Scotland Voyage Blog #4: Scotland to Denmark

Friday, June 20, 2014 - 9:15am
A scene from Scotland's Shetland Islands. Photo by Lynn Pasquerella

Note: President Pasquerella is on an Alumnae Association-sponsored voyage, “In the Wake of the Vikings,” traveling in Scotland, Denmark, and Norway.

June 19: The past few days have been truly spectacular. Monday was spent on the Isle of Lewis in Scotland, the largest and most northern island of the Outer Hebrides. Home to Harris Tweed and gorgeous beaches, the island is best known for the Callanish Standing Stones. Scotland’s Stonehenge, this stone circle dates back to 3000 BC and is composed of 50 stones in an outer circle and 13 in an inner circle. Along the way to site, we had the opportunity to visit Dun Carloway Pictish Broch, a stone tower serving as a defensive residence that dates back to the Iron Age, and the Gearrannan Blackhouse Village, a reconstructed settlement of traditional, long stone houses with thatched roofs.

We then set sail for Orkney, another archaeological dream. Inhabited for at least 8,500 years, first by Mesolithic and Neolithic tribes, and then by the Picts, Orkney is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The prehistoric village of Skara Brae, a 5000-year-old fishing village; the Ring of Brodgar, a magnificent stone circle of 60 original stones and henge; and the Standing Stones of Stenness were highlights of the day. In addition to visiting the Italian Chapel, erected by Italian prisoners of war during World War II, and the twelfth-century St. Magnus Cathedral, we had a tour and tasting at the world’s northern-most whiskey distillery, the Highland Park Distillery.

After we returned to the ship, Mount Holyoke alumnae gathered on the Observatory Deck for a reception. What an amazing group of women! We told stories, hugged, laughed, took photos, and sang the alma mater. It was especially meaningful to have the alumnae of Smith celebrating alongside us in the lounge. I took the opportunity to talk to them about how thrilled I am to have Kathy McCartney as a colleague in the Pioneer Valley, to offer an update on the Women in Public Service Project we cohosted with Smith and Simmons, and to discuss collaborative opportunities among the Five Colleges.

The Shetland Islands were our next stop. Although they are located just 400 miles south of the Arctic Circle, there was ample daylight to view the stunning scenery. Sunrise was at 3:38 am and sunset at 10:39. Together with Neolithic houses, a Bronze Age village, Iron Age broch and wheelhouses, a Norse longhouse and medieval farmstead, the photographic stars of the day were the Shetland ponies and sheep.

As we set off for Bergen, Norway, in the North Sea that evening, waves swelled to ten feet, making for somewhat tipsy travel. Home of composer Edvard Grieg, Bergen is a colorful city with a rich heritage dating back to its founding on an old Viking settlement in 1070. As we sail toward Copenhagen, we are passing through Norway’s breathtaking fjords.

Tomorrow will be spent on the open seas. Though I will miss the green islands of Scotland and the rugged beauty of Norway, I can’t think of a better way to welcome the summer than with this extraordinary group of funny, brilliant, talented Mount Holyoke women and their traveling companions. 

Previous Posts

On June 14, from Glasgow, Scotland: The Metaphysics of MHC

• On June 13, from Edinburgh Old Town: Liberal Learning, the Death Eaters, and the Vulgar

• On June 12, from Edinburgh: Genetic Technology, Scotland, and Angelina Jolie