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Jul '11

Canna, part 2

As I write this, I look out the window of my room at the cliffs of Canna and the clear blue-sky overhead. Yesterday was a little cloudy and chillier (it is nice having daily highs in the 60s or maybe hitting 70…sorry for everyone back home experiencing a heat wave! With a light jacket it is perfect here…) so I am looking forward to getting out and doing some hiking today. My plan is to hike to the highest point on Canna – a whopping 210 meters.

The past few days have been spent mostly walking around the island and gardening. I have been able to see most all the archeological sights, and have just about circumnavigated the island. Also, I was briefly able to go inside Canna House, but am really waiting until Magda comes so that she can give me a proper tour of the house. Magda arrives tomorrow with an old friend of John and Margaret, so it will be nice to see her. She has graciously allowed me to stay in her house while she is away, and in return I am weeding her garden, feeding the cat and promised to give some computer lessons once she gets here.

The island is absolutely beautiful, so I am going to let the photos do the talking. My dad scanned/emailed his journal from his visits to Canna in 1991 and 2003, so it has been a joy to read those and find all the similarities – not much has changed except the passing on John and Margaret. It is also neat to know that my Grandfather visited in 1953 at the age of 22 – after his junior year at Yale. I am privileged to be able to follow in his footsteps.

Inside and exterior of the Roman Catholic Church, now deconsescrated.

On Sunday I head back to the States. It is quickly approaching, and I know that today is my last truly calm day for a long time. Tomorrow Magda arrives, and Thursday will be a flurry as she shows me a lot. Friday I head to Glasgow (arrive around midnight) and Saturday I sightsee all day. Sunday I head home. It shall be busy, but all very exciting – plus the promise of being home this weekend is wonderful!

The remains of a standing high cross. Very neat to see.

The Presbyterian Church and a grave.

Canna House above, me in a ‘Souterrain’ below.

Jul '11

Isle of Canna

On Wednesday I got up early and finished grocery shopping before getting on the ferry for Canna. It was a bit difficult to be able to grocery shop for absolutely everything I would need for the next nine days – by far the longest duration I have had to carry food provisions for. Without my two weeks on the farm in Bristol this task would have been much more difficult, but I actually felt pretty prepared…and it looks like I will be a vegetarian for 10 days or so. I am so incredibly blessed to say that it has been years since I have gone that long without meat. It shall be good though. For my first dinner, I had mashed potatoes (homemade of course), cheddar cheese, yoghurt and muesli. For dessert I made a loaf of bread (from scratch, thank you.) and had black-current and rhubarb jam (which I both picked, AND made in Bristol, thank you again.), along with a glass of Jameson Irish Whisky (in Jameson glasses I carried from Dublin, of course). For a college kid backpacking onto a remote Scottish Isle, I think I did pretty well.


My rocky outcropping for the next week and a half!

Ok, enough of that tangent and back to the ferry ride. I got on the ferry at 945, and it departed at 1010, about five minutes early actually. This ferry only services Canna on MWFSat, so I had to time my entry to Mallaig accordingly. The first stop was to the Isle of Rum, which is much bigger than Canna, and fairly mountainous. We had good weather for the ferry ride, but it was cold. I was still pretty tired from the late night previous, so I slept for the first half. Anyways, we made it to Canna about 1245, right on schedule. I had met a family on the ferry who knew where Magda lives, so they pointed out which house was hers when we were approaching the island. So, with my exceedingly large backpack (I might have picked up a few souvenirs along the way…), and three large grocery sacks, I began the walk to the house.


Doirlinn - Magda's house, where I am staying

Just about when I was passing the small tea room/café, and right as my arms were going to fall off it felt (I was carrying a total of about 90lbs to my best guess), a jeep came up behind me and a woman jumped out asking if I was Brian, to which I admitted I was. July (think Julie) was very nice and gave me a ride to the house, which I was very grateful for. I had missed her at the dock since I was not expecting a ride, but it was an extremely nice thing for her to do. She showed me around the house (Doirlinn), and introduced me to Willy-bag (the cat) and the dog.

So, after getting settled in, I made myself some lunch, and then began to walk around the island. The weather has been great so far, and each of the past few days has been spent exploring. On Wednesday I found some great beaches, on Thursday I walked around the western end of the island, and today I found the King of Norway’s grave (a Viking grave) and some man-made caves.


My island paradise - it includes a lovely beach!

I am making all my own food, and am eating well. My daily rations include Muesli and yoghurt for breakfast and fresh fruit. For lunch is cliff bars or Muesli and milk, cheddar cheese, an apple, some peaches and a few cookies. For dinner I usually have some form of potatoes (I brought enough for a pound a day!), cheese (enough for a quarter pound a day, for protein of course), onions, garlic (I plurged!), pasta, fruit, fresh bread and some more cookies. I also brought a small bottle of whisky for the occasional drink while reading at night.


