Tuesday, 13 November 2018

Sue's Birthday Weekend

My wonderful wife Sue celebrated a 'special' birthday last Sunday (one where the first number changes...) and to mark the event, we chose to make a long weekend visit to our beautiful capital city.

Cupar was dropped off in kennels, and I rented a cosy city centre apartment, which was in walking distance of all the attractions we wanted to see - so the car stayed put at the apartment block throughout our stay.

Although only in Edinburgh for three nights we packed-in more than we would normally do in three months! We ate out twice, went to the cinema twice, spent ages in the fascinating National Museum of Scotland, had a guided tour of the Scottish Parliament buildings, wandered for hours in the lovely Royal Botanic Gardens and Glasshouses, and had an amble around Leith. I couldn't pick a favourite visit - everything was great. I'll post just a few photos from the weekend below.

The films we saw were 'Bohemian Rhapsody', in which Remi Malek does an extraordinarily engaging and thought provoking job of playing Freddie Mercury; and the slightly less engaging latest version of 'A Star is Born' - not really my kind of film, but quite enjoyable nonetheless.

Next 'big' birthday will be me - in a couple of year's time. Now, where shall we go for that...???

Inside the beautiful National Museum,
which opened as a Museum of Science and Art in 1866
'Stand there while I take a picture...'
Our plan was to look at the exhibitions about Scotland and its People,
but we were sidetracked so often, we were over an hour getting to the start...
Here, it's David Coulthard's 2006 Red Bull F1 car that has caught my attention
Garden Lobby, Scottish Parliament Building
There seems to be a new MSP in the Debating Chamber...
Trying to get the hang of taking a 'selfie'...
maybe not quite right this time...
Nailed it! (in the Royal Botanic Gardens)
Sue wanted to take every plant home and put them in pots around the house...
The Waters of Leith

Sunday, 4 November 2018

Visiting Skye

The fact has been quite widely publicised in the media for the last couple of years - that Skye has become a very busy place in the summer season. It has been apparent to us that every year since we have known the island, visitor numbers have increased year-on-year, and the season has also grown longer. Now, we have come to expect that a trickle of visitors will begin to arrive as early as March, and the last of the hire cars and camper vans dwindle away around late October. The peak months are July and August, when just about every bed on the island is taken, some single-track roads become choked, and having to queue for a table at eating places is to be expected.

But don't be put off! When is the best time to visit Skye? For me, without a doubt, I would say 'come in winter'. You will find only a very thin scattering of visitors during the winter months, with the exception of Christmas/New Year. As a resident, I now deliberately avoid going anywhere near the most popular tourist spots in summer, and getting about by car can be tedious, as visiting drivers are often slow, nervous and dithery. For me - there is little pleasure in visiting a beautiful wild location alongside dozens (or even hundreds) of other people.

In winter - it is true that many of the paid-for attractions will be closed, and the same goes for some of the eating places and touristy shops. However - some remain open all year. I would recommend hunting-out the several excellent pubs which are open. They are likely to have blazing log fires, and serve good value food all year round.

The winter scenery will be in shades of gold and brown rather than summer green, and the sea is likely to be steely-grey rather than azure blue, but it all looks so much more dramatic with some mist swirling round it (though there can be stunning blue-sky days in winter, too)! To get close to the scenery, you will need good quality waterproofs and footwear (you are more than likely need them in summer as well, remember...) and you will soon glow with warmth as you tackle the slightly soggier moorland trails with a stiff breeze blowing. You will mostly be on your own on footpaths and in car parks - which are packed beyond full in summer.

And as a final bonus - accommodation prices are generally at their lowest in winter... I'll post a few winter pictures below (all taken by Sue). What are you waiting for?!!

Shower over Roskhill
Neist Point - just us... no-one else!!
Loch Harport and The Cuillin
Loch Harport

Friday, 19 October 2018

Another Trip South

Pressure of work makes it all but impossible to get away from Skye during the summer months, so it is over six months since I last made a trip south to visit friends and family. However, I am now on my way. I write this on day three of my journey. On Day One I drove through the spectacular autumn splendour of the Scottish Highlands to my first overnight stop in Peebles, just south of Edinburgh. Peebles looks like an interesting little town - a pity I did not have time to explore!

Just off Skye - Skye Bridge in the background
Blue skies over the Highlands
Peebles rooftops from my overnight stop
Day Two was a largely motorway drive to my second night stop, in a village not far from Nottingham - which is where I am right now. I shall leave here shortly to drive south again to meet my cousin Frances at her home in a village between Oxford and Aylesbury. It will be lunch with Frances, and then a further drive south to just by Southampton, where I will be spending a couple of days with long-term friends Sara and Rod.


I am now in Torquay, and have been here several days, following a lovely lunch and catch-up chat with Frances, and a most enjoyable visit with Sara and Rod. The weather in Southampton was unusually warm and sunny, so we were able to enjoy a walk through Hamble Country Park woodland to a path beside the River Hamble which led us to an excellent pub lunch in Warsash.

Sara, Rod and Lucy-the-pooch
Can this really be October???
When I arrived in Torquay, the first evening was lovely, but then the weather changed quite dramatically and became wet and stormy for a couple of days. Poor Puss was smothered in leaves and sycamore seeds, but thankfully, nothing bigger than small twigs were blown down locally. My friend Val is not able to walk far, but we did manage to get out a bit when the weather improved.

