Friday, 15 November 2019

Another Birthday

They come along all too often. Sue had another birthday this week, and over the last several years, we seem to have developed a tradition of going somewhere that is new to us to celebrate.

For this year's birthday, as Sue had never set foot at John o' Groats, we chose to go to Caithness. We rented a cottage just a couple of metres above the sea shore in a fishing village 2 miles north of Wick. On our arrival - the weather was not great. Huge waves rolled in from the North Sea, blown by a fresh north easterly wind, and the temperature hovered just a few degrees above freezing.

We are bonkers, aren't we...???

Seashore Cottage - Yup - that's an appropriate name..
(Click on any picture to open a full-screen gallery)
But - we have the right kind of weather-wear, and Cupar is waterproof-ish, so off we trekked. We soon ticked-off the 'been there, done it' compulsory photo at John o' Groats. What a shame the iconic signpost has been vandalised and defaced by the attachment of hundreds of silly stickers deposited there by visitors.


Quite nearby, is the much less visited but far more dramatic and scenic Duncansby Head, and its nearby massive sea stacks. For some reason, I did not have my camera with me for this expedition. Sue may post some of her photos later.

Then we trundled on to the most northerly place on the UK mainland. We were the only humans (and dog) to be there at the time. Wonderful!


But Caithness is not all beauty. The landscape is mostly flat and tree-less. Fences, not hedges, line the roads and divide the fields. Most land is pasture for hundreds of sheep. The small towns of Wick and Thurso are lively enough, and are not suffering from closed shops and derelict high streets. However, the bulk of the housing for the local population is not pretty. Brown cement render is the finish of choice for most of the houses, and very few people attempt to nurture a garden. Out of the towns, and surprisingly - there are farms and houses everywhere. Many are derelict. Some are brand new. It is a weird mixture, and it is a bleak and featureless place to live. But the coastal scenery is just awesome, with castles (most ruined) sprinkled liberally along the cliffs, and for the serous archaeologist in you - you trip over standing stones, chambered cairns, stone rows, brochs and assorted other neolithic remains almost anywhere that you wander.

Here's a few more of my photos from our holiday...

Castle Sinclair Girnigoe - simply stunning
... and again, with the sun shining...!!!
Ackergill Tower - not a ruin, but a private residence
Castle of Old Wick - oldest castle in Scotland
Some of that awesome coastal scenery...
... and some more...
My wife, at Latheronwheel Harbour, Caithness.
Happy birthday Soozie!

Tuesday, 29 October 2019

Still In Love With Skye

Some of my recent posts in this blog may give a reader the impression that I am falling out of love with Skye. I will admit that the gentler landscape, kinder climate and easier access to services that we have at our little Strathpeffer cottage are appealing, and one day, I might like to own a larger property in the Strathpeffer/Dingwall area where we could live for some of our time, but Skye will for ever be our new-life 'home'.

Skye does everything in maximum drama-mode, far exceeding everything you can experience almost anywhere else in Britain.  On Skye, we get huge skies, huge clouds and stunning sunsets. We get a different landscape at every turn in the road - usually with water in the view as well.  We get huge jagged mountains and rounded hills - scenically snow-capped for several months a year. We get magic and faeries. We get huge weather, and the freshest and cleanest air. We get friendly residents and enthusiastic visitors. We get huge amounts of peace and quiet.

... and at a personal level - we have Roskhill Barn - cherished by us and lovingly re-modelled by us to be our 'perfect' home.

Our ten-plus years living here has never erased the gasp of awe at a sight of the spectacular Skye scenery, most especially when it is draped in long shadows of winter sunlight. Whenever I have been away, especially when I've been south to Devon and Hampshire, my heart beats faster when I return to again glimpse the Skye Bridge and the Cuillin Hills beyond. It is so good to be home.

Roag from Roskhill
As I mentioned in the first paragraph of this post - I am conscious that having a less dramatic place to live might be a sensible option for our older age, and we are in the most fortunate position where we may be able to work towards owning two lovely homes - one in the softer eastern Highlands, and one here at Roskhill.  But we will never be permanently parting from Roskhill Barn, and providing my little oak tree continues to thrive where I have planted it on the edge of the allotment, then when my time comes, my earthly remains will be scattered around it, and I will then very contentedly rest on Skye for evermore.

