Mountain hare, Whistlefish
Scotland is a very big country, although the population is low, and most of the masse consists of the gorgeous Scottish Highlands and Islands. The cold weather brings different wildlife to these shores, and you are more likely to spot red deer, mountain hares, birds of prey and even blue whales and harmless basking sharks (don’t worry, they’ll swim right past you with their mouths open, if you come across one!) The looming question of Scottish independence should be interesting, as it may bring about fairer voting systems, which would likely have us see more independent and Green politicians. Although Scottish politics appears to be more progressive, it was only recently that issues like live transport and the shooting of Scottish seals (to protect the fishing industry) were addressed. Here are inspirational resources to check out:
The Secret Life of the Mountain Hare is just one of many lovely books by Highlands author and photographer Andy Howard. These captivating creatures have inhabitated Britain’s upland landscape since the last major Ice Age. Andy fell in love with these shy, charming creatures at first sight. Here he introduces them within the great wheel of the seasons, and as individuals with their own, delightful personalities. Also read The Secret Life of the Cairngorms.
Jim Crumley is one of Scotland’s best wildlife and nature writers, and he offers a lovely quartet of books that celebrates the seasons, north of the border. He has also written several books by species; including skylarks, kingfishers, owls, hares, foxes, badgers, eagles and beavers.
The Little Book of Scottish Beasties is a fun book to Scotland’s huge range of wildlife (this book introduces you to 45 species including red deer, golden eagles, Highland cows and midges!) You’ll also meet mysterious watery kelpies and the world-famous Loch Ness Monster). Also read The Little Book of Scottish Rain (there is so much rain in Scotland, that Scots have over 50 words for it – if it’s not raining now, more rain is on the way!)
The Great North Road is the story of how journalist and cyclist Steve embraced the anniversary of how Britain’s most illustrious highway ceased to exist in 1921. Stretching from London to Edinburgh, the old road was largely replaced by the A1, as the era of the motor car took hold. So 100 years later, this was the perfect excuse to set off on an adventure across 11 days and 400 miles. Travelling by bike at a stately 14 miles per hour, Steve heads north, searching out milestones and memories, coaching inns and coffee shops.
Seen from a saddle rather than a car seat, the towns and countryside of England and Scotland reveal traces of a remarkable past, and glimpses of the future. instead of the familiar service stations and tourist hotspots, he tracks down the forgotten treasures of this ancient highway, between two capitals. Enriched with history, humour and insight – this is a tribute to the endless appeal of the open road. Steve Silk is a journalist for BBC Norwich. He has explored the Norfolk Broads by canoe and is most comfortable on an old-fashioned touring bike, with a pannier full of obsolete maps and flapjack.
Gourmet Vegan Meats (from Scotland?!)
In the land famed for the deep-fried Mars Bar, it’s surprising that Britain’s best vegan meats hail from north of the border. That’s because the company was founded by two transplanted Italians! Sgaia Meats are made from ‘wheat-meat’ and indistinguishable from the real thing. You can buy individual meats or vegan meat boxes (recyce packaging with household waste or at supermarket bag recycling bins). Keep away from pets, as these taste and smell like real meat.
You may also be surprised to learn there is a Scottish Vegan Cookbook! From plant-based Haggis, you’ll also find recipes for Neeps & Tatties (turnips and potatoes), Scotch Broth and Cranachan, along with traditional desserts like sticky toffee/pear/ginger pudding.