Sunday, 20 December 2009

My wonderful wife

We had a little pre-Christmas 'at home' yesterday - a number of neighbours and friends were invited to call in for a glass or two of mulled wine and mince pies and nibbles. Our living room became quite crowded for a while in the afternoon.

Sue took care of all the catering, and prepared a wide range of  extremely yummy dips as well as an excellent paté and hot sausage rolls and pizza pieces. Fantastic!

I was very important... in charge of answering the doorbell and announcing arrivals.....

VERY much admired were my Sue's newly hung handicraft pieces - the recently completed Christmas patchwork ...

...and a tapestry, completed some time ago and finally ON A WALL!!!!

Well done, my wonderful Sue!

Sunday, 13 December 2009

It's nearly Christmas!

You wouldn't know it here though...!

There's a few fairy lights in a couple of shops in Dunvegan, and our neighbour with children has a decorated tree in the garden. Portree has a few coloured lights in the streets and a Christmas tree in Somerled Square and that's about it.

Traditionally, Christmas is not a big event in Scotland, though the Scots make a bit more effort with New Year (hogmanay). I'm personally very happy with this, as I am not a fan of Christmas 'hype'. It's slightly odd for everything here to be quiet and normal, while the TV shows work themselves towards a Christmas frenzy.

Fancy a quiet Christmas? Skye could be just the place!

Sunday, 6 December 2009

Getting around

Skye is a bigger island than many people expect, and public transport is pretty thinly spread, so travel by car is the most popular way of getting about.

In the 1960s the A87 from the mainland ferry at Kyleakin in the south to the ferry to the Outer Isles at Uig in the north was completely rebuilt. The old single track road was replaced by a fine modern two-lane highway. Bits of the old road still exist, and now make useful dry dog-walking paths!  (Of course - the Kyle/Kyleakin ferry has now been replaced with the beautiful Skye Bridge). 

Above - a stretch of 'old' A87, and below, a juction on the current A87 just north of Portree

A loop of modern two-lane road was also built to Dunvegan, in the west (where we live). Below is the main road near us, with the Cuillin in the background. Just last year, another section of new road was completed to connect the mainland Mallaig/Armadale ferry terminal to Broadford.

Getting to the other extremities of the island still involves a journey down a single track road,  like the two examples below. Visitors can be a bit frightened of roads like this, but you are more likely to meet sheep than any other traffic... If nervous, it's best to drive slowly, and let people behind overtake by pulling into passing places (little laybys - NOT for parking in!). If you meet someone - again, pulling into a passing place in good time will usually alleviate the need for any reversing. Don't be tempted to drive onto the grass verge - your wheels could sink into six inches of wet peat!

The lack of traffic in any of these pictures is not just by chance - the roads are usually like this in winter, and even in summer, traffic jams are pretty much unheard of. The exception to this is when there are road repairs underway... But if you are stuck waiting for temporary traffic lights to go green, it's a good time to whip out the camera and take a few photos of the views!

Friday, 4 December 2009

Our little home

We are well into our second year of living at The Barn now, and I STILL wonder at how we can be so content in this little home, having previously lived in large modern houses in the south east.

It was certainly good for us to 'downsize', as we cleared out huge quantities of un-needed stuff, even including furniture that we simply didn't have room for! I have to admit that the loft space at Rowan Cottage still contains several boxes containing curtains, light fittings and decorative glassware that have lain there untouched since we put them there a couple of years ago...

So - what is our little home like?

Well, it's all on the ground floor, and the ceilings are all low, at about 6ft 10ins.  There's just the one outside door, which opens into a small outer hall which has coat and boot racks as well as a three cupboards which contain food in tins, packets and jars. There's also dog food, the vacuum cleaner and ironing board out there.

From that, a door opens into an inner hall, which is just a passage connecting the other rooms.

We have one bedroom, size about 14 feet by 8ft 6, furnished like any bedroom with bedside cabinets and dressing table/drawers.  Sue has exclusive use of the built-in wardrobe.

We have a second room which we have furnished as our study. This is 13ft x 10ft. There is a desk for the computer, filing cabinet and bookshelves, plus a comfortable armchair and a display cabinet housing my Mum's collection of porcelain ornaments. There's also a built in wardrobe which contains my clothes, plus an airing cupboard/linen store. I've added extra shelves in most of the cupboards to make the most of every inch of storage space.

