The Orkney Islands

From the northernmost coast of Scotland we took another ferry to Stromness in the Orkney Islands.

Arriving in the dark and the rain, we found Stromness has basically one street with the same width as the C roads! It reminded me of driving in Tenerife on a road that was really built for donkeys and, for Paul, a very stressful drive in an Italian hill town. And strangely, in none of these cases were the roads only one way. In the daylight next morning there was a certain charm to it but late at night in the rain it was no fun.

We visited Skara Brae, the well known pre-historic village, more stone circles and a Neolithic burial chamber, still incredibly intact. We also visited the Italian Chapel, so called because it was built by Italian prisoners of war during World War II out of whatever scraps they could find. It was quite lovely and a tremendous testament to the human spirit.

The Island of Skye

We had one more night in Finsbay and then had a truly harrowing drive in the dark on that daring C road to get to the ferry by 7:00 for the trip over to the Island of Skye.

I’m getting some insight about what kind of tour this would be and this simplifies our travels.

Given the condition of the roads I’m thankful.

We mostly explored the southern peninsula of Skye looking for accommodation for 24 people. I can see the itinerary very differently now having travelled there.

We spent the night in a B&B at Drumbuie (no – not Drambuie!) and drove on next morning to Plockton – a truly charming place. The planned tour itinerary in my mind changed again  As we drove up the western mainland coast the scenery became more and more beautiful and dramatic – fabulous sandy beaches, mountains with exquisite lines – and more and more sheep.

The Scottish Island of Lewis

The next day we drove to various sites on the Island of Lewis which is actually attached to the Island of Harris; the Callanais stones – an impressive stone circle – some other pre-historic sites and a Blackhouse village. These homes were all heated with peat which is still cut, dried and used for fuel.

History tells us that the people used to live in these stone croft houses, with thatched roof and a hole for the smoke to go out. Then they were improved with fireplaces and chimneys and a slate roof. Invariably they were almost black because of the smoke. Then people built more modern houses and painted them white – hence the names of black houses and white houses. Sometimes one can see both in ruins on a piece of land with another modern bungalow (one storey house) beside them so you can see the progression of comfort in homes.

Outer Hebrides Islands and UK Roads

We left Iona and the Island of Mull, ferried back to Oban and then took a long ferry ride to S. Uist, one of the southernmost of the Outer Hebrides islands. I nearly forgot my medication for seasickness which could have been disastrous given the ocean swell on that trip. From there we drove north, visiting several sites, including an unearthed Viking ship and, by the end of the day, were in Finsbay on the island of Harris (where Harris Tweed comes from).

Let me tell you about roads in the UK.

The M roads are motorways, like our freeways. The A roads are the main roads that were the quickest route from one place to another before the M roads were built. I remember my father saying that he could average 30mph on A roads but they’ve improved since then and cars have also – but there should be no great expectations. Then there’s the B roads, which are country roads, often one lane with passing places. And now I’ve found out about C roads – which are about 6 ft wide, and have tiny passing places. Finsbay is on a C road, running over and around mountains with a drop on at least one side of the road and sometimes both. The challenge on that road has often been that the ‘cute’ little road rises to a summit and one expects it to go on straight, but instead there’s a sharp turn and if you miss that turn you get to fly off the edge of the road and dive down into the sea. Such fun!

Iona and the Abbey

Iona is lovely.

I walked and spent time restoring order which was needed for my sanity – e.g. laundry etc.

Iona is, indeed, a very special place and the Abbey was stunning. Paul went to a morning service and I joined him for an evening one which was very special for me. Although the Abbey was in ruins and has been rebuilt, the atmosphere is still very much there and the Iona Community is modern monastic, bringing fresh perspectives to the Anglican/Episcopelian/Church of England church. The words of their hymns were modern and meaningful and the tunes easily learned – while also lovely. I was tempted to buy their hymn book! Hard to believe but true – but it was large and heavy and I am extremely cautious what I buy and therefore have to carry.

Seil Island

Seil Island – a lovely lonely spot. We took the ferry to the Island of Mull, drove to Tobermory, a village with considerable charm, then on a very dramatic route to Fionnphort to get the short ferry to Iona.

Loch Lomond and Loch Awe

Next day we started out of Glasgow along Loch Lomond and then into the mountains and glens. We paused somewhere near a church holding a funeral with bagpipes playing.

Sheep, sheep and more sheep – everywhere. When on the road they know perfectly well who has right of way and behave accordingly and with ‘attitude’.

We drove alongside Loch Awe on the most magical road but while I oohed and aahed I realized that this could only be appreciated by people facing forward and people riding in a bus wouldn’t get that view so – it was for me only, not for a group.

Paul was concentrating on driving – it was challenging.

I also realised in the first couple of days that my back was not happy with all the bouncing around on very bumpy roads, stopping suddenly for oncoming traffic since these were one lane roads, and the winding bends one after the other. We have agreed that B roads are to be avoided. Even A roads are often just one lane here but the surface is better.

