roadtrip 2019

I’m back in Edinburgh from yet another two week Yummick Roadtrip and I have the midge bite scabs and sunburn to prove it.

For those completely unaware, I cast my lot in with the Edinburgh University Mountaineering Club (EUMC) in first year.  After four years and three committee positions, I’ve found it to be an incestuous league of miscreants who might also just be the best people I’ve ever had the pleasure of suffering in a bog with.

This year eight of us departed Edinburgh on May 26.  Split between two cars, we headed northward arriving at the walk in to Strabeg Bothy with plans to spend at least two nights.  The bothy is maintained by the Mountain Bothy Association (MBA) who manages and upkeeps basic open access shelters around Scotland.  Most of them are old croft houses with stone walls and two fireplaces.  They can be notoriously dark, dank, and soggy but it really beats pitching tents in rain and wind.

The walk in was a treat.

It was only meant to be a little over two miles but during the day the river had flooded and the surrounding bog had become a swamp.

I fell into this swamp after being dumb and thinking I could just take my shoes off and wade through the water.  Lies.  Incorrect.  I too was bamboozled.  After sufficient ridicule, Erling finally attempted to help me but at this point the mud and sheep shit had already absorbed me up to my knees.

bog

But, we finally made it to the Bothy after wading across the flooded river in a chain, put on dry clothes, and hung everything else to dry by the fire.  Ben had decided to abandon us all and wade across the river himself.  I still don’t know if it was ambitious, stupid, or if he was just trying to off himself so he didn’t have to listen to my shit chat anymore.    We all cooked dinner (steak stir-fry if you’re wondering) and then went to sleep.  The next day I slept in because, truthfully, I’m going through a bit of an insomniac phase again.  I found a copy of Atonement in the Bothy and kept the fire going.  It was cozy.

We stayed at Strabeg for two nights and then walked out.  Ironically, the river torrent we had been forced to cross two days earlier was a little more than a stream.

Considering that most of Scotland was still a bog from the heavy rain the last few days, we headed even farther north to Sheigra in hopes that there might be dry rock or sun.

Behold. The sunny beach of Sheigra.

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yummick roadtrippin’ 2019

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northy north

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Upon arriving we pitched up and decided what to do next.  I ran off along the coast for a pleasant run.  Alven placed his crab trap in hopes of catching something for breakfast.  That evening we sat at the beach until the sun started to dip below the jagged sea cliffs.  The only option was to climb higher and we watched the last rays of the sun from a grassy ledge above our pitched tents.

We packed up mid-morning.  Alven checked in on his trap only to find that a crab had indeed been caught, ate the salami bait, and then broken out of the trap.  Saddened, we headed off for a day of climbing.  I ran off for a short run and then returned to climb.  From climbing we headed to Scourie and pitched up in a field near the shore (we pitched on the middle peninsula in the photo).  Being Alven’s birthday, we treated ourselves to something nicer than what we can cook on our gas stoves.  Ben, Sam, Erling, and Alven then decided they had been wronged when they learned that the ladies’ bathroom at the restaurant had clean hand towels to wash faces and spa soap and lotion.  The gent’s apparently only had a weak hand dryer.  Walking back to our tents, we watched the sunset.

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yesterday’s sleep spot.

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The next day we left for a bit of day cragging on semi-dry rock.  We returned that evening to the same field in Scourie to spend another night.  From Scourie, we drove southward to Ullapool.  It had been nearly a week at this point so we stopped to resupply food and take showers at the Ullapool leisure centre.  (We had wanted to go swimming, but the pool was closed for Senior Hour in the morning.  But, alas, no seniors were floating about.)  As usual, the boys had finished their showers well before the girls and were waiting outside with their arms crossed.  Honestly, I pity that you all just don’t appreciate clean hair and scalding water more.

From Ullapool we continued southward toward Applecross where the annual EUMC dinner meet was to be held at the Walled Garden.  It was a chance to see everyone before parting ways for the summer, take showers, peel off sweaty leggings and shirts and put on something nice.

We met up with various other parties of Yummicks at the pub to swap stories from the week and then pitched up by the water.  We stayed up late wrapped in a tarpaulin to keep out the chill.  Many were already realising the bittersweet finality of this last road trip.

