Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Storms on Skye

As I write, Storm ‘Frank’ is wreaking his wrath over our island. Once again, we are experiencing winds that will blow you over if you are not fleet of foot, and floods of horizontal rain are battering relentlessly against the windows. I’ve just been out with Cupar for his late night ‘walkies’. It is as black as a pot out there. Without a torch, I would have to rely on Cupar’s nose to find the way back home – and we are only walking 400 yards on the local road!! Thankfully, we made it safely back home… Storm proof clothing is pretty effective, at least for a 10-minute dog-stretch, and my waterproofs are all now set out to dry, ready for their next outing. Cupar is stretched-out, steaming, by the stove.

‘Frank’ is our sixth storm this winter. Each storm has brought huge amounts of rain, and winds at times gusting to more than 70mph. This kind of weather does not make a line in the national news or weather programmes. Here, it is considered too ‘normal’ to be ‘news’ – though in fact we would not normally expect more than a couple of storms of this ferocity each winter…

However, neither the storm-force wind nor torrential rain is a threat to life here – not human life anyway – though I have spotted a dead sheep on the nearby moor – poor thing. Tonight, we experienced our first extended power cut of the winter – but even this lasted only a couple of hours. Almost all the electricity supply across Skye comes via overhead lines supported on wooden poles, so occasional line breaks are inevitable. However, the power-line guys do an amazing job of fixing faults in the very worst of weather. Big thanks to you, guys!

Our local river has a relatively small catchment area, and the rain that falls here gathers quickly and then rushes to the sea through a deep gorge, so we are not at risk of flooding. Our buildings were designed and built to cope with the wind. We may lose the occasional roof tile, and chimney cowls may not survive too long, but mostly our houses are secure. Our trees are amazing. We have some mature Sitka Spruce on the side boundary of the Barn garden, and a small woodland of Sycamore, Beech, Larch, Scots Pine and Sitka on the edge of the river gorge. Somehow, all the trees hang on through every storm, rarely losing as much as a branch. Mostly, I think they are growing close enough together for their roots and branches to inter-twine, so they support each other. Together, they afford the Barn some useful shelter, which I am sure is why they were planted!

So, we shall go to bed tonight with the wind howling round the house and the rain beating on the windows - yet again. And then, I suspect, all of a sudden, everything will go quiet. The weather changes so quickly here. Within 15 minutes a raging storm can became a peaceful winter night. Never know - I might even get a decent photo of tomorrow morning’s sunrise…!!!

Thursday, 17 December 2015

More Bonkers Weather

Sorry to be harping on about the weather again, but this winter is getting silly... December started with day after day of torrential rain, mostly accompanied by very strong winds which reached storm force one night – that’s 60 – 70 mph.

Eventually, that all died down, but then no more than 24 hours later, the Skye freezer had been turned up to maximum and we woke to windless sunny skies and a thick frost over everything. It had been -5C during the night, and daytime temperatures reached about +2C. Apart from the icy roads, this is pretty much perfect winter weather. It’s easy enough to wrap up warm, and it’s lovely to see the sun – and the Skye scenery!

But we had just two days of that, and now it’s all gone dull and drizzly again, and the temperature is up to at least 10C. I’m holding my breath wondering what we might expect next...

'Proper' winter weather on Skye

Thursday, 10 December 2015

What A Difference A Day Makes!

There I was yesterday, saying that I wish the rain would stop, and here I am today...

...well, not only has the rain stopped and the wind died down to a gentle breeze, but, the sun is shining...!!!

Here's my attempt at an 'atmospheric' photo taken this afternoon through a rather dirty upstairs window (I can't see the sea from my study window - it is hidden by the garden shed)!


Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Relentless Rain

I'm not one to moan about the weather. You don't move to Skye and expect wall-to-wall summer sunshine or regular crisp frosty winter mornings. But just now, I am beginning to wish that it would stop raining...!!!

The rain we have been experiencing for the last several days is accompanied by some pretty strong winds too - like 60/70 mph at times - so the raindrops are driven horizontally and sting if they hit you in the face. It is a challenge to get waterproofs dried out quickly enough so that they are comfortable to put on for the next trip outside. You don't have to be outside for long to have them streaming with water again.

