The Scottish Life: A Photographic Essay by Danel Olson

The gorgeous country where I am a PhD candidate, Scotland. My university in Stirling is positioned the country’s center, where the lowlands meet the highlands, or at an apex above Glasgow to the southeast and Edinburgh to the southwest.


Logie Kirk: this is a Ruined Logie Church from the 1600s where I would walk at night, adjoining the University of Stirling, which I attended. Sometimes I asked friends to walk along.





My hiking grounds next to campus where accused witches were tossed, from 150 feet above. Some names die hard… The land is now bordered by the “Witch’s Crag RV Park.”

In older superstitious days, survival from the fall here meant proof of witchery and would be followed by a burning of the accused. Scotland had a fierce reputation for prosecuting witches, and when Queen Mary’s son (James I) became King of England, Scotland, and Wales, he would devote time to writing a long volume on demonology (1597), believing that witch activity nearly sank a ship he travelled on. I had a chance to read rare antique volume of his by the same title impressively preserved from 1603 in the Scottish National Library. From the volume, it appears that James wished to discover the means of gaining a witch’s power, without losing his soul.

Danel6Plenty of sheep everywhere near campus. The land near Stirling is also renowned for farming.


The castle at center of Stirling campus. Stirling was once the ancient capital of Scotland.


Attendance at Scottish universities is free for the first four years for Scottish-born and EU residents (but not for residents of the rest of the UK or of Ireland).

Campus dormitories in the shade of the windy peak called Dumyat that I would sometimes climb.


The British newspaper _The Guardian_ notes that “Stirling’s campus is regularly described as one of the most beautiful in the world, set in a 300-acre estate, which boasts its own loch and the Robert Adam-designed Airthrey Castle” (


The view from the student union at University of Stirling.Danel12

A typical view of the ancient hills seen while heading north of Stirling by train, which I took all the time.


Scottish natives bicycling past me at Ebenezer Place, in Wick, Caithness, Scotland. The Guinness Book of Records credits this street as the world’s shortest street at 2.06 m (6 ft. 9 in.).


Viking burial mounds visited at Orkney Island (to see where past relatives may have ended up). I said a pagan prayer for them and wished them never ending cups of mead in Valhalla.


Hiking the in the Highlands with university mates—and seeing some locales for the Harry Potter movies.



Me at St. Andrews and the North Sea… the world’s oldest operating golf course is just behind my back.


Me on Dumyat Peak (above Uni of Stirling), pointing home to America.



Me at “The Elephant House” (one of two coffeehouses in the Scottish capital Edinburgh, where the impoverished J.K. Rowling came in from the cold and rain to write what would become the Harry Potter series).


At Linlithgow Palace, where the tragic Mary Queen of Scots was born.


The Scottish Life: A Photographic Essay by Danel Olson

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