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Scotland, Week 6: 18 September

At the risk of repeating myself, the crinkly bits round the edge of Caithness really are stunning. (Inland we’ve got Europe’s largest blanket peat bog, some 4,000 acres of pure squelchiness; but while that’s impressive as a statistic, and very handy if you’re looking to dispose of the bodies, it’s not quite so jaw-dropping to look at.)

I’ve mentioned before that just a couple of miles south of Wick lies the castle of Old Wick, one of Scotland’s oldest, dating from the 1100s. All that’s left now is the location, perched on the sliver of rock forming a geo, or inlet, overlooking the North Sea, and the tower, rising above the landscape like the conning tower of a submarine, as though Celtic technology was more advanced than we’d imagined and an Iron Age vessel had been marooned there after a particularly exciting high tide, and been left to petrify down the ages.

A short walk south from Old Wick along the clifftops takes you to another marvel: a stone arch anchored to the cliffs like a flying buttress, and I like to think that God was a bit concerned about the ability of the land to take the strain, and so brought in the same master masons who built the gothic cathedrals of medieval Europe to shore it up, just to be on the safe side. You’d never know it was there—there’re no signposts, and it can only be seen from a certain angle to the south—and the thought of innocently strolling across onto it and then looking down has haunted my waking dreams ever since. I’m not sure if its correct name is Brig o’ Stack or Brig o’ Trams (there seems some ambiguity on the subject), or even Brig o’ Death Plummet; but coming across it as you round the headland feels like you’ve just won the landscape lottery.

Castle of Old Wick

In gansey news, I have now finished the front as well as the back, joined the shoulders and completed the collar: just the two sleeves to go (more on this next week). I decided on a “rig ‘n’ fur” (or “ridge and furrow”) shoulder, partly because I’m a sucker for the way the ladder at either side seamlessly integrates into the shoulder ridges, and partly because I like the way the cast-off row of a 3-needle bind-off becomes just another ridge, and disappears. Because the neckline is indented, I replaced the third tree in the pattern (see last week’s photo) with a little starette.

In the meantime I plan to pack up my troubles in my old kit bag, take a trip inland and drown them in the peat bog. As the old saying goes, what happens in Caithness, stays in Caithness—usually because the road’s blocked at Berriedale and the trains aren’t running…

12 comments to Scotland, Week 6: 18 September

  • Annie

    My favoritest (how else can I gush?)sweater yet, both for color and design. Thanks for sharing, and your pics and travel log, too, never thought I might want to visit the cold, wet, windy land of my ancestors. Might, I say.

    • Gordon

      Thank you, Annie. As Robert Burns said, my heart’s in the Highlands—along with several pints of my blood which have been stolen from me down the years by the blasted midges!

  • =Tamar

    Somehow a pine tree with a small starette on top makes me think of the December solstice. Nicely subtle.

  • Lois

    Oh my, that really is a stunner! I enjoy your tours of the countryside as much as the ganseys. Must be the call of my 2 drops of Highland blood.

    • Gordon

      Hi Lois, and thank you. I think Scotland would always give you a warm welcome. (Well, alright, a cold, wet welcome.) One of the nicest things said to me when I moved to Scotland was a former boss: I told her that my father’s side of the family hailed from Buckie/Portgordon, so although I was an anglicised Kiwi I had Scottish roots, and she said, “And now you’ve come back. Welcome home.”

  • Jane

    Just such a gorgeous gansey, the pattern and the colour are just so good together, and the starette is delightful!

    And you do live in a wonderful place, take care!

    • Gordon

      ~hello Jane, yes, we keep telling ourselves, we live in a place that other people come for their holidays! Mind you, I suspect that logically we should therefore take our holidays in Slough, or Milton Keynes, or Wolverhampton…

  • SongBird

    Golly, who’s this one for? It’s fabulous – the trees are striking and I love the ribby bits at the armholes!

    • Gordon

      Hi Song, it’s for a friend, she bought the wool a while back but never got round to making one for herself, so I was happy to help out. I like the ladders too—makes me think of Bob Dylan’s wonderful lines written for his young son: “May you build a ladder to the stars, and climb on every rung / And may you stay… forever young.”

  • Sharon Gunason Pottinger

    So beautiful. The starette is brilliant. The hope against the odds of the winter solstice is near to my heart/mind.

    • Gordon

      Hi Sharon, very glad it meets with your approval! Always remember, it is better to burn down a single forest than curse the darkness… No, wait—

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