This beautiful countryside is a farm called Cyderhall, located near the town of Dornoch, in county Caithness, in the far north of Scotland. Just to the left of this street view (the yellow stripe in the center is a Google Earth road marking) is Cyderhall Farmhouse. That is a historic property which is managed by the HistoryLinks Museum in Dornoch, who also happens to have a blog on WordPress here. Obviously this is a very beautiful and picturesque area, a living postcard of what most people think Scotland should look like.
I’m interested in this spot because someone used to live here who features prominently in my dissertation, Ten Years of Winter. George Mackenzie, a minor Scottish nobleman, once leased the Cyderhall farm before he joined the militia during the Napoleonic Wars. While here at Cyderhall he began recording weather observations, which ultimately became the obsession of his life. The strange climate anomalies of the Cold Decade (1810-1820) motivated Mackenzie to determine the cause. He did not know that the real cause was a series of volcanic eruptions, but instead he mined his 15 years of weather data to discern a “system” that he said could predict the weather. This “system,” based on wind patterns that he said repeat themselves every 54 years, was nonsense of course, but Mackenzie’s efforts were an important, if overlooked, step in the development of climatology. His books are also unintentionally hilarious, as Mackenzie seems to have thought of himself as a modern-day Isaac Newton.
Mackenzie is not well known in history, but he’s an interesting fellow for sure. When I found his former home on Google Earth I just had to share it.