Thursday, 24 October 2019

Becoming an 'Eastern Softie' ??

In this blog, I occasionally tease as 'Southern Softies', those who languish in the balmy south and issue weather warnings as soon as gentle rain falls for more than half an hour, or the breeze rises above 20mph. And don't you risk venturing out if one centimetre of snow is forecast, let alone if any flakes should dare to fall!

We Skye dwellers are made of tougher stuff.  When a torrential wall of rainwater comes horizontally into your face driven by storm force winds of 70mph or more, we think about bringing in the washing. We keep two sets of waterproofs draped over the (permanently on) heater, so that there is a chance that one set will have time to dry before you need to pull them on again.

But.....

Since we have owned our cosy little bolthole in Strathpeffer, I am beginning to really take to the significantly calmer conditions and kinder climate to be found here in the shelter of the strath. Strathpeffer is actually a little further north than our home on Skye, but is on the far gentler eastern side of the Highlands.

I am in The Old Bakery today (our Strathpeffer cottage), here to meet a double-glazing surveyor, coming to measure-up for our new windows to be made. I left Skye yesterday afternoon in our normal storm-force wind and lashing rain, and by the time I had driven about half of the very scenic 110 mile journey, the wind and rain were left behind, glimpses of blue sky could be seen between the clouds, and the sunlight was glinting through the yellow and gold of the autumn foliage.

I really could get used to this softie living....

Skye....
Strathpeffer...

Saturday, 12 October 2019

Back To Brown

Aside from a few areas of improved land, mostly close to townships, the greater part of the vegetation on Skye is heather moorland. The improved land may well have once been cultivated - to grow potatoes or maybe oats - but today almost no-one grows crops on a large scale, and any surviving improved grassland is used for grazing sheep. Nomadic sheep and cattle also graze widely on the natural open moors.

So - with the bulk of Skye vegetation being of the moorland variety - spring brings forth a fresh growth of vibrant green shoots and a spectacular variety of wild flowers. The nomadic grazers soon remove most of the more obvious flowers, leaving the remaining predominant vegetation as grass, rush and heather. All of these plants are green (or green-ish) for about five months of the year. The heather flowers in September, providing a pleasing interlude of purple before winter begins.



Come October, the taller grasses have already turned ghostly, the heather has finished flowering, and the deciduous dwarf moorland trees and shrubs are losing their leaves. The landscape turns gold for a short but spectacular interlude. The leaves on any birch trees go yellow before they fall, and areas of bracken glow gilded in the scarce sunlight. A bright October afternoon on Skye is a wonder to behold!

But then, for almost six months, Skye is brown. The landscape sleeps, shivering beneath sombre skies and winter winds.

By day, the human Skye residents pull on their waterproofs and carry on with life. Come the evening - stoves are lit, and the dog does its best to push itself between you and the fireside - and maybe you let it win.

Brown is a wonderful time of year!



Monday, 9 September 2019

A Murder at Roskhill

Only a few days ago I spotted a sparrowhawk lurking among our bird feeders. At the time, I thought that the bird was an inexperienced youngster, as to me, it seemed pretty unlikely that a juicy plump great tit would flutter towards the peanuts while Master S. Hawk was in the locality. Here's a picture I took at the time...


However - hunger no doubt drives a rapid learning curve in young sparrowhawks, and this morning, one of our local blackbirds ended up as breakfast....

Sue and I did not witness the dreadful deed itself, but we were able to watch the perpetrator pluck, dismember and devour the victim. And here is the evidence. Just the beak, and this pile of feathers remained. A sad end for one of the many local blackbirds, and a nice full tummy for the sparrowhawk!


Friday, 30 August 2019

Self Catering Cottages on Skye

Glancing back through this blog, it seems that very few of my posts say anything about the 'day job'. So here's a post about what I do when I'm not on the allotment, or walking Cupar, or taking photos...