Dramatic sky over Teignmouth
I enjoyed a long walk along the sea wall
The autumn sunset view from Val's balcony
(A little later)

From Torquay, I had a short drive to my sister's home on the edge of Dartmoor to spend a short time visiting her and her beautiful dog, Sprout. (Yes - 'Sprout' is his name. No idea why). Sprout is only 18 months old, and absolutely as adorable as any young retriever can be. I have the paw-prints on my chest to prove this.

Puss is amused to observe a dog-training session
Sister Sue and Sprout
The next leg of my trip was the dull M5/M6 trek of nearly 400 motorway miles from Devon to my overnight stop in Carlisle.Thankfully, there were no significant delays today, and I was most appreciative of the supreme cruising comfort of Puss as the miles clicked by. There's no photos tonight - I am staying in a Premier Inn. Premier Inns all look the pretty much the same, and Puss is parked out of harms way round the back!


My last day was a shorter trip on near-deserted motorway from Carlisle to Glasgow, followed by the scenic twisty-bit via Stirling, Callander and Fort William to Skye. Unfortunately, the skies were grey, so the autumn colour was not as spectacular as I know it can be. There were still a number of tourists about, but Puss can dispatch a lumbering camper van pretty quickly!

According to the trip computer, my trip statistics are: Total distance: 1685 miles. Average speed 51mph. Average fuel consumption, 30.8mpg.

A pause by Loch Oich

Tuesday, 25 September 2018

It's a Wet and Windy Afternoon...

... so, with the ironing up to date, and Cupar-the-Collie dozing on his duvet behind my chair, I have been browsing through some of the hundreds of photographs we have taken since living on Skye. Looking at them certainly makes one realise just what a spectacular island this is, and also what a contrast occurs in the look of the landscape as the seasons pass.

We get a lot of interesting skies too (not today - it is a pretty uniform grey this afternoon...) so I'm posting a collection of 'Skye sky' photos here, all of them as the camera recorded them, and not enhanced for colour.  I think a few of them appear elsewhere in this blog, but I'm sure you won't mind seeing them again... (click on a picture for a full-size gallery)

We get BIG skies...

...and we get BLUE skies...

... and sometimes even BLOW-YOUR-MIND skies...

Monday, 17 September 2018


I realise that my posts about our new property in Strathpeffer may seem to have nothing at all to do with 'Skye Calling', so I apologise to blog readers who come here to read about the Isle of Skye. However, this blog is about the lives of Sue and I, and some of what we do in our new life after relocating to live on Skye - so of course, our venture into property ownership off the island is a very major a part of our lives just now.

In case anyone is wondering - we don't plan to ever live permanently in Strathpeffer, but the cottage will be a wonderfully located holiday home for us, and we will probably holiday-let it as well, if we can find someone to take on the turn-rounds.

Today, I am playing catch-up with my last post, and I offer a few telephone-photos of Strathpeffer village. I promise I will take my proper camera on future visits, and might then produce some slightly better images. But for those who have been waiting....

The Old Bakery is the white building on the left.
The road only serves a few houses, so there is very little passing traffic.
The large building on the right is Cromartie House.
The Old Bakery stands behind it.
The shops at the front were once the bakery shop and tea rooms
Strathpeffer Square - car parking and shops.
The large building beyond is The Highland Hotel
Strathpeffer Square
Shops include a general store, Post Office and pharmacy
From opposite The Square - Strathpeffer Hotel (behind the hedge),
Cromartie House beyond.
Strathpeffer Spa Pavilion
Fully restored, and now a busy music and theatre venue,
also hosting weddings
Strathpeffer -
Beautiful Victorian villas and lots of trees!

Tuesday, 11 September 2018

The Latest Project

Over the years that we have lived on Skye, Sue and I have become very accustomed to the harsh Skye landscape which features mist-swathed mountains, miles of empty moorland and a coarse coastline mostly comprising cliffs and rocky shores.

Just one and a half hours drive east of the Skye Bridge, the landscape is so much gentler. The hills are more rounded, there are trees and fields, and wide calm firths bring the sea toward the land. Even the climate is noticeably milder. When we very first visited the area in April 2003, we thought what a pleasant place this would be to have a home. And now, we have...!!!

In the beautiful Victorian spa village of Strathpeffer, we have just taken the keys to our latest acquisition. The property we have bought is named 'The Old Bakery', though it might better have been named 'The Old Garage', as my research has revealed that the building which housed the bakery has long-since been demolished. I believe our house and the adjoining flat were originally built, in the early 1900s, as a garage for the bakery delivery van and as store-rooms. The building which housed the bakery shop and tea room, and also provided accommodation for the baker and some of the employees, also still stands - now providing two shops on the ground floor, and privately owned flats above.

Here, should be some lovely photographs of the village that I took the other day in early morning sunshine. Unfortunately, I took the photos using my mobile telephone, and not being a mobile-telephone-person, I managed to leave the horrid device at the Old Bakery on our departure. So it will be a week or so before I will get to put those pictures on here. Just be patient!

However, Sue took a few photos during a lovely walk up the hillside from the village, that we enjoyed during our recent visit. Here's also a few pictures of the interior of the Old Bakery as it is at the moment... (Click on any picture for a full-size gallery).

On a circular walk - about a mile from our house
The fascinating 'Touchstone Maze'.
View from the path - Castle Leod roughly centre
The lounge just needs decorating... and furniture...!
Kitchen also due for a decorating make-over.
The tiles look better when you are there!
View from the kitchen window
Entrance hall
We picked up the dresser from a charity shop.
We also have a dining table now, from the same source
The decking is ours, as is the garden area within the fence,
but not the wooden box (which houses a central heating oil tank).
Garden will need a few well-chosen shrubs I think.