A Week in November – in pictures – Sweet!

November – a pretty dead month really. Guy Fawkes night then nothing ’til Christmas. Dark nights closing in, shorter and shorter days, cold nights, dull days – maybe even a bit of snow – if we’re lucky? Well we were certainly lucky this week!

Meanwhile across the Highlands towards Aviemore, daughter Hayley was modelling, and my favourite – in fact only rose was found to be flowering …. still.

By the next morning – the 23rd, it was snowing ….properly! Yes! Proper snow, here on the lawn, Thrilling!

The wildlife was pretty impressive too. Evidence of a Fox, Rabbit and loads of the resident birds too! Wish I had a photo of the Sparrow Hawk!

And so to the end of November……

And finally!

 

 

 

 

The week that was…

Last week was a week of events to say the least. Monday was terrible – weather wise. Rain – torrential, wind – gale force and then some. I was expecting my sis-in-law, Susan (Stuart’s full sister, … there are two stepsisters and  one step brother plus a half brother – big family) we are more like sisters than in-laws, have been since we met, which is great. Considering Stuart used to say,” if she doesn’t like you she’ll cast a spell on you”. OooooK!!!!!! That really eased my mind for our first meeting. But we got on really well from day one.

Right, so Susan was due at 20:30 which meant I had to collect her from Kyle off the train. Hayley, my step-daughter had arrived by 14:00 – she hadn’;t seen her Aunty Sue since the funeral in March,  and after sorting her and her mate Gemma out I  drove in what could only be described as storm like conditions to meet my sis. Scary or what! Lashing rain and gales made the journey to Kyle a bit of a nightmare to say the least. When I got there the tide was in. OMG talk about a swell! I have never seen the sea so high at Kyle of Lochalsh. You really felt it would come over the top of sea wall at any moment!

So after all that excitement on Monday evening, we all just chilled and gossiped all Tuesday morning. Hayley and Gemma spent the morning catching up with friends as they had to get back to Boat of Garten that evening. Then Sue and I dragged ourselves off to Carbost to walk the dogs, where there were still quite a few squally showers around.:

Had a nice wander along Glenbrittle Beach a couple of days later. It was cloudy but at least it was dry. Then a brief visit to Trien Cemetery to pay our respects:

Friday left me feeling a tad ‘down’ as I drove my Sis back to Kyle to catch the train to Inverness and the pattern of weather didnt let us down at all, oh no! Torrential rain as soon as we got to Kyle. So later, a visit to the vets to have Lila’s stitches out (she had to have a cyst removed from her face last week) resulted in a walk in the sheltered woods by the Aros Centre;

You can guarantee it though, no sooner had Susan left for “bonnie??!!” Manchester, the weather turned into exactly what we want in November…. crispy sunshine and glorious colours and …. well FAB!  It got cold…… and snow appeared on the tops for the rest of the weekend….

Glen Drynoch can be so tranquil in the Autumn:

Have you noticed, my life seems to revolve around my dogs these days? Its a mix of walks – wherever – visits to the Vets in Portree and whatever antics they are engaged in.  Here we go again, the Tali dog is wagging her tail frantically, its 17.20, almost time to her dinner. cheeky madam. Better go then!

5th November 2017 – Snow, sunshine and fascinating life on the beach

Snow! Not a lot but enough to be visible on the peaks of the Black Cuillin. By 9:15 this morning the clouds were lifting to reveal a  light dusting of the white stuff! Soon the sun was shining and from inside, where I was warm and cozy, it looked as if the pattern of snow before 7:00 (well it would have been there even if I couldn’t see it) and gone by 11:00, would be the order of the day. However, one sniff of the frigid air outside when I let the girls out for their morning ablutions made me think otherwise.

After pottering around indoors tidying my work room and being very structured and organised, I thought, “S*d this for a game of soldiers, I’m not staying in and wasting this beautiful day” so after checking the tide times, I gathered all the trappings for a trip out with the girls, coat (Lila’s), snacks, water, towel (for them), lunch (also for them), camera  (good grief its almost as bad a going out with toddlers) off we pootled to Fiskavaig Bay.

On arrival the tide was out and still on its way, perfect! There were “locals” gathering Razor Clams, carrier bag in one hand, tub of salt in the other, but other than that… no one. So I reckoned we had at least an hour before the post Sunday lunch guys came down to walk off their indulgences.

If you look closely, and don’t assume that what you are looking at is flora, you will soon see the fauna hiding in the pools, sand and seaweeds:

15:00  and finally we’re home, and guess what that dusting of snow is still evident  on the Black Cuillin:

then to top a grand Sunday off there was a very pretty sunset!