Thankfully, we are under no threat of flooding here. Most of Skye slopes, either gently or steeply, and at the bottom of the slopes, rivers and burns often flow in deep gorges. Currently, the Roskhill River, which flows in a forty-foot deep gorge just beyond my soggy allotment, is roaring down to the sea in full spate.

No outdoor photos I'm afraid, but here's the view out of my study window this afternoon... usually, I can see MacLeod's Tables in that grey space beyond the moorland.

.

Thursday, 3 December 2015

Another Stunning Sunset

I know I post quite a lot of sunset pictures in this blog, and my only excuse can be that we are blessed with a whole lot of stunning sunsets!

Tonight (or, more accurately, 'this afternoon' - as this was about 3.30pm...) I looked out of my study window here at the Barn, and was aware that some very fluffy clouds had arranged themselves very prettily over the sea beyond Idrigill Point, and the sun was setting behind more fluffy clouds over MacLeod's Tables... (click on any picture to enlarge it).

Late afternoon, Idrigill Point. 03.12.2015

Sunset over MacLeod's Tables from Roskhill Barn
Within no more than ten minutes, the whole amazing heavenly light show had re-organised itself to produce this...

Sunset from Roskhill Barn, 03.12.2015

But Cupar was in need of his late afternoon walk, so I had to stop gazing at the sky from home, and drive three miles to one of our favourite walkies spots on the shore of Loch Dunvegan. By the time I had done this, the sunset had put itself into top gear, and we had our walk bathed in eerie red light, which I am not able to capture with a camera. But the loch and sky looked like this...

Loch Dunvegan, Isle of Skye. 03.12.2015
Just awesome!



Saturday, 28 November 2015

We Take A Little Holiday

The visitor season is over for this year, Sue's car was due a service in Inverness, and a good Inverness hotel was offering excellent-value two-night breaks. It therefore made perfect sense for Sue and I to take a little holiday!

We don't take many holidays together - Sue uses much of her time off work to go to Kent so see her Mum, and I travel to Devon two or three times a year to see family and friends. So going away together is almost a novelty! This time, we decided to put Cupar into the local kennels (for the first time ever), so we wouldn't have him to worry about.

We set off on Wednesday morning, dropping Cupar of at the kennels on the way. We arrived in the Inverness area early enough in the day to take a wander at the bizarre and almost spooky Clootie Well near Munlochy.  We then visited a carpet shop and have chosen carpet to be laid on the stairs and upper floor at the Barn - we'll have the Barn finally finished soon! We had time for a visit to B&Q as well - Wednesday is 'old folk's discount day' and there's always something to buy!!

The Clootie Well - "Hope hangs in the trees here.
Every one of the cloots around this well is a token,
left by someone who wants a wish to come true"
We stayed at The Royal Highland Hotel, built in 1854, an original and grand 'Station Hotel', standing alongside Inverness railway station in the centre of the town. The popular 80-room hotel retains much of its original Victorian character. We've stayed there before, and know service to be first class. That evening, an excellent dinner at the hotel, including a free bottle of wine, was part of our all-inclusive package.

The next day, we delivered Sue's car to the Citroen garage in Inverness for its first routine service, and then drove off in a courtesy car. This car was a Citroen C4 Cactus - a vehicle that is packed with typically Citroen quirkiness, and interesting to try out. Certainly, it is innovative, modern, 'different' and spacious for its size, but I have to say I find Sue's little C3 to be more nimble and have more 'go'.

'Our' C4 Cactus
We set off to spend the bulk of our day exploring Fort George. This is an extraordinary fortification, built in the wake of the Battle of Culloden (1746) as an impregnable base for King George's army. The fort took 21 years to build, and its amazing defences have never been tested. To this day, the Fort remains as an army base, currently being the home of The Black Watch 3rd Batallion The Royal Regiment of Scotland. The soldiers in barracks go about their daily tasks while visitors poke about and take in the atmosphere of the place as well as enjoying the many exhibitions, audio tour and museum exhibits that are housed within the fort.

The outer ditch, which could be flooded if necessary, is surrounded by gun emplacements.
Parade ground and barrack blocks
The Lieutenant Governor's House, now housing the Highlander's Museum 
It was a bit chilly on the ramparts...!
No, I haven't changed my hairstyle, I was wearing a hood! 

