Looking for Sean McLachlan? He mostly hangs out on the Civil War Horror blog these days, but feel free to nose around this blog for some fun older posts!

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Sunday, 22 February 2009

Vacationing in Extreme Weather

Now here's a tourism agency with balls.

The Isle of Harris, in the Outer Hebrides northwest of Scotland, is trying to get people to visit in the wintertime. That's right, visit an island that has nothing between it and the North Pole except a few hundred miles of windy North Atlantic. Where this week's weather forecast calls for fog giving way to three days of rain. Where the high this month was nine degrees.

So why winter in Harris? Well, besides cozy pubs, a unique island culture, and local crafts such as the famous Harris tweed, there is the stunning landscape, made lush by rain and rugged by scouring winds. The topography is so unusual that Stanley Kubrick used it to portray the surface of Jupiter in 2001: A Space Odyssey. Bird watchers and wildlife enthusiasts will have plenty to see, such as rare golden eagles, otters, and whales in the unspoilt seas and countryside. Hikers can challenge themselves on the windswept peaks, and history buffs can explore the region's past, which has included Vikings, monks, and hardy crofters. Folklore is alive and well in the Hebrides, replete with Celtic music and traditional tales of ghosts, kelpie, and heroes. The island's very remoteness means that its culture has not been overly affected by tourism.

But why winter? Wouldn't it be better to go in summer and have a chance to actually see the sun? The Winter Harris website disagrees. There are more rooms available in winter, you see, and the rough weather can be an attraction in and of itself. With all the emphasis on extreme travel these days, braving the Arctic winds seems like it fits right in.

Like the website says, "What's the worst case scenario? Listening to an Atlantic storm in front of an open fire." I'd add a pint or two of heather ale or a glass of scotch.

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