Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Hints of eternity

Family and friends sometimes ask us why on earth we make one of our twice-yearly visits to Scotland at the very tail-end of the year. What makes us, they wonder aloud, head north as the hour goes back, the dark evenings close in and winter approaches?

The answer is simple. This glorious, rugged and unspoilt landscape is breathtakingly beautiful at all times of year and in all weathers, and the warmth of the welcome we receive from our friends and neighbours is undimmed by the vagaries of the weather. The bonus is that there are no midges!

Because we travelled up by car this time, I’m able to drive myself about while we’re here and this morning I headed across the Kyle causeway to Knit and Natter. Halfway across I stopped to gaze at Ben Loyal, swathed in dark, turbulent cloud and to try, of course, to capture the scene.

After a very enjoyable morning of coffee and cake, chatting (and coughing) and even knitting, I headed home, but on a whim stopped in a lay-by to visit again what must be one of the most wonderfully located cemeteries in the world. It stands alone, close to the causeway, looking out over an austere but beautiful landscape of sea and mountains that has something of eternity about it. Like the war memorial, high on the opposite hill, at which I attended the service of  remembrance last Sunday, this simple cemetery, in its stunning setting, catches the attention and focuses thought in a very profound way.

Eventually I dragged myself away and drove quietly home, my mind filled with a kaleidoscope of images and impressions. This glorious corner of the country gives us so much enjoyment, but it also makes me think and that must be good.

 








66 comments:

  1. Very well put and also illustrated Perpetua. I do agree that it is a most beautiful place but the isolation would send me scuttling for the nearest city very quickly.
    There is a kind of eeriness about the scenes which I find very unsettling.

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    1. Glad you enjoyed it, Ray. It's a good thing we're all different or life would be very boring. :-) It's the very things that unsettle you - the space and remoteness and emptiness - that appeal so strongly to DH and me in this landscape. I'm the very opposite of a city person and need room to breathe. ;-)

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  2. Great photos of a wonderful landscape, Perpetua. And yes - it is good to think & to recognise our own mortality. On a lighter note, I fully understand your thinking regarding avoiding the midges :-)

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    1. I'm glad they came out so well, Ricky, as my camera is very basic. I wanted to capture the autumn turbulence of the sky and the sense of space. DH and I find this isolated little cemetery very evocative and we also watch the seabirds and seals from here.

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  3. That soft, cool, and rugged landscape is incredibly beautiful, Perpetua. I would love to visit it regularly too. The cemetery looks amazing up there, a wonderful location, with a similar effect to when a church is built on an awesome rise with a view. Yes, the Eternal is present. What a contrast, to knit and natter in cosy surrounds, so friendly and enjoyable. Enjoy your stay.

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    1. It is indeed, Patricia, and I can imagine the coolness appeals to you right now. It was only 4C on Monday when the sun shone and felt colder. The cemetery location is awe-inspiring and the contrast with the warmth and chatter I'd just left was stark. Yet I'm sure some of the people lying so peacefully there had knitted and nattered in their day.

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  4. It's so incredibly beautiful there. I can completely understand why you make the visit often. I think it looks like a very peaceful place and the sense of history is so strong. I think it would love it there too.

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    1. I think it must be one of the most beautiful places on earth, Jennifer, and completely unspoilt. The sense of history is tangible and it was a hard and sometimes violent one. Wresting a living from this glorious but harsh landscape can never have been easy.

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  5. A landscape which enfolds you...of which you become part. Beautiful.
    With you on the midges, too!

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    1. That's it exactly, Helen. Even though \I come from a very different area and background, I feel at home here. I avoid midges like the plague. They see me and think "Food!".

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  6. To be able to spend time up in Scotland must be such a pleasure and I can see why you're drawn there often. The rugged landscape and the opportunity for quiet contemplation in such a beautiful place combined with times of warm fellowship appeals to me.

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    1. You've summed up the attraction of the North-West Highlands for me very well here, Linda. The glory of the landscape and the friendliness of the people is a wonderful combination.

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  7. Glad you feel this way about Scotland - I could never stay away for too long without becoming totally homesick, even for the rain - and the midges!

