Destination: Scotland

For Sale: Britain’s ‘Most Remote Pub’

The Guardian’s Andrew Gilchrist reports that the Old Forge, a pub in Western Scotland reachable only by a long hike or by boat, is in need of new ownership—and that the current owners “won’t be selling to anyone who won’t keep its spirit alive.” Here’s Gilchrist’s take on that spirit:

From hikers to yachties to locals, anyone who has ever been to the Old Forge will tell you it’s a special place. It’s not just the food, from its Skye crab to its haggis lasagne, that’s fantastic; it’s not just the fact that its local ales, such as Red Cuillin, go down a treat after a day out on some of west coast’s finest peaks; nor is it just the ravishing view out across the bay at dusk, to those giant knuckles of rock encircling the still waters. No: it’s the whole party spirit that seems to affect the place as the sun goes down. Drums, guitars and fiddles line the walls - and they are not there for show.

“Your pals are no bad on the guitars,” the barman told me one night, after an evening of everything from Burns to the Proclaimers, from Biffy Clyro to George Michael. “You know, if they keep the place going, we’ll no shut.”

Bill Bryson: Britain has Become ‘Self-Absorbed’

The travel writer was commenting at a recent literary festival on the changes he’s seen in his adopted country. The BBC quotes Bryson: “When I first came to Britain it really was all about fair play and queuing… Everybody is in a hurry now and there is a ‘the rules don’t apply to me’ sort of thing.” (Via The Book Bench)

Ash From Iceland Volcano Forces Cancellation of Thousands of Flights

Ash From Iceland Volcano Forces Cancellation of Thousands of Flights REUTERS
Airport display board in Edinburgh, Scotland, today. (REUTERS/Russell Cheyne)

Oh Iceland. Now look at what you’ve done.

Amazingly, the closing of air space across parts of northwestern Europe due to widespread ash from a volcanic eruption in Iceland is, according to the New York Times, “among the most sweeping ever ordered in peacetime.”

Haggis Ban Lifted After 21 Years*

The sheep offal delight had been banned in the United States since the ‘80s due to BSE fears, but now Scotland’s most famous dish is back on the American dinner table. (Via Andrew Sullivan)

Update 3:01 p.m. PT: Sorry, haggis fans. A representative from the Department of Agriculture writes, “At this time, haggis is still banned in the U.S. The APHIS rule covers all ruminant imports, which includes haggis. It is currently being reviewed to incorporate the current risk and latest science related to these regulations. There is no specific time frame for the completion of this review.”

Photo You Must See: Snowbound Britain by Satellite

Photo You Must See: Snowbound Britain by Satellite Photo via NASA
Photo via NASA

A satellite image shows a snow-covered Great Britain. The walloping has left thousands without power.

NPR Delves Into the World of Marmite

And uses the word “sludge” twice in the first two minutes. I may be a defender of British food, but I have to confess I could never get into the dark yeasty stuff. (Via The Book Bench)

Travel Song of the Day: ‘Edinburgh Castle’ by Mike Scott

Mapped: The Cheeses of Britain and Ireland

Another tasty bite of geographical fun—and more proof that British food is worth defending. (Via @LPUSAstaff)

Is it a ‘Golden Age’ for British Indie Bookstores?

Apparently, more than 60 new stores have opened in the U.K. in the past 15 months. That’s a nice counterweight to all the closures we’ve been covering. (Via The Book Bench)

The Medieval Icelandic Guide to Marauding

The Telegraph highlights the mostly intimidating descriptions of Scotland that pop up in a series of 13th-century Icelandic chronicles. “Icelanders who want to practise robbery are advised to go there,” reads one section. “But it may cost them their life.” The chronicles, the story explains, “were often used as route guides for raiders, traders, crusaders and explorers, effectively a road map of medieval Europe and the Middle East.” Apparently, they’ve remained accurate enough over the centuries that they’re still used by archaeologists today.

London to Edinburgh in 2:16

That would be the journey time—down from 4.5 hours—if a new high-speed rail plan goes ahead in Britain. The possible line is just one of several high-speed rail proposals we’ve been keeping tabs on.

In Defense of British Food

In Defense of British Food Photo by AndyB in Brazil! via Flickr (Creative Commons)
Photo by AndyB in Brazil! via Flickr (Creative Commons)

Over at The Titanic Awards, Britain has easily carried the win in a poll on the world’s worst national cuisines, with 25 percent of the vote. I’m not surprised—“British food is bad” is a truism that even many Brits buy into—but I do want to take a moment for some spirited dissent.

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Eight Great Funny Travel Stories

To mark World Hum's eighth anniversary, we've collected eight favorite travel stories from our archives that see the humor in travel

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Where Will Dan Brown Go Next?

Where Will Dan Brown Go Next? Publicity still from "Angels and Demons" (via IGN)
Publicity still from “Angels and Demons” (via IGN)

Looks like the bestselling author has been keeping busy. While we’ve been pondering the “Angels and Demons” boycotts and bus tours, Brown has been hard at work on his next novel—and now, his publisher has finally announced its impending release.

“The Lost Symbol” will hit stores in September with a staggering first print run of 5 million copies, the largest in Random House history. Naturally, Columbia Pictures—the studio behind the first two Brown adaptations—wasted no time snapping up the film rights.

But with all the excitement, I’m left wondering: what, exactly, are we waiting for? Where will Robert Langdon (and the resulting hordes of movie tourists) go next?

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Eating Penguin with Ernest Shackleton in Scotland

Eating Penguin with Ernest Shackleton in Scotland Photo by DanieVDM via Flickr (Creative Commons)
Photo by DanieVDM via Flickr (Creative Commons)

In March 1901, the RRS Discovery set sail from Dundee, Scotland, its crew pointing it toward largely unexplored Antarctica. The ship was a wooden three-masted sailing vessel and, as it turned out, the last of its kind to be made in Britain.

But that’s not exactly what makes the RRS Discovery significant. Ten months later, the crew members definitively found what they were looking for. In fact, the ship was stuck, frozen in ice, leaving captains Ernest Shackleton and Robert Falcon Scott with no choice but to wait it out until the spring when the ice would thaw. The next few months were harrowing ones, the crew eventually having to munch on seal liver and roasted penguin (described as tasting like “leather steeped in turpentine”).

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