The bathroom is quite large at 9ft x 5ft 6, and has an old oak beam in the ceiling and stone shelves above the bath. The bath is huge, and we never use it, making the most of the electric overbath shower!

Then all that's left is our living room. This is a total of 22 feet long by 12 feet wide. Taking about 8 x 10 feet at one end is the kitchen, with a dresser across the room as a room divider - it has its back to the kitchen, a bit like a wooden wall. In the rest of the space is a small refectory-style dining table with four chairs, two two-seater settees, and a matching armchair. A deep wall cupboard houses the hi-fi, and a further cabinet conceals the TV when it's not in use. We have a wonderful multifuel stove on the stone hearth.

Outside, there's a big garden, with a number of well established pine trees providing some shelter from the wind. I have a small, slightly damp garden shed. I keep most of my tools in my van. Beyond the garden, we look over our field to extensive views to the mountains and the sea.        

And that's it. Plenty of space! I have to wonder why we strove so hard to buy ever bigger houses when we were younger.

Monday, 30 November 2009

November weather...

Just to prove that November can be a pretty stunning time of the year -

Neist Point - 27.Nov.09

Loch Mòr, Waterstein - 27.Nov.09

Loch Bracadale - 29.Nov.09

Brandarsaig, Loch Bracadale - 29.Nov.09

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Do you fancy living on Skye?

It is all too easy for a holiday visitor to fall in love with Skye, so much so that they want to live here themselves. It is, after all, one of the most beautiful places on the planet, and the lifestyle is just so peaceful and comfortable – isn’t it?

Many have tried, and many have failed. Spending a few idyllic weeks on holiday here is not the same as putting down roots. So here’s a few tips…

  1. Try before you buy. Spend a winter on Skye. Let your own home for 6 months and rent a cottage here. (Rent one of ours if you like – we’ll do you a good price…!!) See how you get on with the wind, rain and lack of daylight. Don’t get me wrong – it can be very romantic to snuggle down in front of the stove on a stormy night, and we don’t have a problem with the rain, but how about you…?
  2. Check out the costs. Currently, a modern 3-bedroom bungalow here will cost you at least £210,000 – the days of ‘Skye is cheap’ are over! And be VERY cautious about buying an older property that is ‘in need of modernisation’ – this could mean a total rebuild…!!!
  3. Have back-up funding. So many people think they can open a B&B and live on the income. Unlikely, I’m afraid. Although the B&B market here is strong, you would need 4 or 5 letting rooms to make enough income to live on, and managing a business of that size takes a huge amount of work. You might be living on Skye, but all you will see is hundreds of breakfasts and mountains of laundry!
  4. I’ll get a job. Probably not. There’s very few opportunities for employment. There’s seldom many full time jobs in the local paper.
  5. I’ll start my own business. We have just about enough plumbers, electricians, roofers, etc. to meet demand. IT services are also pretty well catered for. There’s possibly a shortage of good value eating places... so you could be lucky – but don’t bank on it.
So many people get taken away with the romantic notion of living on Skye, but it is a locally known truth that the ‘average’ incomer survives for just two years. Living here CAN BE WONDERFUL – but you need to be totally committed and mentally prepared for it.

If I haven’t put you off - let us know when you are about to be our neighbour – we will VERY WARMLY  welcome you, as will all the other Skye residents. We look forward to meeting you!

An update in this blog to this post has been published on 3 Aug 2015, please click on this link

Sunday, 22 November 2009

What do you do in the winter?

That's a fair question - the visitors have mostly gone, and the evenings are dark early...

Well, crofters on Skye have always been resourceful people, and making things for themselves is a long, long tradition. So handicrafts of all kinds are very popular here. Sue has joined a handicraft group who specialise in patchwork and quilting. (I'm not sure if I understand the difference between those two). Anyway - here is Sue working on a wall hanging which will become part of the family Christmas decorations...

As for me - I am busy on a website project that I hope to be launching before the spring, and I still get out taking photographs whenever I get the opportunity. Here's one I took in Balmacara forest (on the mainland!) yesterday...

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Visit Scotland Quality Assurance

We are having a Visit Scotland Advisor visit the Barn today to undertake our annual Quality Assurance inspection. This is what leads to our 'star rating'. Each of our properties has an annual inspection. The event doesn't worry us these days, as we know what to expect, and we know we meet the required criteria to maintain our 3-star status.