Our first overnight in Oban was a poor experience though I suppose a one-toothed barmaid to check one in can be considered a cultural experience. Four flights of stairs on old, worn carpet patched with duct tape, a bathroom so tiny you could hardly turn around in it, leaking roof when it rained, furniture falling apart, and the ubiquitous kettle for making morning tea had something black and really nasty inside. We were glad to leave.

Rosslyn Chapel in Scotland

Scotland is stunningly beautiful – in sunshine, mist, rain or fog. The mountains look like they are covered in green velvet with rocks with quartz and small waterfalls shining through.

But first – I met my brother, Paul, at Glasgow airport and we drove to Rosslyn Chapel which is stunning in its own right – such complex and beautiful stone carving. It is not allowed to take pictures inside so I can only share one from outside. I wish I had someone there who could have shared the spiritual meaning of what I was seeing but that must wait until I can bring a tour group and leader.

Ah, England …

Ah, England …

England with its full-crowned green trees, furrowed fields, green meadows that would have rabbits in them if the train wasn’t going by, church steeples, country houses with cars parked in front, thereby designating them of historical interest and probably owned by the National Trust.

This is the England of the English – not the England that the refugees are looking for but the England that the English want to protect and keep English. They don’t care so much about the cities.

Council houses – built after the second world war to house the population after so much had been bombed; some built by my father’s company and definitely lacking in any architectural merit, but with a roof over people’s heads and plumbing and electricity – who cared?

Low gray clouds threatening rain, cows lying in the fields as they do when it’s going to rain. What are they trying to keep dry – their tummies?

(I’m just grateful for cooler temperatures, getting my brain back again and not having to peel my clothes off each night.)

This is the England of my childhood, without the bomb sites filled with crumbling walls and rose bay willow herb (fireweed).

I’m on the train to Glasgow, Scotland after a restful overnight stay at the Lodge of The Christian Community in London. This is a long train journey but it will constitute a day of rest for me.

(Just passed a canal with colourful holiday barges lined up against the bank. There must be a good pub nearby.)

The first stop will be Warrington where I was born, then on through the Lake District which is unbelievably beautiful. Do I sound nostalgic? I probably am.

We flew in last night over London, the first time I have seen it from the air.

I stayed at the Lodge of The Christian Community which is a haven of peace in London although not inexpensive – but worth it.

It’s funny going back to pulling the chain to flush the toilet and needing to remember to switch on the electric outlet before the juice will flow. I could make my own cup of tea in my room and was served poached eggs on toast for breakfast – ah – my morning bliss 🙂

I’m on a Virgin train, a company that has the same sense of humour as Southwest Airlines and West Jet. See photo. I’m in a Quiet Carriage i.e. no cell phones and the sign says Do Not Create Any Unnecessary Noise. The conductor announced over the system – Carriage A is a Quiet Carriage therefore Be Quiet! But it was said humorously 🙂

I’m impressed with The Shop on the train where you can buy food and a really hot cup of tea and someone comes through every half hour or so asking if anyone has any rubbish.

The big news in England is the startling election of Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the opposition Labour Party. No one expected this result and neither, it would seem, did he.

From what I can tell from the newspapers he has some radical ideas/intentions that, in my opinion, are exactly where society needs to go. His own party is in a state of shock.

Imagine – he chose women for his shadow cabinet to head education, health, families and children etc and when criticized for not choosing women to head finance, foreign affairs etc he maintained that the health, education and welfare of the British population was even more important! Radical! 🙂

Now we are coming up to the Lake District, one of my favourite areas of England, the land of Beatrix Potter and Peter Rabbit, and I want to watch out the window.

Scotland next … 🙂


Beautiful and fascinating, Lanzarote is very different from any of the other islands. It has all developed out of volcanic lava which sounds like a moonscape but it isn’t.

Development has been very restrained thanks to the influence of Cesar Manrique, an extraordinary artist of the 1900s, probably unknown outside of Spain. All buildings are white and none more than three stories high and even they are few. This looks very dramatic against the dark grey crumbles of lava which cover the soil.

Yes, there is soil which has developed, since the islands rose out of the sea, from lava and sand. There are almost constant trade winds so the plants are protected by hand built curved walls of lava rock. The winds are usually gentle and dispel the heat and humidity so the climate is comfortable year round. I loved it.

The Centro Antroposofica where I stayed is gorgeous. This is where we will have the eurythmy retreat. I spent the time with Roberto Schmid, who is in charge of the place, and his daughter and her boyfriend who had just arrived for a holiday from Germany. We all enjoyed each other’s company with much laughter and Roberto took me to all the places we might find interesting for excursions – including the home of Cesar Manrique.

When I left I flew back to Santa Cruz, Tenerife, ready to catch my flight to Madrid and then on to London next day. I didn’t see anything in Santa Cruz that I’d go back for either …