A Loch Ness Blog and some Inverness Day Trip Inspiration That sweet spot – so painfully short – when autumn is at its peak and winter’s bony finger is crooked in its foreboding call, is upon me. And so I headed north once more for a rare Loch Ness blog and a final Highland adventure…An Autumnal Highland Explosion at Loch Ness — Travels with a Kilt
Photo by Simon Hattinga Verschure
Stone circles and monolith sites have taken on a fever in the last 7 years, thanks to a little show called Outlander. Many historical sites have taken an actual beating due to the very high attendance this series and other series, such as The Last Kingdom, have brought fans flocking to these ancient ruins.
I have made it my mission to see some circles this next trip. I was thwarted by a funeral on the Isle of Skye that had half the island involved and no way to get around it. It’s very rare for a native islander to live on the island and when one passes, the whole island gets involved. Which is really a beautiful thing, but when one gets half their tour cut off for the day and not time in the schedule to stay an extra day, you have to bump that to the next trip.
If you are lucky enough to be in the UK and Ireland and COVID-19 restrictions ease, heading to the ancient sites will be a great place to stay distanced, yet close to history. For the rest of us, start saving up.
Stone circles are found across the UK Isles, Ireland, and norther Europe. They were constructed between the years including the late Neolithic through Bronze Ages (3000 BCE). It’s not just the Northern Hemisphere, there are even a variation in the South of Africa.
What was the purpose of a stone circle? Ceremony for ancient peoples, usually centered around the seasons. Many of the circles feature at a particular movement of the sun, much like monoliths and other structures. The larger circles were though to have ben erected in places where there had been a larger settlement as the stones required a huge undertaking with ancient technology to transport and erect.
Image by Paul Bates
Not all circles are full circles, come are spiral or concentric, others are recumbent and axial. A single large stone placed on its side is recumbent or lying down. These are usually intentional, and similar to a placement of a stone for a Viking burial site. Indeed some of the circles and variants are part of a tomb or chambered site. Some systems have evidence of a cobble pavement, as these were places of worship and expected to be used over time. Some may contain a ring cairn used as a burial marker.
NOTE: While some countries have land passage laws, it is very important that you check out the official sites for information on access. Some of these are on private property and a fee may be charged. Check for public right of way spaces.
Note: as with all boggy moor conditions, check with local conditions for safe parking areas. Cars will sink.
Cumbria: Blakerly Raise, Castlehowe Scar, Castlerigg Circle, Druid’s Circle, Giants Grave, Greycroft Circle, Long Meg and her Daughters, Sewborrans, Shap Circles, Sunkenkirk
Derbyshire: Arbor Low Henge, Bamford Moor Circle, Hordron Edge Circle, Nine Stone Close, Park Gate Circle, Smelting Hill, Big Moor, Eyam Moor, Gardom’s Edge, Gibbet Moor, Stanton Moor.
Devon: Brisworthy Circle, Fernworthy Circle and Row, Grey Wethers Circle (Double), Ringsmoor Row and Circle, Scorhill Circle -Dartmoor. Darmoor has several Neolithic sites.
Dorset: Winterbourne Abbas Circle
Durham: Barningham /How Tallon Circle
Norfolk: Holme-Next-theSea (Seahenge) Bronze Age Wooden Circle
Northumberland: Doddington Moor Circle, Duddo, Goatstones
Wiltshire: Avebury, Long Stones, The Sanctuary
STONEHENGE and surrounding area. Yes, the big stone circle has a bit of company.
Yorkshire North: Appletreewick, Commondale, Devil’s Arrows, Harwood Dale, and a great many other Neolithic sites.
