Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Another Christmas Day!

Sue returned last night from her family Christmas in London, so as we spent December 25th apart, today will be OUR Christmas Day together! Hooray! Pressies! (And maybe a photo or two later...)

Friday, 24 December 2010

Christmas Greetings!

Wishing all our readers a very Happy Christmas, with just a few photographs taken earlier today:

Gesto Bay

Natural ice sculpture at Sligachan

and finally, Christmas Eve sunset from Roskhill

Sunday, 19 December 2010

More snow....

It's going to be one of those winters, isn't it?

Everyone in the UK will be fully aware that we have all had a significant dollop of the cold white stuff again. This time, it seems likely to be hanging around for quite a while, though there are no further significant falls due in the near future, so Sue should be OK getting down to London for her family Christmas. She sets off by coach tomorrow afternoon.

I will be staying on Skye with the elderly Basil, and even have B&B guests to look after one day this week!

Here's a couple of pictures taken yesterday -

one in the morning... 

... and one in the afternoon -

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Walking again!

At last I've made the time to have a walk in the hills - and in the snow too! I finished the decorating at Aird View, so while I was still there, I spent a few hours on Ben Lee which overlooks the Braes. That's An Aird in the middle of this picture, with Raasay in the background. 

(Throughout this blog - click on any picture to see it full size. Use your 'back' button to get back to the blog).

There were huge snow showers racing past - but the sun shone on me throughout my walk.

It was too snowy for me higher up...!

These pictures were taken two days ago. We've had a significant thaw today. It has felt almost balmy with temperatures as high as 5C!

Sunday, 5 December 2010


Sue here - just for a change!
I'm getting tired of the snow already and the sudden loss of the abundance of colour around about us in the vegetation and the trees.   Here are a few photographs taken before the onslaught of the 'white stuff' last weekend as a reminder of the fading summer and the vibrant shades that accompanied its demise!

Above is a shot of some Cotoneaster in a friend's garden and below you are looking at the main street through Edinbane that for a while was ablaze with autumnal colours in the overhanging trees.  

When Sue and John were here in mid October we all went on a number of walks around Skye and just underneath is a view taken from the cliffs beyond Gillen - with the birch trees in the foreground sporting their golden autumnal jackets......

... .whilst on the ground virtually unseen - (unless crawling around on your knees as I did when I tripped over)
- is a small dew draped spiders web, suspended by the surrounding heather!   

Finally, lets not forget the wonderful skies like a magnificent changing multi coloured umbrella above our heads - with its often fantastic array of oranges, pinks, blues and golds.........  

Above are orange tinted clouds with a snow topped Cuillin languishing underneath and below the main road   just along from Roskhill Barn looking back towards the mountains during a particularly dazzling sunset 
in November!

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Sky on fire

Just another Roskhill sunset...


This is the painting sort, not tinsel and baubles!

I've been working at Aird View for several days out of the last couple of weeks. I've refurbished the bathroom, adding new tiling and some classier fittings, and also repainted all three bedrooms. I have been staying at the bungalow for three nights at a time while I've been working there - it saves driving backwards and forwards. In spite of the snowy scenery and stunning weather, I've not had the time to go off taking photos, but I'll post a couple taken from just outside the front door of Aird View -

The evenings were amazing... the setting sun turns the snow pink

Saturday, 27 November 2010

New van..!! (brrrrr...)

I was really disappointed with my Mercedes Vito. The Mercedes quality may have been evident in the quality of the furnishings in the cab, and with the equipment included as standard, but the thing was horrible to drive, developed faults too often (it had only done 65000 miles from new), and drank far too much diesel. Also - the radio was cr*p.

So, a new van now stands on the driveway. I've downsized - no need to carry lots of empty space around - and I have bought a one year old Citroen Berlingo. This one has the 92bhp engine (more powerful than the Vito...) and the 'SX' trim, which gives me two (squashed) passenger seats, with a clever folding arrangement for carrying long loads, and a sliding rear door (but just one - I would have preferred one each side).

In the 800 miles I've driven it so far, it's doing around 52mpg.... now that's more like it! It's also a little cracker to drive! I've got the 200 XMF number plate transferred. Just need to get some SkyeHolidays sign-writing organised now!

Here's the van today...

Sue takes better pics than me...

OK - snow makes everything look amazing.But even more amazing is Sue's eye for a brilliant photograph.
I offer here just a few of the images Sue captured from our front garden today...
(As ever - click on any image to view it larger)

Here we go again...

