down the road. Sitting upon the sea wall at Bunnahabhain, you overlook a smooth stone beach where gentle waves tumble to shore. Moored nearby is a colorful lobster boat, not far from the pier where a pile of traps or ‘creels’ sit. When you lift your eyes eastward to yonder hills on the neighboring island of Jura, your vision falls upon three pyramidal mounts aptly named the Paps (an illustrative old Norse word) of Jura. Visits to either of these distilleries not only provide cordial receptions but promise thrilling views of the surging sound whose craggy shoreline rises to lush green hills and this unique mountain range. Unforgettably lovely!

Le dùrachdan, (With good wishes)

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Videos of events during 2009 Feis Ile

While googling for information regarding a wee cave that I found near Samhchair, I found some videos of the 2009 Feis Ile events on the website for Islay's newspaper Ileach. FYI, an "Ileach" is a native of Islay.

Here's the link to the paper; Check the videos while they are still on the front page.

Here's a link to the site that hosts the paper's videos:

Monday, June 1, 2009

Back in the USA

It's about 10:30PM. We arrived back at oor wee hoos in ME about 9PM but needed to run out for some milk, make coffee, unpack a few items, etc. Need to get to bed so we can pick up The Ghillie tomorrow. Will blog more thoughts, pictures, etc. soon.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Last day on Islay

Last night's "ceilidh" was not what we expected. Rather than traditional Scottish/Gaelic tunes the band played covers of american pop and country tunes. We were not impressed but the locals seemed to love it. It was almost surreal to hear the Scots singing, at the top of their lungs, "Take me home country roads" and "I'm a rhinestone cowboy." Each to his own, I guess.

But today's visits were great !!!

We did more driving to visit some "must sees" which included Saligo Bay, and a monument near the beach at Sanaigmore. Before the drive though we walked down to Carraig Fhada lighthouse.

Tomorrow we leave Islay, by plane, for Glasgow then to Heathrow and home.

We've enjoyed our time here and the weather the past two days has been delightfully sunny; I even have a tan (or so I am told) !!!

When we are home we'll still post to this blog our thoughts after leaving and perhaps more detail about some of the sights and sites.

It's now about 9PM, and I need to double check the schedule for tomorrow, send a necessary email or two then pack to leave.


Saturday, May 30, 2009

Another open day, lunch from Nippy Chippy, beach at Machir Bay, ceilidh

Mike posting at about 7PM, Saturday the 30th

Today was Ardbeg's open day. Once again we ran into the other couple (Gordon and Margaret Campbell) staying at Samhchair. Frequently meeting them during our stay has made the time very pleasand and together we watched some of the athletic events, such as sheep hurling, and bung tossing, enjoyed some "Airigh Nam Beist"(Arry nam Baysht), sat (or stood) and visited. It was a glorious sunny day which added to the festivity atmosphere. Eventually though I (Mike) became hungry so it was time to find something to eat. The Campbell's were taking the ferry from Port Askaig to head home so we said our goodbyes and they headed out for the drive to the ferry terminal.

We had planned to eat at the Arbeg "Old Kiln Cafe" but were told we would probably have to wait about 45 minutes before there was room to sit. So, we decided to drive into the center of Port Eilean (Port Ellen) for lunch as we could find, and saw the Nippy Chippy van which we'd been told served good food . J had fish and chips with 7Up or similar bev, I had a hamburger, and Irn Bru to drink. We ate our lunch while sitting on a short wall, overlooking the harbor. The citizens of the town were out celebrating on the village green and it was very enjoyable to be part of that celebration. There was even a pipe band parading down the street.

After lunch drove back to Kilchoman, at the suggestion of the Campbell's, to visit the beach at Machir Bay. A few days ago when we visited the distillery at Kilchoman, and the ruined/abandoned church and graveyard near it, we were very close to the beach. Indeed, we could see the water but for some reason did not drive the extra distance. Regardless, we drove to see it today and it was worth the drive.

It was very windy, and I am now a bit sunburned, but the beach was lovely and almost completely empty of people. We even saw a wreck, picture attached. In the distance on hills are farms and at least one ruined croft. I can only imagine what it would be like to live in that area, especially before the advent of automobiles.

Tonight we plan to attend the final ceilidh of the Feis Ile. We've been told it will be very exciting, perhaps a bot rowdy, and we'll be up late; ceilidh starts at 10:00PM and ends at 01:00AM but we decided we'll attend and see what happens.

We have only 1 more full day here in Scotland, on Islay, but everyone has been great and we are eager to return as soon as possible. The weather has not been that bad and I am sure that living in the northeast has prepared us for the wind and rain ... but not the midges !!!

Comments are now allowed on the blog ...