The first property purchases we made on Skye - way back in 2005, were Rowan Cottage - an old sea-shore cottage, and Aird View - a modern bungalow. These were both bought for holiday letting. Sue and I still lived in Kent at the time, and were very fortunate to have friends on Skye who were willing and able to look after the cottages for us, and take care of the turn-rounds between visitors.

Rowan Cottage
Aird View
We moved to live on Skye in 2008, when we bought Roskhill Barn. At the time, the Barn was arranged as two separate apartments, so we lived in one and let the other as our 'bed and breakfast with a difference' - the difference being that we provided the guests with ingredients for their breakfast, which they then cooked for themselves.

Over time, we bought a further cottage - Loch View - and more recently had the Barn rebuilt as one house (so there's no apartment to let here any more). We also sold Aird View and bought Summer Cottage - a lovely old croft house just a mile from our home at Roskhill. This still gave us three cottages to manage.

Loch View
Summer Cottage
Time moves on, and holiday trends change. Demand was increasing for shorter stays than the traditional week or fortnight, and we were among the first Skye cottage owners to offer 'short breaks' throughout the summer. This has proved very popular, and is now the way most visitors book these days. Of course - it makes more work for us, so to reduce the work-load, Rowan Cottage was sold.

Unlike me - who retired from paid employment when we moved to Skye, Sue is still working. She is employed as a home carer with NHS Highland. Her job is nominally part-time, but keeps her pretty busy, so it is my task to handle all the cottage affairs.

We have always looked after all our own marketing, bookings and enquiries, and I have done the same job for a couple of other cottage owners for several years. It takes a surprising amount of time on the computer each day, especially when there are questions to answer. These days, it is rare to take a booking through our own websites, as most visitors use Online Travel Agencies to choose their holiday accommodation. Booking.com and Airbnb are probably the most popular OTAs serving Skye right now. They charge fees of course, but they have a global market, and a big bonus is that they handle all incoming payments, which takes a big chore off my hands.

As to the cottages themselves - we accept bookings for a minimum of three nights with any day start. I keep a close eye on bookings, and by closing a cottage for arrivals on a particular day, I can usually avoid having two turn-rounds on the same day. Having any-day starts means we occasionally get a night or two when a cottage is vacant. That's fine - it's nice to have a bit of breathing space, and allows time for some 'deeper' cleaning or a minor repair job.

A regular turn-round consists of changing beds and lots of cleaning. The vast majority of visitors are respectful of our cottages, look after the places during their stay, and leave everything tidy on departure. But every turn round, I open the door tentatively, knowing that just occasionally I will find a scene of chaos, with washing-up still waiting to be done, cushions, pillows, towels and bedding scattered all over the floor, the bins overflowing and a greasy mess on the hob and in the oven... Thankfully, such a scene is very rare. But believe me - it does happen... Interestingly, Airbnb has a policy of encouraging landlords to write reviews of their guests, and it seems to work, as I have not yet had any kind of tidiness issue with any of our visitors who have booked through Airbnb.

Another of my tasks is look after the cottage gardens - this is mostly just a grass-cutting job. This is fine when the weather is OK, but a period when it is dreich for days on end can make things more challenging. Then there's the maintenance. Inevitably, things get broken from time to time, so I carry a pretty comprehensive tool kit to every turn-round. One quickly learns that cottages get a bit of a tough time from visitors, so anything fixed to a wall needs to be attached with fixings twice as strong as you would use in your own home. Then we had a period when we got through a lot of kettles. But mostly, and thankfully,  household appliances seem to be pretty robust these days!

Finally - there's the laundry. Our washing machine here at the Barn gets pretty constant use, and for the most part, we dry linen and towels by hanging them in our utility room where a dehumidifier runs for hours on end. Towels then get a 'fluff up' in the tumble drier, and I get onto the ironing of all the bedding.

After all that - I get to work on the allotment, walk Cupar, and take photos...!!