Only ten months ago, and the scene outside looked very similar. And also much as in January 2010, the whole of the country is getting the snow again. It is coming down really heavily as I post this - so I might add another picture later!


Sunday, 7 November 2010

One of the reasons new posts on here have been a bit thin on the ground just recently, is that I am busy with  launching a new online business directory for the Isle of Skye. It is at .

It all started when I spotted that the excellent  domain name '' was available to purchase, so I bought it, and then thought... what shall I do with this?!! (This was over a year ago....) I then thought that I could use the name for a business directory, listing every business with any slight link with tourism on Skye - not just the obvious B&Bs restaurants and visitor attractions, but also every cafe, pub and shop, every self catering cottage, every mountain or tour guide.... and then every business which depends on the tourist industry for its livelihood. Again, there's the obvious wholesalers, food producers and fishermen, but there's also the taxi companies, petrol stations, plumbers, electricians, estate agents..... Basically, it's EVERY business on Skye.

So, what started as last year's winter project, has stretched into being this winter's project as well. I now have quite a few businesses listed, but it will take a lot more work to find and list them all!

Possibly the best feature of is that it has its very own interactive forum called NewSkyes. The forum is not my creation - it was originally developed by a young Skye resident called Bede. He tried to launch the NewSkyes online a while ago as a stand-alone website. I thought it was a great idea, but not enough people saw it and signed up, so it folded. So now, Bede and I are working together to relaunch NewSkyes as part of

NewSkyes is completely free to use, and is open to the world. It has a Skye focus, but I imagine anyone reading this blog would also have that same focus... It is difficult to get people to sign up and use NewSkyes. It would help us a lot if any readers of this blog would sign up, join the NewSkyes community, and make a few posts

You will find a link to NewSkyes on every page of

Monday, 1 November 2010

Sunrise - 01.11.10

Sorry about the lack of posts recently - we are still welcoming visitors, mostly for short breaks now, sothere's been an increase in doing turn-rounds and washing and ironing and stuff!

Just thought I had to put on this picture of the astonishing sunrise that started this day. Unfortunately, things weather-wise went downhill  pretty quickly, and by sunset, there was a gale lashing rain against the windows!

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Sue and John on Skye

My sister Sue and her husband John, in the garden at the Barn.

Sue and John left the Barn this morning after a week with us. We've had a brilliant week - the weather has been especially good, and we have been out walking to some of my favourite places every day - the kind of places most Skye visitors never find!

They came up in the little trials car that John built himself. He built it to compete in Classic Trials - events where road going cars tackle impossibly steep, bumpy and muddy hills to see if they can get to the top. (The bodywork is all hand-formed aluminium, including the double-curvature panels - the car was very much a labour of love!)

John was so pleased with how the car drives on the road that he likes to use it for other outings, and now it has been all the way to Skye! We wish Sue, John and the car a safe journey back home to Devon.

Monday, 4 October 2010

Long distance deliveries

We have bought a couple of large 'household appliances' in the last couple of weeks.

First, a tall freezer was ordered to replace the worktop-height one we originally had - we needed extra space to freeze some of the allotment produce! This came from Curry's Online, who advertise free nationwide delivery. Everything to do with the purchase went like clockwork. I was given a delivery date when I placed the order, and the day before this date was telephoned with a four hour delivery 'window' during which time I was promised the delivery would happen. And, yes, it did! Top marks to Curry's.

Next, our washing machine went 'pop'. It was five years old, and has a pretty hard life, so we deemed it not worth having repaired, and I searched online for a replacement. This time Curry's couldn't match a price offered by online electrical retailer TribalUK. This company also offered free mainland delivery. We know from experience that Skye is often not considered mainland, in spite of our toll-free bridge, so I tried placing my order half expecting to be told that delivery would cost ££££'s extra. But the order was accepted, and within 24 hours I had an email telling me that the item had been dispatched. Again, a telephone call was received confirming the day and approximate time of the delivery.

Mid evening, the day before delivery was due, the phone rang. It was the delivery driver - "Would it be OK if we deliver your item at 6.30am?" Now, that's pretty early, but as Sue gets up at 6.15 for work,  it wasn't a problem to us.

We were woken next morning just before the alarm went off by a van pulling up outside. So by 6.15 this morning, our new washing machine was unpacked and standing in the kitchen, and the driver was thanking us for accepting the unusually early delivery. I asked the guys about their early delivery. "We do the Highlands once a week" was his reply, "We're up to Ullapool next, then Inverness, then Aberdeen, then back to our depot in Leeds. When we phoned last night we were just setting out".