The weather man says its going to be wet tomorrow! Now there’s a surprise! But in the evening I’m collecting my sister in law, Susan, Stuart’s sister, who is staying for a few days. Tell you the truth she feels more like a sister to me. Can’t wait! Bring it on!

Friday 3rd November 2017 …… De ja Vue…… and then some

Woke up at 06:30 yesterday, heart racing. Again it was a Friday but somewhere in my mind it was a Saturday and that is where it begins. Immediately I am transported back to that horrible day in February when I became a widow! It’s a haunting feeling, empty and void of substance. Its impossible to get past and when it hits ….. it’s just as overwhelming! De ja vue can be a weird sensation. Don’t get me wrong, there are times when  this feeling of being somewhere before; that can be kicked off by a sound, a scent, or even the way the light touches the earth, can be special. It always makes my heart race, whatever kicks it off!

Yesterday was wet, and here in Glen Drynoch the wind was gusting. Yep! Even the weather was depressed.  However, doggies need their walk regardless, so off to Glen Eynort we went. Its one of the few places where there is sufficient cover and shelter to be able to walk without getting totally drenched or blown away on a day like yesterday. I know we’ve been here before but like the majority of the walks the girls and I go on, it is no more than about 20  minutes from home and there is virtually a 100% likelihood of no one else being there. Perfect for the mood I was in.

Autumn is in full swing now, so this forest is full of colour. Why “this forest”? Because, Eynort Forest, which merges into Glenbrittle Forest – well as far as the Forestry Commission plantation is concerned – has a large amount of well established woodland on its lower levels near Grula.

There are so many plants; ferns, mosses and shrubs including wild flowers still visible in Eynort Forest. In spring – its a riot of colour.

However, in my mind, Eynort Forest is most defined by the sound of rushing water. Primarily that of the massive falls of Allt Daidh which cascade from a lochan at the top of Beinn à Bhraghad in the very heart of the forest.

Then there’s the scenery, where there are gaps in the trees and from the bends in the tracks. Beautiful vistas across the glen, a nice “treat”, giving glimpses of the small crofting community at Eynort. Plus suggestions of other plant life before the Spruce, Larch and Firs were planted, and a hint at the larger wildlife that inhabits the forest – Deer!

Of course no blog would be complete without the “girls” and their mini adventures!

By the end of our walk I was feeling more upbeat. The soothing power of the great outdoors, bird song and oodles of fresh air should never be underestimated in my mind, and on Skye its abundant!

Monday 30th October – Red sky at morning – shepherd’s warning…..really?!

We’ve all heard this, its a saying from centuries back, it goes, “Red sky at night, shepherds delight. Red sky at morning shepherds warning”. Some say its an old wives tale that means nothing. Others swear by it, especially those you live in the country. It’s meant to alert us to the weather conditions we can expect that day.

This mornings sunrise woke me up – and when I peeked out of the curtains I was amazed! The brightest of skies, red,orange and yellow shot through the clouds which were glowing as if someone had got a giant paintbrush and painted the sky. It was almost as if the very clouds were on fire at one point! Absolutely stunning to watch.

Now up here on Skye a red sky doesn’t necessarily mean we are in for a wet day. Sometimes others get the wet or stormy day yet we somehow escape with maybe a few clouds and a stiff breeze. I suppose its one of the joys of living on an island. However, that red sky this morning really did mean we were in for a less than bright day. My walk with “my girls” started at 10:45 and as you can see something is definitely going on with the weather!

But the doggies didn’t mind the cold and the stiff breeze, they just wanted to get out and explore!

While I am typing, around 15:45, it has become very dull outside with a damp mist slowly spreading its soggy fingers across the glens. The wind has picked up too. Maybe today that red sky really did mean we were in for a rough day, although it took its time coming! Good to be warm and cozy inside right now!

A few days with family – What to do!

So my eldest daughter came up last week for few days with her partner and my grandsons. Weather was pants but there were a few hours where the sun shone so we did manage to get a few walks in, a trip to the Talisker Distillery, the Oyster Shed, Glenbrittle Beach and they just had to go to the Fairy Pools. Had dinner out at the Sligachan Hotel too one evening and even had a little episode with a cute little Wren which somehow made it into the house. Enjoy!

A late afternoon walk at Carbost to the pier:

Distillery Tour (Ed found it fascinating), Oyster Shed  for a seafood platter and oysters (unfortunately Julian doesn’t like Oysters) and an evening meal in Collies Bar at the Slig.