Wednesday, 14 August 2019

So Tiny, So Beautiful

I need to return to a topic I wrote about a short while ago - Skye's wild flowers. I was bemoaning the fact that there seemed to be fewer wild flowers blooming year-by-year. Maybe I was a little hasty with that post, as we have had a wonderful summer of colourful roadsides, with, currently, the knapweed, doing spectacularly well.

I will add, though, that I saw only a couple of common spotted orchids this spring, and I've only seen one single spear thistle locally, to the chagrin of our chaffinches, who love to eat the seeds. They are not exactly rare elsewhere however!

My daily morning dog-walk takes me along a mile or so of the local road. While the moors, which are grazed by only a thin scattering of nomadic sheep, are all but bare of our common wild flowers, the roadside verges are akin to a wildflower nature reserve. Here is the road just along from the Barn - look at all that knapweed...

... and the grasses are shoulder-high.
(Cupar looks a bit bored). 
Today, I decided to take a closer look at some of the flowers. The delicacy and daintiness of the most common of flowers is quite spectacular. Being tiny is clearly of massive importance to these plants. Maybe there is a lesson for us all there somewhere? Forget the bigger picture, it's small things that matter most.

Just one knapweed flower - of thousands!

Ever taken a close look at a roadside flower?

How dainty is the meadowsweet - and it smells wonderful too!

Friday, 2 August 2019

Roskhill Birds

My last post here was largely negative, so I thought this time I would be a bit more cheerful. Here's a post about the bird and baby bird situation in and around Roskhill.

My desk (and computer) stand just inside a ground floor window, with, only a few feet outside, our bird feeders hanging on the branches of a tree. The tree provides safe cover for a multitude of garden birds, and we keep the feeders stocked with peanuts and fat balls.

We don't attract any rare or unusual species, but the feeders are extremely busy, and our visitor list is quite long. I'm not a twitcher, so may miss a few, but at various times of the year, in the garden, we see:

  • house sparrow
  • dunnock
  • wren
  • starling
  • blackbird
  • song thrush
  • chaffinch
  • greenfinch
  • goldfinch
  • blue tit
  • great tit
  • coal tit
  • robin
  • siskin
  • blackcap
  • wagtail
  • collared dove
  • rock dove

Locally, but almost never in the garden, other birds we often see include:

  • meadow pipit
  • sedge warbler
  • wheatear
  • redwing
  • mistle thrush
  • swallow
  • cuckoo
  • snipe
  • curlew
  • lapwing
  • heron
  • jackdaw
  • hooded crow
  • raven
  • buzzard
  • sparrowhawk
  • various seabirds (I'm not good at identifying seabirds...)!

...and very occasionally a golden eagle or sea eagle will overfly. Just a couple of times, I have seen a hen harrier over the Roskhill moorland.

Now as for nesting birds - our garden has a number of shrubs and trees. Then we have two nest boxes which are favoured by great tits, and the Barn has various holes and gaps in the roof and soffits. These locations all provide good homes, and this year in particular we have been delighted to see a big increase in numbers of breeding house sparrows. The starlings, blackbirds and great tits have been very successful too, and the robins have done especially well (three different families managed to tolerate each other to bring off broods at the same time).

It is not difficult to spend too much time looking out of the window...

Just one on this occasion - a blue tit.
 Often there are at least half a dozen birds at this feeder at the same time.

Sunday, 21 July 2019

New-builds on Skye

Another 'plot for sale' sign has just gone up in Roag. Roag is where our Summer Cottage stands. Ten years ago, there were around 18 houses in Roag. There are 29 now.

At the height of summer, with the roadside grasses waving in a gentle warm breeze and a crystal blue sea sparkling in the midday sun, it really isn't difficult to understand why people fall in love with Skye. There can be few who would question that Skye is a sensationally beautiful place.

No surprise then, when some visiting people think how nice it would be to have a house here. Well, I'm just about OK with that, too. I'll assume these people have thought about all the many pitfalls, like winter, for example... and how Skye is a very long way away from everywhere...

