hidden europe

Exploring cultures and communities – the slow way

An exotic spot in western Scotland: the gardens at Crarae (photo © hidden europe).
Letter from Europe

In Victorian Scotland, the public took great interest in technology, and so the detonations at the quarry of Crarae on the west shore of Loch Fyne became something of an attraction. The regular steamer from the Clyde to Inveraray would pause at ...
Old cemetery on Barra's west coast (photo © hidden europe).
Letter from Europe

Islands breed patience – among both the living and the dead. Especially in mid-winter in Barra, when the storms can be relentless. For us, however, there is a rare pleasure in being at the mercy of the elements. One feels connected with nature in a ...
The rain goose or red-throated diver is often spotted in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland (photo © Mikelane45 / dreamstime.com).
Letter from Europe

We have had still days over Christmas - even halcyon days for those who know their Greek mythology. It suited the rain geese. The birds are more commonly known as the red-throated diver. Elegant in water, but ungainly on land, the rain goose is ...
The memorial to the children of Lidice in the Czech village (photo by Moravice)
Letter from Europe

This Saturday marks the 75th anniversary of the Czech Resistance's successful attempt on the life of senior Nazi administrator Reinhard Heydrich. It was an event which had terrible repercussions; the Germans retaliated with ruthless force. Those ...
Shades of the past in the Hebridean blackhouse at Arnol on the Isle of Lewis (photo © hidden europe)
Letter from Europe

For many visitors to the Hebrides, the traditional blackhouse is a symbol of these islands. Yet rarely is vernacular architecture so freighted with emotion, nostalgia and even ...
Landing on the beach in Barra. The island's airport is blessed with not one, not two, but three runways (photo © hidden europe).
Letter from Europe

There is a special dynamic to island life. One meets the same people day after day - but often in different contexts. We bump into people in the most unlikely spots. On the east side of Barra, a number of rocky peninsulas jut out into the Sea of ...
Flybe is one of the operators which applied for support from the UK Government's Regional Air Connectivity Fund (RACF) to set up new air routes (photo © Richair / dreamstime.com).
Letter from Europe

The idea behind the UK Government's Regional Air Connectivity Fund (RACF) is that financial support for a year or two would be an incentive for airline operators to serve routes where there might otherwise be high commercial risk. We take a look at ...
The island of Barra in Scotland's Outer Hebrides relies on a lifeline air link with Glasgow. Loganair's Twin Otter aircraft land on the beach at Barra (photo © hidden europe).
Letter from Europe

Short hops by air over water are of course very common, generally relying on non-jet aircraft and providing lifeline air services to island communities around the coasts of Europe. A review of old airline timetables reveals that there used to be ...
The Augustinian abbey on Inchcolm - an island in the Firth of Forth near Edinburgh (photo © Creativehearts / dreamstime.com).
Letter from Europe

Would you ever consider buying an entire island? This autumn has seen a couple of Scottish islands on the market. For a mere two million pounds, you might consider Tanera Mòr, the largest of the Summer Isles just off the coast of north-west ...
Explore the Scottish islands and the Clyde coast with Caledonian MacBrayne. A CalMac ferry at Largs in the Firth of Clyde (photo © Robert Flynn / dreamstime.com).
Letter from Europe

There is much ado in British and Irish waters these days, with so many very appealing ferry routes, but also a few services slipping from the schedules. In this Letter from Europe, we give an overview of some interesting new ...
On three weekends in February 2016, the port of Oban on the west coast of Scotland will have a direct overnight sleeper train to and from London (photo © Georgesixth / dreamstime.com).
Letter from Europe

Over the next three weekends, the overnight sleeper from London which would normally run to Fort William will instead run to Oban — travelling out Friday night from London and returning from Oban on Sunday night. It is a rare experiment, but let's ...
Loch Lubnaig near Callander, Scotland, on an afternoon in early March (photo © hidden europe).
Letter from Europe

We love real weather. And we had real weather aplenty on a journey through Scotland this week. Clear blue skies at Carsaig Bay with glorious views west to Jura. Great spreads of grey-white snow over Rannoch, the hills all hidden in mist. A lone ...
View from Calton Hill over the city of Edinburgh (photo © Shaiith / dreamstime.com).
Letter from Europe

Just imagine, for a moment, that Scotland really does vote yes to independence next week. Scotland will then become a new nation state, bidding for a place in European league tables of size and status. We reflect on border issues and look at how ...
Letter from Europe

Well do we know that modern pieties demand that one speaks only ill of banks, but here at hidden europe we often say nice things about bankers - or, to be more precise, about the good judgement exercised from time to time by bankers as they ...
Letter from Europe

