An Open Letter to the Scottish Highlands

My Dear, Scenic, Beautiful Highlands,

Truly, you are glorious, especially on blue-sky summer days with just a bit of a breeze blowing.

My usual Highland 'look'.

My usual Highland 'look'.

Your geology is astounding, and students travel here from around the world to study your formations and layers. You wear your age spectacularly.


Even though many of them are ruins, your castles are romantic relics of times long past.

Castle Sinclair & Girnigoe

Castle Sinclair & Girnigoe

And anyone who is interested in Robert Louis Stevenson's grandfather's business will delight in your many lighthouses, since the Stevenson family's persistent legacy has kept your shores safe for many a year.

Dunnet Head Lighthouse (Robert Stevenson, 1831)

Dunnet Head Lighthouse (Robert Stevenson, 1831)

Each mile of coastline brings something new and interesting to admire, and your inland vistas are pretty special, too. You sure know how to do “scenic.”


The thing is, though, my most beloved Highlands... Do your historical sites really need to be so very, very far away from where we have to park the car?

Castle of Old Wick.

Castle of Old Wick.

My husband and I aren't as young and spritely as we once were, you know, and sometimes we just need a place to sit down for a minute, though those can be in short supply.

Watch out, Sem!

Watch out, Sem!

Even so, thank you dear Highlands, for being so awesome in every sense. I truly have grown to love you. It's just that... well... next time a “5- minute walk” actually turns out to be a half hour trudge amongst scattered ankle-turning stones and fragrant cow-pats, could you please send some help for the way back?

I'm not fussy, really. But I wouldn't say no to this...

Holburn Head Lighthouse (David and Thomas Stevenson, 1862), Scrabster Harbour.

Holburn Head Lighthouse (David and Thomas Stevenson, 1862), Scrabster Harbour.


Deb Segelitz
Deb Segelitz was born and raised in Pennsylvania, and is astounded to find herself living in the Scottish Highlands. Equally surprising to her is that she now has a small business restoring and selling old fountain pens. These two facts have convinced Deb that life is either beautifully random, or filled with destiny created by someone with a sense of humor. She hopes the fine north state residents will accept her as an honorary member, since she has some cousins in California who she visited once, but even more importantly because the north state folks she actually knows are fabulous people, who are also the reason for her presence here on An enthusiastic amateur photographer, Deb is grateful that she lives in a place that's about as point-and-shoot as it gets. Her tortoiseshell cat, Smartie, rates her as an average minion, too slow with the door-opening but not too bad on the food-dish-refilling, and her husband hasn't had her deported back to the States yet, so things must be going all right there, as well.
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34 Responses

  1. Beverly Stafford says:

    As always, Deb, you brighten my morning.

  2. Richard Christoph says:

    Thank you, Deb, for your beautifully written accompaniment to your superb photos. My beloved and I have had the distinct pleasure of visiting the Highlands twice, and seeing your piece this morning brought back many fine memories of driving and strolling through one of the world’s most special places. Having “a wee dram” of Talisker  on the Isle of Skye, trying haggis for the 1st time, visiting Culloden, and enjoying the hospitality of warm and friendly inn keepers are recollections that entice us to return.

    Another good memory was experiencing the warmest October 27th since 1888 in Edinburgh, when virtually everyone in the city seemed to be out and about enjoying the blue sky and radiant sunshine. Beautiful.


    • Deb says:

      I’m glad you enjoyed it, Richard, and that fond memories were brought to the fore.  Thank you for telling me a little about them!

      I have yet to explore any of the islands other than Orkney, and would love to visit Skye one day.  My husband lived in Edinburgh for 25 years and has a lot of appreciation for that grand old town.  Another place we hope to visit together one day!

  3. Charlotte says:

    What beautiful writing, along with your beautiful photos.  You are a wonderful pick-me-up.  Thanks.

  4. Matt Grigsby says:

    Beautiful photos of a beautiful place, presented in a beautiful way.  I particularly love the shot of Castle Sinclair with the wheeling birds, it makes the place feel alive.

    Thank you yet again for the showing us your pieces of your world, all the way out here on the edge of the New World!

    • Deb says:

      I’m glad you enjoyed it, Matt!  Those crows, man, they appeared at just the right time.  I mean… I waited for exactly the right moment to take that photo because TALENT.

      Except it was a total coincidence which I didn’t even notice until I saw the photos on my laptop much later!  Thank you, crows!

  5. Carrie Dokter says:

    I always enjoy your stories and photos!

  6. Dear Deb,

    Your photos and words perfectly capture this magnificent place that I fear I may never see in person, but you bring it alive in a way that makes me feel as if I’m there with you.  What a gift. Thank you!

    Love, Doni

    • Deb says:

      Thank you, Doni!  I’m glad that it’s the case that I can take you (and the ANC readers) along in my pocket, so to speak – it’s my wish to share the Highlands as if you all were right there with me, so I’m glad to hear that it works. xx

  7. Ginny says:

    Your words are put together beautifully.  And, the photos are magnificent!

    Maybe they government doesn’t want easy walking as that maybe a way to preserve what is there, as sometimes, people who visit are not kind to the heritage of the area.  Sad to say, though, as for that, so many are not able to visit.

    Blessings to you and Sem……

    • Deb says:

      Glad you enjoyed the ‘letter’ and photos, Ginny!