So full marks to TribalUK and their couriers, too. Now that's service!

I ponder over the size of the profit margins... How can these companies offer a free delivery service - all the way to Skye -  as well as prices better than in any High Street/Retail-Park? But I'm not complaining!

Sunday, 3 October 2010

Visitors and Raasay

The busiest part of the holiday season is drawing to a close, so we are now eager to have friends and family come and stay with us before the winter weather takes a hold. We've just had a long-time friend of Sue's stay for four nights, and my sister and her husband are due here shortly.

It's nice to have visitors - taking them out means that we can become tourists ourselves!

Sue's friend was keen to visit the island of Raasay. It is a small island off the west coast of Skye with a resident population of around 200 people. It is reached by ferry from Sconser on Skye. I have been determined to visit there myself for ages, and never managed it. Now at last, I have been, and I am left keen to go again.

If you think Skye is quiet - try visiting Raasay...!!

The Cuillin (on Skye) from Raasay

Brochel Castle

The road to the north of the island

Monday, 13 September 2010

Growing your own

Regular readers will know that I took on a large overgrown allotment in the late spring this year.

Yesterday evening, I gathered from it all the vegetables needed to go with the sausages we were having for dinner - potatoes, an onion, peas, broad beans and cauliflower.

Back in the kitchen, and preparing the veg took me back to my childhood. Dad (a keen gardener) would bring in vegetables from the garden, and my sister and I would often sit at the kitchen table with the job of shelling the peas or podding the beans - marvelling to inspect the way they had grown.

There is just nothing about the cultivation of the land, growing of the crops, preparing them for the pot, or the eating of them, that is not a real pleasure. The soil is lovely to dig, and working it provides useful exercise for me, in the wonderful fresh Skye air, with a view to the sea every time I look up. Planting the seeds and tending the crops as they grow is a delight. Watching the miracle of nature turning tiny seeds into big healthy plants, and keeping the whole plot looking tidy is so rewarding. My allotment doesn't match the perfection my Dad used to achieve though, with his immaculate straight line planting and neatly manicured grass borders. I'll work towards that...

Then there's the preparation - the cutting and cooking of fresh vegetables produces aromas that are totally unique. Tired, shop-bought produce just isn't fresh enough to smell the same. And as for the final delight - eating - I can leave the pleasure of that to your imagination!

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Sparrow in the birdbath

Errr... SparrowHAWK that is....!!

It was a bit of a surprise to glance out of the window and see this chap sitting there. I guess he was hoping for his evening meal to pop by. He stayed long enough for me to get a few photos!

Thursday, 2 September 2010

Monsters in the allotment

I've been away 'down south' for a week or so. Now back home, there's a few things to catch up with...

Skye is not usually associated with long periods of dry sunny weather, so as it is both dry and sunny just now, I have decided to do some harvesting in the allotment. Here are a few of the champions - (that's my gloves at the top of the picture, which give an idea of the wonderful size of the potatoes, onions and swede).

And just look at the cauliflower... There's quite a few this size. We're having cauliflower cheese tonight...

Everything I planted has done sensationally well. I won't grow peas again though, because the plants have been blown all over the place in the wind. I'll put the brassicas in more shelter next year. But the dwarf runner beans are fantastic!

Monday, 16 August 2010

Sue up a hill

Mostly, I do my walking on my own, but with the weather being perfect yesterday, we both got our boots on. Here, we are on a hill called Druim nan Sgarbh, just west of Glendale. That's the 296 metre Waterstein Head beyond. (Basil is sadly too old for walkies like this, so he remained contentedly snoozing in the van).

Sunday, 15 August 2010


Bambi: "Mum, Mum! There's something watching us!"

Mum: (deep in the bushes) munch, munch, yum, yum.

Bambi: "Mum, it's pointing a black thing at us!"

Mum: (STILL deep in the bushes) munch, munch, yum, yum, munch, munch.

While this exchange was going on, I had time to zoom in and take another shot -  

Bambi eventually took flight, and Mum scrambled out of the bush to follow!

Sunday, 8 August 2010

Cliff top walk, anyone?

The coastline of the Duirinish Peninsula is possibly my favourite part of Skye. Access by road is very limited, so it's on with the boots, and fingers crossed that the weather stays fair. There's never any people there, just me, deer and the occasional sheep or eagle. And the scenery is just... well.... take a look! (Remember, you can click any picture in the blog to view it full size).