Portree Harbour and a lazy late afternoon walk at Crossal:

Fun frolicking at Glenbrittle Beach and The Fairy Pools:

A few of our favourite things:

The trick to a few days on Skye is to take your time and enjoy where you go and what you see. The weather isn’t always kind, but you can always see fascinating things if you just open your eyes and LOOK!

 

A Year on Skye – October 20th – Walking by Loch Beag

Didn’t have to get up early today which was a treat! Yesterday was lovely and relaxed too. After my last guest of the season had waved goodbye and I had quaffed a second cup of coffee, I co-opted my friend Carol to help me choose new settees for my sitting room from HHF (Harris Home Furnishings) at Edinbane (we have similar tastes so she makes an excellent sounding board). Found a very comfy pair of two seater leather settees in a mid grey/green that we both agreed would look amazing. So I ordered them – result!  We then went on to be “ladies what lunch” at the Edinbane Inn, stuffing ourselves with Cullen Skink (me) and fat sandwiches (Carol), quite delicious. After which, we walked over the road and shopped at the Edinbane Pottery.

A quick two minutes down the road and we arrived at The Hebridean Trading Company and learned all sorts of things such as: they teach Fair Isle Knitting and you get to sit in the comfiest chairs while your doing it. They sell amazing hand crafted items and of course my all time favourite – WOOL! mostly from their own sheep. I can’t wait to weave with it!

So today, after pottering around and getting the weekly shop in Portree, I took the girls (Lila & Tali) for a wander to Loch Beag, which is near Struan along the Dunvegan Road.

Despite the fact there are no trees just shrubby Gorse down this glen, there is fungi – quite a lot if it and some of it really colourful and delicate too!

So where were we?  You just have to guess from the photo’s to gain the location. Have fun!

And finally: These are a few of my favourite things collected from the beach on our walk:

A Year on Skye with few words but lots of pictures

This year starts on 18th October 2017 – a strange time to start you may think, but its the end of the B&B season for me so its the best time to start my year on the Isle of Skye. The target is to take lots of photo’s and add a few words about:

  1. weather conditions with occasional comparisons with previous years
  2. wildlife – birds, plants and fungi
  3. events – Glamaig Hill Race, Skye Half Marathon, Skye Games etc.

Some of it will be personal, some – not so much. Its going to be a year of new beginnings, new goals and adventure. Exploring new walks, revisiting old and trusted wanderings and visits from family. So here we go ……….

October 18th 2017

Its dry at least today, which if you have been living here for the past month, will be a definite plus. I have one guest in today and tomorrow, my last for this season, so winding down now. Its quite chilly but not as cold as it was in October 2011, the first year I lived here:

First snow on Black Cuillin 17th October 2011

The birds have been frantic to feed too, “swarming” all over the feeding stations. There are hoards of Sparrows, Chaffinches, Starlings around the feeders. Plus a load of other “returning regulars” Robins, Blackbirds, Great and Coal Tits, Dunnocks, Greenfinches, a family of Collar Doves (they’ve multiplied) plus our resident birds of prey the Sparrow Hawk and the ever present Buzzards. And last but by no means least the scavenging Hooded Crows. You’ll see lots of photo’s this crowd during the year.

A walk down near Glenbrittle was the highlight of the day, along a forest path beyond the Fairy Pools.

We were here. If you can work out exactly where we were from the photo’s then you can enjoy this walk too with a foray into the forest itself, simply by jumping over the burn:

A good walk with lots of interesting and varied Fungi. I can’t begin to name all the species, but s you can see they come in all shapes and sizes. It’s really quite fascinating to see so many in such a small Larch and spruce forest.

Today’s walk was also an adventure for Lila & Tali who spent a great deal of time hunting the abundance of tiny mice (they all got away – they were way too fast) that run and hide amongst the mosses and grass around the forest and its perimeters .

Lila & Tali hunting for mice
Absolutely shattered!

Some Place away from the Crowds

Visiting the Isle of Skye during the busiest months of the year can mean a bit of extra planning if you want to enjoy places without the addition of lots of people. So here are a few tips along with a couple of places that you might not have thought to visit that can give a “Wow!” for either the stunning views, or the way the light bathes your chosen attraction at a particular time of the day.

Touring the Trotternish! You only have one day, you want to get the most out of it but you hate crowds:

  1. Tour the peninsula in a clockwise direction – aiming for Uig first. The Faerie (Fairy) Glen is a spectacular attraction but sadly, not when its busy. It looses its magic amidst the abundance of people. So aim to get there before 11:00, that’s before the tour minibuses, or after 17:00 when most have left. If its a good weather day this glen will be truly magical late afternoon through to sunset.