But, not put off at all, these people look for a house. They are not going to live in it of course - just come and stay in it from time to time. They don't like the houses that are already here. They are all far too pokey and have funny sloping ceilings and even open fireplaces. Oh that won't do at all. 'There are dozens of building plots for sale - we'll have to have one built'.

I now move into history-lesson mode...

Skye residents in the 1800s lived in crofting communities. These communities were known as townships, and are not at all like the nucleated villages found in England. A Skye township would typically consist of a dozen or more crofts. Each croft was an area of land, maybe as little as a couple of acres, to as large as maybe twenty acres. The resident of the croft (the crofter) would build their home (croft cottage) on their land, and they would use the land to grow crops and keep a cow or a few sheep to keep the family fed. This results in original croft cottages usually being quite a long way apart from each other, and a crofting township can stretch a mile or more along the township road.

Time moves on.

Crofting on Skye still happens today, and the Crofting Commission proudly upholds many time-honoured practices regarding land use. However - though sometimes a legal nightmare, croft land can be de-crofted. This means a crofter can sell off a building-plot-size piece of his land, and the Highland Council - keen to uphold the Scottish Government's desire to 'repopulate the Highlands', seem all too willing to grant planning permission for almost anything to be built almost anywhere, gradually filling-in the large gaps between original cottages with new builds.

This is Breakish, in South Skye, photographed when I had a helicopter trip over Skye in 2011.
Here, each croft is a strip of land which would have gone right to the shore.
Notice that almost every croft has at least two houses on it now.
Returning to our 'people'...

They buy their 'ideal' building plot with sea view.... 'It was so cheap'...  not noticing that it is six miles down a single-track road, has smelly cattle standing up to their knees in the bog just next door, and is at least a mile from the nearest water main or electricity supply. Never mind, a £££ few thousand soon sorts out the services. and rural smells are what it's all about - right? Shame about the single track road though... Planning permission is easily sought, and yet another monstrous 2-storey, 5-bedroom, 3-reception room, housing-estate-style mansion gets built.

How this kind of building 'fits in' with the local environment or 'compliments' existing housing defeats me - but the planning people say that's what it does.

Our 'people' now come and stay in their new house for a few weeks in late spring, when the wind is chill, the mist is low on the hills, and the persistent drizzle patters irritatingly against the huge double glazed windows.... 'I'm not so sure I like it here'...

And another unwanted, un-needed, ugly new-build goes up for sale...

Monday, 1 July 2019

Visitors from the Softy South!

It's a loooong way from the softy south to Skye, so we really don't expect many of our smog-smothered friends to take a break from their stressed-out lives to fight their way through the traffic jams and head north to visit us.

Mostly, Sue and I are content to keep up with our southern friends by travelling ourselves to visit them. We are OK doing this, as we are comfortable in the knowledge that we will soon be escaping from the southern heat, pollution and crowds and coming back home to our peaceful little patch of heaven on earth.

But last week it was a HUGE delight to welcome to Scotland my long-time friends Sara and Rod (plus pooch, Lucy). They stayed at the Old Bakery in Strathpeffer for most of their visit - because our cottages here were already booked before S&R planned their visit. But we were able to put them up at Summer Cott for just one night during their stay, so they had an all-too-brief 24 hours or so on Skye.

As it happened, their visit happened to coincide with one of the warmest days we have had up here for years, so they now wonder why we spend so much time talking about the cold, wind and drizzle.

I do hope their short visit will have spurred them on to consider coming again in the not too distant future. We might be even able to lay-on more typical weather next time!

With Sara, Rod and Lucy on the Roskhill allotment
Note the sleeveless shirts and cloudless sky....

In search of a cool walk, we headed into Dunvegan woods

Cupar expresses his disdain of Lucy

Saturday, 15 June 2019

Where Have All The Flowers Gone?

I walk Cupar the Collie along the same local roads every day, so am very aware of the growth of new vegetation on the roadside verges every spring. In 2016, I wrote a post in this blog, in which I commented that there seemed to be fewer wild flowers than usual. This year - there are hardly any.