I just realized (because I found it curious there were no comments) that the blog was set up to disallow comments. Now with very little time remaining here it might be irrelevant but feel free to comment on any posting.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Back down the road to Bunnahabhain

Friday, 29 May 2009, 10:15 PM, UK time, 5:15 PM, NE time


We’ve just returned ‘home’ from a family ceilidh held in Ramsey Hall, a community center in Port Ellen, the town we’re staying in our final 3 nights here. We were entertained there by the sweet voices of the Children’s Gaelic Choir, music played by a local traditional Celtic band, Highland dancers as well as Scottish country dancing by all who cared to kick up their heels (we must take lessons soon). This was a real down home hoolie where we once again just kind of blended in with local families in an old hall filled with lively children running about, not unlike those in the US. It was great fun to watch the kids dance with each other, to hear them sing in Gaelic and to see the pride in their parents eyes. We truly are privileged to have witnessed Scotland on such an intimate level.

Earlier today, we attended a festival at Bunnahabhain Distillery (pronounced boonahahven). While touring the facility, I heard an American voice and decided to inquire of the woman’s home, which turned out to be Topsham, MAINE!! (above Portland) She introduced us to her brother in law who lives in Milford, NH. When I said we had dear friends in Milford named Kerry and Linda, he sputtered their last name AND told us he worked with Kerry! Imagine that! Being on an island in Scotland, at the same facility and tour with such folks! Indeed, it is a “small world”. Tomorrow we plan to attend another festival and do some final exploration of the island. The weather has been fine here and warmer temps are forecast for tomorrow; I may wear my shorts yet! I must find a recipe for Sticky Toffee Pudding, a yummy favorite here and something called ’tablet’ which is a Scottish standard, a homemade sweetie that can be purchased in any store; it’s basically granular fudge cut in wee squares. It has served me well as ‘energy food’ whenever I grew tired. MMMMGOOD! We’re currently chatting with our fellow B&B guests and hosts here in the living room before we all call it a day, feeling blessed to have made these lovely new friends.

Oidhche mhath! (Goodnight!)

Mike here, posting the blog. During our drive back from Bunnahabhain, 5M (?)along the one lane road, we finally had the experience I have "dreaded"; traffic in both directions with someone blocking the road to take a picture. Worse is they stopped on a curve.

As difficult as it will be to leave here, it will be nice to see The Ghillie, and return to a regular schedule. With that said, I’ve been talking to folks about finding work in Scotland so we can move. Looking forward to reviewing the photos, trashing the bad, and creating a short presentation to share.

Tomorrow we head to Ardbeg (one of my favorites) for its open day, and to have our whisky-passport stamped. We will probably also stop at Lagavulin, and Laphroaig for their stamps. Attached is a picture of, left to right, the managers of Laphroaig, Ardbeg and Lagavulin.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

More ports, narrow roads,museums

Thursday 28 May 2009, 10:15PM
It’s been another day packed with adventure! We began doing laundry in a one-unit launderette in the village of Bowmore, pronounced B’mor, rolling the R on the end. While waiting, we visited a wonderful Scottish book and gift shop. We then visited the Museum of Islay Life in Port Charlotte, viewing photos and artifacts from the Victorian error, the 18th & 19th centuries as well as ancient artifacts from all over Islay…very interesting! Then we ate lunch in the Port Charlotte Hotel where the furnishings and artwork were a feast for the eyes, amazing! Further east, we later parked in Port Nahaven to walk about the tiny village where we chatted with an old gentleman sitting on a bench outside his granddaughter’s home. He told me he was a Glasgow boy and found it too quiet in this village. We happen to like the island’s pace; they say they live on ‘Islay time‘ here. We’ve sited numerous lighthouses including a striking one standing guard at the entrance to this lovely quaint village. Driving back, we found the ancient burial grounds of Clan Donald dating to the 14th century. . WOW! It was misty early in the day but cleared to beautiful sunshine that eventually brought out the midges…nasty wee flying bugs that attack and bite humans from head to toe; but in my opinion, they were not as bad as the black flies of home. We experienced the midges this evening back in Bowmore where we attended our first ever ceilidh, pronounced kaylee. This is a Scottish tradition, an informal concert, party, sing-along, dance…First though, a Home Coming Parade was held with marchers making their way down the hill from the Round Church, spilling into the streets below where hundreds had lined up to watch and cheer, including yours truly, waving our St. Andrew‘s Cross flag. The Islay Pipe and Drum Band led the parade of marchers: fire trucks, dancers, brownies, boys clubs, firemen, ambulance crews , etc. Then the ceilidh began in the square. Many were dressed in handsome traditional dress, i.e. tartan kilts, stockings and jackets. The eight distillery managers served as announcers of all the performers. One smashing good band called Skerryvore played great rousing toe-tapping, hand-clapping music. The Islay Gaelic Choir performed, a famous local vocalist named Norma Monroe sang…so beautifully; many in the audience sang along to the traditional songs. Young girls danced the Highland Fling among others, The crowd joined in a favorite Scottish Country Dance called Stripping the Willow, a lively line dance (sort of). At the end of the ceilidh, everyone in the square joined hands and formed a huge circle to sing Auld Lang Syne, including Michael and me. What a thrill it was to take part in this community event, to mingle with and rejoice in celebration with these local islanders and terrifically proud Scots, to raise our voices together in heartfelt song; it was unforgettably AWESOME! Few! What a day! And every one has been just the same, one discovery and delight after another; We miss home and the pace we’re keeping is very tiring but we also hate to leave this beautiful Island. So, we’re off to bed now, already looking forward to tomorrow’s fun.
Oidhche mhath! (Goodnight!)