    Fairy Glen with Castle Ewan – a fairy castle no less!
  2. Want to see the Quiraing? – try avoiding the road that cuts across the peninsula as this gets crowded and the car park is inevitably full. Follow the road over the top of the peninsula taking in The Skye Museum of Island Life, The Aird (check out  Harveys Map – Skye Storr & Trotternish 1:25 or Bing Maps)  and Flodigarry. You can park easily just past Flodigarry on the right hand side at the bottom of a marked path that will lead you to The Table. The path gains height quickly, is easy to use and best of all there aren’t that many people. Once back in your car you will travel past the Quiraing and see from the other angle, The Needle and The Prison without having to negotiate your way around lots of other tourists.
    The Table, Quiraing amazing views from here looking south

    Keep an eye on the weather forecasts and tide times. This way you can plan visits to various places such as An Corran Beach near Staffin to view the Dinosaur footprints and you will know if you are going to benefit from the fabulous views as you walk to The Table.

Visiting the Fairy Pools

Now there’s a destination everyone wants to see when visiting Skye. Why not time your visit to avoid the crowds? Try visiting late in the evening. Its not going to be totally visitor free but there will certainly be a lot less of them. Also the light is better in the late afternoon/evening as the pools are on the west side of the Cuillin. If it has been raining previous to your visit, expect to see them from a distance. Unless you want to get your feet wet, you may not be able to negotiate the two burns that cross the path.

Waterpipe Gully at the head of the pools
A turquoise pool in two halves

What to do when it rains Cats and Dogs!

Always have a contingency plan for poor weather. Its no good having a list of places you want to see, only to find that the cloud layer is so low or the mist so thick, they are invisible – Skye is not called the “Misty Isle” for no good reason. I would also suggest that you don’t assume that just because it is raining on one part of the Island that it will be raining everywhere! The mountains create their own weather, places away from the mountains are often drier and sometimes sunny.

Occasionally though it does rain simply everywhere, and for those times Dunvegan Castle, The Talisker Distillery, The Oyster Shed and Portree are more likely candidates for a visit than Neist Point, The Old Man of Storr or The Quiraing.

If you like local crafts, why not plan to visit the local Artisan Markets, and craft shops on the Island. There are a host of Art Galleries, there’s two Potteries -Edinbane and Skye (at Uig), There’s Skye Weavers, Skye Skins and several places to buy locally grown, spun and hand dyed wool. Check out the Tourist Information centre in Portree or the Information folder in your room for leaflets.

So what are you waiting for? Here’s your itinerary for your visit to Skye if you hadn’t thought to create one. Courtesy of Yours Truly! ENJOY!

Holiday on Skye – Just one full day (Option One) …

Many guests at my B&B in Crossal, come to this beautiful Island with no fixed plan of what to do whilst they are here.  So I thought, as my blog is accessed via our website, that it would be nice to give readers  a plan of action to take away the uncertainty and raise the excitement levels to soaring.

Background:

The Isle of Skye is located off the North West Coast of the Highlands of Scotland. Being the furthest north of the Inner Hebrides it covers a land area of 639 square miles (1656 km).  It’s an Island in the shape of an eagles wing radiating from its mountainous centre where the Black Cuillin stretch 3,258ft (993m) into the sky.

With five main peninsulas to the Island that makes for a lot of exploring, whether you prefer just a bit of sight seeing, hiking, climbing,  or taking to the seas.  In fact there are so many options, it’s hard to know where to start, but perhaps on reflection I should start with the most popular length of stay that my guests choose.  Two nights – that leaves one full day to explore.

In the summer months on Skye, i.e. May, June and July, the hours of daylight are many.  The sun rises in the north east at around 03:30 and the sky doesn’t go “dark”  until around 23:00, ample time to explore to your hearts content and even take in a fabulous sunset (weather permitting).  So after a hearty breakfast, why not opt for a day of drama and explore the Trotternish Peninsula – the largest most northerly part of Skye, giving the visitor a chance to experience a wide variety of sights and sounds, magic and mystery.

Your trip will take you north towards the capital of Skye, Portree, know locally as “the village”.

So here we go and the first inkling of the thrills to come as you near Portree from the south is the vision of the Storr away in the distance (if the weather is clear), its great pinnacle – The Old Man –  standing proud of the cliffs that soar behind.  Driving north through Portree and following the road to Staffin up the east coast of Skye the first real taste of drama occurs as the Storr comes into view once again at the head of Loch Leathan. There are a few strategic places (parking areas) where you can stop and take a photo or two, or to even just enjoy the view across the loch. However, once you have parked at the foot of the Storr a walk up the slopes is an absolute must as the views across Raasay Sound and to the mainland are spectacular and well worth the effort.

