Wednesday 25 December 2013

Christmas Greetings from Skye

It is Christmas morning. The rain has stopped (though it’s still rather windy). Cupar is asleep by my feet, and Sue is out doing her regular care calls – she’ll be back at about 2.00pm, and we will then have our Christmas afternoon and evening alone together for the first time since we have been married!

Skye is a quiet place at Christmas. A large proportion of the resident population are English incomers, so many of them go away to be with their families at this time of year. The indigenous Skye dwellers tend not to be quite so motivated by the whole Christmas scene, so such festive happenings as may take place tend to be pretty low key. There are a few lit up houses, but not many. Dunvegan village’s attempt at Christmas decorations amounts to one partly decorated Christmas Tree….

Here at Roskhill, we will be opening presents this afternoon, take Cupar for his afternoon walkies, then eat dinner in the evening, and will likely spend the rest of our evening in front of the stove with some music playing or the TV on – pretty much as usual! We have not made a big effort with decorations either, though our little forest sapling tree is in its pot on the windowsill, surrounded by a ridiculously large pile of presents….mostly for Cupar I am sure...

Happy Christmas !

Thursday 12 December 2013

Damp, Dark December

We are most definitely in that time of year when getting anything done outside takes a monumental effort. We currently seem to be enduring a particularly protracted spell of wet and often windy weather. The heavy leaden cloud hides much of the little daylight we get, so this morning it was still fully dark when I set out to walk Cupar at ten to eight, and was still nearly as dark when we returned at about eight thirty. It was fully dark again this afternoon by four. It has rained or drizzled nearly all day. On the plus side, it is very mild - there's certainly no risk of frost, ice or snow!

Sue has been out at work during the days this week, and when she is home, she is writing Christmas letters to go with her cards to far away friends. As for me, I am at serious risk of running out of useful things to do indoors. I've done all the washing and ironing. I've cleaned bits of the kitchen that haven't been cleaned for a while. I've tweaked and updated our SkyeHolidays website, and now I'm writing a blog post. I would like to have the weather to get some jobs done on the allotment, but it is so wet over there that even when it is not raining or blowing a gale, the ground conditions are hardly conducive to digging the soil. As for going for a walk on the hills... not just now, thankyou!

But there is a bit of brightness ahead. This weekend I am visiting a new client in Inverness who has asked me to create a website for her B&B business, so working on that will keep me busy into next week, and then we have Rowan Cottage to get warmed up and ready for visitors who have booked it for a Christmas holiday. After that, we have our own Christmas to think about. For the very first time since we have been married, Sue and I are having Christmas alone together, so we have some of our own Christmas traditions to establish. It's quite exciting! I have rescued a small self-planted spruce tree from the side of a forest track, and have it planted in a tub ready for Sue's decorative magic, and we are talking about when in the big day we should open presents, have dinner, and so on. But it will be mostly a quiet day here

After Christmas, Sue heads off south to visit her family and friends, and then we will be into January and before we know it, we'll be back into turn-rounds, lawn mowing and laundry mountains again.

Thursday 5 December 2013

Trees, and Storms, on Skye

Last night we had the most severe winter storm that we've had for a while. Winds reportedly reached over 80mph. Other than having to rescue the wheelie bins, there's no damage here at The Barn - the landscape is pretty storm-proof, old buildings are low and heavily built, and modern houses are designed to take the weather.

But there are trees on Skye - lots of them in places. We have quite a few round The Barn, but all the ones here are still stranding this morning, waving their branches in the wind! They were noisy in the night though - almost drowning out the frequent claps of thunder...!!

Roskhill Barn - a summer photo (the sky is a bit more grey today...)
The Skye moorland is generally bare of vegetation taller than heather and myrtle. But the many burns draining off the moorland often cut deep gorges, and the shelter the gorge provides permits the growth of taller plants, and tough little trees are usually found too - 

A typical Skye moorland gorge - in winter
At the foot of a typical Skye gorge - in summer. The moorland above here is just grass, heather and moss.
And we have some woodland, even here in the exposed north west of the island. We usually walk Cupar at least once a day in the woods above Dunvegan Castle - planted in the late 1800s. There is a variety of trees in the woods, including many beech and a few oak and chestnut, but in the most exposed parts, it is the sycamore which seems best able to cope with the weather.

Dunvegan Woods... of Cupar's favourite places !
Skye also has a number of  forestry plantations - dense rows of spruce, larch and pine. The closely planted trees support each other, so only a few round the edges of the plantations are ever affected by the wind. It's unusual to find a path in a plantation though - this one is above the Aros Centre in Portree (and it's an old photo - that's Basil, not Cupar).

Basil in Portree Forest
Of course, trees do blow down sometimes. It seldom kills them though. If left alone, they soon sort-out which direction is the new 'up' and just carry on growing....

Horizontal Scots Pine at Lyndale, Skye
In compiling this post, I have found many more of our tree photos around Skye, which I will put together into a new post on my Skye in Pictures blog -