Readers’ wildlife photos

February 1, 2023 • 8:15 am

I urge you once again to send me some good photos. Thank you very much!

Today we continue with part 2 of reader Kevin Elskin’s trip to Scotland (part 1 is here). His captions are indented, and you can enlarge the photos by clicking on them.

When we left off I was munching a delicious sandwich in the village of Lochranza on the northwest coast of Arran, Scotland. We soon boarded a ferry for the short trip across Kilbrannan Sound, the western arm of the Firth of Clyde, to Claonig on the Kintyre Peninsula. A view from the ferry back toward Lochranza and Arran. Gotta’ get back to Arran.

As one heads north and west in Scotland, the Scottish Gaelic language is spoken more frequently and information signs are often given in both English and Scottish Gaelic. I took a photo of this sign on the ferry. They certainly use vowels and consonants in interesting combinations!

Our destination was the village of Machrihanish, which is on the western shore of Kintyre. The drive was about an hour [note: we did not drive a vehicle once on this trip, thanks to my good friend Dick Smith who organized this mayhem and found drivers to haul us around. Not an easy task when you head to remote areas of Scotland, and especially after the pandemic shut down the tourist trade and many taxi companies and private drivers went out of business. No Uber or Lyft out here!].

After dinner I took a brief walkabout and immediately ran into one of the locals. Look at the beautiful stripes on that kitty. Friendly boy, too!

A common sight in Scotland, old stone walls and sheep.

A view of the bay on a summer evening.

The next day we continued our golf adventures at Machrihanish Dunes, a modern course located on the dunes just north of the village. Below is a photo of the course looking back toward the town.

The origin of the term ‘Links’, as it relates to golf, is that the original courses were laid out on the ‘links land’, i.e., the land that linked the town to the sea. This land was unsuitable for farming, and was use to graze animals, mostly sheep. Early golf courses were not so much built as they were discovered, using natural features to create courses that fit into the environment, because they were the environment. Machrihanish Dunes has done a good job of matching the course with the environment, and they have been recognized for their sustainability efforts. Here are some of the locals on the course:

The next day we played the original Machrihanish Golf Course, which was laid out by Old Tom Morris in 1879. I am not sure when I became aware of this course, but the opening tee shot, which is played across the ocean, has been dubbed the best opening shot in golf. So getting there and having a chance to play that shot was a long held ambition. Here I am on the first tee at Machrihanish sporting a hot pepper shirt lovingly made for me by my better half (and my tee shot found the fairway!). It was a great day for golf.

Below is either a photo of Shai-Hulud or deep-fried haggis. We had haggis three different ways on this trip: on a burger, on nachos, and deep fried (all were quite tasty).

But back to the other reason to visit Scotland: whiskey. We toured the Springbank Distillery just across the peninsula in Campbeltown. [JAC: Springbank has long been my favorite single malt whiskey.]

As you might recall I had shared a photo of some lovely two row barley, which is the base for making whiskey. Before barley can be mashed and fermented, it must be malted. The malting process involves soaking the barley kernels in water and allowing the germination process to begin. As germination proceeds, enzymes are developed; and later in the mash these enzymes will break up the starch molecules in the barley kernel into simple sugars that yeast can consume and turn into alcohol. Traditionally, barley was floor malted, meaning that after it was soaked in water it was spread out on the floor and turned regularly to be sure that the germination process continued without excessive heat buildup or spoiling. I think most barley is malted in drums today, but at Springbank they still do things the old-fashioned way. Here is a photo of the floor malting process, note the marks of the special rakes used to turn the barley:

Once the maltster has determined the germination has proceeded far enough, the malt is kilned, which is to say heated and dried.  But in this part of Scotland there is a twist: the kilning process uses peat smoke, and this gives the whiskey a distinctive smoky flavor. Here is the peat:

In case you would like to distill your own, here is a diagram, as Arlo Guthrie might say, with circles and arrows to indicate motion:

And you can just bury me here:

Our visit to Kintyre finished with a visit to Dunaverty golf course on Mull (south end) of Kintyre. I have shared one photo from here previously, but since this is a travel story there is more to tell. The small peninsula in the foreground was the location of Dunaverty Castle, built in 13th century and for the next 400 years it was the site for Braveheart-level mayhem – I will refer you to the story of the Battle of Dunaverty.

On a related Why-Scotland-Is-So-Fascinating note, it turned out that one of our caddies for an earlier round was the greenskeeper at Dunaverty Golf Course for 30 years. He was born at and to this day lives at a house adjacent to the course. His family has lived in the area since the 1600s. Everyday stuff in Scotland.

The last photo is just a random, but typical, house located down the street from Dunaverty. But it is so typical of so many houses in Scotland – neat with beautiful little flower gardens in front, just a pleasure to behold. Which bring me to an observation about Scotland versus the USA. I have lived my entire life in basically two places – Northwest Arkansas and Southwest Pennsylvania. When you go out in the country there you invariably see a house that looks as though the inhabitants have tossed every bit if trash they have ever generated right into their front yard. Appliances, cars, clothes, sheets, what have you. In all the travelling we did in Scotland, I never saw such a sight. Not every house had a flower garden, but they were always neat, at least. Is this a real thing, or I am I just being too tough on my fellow countrymen? Please comment.

Next time: Aquaholics take us to Ireland.

7 thoughts on “Readers’ wildlife photos

  1. Kevin, thank you so much for both sets of pictures and commentaries. Scotland is just beautiful. I wish that I had learned golf to replicate your trip. Though I do adore whiskey, so maybe that could be the focus of my trip. Thanks again.

  2. These were wonderful, thanks for both sets of photos from your Scottish adventure. It sure does make me want to visit.

    To answer your question about, what my wife and I call: “garbigity houses”.
    Where ever I’ve lived in the country (as I do now), there are many of these disheveled houses whose front yards are basically garbage dumps. Living in a city, it is rare to see one of these houses. Maybe because of the ubiquity of neighbors in a city. Who knows? Interesting observation, though, that you didn’t see any of these garbigity houses in Scotland. And I agree that the house in your last photo is wonderfully charming and picturesque.

  3. Congratulations on not landing in the burn with that first Machrihanish hole! Did you make it to Muneroy’s bakery when you were in Southend near Dunaverty? We heard incredible reviews but they didn’t have a takeout option for their desserts, so we skipped it. Maybe next time!

    1. We stopped by after our round but unfortunately they could not seat us for several hours. So sadly we too had to skip it.

  4. Nice post, nice shirt, great teeing off shot, Kevin! Thanks for sharing. (Some years ago, I learned from my fellow readers that in Scotland it’s ‘whisky’ and in Ireland ‘whiskey’. 🙂 )

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