Mark Iandolo


Mapping Wanderlust is an ongoing project dedicated to documenting the natural and man-made beauty of this Earth – inspiring people to travel and rediscover the world around them. The goal: To create an archive of global wonders – UNESCO World Heritage Sites, stunning landscapes, iconic landmarks, historic and modern cities, and roads less traveled.




  • Arthur's Seat and the Salisbury Crags – Edinburgh, Scotland

    "The Stuff of Legend" September 20, 2016: In a symbolically pivotal scene of the movie Braveheart, William Wallace bounds across the top of a mountain range in the Scottish Highlands to the tune of a bagpipe-dominated musical score. Intercut with this shot is a montage of Scotsmen spreading the word of Wallace’s exploits. “William Wallace killed fifty men. Fifty.” “A Hundred men. With his own sword. Cut through them like…” “Like Moses through the red sea!” The scene ends with Wallace standing upon a high crag, perched at what seems like the top of Scotland, as the musical track aptly titled “The Legend Spreads” builds to a crescendo. From an eagle-eye view, the camera slowly pans around William, revealing the highlands in all their glory. --- I keep a mental bucket list of travel goals I want to accomplish in my life. The list is eclectic and includes both fairly cliché goals (witnessing the beauty of the sakura in Japan) and ridiculously random ones (drinking a fernet branca at a café on the banks of the Arno River a la Alfred in the Dark Knight Rises). For as long as I can remember, the #1 item on that list has been the following: “Run through the Scottish Highlands with the Braveheart theme blasting through my headphones.” --- Well, I finally got a chance to knock it off the list. But a weird thing happened. My family and I traveled the country by car, and had so much to do – castles tours, loch cruises, Nessie sightings – that the whole week went by without a chance to get up into the mountains for a good hiking session. Whoops. I was a bit dejected by this failure, but was enamored with my trip so I told myself it didn’t matter. After my parents left, I had a couple days in Edinburgh before flying to Iceland. So I decided to walk up to the top of Arthur’s Seat, “a hill for magnitude, a mountain in virtue of its bold design” as Robert Louis Stevenson said. Formed by an extinct volcano system, Arthur’s Seat provides a panoramic view of Edinburgh. And since Scotland is the stuff of legend, the area is often mentioned as one of the possible locations for Camelot, the castle and court of King Arthur. I swear the next part of this story happened completely randomly: As I finished the arduous ascent and scrambled up the sun-drenched rocks to the peak’s highest point, I heard a familiar sound: bagpipes. The theme from Braveheart had begun, blasting through my headphones via iTunes shuffle. Now, I only had like eight songs on my playlist that day so the odds of this happening weren’t small, but I’m still going to call it fate. And fate was glorious. I sat at the top of Arthur’s Seat for the rest of the afternoon, listening to the movie’s score while enjoying Edinburgh views. It’s like I half-checked the item off my bucket list: it wasn’t the Highlands, but it would do for now – giving me reason to head back one day to finish my version of the legend.

  • Edinburgh, Scotland

    "Heart of Scotland" September 20, 2016: The setting sun delivers golden light all throughout Edinburgh, from the Dugold Stewart Monument in the foreground to the Balmoral Hotel and Edinburgh Castle in the background. --- As the sun cast everything before me in a fiery glow one evening on Calton Hill, I surveyed Edinburgh’s skyline. But despite all of the city’s wonders, like the monument standing in the foreground, my eyes kept focusing on one structure in particular. I couldn’t get over how incredible Edinburgh Castle was, dominating the city skyline. And what I loved about the castle, besides its photogenic nature, was that it offers a unique tale for all types of travelers. History buffs will marvel at what the keep has been through since inception. Built on a rock inhabited for 3,000 years. Besieged 26 times. Housed the crown jewels. Fought over in wars of independence and Jacobite risings. The list goes on and on, and is endlessly fascinating – if you’re into that kind of thing. Edinburgh Castle is also a scientist’s delight. The volcanic plug on which the fortress sits was formed 350 million years ago from the remains of a volcanic pipe cutting through sedimentary rock. Yes, I googled that, and yes, I have no idea what it means. But it sure sounds epic. For the romantics, Edinburgh Castle offers weddings at St. Margaret’s Chapel. Say your vows in a small, intimate setting inside the oldest building in the city. Lovers of stories: clutch your loved one’s arm as you listen to tales of tortured souls from yesteryear who still haunt the grounds, or hear unexplained sounds and feel a mysterious tug on your clothes as you wander around. The castle is considered to be one of the most haunted places in Scotland. Like four ventricles, the unique aspects of the castle combine to form the heart of a nation.

