Lighthouse Letters
By Sharma Krauskopf

This is an article by Sharma Krauskopf from Michigan who fell in love with Scotland - and decided to buy a lighthouse keepers' cottage at Eshaness, a remote location in Shetland, in the far north of Scotland and live there each winter. These pages were previously part of the "Scottish Radiance e-magazine Web site which was created by Sharma.

A Birthday at Edinbane

Every year as my birthday rolls around it is seems more difficult to decide what I want for my birthday. After you have had a few birthdays' you run out of ideas. (Now, jump to the conclusion I am old or anything from that statement). This year's gift was wonderful. It was not anything wanted but resulted from something I had to do. My husband and I are in the process of buying lighthouse keeper's accommodations in Scotland as most of my readers already know. We have been at it for four years and I have talked a lot about my frustrations and difficulties related to the purchase.

It became necessary for me to make a rushed trip to Scotland to inspect four potential lighthouse properties. My schedule crammed full of teaching commitments, editing "Scottish Radiance" and Bed and Breakfast clients at our home left late June as the only time I could go. This meant I would be travelling on my birthday. Travelling is a slight exaggeration. From the minute I arrived in Scotland I was rushing like some sort of maniac trying to see four lighthouses spread all over the country. If that was not bad enough, I was accompanied by a BBC producer who is doing a feature on our search for a lighthouse home. His interviewing me included audio and video taping. (Did you ever try to look half way decent for video footage in the midst of a gale and heavy rain? That is another story which I will tell in an upcoming column.) The day before my birthday I said goodbye to the BBC producer who I had come to like very much even with all the pressure of the feature. I headed toward Stornoway to meet with Scott Hatton, "Scottish Radiance's" technical genius.

Scott met me at the ferry terminal (another Calmac ferry pictured here at Stornoway) and we went out for dinner at a nice hotel which served an exceptional fresh Isle of Lewis fish. I began to sense this might be a wonderful birthday after all. Scott and I did some work on the magazine that evening at the office's of Eolas the magazine's home. A momentous event for the editor from over the sea.

The next day, June 27th - my actual birthday, Scott took me out to the Butt of Lewis lighthouse for an inspection (see graphic showing the lighthouse and its associated buildings). I think I may have even convinced him I wasn't totally insane wanting to live at a lighthouse station which was isolated and surrounded by ocean and birds. He has always been a little sceptical about my lighthouse "thing".

The visit in Stornoway was very short as I planned to catch the Skye ferry in order to return to what I consider my Scottish home, Orbost Farm, for my "real" birthday celebration (the graphic here showing Orbost Bay is by Richard Dorrell via Wikimedia)). Orbost Farm is a 5000-acre sheep farm run by our dear friends, Robert and Margaret Macdonald with the assistance of their daughter's Sarah and Jenny. It is at Orbost Farm I fell in love with Scotland and its people. Our Bed and Breakfast's have been "twinned" now for four years. Every January since 1993 we have spent our vacation on the farm. The plan for this evening was for Robert and Margaret to choose a place we could all go (including the girls) to have dinner for my birthday.

When I spied the Macdonalds in their silver car at Isle of Skye's Uig ferry port, I knew I had in fact arrived "home." A surge of tranquility and calm descended on me. It wasn't until that moment did I realize how rushed and nervous I had felt with the lighthouse inspections and the BBC. I climbed into the back seat with Sarah on one side and Jenny on the other. I finally relaxed. Needless to say it wasn't peaceful as we were all trying to catch up on each other activities being it had been four months since we had been together. We were so busy talking I did not even notice the beautiful hills of Skye as they rushed by the window. The Island's beauty was masked briefly by the love and fellowship of my friends.

The Macdonald's had chosen a hotel near Dunvegan for dinner. It was in the wee village of Edinbane and was naturally called the "Edinbane Hotel." Edinbane Hotel had new owners since the last time I had been there. They had completely renovated. Bar and dining room were now very light and cheerful with huge glass windows including Scottish Thistle stained glass inserts. Our table was bathed in the late evening sun as we ordered drinks with the girls having Cokes. Our nonstop conversation continued. In fact, we were so slow in ordering our meal the girls finally reminded us we came here to eat. We ordered and got that part of the process started. As we were devouring a superb dinner, we noticed some people bringing in a lot of "stuff." After closer inspection we realized they were a band which was going to play tonight. The girls were thrilled. The group got all set up and began playing about the time I was finishing a magnificent Scottish Trifle for my pudding.

It was an enchanted moment. I was on the Isle of Skye with some of my dear friends listening live to some of my favourite Celtic music. You could not have asked for a more perfect birthday with the exception I would have liked my husband, Dean, to have been with us. We spent the entire evening surrounded by local people (I being the only tourist). The assembly even included a person I have strong feelings about. The owner of Neist Point lighthouse station who bought it before we had a chance to make an offer was standing at the bar. The audience not only listened but danced. The girls and I even frolicked on the dance floor to the fantastic Celtic music. As I look back on it I think what made it so special was, it was not commercial. It was just a very good local Celtic band playing and relating directly to a room of friends and neighbours. This American was very lucky to have been a part of this on her birthday.

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Where else would you like to go in Scotland?

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