The next day we packed up and moved to the Applecross Campsite. It was raining so some ambitious folk went running and others went to the cafe.

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oh deer

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By the afternoon, Ellie B had arrived from Edinburgh and it was almost time to get ready for dinner.  Getting ready for Dinner Meet is a rather social affair.  Imagine, people rushing around the campsite fixing each others ties and makeup while balancing plastic wine glasses or tins on cars or soggy grassy patches.

We held the Dinner Meet at the Walled Garden this year.  It was a short walk from the campsite which was a blessing as it was still threatening to rain again.

Dinner was really nice.

After, we danced our way back to the campsite to change and then headed down to the beach for a bonfire. I’ve come to realise I’m actually quite a sentimental piece of shit and found myself trying to memorise that moment on the beach. How everyone’s smiles reached all the way to their eyes. How the fire flickered in the sand. The feeling of being spun on the beach in a dance and the cold sand beneath my feet.  How the stars looked overhead.

The next morning was rainy and fit the mood of farewells. Ellie Leigh returned to Wales to continue her amazing internship. Ben headed north and then south to London to start his summer job (He also drove off with all the remaining food and my camping mug!!! Sabotage!!). Tuva and Erling returned to Edinburgh.  The rest of the Yummicks scattered to the wind to do amazing things of that I am sure.

It was just Ellie B, Alven, and I heading even farther north to Skye.

The following week went as quickly as the week before despite my pleas to make it slow down. We spent a windy night on the edge of the world and woke up early to catch a ferry to Lewis and Harris.

We spent the next two days driving around the island and visiting every historical site on the map. The Callanish Stones were absolutely stunning. They are a stone circle similar to Stonehenge, but arguably much larger and probably more significant – they exist in a larger landscape with more of the subsidiary stone circles still surviving.

As an aside, stone circles don’t exist in isolation and play into the landscape.  They’re all connected to each other like a spider’s web across expansive miles. Their position is affected by other circles and geographical features. Because Lewis and Harris is still relatively undisturbed compared to the landscape around Stonehenge you can actually get a better feeling for the prehistoric landscape. Also, you can walk right up to them.

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~ritual purposes~

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The sun finally came out and the waters turned into one of the most beautiful turquoises I have ever seen. (The most beautiful still has to be Shetland.)

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🥰

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The three of us took the ferry back to Skye and then drove to Sligachan to meet back up with other Yummicks.  We spent the night at Neist Point and watched the sky turn from blue to yellow to orange to pink to purple and then to black.

Sunsets have always held a special place.  Growing up in the Kansas countryside you get used to vibrant colours spreading across the wide reaching sky.  The sunsets across the ocean have that same magic and maybe something a little extra.  There’s a moment when the sun’s rays hit the water and appear to wrap around the world.  And then the stars emerge – the same stars people have looked upon for thousands of years and the same ones we all gaze upon now.

I am so thankful I decided to wake up early that morning in September four years ago to get on a bus and head northward.  I am thankful for the sun and the snow and the rain and even the bogs.  For the broken tents and the soggy bothys.  I am thankful for the moments of fellowship in the mountains and trust on belay.  The silence of the night broken by the muffled sound of music.  The quiet breaks on the sides of ridges.  The feeling of exhaustion but also of adoration for the landscape and the people around me.

And the stars.  The spreading canvas of light across the night sky.  They might be separate balls of gas thousands and millions of light years apart, but together they weave constellations and epics across the sky.

I know no matter where in the world we end up, we’ll share the same sky.  Somewhere, you’ll be watching your sun and stars as I watch mine.

Writing this now back in Edinburgh I realise how much I will miss them.  I just hope they will miss me just as much.

I am reminded now of the conversation I had with an old woman in the Tesco car park in Ullapool.  She rambled a bit and was all to keen to tell us the dangers of Germans driving large caravans on small highland roads, but she looked me in the eyes and said something I will carry with me for a very long time.

She said, ‘Some places are magnets and the north of Scotland is a strong one.  People return here.  They always do.’

I hope I do.

Either that or I’ll write a really good story about it.