  • Edinburgh, Scotland

    "Nightfall" September 19, 2016: Edinburgh is my kind of city. Why? Because it's one of the most anti-city cities I've ever visited. Despite all the cityscape photos I post, I'm actually not much of an urbanite. As an introvert, I can get worn out by the crowds and noises and energy of cities. I much prefer to be out in nature or in smaller towns. But I love cityscape photos, so to the cities I go! Edinburgh felt like an anti-city city because: 1. There's plenty of nature areas to explore while still within city limits. 2. There's a giant castle on a giant rock in the middle of it. And so I spent my last day in Scotland exploring Edinburgh, checking out those nature areas and photographing that castle. My first stop: Arthur's Seat. Form by an extinct volcano system, Arthur's Seat provides a panoramic view of Edinburgh. Robert Louis Stevenson called it "a hill for magnitude, a mountain in virtue of its bold design." Stop #2: the Castle Park. Right below the city's keep is a green space. I had to fight through the tourists in old town to reach it, but once there, I found plenty of space to relax and soak in the green and the keep. My final stop: Calton Hill. AKA the go-to spot for Edinburgh skyline photos. From there, flanked by ten other photographers, I photographed the sun setting over Edinburgh and stayed there till nightfall. A giant castle on a giant rock, a massive volcanic crag to hike, plenty of green space and a hill inside the city to watch a perfect sunset. Edinburgh is definitely my kind of city.

  • Edinburgh Castle – Edinburgh, Scotland

    "Defender of the Nation" September 20, 2016: At the heart of New York City rests the Empire State Building; at the heart of Edinburgh, an 1100-year-old castle upon a 150-meter-high, 350 million-year-old volcanic crag. Each is equally iconic – the Empire State Building an art-deco exemplar of the American dream, Edinburgh Castle a mythic ode to a bygone era of kingdoms and knights. And each is equally invisible, melting into daily life for those who live nearby. In Manhattan, businesspeople make daily passes by what was the tallest building in the world for forty years without looking up. And when I was in Edinburgh meandering through the park, I watched a game of frisbee; the participants were seemingly unaware that they stood underneath a castle built on rock formed millions of years ago. Why were they carrying about their day and not just standing and staring at the keep like I was? In the middle of their city, a giant rock just leaps up into the air, with a scene from Game of Thrones perched on top! This is not normal, don’t act like its normal, Frisbee-ers. It’s not that we don’t appreciate the places in which we live. A New Yorker would be quick to defend the Empire State Building and the sheer will of recent ancestors who built it floor by floor. I’m sure an Edinburgh native would be proud of the formidable fortress, what with its millennia years of history and stories. It’s that, when we see a sight over and over again, it loses some of its “magic.” Hence my addiction for constantly seeking out new adventures. Because there’s nothing like experiencing something for the first time. But it’s important to remember the daily moments, like walking among skyscrapers or playing frisbee with friends. Especially when the backdrop to the game is a fairytale castle.

  • Edinburgh Castle – Edinburgh, Scotland

    "Castle Rock" September 20, 2016: Golden light cascades off Edinburgh's ever-resplendent keep. --- Take the Lion King’s Pride Rock out of the Savannah, and place it in a bustling city in the gloomy British Isles, and you have Castle Rock. Upon this 350 million-year-old volcanic crag rests Edinburgh Castle. As Mufasa ruled over his kingdom in the film, the keep on Castle Rock protected Scotland for hundreds of years. This is the mental comparison my mind made as I watched the sun set over Edinburgh. That evening, Edinburgh Castle – basking in golden light rays – seemed to peer out over its realm like a lion.

