While Inverness was a delightful place to ring in the new year, we decided enough is enough — bring on the Highlands, capital “H.” In the midst of cold and snow and mist and fog and sheep and every other Scottish Highland cliche you can think of, we made our way northwest. Stunning and raw, it was impossible not to exhaust our camera even though we knew “it” would never come through. The cherry on top was the mountain pass that led to our hostel — an 11-km single-lane road with 25% inclines and hairpin turns. Joris was in heaven. We stayed in a virtually-deserted hostel in secluded Applecross (again, heaven), and had venison burger and fish pie at the local inn.  Again, heaven.

Then there were the islands. We took day trips to the Isles of Skye (via car) and Islay (via ferry). Skye was postcard-perfect, complete with dramatic sun that turned the hills from brown to emerald-green. Islay wasn’t quite as majestic, but was probably more memorable. Carless, we decided to walk to the three distilleries that line the south coast of Islay. Naturally, two of the three were closed to visitors (maintenance, staff training, because the sky was blue), but the 7-mile walk through rain and wind brought moments of splendid beauty and a taste of Lagavulin. After more walking, two buses, a ferry, and a car ride, we made it to Glasgow, wet and tired.