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    1. Scotland, especially the North-West Highlands, is in my blood now, Christine, and we both feel very at home when we come.The rain and wind don't bother us at all and the midges don't bother DH either, but sadly they eat me alive. - one attraction I could well do without.

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  8. Those are such beautiful pictures, the kind of beautiful that makes my heart ache just a little bit. I can see why you make the long journey north twice a year.

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    1. I know just what you mean, Kristie. This is a landscape which evokes a mixture of emotion because of its beauty, grandeur and history. I think you'd love it. If you decide to make the Great Glen walk, you'll be less than 100 miles south of here and will find many similarities.

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  9. Your photos capture the beauty and mood of Scotland and I can see why you visit regularly.

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    1. Hello Terra and welcome to my blog. I'm glad the photos managed to convey the mood and beauty. I love this landscape and keep trying to share it as well as I can.

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  10. I chuckle each time I read "Knit and Natter", Perpetual. How beautiful this little corner of the world is and I'm so glad you were able to make it this year, though sorry to know you are still coughing. It can be so very tiring, can't it?
    Such lovely photos and a peaceful place to finally rest. Thank you.

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    1. It's a great name, Penny, and absolutely accurate. We do plenty of knitting AND nattering. :-) The cough is beginning to imp[rove, thanks, though it's still a nuisance at night or when I try to talk too much. DH is having a very peaceful few days.... :-)
      I thought when I took the photos that there are far worse places for that final long sleep.

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  11. How beautiful. I spent a year in Scotland, and the place took my breath away. Your photos remind me of all the reasons I had for crying when we left. Did you knit in Knit and natter in Natter?

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    1. It does that to us all the time, MM. We never become accustomed to it and according to friends who live here permanently, neither do they. It must have been hard to leave.
      We did indeed knit AND natter and are very good at doing both simultaneously. :)

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  12. What beautiful landscapes, but rather desolate. They must be lovely to visit, but I'm glad to live in a warmer, sunnier place. You could get lost up there, in more ways than one.

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    1. I think a lot of people feel like you, Sarah, loving the scenery, but finding it too empty and remote to linger in. I, on the other hand, revel in the sense of space I find here. It can be sunny and warm here too, but not on the scale you're used to. Mind you, neither DH and I can cope with very hot weather so the temperatures here don't worry us. :)

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  13. I have never been to Scotland. You have shown such wonderful landscapes in your photos..
    Do you have a house there in Scotland Perpetua.! Lots of lovely walks there
    You are knitting once again. Have the socks travelled to Scotland!..
    lovely post.
    happy week
    val xx

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    1. Scotland is very much worth visiting if you ever get the opportunity, Val. The scale and grandeur of the landscape of the Highlands is truly wonderful. We stay in a little bungalow while we're here, though sadly my knees make walking in the hills difficult now.
      The socks did indeed come with me as I really must finish the second sock for a pair for DH. :-)

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  14. Hari Om
    Ah yes, you have hit the very point and reason I returned to make Scotland my home... It's the closest place to the Himalaya for atmosphere conducive to contemplation. For anything approximating that in OZ I'd have had to move to Tasmania...and that is only pretending to be Scotland anyway!!! FAILTE GU BRATH! (Welcome to forever &*>) YAM xx

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    1. I knew you'd understand, Yam. The landscape of Scotland gives me perspective and makes me realise my (very small) place in the scheme of things. Its beauty and grandeur can be overwhelming and yet there are little homely corners which warm the cockles of your heart.

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  15. so beutifull and in the same time I get a feeling of sadness, don' know why but it isn't in a bad way. Have a good stay Jaana

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    1. How nice to see a comment from you, Jaana. I know just what you mean about the feeling of sadness which can hang over the landscape of the Highlands. I think it comes from its long history and the hard struggle its inhabitants had to survive, with the climate, the soil, and often the powerful, all conspiring against them.

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  16. Beautiful blog, Beautiful pictures. In my heart I have always thought of Scotland as a very special place. Perhaps because of some of the books I have read, with such wonderful descriptions of the land. Thank you for sharing the photos.

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    1. I'm glad you enjoyed them, Bonnie. Yes, Scotland is very special and it can evoke great emotion in those who were born here or who come to love it later. The Highlands in particular are very wild and unspoilt and like nowhere else I know.

