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Pretty in Peat

The Machrie Hotel sits on grass-covered peat fields, a low-slung array of modern buildings that sprawl across the landscape like an apparition. Just completed last year, the newest addition to the Campbell Gray luxury hotel chain is on the Isle of Islay, home to some of the best scotches in the world. But Islay is …

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Skibo Castle: Andrew Carnegie’s Extraordinary Estate

Turning into the long drive that leads to Skibo Castle, one can imagine what it was like for Andrew Carnegie to arrive at his Scottish home back in 1899.That was the year he purchased the estate, hoping his young daughter Margaret would grow to love his homeland. In this, the 100th anniversary of his death, …

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A Pittsburgher Goes to Florence

Take a quick international trip to Florence, Italy with Pittsburgh photographer David Aschkenas. In this photo collection, Aschkenas explores the Palazzo Pitti, the Boboli Gardens, the eclectic La Specola natural history museum as well as a few churches, including Santa Croce, Santa Maria Novella and the Duomo. View more of David Aschkenas’s work at www.daschkenasphoto.com.

Synagogues Around the World

For the past seven years, a Pittsburgh photographer has been working on a personal project: Capturing the beauty of synagogues in Europe. Experience the architecture and history of synagogues from Prague, Budapest, Kracow, Amsterdam, Venice, and Florence in this photo collection by David Aschkenas. View more of David Aschkenas’s work at www.daschkenasphoto.com.
Howard Hanna: Buy and sell with confidence.

Escape to Gateway Lodge in Cook Forest

If you find the heat and noise of “summer in the city” oppressive, escape it all in an under-two-hour drive from Pittsburgh. Take the scenic trip to Cook Forest State Park, and stay at the Gateway Lodge. Built in 1934, the Gateway Lodge is the perfect combination of woodsy charm and contemporary amenities. The family-owned …

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Bring on the Meat!

Years ago, the Sunday roast inevitably came from the neighborhood butcher. The relationship between the homemaker and butcher was once so significant, that the television series “The Brady Bunch” included “Sam the Butcher,” who was both meat purveyor and love interest for housekeeper Alice. This was before mega-grocery stores and warehouse clubs with inhouse butchers, …

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Antarctica, Wonder that Inspires

There are times in your life that mark changes in your composition. Our trip to Antarctica was one of those times. It’s a continent without native people, but where wildlife thrives in an unpredictable environment. It’s a world without infrastructure. The scale is otherworldly and the landscape staggeringly, breathlessly beautiful. It is a landscape difficult …

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Secrets of Oakmont

With the gaslights along the brick-paved Allegheny River Boulevard, the small, independent shops and the 1889 Carnegie Library, visiting Oakmont can feel like a welcome trip back in time. That’s especially true if you walk into the Kerr Memorial Museum on Delaware Avenue. Dr. Thomas Kerr built the Queen Anne-style home in 1897 for his …

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Glendorn Aglow

On a pristine morning after the season’s first snowfall, determined anglers cast their flies into streams not yet frozen. Eight inches of snow blanketed the landscape, but inside the Big House a fire crackled as guests enjoyed a hearty breakfast and the view through giant windows. Or they could look the other way at the …

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Cleaner to the Stars

It’s time to don your best apparel for holiday parties, dinners and events. And then, of course, you’ll need to have those clothes cleaned. There are countless options, but Jerry Montesano’s Shadyside Valet is a standout. Jerry was born into the business—his father owned a dry cleaning company in Penn Hills and then sold dry …

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The Kindness Meter in Various Cities

Returning home last Monday from a weekend trip to visit our newly transplanted daughter and her family in Seattle, we had a delightful conversation with our Uber driver, a native Pittsburgher, on the way back from the airport. He had recently retired from his full time job, but enjoys meeting people and figured driving for …

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Car Trouble

At 5:30 a.m. one recent morning, I was driving the Parkway East to Monroeville, and actually ON TIME. I began to hear a loud “ka-thunk” from the front left of my mini-van. Suddenly, my front left wheel popped clean off. Had it been later, I would have been horrified at the idea of my wheel …

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Now Entering “Happy Valley”

The Pennsylvania State University has more than 645,000 living alums. Obviously, they know about “Happy Valley,” as do the throngs who attend football games each fall. But if you’ve never visited Penn State, State College or Centre County, it’s well worth exploring, especially on a quieter, non-football weekend. While there are chain hotels available, go …

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On the Road to Prosperity

Prosperity means different things to different people. But to the residents of a village by that name in Washington County that’s been significantly affected by fluctuations in the coal and Marcellus Shale gas industries, Prosperity is home. Some of the 1,105 residents have made a lot of money. Some are working hard to just get …

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Sail Away to Annapolis

Just about every place in Annapolis will tell you it has the best crab cakes in town, and they’re all right. The Chesapeake is famous for its blue crabs, plucked daily from the bay and served any number of ways, but always with abundance. There is so much crab in Annapolis, a visitor can get …

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Boom, bust and disaster

Located at a horseshoe bend of the Monongahela River in Washington County—the heart of today’s Rust Belt—what would become Donora, Pa.was a farming community of 12 people in 1900. Within one year, it exploded to 4,000—as hordes of workers built and manned numerous factories. Its population topped 14,000 by 1920, but today numbers only 5,500. …

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New Zealand

Like everyone else who saw the “Lord of the Rings” film trilogy, I was somewhat stunned by the dramatic beauty of New Zealand. But I’d never seriously considered visiting until Christmas 2014, when my oldest son was home from Shanghai and said, “Let’s go fly-fishing together in New Zealand.” I’ve always loved fishing, but not …

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The shrine on Troy Hill

The story of how St. Anthony Chapel in Troy Hill came to house the largest collection of Christian relics outside of the Vatican begins in the 1850s with a young man from a wealthy Belgian family. After attending medical school, Suitbert Mollinger became a Catholic priest who followed his vocation to America. By 1868, he …

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Having a great time in Beaver, Pa.

Rudyard Kipling visited Beaver, Pa, during the summer of 1889 and referred to it fondly in “Sea to Sea: Letters of Travel.” Spend a day or two there, and you’ll understand why. Established at the confluence of the Ohio and Beaver rivers in 1802, Beaver is the Beaver County seat with an historic district built …

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Ireland: Mind Your Manors

Whether you spend the day on Dublin’s bustling Grafton Street or peering over the Cliffs of Moher, odds are good you will encounter some sort of precipitation accompanied by a chill wind and gray sky. It’s what makes stopping by the pub at the end of the day such an appealing Irish tradition. A welcoming …

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Of Irish Roads and Distant Kin

So I’m hauling eight of us—my wife Kay, her brother and his wife, her sister and her husband, and their two Irish cousins Ann and Peggy—down this dinky road in the farmland outside Galway, Ireland, in a blue beast the rental agency calls a “mini-bus.” Peggy is riding shotgun (“Careful of this turn now!”) and …

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The ease and élan of Ireland

I can’t really recall why we chose Ireland for our honeymoon 27 years ago. Neither of us is Irish. Maybe it was the writers—Yeats, Wilde and Joyce. Maybe the fishing (not for my wife). It certainly wasn’t the weather or, back then, the food. My wife noted that the same boiled potato and chicken meal …

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