When we first lived at Roskhill - some 10 years ago -  it was a delight to see the masses of white, yellow and purple wild flowers that flourished everywhere one looked. Today, while the grasses are as lush as ever, some of the formerly familiar flowers are absent altogether, and only bluebells (now dying back) and foxgloves (just opening) seem to be doing as well as ever. But the masses of ox-eye daisies have gone, as have the carpets of birds foot trefoil - with just a few small scattered patches of these flowers. I am yet to spot a spear thistle, white clover or a common spotted orchid, and while there are a few marsh orchids - they are a fraction of the size they used to be.

So, what has happened? I am no scientist - just an observer - but as we notice a reduction in wild flowers, so have we noticed a reduction in flying insects, and I presume the insects pollinate the flowers. So, no insects = no flowers. We are not killing insects here as the result of crop spraying or intensive farming. This surely has to be an effect of global warming.

Some reports say we have 15 years to reverse the effects of climate change. I say, we are already far too late. I was forecasting the end of the planet more than 50 years ago. My decision to never father any children was because of my vision of the future. I never expected to see the end happen so suddenly, and almost within my own lifetime.

Of course - the planet itself will survive. Indeed, once the human race is out of the way, nature will recover very capably. However, man's interference - by exterminating many species, genetically altering others, and relocating plants and animals to places they should never have been, will leave a planet-wide legacy that will be a change for ever.

Homo Sapiens is supposed to be an intelligent race. How wrong we are.

Common Spotted Orchid, Roskhill roadside, 2014
None here, 2019


Saturday, 25 May 2019

The Dorrell Oak


Eight years ago, I planted an acorn in a pot. It germinated, and in the first year, produced just two leaves. Three years later, I planted the little seedling oak tree, which now had several leaves, in what I judged to be a safe place for an oak tree to grow to maturity within the garden area of Roskhill Barn, just above the river gorge, and close to a few existing mature sycamore and beech trees. On windy Skye, trees growing together in this way give each other some protection from the winter storms. I think my little tree is now doing well enough to introduce it to the world.

But first, a little slightly off-topic history -

In May 1935, my Great Grandfather, James Dorrell, being the oldest resident of his village at the time, was given the honour of planting a tree in commemoration of the Silver Jubilee of King George V and Queen Mary. Watched by the entire village, a tree was planted by James on the edge of the green in the tiny village of The Lee, near Wendover in Buckinghamshire. No plaque was ever erected to mark the significance of the tree, and although as far as I am aware, the tree is still there – no-one is likely to be aware of its significance. Here is Great grandfather James at the tree-planting ...

James Dorrell, The Lee, Buckinghamshire
Planting the Jubilee tree
Now maybe it is because of this little bit of my heritage, or maybe it is because when once asked, “If you could come back to earth after death, what would you come back as”? I decided I would like to be a tree... But I also like the idea of planting trees. I’ve planted a few here and at our other cottages, but the Dorrell Oak, I hope, will become ‘special’.

Providing my little tree continues to flourish as it has done thus far, I have decided that when my time comes, I would like my ashes to be scattered beneath my little oak, so that its roots may take up just a tiny bit of me, and I will indeed then be back on earth as a tree. I will also make a request in my will that a plaque be erected by the tree to give its date of planting, and by whom.

Who knows – my tree could still be there in 500 years time. It’s a nice thought!

Coming into leaf, spring 2019 - The leaves are quite yellow as they open.
The sticks are there to remind me not to strim too close!
In context - the tree has a lot of growing to do!


Saturday, 11 May 2019

Allotment News - Spring 2019

Gosh, it's been  a long time since I have updated this blog with a post about the Barn allotment!

I promise I haven't been ignoring the plot. It is as healthy as ever, though last spring we had a visitor in the shape of Mr Bunny who took a fancy to every fresh green shoot that appeared from the beans and peas - so we only really had root vegetables last year!

This spring, in wonderful weather, I have prepared all the beds and have now planted most of the seeds. There's nothing to see growing in the photos yet, but I'll post a couple below anyway. I might wait a while before planting the carrot seed, as it won't germinate if we don't get a bit of rain. Not often I find myself wishing for rain...!!!