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  17. Your joy permeates all your posts from your trips northwards, so I have never wondered what makes you do it. These photos just confirm what a beautiful place in which you have chosen to make one of your homes. Take care, enjoy it all and I hope the coughing has ceased by now. Jx

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    1. You know me too well though my blog, Janice, but people who don't read it really do wonder about our sanity at heading north at this time of year. :-) I do find joy here and the weather has nothing to do with it. Here the landscape and the people are the draw. The cough is gradually diminishing, thanks, and I feel fine in myself now.

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  18. I've only ever visited Scotland once and was devoured by midges so have never plucked up the courage to visit again. Glad to hear there's an 'off' season. Your photos are really wonderful and capture that compulsion and opportunity for deep thought. The cemetery really is very evocative and one can sense the stillness from your photos. I love empty wild spaces and so absolutely understand your strong attraction to this place. And you can knit there too! Hope the coughing is soon completely gone. Axxx

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    1. Oh, don't let the midges put you off returning to Scotland, Annie. They are normally only a problem in the summer and when the weather is damp, so are much worse in the western half of the country than the east. I have been eaten alive at times, yet when we came last year in June, after a very dry spring, there were none to speak of.
      If you love wild empty spaces the North-West Highlands are for you. I know of nowhere more conducive to contemplative thought. Alongside that we have made friends and I have such fun knitting and nattering. The cough is getting ready to leave, I think...

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  19. I need to return to make a comment on the midges this year! Where I live in Argyll is one of the most midge-ridden places in Christendom, and yet this year I can honestly say I was hardly aware of them. Maybe the dry weather discouraged them - and anyway, they don't tend to hang about in sunshine, which we also enjoyed this summer! We don't expect them to return till June, so it's safe to visit whatever the weather ...

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    1. I think you've hit the nail on the head with your reference to warm dry weather, Christine. My worst experiences of being midge-bitten have all been in the showery summer conditions in which they thrive. Last year we only managed to make it up to Scotland for a fortnight in June, during which we had glorious sunshine after a very dry spring and there was barely a midge to be seen.

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  20. I understand completely your love for this part of the world. Although I have not been to Scotland very often, when I have it reminds me very much of places in New England where I grew up. Not surprising since many millions of years ago that is where the two continents broke apart! The peace and tranquility is wonderfully evoked in your excellent pictures. Don't like those midges either -- it's the one thing that keeps me from ever wanting to return to NE to live! (not to mention lyme disease ticks...)

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    1. Do you know, I never knew of that connection between Scotland and New England, Broad! Scotland has such wonderful scenery that we enjoy every bit of the drive from the Borders to the north coast. But it's the North-West Highlands which have totally captured DH and me. I spend a lot of time trying to capture their magic in images and sometimes succeeding. :-) I too would find it hard to live here year-round unless I could find a totally reliable midge repellent. For some reason the little blighters just love me...

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  21. Oh lovely! I wish we'd been able to get that far up while we were staying in Inverkirkaid a few weeks ago - but the scenery there was just as spectacular. I totally fell in love with it. Scotland is so beautiful - I've been in love with it since I was in my teens (and that's a long time ago!) Love to you both.

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    1. Thanks, Helva. The scenery on the west coast is very similar to that on the north, so you very much got the flavour of the North-West Highlands during your trip. DH and I are also hopelessly in love with the landscapes here in every kind of weather. Incidentally our Rector lives near where you were staying, and is in charge of a parish (or charge as it's called) which stretches from Ullapool to Tongue! Makes our little hops between churches in Mid-Wales look very insignificant. :-)

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  22. Stunning photos and great shots of the beautiful landscape P. I've never been further than Edinburgh but would love to go. It's on our wish list for next year. Enjoy. P x

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    1. I'm glad you enjoyed them, Patricia, and really hope they whetted your appetite for a trip to the Highlands. You won't get the weather you enjoyed in Turkey but the scenery is unique and quite incredibly beautiful. Do go if you can.

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  23. What a lovely holiday. Your pictures are breath-taking. Having wheels to take you to 'Knit and Natter' or even just to take in the beautiful scenery or wherever you want to go, is the icing on the cake - have a great break.