 

shetland

This past week, Ben, Alven, and I took the train from Edinburgh to Aberdeen and then the overnight ferry from Aberdeen to Shetland.

Considering the events of the week before which included learning I’d lost a friend I’d known since childhood, my parents calling to let me know my faithful dog of 12 years was gone as well, and then deciding to move back to America this August for a Masters – getting away seemed like the thing I needed to do.  The trip was planned quickly, with ferry and train booking happening Thursday to leave Saturday.

Shetland, if you are interested, are the northernmost islands of the UK.  The islands are very close to Norway and have a very strong Norse heritage with plenty of archaeological sites.  One of the really significant ones is Jarlshof which has everything from Bronze Age, Iron Age, Viking, Early Medieval, and Late Medieval on one site.  If you’re interested in the complete history here’s the Wikipedia page.

But, anyway.  We spent the week traveling around the Mainland and working on our dissertations.  All three of us brought work with us, so it wasn’t a total escape.  But the change of scenery was something I dearly needed.

Instead of a normal blog post I decided to make a video to attempt to capture the week.  The video is at the end of this post because I want you to read everything first.

I’m going to be honest here, I fell in love with Shetland.  Everything from its remoteness to rainbows created by the crashing waves to the ancient stone brochs and finally to the long roads to the edge of cliffs.  It felt like there was something familiar about it nagging at me the entire time.

Back in August of 2015, I began the long process of packing up my life and moving to Scotland.  That process included picking and choosing what parts I wanted to take with me and what parts I would decide to leave behind.

Maybe I am a sentimentalist, or perhaps that is just a nice way of wording Kennedy-is-a-hoarder, but one of the things I packed and moved across the Atlantic with me was a worn copy of Selected Poems of H.D. and a typewritten note by one of my English teachers.

A portion of that note reads:

Dear Kennedy,

In his poem ‘Tollund Man’ Seamus Heaney writes:

 Out here in Jutland // In the old man-killing parishes // I will feel lost, // Unhappy and at home. 

I would never wish you unhappiness, however, I know that desire is in you to find a home in the lost places, in history, in poetry, in the bog, in the ruin, amoung the relics.

So my wish for you is an unending quest often satisfied but never for long.

If you’re a nosy reader of my blog here you’ll probably recognize those verses from my About page.  They’ve been there since the beginning.

The book is one of the few I keep close within arms reach next to my bed.  The others, if you’re curious, are Tomorrow is Now by Eleanor Roosevelt, The Art of War by Sun-Tzu, The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan, and The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien.

I have thought of those words often, I’d admit.  When I received them at age 18, I knew that it would be something that would plague me for years and I think my English teacher knew that as well.

Living in Scotland these past four years has become that ‘unending quest.’  And truthfully, my English teacher was right.  It has been satisfying – but at each turn I make, I discover something new and once again I am… on another unending quest.  Traveling to remote places, exploring in wet and windy weather could make someone feel lost – but again, and not to sound like pretenious piece of shite, I have never felt more at home.

I am so close to finishing my degree with only two essays and my dissertation left.  Especially after the events earlier this month, going to Shetland this past week allowed for me to escape everything and find my next move.  It also showed me a place I would happily return to and live unbothered.

 

 

 

 

a video?!

 

what is this 2016?! I haven’t done a vlog in ages and this is the least I could do after shoving my camera in my friend’s faces for two weeks.  sorry not sorry. So anyway, here’s a belated mock-u-mentary about the anniversary dinner/roadtrip conveniently edited to a PG rating and under 5 minutes.

roadtripping 2018

Sorry for the absence, I’ve been away for the last few weeks getting eaten alive by midges.

I’ve been in back in Edinburgh for nearly a week after time at the Bothy, Arisaig, Skye, and Torridon.  It’s been just enough time to take multiple showers, postpone my laundry until I physically couldn’t stand to have it in my room, read not one! but two! trashy teen medieval fantasy novels, get the photos from the trip developed, take part in the Processions to celebrate 100 Years of women having the vote in the UK, and teach young children about worms.

A lot has happened so I’ll try to summarize it the best I can without boring you.

