Soul2Soul Highlands – click any image for full size
Shakespeare and Max alerted me to the opening of the latest in the Soul2Soul series of Homestead region designed by Minnie Blanco (Minnie Atlass). As with Soul2Soul Bay and Soul2Soul River (see here for more), Soul2Soul Med (read more here) and Soul2Soul Falls, Minnie’s latest – Soul2Soul Highlands – is primarily a rental / residential region, but providing visitors keep to the public areas, there is a still a lot to be seen and appreciated as part of a casual visit.
As its name implies, Soul2Soul Highlands takes it lead from the Scottish highlands – or more particularly, as becomes apparent on arrival, the Scotland’s rugged northern coast, where the wind can blow cold, and islands look at one another across the chilling waters of the Atlantic and the North Sea.
With a series of off-sim islands scattered around it, the region immediately put me in mind of the Orkneys, although there is absolutely no reason why it shouldn’t be representative of the Hebrides or the Shetlands (in fact Minnie states her inspiration for the region came from Skye and the Inner Hebrides). There is a wonderful wildness about the setting that fits the Scottish isles perfectly, not matter which of the major groups comes to mind.
The landing point is set well to the east of the region, where bicycles can be rezzed by those not wishing to walk. From here, the semi-paved, single-track road winds around the island’s central hill, curling up and over a low shoulder to the west, then following the contour of the land to sweep south and then back east to where a fortified manor house with distinctly Scottish looks about it stands on a small islet, reached by a single bridge – an ideal defensive point in times past.
Rental properties are set back from the island’s main road along tracks there are marked as private, making them easy to identify from the roadside. However, as the waterfront areas are also open to the public, some care should be taken to avoid trespassing when wandering the sands at the water’s edge.
As well as offering rental properties, the region is also bought somewhat to life by the presence of static “tourists” and “locals”. These can be found on the shoulder of the hill where the road turns and dips to the south: a couple wrapped against the wind as they walk through local sheep, two teenagers exploring the banks of a tumbling stream nearby.
Further along the road, a couple have stopped their SUV and are showing their little child the view out over the sea. More such characters can be found at and near the fortified manor house, all combining to give the feeling Soul2Soul Highlands is a place (while also piquing my curiosity to hop back to Soul2Soul River et al and see if their have gained some local characters as well).
One of the joys is visiting Minnie’s region designs is the care with which she establishes a location, and Soul2Soul Highlands is no exception. The blending of elements and kits from a variety of sources to create a ruggedly beautiful setting exceptionally mindful of the islands that inspired it. The houses are precisely the kind of properly one might reasonably expect to find along a stretch of Sottish coats: solidly built stone cottages, walls thick to keep in the heat of the fire, the aforementioned manor house with its crenelated roof, through to more modern wooden-framed homes that speak of wealth moving out from the towns and able to take advantage of modern building materials to keep interiors warm, and the inevitable barn conversions that are so often a feature of the countryside in the British Isles.
Public paths are not restricted to just to winding road or the coastal areas, either. Walk far enough along the former and a set of old stone steps will invited you to walk up over the humped back of the island’s spine to where a fell-like shoulder of rock offers a place for deer to roam and a view out towards the manor house to the east. A paths slopes gently down to from here to rejoin the road and it curls about the eastern end of the hill and so arrives at the bridge leading to the manor.
Another truly delightful design from Minnie, set beneath the perfect windlight sky and with an ideal sound scape to finish it. Whether you are seeking a new place to live (rental information available from a sign board near the landing point), or are simply looking for a new place to explore, Soul2Soul Highlands is an ideal destination.
- Soul2Soul Highlands (Sanctuary Isle, rated: Moderate)