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    1. Scotland is a wonderful country, Molly, and we never tire of the breath-taking scenery. It's very different from Mid-Wales, but we love both very much. I will admit that it's great to be able to go somewhere on my own, though friends are always very happy to offer me a lift when we travel here in the campervan which I definitely don't drive.

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  24. I love Scotland when I'm there but the journey is always nerve wracking. This year there were doubts whether the road would be passable due to floods, last year it was snow. I admire your adventures.

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    1. I know just what you mean. We're usually OK on the way up in the autumn, but some of our return journeys have been interesting to say the least, especially in the hard and early winters of 2009 - 11. And March can have its challenges too. :-)

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  25. The scenes you share are very far removed from anything I experience, and I stare at the photos and think I'd be very well suited! I don't know how I know that, but I would at least love to give it a good long try! :-) Maybe there's a little in my DNA that speaks to me. My grandmother and a long line before her were from Scotland, and I feel a little connected somehow. I love to hear you share about your love for the country and I hope you continue to enjoy every minute and share with us what you are able--in between spending pensive moments in beautiful old cemeteries and the knitting group, of course! :-)

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    1. Debra, given your love for the San Gabriel mountains, I'm not at all surprised you feel an affinity for the Scottish Highlands. They are a rather different kind of wilderness, being cold, treeless and very windswept, but the sense of space is the same and that's what I love so much about them. You've obviously inherited your grandmother's Scottish roots and I do hope you one day have a chance to visit her native land. in the meantime I'll try to keep the pictures coming. :-)

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  26. Wonder-ous pictures... you've captured the atmosphere very well...
    the views... possibly because no one has been able to exploit the land...
    are timeless.
    The people thrown out during "the clearances" would have know the same views...
    so little has changed.

    "The bonus is that there are no midges!"....
    Oh Joy!... beyond belief... Scotland without the midges!!
    You are right about the dry weather being responsible...
    they breed in wet mud / peat, etc.
    The joy of Caithness is that there are no midges...
    unless you are in a hollow...
    otherwise, when they take off...
    they either end up on the Beatrice oil field rigs....
    or in the Orkneys...
    depending which way the wind is headed...
    BUT... the drawback is... the wind never stops blowing.

    Yamini wrote about the very North of Scotland being good for contemplation...
    at Ulbster, in Caithness, there is an ancient hill fort...
    set into the South West facing outer wall is a huge slab of Caithness sandstone...
    about 12 ft long and 15" deep....
    arranged round most of it is a semi-circle of flat lumps of the same stone...
    it was, of course, where the elders sat...
    to organise the "clan"....
    to teach the young...
    and to sunbathe their old bones and chinwag!
    I've sat there...
    the only modern thing that can be seen...
    way off to the left...
    is a telegraph pole with three wires...
    otherwise you are looking at the same view as 5000 years ago...
    give or take a bit of erosion...
    I regard it as one of God's wild churches!

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    1. What a brilliant comment, Tim. The next time we head east to Caithness I'll make sure we try to get to Ulbster to visit the hill fort. There is something about being in a place where the past is tangible like that and where it takes no big effort of imagination to picture those who built and used it.

      Your mention of the clearances reminds me that one of the places around here where I feel the past (and a tragic past at that) most acutely is in Strathnaver with its deserted settlements. It's not hard to picture those houses being rendered uninhabitable and the inhabitants making their way to the coastal strip to try to rebuild their lives.

      As for the midges, I've yet to see a midge here during our autumn visits. Perhaps being very close to the sea makes a difference or it may be that it's usually too cold for them by the time we arrive. :-) I gather that their usual period of tenure is June to September.

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    2. I know Strathnaver... a fascinating place...
      another, with an equally sad tale is just as you pass over the Ord of Caithness...
      there is a lay-by on your right as you head towards Wick on the A9...
      pull in and follow the very short path to the village of Badbea...
      that Sinclair pushed the people of the area into...
      about 50yds deep that village...
      along the top of a 200ft cliff...
      where [as I mentioned above] the wind never stops...
      they used have to tie the kids down on a long rope...
      much like a dog!!

