Saturday, September 1, 2018

Packing for Scotland

I've been absent for a while for (once again) no good reason, though I have been substitute teaching an Integrationskurs for the last week. It's actually an Alphabetisierungskurs, which means the students started the course not being able to read or write, at least not with our alphabet. This class has advanced to the A1 niveau, and they are a fun and interesting group!

Next week we'll be leaving on another trip to Scotland - our sixth together in 12 years. We'll be staying on the Isle of Mull for a week at Glengorm Castle in one of their self-catering flats, followed by three days at a B&B near Tyndrum where we stayed last year with the kids, and finally a few days near Edinburgh. This time M and I are going alone, and we're hoping to avoid the rental car problems we had last year - which I never ended up writing about. Hm.

Since the plan for this weekend is packing for Scotland, I thought I'd write a quick blog post about that! I know people who prefer to vacation at beaches and hotels with big pools where it is warm and sunny, but  - especially after a hot and dry summer like we've just had - we bundle up and head for cooler, wetter climes.

We each have our own packing list, and I'm mainly going to cover mine. M takes care of all the technical and electronic stuff, charging cords, batteries, etc., though I am in charge of my own camera batteries and memory cards.

So then, what do I pack for a trip to wet and windy Scotland? This is a start:

Most important for us are the hiking gear and photography equipment. We are by no means serious hikers, in part because we lack the fitness for it, but we love to go for long walks looking for pretty views and interesting wildlife. The wildlife on Mull has been doing its honest best to elude us, though this year we're hoping to be able to at least observe, if not photograph, some of the island's birds of prey.

Hiking Gear

I pack my hiking boots, a backpack designed for hiking, and a rain jacket that folds up and stuffs into its own pocket, making for easy storage. That's what the lobster is sitting on - more on him later. Shown in the photo are two of my four pairs of hiking pants. I have one for when it might be wet, one for when it's fairly wet, and one for when it's really, really wet. The Wisconsin shirt is one of only two t-shirts I'll bring; I rarely need short-sleeves and pack mainly long-sleeve or 3/4-length sleeve shirts. I bought the green Craghopper fleece last year, and it's super cuddly! Of course I am packing my Poldi the Steinkauz (owl) shirt.

We also have the all-important OS (Ordinance Survey) maps and a compass, though I should admit that we usually rely on M's GPS thingy to guide us during the actual hikes. It handles the rain better.

The Olympus binoculars are important for spotting wildlife as it runs, slithers, or swims to places we are not, and for identifying large birds. We'll be bringing two flashlights because we're planning to do the Whisky Cave walk, which unsurprisingly involves a cave.

We don't go anywhere without Avon's Skin-so-Soft® to fend off the midges (affectionately referred to by locals as "those fecking demons" and other colorful pet names), and this year we're also bringing Smidge® at the advice of the good people in the Scotland from the Roadside Facebook group. There's also a mosquito face net, though I've never needed it before.

We'll each have a Swiss Army knife, because who would go hiking without one? Same with the Snickers! 

Last but certainly not least: our mini-pharmacy: Band-aids, blister pads, adhesive tape, gauze, Fenistil for bug bites, Bepanthen for cuts and scratches, and Ibuprofen, Imodium, and cold medicine - not all of which is pictured.

Photography Equipment

I'm bringing my new camera, which is M's "old" Canon EOS 70D. We decided he should probably have a new camera to better capture the birds of prey in flight (we have high hopes), and the 70D can do things my 40D cannot. I'm looking forward to getting acquainted with it.

My lens of choice is the EF-S 18-135mm, not that I know what any of that means.

I'll have the monopod, while M will haul a tripod on his backpack. 

We'll have extra batteries and memory cards, and M will have several different lenses so that he can be in the middle of switching them when the Steinadler (golden eagle) flies overhead.

Self-Catering Needs

Center front you see the all-important knife sharpener. We cannot stand dull knives, but we seem to be alone in this. We bring a knife sharpener everywhere we travel - I even bring one when I travel to my parents' house. This little one isn't M's favorite, but it works in a pinch, and his whetstones would be too cumbersome to pack.

We also bring one good kitchen knife - again, I never travel without it when I know I will be doing some cooking. M made a sheath for it before my last trip to Wisconsin, with a warning mainly to protect the airport security guys rummaging through my suitcase.

We pack our vegetable peeler because I don't like using anything else, and mini packets of spices for the recipes we're bringing - lamb stew and Gulasch. We buy the lamb and beef from Glengorm and the vegetables from their gardens - it doesn't get more local than that!

Sorry, I couldn't resist.

I always pack a kitchen cloth as well, because usually it's a washcloth that is provided for doing dishes and wiping the counters, and I prefer the ones we use at home. I probably sound a little looney.


I bring two or three books and buy more while traveling. For Scotland I always bring a book about Scottish history, and for Mull I bring the little book about walks to take on the island, which I picked up a few years ago. 

I like to keep a journal to record the fun, funny, and frustrating moments and basically what we did each day.

There are other things on our packing list, but what I've pictured and mentioned above are the most important. Ha! I just realized I didn't think to put my tablet, keyboard, or smart phone in the picture. I will surely bring the tablet for checking emails occasionally and the mobile phone for summoning island rescue if one of us runs into very bad luck, but M will have his laptop, and if there's any posting of pictures being done, I'll use that. 

What do I buy??

What kinds of things do I buy when we go to Mull and other parts of Scotland? I'm not much for shopping, really, but I love the little shops in Tobermory. This is what I bought last year (two of the books were gifts from the kids):

The Craghopper fleece, Jacobs Cream Crackers (we both go mad for these!), books, books, and more books, a Mull calendar to hold us through the next year, something showing Mull - last year two slate coasters - a Mull heather scented candle, a bar of Mull soap, and a mini bottle of Tobermory whisky. Island Wife was written by a woman who lived and ran a B&B on Mull with her husband for a number of years, and the History of Glengorm was published last year and written by the mother of Tom Nelson, who has owned and run the Glengorm estate since he took over from his parents.

Why the lobster?

The lobster has become somewhat of a mascot for us, due to a book we're both reading which was written by a clinical psychologist from Canada who has been making quite some waves during the last year or so. Funnily enough, I bought this little finger puppet on our trip to New Hampshire & Maine as a souvenir quite a few years ago. He's been living in my "teaching props" bag since then, but lately he hangs out in our living room.

Scotland, here we come!

North Mull, view from Glengorm Castle

a burn on Mull

Loch Na Keal, Isle of Mull

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