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Isobel turning ‘awww’ to awe

Days are getting darker and flu season is upon us. There are so many reasons for feeling sorry for ourselves and crawling back under the duvet, that someone should be researching hibernation for humans by now. No wonder October’s focus is on mental health.

The Isle of Tiree - where Isobel found peace and tranquility in the wake of grief and the inspiration for her travels North.


Celebrated for her Arctic exploration and her photographic and written contributions to our understanding of that region, it’s easy to ignore the events that were the catalyst for Isobel’s adventures – namely, grief and loneliness. The death of her father when she was 11 and subsequent loss of two brothers and a friend in early adulthood, led to a nervous breakdown and an understandable need to withdraw from society.


Three of Isobel's 4 siblings at Carlowrie Castle. From left, Hilda, Walter, Isobel & Nita (Frank born later)

Initially the Scottish Highlands and islands offered respite. Here she found a world of self-reliance and endless distraction, far removed from the constraints foisted on woman living in the 19th century. Isobel instinctively found comfort in nature and the great outdoors and forty years after her death, social media is awash with encouragement to follow her lead. The simple act of going for a walk is now a well-known way to beat the blues, though Isobel’s definition of a walk was the 8 miles/13kms between Carlowrie Castle, (her family home) and Edinburgh. A stroll was likely to be over 100 miles/160kms …


The words of French writer Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr continue to ring true - “plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose “ – the more things change, the more they stay the same. Isobel might not have been able to share on social media, (since she died a decade prior to the internet becoming public), but her life was a brilliant example of changing ‘awww’ into ‘awe’ in a way that would surely have made her an influencer today. Her early escapes to restore and protect her mental health, fuelled her ambition to go even further afield and by following her heart she unknowingly wrote herself into the history books, not as a bereaved victim but as a hopeful pioneer.


Isobel on the helm of The Trader, whilst collecting botanicals in the Arctic North


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The North Star Explorer

Learn more about Isobel’s passion for the natural world, her experience of travelling to remote places and her encounters expressed through art and creative writing.

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