 

The magnificent Old Man of Storr
The magnificent Old Man of Storr
The "cathedral" rock by the Old Man that look remarkably like a great gothic gable end of a cathedral.
The “cathedral” rock by the Old Man that look remarkably like a great gothic gable end of a cathedral.
Perspective - standing by the Old Man - its a massive rock!
Perspective – standing by the Old Man – its a massive rock!

From here, drive north to experience the next taste of the drama that awaits you – Kilt Rock is your next destination.  A magnificent cliff where the contours bear a strong resemblance to the patterns of a kilt.  Parking is easy and passing through the gates to the viewing area you are greeted with the magnificent sight of a great waterfall gushing immediately below you to the swirling waves hundreds of feet below.  After rainfall this waterfall is truly spectacular.  Great Gulls swoop and glide in the thermals below the cliff on which you stand, drifting up – only an arms distance away – stunning!

Kilt Rock
Kilt Rock
Great Black Backed Gull soaring below the lookout area at Kilt Rock
Great Black Backed Gull soaring below the lookout area at Kilt Rock

As you proceed further north you pass through Staffin a small township with plenty to offer by way of refreshment, then off you go to your next destination, the incredible dramatic spires and cliffs of the Quiraing.  Walking just below the great cliffs that form the northern most end of the Trotternish Ridge, is a humbling experience. The views across to the mainland are breathtaking and the seas below stunning as they glisten in the sunshine.  Keep walking carefully along the path and you will arrive at the needle, the prison and the table all formed by the constant movement of this massive landslide over the course of thousands of years.

Quirang - taken on a dull day - but on a sunny day it is even more dramatic.
Quirang – taken on a dull day – but on a sunny day it is even more dramatic.

 

The Fairy Glen is your next snippet of drama – can you stand any more?  Of course you can you only have one full day after all and “Drama” is the theme.  You follow the road from the Quiraing toward Uig the main port to the Outer Hebrides and then after zig zagging your way down to sea level you proceed back towards the main town of Portree.  A few miles down the road you will see a white church balanced above the road to your left, a bus shelter tucked into a junction and an old sign that points you to Balnanock and Sheader. Follow this narrow road as it climbs and twists past crofts and fields.  You know when you’ve arrived, a myriad of tiny  pointed hills envelope you in a fairy world of brilliant greens, shimmering blue lochans and to top it all off a Fairy Castle – Castle Ewen.  It’s a magical place and the culmination of the highland drama of your tour.  Step out of the car and walk behind the lochan, following the pathway up onto the rise at the foot of Castle Ewen.  Massive waterfalls grace the cliffs across the opposite side of the glen.  Here there are fairy rings and tumbling burns surrounding you as well as the many pointed hills that mark this magical place.

Castle Ewan - a faerie castle at the Faerie Glen
Castle Ewen – a faerie castle at the Faerie Glen
Looking across the glen towards the waterfalls - even in winter it is dramatic and magical
Looking across the glen towards the waterfalls – even in winter it is dramatic and magical

Once you have had your fill of fairy magic, you drive to the end of the road and then retrace your steps returning to the main road and your next destination, Portree.

There are many more things to see on this mini tour of Skye’s Trotternish Peninsula, there’s the dinosaur footprints at An Corran Beach, the little museum just along the road from Kilt Rock  with its great trilobites and – if the tide is in and you can’t see the actual footprints then you can see an impression of them here.

You could go around the top of the Island passing Duntulm Castle, and the Skye Museum of Island Life at Kilmuir.  Basically your day can be as full of sights, magic and mystery as you wish.

Duntulm Castle - there's not a lot of it left now but it has belonged to the Macleods and the MacDonalds over the centuries before it was abandoned and fell into ruin
Duntulm Castle – there’s not a lot of it left now but it has belonged to the MacLeods and the MacDonalds over the centuries before it was abandoned and fell into ruin
Duntulm Castle looking across to Harris in the Outer Hebrides
Duntulm Castle looking across to Harris in the Outer Hebrides – what a magical place to live!

By now it is time to sample a little of Skye’s gastranomic bounty.  Grab a tasty fish dinner at one of the restaurants by the Harbour (Its a good idea to book these previously) or maybe you fancy sitting outside and watching the world go by at the Granary Restaurant  in Somerled Square.  In summer the shops in “the village” stay open until late so there’s even a chance to do a bit of souvenir shopping before tea.  What more could you ask for?