All posts tagged: Scotland

A chocolate enigma in Pittenweem

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In the small harbour town of Pittenweem on the east coast of Scotland, there is a link between Zimbabwe, a secret key and a sacred cave. The first clue: Pittenweem means “place of the cave”. After asking the townsfolk and passers-by for directions, we find an iron gate in a steep and narrow road a few metres from the harbour. The words “St. Fillan’s Cave” are carved above the gate. Peeking through the bars, we can see a few steps, then darkness. Only a key allows visitors to enter. According to a small sign, the key can be found at 9 High Street. The treasure hunt continues. 9 High Street turns out to be a chocolate shop, “Cocoa Tree Cafe”. A popular spot, full to capacity. We ask the owner if she can tell us more about the famous key. Her face lights up, and Sophie the chocolate lady fumbles in a drawer, then hands us the key in exchange for £1. “Don’t expect anything too exciting, it’s a very small cave. But it is …

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The courage of the (monster) hunter

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In 1970, when he was seven years old, Steve’s parents took him on holiday to Loch Ness. There, he learnt about the legend of Nessie, and became obsessed. He would often go back on holiday or on an expedition, but never saw anything. His responsibilities eventually caught up with him and he became manager of the family business, then the owner… But in 1991 he decided to pursue his dream. He left his wife and his job, sold his house, bought and repaired an old van (previously used as a mobile library), and set off for Loch Ness, in search of Nessie. Slightly mad, you might say. But to us, he is courageous. Courageous enough to leave everything behind and follow his instincts, rely on hope and end up with no regrets. And so, for the past 25 years, Steve has been a full-time Nessie hunter. For the first 10 of those years he drove his van around the loch, exploring every nook and cranny. He even made a film for the BBC, “Desperately Seeking …

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Islander [2/2] – honesty & rugby

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Tom, Flora and their two children live in Laggan, just a kilometer away of Lochbuie and the farm. Before moving to the Isle of Mull, Tom and Flora managed a company offering classic Volkswagen camper vans from the 60s and 70s for hire. “Happy Highlands Campers” was based in Inverness. Flora managed the 4 vans and Tom carried out the repairs. The couple are true fans of the roadtrip concept and are delighted to tour our van, “Patrick”. They settled in Lochbuie five years ago. Tom helped his father manage the farm. He also told us about his former adventures, as a farmer in the Australian desert, as an engineer working in Antarctica for 18 months, as a wind turbine repair technician… Flora wears many different hats. She manages the rental annex and the two holiday cottages, she helps manage the abattoir on the island, she drives the local children to and from school, and she has opened an “honesty shop” in the former post office in Lochbuie. For this project, she brought together local craftsmen …

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Islander [1/2] – wool, horns & langoustines

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The Corbett family are among the 2800 inhabitants on the Isle of Mull. Jim and Patience own large swathes of land on which sheep and cows have grazed for nearly a century. We spent a few days with their son Tom and his wife, Flora, who gave us a taste of their day-to-day life. The roads on Mull can be driven along in either direction, but most are only wide enough for one car. There is a recess every 300 metres to allow vehicles to pass one another. Like choreographed dancers, vehicles move to one side or the other of the road, the drivers greeting each other politely. The road grew even steeper as we neared Lochbuie. At the tip of the loch, we discovered a stunning bay surrounded by grass-covered mountains. Highland cows lapped up the sunshine along the shore. Pointed horns turned to face us as we passed, the cows’ eyes barely visible under the long red locks of hair that tickled their noses. We zigzagged between sheep, eventually arriving at Laggan, the home of …

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Scotland by Zeppelin

Hebrides Express – by Jeanne T. & MPQ.

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Five days. That’s all we have. For a round-trip visit to the Isle of Mull that’s more than enough. Eight years ago, along with a friend we completed our first visit to Scotland on these same roads, in a van. The reasons for hitting these same roads this year are plentiful and fun! A report with the photographers from the Zeppelin travelogue, and most importantly to celebrate the 10th anniversary of discovering a little corner of paradise in Scotland. Back on these one-track roads 10 years later, it’s Jeanne’s turn to describe her trip in words and pictures. MPQ. We skipped the Fireman’s Ball for a fantastic voyage across England and Scotland. Paris-Calais-Dover- Liverpool- Corran- Lochaline – Isle of Mull. MPQ. picks up the Esquisse (the van kitted out by We Van) in Nantes and meets me in Paris. To burn off some energy in anticipation of the 20-hour drive we have in store, we head to a concert by the folk group June Bug at a music shop in the Barbès neighbourhood. M. has put us …

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First time

The spirit of the van – by Kiki B.

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What the van experience really boils down to is a return to a forgotten time, one which has been sidelined by our modern culture with its walls of all powerful tv screens, packed nightclubs and all of the superficial pleasures that come with it. We have been separated from the lost pleasures of looking at a star filled sky or connecting to nature. If the van experience is after all a return to these forgotten pleasures: then it is not just alpha or omega, it is both! It is the be all and end all. Travelling by van is all about reliving simple pleasures and stripping away phoney illusions. You turn the key and that’s it, you’re on your way. Because after all that’s really all there is to it, there’s no need to bother with taking the bus to an airport, checking in just to take another bus which takes you to a plane which in turn does endless laps on the tarmac before you finally take off. The van experience bypasses this needless hassle by returning to the true, ultimate meaning of …

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