Brittany: Carnac Stones, Le Grand Menhir Brisé
Ireland: Ballynoe, Athgreany, Uragh, Beltany, Drombeg
Aberdeenshire: East Aquhorthies, Loanhead of Daviot, Raich, Sheldon, Tomnaverie
Angus: Balgarthno, Balkemback
Dumfriesshire: Twelve Apostles
Fife: Balfarg, Lundin Links
Inverness-shire: Aviemore, Balnuaran of Clava, Center-North-East-South-West
Peeblesshire: Cloyhouse Burn, Harestanes, Stobo Mill
Perthshire: Abbots Deuglie, Abernethy Den, Ardblair, Bachilton, Balhomais, Balmuick, Bandirran (east and west circles), Carse Fam I, II, Clach na Croiche, Clach na Tiompan, Clachan an Diridh, Graighall, Craigiedun, Croftmoraig, Dalginross, Diarmid’s Grave, East Cult, Easthill, Faire na Paitig, Falls of Acharn, Faskally Cottages, Ferntower, Fortingall NE, S, SW, Fowlis Wester, Gleann Beag, Kerrowmore, Kinnell, Licher-Stanes, Machuim, Moneydie, Muirheadstone, Na Clachan Aoraidh, River Almond, Tigh na Ruaich, Tom na Chessaig, Upper Gaskan, Wester Tullybannocher, Woodside. Map
Ross and Cromarty: Archmore, Airidh nam Bidearan, Applecross, Ballan Trushal, Beinn Fuathabhal, Callanish, Carriblair, Clach an Trushal, Cnac Ceann a’ Gharraidh, Cnoc Gearraidh Nighaen Choinnich outliers, Glen Shader, Na Dromannan, Shader Riverside, Strath
Roxburghshire: Ninestane Rig
Photo by Jasmin Gorsuch
Countries have varied since March on their handling of the spread of COVID-19. Some countries have had great success, and we really should look at how and why they are so successful. It is harder of course for the larger countries like the United States or Canada to control as they are dealing with larger populations, and states or provinces are also following their own protocols regarding travel. As of December 2020, many counties, states, provinces, and cities will have self-quarantine orders in effect. As this last Thanksgiving for both Canada and the US proved that no matter the warnings, people traveled for the traditional holiday, risking exposure and spreader events.
While a vaccine roll out is due to happen in most countries in the next three weeks, it will be limited to first responders. The second batch will likely be for those in certain age groups and health concerns. To even board a plane or enter another state or country, you will be asked for a negative COVID-19 test result that is two days prior your flight or train trip. And when you have gone through two vaccines for COVID-19, will there be a vaccination card you can cary with you, or entered in the TSA lists for you to travel? Procedures are still not quite clear on this subject. It’s looking like real travel will not pick up until Summer of 2021.
If you do manage to travel, finding places to stay may take a while to get back to levels where you can find bargains. Who knows what the industry will be like, as many small private boutiques and AirBNB rentals may be very hungry for your business, be wary of fraud.
And most of all, do not assume that because locally there may not be stay at home orders or quarantine after travel has lifted, that you destination is following the same rules. The pandemic is spreading and resurfacing on a daily basis and may not clear until a year from now, if then. So, plan ahead to travel about a year from now, and keep an eye on the news for where you plan to travel to. And if you must travel now, for family emergencies, please keep in mind that there may be 10 to 14 day quarantine in place in effect. While in the US we have not seen serious enforcement on this, in other countries like the UK, if you do not follow the protocol you face heavy fines.
Be patient, we all are planning on having that very special end of the pandemic exploration trip. It’s a good way to plan and save for that special trip by taking the time to research and find where you want to go.
Photo by Image by McBeaner
While we go back into restrictions in many countries due to Covid, this late-fall and early winter if you are lucky enough to be at a certain latitudinal line in the northern hemisphere, or the southern (Australis Lights), you can see a spectacular show of ribbons of lights in the night skies. We see our sun’s solar winds colliding with the Earth’s atmosphere, which is changing in composition, and we get amazing ribbons of spectral dancers. Places to see the this amazing show include the Shetland Islands and mainland Scotland, in the 52°-55° latitudinal lines, and Ireland is also well situated to see these amazing light displays.
The Aurora Zone
Countries within or near the 52°-55° latitude are considered the best places to observe the night time light show. However, if the geomagnetic activity is high (Kp index) the lights can extend further. There is not a season per se for the lights, however winter is usually better with longer nights. And as far away from large cities as possible.
Scottish Sites: October to March
Ireland Sites: Best months September and March
Iceland: All of it
Canada: In some places you can see them 240 nights out of the year
Image by Martin Solhaug Standal
Share your Aurora hunting stories.
Photo by Frank Liebmann
Where are the best places to spot puffins? And why would you want to? I’ve been fascinated with puffins since I was very young and picked up a classic book published by Puffin Books. I wanted to know what a Puffin was, and since we didn’t have any on the west coast of America, I was fascinated with them for a time. Many years later, and after one attempt to go Puffin spotting while in Inverness in 2017, unfortunately time would not allow me to head to the northern islands, I decided it would be on the list for next trip.
Puffins are member of the Auk family of seabirds. The inhabit borrows and live on cliff faces. Their brightly colored bill is a great boon during mating season, however there is another feature to that splendid beak. It glows. Great for mating flashing about. My theory, it’s very useful when you have tiny Pufflings, yes the common name for baby Puffins, crammed in a cliff face with very little sunlight? Strange head coming in, where’s the food? Read more about it here:
The best places for Puffin spotting, cliff faces across Scotland and the isles. St Abbs, Isle of May, Faraid Head, Shetland, Orkney, Noss, Island of Handa. The best time of year is breeding season in May and through to August.