As per my last blog post, I stated I would be returning to the club Bothy in Kintail to do some final fixings before I officially retired from my post as EUMC Bothy Secretary.  With great pride, I can say the EUMC Bothy is now fitted with a fully working gas kitchen.  We cooked a group meal on Saturday night and I spent another weekend in one of my favorite places in Scotland.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Then it was quickly back to Edinburgh to repack for the following two weeks of Roadtrip.  Gregor arrived back to the flat with his dad’s orange jeep and the four of us (being Gregor, myself, Tuva, and Erling) drove to Arisaig for the kick off of the annual EUMC Roadtrip and the 75th Anniversary Dinner.  This year was special in that the event was attended by not only current Yummicks but past club members as well.  I spoke with a few members from the 1970s and 1980s.   We arrived on the Friday night and had a BBQ on the beach.  On the Saturday, we went cragging to a nearby sport crag.  That evening we had a hog roast, a ceilidh, bottles of committee wine, and I got to meet not one! but two! very fluffy cats.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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That Sunday, Gregor drove back to see his parents and I along with Alven and Tuva packed out kit into Ellie B’s car.  Erling, Oonagh, and Ben packed with Ellie Leigh.  The eight of us went to the beach near Arisaig were we discovered how quickly the Scottish tide can come in and that apparently, gin bottles explode in hot cars (?).  Then it was off to Mallaig to catch the ferry to Skye were the weather was the nicest.  No one really starts the Roadtrip with any concrete plans, we just check the weather and go.

I had never been to Skye before this week.  I had been close, multiple times.  The Bothy is just south of Kyle of Lochalsh, which if you wanted to drive to Skye over taking a car ferry is where you would find a very steep bridge linking the island to the mainland.  And the weather was incredible.  On average Skye gets about three sunny days a year, the rest of the time it’s known to be clouded in mist and rain.  The week we were there, it did not rain a single day.  Clear skies, hot weather to the point I was still sweating in just a sleeping bag liner… and midges.

The Scottish midge is a beast known only to itself.  While I pride myself for never getting ticks or mosquito bits… holy living Hell I was eaten alive.  I looked like a pox victim.  Actually, probably worse.  And since we wild camped most nights, the midges had no mercy.

But anyway, here’s what we got up to on Skye.  Ellie B and I had a nice walk from Elgol to Kilmarie.  It was along the coast and we stopped for ice cream and met a nice dog.  We ordered way too many plates of sweet potato fries from the pub in Sligachan and probably ate all their mayo as well, sorry.  All of us had the bright idea of wild camping at the Fairy Pools so that we could wake up early and see them without all the tourists, which was great and we all went for a swim until the tourists showed up… with their mechanical, whizzing drones.  I really hope when they rewatch the footage they see my kind, respectful one finger salute while I’m trying to bathe for the first time in a week.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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day 1 on skye

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In a stroke of ingenuity, we sat cooking dinner in a layby with cars speeding past.  We were all well beside ourselves having realized the speed of the cars kept the midges at bay (it’s hadn’t occurred to us how low our standards had gotten that were were excited about cooking on a layby)…  that was until I woke up the next morning to see the yellow roof of my tent covered in black patches.  In a speedy departure I thought I was home free until I fell into a bog up to my waist.  Pinned down by the weight of my base bag, my friends abandoned me to the midges while I pulled myself (and about a metric ton of bog crap) out and stumbled to the car.

That afternoon, everyone was just a little tired and split up to do different things.  Some went climbing, a few ran errands to get missing kit, and I went for a run.  Despite falling in a bog that morning the day evened out and I ran a solid 18km down Sligachan Glen at the base of the Cullins.  The sun was out, the trail was amazing, and I honestly haven’t felt that happy running in a long, long, long time.  I could have kept going… in fact I sort of did.  I only planed on maybe 7/8km max… but it was just one of those days were nothing hurt and the surrounding were beautiful.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then it was off to Neist Point for climbing by the coast.  I’m normally not scared of heights, but, ouch, did I think I was going to fall into the ocean.  But, I mean it didn’t help that the path to the crag neared about three inches to the cliff with horrid, cackling birds below.  But, the climbing at Neist was great.  The sun did not set until nearly 11 pm so we stayed out late AND! we had our first midge free night!