Mike here posting J's writing. I attached a picture of our car (me driving) on one of the not-very-unusual-roads on Islay. As you can see there is not much room. Most of the time there are ditches or other such on both sides. The only way for cars to pass is at designated "passing spots" (wider areas) that you might have to back-up in order to reach !!!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Ales, more whisky, more ruins, Gaelic

Another late night (almost 11PM) blog entry. We just returned from Bogh Mor (Bowmore) where we visited the last distillery on our agenda, had supper then heard two hours of Gaelic voices and traditional voices at the Ionad Chalium Chille Ile.

Our day started with a late breakfast followed by a visit to open day at Islay Ales, where we ran into some folks we've met during the trip, as well as met the retired "Head Keeper" of Islay House. Islay Ales is located in one of the old estate buildings associated with Islay House. The house is for sale if anyone is interested. Link Here's a link to information about the house and its American owner:

From there we headed south to Kilchoman Distillery (the next to last on our list) that is a small, farm-style distillery located on, uh, a farm, some distance from the ocean. That is somewhat unique these days as the other Islay distilleries are right at the water. However, in times past many distilleries were farm type operations. It was a nice facility and while there we heard of another church/graveyard ruin nearbye so we drove to see it. While there we ran into my chess opponent from last night, who was delivering the mail !!!

Rather than post more pictures of another ruin, or another distillery I'll save the next picture postings for tomorrow after we revisit some of the ports down below Bruichladdich.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

American monument, Finlaggan, Port Nahaven

26 May 2009 6:30 PM

I‘m afraid we‘re finding SO much to do and see that it’s difficult to stop to blog all our exploits. The days are indeed long here; it’s close to 11 before the sun sets and it rises around 4 AM. But I must at least begin by telling you that this is the most beautiful place we have ever seen! It’s so much more than we could ever have imagined. It is lush, green, pristine land, without a spec of litter. The Scots are warm, welcoming and eager to help. We had a wonderful time at The Bruichladdich Distillery Open Day festival listening to bands play traditional music, eating delicious homemade food, watching Scottish country dancing and joining hands in a huge circle to sing Auld Lang Syne at day’s end.

On Monday, Memorial Day, Michael and I visited the American Monument built in 1918 to honor the military who lost their lives in surrounding waters during WWI . We placed our wee Walmart flags in the ground there. It was a stunning site high up on a cliff overlooking the ocean. Today we visited the ruins of Finlaggan, the seat of The Lord of The Isles and tonight we hope to attend a ceilidh (concert, party, dance) at Laphroaig Distillery but may not make it if we’re too tired. Dolphin and seals are seen in the waters surrounding this island; the birdlife is spectacular; it’s lambing time so the hills are alive with ewes and their wee baby lambs. There are bunnies running rampant here too. There doesn’t seem to be a shortage of lush vegetation for them all to eat. The thistles are beginning to bloom everywhere too and did I mention all the Scotch broom we’ve seen? Even the poppies are in bloom now. Grocery stores are about the size of our convenience stores, even smaller and they’re called food co-ops. We’re off to eat supper now; will be in touch again as soon as we can.

Cheery/Mar sin leat! (cheerio!)
Jacqueline & Michael

It’s almost 11PM and we just arrived back at Sornbank (Beul an Atha …. Bridgend) after driving to Port nah Abhainne (Port Nahaven) and having dinner at An Tigh Seinnse (pronounced An-tay ShenShee) … so, no ceilidh. However, while supping in the lounge with other guests (including the former owner) the local chess club came in and sat down to play. I asked the members if they would mind their picture being taken. I was told it was no bother then asked “Do you play?”. Well, one thing led to another and before too long I was playing chess with a man named Alan who moved to Islay, from Glasgow, 25 years ago. It was grand fun and I won, but wonder if he allowed me to win because I was a guest.

On the way home, much of the distance along a winding road not much wider than one car, with cows and sheep grazing on either side, with no fences to keep them from being in the road, we had to slow down more than once to avoid a collision with on coming vehicles or sheep in the road !!! This truly is an adventure. Distances are not too great but the road are narrow and windy so even a few kilometers takes longer than you might expect. Add to that I am on the left side of the road with a right side wheel and it’s very exciting.

Well, like J said we are finding it challenging to post as often as we’d hoped but we are having a grand time. Tomorrow we’ll visit the last two distilleries, Kilchoman and Bowmore, and likely drive back to Port nah Abhainne to take more pictures of it, as well as sites along the way.

I posted some pics from today. Most should be understood but the pic that looks like rocks on an island in a loch, is Finlaggan. The rocks are the remains of the fortifications, etc. built by the Lords of the Isles.