There is quite a bit of unrest among accommodation owners about the system though, as there seems to be a lack if consistency in the gradings, and a very 'blurred' distinction between a good 3-star and a 'just about' 4-star. It's expensive for us too - by far the greatest expense in our advertising budget, but currently we are obliged to have the rating if we wish to advertise with Visit Scotland.

Monday, 16 November 2009

Website revisions

If you visit here often, you will have spotted a few changes over the last week or so.
Although our new SkyeHolidays website has been very successful, some people were concerned that the yellow-on-black text was not easy to read, so I undertook a complete colour scheme revision.

To keep this blog looking similar to the Skye Holidays site (now linked from, I have tweaked the colours on here too.

I hope you all approve!

Friday, 13 November 2009

Skye winter weather

Today started with rain lashing against the windows and wind howling round the chimney. But  now, just a few hours later, the sun is shining, and we have a line of washing out blowing dry a gentle Hebridean breeze.

The weather here is like that. It's so unpredictable, and can change so quickly, that the forecasts on the TV and radio can largely be ignored. It can often be raining in one part of the island and sunny in another part. Winters here are milder than people expect too. On the coast, we seldom get snow - though the hilltops can turn white for a few days any time between the end of November and early April.

The occasional storms can be exciting. The wind roars, and the rain is horizontal. It's definitely the time to snuggle down with a good book. But after the winds have died down and the rain stops, everywhere you go, small and larger waterfalls cascade down the hills and the burns rush swollen to the sea.

Then there's the sky. Day after day it's a cloud-watchers paradise. Brooding and menacing or brilliant white against brilliant blue. All constantly changing and lit by the low winter sun. Fantastic!

There's nothing dull about our weather - it's all part of the Skye Magic.

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Birthday girl!

Those b-word things come round with alarming regularity... It was Sue's turn again yesterday. As it happened, the weather here was stunning, so we took a trip to Trotternish and scrambled up the hill to get close and personal with  The Old Man of Storr...

on the way up...

The Old Man of Storr (on the right!)

at the base of the Old Man

The Old Man overlooks this view

Thursday, 29 October 2009

Our blog - Re-born!

Our 'new life' on our wonderful Isle of Skye is now well established. We absolutely love living here, and have no regrets at all about giving up our former lives to re-invent ourselves on Skye.

This blog was originally created to enable us to keep in touch with the many friends we 'left behind' when we moved here from SE England. As it happens, we manage to keep in touch with everyone pretty well, and Sue takes regular 6-weekly trips down to Kent to see her Mum, sister and friends. I aim to visit Devon, to see my sister and family, at least twice a year - and of course, ALL our friends and family are most welcome to come and visit us here!

So now we have decided to link to this blog from the SkyeHolidays websites in the hope that some of our past or future visitors might like to learn a little more about our life on the Isle of Skye.

We also welcome comments on our posts, or even your own stories if you would like to post them here. We look forward to hearing from you.

Our love and best wishes to you all

Richard, Sue, and Basil-the-dog

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Home sweet home

I went out for a walk today.

I like to walk in the wild, road-less hills that we look at from our front windows at the Barn.

Today, I stood on the summit of Beinn na Moine and took this picture. Home sweet home is the tiny white building exactly in the centre.

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Another new website!

Our all-new Bed and Breakfast website is now live online at

Because Sue now works every weekday morning, we are not able to offer a 'traditional' bed and breakfast, so we are trying to market our apartment 'with a difference' - see what you think!

Friday, 25 September 2009

Holiday high spots

Sue and I went for a little holiday to Perthshire last week.
She made me go for a few walks...

On The Cairnwell - our first Monroe, and probably not our last (though don't expect us to bag them all!!)

We went this way down - it's the steepest ski run at Glenshee Ski Centre. It was tricky without snow, and would be totally terrifying if slithering on skis!!!

It's that "I've made it" feeling - on the summit of Birnham Hill, Dunkeld.

The summit view...

This crag provides a wonderful viewpoint over Birnam and Dunkeld.

The descent from here was nearly 1000 feet in less than half a mile, which is at least as challenging as the two mile gentler climb to get here!

Another highlight of the holiday - only the second red squirrel I have ever seen in the wild - and I got a photo of this one!

Sunday, 6 September 2009

Basil thinks he's had a hard day...

Sue is taking another trip down south this week, and of course her camera has gone with her, so photos from Helen and Sophie's visit to Skye will be a little while getting on here.