This picture shows pretty much the entire allotment.
I must remind Sue to get busy and do something with some of that rhubarb!
This is the area I like to think of as the 'wild garden'.
It was VERY wild a few years ago, but tamer now. The blue is bluebells.
I have planted what will become a hedge between the allotment beds and the 'wild' part.
I've also planted some trees among the vegetation on the left.
Beyond that, is a virtually sheer drop of about 30 feet into the gorge of Roskhill River.
Our land extends to just beyond the gorse bushes.
It's just the main road and open moorland beyond our boundary.

This is looking towards the Barn from the gorse bushes in the 'wild garden'.
The little road that serves the few houses in Roskhill runs between the Barn and the allotment.
The Barn faces to the left, with its gable-end alongside the road.
The buildings behind the Barn are not ours.
Click on any picture in this blog to see it full-size.

Friday, 10 May 2019

When is the Best Weather on Skye?

Quick answer - April and May.

Longer answer - yes, visit Skye in April and May, but bring thermal underwear just in case!

I am inspired to write this post because we are enjoying the most wonderful spell of settled calm, sunny weather at the moment  (and as it happens, it was much the same weather this time last year). It is just wonderful to be working on the allotment or walking Cupar in warm sunshine with the bluebells twinkling and a sparkling sapphire sea in the distance. I have almost forgotten where I have hung my waterproofs.


We enjoy a maritime climate here on the north west coast of Scotland. That means the weather is always unpredictable. As a broad over-view, I would suggest our weather is almost always chilly, often wet, and also usually windy.

Statistics will show that May is the driest month on Skye. But statistics also show that on occasions, May has been the wettest month in that particular year....!!!  But the spring brings other benefits -  the wild flowers... an often-blue sky and an even bluer sea... and a dawn chorus that you don't mind being waken up by...

Daylight hours are longest in June. In mid-month, dawn is at stupid o'clock, and it is still fully daylight at 10.00pm. You don't get to see the stars in June.

View from Roskhill - 10.00pm - 21 June 2010
The 'Longest Day'
The busiest tourist months of July and August are usually the mildest months - but don't plan to sunbathe. Come in mid summer and you are still likely to need your waterproofs, and I would suggest packing your thermal underwear too... just in case... (oh - and don't forget the midge repellent...)

Then, of course - you might like snow. We don't get a lot of snow around the coast of Skye (which is where most people live). though the higher hills usually have snow-cover for much of the time between November-ish  and March-ish. If you REALLY want winter snow - you are better off heading west and inland to the Cairngorms.

Sunday, 21 April 2019

Easter Heatwave?

Happy Easter everyone!

Are you all enjoying the wall-to-wall sunshine and near-record-breaking temperatures as you sip your Pimms while the barbecue sizzles?

We're not...



As seems to happen all too often, about 90% of the UK basks in beautiful weather, while the very north western islands-edge of Scotland sits under a veil of cold, swirling, drizzly cloud.

We have had this for over two days now. It's been full waterproofs, scarf, hat and gloves for the dog-walks. The temperature has soared to the dizzy maximum of about 8C. We still have the central heating going. Just occasionally, the mist has lifted sufficiently so that we can actually see the sea - as in the photo above, taken this evening.

But... just as also seems to happen from time to time - you lot in the softie south will soon be getting wind, rain, hail and thunder when our weather becomes benign, and we relax into calming days of blue skies and the song of skylarks. Well - maybe...!

Ooh - and while I'm here, just to record - the cuckoos have returned here a couple of days ago.

Wednesday, 27 March 2019

Broadford Co-op

Excitement doesn't happen all that often on Skye. Spotting a pot-hole repair team at work is the number one top highlight, but second to that is the re-opening of Skye's busiest (and only 24-hour) petrol station following a total re-build. The work has been completed in an incredibly short space of time, minimising the inevitable disruption to local people, businesses, and even the emergency services.

This smart fresh petrol station is in Broadford, adjacent to what may be the ugliest supermarket in Scotland in one of the most scenic locations. The supermarket is also being totally refurbished along with the petrol station, and a new entrance and wall cladding has been added, which prettifies the building a tad.

