Wednesday, 17 November 2021

A Holiday On Harris

Sue and I have now established a tradition to have a short-break holiday to mark our birthdays. Sue's birthday is in November, and mine in March, so it fits us well, with being 'out-of-season', meaning we have no clashes with cottage bookings, and we benefit from quieter places to visit. We take a chance with the weather of course - but one does that at any time of year if holidaying in Scotland.

We are just back from this November's trip. Ever since we have lived on Skye, we have promised ourselves that we will make a visit to the Outer Isles, and at last we have done it. After a bit of research, we chose to stay near Tarbert on Harris. The ferry from Uig on Skye sails to Tarbert, so we only had to drive about 35 miles in total from Roskhill to the cottage we rented, with the ferry taking us the 30 miles or so across the Minch.

The landscape that greeted us when we drove off the ferry was a complete surprise. I had really expected that Harris would be much the same as Skye, but in fact, it could barely be more different, with vast areas of the island being bare rock rather than the heather moorland of most of Skye.

As ever, we packed our days with exploring as much of the island as we could. We knew Cupar would love the sandy beaches, so visited a couple of them, but we also managed to make short climbs to the top of a hill or two, visited Scalpay and its lighthouse, drove the famed 'Golden Road' and explored a restored ancient church built by the MacLeods of Dunvegan. As it is fairly unlikely that we will return to Harris, we also made the 40-or-so mile drive north across Lewis to see the world-famous Callanish Stones. Here, I had another surprise, as I found the stones to be far more spiritual than I expected - a feeling enhanced by us being almost the only people at the site when we visited.

We haven't yet decided where we will go for my birthday jaunt in March, though it won't be back to the Outer Isles. However, I think there is a strong possibility that we will be making a further trip across the Minch - probably to the Uists next time  - at some future date.

Sue is likely to get round to posting a picture-story of the holiday we have just had at some time in the not-too-distant future, and as she takes better photos than me, I'll just post a small sample of my pics below...

Eilean Glas lighthouse, Scalpay

Luskentyre Beach

Birthday-girl (and me...)!

Clach Mich Leoid

Callanish

Scarista Beach

Typical South Harris coastline


Saturday, 30 October 2021

Quiet Again

Another holiday season is drawing to an end. The last few lingering camper vans are dawdling their way back over the Skye Bridge and heading home. Our cottage booking calendars are almost blank for the winter. The roads and villages are becoming quiet again.

It has been a different summer. Not just the weather - which seems to me to have been wetter than usual - but different visitors. Virus-related travel restrictions have meant we have hosted very few overseas guests, while many visitors from England and even from Scotland were exploring Skye for the first time. We have also seen a big increase in first-time self-caterers. 

Such feedback as we receive suggests that our visitors have been happy enough with what they have experienced, with positive comments about our cottages, and about the island. I wonder how many people will choose to holiday again in the UK and discover other parts of our wonderful country before they fly off for yet another same-every-time sunbathing vacation in a crowded beach resort somewhere hot. 

Tonight we put the clocks back an hour, so for those of us who live in this little piece of heaven-on-earth, the evenings will draw-in ever sooner, and we will start to look out the handicrafts, jigsaws, books and other entertainments that make light of the long dark winter nights. 

I'll be stoking-up the stove again soon, too. We may bathe in centrally-heated luxury, but there is still nothing quite like the flicker of a real flame when the rain is beating against the windows, or the wind rushing round the chimney.

The tourists make their way back home

An autumn sunset on Skye
(Photo by Sue)

Tuesday, 21 September 2021

Seasons on Skye

Having been born-and-bred in the softy south of England, I became very used to the year having four distinct seasons, each lasting around three months, with the summer being warm and dry, winter being colder and wetter, spring being bright and showery, and autumn being breezy and golden.

It's not like that here.

We pretty much only have one season on Skye, which is a continual confusion of all of the above. Winter starts around mid-August, and goes on for an awful long time. When my southern-trained body-clock is telling me that it should be spring, I find myself peering at tightly closed leaf buds on the trees and shrubs in the hope of spotting the first sign of a green shoot. When the calendar says it is July - true, the daylight hours are very long indeed, but the sun may still be a rare sight, and the wind can blast the drizzle into your face should you venture outside. 

Somehow though, our flora and fauna seem to cope with the season-less year. My recent wild-flower photo-posts illustrate the ability of the plant-life here to flourish when and where it gets the chance. I manage to successfully nurture vegetables in the allotment. From April for a few months, there seem to be plenty of fledgling birds about the place, and we occasionally glimpse a mouse, vole, weasel or stoat, so they survive here, too. But sadly - never a hedgehog.

And.... the sky can be blue sometimes..!! At any time of year, too. In can happen suddenly. The wind drops, the rain stops, and the steel-grey clouds magically vanish to reveal the freshly-washed glistening blue heavens, which instantly paint the sea an even more unlikely blue. At these times, we cherish every moment and sigh at the beauty of the vista before us.

I can live without seasons.

Spring

Summer

Autumn

Winter

... and sometimes !


Wednesday, 1 September 2021

More Garden News

Progress on the new shed/greenhouse/studio has been brisk. The guys doing the build have now done as much as they can before the French windows arrive. The windows should be here quite soon, and once installed, the electrician can do his bit, and the inside can then be insulated and lined. The unfinished wall is where the lean-to greenhouse will be going. The plan is to leave the cladding until after the greenhouse has been fitted, to get a nice neat end result. Unfortunately, the greenhouse is not likely to be here before mid-November.

As for the allotment - the veg that I have harvested so far have been absolutely first class, but there are so many carrots we will be going orange and growing frizzy green hair if we eat them all... 

Cupar thinks it is his new kennel...
I tidied-away all the off-cuts just after taking the photos

A wider view.
We will have to make a path across the lawn,
and possibly edge the path with bedding plants in summer
(which we will grow ourselves in the greenhouse..)!

Freshly picked...

...and half an hour later...