      Survivors went to the US and Australia...
      but later set up a trust to preserve the village...
      and erected a memorial to tell the story...
      and make sure that the memory of the evil of Sir John Sinclair of Ulbster...
      never died from neglect!

      Glenveagh in Ireland is also linked...
      John George Adair cleared the black houses from around his castle in Glenveagh...
      soley for ├Žsthetic reasons...
      and is "remembered" in song, the "Derryveagh Evictions"!
      His "steward" was one James Murrog, a Scot...
      who started his career on the Sinclair estates...
      now, I wonder...
      where did he get his ideas from?

      The song "The Evictions" by Goats Don't Shave is a wonderful testament...
      I have it on the elderly iPod... but a U-Bend version can be found here:
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g4irNC3uPl4
      have a listen.
      [There is no video... just a shot of the album cover!]

      And, as for those midges... the other Sinclairs...
      if the weather is mild, they can hang around until November...
      but not in number!!

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    3. Thanks for the info about Badbea, Tim. I must confess to never having heard of it, probably because we never travel up the A9 beyond Alness nowadays. We always turn off towards Bonar Bridge and Lairg. However, having checked the entry in Wikipedia, I see just why you mentioned it. What an appallingly cruel act to pen people in between the cliffs and the sheep pastures and expect them to build a life for themselves. No wonder they gave up the struggle and moved to somewhere more hopeful. Thanks too for the YouTube link which I've bookmarked to listen to when we get home to an uncapped broadband supply. ;-)

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  27. Scotland is the home of many of my ancestors and while I have never visited I think that if I did I would stay forever. Wonderful photos that show the stark beauty!

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    1. Shirley, if you've read Tim's comments above you'll see why so many Scots emigrated in the 19th century. Up to half the population of the Highlands scattered to Australia, NZ, the USA and Canade after the clearances: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Highland_Clearances. The land they left is indeed beautiful, but they were cleared from it to make way for sheep! The pattern of settlement has never recovered. I'd love to think you could one day see where your ancestors came from.

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  28. Dear Perpetua - it is lovely to see you happily ensconced in your little corner of Scotland once more, and joining in with your friends at Knit and Knatter - what a great name for your little group.
    As you probably realise Scotland is very close to my heart, it is where my eldest son was born, and also my granddaughter number four.
    I must thank you for all the wonderful comments you left for me to read when I returned from Turkey - all were read and very much appreciated - thank you.

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    1. It's lovely to be back here, Rosemary, and to have time to relax and knit socks and catch up with my friends' blogs, which were sadly neglected during the move. Knit and Natter isn't such a little group any more. There are two new members since I was here in the spring and 12 of us sat round knitting and nattering and consuming cake and coffee. :-)

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  29. Yes, I can well understand that you go on trekking up North. While you both have the energy to pursue your nomadic life it’s not a bad thing to do.

    Hope you will have a grand time and the weather stays as kind to you as Scottish weather can. I hear there’s rain on the way for the East.

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    1. That's what we think and why we will try to continue doing so for as long as we can. It's certainly worth all the effort to get here.

      We're thoroughly enjoying ourselves, thanks, and the weather is being rather kind for mid-November. The heavy rain came overnight and has now moved on and we're waiting for the sun to show its face tomorrow. :-)

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  30. Beautiful scenery. The third photo looks very much like the "causse" area in Aveyron where we live -- sometimes people compare it to parts of Scotland, even though the geographic situation is obviously different.

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    1. Hi Betty and welcome to my blog. The scenery of the North-West Highlands is magnificent and we never tire of it. I must confess to knowing very little as yet about the Aveyron, so I'm now off to google photos of the causse landscape to see the resemblance.

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  31. Ah Scotland. It is so lovely. I must make there. I must. The cemetery is such a poignant place. Some of my people came from Scotland. Wales and Scotland are both the lands of my people. Perhaps that is why I feel melancholy when I see photos of these lands.

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    1. I'm so glad you enjoyed the photos, Sally, even if they did make you feel melancholy. I sometimes think it's the often hard and even tragic history of these wild landscapes that somehow comes through to us in images. I do hope you get the chance to visit Scotland one day.

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