Monday, 31 August 2009

Visitors from London

We have Sue's sister Helen and her daughter Sophie staying with us at the Barn this week. They flew up to Inverness from London on Saturday, and return on Thurday. It's their first visit since we've been living here, so they are enjoying their Skye 'experience'. The weather could be kinder (it's drizzling this morning) but it's not stopping us from getting out and about.

Photos to follow!

Friday, 21 August 2009

Website revised!

I have just completed the launch of our website for SkyeHolidays 2010 -
It's rather a radical change from the previous website, and we are not quite sure that we like the new colour scheme. Please have a look. If you spot any errors, I'd be pleased if you would let me know. Constructive feedback also welcomed, but please be gentle - I'm only an amateur!

I think the biggest problem (aside from learning what all the words mean in Dreamweaver... I still don't know what a 'spry' is...) is getting ones newly created pages to display more or less the same in different browsers. The biggest problem I have had is that Internet Explorer version 7 displays pages completely differently to the new Internet Explorer version 8.... AAArgh! At least IE8 is closer to Firefox!

(For those who are not following this - sorry! My website analytics shows that around 78% of my site visitors use Internet Explorer - don't know which version - and around 17% use Firefox. Then there's Chrome and Safari and a few others.... sympathetic messages from website designers welcome)

Looking forward to winter...!!!

It's Friday evening, which means tomorrow is another day of frenzied duvet wrestling and vacuum violating. Sue is sorting out all the sheets, towels and pillow cases as I type.

We are both beginning to feel that we could do with a break... how the B&B owners keep going all season I have no idea. They have my greatest respect!

Sunday, 16 August 2009

Washing machines...

Here at the Barn we do not hear much of our upstairs visitors - the place is pretty well soundproofed... however, we can hear the washing machine when it is running.

Last week we had a washaholic - the machine was used 14 times in one week...

Tonight, Sunday, it is running again. These visitors arrived yesterday...

Now, is it me, or are we suffering from washing-machine abuse?!!!

Friday, 7 August 2009

Rains a lot in the south, doesn't it?

I'm back on Skye. The sun is shining. It's a beautiful day.

I had a great week visiting friends and family 'down south'. With Sara and Rod, who live near Southampton, we went for a long walk along the River Hamble. It rained, most of the time, but that didn't dampen our enthusiasm for what turned out to be a lovely walk.

With Rod in Holly Hill woods

Me, on the ferry slipway at Warsash - note that the wet weather gear has been removed!

From Southampton, I went west to Devon, to stay with my sister Sue who lives near Okehampton on the edge of Dartmoor. Of course - we went for a hike..... in the rain....
Sue and John approaching Black Tor - that Dartmoor Drizzle can be seriously wet stuff!

Black Tor (in the rain...)

From Dartmoor, my next visit was a short journey to Torquay to see Val. The weather was so bad the first day that I couldn't take any photos because I couldn't see anything through the swirling mist and driving drizzle... However, by my last evening, things improved, and here is a shot I took as I fell backwards off my chair in Val's garden while the BBQ was sizzling...

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Going south

My turn this time - I'm off to England tomorrow morning. I'm going to a wedding in Maidstone on Thursday, then popping down to Southampton for a weekend with friends there, and then on to Devon to see my sister and family and then to visit Val in Torquay.

I'll be back here, lots of miles later, next week. Fingers crossed for not too many traffic jams!!

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Sue's wall

Sue has been working hard in our garden at the Barn. We have a tumbled old stone wall which is very overgrown with all manner of plantlife. Sue has an ambition to turn the whole thing into a rockery. She has made a good start, and is pictured by the wall, today, with Basil.

Expect more pictures soon from Sue!

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Roskhill Barn

"Home" - 13th July 2009

Monday, 13 July 2009

Busy, Busy Skye

The place is packed!

I drove to Rowan Cottage on Saturday morning to do the regular turn-round, and found myself in a long convoy of cars... We are so used to having the roads entirely to ourselves - it's quite a novelty to be among other traffic!

We have just taken a booking for our last un-booked week of the summer, and new enquiries are still coming in at the rate of about two per day. We are enjoying very good weather so far this summer, too, which no doubt is attracting even more visitors.

I'm glad we specialise in self catering, and not B&B. We only have to work really hard on Saturdays, while the B&B people are at it all the time, which must be exhausting.