      I’ve wondered about that in the past, if they do it to protect things, but I think it’s just because so many castle ruins are right on the cliffs (for their own protection from invaders in the past), and the fields all around them are often used for grazing or crops.  It’s good land up here, and I don’t think the landowners and farmers would want to give up the ground for a road to a parking lot nearer by.

      Plus they’re ornery Scots.  Canna walk there?  Then we dinnae want ye there!  *grin*

      • Ginny says:

        Love your thoughts.  ;o))))))))))))  Actually hadn’t thought about the farmers.  They have much to contend with, I’m sure, and good road and parking might be too much for them!

        Besides, “Cana Walk There!”

        • Deb says:

          It’s speculation on my part, about the road/parking, but it makes sense especially on good ground.  I’ve seen them plow and plant around a tree or a standing stone, but working around people is perhaps a step too far 🙂

  8. Cathy says:

    I love your sense of humor!  The photos were quite lovely and show the beauty of the countryside.

  9. cheyenne says:

    I appreciate your urge to have those sites closer because of age.  When I was 60 and my wife was in her fifties we took 4 days to explore 200 miles of the Oregon coast.  A lot of time was spent traveling cliff hanging trails and trudging through sand dunes to the water but the view was spectacular and well worth the hikes.  No way could we do that now.  The Oregon coast, as well as the back trails in Lassen Park, should be on everybody’s bucket list before Father Time catches up.  With the medical advances being made we are living longer but our bodies are not what they used to be.  When I visit Rocky Mountain Park for the fall foliage I take the shuttle out of Estes Park instead of hiking especially at those altitudes.

  10. Joanne Gifford says:

    Thank you Deb, I so enjoyed the beautiful photo’s and lovely story

  11. Joanne Lobeski Snyder says:

    You remind me Deb, that Redding has put effort into trails around town that have made getting out and about easier as I’ve gotten older.  Many of the trails I used to ride on my Mt. Bike are now paved and easier to ride or walk.  My mom was in a wheel chair and we could access most of the trail…  Beautiful photographs Deb, and I loved the birds participating at Sinclair Castle!

    • Deb says:

      I’m glad that they have updated/improved the trails in and around Redding, Joanne, that’s great!  They have improved some trails here – in our old village a retiree massively improved the path along the river, for example, and they have made an effort to provide better access to one of the historical “clearance villages” called Badbea.  So when the historical/tourist site is at the far end of a lot of ground, I suspect it really may be a case of farmland being protected as much as old ruins.

      Still wouldn’t mind being able to hitch a ride on a horse and buggy or something, though 🙂

      Glad you enjoyed the article!

  12. Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

    I was inspired by the picture of Castle Sinclair & Girnigoe to chase down the history.  Fascinating!  Clan politics were as dicey, and far more bloody, than our own current politics.

    • Deb says:

      In front of the structure there is a long plaque showing what each area used to be used for, with a timeline, if I remember correctly.  Standing inside it (well, inside but outside!) is like standing in history.

      There is a castle site (the castle ruins were bulldozed into the sea in, I believe, the 1970s) in a nearby village which boasts this historical happening:  “The castle’s main claim to fame was as the location of the poisoning of the 11th Earl of Sutherland in 1567 by his aunt, Isobel Sinclair, to clear the way for her own son to become Earl.”

      Sound familiar?  It is said that those dastardly events were the inspiration for Hamlet

      I do love the history, here, and being able to walk in the echoes of it is wonderful stuff.

      • Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

        I’ve hosted foreign visitors who think it’s amusing that we consider stuff from the early 1900s as historical.  I don’t tell them that the age requirement for eligibility on the National Register of Historic Places is just 50 years, and that exemptions to that requirement are sometimes granted.

        If I was a building or battlefield, I’d have been eligible for 8 years now.

  13. Terry says:

    I loved your column, Deb, as usual.  You have a wonderful point.  For those of us who cannot walk the paths, it would be nice to have alternative parking closer to the sites you want to visit.

    Your column reminded me, too, of the different paradigm of the Highlands.  My sister shared (from her trip to the Highlands) there is a real difference between our California driving culture with the Highland walking culture.  She wanted to visit a site, and was told, “It’s a stunning view.”  But she discovered as she trudged along, that meant it was about a mile away.  So she asked about distance when seeking another site and had been told “It’s a good walk – a stretch of the legs”…Turns out it was about 10 mile jaunt.  Yikes!!

    So I support your request of your beloved Highlands.  Consider those who no longer can walk the rugged paths, and provide alternative transport or nearby parking for those who want to see the Highland beauty up close!  Go, Deb!

    • Deb says:

      Thank you for your comment, Terry, I’m glad you enjoyed the column!

      When I first moved here, when my husband’s health was still ok, he used to think nothing of taking a six mile walk for fun.  For FUN!  My American legs could hardly take it but I certainly got fitter in those first six months or so, before his health took a turn.  There are so many avid walkers here, many of them with the happiest dogs in the world, I think, trotting along busily at their sides.  Sounds like your sister met with some of them, with their idea of a ‘stretch of the legs’!

  14. Ace Lightning says:

    Lovely, as usual, Deb – castles and ruins and miles and miles of walking. Say, if that’s all farm land you have to walk across, why don’t the farmers rent out horses (or ponies, or sheep or cows or whatever else they’ve got) to carry tourists closer to the main attraction?

  15. Peggy says:

    Your photos and words are such a treat ….I wonder how many of your readers wish they were there with you.. I sure do!!

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