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  • The Hymer motorhome with a Sprinter chassis drives through the green and hilly landscape of Scotland.
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    The faces of the Scottish mainland: a road trip with the Hymer.

    Four friends undertake a road trip in Scotland: With the Hymer motorhome they drive through the mainland which is rich in variety and they meet photographer Ali as well as world-famous kilt maker Howie.

    Text:Aline Knobloch | Photos: Linda Ambrosius

Edinburgh – the capital of contrasts.

The four friends stroll through cobbled lanes, past lovely cafés and pubs. Tall medieval buildings line the streets where the usual hustle and bustle is going on. No doubt: Here in Edinburgh, Scotland’s long history is present at the turn of every corner – it seems, quite literally, to be hewn into the light brown sandstone. And here in the Scottish capital the four friends also begin their road trip with the Hymer motorhome on a Mercedes-Benz Sprinter chassis. Thanks to its contrasts, Scotland’s second largest city immediately casts its spell on them. Cosy small town or liberally-minded metropolis? – Edinburgh simply does not want to make up its mind. In fact, this is probably what makes the city that around half a million Scots call their home so very fascinating.


A street in Edinburgh: people walking next to tall old buildings.
Howie Nicholsby standing in front of a wall with pictures, next to him is a clothes rail.

On a visit to fashion legend Howie Nicholsby.

This synergy of old and new, tradition and modernity is something you can also find among Edinburgh’s citizens. Occasionally, the world-famous emblem of Scotland can be seen among the crowds: the kilt. This knee-long pleated skirt is traditionally worn by men – namely in tartan, the check pattern of one’s own clan. One day however, Howie Nicholsby became bored with all the checkered kilts. At some point, so he says, every kilt looked the same to him. The 39-year old works as a kilt designer. By now, he is considered as a Scottish fashion legend. “I simply like experimenting“, the bald-headed man with the designer stubble states with confidence.

Bringing new shine to the kilt.

Blue skirt with matching jacket, green woollen socks and boots – even in Edinburgh, Howie’s style is noted. The Scotsman completely renounced trousers some 16 years ago. Noel, Adrian and Marko would like to know, too, what it feels like for a man to wear skirts and so they follow Howie into his shop “21st Century Kilts“. On the inside, the inconspicuous grey house surprises its visitors: Colourful pieces of fabric cover the walls, Howie’s eyes wander over new designs made of tweed, leather and jeans. “I like combining a multitude of materials“, he says. No kilt here is like any other, every piece is unique. This is Howie’s response to the supposedly boring plaids.


It’s the guys´ turn now: Noel chooses a grey model. Nowadays, kilts are often only worn on special occasions, such as weddings, Howie tells. But the kilt maker provides men with an alternative to trousers in everyday life, too: “My kilts sit on the hips rather than up on the waist. Plus, they have practical pockets.“ Customers should also be able to work in them, he thinks. Demand is very strong for kilts in pinstripe patterns, he relates.


  • Kilt wearer Howie standing in front of a wall covered with colourful pieces of fabric in his shop „21st Century Kilts“.
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Howie browsing through a magazine that shows men in kilts.

An 18-year-old with revolutionary ideas.

Howie comes from a family of kilt makers. His parents taught him the fundamentals of craftsmanship in this tradition-steeped business. “But at some point, I did not just want to be the son of the boss any longer“, he reflects. Inspired by the eccentric British fashion icon Vivienne Westwood, at the age of eighteen, Howie began to follow his own path. His goal was to revolutionize the kilt. “My father was not always pleased with my provocative ideas“, Howie admits pointing to some skirts with light projectors on them.


„A kilt does not need a tartan“

The great outcry arose after Howie’s first appearance at “Men's Fashion Week“ in London. Critics dismissed his modern designs as a “disgrace for Scotland’s traditions“. “They said: A kilt made of hemp is no real kilt“, Howie tells the friends. He counters: “A kilt does not necessarily need a tartan. Even if it is woven in other patterns, it will remain an expression of our national identity.“ By saying this, he expresses exactly what many Scots feel – the customers of “21st Century Kilts“ are willing accept long waiting times now.


Even international stars have discovered Howie: On the photos in Howie’s shop you can recognize singers Robbie Williams and Lenny Kravitz as well as actor Vin Diesel, among others. Despite his success, Howie keeps his feet on the ground. The father of two, laughing at himself, asks the friends to join him for a beer. He explains: “Equanimity is a typical Scottish attribute. We simply do not concern ourselves with anything too much, be it fashion or anything else.“


The Hymer motorhome with a Sprinter chassis drives through green landscapes next to a lake.

With the Hymer through magical landscapes

The four friends have grown fond of Edinburgh. Nevertheless, they would like to see more of the Scottish mainland and meet more of its people. So they get back into the Hymer with a Sprinter chassis and leave the city. As they look outside, they soon realize that the landscape is changing fast: It is becoming greener and vaster. The friends reach the Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park and leave the motorhome near the lake. In the distance they recognize snow-covered peaks, green islands are floating in the water. In this tranquil place, the friends have an appointment with Ali Horne.


Ali, a photographer enamoured with Scotland.

Ali is a quiet guy with a friendly look on his face. With the hood of his orange-coloured raincoat tightened over his head, the young Scotsman sits down next to the friends and looks at the water full of awe. Fine wafts of mist are floating above the lake giving it a mystical appearance. Ali seems just as impressed by the panorama as every tourist – even though places like these belong to his everyday life: He is a landscape photographer and travelling to the most beautiful places on the planet is part of his work. However, his home country is particularly close to his heart, says the 24-year old.


Ali, who is wearing an orange-coloured raincoat, is standing in a green, misty hilly landscape and is carrying a camera.
The travellers with a life vest sitting in the canoe that crosses the lake Loch Lomond.

A canoe trip across the Loch Lomond.

Together with Ali, the four friends take a canoe trip on Loch Lomond. The weather is rough, waves are beating against the boat. “I started taking photographs around the age of 11, when my Mum bought me my first camera“, Ali reflects. He started taking pictures of school events and on public holidays. Until he travelled to the US in 2014, he still thought of photography as a hobby. Then Ali began to publish his landscape photographs. And he suddenly realized that he had hardly any photographs of his home country.


„I love the scale of these places.“

Since then, Ali has been travelling the whole of Scotland, always in search of the most beautiful subjects. “I have always been interested in vast landscapes, coastlines and mountain ranges. I love the scale of these places, and how you can feel so small and insignificant in their presence.“


The friends leave the wobbly canoe and hike up a small hill. Ali does not get irritated by the drizzle, step by step, he fights his way through the mud. The Scotsman laughs: “The weather may not be the best, but fear not as the views will make up for it!“


  • a misty, lonely landscape next to a steep precipice.
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A dream job – anything but effortless.

Ali’s job often seems simple, almost like a holiday. And yet: His work as a photographer is anything but effortless. “There is not a strict 9 to 5. It can be busy or quiet, depending on the time of the year.“ For even though Ali has inspired countless people with his photographs – there were times when there was a shortage of orders and consequently of income. “Of course, there are setbacks when you don’t get some client work you were hoping for.“ Therefore, Ali works part-time at a marketing agency.


But he still wants to spend most of his time on his photography: “It taught me to respect and appreciate nature and wildlife and to never take anything for granted. Something will always turn up if you keep persevering.“ With Ali’s words in the back of their minds, the friends go back to the Hymer and set off to learn more about Scotland and its people.