For our entertainment that evening, we had pre-booked tickets at the multiscreen Vue cinema to see 'The Lady In The Van', which tells the true story of Alan Bennett's strained relationship with an eccentric homeless woman whom Mr Bennett befriended in the 1970s before allowing her to temporarily park her van on the driveway of his London home. She stayed there 15 years... The film stars Maggie Smith in the title role, and Alex Jennings as Alan Bennett. We found it strangely moving and rather sad, and would recommend it.

After the cinema, we ate at JD Wetherspoons in the town centre - not our first visit, and it won't be our last - there's such good value to be had there!

Next morning, it was another hearty breakfast before doing a bit of shopping then heading back to Skye, collecting Cupar on the way. He was pleased to see us, and very muddy, but otherwise seemed to have suffered no problems from his kennels experience.

So there we have it - a pretty packed few days, and a thoroughly enjoyable break away from routine. We must do it more often.....!!

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Autumn 2015 - And More Of Sue's Phone Photos

The all too brief Indian Summer that we enjoyed here for the last few weeks seems to have left us now. Last night we sat in our cosy lounge at Roskhill listening to rain beating against the window and wind whoosing round the chimney - definitely Autumn sounds...!!!

In daylight this morning, all looks much the same outside - if a little soggy. I don't think we are going to get a long period of colour-changes this year. The heather, which usually turns the hills purple in September, did not flower well, and the bracken and ferns are still pretty much in full summer green, so they will probably die back very quickly as the colder weather arrives. Some local trees are shedding leaves, but the moorland remains almost the same colour as it has been throughout the chilly summer we have just had.

The dramatic changes in vegetation, light and colour are one of the reasons we take so many photographs. On a dark winter evening, great pleasure can be had from browsing our photos taken in spring and summer - reminders of what has been, and what will be again.

As an example of our photo archive, I'll post below a few more of the hundreds of photos I recently downloaded from Sue's phone - all pictures taken by Sue.

Garden at Roskhill Barn, June 2015
Dunvegan poppies, June 2015
Loch Harport from Carbostbeag (close to Loch View Cottage), July 2015
Foxglove and MacLeod's Tables, July 2015
Oxeye Daisies and the Cuillin from Roskhill, July 2015
Sun, mist and a rainbow, Roskhill, August 2015
Sheep, Loch Mor and Waterstein Head, September 2015

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

The Skye Magic Isn't Fading

When we first moved to Skye, we would often gaze in awe at the sky, the sunsets, the sea and the stars, and we wondered if we would ever become complacent and numbed to the beauty of this magical place in which we live.

Well, we've lived here over seven years now, and with weather like we've had today - and Sue and I both agree on this - Skye remains the most sensational place on the planet - the magic is not fading at all.

 Here's a few photos taken today during Cupar's evening walkies....



Thursday, 8 October 2015

Sue's Evening Walk (Video)


The memory card in Sue's phone became completely filled with photos, so I have downloaded the whole lot (over 500 of them) onto my computer so I could delete them from her phone. Sue often takes pictures while en route to her care calls - which can be very early in the morning - so she gets to see sunrises and cloud and light patterns that most of us miss, as we are still in bed. I'll post some of her best pictures on another day. 

Sue also takes pictures when out on her walks with Cupar, and a couple of times, she has taken a video clip. I'm posting one of her videos here. Enjoy!

video

Sunday, 4 October 2015

Cupar, our Collie

I don't say much here about Cupar, though he occupies a fair bit of our time. He was a 'rescue', so we're not exactly sure how old he is, but we guess he's now about six. In the four years or so that we have had him, he has become an extremely loyal and loving pet. He is also very lively, and loves to play with his tennis balls - he has quite a collection. To keep him occupied, he gets four walks a day, plus occasional play sessions in the house. Sue and I share the walks, but between us, I guess we are out with Cupar upwards of three hours per day, every day, come rain, hail, sleet, snow, wind, plagues of frogs.... Here's a picture I took yesterday while we were out on the shore of Loch Dunvegan...

Cupar above the shore of Loch Dunvegan - can you spot him?
And then I had a go at video... this one's a bit fuzzy. I will try again soon...!

video


Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Autumn Skye

The longer we live here, the more certain I am that the most atmospheric and spiritual period of time on Skye is the early autumn. The natural vegetation noticably begins to change colour in late September and just sometimes, the weather settles to a gentle calm. Many of the tourists have gone home, so with there being fewer people about, if you hold your breath, you can hear nothing at all. The silence is deafening!

