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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper The Spokesman-Review

Tuesday, June 2, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Editor's notes

Travel lessons of 2019. And puffins!

Puffins on the isle of Staffa near Oban, Scotland. (Gary Graham / World Traveler)
Puffins on the isle of Staffa near Oban, Scotland. (Gary Graham / World Traveler)

MALLAIG, Scotland  — My new travel mantra this spring wrote itself: Simple can be fascinating.

Stay with me. I’ll get to the adorable puffins shown here in my Monday photo later in this post.

In the summer of 2017, I toured 15 European countries in three months. It was a wonderful trip, but since arriving on this trip in London on April 16, I realize I should have reduced the number of countries visited by half. I spent the summer traipsing from one new destination and BnB to another, packing up every two to three days. 

Much to the dismay of loved ones, I tend to avoid planning too far ahead, home and abroad. I’m more of a spontaneous guy, perhaps a learned behavior from working in newsrooms for more than 40 years. This spring I’ve tried to pick destinations where I would find interesting things to see and do. Exhibit #1 is the puffin. I had chosen to visit Oban because my late brother had visited there many years ago and he spoke fondly of the bayside community. Besides, he had a cat named Oban, which also happens to be the name of a well-respected Scotch. But I digress.

Here’s the honest truth: I had no freaking idea there were puffins in Scotland. Spend 10 hours on ferries and buses, first to the Isle of Mull, and you too can reach the Isle off Staffa, home of the adorable puffins. Several of us sat on the grass covered cliffs and were entertained  by the curious birds. They came within a few feet of us, staring at us and each other. The simple was fascinating.

By the way, Facebook friends have informed me that puffins are also in Maine and Newfoundland, so you have other puffin options.

Wednesday morning I approached a fisherman repairing nets on Mallaig’s main pier and sat down to observe. I began asking questions and I learned that James Manson started working for his father’s fishing business when he was only nine and that he first went to sea when he was 14. He is now 70 years old and has turned over the family fishing business to a son.

We talked about how calm the water was and he explained that fishing crews prefer more active water because when the sea is quiet, the fish can hear and feel the vibration of the boat’s engines.

I only ended up taking a bus from Fort William a day ago to this fishing port because I’m focused on seeing more of the West Highlands. It’s a small village of about 1,000 people, but simplicity has its charm, remember? I took a ferry to Inverie, the only village on the Knoydart Peninsula. We may have seen a whale and a porpoise. I say “may” because the creatures were quite distant. I chose a hiking trail at Inverie that wound through a lush forest and loved every step. However, imagine my disappointment when I discovered the Old Forge, the most remote pub on the British mainland, is closed on Wednesdays.



Editor's notes