We have a deadline, and yet we can’t seem to firm up our immediate plans. We drove to Stornaway — a legendary name in sailing circles — for the ferry back to mainland Scotland. Stornaway was a bit of a disappointment, perhaps because we were unsure where to go and what to do.

Still, we did the walkabout and took tourist photos before boarding the ferry to Ullapool.

“No one knows who they were, or what they were doing there.”

Our weather is up and down. Bright sun and blue sky followed by thick cloud cover and heavy rain. Or sometimes light rain. Or high winds. We’ve learned to be prepared for everything and keep an eye in the forecast.

With flights booked and lots to do to before we leave for six months we really should have turned south toward Glasgow to shop and prepare the van for storage. But my Aurora apps were pinging and vibrating with alerts about strong activity at the end of the week. In my latest source of Fear of Missing Out I asked Jack if he would mind driving clear across the country to a place where we might find the perfect conditions for the northern lights — a north-facing horizon, a dark sky with minimal light pollution, and no low clouds. Add that to a new moon and we could hit the aurora jackpot. I found what looked like the perfect place, but it was in the wrong direction and farther than we usually drive, a laughable (by American standards) 120 miles. “Sure,” Jack said, and we even took a longer scenic route at 140 miles.

On the way we couldn’t pass up another castle ruin, this one guarded by a large but friendly hairy coo.

Castle Roy is a 12th century fortress that only opened in 2022 after extensive work reinforcing the foundations to make it safe for the public. There’s not much to see, but the setting is lovely and apparently it’s become a popular picnic and wedding spot in the local area.

I find I’m watching the weather forecast almost as much as I did when we were on the boat, and I saw that a front is moving through with high winds predicted. We like to be in a protected spot for that kind of weather, so I found us a quiet parkup along a river popular with flyfishermen. We tucked into a corner beside a graveyard under some tall trees.

The front came through as expected with seriously high winds that made me question the decision to park under the trees. All night we were pelted by leaves and twigs and I worried a larger branch might damage our solar panel.

The rain continued the next day but the fishermen showed up anyway, undaunted, and put in the time whether they caught anything or not.

Finally on the second day the rain stopped enough for me to traipse through the soggy cemetery in search of a Pictish carved stone marked on the ordinance survey map.

After consulting a few websites I finally found the stone embedded in the wall. They say there’s a cross carved into it but the surface is so weathered and eroded you can’t really see it. I couldn’t, anyway.

With the sky clearing by the hour we turned north toward what I hope will be Aurora nirvana.

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