The last few days, the weather has been just perfect. The clouds and light have given us the most spectacular displays of shapes, patterns and colour. And when it comes to sunsets... well, here's just four of my recent photos... (click on a picture to view full-size)

Monday - Skye on Fire!
Monday again - from The Barn front garden
Tuesday - Summer Cottage is in this one, just right of centre
Tuesday - The Misty Isle

Thursday, 24 September 2015

Owning Self Catering Cottages on Skye

There’s hundreds of self-catering rental properties on Skye. Many are the sole rental property owned by a crofter or householder who has been able to build a cottage on their own land. Some are holiday homes owned by absentee landlords, who may come and visit a couple of times a year, and a few are owned and run as small businesses – as is the case with our ‘SkyeHolidays’.

We bought Rowan Cottage - our first cottage on Skye - some ten years ago, soon afterwards adding a second to our ‘portfolio’, which we have since sold in order to buy Summer Cottage, which is located conveniently close to our home. Eight years ago, we bought the Barn, which was then arranged as two separate flats, which we also let for a year or so before moving here to live in one of the flats ourselves, and then letting the other as our successful ‘Bed and Breakfast With a Difference’. More recently, we bought a third rental cottage, Loch View. I also market and handle bookings for a couple of cottages which we don’t own. These (below) are our own cottages (clicking on the cottage name will open the individual cottage website) -

Rowan Cottage
Loch View
Summer Cottage
These are our 'partner cottages' -

Trotternish Cottage
Bothan Aonghais
We operate our little business entirely ourselves, coping with all the enquiries and bookings, turn-rounds and gardening, as well as occasional decorating and maintenance. We only employ outside help for very occasional tasks that we are not able to do ourselves. Additionally – we use the services of a professional accountant to handle our annual tax returns.

So, in ten years of trading, we have amassed a fair bit of experience as self-catering rental operators, and in that time, have not had to face too many unexpected hardships or surprises. Initially, we were told to expect 12 to 15 weeks of bookings in a year, though we easily exceeded that – possibly partly thanks to my fortunate purchase of the skyeholidays.co.uk website domain name, which has always performed well in internet searches. We used to be anxious in the early part of each season, when bookings would come in slowly, but we have learned to be relaxed about it, as the weeks will mostly fill eventually. We have moved with the times, and now offer short breaks at two of our own cottages, as these prove very popular. Today, we generally reckon to be pretty much full from April to the end of October, and also get occasional winter bookings.

We have also started using an international booking agent for one cottage – you will find Summer Cottage on Booking.com. This involves us paying quite a steep commission on their bookings, and we have raised the rental price for the cottage to partially cover this cost. Although new to the rental market this season, the cottage has been full all summer, and has future bookings into November as well as some for next year already, so using a booking agent has paid off in this case.

At the outset, we heard occasional horror stories about the damage some visitors can do to a property, but thankfully, we have never suffered major damage ourselves – and I quickly learned I needed to fix things like door handles, towel rails or shower screens very securely…! In your own home, you will know of any loose fittings, and will handle with care, but in a holiday let, everything has to be ‘bomb-proof’! All the same, we consider our rather expensive accidental damage insurance to be a wise back-up, in case the worst should ever happen.

For the first few years, just about all of our visitors came from the UK, and many of our visitors were retired couples looking for a ‘home from home’ for a week in new surroundings. In the last couple of years though, more and more younger people are staying in our cottages, and we are seeing a big increase in overseas visitors. Obviously, using Booking.com exposes Summer Cottage to a world-wide market, and the majority of our Summer Cottage visitors are from overseas.

Our varied and changing clientele has shown up some interesting trends in the way people treat the cottages. Our earlier older visitors were very respectful of everything, and looked after everything just as they would in their own home, leaving the cottage neat and tidy on their departure. Younger visitors seem to have rather less respect, and it is not unusual to arrive at a cottage to do a turn round after a youthful group have been in residence to find the place very untidy. Most European visitors, however, are wonderful and clearly clean and tidy the cottage very thoroughly before they leave. Also, as they often only stay three or four nights, they tend to eat out at least a couple of times, so the hob and oven stays cleaner!  In our experience, it is thankfully very rare to find a cottage left in a really filthy state.