'Ronaldo is certainly a big shot round here,' said the man on the slow train to Inverness. His comment distracted us from the scenery unfolding beyond the window as the train dropped down from Drumochter Summit towards the Spey Valley. We had to ...
Letter from Europe

There will be no boat to the remote island of North Ronaldsay this coming Thursday. The ferry from Kirkwall, the main community in the Orkney Islands, runs out to North Ronaldsay just once a week at this time of year - and that on a Friday. So the ...
Letter from Europe

For the Out Skerries in Scotland's Shetland archipelago, the 'Filla' has been a veritable lifeline. This year, she marks thirty years of sterling service to the Skerries community. Launched in 1983, the Filla helped transform life on the Out ...
Letter from Europe

Wilderness is a wonderful thing. The American illustrator and writer Rockwell Kent understood how wilderness tugs at the soul: "I crave snow-topped mountains, dreary wastes, and the cruel Northern sea with its hard horizons," he wrote. Yes, we know ...
Letter from Europe

Let's speak of buses. Can we set you a challenge? Could you pen some words for us? Britain benefits from a fabulous network of local bus routes. True, there are worries in many communities about how government cuts may affect subsidies for bus ...
Letter from Europe

hidden europe 37 is published today. You can review the full table of contents with summaries and extracts from every article on our website. More on that anon, but let's stop for a while on the edge of a Polish forest. In the very centre of the ...
Letter from Europe

Flying has generally ceased to be fun. The only certainty about much modern air travel is that it will be boring. Gone are the days when Dakotas battled against headwinds and made unscheduled landings at rough airstrips in offbeat parts of Europe. ...
Letter from Europe

Over the recent holidays, a friend and fellow-traveller popped the 'church question'. Is it okay to slip into Mass or Evensong to enjoy the splendours of Venice's Basilica di San Marco or York's magnificent Minster when the principal intent is not ...
Letter from Europe

New Year's Day. Again. Aching heads for those who took their Hogmanay revelries a little too seriously. We slipped into 2011 in a little house on the edge of a heath on one of the North Frisian islands. Yet Estonia awakens today to the euro as its ...
Letter from Europe

The Giant's Causeway is squeezed in between Gay Byrne and God. The latter are of course by far the two most important men in Ireland - at least that's the view of literary critic Terry Eagleton who is one of the more thoughtful commentators on all ...
Letter from Europe

Only the British can really understand the appeal of the perfect B road. It is a road that may have pretensions, hoping one day to be upgraded to A class status. And then there are B roads that have come down in the world. Take for example the ...
Letter from Europe

Boulogne has always knocked spots off Calais as a port-of-entry into France. The city has a particularly attractive Ville Haute (Upper Town). But sadly, not a lot of travellers from England will be visiting Boulogne this winter, for today sees the ...
Letter from Europe

Are not the finest parts of many long train journeys those fleeting glimpses of a city or a country that you get just prior to arrival at your destination? There is a superb moment on the train journey through Slovakia towards Budapest, a view ...
Letter from Europe

Celebrity tourism is nothing new. In 1847, Queen Victoria had journeyed to the Hebrides from the Clyde, using the Crinan Canal to avoid the long sea journey around the Kintyre peninsula. In so doing she encouraged thousands of other travellers to ...
Letter from Europe

September will not be remembered as an easy month for ferry operators in the waters around the British Isles. With the end of the peak summer season, many ferry operators look to their books and ponder how (or even whether) they can survive the ...
Letter from Europe

It was exactly a hundred years ago that Patrick Gillies published his perceptive account about Argyll in western Scotland. Gillies looked at the finer details in the Argyll landscape. He visited outposts like the Slate Islands, then as now rather ...
Letter from Europe

Loch Lomond Seaplanes last week launched a new seaplane service from Glasgow to Tobermory on the Hebridean island of Mull. Predictable media frenzy of course, with hyped accounts in English newspapers of how islanders can now eat 'seaweed muesli' ...
Letter from Europe

It was a talented Scottish cartographer, John Bartholomew, whose cartographic skills gave so much character to The Times Atlas of the World. Over more than one hundred years, successive editions of the atlas have been used by governments, ...
Letter from Europe

The land around the Cabo de Gata really does include many classic elements of desert terrain: a nice volcanic mesa, little alluvial fans and of course sand dunes. It is a landscape that has stood in for both the American West and the Middle East on ...
Letter from Europe

Take Da Böd, a café at Hillswick in Scotland's most northerly island group, the Shetlands. This really is the end of the road, a tiny fleck of a community on the shores of Ura Firth. There was a time when Hillswick was an outpost of the Hanseatic ...
Letter from Europe

To drive the main coastal road west from the French-Italian border along France's Riviera coast is an essay in chic exclusivity: Antibes, Cannes, Ste-Maxime and so on. Not quite hidden europe territory. Most travellers speed through Port Grimaud at ...