That really IS pretty exciting for us!

Supermarket-wise - the Co-op continues to have a monopoly on Skye. There are two other Co-ops on the island, both in Portree, but no other supermarket has a base here. However - Tesco operates a very popular click-and-collect service, with its vans coming over from Dingwall. Shoppers have to meet the Tesco van in pre-arranged locations.

Supermarkets aside - a number of tiny independent village stores do a fantastic job of supplying a very wide range of food and other essentials to the island's small and far-flung communities.

Broadford Co-op - before refurbishment

Broadford Bay - the Co-op is rather prominent...

The new petrol station - opened today

For anyone who may be interested - I have posted a number of pictures taken during the refurbishment on Geograph. Please follow this link: https://www.geograph.org.uk/snippet/19136

Tuesday, 19 March 2019

How Dark Is Dark?

You get used to the status quo.

Sue and I take Cupar out for his late night walkies every night, and without a thought, we clad up in whatever clothing is appropriate for the weather at the time, then we pick up the torch. It's just what we do.

On the rare occasions when there is a clear sky and a big moon, the torch may not be needed. But mostly, the darkness is total.

However - on a clear, moonless night, especially in winter, we will often find ourselves standing motionless, gazing heavenwards, in complete awe. How can there be so many stars? And then the Milky Way paints a pale, glittering stripe across the blackness. How big is the universe? How small can we feel?

That's dark!

Just recently, I have been spending quite a few nights at The Old Bakery in Strathpeffer. There are lit-up houses here, and street lights. It still gets dark, but it's quite a different darkness, and it is quite reassuring to be able to walk with some confidence that you can see where you are stepping.

But given the choice - I'll take Skye-dark every time!

That little dot at the bottom is The Barn
No caption needed...!

Saturday, 9 March 2019

SOMEONE SPECIAL!

We lost someone very special last week here on Skye.
We had to say 'Goodbye' to our very dear friend, confidante and Auntie
- Anne Nicholson.
I first met Anne and her lovely husband Roy in 2013 through Home Care.

The happy couple at home on Roy's birthday on 1st September 2015 .....
I made a banana and walnut cake to celebrate!

They were both completely dedicated to each other
and nothing was too much trouble for Anne - 
as she always cheerfully made Roy's later years as comfortable as possible.


Very sadly Roy passed away peacefully in his sleep
on Friday 11th November 2016.
Anne was bereft but out of her enormous grief
there blossomed an amazing strength and a will to carry 
on with her life for a while.
With encouragement we managed to persuade her to venture out 
into the outside world again.......

Anne contemplating tackling Afternoon Tea at Skeabost House Hotel in 2017!
She absolutely loved it too......

Anne also came to our home at Roskhill Barn 
for Christmas Dinner on two occasions -
the first in 2016 and then again last December 2018.
Both times she thoroughly enjoyed her time with us.

Anne, myself and Cupar, our potty pooch
by our er...... miniscule Christmas tree in our lounge at home -in 2016.

We also managed to tempt Anne to come out and about on occasions.
She, our friend Shona and myself popped over to The Stein Inn 
for lunch a couple of times, - enjoying the beautiful coastal scenery en route.....

Shona and Anne smile for the 'cameraman/chauffeur' in The Stein Inn,
after enjoying an extremely satisfying soup and sandwich lunch....in Summer 2017.

Anne admitted to me one day back in 2017 just how
much she had enjoyed our tea at Skeabost House together several months before.
As a surprise I took her there the following year on 12th September 
as a belated birthday treat.
The photograph below is my favourite one of her....she looks so contented....

Anne sitting by that wonderful roaring fire at Skeabost just before
she made VERY short work of an amazing Afternoon Tea!

My final photo is another of Anne with her beloved Roy 
taken way back in 2014. 
It was Anne's own personal favourite and simply illustrates 
the closeness and love this devoted couple both enjoyed.


Thank you Anne for all the kindness and love 
you gave to everyone who had the pleasure to know you.
We all miss you so much.  
******