So, would I recommend being a holiday cottage landlord? Yes, I would. The initial capital outlay is considerable, and after maintenance and running costs, the net income from just one cottage would not make you rich. But the workload is certainly less demanding that that for the B&B operator, and you can sit back with a fair degree of certainty that the value of your property will gradually increase while it is providing you with a useful income.

Saturday, 19 September 2015

Back home on Skye

I returned to Skye yesterday evening from a short break in England, visiting friends and family. The usually spectacular road journey through Scotland was somewhat spoiled this time by finding myself driving amid long convoys of cars, camper vans, coaches and the occasional lorry. Late season holidays are clearly becoming more popular!

However, once home, Skye put on a perfect sunset light show to welcome me back, and this morning dawned with a lovely temperate inversion trapping a thick a layer of mist over Roag.

Evening from Roskhill, 18 Sept 2015
Morning mist over Roag, 19 Sept, 2015

Friday, 14 August 2015

Summer Weather

Talk to pretty much any Skye resident, and the opening topic of conversation will be the dreadful weather we have had here this summer. It has been continuously chilly - temperatures have not gone above 15C, and we have barely seen the sun at all. Rainfall hasn't been dramatically more than usual, but the lack of growth of everything in the allotment is testament to how poor growing conditions have been.

Visitors are philosophical  - they just wear extra layers and continue to point their cameras in the direction of the Cuillin, though their pictures will only be of  the thick bank of cloud where the Cuillin would be on a fine day. Then they can tick off 'visit Skye' and dash on to their next destination, where maybe things will be a little warmer.

It can be a bit tiresome for us who live here though. I'm not one to bother too much about the weather, and the long wet winters don't get me down, but now we are having to prepare ourselves for the coming winter following on from a long grey summer. A bit of summer sunshine would have been nice!

However - yesterday, we had just that. A beautiful, dry, sunny, calm Skye summer day. And suddenly, all that is so wonderful about Skye in summer was there to enjoy - and there was even a wonderful big evening sky to end the day.

But it's damp and grey again this morning....

Evening sky from Roskhill


Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Barn Works Update - Kitchen Finished!

With Sue away visiting her Mum, I have at last had the chance to 'close down' our kitchen and tile the floor. Drying time for the tile cement was 48 hours, so I tried to be organised, and moved some of the food, plus the kettle and microwave, but still managed to forget several items. I solved this problem by crawling round on the worktops and reaching down into cupboards. Washing up was performed on my knees using a bowl in the bath - not an experience I am in a  rush to repeat.

So now, with the new tiles grouted and plinths fitted, I can declare the kitchen to be fully finished.

In the rest of the barn, there's still quite a bit of decorating to do, plus the hall floor to tile (which will have to be done in two stages, so we can get in and out...!!!) but I am slowly getting there!

The new kitchen at Roskhill Barn

Monday, 3 August 2015

What’s it like to LIVE on Skye?

So, you’ve been here on holiday. It was summer, when the evenings are long and the grasses are high and full of wild flowers. The sun shone and the sea was breathtakingly blue. The scenery was magnificent, and you saw eagles and seals and deer, maybe even an otter. Skye is magical. It draws you in. So you glanced in the estate agents windows and saw that prices of pretty little cottages are not as high as you expected. But then you wonder - what is it actually like to LIVE here…?

This is a topic I wrote about a while ago in this blog (24 November 2009...) (click on this link, opens in new tab/window...) http://skyecalling.blogspot.co.uk/2009/11/do-you-fancy-living-on-skye.html

Now that Sue and I have lived on Skye several more years, my advice is still very much the same – think long and hard before selling up and relocating to here in the far north. Here’s some further information you might like to dwell on (all personal views of course).

Good things about Skye:

  1. It is beautiful. Even having lived here for several years, we still sometimes stand and gaze in awe at the light, colour and dramatic majesty of this wonderful place.
  2. It is quiet. Even in the peak tourist season of July/August, there is never a traffic jam on Skye… apart perhaps from when the Council have their road repair gangs operating a convoy system past their road works…or maybe when you are stuck behind a line of three or four Italian-registered camper vans, swaying along the middle of the main road at 35mph…. In winter, it is very quiet. VERY quiet.
  3. It is healthy. There's no pollution here. The air is so fresh and clean that long-haired lichens grow thickly on every available tree, and the hill and coastal scenery is so good that every time you go for a walk, you have to go on that extra mile or two to see a bit more of it.
  4. It is safe. We don’t have gangs of rowdy youths wandering the streets. Theft and burglary is very rare, physical violence even rarer. There may be an occasional drunken local lurching his way home after a few too many drams in the bar, but that’s about as bad as it gets.
  5. It is friendly. Skye is fundamentally a very big village. Live a few years here, and you will get to know a lot of people – at least well enough to wave to when you pass them on the road. (And if you don’t know them, you wave anyway – in case they know you). People look out for each other, and have time to stop for a chat. Basically, they want to know all about you and will tap you for all the latest gossip that you picked up from the last half-dozen people you spoke to. They will then pass-on everything they have heard (with embellishments) to the next person they meet. What they can’t remember, they will make up. When it all gets published in the West Highland Free Press (local paper, and 75p – not free) it then becomes completely true. Skye myths and legends are a legend in themselves.
  6. Summer. In mid-June Skye never really gets dark. The moorland is green with waving grasses, and unimaginable numbers of wild flowers are in bloom everywhere. Occasionally, the sun shines all day and the moorland is dry enough to walk on without sinking up to your knees in the bog.
Less good things about Skye:

  1. Shops – there aren’t many (which some may consider to be a 'Good Thing'). Forget about trying to buy much in the way of clothes or furniture or white goods here. It’s the long trek to Inverness to buy a new pair of shoes or a few rolls of wallpaper. (Inverness is three hours drive - each way - from our part of Skye)
  2. Prices. Everything you buy in the shops has to get here from a long way away, so everything costs more than in more urban parts of the UK. The Co-op is our only supermarket, and there are only a few petrol stations, so competition to keep down food/fuel prices is very limited.
  3. Age. The resident population of Skye is too old for lasting sustainability. The relative lack of younger adults means that there are not many children here. (Some may also consider this to be a 'Good Thing')! The island’s primary schools have very low (and falling) rolls, while the sole Skye secondary school currently has just 530 pupils on roll – so that will be pretty much the total number of 11 - 16 year olds on the whole of Skye. 
Bad things about Skye:

  1. Weather – It is cold, wet and windy in winter, and (usually) cold, wet and windy in summer too. Yes, there are occasional days when the sun shines and puffy white clouds dot the blue heavens, but all year round, any day can bring leaden grey rain soaked skies and the wind will be chasing its tail round the house.
  2. Winter. Winter lasts from September to April. From August, the hours of daylight get noticeably shorter and shorter until at times on dreary driecht days in mid-December it never really gets properly light at all. In winter, the moorland goes a bleak shade of brown and the hills are often swathed in mist, which can be quite atmospheric - especially if you like brown, and mist.
  3. Housing/Heating. The cost to buy a house here is probably around the national average - £200,000 will just about buy you a 3-bed house, but at that price - don’t expect a sea view. In Skye weather – a high level of maintenance is crucial. Walls, render, paintwork, gutters, roofs – they will all need constant attention, and can cost ££££s. Once you have bought your house, you then have to heat it, and because it is mostly pretty cold here, plan to have your heating at least ‘ticking over’ throughout the summer and at full blast in winter. Here, it is very popular to run a wood-burning stove in the living room, and then just wear lots of extra clothing everywhere else in the house. There’s no piped gas on Skye, so the choices for total home heating are, in order of cost: solid fuel/wood: ££££; oil. ££££; calor gas: £££££; electricity: ££££££.
  4. Distances. Everywhere is a long way. From our home to our nearest supermarket is about 21 miles (and 21 miles back again). There are plenty of places more remote than us. To live on Skye, budget for driving at least 10,000 miles per year just to do the shopping, visit the dentist and doctor, and for the occasional visit to a film show or live act at the Portree Arts Centre. That’s a lot of wear-and-tear for your car, plus the cost of the fuel (at inflated Skye prices). The nearest proper shopping is in Inverness – a 160 miles round-trip from the Skye Bridge, plus however far you live from the bridge. It is more than a four-hour drive from the bridge to Glasgow, and five and a half hours from the bridge to the Scotland/England border at Gretna.
  5. Friends and family left behind. If by moving here, you are leaving behind close friends or family, then you must accept that you won’t be seeing them again as often as you used to – it is expensive for you to travel south to visit them, and they won't be enthusiastic about traveling such a long way to see you, in what they will perceive as that dreadful dark, cold, wet, brown place that you have moved to.
  6. New Builds. Almost everyone who owns a few acres of land (and here, that is a lot of people) is now offering a chunk of it for sale, usually with planning permission for the erection of a dwelling house. I suppose this is just a move towards getting Skye to be as fully populated as it was in the mid 1800s, but I personally hate seeing new-builds under construction, especially in the more remote locations. But - if you are thinking of a new-build, do not forget to factor in the cost of connecting power and water, or the potentially huge cost of transporting building materials all the way to NW Scotland. Have you thought about renovating and maybe extending an existing derelict house? Definitely a better way forward!
So - my best wishes to you all. Please do come and visit! Marvel at the lifestyle, landscape and wildlife, but please think long and hard before uprooting your present lives and making a move to live here. I look forward to receiving your questions and comments!