  • Dunvegan Castle – Isle of Skye, Scotland

    "For the Love of a Princess" September 16, 2016: “For the Love of a Princess” is a track on the Braveheart score. The track includes a softer, more melodic version of the main theme. When you listen to it, you can’t help but daydream about warriors and princesses and the Scotland of lore. Braveheart is just one of many epic love stories to use Scotland as a setting. Romance novels have used places in the Highlands and islands as the basis of their stories for decades. Dunvegan Castle is one such place. When you visit the keep, you can see why. The oldest continuously inhabited castle in Scotland and stronghold of the chiefs of MacLeod for more than 800 years, Dunvegan is full of legends and stories. The keep itself, massive and majestic, sprouts up out of a forest on the edge of the Isle of Skye. The visuals add to the history and legends, forming a perfect setting for love stories. And maybe the most famous Dunvegan love story involves a long-ago era when fairies and men coexisted on this beautiful island. Back then, a MacLeod chieftain fell in love with a fairy woman and married her. Unfortunately for the two new lovers, the woman was summoned to return to her people – but not before she gave birth to a baby boy, the next great chief of the MacLeods. Legend has it that one cold night after she left, the baby cried out. His cry tore at the fairy’s heart, and so she returned to wrap him in her shawl. That shawl became the famous Fairy Flag, which can still be found at Dunvegan behind layers of protective glass. The flag – according to fables – can increase fertility, bring herring into the loch, cure a plague on cattle and much more. But back in the long-ago era, it simply comforted a sad newborn boy. The shawl was a symbol of the fairy’s love. A princess’s love saved the boy. So my favorite track from the Braveheart theme is a fitting song to listen to if ever you visit the castle.

  • Isle of Skye, Scotland

    "Land of the Eagles" September 16, 2016: “All that the sun shines on is beautiful, as long as it is wild.” I found these words written on a sign in Glen Sligachan after entering the Isle of Skye. The author of the words? John Muir, a Scottish-American naturalist who was pivotal in preserving the environment around the dawn of the twentieth century. The Sligachan sign also tells of a hiking path leading through the glen into the heart of the Cuilin Special Protection Area, one of the best places in the British Isles for spotting golden eagles. Many people regard the Cuilins as among the most majestic mountain ranges in Britain; just as many probably regard the golden eagle as among the most majestic birds of prey in the world. But, according to the sign, few people know the importance of the Cuilins to the eagles. Eight pairs of golden eagles nest within the glens and among the peaks of these rocky mountains. The wild area is therefore protected – it has been safeguarded by the John Muir Trust since 1991. The John Muir Trust envisions “A world where wild places are protected and enhanced, and valued by and for everyone” – a statement that would make its namesake proud. Muir’s inspirational writing affected change; he helped preserve Yosemite Valley and Sequoia National Park (among others) in America through his letters, essays and books. And his quote, written proudly by the trust on that sign in Glen Sligachan, has stuck with me. Muir dedicated his life to protecting nature; his words inspire me to join the cause. Let’s keep this earth wild.

  • Fairy Pools of Glen Brittle – Isle of Skye, Scotland

    "Welcome to Cloud Island" September 16, 2016: The Fairy Pools of Glen Brittle, a stretch of cascading waterfalls and natural ice-cold pools, lead the way through the valley toward the drama of the Cuilin Mountains. “Cloud Island” is a Norse-given nickname for the Isle of Skye, for a fierce and wild land with fierce and wild weather. Skye is a land of drama. Of razor-toothed mountains, crystal clear natural pools, and towering sea cliffs. Skye is also a land of myth. Of magical beings living under the hills, waters filled with fantastical beasts, and legendary warriors from castles connected to the fairy world. “There is not a stream or a rock that does not have its story,” said famed Scottish historian Stuart McHardy. Nowhere is the combination of wild and mythical more apparent than the Fairy Pools of Glenn Brittle.

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