Friday, 3 July 2009


No - I'm not referring to the little box that people stick to their car windscreen and then drive up the motorway with a little arrow on the screen pointing 'straight on'.... I've discovered more adventurous walking possibilities by using a hand-held GPS device. Here's mine...

The screen here (sorry about the refections!) is just showing the 'trip' display, which can be set to show a number of different readouts. I've set mine to show (from the top) how far I've walked (4.51 miles) the Grid reference of where I am (NG 22097 38334 in this picture - enter that into to see where I was...) , the time of day, how long I've been on my trip, and (just out of sight) my elevation above sea level.

There are five other screen views which can be scrolled through - the whole lot is controlled by only four buttons, so it's easy to operate, and it's waterproof and shockproof too.

The website I've linked to above enables me to plot a route for a walk on the ordnance survey map, then upload the route onto the eTrex. A display on the eTrex screen then shows me the route which I follow as I walk, and it's accurate to just a few metres. It also keeps a record of where I have actually been, so when I get home, I can download my 'track' from the eTrex to the map on the computer. I can also press a button which puts a 'waymark' onto my track. I do this when I take a photograph, so when I am looking at the map when I get home, I have a pinpoint accurate record of where I was when I took each photo.

It's the best £70 I've spent in years (plus the annoying £15 for a cable to connect it to the computer) but it has enabled me to confidently set out for walks through this kind of pathless country... discover this kind of scenery...

Sue is building up her walking stamina, and will be joining me for some longer walks soon!

Saturday, 20 June 2009

Pattern of Life

The summer visitor season is well underway, and Sue and I have settled into our Saturday routine of 'turn arounds', when we both travel to our slightly scattered properties to change beds, vacuum and polish.

This year, I am looking after Rowan Cottage at Broadford, because I also tend the garden of the cottage next door on behalf of the absentee landlord. On a Saturday, I can often get the lawns cut at both Rowan and 'number 4' (next door) as well as the 'turn around' at Rowan.

Rowan Cottage

Sue looks after Aird View near Portree, and then we both return to Roskhill to service the apartment at the Barn, which we share.

Aird View

Hopefully - our weekdays are not disturbed by our tenants - though it is handy to be living here when little things go wrong - like the toilet seat which fell apart at the Barn last week, or the lighting fuse which blew at Rowan...!

Monday, 8 June 2009

Sue in Kent again

Sue has set off from sunny Skye to rainy Kent this afternoon for her regular visit to her Mum and to catch up with friends. I have been left with a looong list of jobs to do... :o( ...but the weather is great, so I'll keep smiling! :o)

It will be my turn to travel south at the end of July, to Jan's wedding, where I will catch up with a few people I haven't seen since leaving Kent. I will then go on to my sisters and to Val's in Devon via friends in Southampton. More of all that anon.

Monday, 25 May 2009

.... More Wild Flowers

.... Sue here again after a long absence!   Yes I've still been taking the photographs but overlooked putting more here on our blog!   Here are some taken during one of my Roag walks a week or so ago when the sun was glorious and scenery even more stunning!  Below is a clump of campion - the first I've seen here on Skye!

.. and here below we have some marsh marigolds resplendant in the brilliant sunshine!

On the way back I stopped at the small bridge over the stream
running into Loch Bracadale and took in the view!

Still water reflects the clear blue sky on this warm May afternoon and ....

... finally Basil soaks up the sun in our garden afterwards!  Bless him!

Friday, 22 May 2009

Wild flowers

We might get a later spring than in the south of the UK, but when it arrives, boy do things happen fast!

Just now, EVERYTHING is changing from 'winter brown' to 'summer green'. And there are ferns and wild flowers everywhere!

We still have primroses in flower, and the bluebells have been especially good this year. The rhododendrons are getting going in the woods too.

Here's a few pictures I took yesterday...

one of nature's spirals...!


spring green...

Isn't nature wonderful?!!

Friday, 15 May 2009

Climbing mountains

I have never been one to follow the philosophy of trekking to the top of a mountain 'just because it's there', and have been happily content to keep my walking to lower levels - and coastal scenery around here is about as good as it gets....  

But recently, I have been drawn to seek out some of the remote hillsides - and sides lead to tops... and Wow! - the VIEWS....!

Loch Bracadale and the Cuillin from the summit of Beinn na Boineid. 

Roskhill Barn is in this picture - it's one of the little white dots on the left...! (...and Sue is planning to join me on some future climbs).