New Wheels For Sue

Sue’s little black Corsa has been with us for three years now. It was two years old, with 20,000 miles on the clock when we bought it. Sue has added some 47,000 additional miles in our three years of ownership, and I am delighted to report that the car has behaved well throughout, and cost us nothing other than fuel and regular servicing during our ownership. It has a tiny 1248cc diesel engine, and the trip computer has shown the fuel consumption to have been 66.1mpg during our three years. The car recently passed its MoT test, but with a couple of ‘advisories’ for things that will need attention soon. I already knew of a couple of other pending issues, so the decision was made that we would part with it now, before having to spend money on it.

We made the marathon trip to Inverness about ten days ago, spending two days there looking at a wide range of nearly-new cars, and trying a few of them.  I was hoping to persuade Sue into a slightly larger car than the Corsa, as I feel that a larger car would be better suited to the high mileage she does for her job. But Sue was insistent that she ‘didn’t need all that space’. So, to cut the long story short, we ended up with a choice between an ex-demonstrator Skoda Fabia 1.6TDi-105ps Elegance with 4,000 miles on the clock, or a pre-registered but brand new Citroen C3 1.6 e-HDi Airdream… and coming out some £1000 cheaper to buy, Sue chose the Citroen.

I don’t fully understand the policy of pre-registering cars and then offering them for sale at massive discounts, but many of the dealers seem to be doing it, and we certainly have benefitted. I feel very sorry for anyone who pays close to full list price for a new car though. Our discount from new amounted to over 30%.

I collected the new car from Inverness yesterday. It was interesting to drive the Corsa over there, and come back in the new C3. Almost as soon as I set off back, it was apparent that the C3 is a better car in every way than the Corsa. It is smoother, quieter, more comfortable, more powerful, rides better, steers better and is even cheaper to run - on arrival back at Roskhill, the odometer was now showing a total mileage of 140, and the trip computer showed my fuel consumption to have averaged an impressive 76.3mpg. Even the road tax is free! In short, I was quite delighted with our purchase, and once again wonder why Citroen cars are so often under-rated. You don’t see many C3s on the road, whereas Corsas are everywhere. 

Here’s our last picture of the Corsa, and the new C3, today (in the rain)! The C3 will get Sue’s S200SOO number plate in a few day’s time, when the transfer process has been completed.

Sue has loved her little Corsa...
...and I'm sure she'll love her new C3 too

Thursday, 16 July 2015

Summer at Roskhill

Apologies for my long absence to any regular readers of this blog - now that the Barn works are completed, and the summer visitor season is at its height, I have rather too many demands on my time, and I'm afraid this blog is one of the first things to be set aside for 'I'll do that later'...

So now, with a little spare time on my hands, I'll attempt a quick update- which will also hopefully give a flavour of what summer at Roskhill is like for me and Sue.

Firstly - here is the barn this morning -

Roskhill Barn, 16 July 2015
I have now completed the painting of the front, and am half way down the larger gable end - so I've done the skews and top of the wall - which are the highest bits which I am not so keen on doing, as teetering on the top of what feels like a very tall ladder is rather outside my comfort zone!

Inside, I have completed the decorating of our bedroom and the new downstairs bathroom, and have also tiled the bathroom floor.
We don't have two beds - that's a mirrored wardrobe on the right...!
No much to say about a bathroom!
As to the garden - Sue does the borders and I am in charge of mowing and strimming. We don't have a lot of flowers, as summer storms are not uncommon, and it was heartbreaking in our first summer here to see all our bedding plants blown to bits by the wind. All the same, the garden manages to look very pretty, and of course, being surrounded by such wonderful scenery, one can always look over the fence...!!!

