Sunday, 12 March 2017

Trips South

Almost all ‘incomers’ to Skye will have friends and family somewhere else in the UK or in the world. As Skye is a long way from everywhere, it can be a bit of a trek to keep in touch with everyone. But for us, it is an important part of our life here. I know I’ve mentioned before that, three or four times a year, Sue and I both make trips to the south of England to visit family and friends. These days, Sue takes the train, while I prefer to drive. I bought my fabulous Jaguar XK with the specific thought that it would be the ideal car for my regular long road trips.

Puss just above Glencoe.
The main road was clear of snow.
I am just recently returned from one of the most enjoyable visits south that I can recall. The weather and the traffic were on my side. I encountered a bit of snow on the way down, but the roads were OK. I didn’t meet a hold-up anywhere in 1,700 miles of driving. Puss, my Jaguar, is indeed purrfect for the journey, and the miles flash by. On my way back, for my overnight stop, I enjoyed one of the best B&Bs I have ever encountered. I’ve already booked to stay there again in June, when Sue and I will have a three-night mini-holiday there.

Big  comfy bedrooms at
Wallamhill House B&B, Kirkton near Dumfries
View over the garden from front bedroom
Wallamhill B&B, Kirkton, near Dumfries.
Even better still, I was happy to catch up with my sister and brother-in-law, who are both turned 70, but remain fit and in good health. I was also delighted to meet again with my niece and nephew and their families, all of whom seem happy and enjoying life, with Jeremy, my niece’s husband, having some especially good news about a new role he is shortly to undertake in his work-life. Well done Jez!

During my trip, I was even able to meet up with a couple of Jaguar people and make a visit to the excellent Haynes Motor Museum near Yeovil.

Puss makes friends at Haynes Motor Museum
As for friends – my dear friend Val, in Torquay, does not always enjoy the greatest of health, but certainly looks better when we meet in person than she sounds on the phone – maybe I should visit her more often…? And I always have a great visit with Sara and Rod near Southampton. Rod will be fully retired next time I see them in July. You will love it, Rod – I promise!

Sara, Rod and Lucy-the-Pooch
Peninsula Barracks, Winchester
For Sue and me, being able to regularly travel south to visit our family and friends is very important to our happiness here. But be sure – having been south for a visit, as we travel back into the Highlands, and see the hills of home ahead, we know for certain that we did the right thing by making our new life on the Isle of Skye.

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Skye In Pictures

Readers of this blog may not have stumbled upon my other Skye blog - Skye In Pictures - so this is a plug. As the name suggests, Skye In Pictures contains mostly photographs - taken by me and Sue over the last few years. Each post has a theme, and I try to post a new picture gallery every two or three weeks. The tab under the heading banner on this page is a link to Skye In Pictures, or you can click here.


Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Allotment News - I Plant A Hedge

It's been a while since I posted anything about the Roskhill allotment. The fact is, I have had a couple of very mediocre years on the plot, when the results of my labours have been disappointing - to say the least. Lat year in particular, the only seed that produced a crop above the ground were the mangetout peas and broad beans. Underground - the potatoes and carrots were OK, and we had some rather small onions, but other than that - everything else failed. I don't know why. The weather did not seem to be especially different to usual - in fact, the 'growing' month of May was quite mild and dry. Strangely - I had a problem getting seed to germinate - even the kale and swede, which are Highlands staples!

One suggestion from the locals is that by removing a tatty windbreak fence, I have opened up the plot too much, leaving the land exposed to the chilly winds. I like the look of the bigger space without the fence, and I have gradually 'tamed' the jungle that used to grow on the far side of it - it looks lovely in spring as it is full of daffodils and bluebells.

But - if having a windbreak may mean a return to rewarding vegetable production, then a windbreak I will have to have. However, I have decided to go the natural route, and this winter, ordered 30 metres of windbreak hedging shrubs from a nursery which claims to supply plants suitable for a harsh coastal climate... Over the last couple of days, I have put them in the ground, and yesterday they experienced their first Skye storm - the Met Office reported we had winds gusting to 70mph... so that was a sharp lesson for them, and hopefully they will soon get used to the conditions where they are growing!

I'll be buying seed soon, and will report here on how the allotment season goes. Wish me luck!

This was in 2010 - with windbreak fence on the left.
I had just taken over the allotment,
and was in the process of clearing the weed-filled beds

2015 - without the fence, and with bluebells flourishing

And now - with the new hedge planted

Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Leaving Skye

No...!! Don't panic!! We are here for the rest of our days - this post is about how we travel south to visit family and friends...!!

Sue's Mum, now 86 years old, lives independently in her bungalow in Ashford, Kent. Sue travels south for a fortnight every three months to stay with her Mum, and also to visit her sister (in London) and numerous other friends in the Ashford area.

When we first lived here, Sue would make the journey by coach - Portree to Glasgow,  Glasgow to London Victoria, and train out to Ashford. The cost was reasonable, and Sue coped with all the bouncing-around in the coach as it raced through the Highlands... but one time she tried the train... This was better! I now regularly take Sue to Kyle of Lochalsh (our nearest station) where a little train trundles Sue to Inverness where she boards the Caledonian Sleeper overnight to London Euston. These days, Sue then takes a tube to her sister Helen's where she picks up a car that we share with Helen and drives it to Ashford. This means Sue has use of a car while she is in Kent.

Sue tried flying down just once. The cost is not hugely different to travelling by train, but the hassle of being at Inverness airport at the right time, and then getting from Gatwick to Ashford, and having little room for luggage (unless we paid extra) all proved too much to be bothered with. So for now, the train is the way for Sue.

As for me - I travel south three or four times a year. I visit family and a friend in Devon (Okehampton and Torquay), friends in Hampshire (Hedge End near Southampton) and a cousin near Oxford. I have always travelled by road, and for years, have coped with the 700-mile each-way journey with one overnight stop. I have made it part of the trip to try a different bed-and-breakfast every time I travel. I've also tried a few different routes, and I usually take my overnight break somewhere in the border country. I have to say, over the years, I have enjoyed visiting many small and interesting border towns including Gretna, Langholm, Hawick and Lockerbie - places so many tourists dash past without a second glance. I would really like to get back to Jedburgh and Melrose some time in the future, too.

Now, however, even in my super car, the experience of sitting on ever-busier roads for pretty much two whole days at a time, is beginning to become less and less fun and more of a chore - to the point when I am considering taking to the air for at least one trip in 2017. I can fly direct from Inverness to Bristol, where I will hire a car to do my visiting, and drive rather fewer miles. I feel it is worth a try. If the journey proves to be relatively hassle-free and I enjoy the trip, then maybe... just 'maybe', Puss will be staying in her garage when I go south in the future....

Kaged Kat