Saturday, 7 August 2010


We won't be buying potatoes or carrots for a while - the allotment is in production! The small carrots here are just thinnings - the big chap on the left is a 'full size' example. The potatoes are lovely, with each plant producing about six or seven good-size spuds. I haven't pulled-up a swede yet, I think they have some more growing to do. Same applies to the beetroot and the onions. The pea plants are huge with literally hundreds of pods plumping up nicely. Likewise the broad beans. The cauliflower and broccoli struggled with the wind, and don't look to be liking the soil much either. I don't think there'll be a crop from them.

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Just me and Basil this week...

Sue is in Kent this week, on one of her regular visits to see her mother and catch up with her southern friends. That leaves me and Basil in charge of looking after things on Skye. Other than a laundry and ironing mountain, and a few 'turn arounds' of our cottages, there's not a huge amount for me to do, so while down at Rowan Cottage mowing the lawn yesterday, I took the chance to have a walk in Kinloch, and found this -

There's no road, or even a decent path to this spot. But the cottage has recently been renovated. It'll be someone's little piece of heaven on earth!

Here's another bit of South Skye from yesterday's walk - Kinloch Forest - where a pine plantation is being replaced with native broadleaf trees to recreate a natural landscape. Errr... shouldn't they be getting rid of the road as well...??!

Saturday, 17 July 2010

Visit to A&E

I clumsily managed to stab myself in the palm of my left hand with a kitchen knife today. I was just completing the 'turn round' at Aird View, so as I had to come through Portree on my way home, I thought I would pop into the hospital there to have it looked at.

I managed to drive more or less one-handed, stopping the bleeding by pressing my left thumb onto the cut.

A&E was completely deserted and as quiet as a grave. There was a huge handbell on the desk, with a sign 'ring for attention'. I reckon everyone within 20 miles would hear that bell if it were shaken in earnest! Portree was saved from a loud clanging as a nurse happened to pass by. I explained why I was there, and she pointed me to a seat and said she'd tell the Staff Nurse.

I had barely sat down before the Staff Nurse appeared and immediately took my details. Then I was whisked off to a treatment room and examined. 'I think I'll get the doctor to look at this, I'm not very expert with hand wounds' says the Staff Nurse. 'Wait there'.

Not thirty seconds later, the Staff Nurse reappears with the doctor. The doc is very pleasant, and makes a thorough examination of my hand. Apparently I am fortunate not to have damaged any tendons or nerves. He tells me,  'I rather like stitching, but if you are not doing anything vigorous for a few days, you'll probably be OK if we glue you and use a few steri-strips'.

With that, Staff Nurse sets to work with assorted bits of tissues, wipes, and sticky things. 'I'll bandage it up, to make it look impressive, but when all this falls off, just stick a plaster over it' I am told.

And that's it. I was in the hospital a total of maybe 10 minutes.

How long did your last visit to A&E take?

Friday, 9 July 2010


I guess we had to pay for that couple of months of warm, dry weather in the early summer....

Today, the south of England endures a heatwave, and the north west of England has introduced a hose pipe ban. Here, we have just had three days of heavy rain and strong winds... errr... of course, I really mean 'Skye drizzle and breezes'.

But it's not all bad - this afternoon, the 'Skye Switch' has been pressed, and I can see blue sky and fluffy white clouds again. It's challenging weather for the visitors - What to wear? Where to go? - All part of the Skye holiday experience!!

But the veggies in the allotment are enjoying the rain, even if the peas and cauliflowers look a bit wind-blown. We are currently harvesting what seems like several tons of strawberries. Who-ever thought they would not do well on Skye was wrong. Many have been distributed to friends and neighbours, and some are destined to spend some time in a large jam saucepan. I'm off out now to see if I can find enough carrots among the thinnings for tonight's dinner.

Friday, 2 July 2010


Otters do live and breed on Skye, and with patience and quite a bit of luck, you may see one almost anywhere around the coast. You are more likely to see one in the water than on land. They have an acute sense of smell, sight and hearing and will almost certainly disappear if they become aware of your presence. They are more likely to be spotted in the early morning. If the water is very calm, you may spot the v-shaped wake of a swimming otter (they swim with just a little of their head protruding above water). Otters eat  fish, birds, small mammals, frogs and crabs. They are often larger than people expect with an adult being between 1 and 1.3 metres in length and weighing 7-9 kg. Sometimes you may see something in the water and dismiss it as a seal, but it is often worth having a look with binoculars in case it is an otter.