 

 

 

 

 

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🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿

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The next day, Ellie B and I met up with Sophie, Caitlin, and Urte who were all on their own roadtrip around Scotland.  However, before we went to Dunvegan Castle because tbh is it a trip if you don’t see a castle?  That evening we pitched our tents on a dubious beach spot and got a bit of a fright when we thought the tide would wash us out again.  But, it didn’t and we had a BBQ and celebrated the week as the sunset on Skye with a bottle of cinnamon schnappes.

We were all brutally awoken by Ali shouting, ‘CAN EVERYONE GET UP SO WE CAN LEAVE THIS HELL HOLE!’ at 7 am. My eyes snapped open it was wasn’t even patches of black this time, no my tent was entirely blackened with midges.  Not wanting to even think about moving I shouted back, ‘Have you tried asking them (the midges) nicely to leave?’ No one thought that was funny and with panicked screeching we packed up and got the heck outta Dodge.  However, this was not before Erling became the next victim and if it wasn’t for his socially acceptable male leg hair, he would have looked like not just a pox victim but Patient 0.

Ellie B drove in silence back to the pub carpark and I didn’t blame her in the slightest.  I even forgave her a bit for almost murdering me in my sleep.  *Apparently* I snore and the only way to stop it was to hold my nose until I woke up.

That afternoon, Ellie B drove Tuva, Erling, and Alven back to Edinburgh and Ali returned to Aberdeen.  I swapped into Ellie Leigh’s car with Oonagh and Ben and we all drove to Torridon.  We spend the rest of the time in Torridon before Ellie Leigh dropped me in Inverness and I caught the train back Wednesday night, just in time to go to the pub and see friends again before they all left for the summer.

But back to Torridon, it was finally windy and the midges met their rightful demise.  The highlight of my time in Torridon was scrambling across the Liathach Ridge.  With just the four of us in Torridon and with limited rack and ropes Ellie and Oonagh split off to do an eight pitch route while Ben and I completed the ridge.  (I’ve linked the route description above if you want to check it out because I’m a little too lazy to retype it here.)  But basically, at a few points, while clinging to the side of a rock I cried to Ben (he offered no sympathy, mind you!), why I, a meager Kansas farm child, had ever thought leaving the flat of the valley floor below was a good idea. Jokes aside, it was actually fine and I’m glad for this view.

 

 

 

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Some scrambling.

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😻

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The next day all four of us drove to Diabaig for some climbing but after a while we bailed and went for a swim instead.  Then it was off to Inverness to drop me at the train station for my train back to Edinburgh.  I left early so that I could make it to the RBGE Volunteer BBQ on the Thursday.

 

And that’s the trip.  I’m back now and I spent today at the gardens helping the education team with school groups aged 5-6.  I need to start some research, pay a few bills, and answer a few emails before heading off on excavation in July.  I keep telling myself to do things and I probably should get started.

 

yummick road trip 2017

Hello friends it is I, your local hermit.  I just got back last night after a whirlwind tour of the UK.

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sound on.

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It all started right after my last exam on May 23.  I finished my exam at 4.30 pm and then headed right north to the Bothy with a small crew to finish renovations and spend a few days there.  I’ve officially taken over as Bothy Secretary for the EUMC and the place looks fantastic.  The kitchen is now fitted, doors are hung, the fireplace is filled in, and we even got a fantastic day out on the hills for some sunny walking.  We walked the Five Sisters of Kintail, a ridge line with five peaks and three Munros.  I got terribly sunburned during the walk and basically both of my arms  have peeled off.  On May 26, it was back to Edinburgh.  I spend May 27 airing my kit and repacking.  It was a quick turnaround as we left again, early, on May 28 to head south.

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hi mom! i forgot sun screen.

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Ali, Ellie, Tuva, Erling, and myself all crammed ourselves and our kit into Ali’s parent’s car and began our week long adventure across the UK.  We first headed south to the Lake District to avoid the bad weather up north in Scotland.  We may have had a mild SNAFU with the bouldering mat whilst driving the M-6.  For the first two days, we stayed at Ellie’s grandparent’s cottage in the Lake District.  The building was built in 1725! We spend one day climbing and the next day we went for a nice 17km stroll.

