Thursday, 22 June 2017

Scotland #8 - Back to the Mainland

Knipoch Hotel, Oban, Scotland
We somewhat reluctantly left Skye and headed down the mainland to Oban and a charming manor-house hotel called the Knipoch. This was the most elegant lodging we’ve had since the Royal Scotts Club in Edinburgh.

Wild Lavender Rhododendrons
All through the early part of our travels in Scotland our eyes were assaulted by brilliant yellow Broome, lining the roads, covering the hillsides. As we approached the west coast and the isles that changed. Now, the roadsides and hills are full of lavender colored Rhododendron. It grows wild, everyplace we look.

And, joy of joy, for the first time today, I saw Scottish Highland Cattle – a whole field if them – reddish brown, with long curly hair and snub noses and great wide horns. They look like no other cattle in the world. They are shown on post cards in every tourist shop, but few of them seem to be surviving in herds. We see more typical North American type cattle in most of the fields, and in fact we see few even of them. What we see everyplace is sheep.
Highland Cattle

Sheep were introduced wholesale into Scotland in the aftermath of Culloden. In something referred to as the “Highland Clearances” the British threw tenants off the lands they had farmed for generations, confiscating the land, knocking down the buildings and introducing sheep farming – a much more lucrative use of the land. What a history this small country has had!

As we neared Oban, huge dark clouds appeared on the horizon, followed by sheet lighting and then sharp spears of lightening and great rolling thunder. Dense rain and then hail hit the car, slowing us down considerably. If there had been anyplace to pull over and wait it out we would have. But the road merely narrowed.

The storm slowed to a drizzle just as we reached our hotel. Our large, warm, comfortable room and a blazing fire in the sitting room were very welcome.

The storm left as quickly as it had begun, and while the next day was cool with the odd shower, the worst of it was over. When we were packing for this trip all our friends told us to pack for cold and rainy. That isn’t the weather we’ve had. We’ve had more sunshine than rain and more warm than cold, although I must admit that this morning I’m sitting in a little B&B parlor wearing a sweater, a vest and a coat, and I’m still chilly.

Standing Stones at Kilmartin
But I’m ahead of myself. Back in the luxury of Knipoch we asked our hostess about the standing stones we had heard were in the area. She pulled out a map and showed us where they were. We made those our next day’s destination. Those of you who have read “Outlander” will know about these prehistoric circles – man made and probably of religious significance. The best known of them is Stonehenge in Great Britain, but in fact they may be found in many places. Last year we saw an ancient set of stones in France, in Brittany. Alas, these Scottish ones did not send me back in time to find a handsome Scottish warrior as they did Claire. 
Watch for Blair's newest thriller, Fatal Charm 
Coming in 2017

A perilous scheme to thwart ruthless adversaries hurtles successful jewelry designer Caitlin Abernathy from her comfortable California studio to the streets of Paris and the beaches of Brittany as she attempts to return a priceless stolen heirloom to the Louvre.

Colin Stryker, the devastatingly handsome history professor from Ireland who has appointed himself her protector, fights to rescue her before her captors add murder to their crimes, while at the same time unraveling the torturous train of events that led to the original theft.

With every moment fraught with danger, can the chemistry already between the two ignite into passion?

Praise for Fatal Charm:

"If you love well-crafted romantic suspense where the mystery is every bit as mysterious as the romance is romantic, check out Blair McDowell's work.  I found her through a book tour 5 years ago, and she is one of my happiest discoveries."
-  Marlene Harris,

"The elegance and beauty of Paris as the central backdrop for the intrigue, adds color and movement to the drama.... I particularly liked the attention to food as a gathering point and motif throughout. I was drawn back to my memories of Paris -- the sights, sounds and aromas. It's these small touches that inject an extra dimension, a 'je ne sais quoi' into the mix."
-  Heather B,

"Fatal Charm is well-written and engaging.  The book has a fast pace which makes it easy to read and enjoy.  Blair McDowell is an illustrative writer which allows readers to visualize the scenes in their head.  This brings the characters and story to life for  me.  I thought the mystery was complex and intriguing.  I enjoyed the many twists and turns."
-  Kristina Anderson,

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Blair McDowell