Best otter spotting spots on Skye - Rubha Hunish, Irishman’s Point, Rubha Arnish, and Kylerhea Otter Haven (which has a purpose built hide). The Bright Water Centre in Kyleakin has lots of information about otters and other wildlife and you can take a trip to Eilean Ban, the island out in the Kyle straits where Gavin Maxwell (author of Ring of Bright Water) lived for a time; there is now a museum there and otter hides.

Good luck!

Monday, 28 June 2010

Eagle and otter spotting

Many visitors ask “will we see an eagle?” (Or otter, or either or both).

Let’s start with eagles…

Tourist Eagles, Golden Eagles and White Tailed Sea Eagles certainly live and breed on Skye. Sea eagles are more scarce, but any of the three species can be seen almost anywhere.

Here is a shot of a short sighted Tourist Eagle looking for the way to Staffin...

The Tourist Eagle is by far the most common of our eagles. This species has another, more correct name – the Buzzard.

Buzzards are so common, they probably outnumber our sparrows. In flight, they look very eagle-like, though they tend to ‘flap-flap, soar, flap-flap soar’ whereas golden eagles will flap strongly and steadily or soar for ages without flapping at all. The outstretched wings of a buzzard are slightly rounded at the front edge, and buzzards fan out their tails more than golden eagles in flight. Golden eagle's wings are straight-edged and their tails are longer and more square. Buzzards have a longer neck. Buzzards usually hover when hunting and then pounce from above, whereas golden eagles fly in onto their prey and will also take other birds in flight. Buzzards make a cat like ‘mee-oo’ call in flight. Eagles are silent. And that eagle you have just passed perched on a fence post will be a buzzard – Eagles don’t perch.

We also have hen harriers, which look a bit like buzzards…

But when you have seen enough of them – you really do start to see the differences – honest!

So that was easy!

Sea eagles are HUGE. When you see one, you will know you’ve seen one. They are often referred to as ‘flying barn doors’ because they have massive straight edged wings and when soaring, wings will be held flat (not in a shallow V shape). Sea eagles don’t soar as often as golden eagles, and flap heavily. Sea eagles mostly eat fish or sea shore carrion, so are most commonly seen over or near water.

I’ll deal with otters in a separate post…

Saturday, 26 June 2010

Allotment latest

Here's a picture taken yesterday. It shows about half the total plot. Growing in the far bed are Jerusulam artichokes (rear right), potatoes (right), swede (left of the potatoes), Onions and beetroot (more or less hidden), carrots - two rows planted a month apart, and on the far left, a plum tree (inherited with the plot) and struggling rhubarb (hidden).

In the nearer bed, on the right are savoy cabbage, sprouting broccoli and cauliflower. Then there's two rows of dwarf runner beans (one either side of the grass path). It's peas amid the pea sticks, and a healthy row of broad beans on the left.

It will be really interesting to see what does well and what doesn't. It's a surprise (to me) that the two rhubarb plants I bought earlier this year (different varieties) are both really struggling.

Much of the land behind me is currently covered with strawberries, which are in a terrible muddle, but fruiting. I'll sort them out eventually. There is also a bed containing raspberries and blackcurrants, which, like the plum tree, were inherited with the plot. I'll have to learn what to do with them....

Tuesday, 22 June 2010


Can you believe it? We can't!


That's not just for a hour - it's not even for a day... two days ...a week... No - we haven't had any worthwhile rain here for about TWO MONTHS!!

Generally, nothing looks any different from 'normal'. The grasses are tall and waving beautifully, there are all kinds of wild flowers blooming everywhere, and birdsong fills the air where ever you go. But the moors are crunchy rather than squelchy to walk on, and the burns are trickling rather than gurgling...

The seedling vegetables in my allotment are struggling too. I've been watering, but the only things really thriving are the potatoes, Jerusalem artichokes and broad beans. I'll try to remember to get some photos and do an allotment update...

Longest Day

Yes, I know, all days are the same length of 24 hours... but believe me, a day with 20 hours of good daylight (like June) is a whole lot different from a day with only 8 hours of greyness (like December).

It doesn't get completely dark here at any time for a couple of weeks either side of the Summer Solstice. Here's our garden view at about 10.05pm yesterday (the white spot in the sky is the moon...!!!) - (and remember to click on any picture in the blog to see it full size)