The Barn, front garden
The road through Roskhill
The Barn entrance is the white chippings bit on the right - the trees are in our garden
On the left of the road is the allotment.
I keep the verges trimmed - there's plenty of un-trimmed verges elsewhere!
Finally, here is the allotment. It's not easy to see in this picture, but the broad beans are coming on really well, as are the mangetout peas. The onions and carrots look good, and the potatoes will be ready to start digging quite soon. The runner beans are still struggling, but I have some more in pots in the cold frame straining to be planted out - I'll try to get that done this afternoon. I also have brussels sprout plants and broccoli to plant out, though after our cold wet spring, they haven't flourished, so may not do much.
Roskhill Barn allotment, 16 July 2015
And now, with my allocated blog time almost up, I need to get myself organised to dash off and 'turn round' Summer Cottage, and have it ready for the next group of visitors who arrive later today. Tomorrow, I turn round Loch View, and Saturday, it is the turn of Rowan Cottage. I get to do all these because Sue's rota means she is working today and the next few days. Still, she can do some of the ironing in her next period of days off!

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Burbling V8s in Roskhill

No, it's not my Jaguar XK8 yet,,, but cars like these are probably even more scarce than Jaguars on Skye... A group of Germans have brought five beautiful Chevrolet Corvettes to Skye, four of them dating back to the 1970s. The group are staying at Roskhill House, next door. Here a video of them setting off this morning - in the drizzle - for another day out exploring.



As for us - without doubt, our everyday life has returned pretty much to normal after our winter of living elsewhere while the Barn works were underway. We are now fully immersed in the holiday season, with lots of turn-rounds to do, and the associated laundry to wash and ironing to get done. Although we are not having visitors here at the Barn any more, we now offer short breaks at two of the cottages, so this usually means two turn-rounds a week at each of them. But short breaks are very popular, so we are likely to continue  to offer them.

In between the turn-rounds, we are both finding time to keep on top of the garden maintenance and I seem to be mowing lawns quite a bit! I am also continuing to do bits of DIY around the Barn, and have completed the shelving in the new big wardrobe as well as the cupboard in Sue's playroom. My garage/workshop is a more useful workspace now too, as I have built-in a bench, and added shelves and a tool wall.

Thursday, 11 June 2015

More Progress at Roskhill - the Garage

Part of the works that we had done at Roskhill this past winter was to have a garage built. Although we have managed without a garage for several years, I have missed the convenience of having a decent space to work in when attending to things like lawnmower servicing or furniture repairs.

I also happen to have the belief that garages are meant for the undercover parking of a car - and it will be a bonus for Sue to have a warm car to go to work in on the cold dark mornings when the winter returns.

So, I am pleased to report that I have now taken a van-load of junk to the dump, and put up sufficient shelves and cupboards in my garage and shed to enable me to store the rest of my 'bits and pieces' neatly enough to leave space for a car - or, in today's picture - my van.

One day (soon...???) it will be my 'toy' Jaguar standing there, and that car will be stored in the barn at Summer Cottage for the winter, which by then we will have emptied of our furniture - much of which is still in there just now!

Finally - just for the record - here's a picture of the allotment as it looks today, with the potatoes all coming along nicely, onions looking OK on the right, and peas and broad beans visible in the further distance. Sprouts and broccoli plants are still in their pots in the cold frame. The runner beans are up, but once again look very yellow and sickly. Is it something to do with the acidity of the soil perhaps? They came on OK last year though, so I'm hoping these will grow-on too.

Garage tidy at last!
Just for the record - the allotment, today

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Roskhill Bluebell Wood

Well, we have the bluebells, but are a bit short on trees...! The bluebells are growing on the large triangle of land which lies between the allotment and the river gorge - the gorge is to the right on the picture below. I have been keeping the area clear of unwanted vegetation for a couple of years now, though leave it 'naturalised'. I have planted a few trees at the top of the bank on the right, and they are doing fine, though they are too small to see in this picture.


This is the same patch of land looking in the other direction, with the river gorge on the left. The yellow flowering shrubs are gorse.


And while I'm here - here's an angle on the Barn which we seldom photograph. The little road which serves the half dozen houses in Roskhill runs between the allotment and the Barn. The building behind the Barn is the original farmhouse to which the Barn was once a part.