Then we packed up again and headed further south into the Lake District. We arrived in Great Langdale for a rainy afternoon.  We pitched our tents and I made sad sausages in the rain on my camping stove while Ellie held an umbrella over my head.  To wait out the rain we all headed to the pub.  Later that night, more Yummicks joined us at the camp site.  The next day we headed over to Shepard’s Crag for a day of climbing in the sun.  I got sunburned again.  I lead my first pitches in a right long while and it felt really good to be back out climbing.  The next day, Ali, Ellie, and I headed to the Langdale Boulders.  I saw the Neolithic rock art carved into the sides of the boulders and pitched my hammock and take a nap.  Tuva and Erling went climbing at the nearby Raven Crag.

The next day was a long haul drive from the Lakes up to Oban.  Oban is a port city on the west coast of Scotland.  We caught the ferry over to Mull from Obam.  Once on Mull, we put the party bops on and jammed out as we drove across the island to reach Fionnport.  We stayed the night at a campsite in Fionnport.  The sunset was incredible.

The next day, while many stayed on Mull for some climbing I packed up my things and caught the early ferry over to Iona.  Iona was the location for the Dinner Meet on Saturday night, a dinner of general shenanigans and debauchery.

However, Iona is also an island of significant historical importance.  In 563 AD Columba landed on the island with 12 monks and established one of the more important religious sites in Scotland.  The Abbey on Iona is famous throughout history.   And, a link to my upcoming excavation at Bamburgh Castle, when King Oswald was a boy he spent his exile in the kingdom of Dal Riata (modern day Argyll and parts of Ireland).  Iona was the religious center for Dal Riata.  When Oswald converted to Christianity, he would at some point visited Iona.  And later when Oswald returned to Northumberland and took back his rights as king of Bamburgh castle, he brought with him a new sense of Christian ideals.  It was Oswald who granted Aiden the land for Lindisfarne and strengthened the connection between secular kingdoms and the church.

So anyway, I spend the day on the island by myself.  I went for a run around the island to explore the sites.  It was fantastic.  The weather was amazing as I explored the Nunnery and the Abbey.  While I was listening to the audio guide at the Abbey, I heard what I thought was a crack of thunder.  At first I just thought it was part of the guide’s music but then I looked outside and saw that the sky had opened up and there was actually a small thunderstorm!  I waited in the 13c Benedictine cloisters for the storm to pass.

That afternoon, more yummicks made it to Iona and we headed down to the beach.  I jumped into the ocean and had a good swim around in the cold, but-not-too-cold water.

Iona was definitely an island where you could feel the sense of history.  It cloaked everything on the island with a sense of mysticism.  When I took the ferry over from Mull and caught site of the Abbey from the water, I could understand why for over 1000 years people have been coming to this island.

That evening, everyone finally took showers and we headed to the restaurant for the dinner meet.  It was a really nice time and I got a chance to see all my friends again before everyone leaves for the summer or in the case of a few for exchange the next year.  After dinner, we headed back to the campsite to change and then headed back down to the beach for a bonfire.  I roasted s’mores and then taught a lot of my friends how to make them as well.  I was shocked to find that the quintessential camping food was just an American thing.  We hung around the bonfire singing songs, telling stories, and drinking a lot of alcohol.  Lol, what did you expect?  You put 40+ twenty somethings on an island after a week of walking, climbing, and camping.  We finally got pushed out of the beach by an onset of rain around 3 AM.

The next day was a slow pack up and then ferry back to Fionnport.  From there we drove back around Mull to catch the ferry back to Oban.  The drive was long as we arrived back at the flat around 9.45 last night.

All in all it was a fantastic trip out with lovely people and a good start to a summer I know is going to be stellar.  The only downside is that it’s over and lost pretty much all the skin on my arms.

I woke up late this morning to air out my kit and write this post.  I’m just back in Edinburgh for a few days now.  I’ll be heading south soon again to start my five week excavation at Bamburgh Castle!