It's windy, and I'm happy!

Last night I finished reading Margaret Fay Shaw’s book, From the Alleghenies to the Hebrides, which was a very good read. I read most of it with Willy-bag on my lap. Interestingly enough, Willy-bag was Margaret’s cat, and the cat’s great-great-great-grandfather was mentioned in the book. So I was reading my great-great-aunt’s autobiography, on her island, with her cat in my lap. It was a neat connection.


The island lies along the same fault line as the Giants Causeway in Ireland. Yep, really cool.

Anyways, that is probably enough for one post. I am really enjoying my time on the island so far, and the weather has been great – sunny everyday, but chilly (high of 60 and windy). Now that I figured out how to turn on the gas range, the central heat and the water heater, I am much more comfortable. Willy-bag is my constant companion, even bringing me such treats as fresh rabbit in the mornings…


And yes, I am staying away from the edge of the 600' cliffs. I promise.

Tomorrow I plan to continue exploring, especially towards the eastern end of the island – we’ll see how the weather is though. I am adjusting well to ‘island time’, and it is hard to believe that in nine days I will be on the plane home, but I still plan on enjoying every minute here on Canna!

Jul '11


On Tuesday afternoon I left Edinburgh and took the train northwards. It was probably my most ‘off’ traveling day yet, as I just seemed to be in the way and not really with the program. Oh well, it was about time I had one of those days. I had to transfer in Glasgow, and that train was filled twice over, but it was smooth sailing after departing Glasgow for Mallaig. Mallaig is on the western coast of Scotland, about 5.5 hours north of Glasgow, if that helps with your directional sense.

Anyways, Mallaig is described as the start/end of the most scenic railway in the world (voted in 2007, apparently). And yes, its the train they filmed the Hogwarts express on. Its a ‘bustling port town’ of probably 500 people, but it supposedly is a big port for the seafood industry. I’m a bit skeptical though. So yeah, that’s Mallaig. I got in around midnight and then left around 10am, so a short stay!

Jul '11


On Saturday I began my journey from Dublin to Edinburgh, which involved flying from Dublin to Bristol, spending the night in Bristol, then taking a train Sunday morning to London, switching stations in London via the underground, then taking a train to Edinburgh. I arrived in Edinburgh around 5pm, and quickly found my way to the hostel. While on the train I had the novel idea to try and attend a church service in one of the cathedrals, to at 5:45 I headed for St. Giles cathedral, and was pleased to see they had an event at 6. Turns out, it was a choir/organ concert featuring the Kansas City First UMC choir – it was great to listen to some American classics in the heart of Scotland, albeit not what I was expecting.

Soon after the concert was over, I went in search of some food. While walking down the street I ran into two Canadians I met in Dublin, which was pretty random. Anyways, I settled on fish and chips – my first time having the decidedly British cuisine. The next morning I did some sightseeing and just generally walked around the city. That night I ended up getting drinks with two Australians I met in the hostel, which consisted of us getting three mini-bottles of whisky and having a taste test back in the room.

The next day I continued to take a self-guided/administered walking tour of the city. I ended up taking a tour of the Scottish Parliament building, Holyrood.

Then I scrambled to the top of Arthur’s Seat, the only dormant volcano in a city park – a taste of the highlands in the center of the city.

By mid afternoon I had to conclude my tour of Edinburgh as I needed to prepare to head up north towards Mallaig, which I will blog about shortly.

[Between my head and the near rocks is the castle if you look closely.]

Jul '11


On Saturday morning I woke up early, packed up, and took a bus about an hour outside of Dublin to the small village of Enniskerry. From there I just walked away towards the hills. The countryside was absolutely beautiful to walk through, even though I didn’t really know where I was going (except kinda SW towards Glendalough).

Up on my right was the hill of the Great Sugarloaf (501m), a quartzite cone that is really quite beautiful, especially with the sheep grazing on the slopes below. Eventually I found some trails leading from a car park towards the Wicklow Way Trail (I actually walked into Wicklow County in turns out), but after a few minutes I turned around and stayed on the road. For the first time in a long time I hadn’t felt comfortable on a trail, so I headed that inner warning and didn’t stick around to figure out what was causing that feeling.

Anyways, I walked for about 5 hours and made it back to the bus stop and began the journey to the airport, which was about a two-hour bus ride from where I was hiking. I made it to the airport without any issue, and the flight home went very smoothly. Overall, it was a wonderful time in Dublin and Enniskerry, definitely one of the more fun stops (especially due to the two tours on Friday!).