The highlands and islands of Scotland are proving a popular inspiration for Second Life region designers – and rightly so; there is a deep beauty to their rolling hills and high peaks that invites the imagination and leaves the heart filled with a yearning to explore. As such, we’ve visited a number of Scottish themed locations over the last few years, but this is the first time I’ve been able to write about Elo (WeeWangle Wumpkins) Scottish inspired settings.
The latest iteration of her work – Auld Lang Syne – opened recently, and it offers a mix of the rugged abruptness of the Scottish highlands mixed with a strong sense of age within the buildings to be found scattered around it, together with a healthy dose of mystery with a fitting dash of humour.
Admittedly, getting around on foot isn’t easy in places: the island rises sharply from the surrounding sea, and many of the slopes look like they would need a lot of scrambling to get up and down – just as many of the glacier-cut slopes of Scotland’s north may require the assistance of hands when clambering up them and a certain caution in getting down least one feet end up running away beneath one.
This steepness of setting may not at first be obvious from the landing point, which sits on the island’s highest rise within an ancient but intact fortification (Pupito Helstein’s popular Runestone Castle) – just an easy walk away is a group of standing stones inspired by the Neolithic Callanish Stones, located on the west coast of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides. However, descend the slope from the fortification to the ruins of a medieval chapels and its surrounding graveyard, and you’ll immediately get a feel for the region’s natural ruggedness.
Which is not to say it is all hard work is getting around; here and there are paths that make for easier descent to the coastal areas, one of which is just in the lee of the hilly shoulder on which the stand stones sit. It leads to an extensive coastal beach that faces south and offers and gentle sandy walk east and then north, passing hints of the more recent history of the place: the wreck of a fishing boat, the remains of a broken aeroplane engine – presumably all that remains of a past crash -, an aged anchor and the carcass of an old boat.
To the east, the path along the beach is almost blocked by the waters flowing out from a deep gorge. Fortunately, fallen trunks have been joined to offer a way over the water, a heron standing on their backs like as if awaiting payment of a toll in order to allow visitors to proceed. Beyond the bridge, more tales of past life can be found, together with some of the island’s current inhabitants, a number of whom appear to have partaken of a wee dip in the sea and are now following another of the trails back up to their hillside home.
One of two towers that rise above the island’s rolling hills watches over these “locals”. Broken and holed, it appears to be a disused water tower, rather than part of any castle or fortress, although a owl is now acting as a look-out, keeping watch from the broken drum of its upper reaches. The view back across the island from this tower reveals the landing point on its high hill, whilst below and to one side, the ruins of what might have been an old manor house can be seen, nestled in secret on a north facing shelf of rock overlooking the beach, sheltered from the rest of the island by a rocky upthrust.
Around to the west, and sheltering below the castle’s hill, is another old ruin, similar in nature to that in the north, and now home to a wonderful garden that positively invites visitors to stay within it. The old structure and garden are in turn watched over by the island’s second tower, also the worse for wear as it sits on a rectangular promontory in the island’s south-west corner.
In between these “main” points of interest are others awaiting discovery that add further depth to the setting and increase the sense of realism to the island. As such, taking the time to wander on foot – particularly in circumnavigating the coast whilst keeping an eye on the slopes above – is recommended. However, for those so inclined, the castle hall forming the landing point has a teleport board that can be used to hop to those main points of interest. The second hall of the castle, meanwhile offers a little galley of photos taken around the region, whilst its flat roof provides a view over the island and places to sit.
All in all, a delightful setting, with plenty of detail and with touches that encourage a smile.
- Auld Lang Syne (Isles of Scotland, rated General)