Jim Richardson @jimrichardsonng avatarJim Richardson

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In case you were wondering how big a 19th century 32 gun frigate would have been (actually I wonder those kinds of things quite often) you can take the Lord of the Glens as a fair approximation. The Caledonian Canal (seen here) was built big enough to get a frigate across Scotland and the Lord of the Glens was built as big as the canal locks would allow. So it’s about the size of a frigate, minus the sails and minus the 32 guns. This stretch of our trip let’s us walk the path along the canal from Ft. Augustus to the Kytra Lock where we can step on board again. #scotland @natgeocreative @natgeo @natgeoexpeditions @hiddenscotland

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Iona seems to invite people to indulge their spirits. It’s not always quiet, but often quieting. How much of that comes from this Scottish island itself, and how much comes from the inner longings of the visitors, I don’t know. But sublime is a good word, in its old meaning, and much of what people feel on Iona is the sublime. @natgeo @natgeoexpeditions @natgeocreative #scotland #iona @hiddenscotland @historicscotland #sublime @ig_scotland #spiritual #clouds #island #islandhopping #sojourn #celtic

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Iona might be only three miles long and half as wide — at a stretch. While it’s busy during the day with visitors flocking to the Abby, the evenings are tranquil and almost no one takes the walk to the west side, nor do they clutter the little beach, nor swamp the little nine hole golf coarse where sheep are more common than duffers with niblicks. You can stay late knowing the summer sky will be light until midnight for the walk back. #scotland @hiddenscotland @natgeotravel @natgeo #iona #island #hebrides @natgeocreative

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Return to Iona with me in a few weeks and we’ll have tea on the lawn in front of the Argyll Hotel. That’s the Isle of Mull over there beyond the bay and the boats. Iona is thus not so easy to get to (as St. Columba learned in 563 AD) but worth it. Much more peaceful now than in 795AD when the Vikings raided it, making out like bandits, so to speak. Only about three mile long, about right for the population level which is about 120. I’ll be traveling aboard the Lord of the Glens as we poke around the Inner Hebrides. This is not the smallest island we’ll visit. Good! @natgeo @natgeocreative @natgeoexpeditions #scotland #hebrides #iona @hiddenscotland

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The Lord of the Glens ascends the locks in Ft. Augustus on our way down the Caledonian Canal. We’ll be back there in about a month so I’m honing up on all the history and hot spots. It’s convenient that negotiating the locks takes about an hour, time to hop off the boat and get a pint over at the Lock Inn (left.) Best not to get left behind, however. #scotland @natgeoexpeditions @natgeocreative

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Yesterday morning I was watching Prairie Chickens going at their aerial jousting hot and heavy out at the Smoky Valley Ranch in Western Kansas, where the Nature Conservancy is working to preserve a shortgrass prairie habitat. The birds start gathering before dawn on their lek, the mating grounds where males spar for supremacy — and the right to mate with the females lurking out on the fringes. The birds prefer undisturbed grassland and return to the same breeding grounds year after year. The ranch is 17,290 acres and includes prairie dogs, bison, mule deer, burrowing owls, among others. As a native Kansan I’m proud to help the Nature Conservancy in this great work. #natureunitesus #nature #naturephotography @nature_org @nature_kansas

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Earth Day reflections on the Isle of Staffa, Scotland. The beautifully arrayed basalt columns of Staffa have been impressing visitors for a long time, including the Vikings who named it “Stafa” (it’s Old Norse) because it reminded them of their stave houses. Naturalist Sir Joseph Banks came in the late 18th century and that catapulted the island to fame. Queen Victoria came, along with a stream of admirers that included John Keats, J.M.W. Turner, William Wordsworth, Jules Verne, Sir Walter Scott and Alice LIdell (Alice in Wonderland.) And Felix Mendelssohn, too, who was inspired to write his Hebrides Overture. All of them gushed about their newfound appreciation of the beauty of nature (no longer wildness to be dreaded) and so to some degree Staffa should get a good deal of credit for fostering our admiration of nature today. Happy Earth Day everybody. @natgeo @natgeocreative #earthday #scotland

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On a quiet evening in the Flint Hills of Kansas the Milky Way was rising in the South, revealing the heart of our galaxy. Living (as we do) about two thirds of the way out on one of the spiral arms, when we look south we see the bright center, lush with stars. (Our black hole lurks somewhere around that horse figure you can just make out.) Looking north the Milky Way is always dimmer, as we look out into space. A bit like riding a carousel, eh? #milkyway #darkskyweek @idadarksky #natgeo #natgeocreative http://www.darksky.org/dark-sky-week-2018-2/

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The Saguaro cactus near Peridot, Arizona were all pointing in the right direction, straight up at the Milky Way. Phoenix, nearly 120 miles away, was but a faint glow on the horizon. International Dark Sky Week has me remembering the incredible opportunity I had to explore these visual wonders, and to lament that so many people will be denied these vistas because of encroaching light pollution all around the world. Worth supporting what IDA does the fight this terrible loss. #milkyway #darkskyweek http://www.darksky.org/dark-sky-week-2018-2/ @idadarksky #natgeo #natgeocreative

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International Dark Sky Week is here. Time to celebrate the spectacular view we have because we live inside of a galaxy (Milky Way, seen here at Natural Bridges National Monument in Utah) and to thank the folks at IDA who are working to save it. #milkyway #darkskyweek http://www.darksky.org/dark-sky-week-2018-2/ @idadarksky #natgeo #natgeocreative

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Mangersta Beach on the west coast of the Isle of Lewis, with clouds and sunlight sweeping in as regularly as the waves. Just a little track leads down from the road, easy to miss if you’re not a local. #scotland #hebrides #traveling_scotland #hiddenscotland @natgeo @natgeotravel @natgeocreative #lovetheouterhebrides

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Traveling Scotland for the last 20 years I find myself drawn further out into the wild islands. The Callanish Stones are one of the great rewards of the journey out to the Isles of Lewis and Harris, a reminder that people have lived here for more than 5,000 years. Most visitors to Scotland make the Isle of Skye their main island destination but many treasures lie beyond out in the Outer Hebrides. From Skye you can take the ferry to Stornoway on Lewis, wander down to Harris, catch the ferry from there to North Uist, South Uist and then Barra before heading back to Oban. #scotland @natgeo @natgeocreative @natgeotravel #hiddenscotland #lovetheouterhebrides

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