Leith Links

The mornings in the neighborhood are quiet — not that different from the afternoons or evenings. There is the sound of clothing and sheets moving in the breeze. Somewhere, a car engine roars to life. A door opens and closes. There are footsteps on the sidewalk. A neighbor calls a greeting to another.

The homes are close together, but nothing feels cramped — it feels like having family around you. People share with each other. Everyone has a garden they tend.

You drink excessive amounts of tea with each other. You drink more tea alone. You linger over breakfast. You watch the sunrise.

And here, even though it is a city, there is no rush to be anywhere. You are where you need to be and you’ll get wherever you’re going.

{photographs by me of Leith Links, Edinburgh, Scotland}

Edinburgh Eats

I’m not sure who said to me “you don’t go to the UK for the food.” Whoever it was never has spent any time in Edinburgh — or really, the rest of Scotland for that matter. I left having prepared myself for breathtaking scenery and beautiful castles, but I return craving the food I had there. I had intended to do one massive “things I ate in Scotland” post, but the food was so good, I need to linger over a few of my favorites, especially my eats in Edinburgh.

The Outsider in Old Town Edinburgh, just off the Royal Mile, came highly recommended to me by Naomi — and I’m so glad she sang this restaurant’s praises. I spent a good two and a half hours dining there (alone nonetheless) because I was savoring every bite of their pumpkin leek vegetable roulade (above) and baked figs dessert, which was so good that it needs two photos to just begin to convey its awesomeness.

Mum’s is a cute little 50s-ish inspired homestyle real British food (with a healthy twist) diner just south of Old Town. Their veggie haggis warmed me right up on a rainy day. It was all the deliciousness of real haggis with none of the brow-raising questionable meats — not that I’ve ever had real haggis, and I don’t think I’ll ever have to given how yummy this one was.

I was also lucky enough to stumble upon a great outdoor market on my last day in Scotland where I ran into Kaori, who hosted me the first two nights I was in the country. Kaori is the culinary mastermind behind the delicious Japanese food at Harajuku Kitchen, and I was so thrilled I had the chance to try some of her food while I was there.

So as not to overwhelm you with food porn, I’ll save the rest of my Scotland culinary discoveries for next week.

Is your tummy rumbling? Mine is.

Finding Quiet

Before leaving on holiday, I decided to go low tech: no cell phone, no GPS, no computer. I allowed myself my iPod for long drives and an occasional internet connection via my airplane-mode-only cell phone, just to call my parents regularly so they knew I was still alive (sometimes you have to let parents win the argument). Otherwise, both devices were off.

The first time I checked emails was the hardest. There was a small mountain of them, including a few from my job, which I did need to deal with. I promised myself to only respond to the most important ones and leave the rest for after returning home.

I also forgot that without a cell phone, I had no clock. There was no way for me to know what time it was, and really I never had to be anywhere. I had no set schedule. So I rose with the sun and ate whenever I was hungry. I wandered down streets in the cities, sat in beautiful places for as long as my own spirit compelled me to, lingered over tea, and wrote like there was fire in my hands.

It’s a good thing, to go low-tech for a bit of time. It reminds you how wonderful technology is — and more importantly, how vast and expansive time feels without it. Here are the rules I wrote for myself:

Tips for a Digital Sabbatical

1. Decide on a time frame. Pick a date to start and stop. Having that end date in mind can help you really take advantage of the time you have. It could be for a day, for a holiday, for longer…

2. Set an autoresponder message. Let people know when your hiatus will end and how to get in touch with you if it’s absolutely necessary.

3. Leave the electronics behind. Ideally, don’t even tempt yourself. You might need to bring a phone on vacation, but when you go out, consider leaving it wherever you’re staying.

4. Smile and say hello to people. You may feel a bit naked at first, not being able to busy yourself with texts or emails or the internet. People know you can hear them if you don’t have headphones on. We so often use our technology to put up walls; let them crumble down for a bit. Amazing things happen when they do.

Would you ever take a digital sabbatical? If you have, what was the best lesson you learned?

{photo by me of East Princes Street Gardens in Edinburgh, Scotland}

The Fairy Glen

Just south of Uig on the north west coast of the Isle of Skye is a small single track road. A mile in, the landscape completely changes. Hills and pastures give way to conical hills and towers and you are left wondering what precisely you have stumbled upon. How is this place so different from all others?

Welcome to the Fairy Glen. (And yes, they do actually all it that.)

Beyond the strange hills and rambling stream lies the remains of an old stone house.

The first thing you notice is that this place has a gravity unlike all others. Stepping onto the grounds is like traveling outside of time. The air is thick with magic or history or possibilities — you can’t ever really decipher it.

And you can’t take your eyes off the fallen rowan tree that is still growing, producing bright berries and leaves.

You try desperately to capture the place in photographs, but fail. It has captured you instead.

You visit twice in less than a day, lingering there. Even when you leave, it calls you back. And so you go. You made the mistake of drinking the water. The place is in you now.

And upon return, you spend hours there, until it tells you to leave. What you found was sacred ground, not consecrated by any religion, but by Nature itself.

(It calls to you still.)

{All photos by me of the Fairy Glen near Uig, Isle of Skye, Scotland. And despite the use of second person, all of this story is true too. I did drink the water, and I feel its call in my blood.}

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Credits

Jane Reaction

(logo and original branding) is a graphic design and art director who works with with small businesses and creative entrepreneurs, creating cohesive and interesting brands and websites.

Carrie Coleman

(photography) is a wedding photographer, whose goal is to capture the visual expression of a couple's love through timeless, organic images. She is based in Charlottesville, Virginia.