Sunday, 18 December 2011

Skye in winter

After a wet and windy but mild autumn, we are now enjoying a very calm spell, but it's a whole lot colder. Skye is well known for having three or four different kinds of weather in one day, and sometimes all at once... today, with the thermometer in the car saying it was minus 2C and the sun shining brightly - it was raining...!!

I drove Sue over to Glendale this morning - she had to visit one of her care clients, and wasn't keen on risking her new car on the very icy roads. While Sue was working, I took the chance to grab a couple of photos... These are both taken from the same spot. There was so much going on, with the sunlight and shadows over the glen and the mist swirling round MacLeod's tables, so I've cropped and tweaked them differently, and can't decide which one I prefer - so I'm posting both! As with all pictures in this blog - click on the picture to view it full size.

Saturday, 17 December 2011

Ready for Christmas?

Sue has been busy writing cards and wrapping presents for a couple of weeks now. Two days ago she spent much of the day baking, and so yesterday, the table was loaded down with home made breads, cakes and biscuits for our annual 'at home' afternoon, at which we welcome friends and neighbours to pop in for a glass or two of mulled wine.

On Monday, Sue sets off south by train to be with her family. I will follow in the van a few days later - I will spend Christmas with Sue's family in London, but then on Boxing Day, I will travel to Devon to see my sister and family, and will then stay a while at Val's in Torquay. Cupar gets to come with me - I hope he copes OK with all the travelling and changes to routines!

Regarding travelling, the weather isn't making things too easy for some parts of the UK, though we are not having too hard-a time here on Skye. I even got out to take a few photos the other day - so here is December sun shine on Loch Ainort -

And this is Glamaig. I wonder if anyone in that plane was looking down at Skye?

Sunday, 4 December 2011


Sue takes HUNDREDS of wonderful photos, VERY few of which ever get seen by anyone outside our own home. We have finally committed ourselves to getting a couple of dozen of Sue's pictures printed, and we plan to put them up on the walls in our cottages.

One of us might post a few examples of her best shots here shortly, but meanwhile, in seaching through Sue's photo archive for cottage-suitable pics, I have come across many pics Sue has taken of our wonderful Cupar... here's just three of my favourites...

Friday, 25 November 2011

Car change

After nearly nine years and over 139,000 miles of faithful service, our Jolly Green Giant Citroen C5 had reached the time when it just had to be replaced. Here it is with Sue on the last day it spent with us:

The replacement is a low-mileage and newish Vauxhall Corsa. We spent two days in Inverness trying loads of cars before settling on this one. The runners up were the Ford Fiesta and the Citroen C3. I would have preferred to buy a Citroen, but the latest model C3 hasn't been around for long, so most examples were well over our budget. The Corsa is rather a bland little car, but very pleasant to travel in, and to drive. It should be economical too, with its tiny 1248cc diesel engine. Cupar has already tested out his space in the boot, and seems very happy, and Sue is enjoying having a smaller car to use for her many trips around the island.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Skye sky

No photos of Sue and John yet - they have been having a bit of a stressful time lately and are enjoying the peace and quiet of Roskhill while they get their rest and recuperation.

Today, we all enjoyed a brilliant display of sunlight patterns on the hills and moors. Here's the sky from Roskhill, early afternoon today: (as ever - click the picture to see it full-size)

Friday, 4 November 2011

Sister Sue on Skye!

Today, we are delighted to welcome to the Barn my sister (also confusingly named Sue) and her husband John. They have taken a few days over the long journey up from their lovely home in Devon, and have managed to bring some sunshine with them. Hooray!! - today was the first properly sunny day we have had in weeks!!

There will be some photos to follow - I promise. (When Sue [wife] takes photos, they remain on her camera for weeks, so don't get posted here, so I will endeavour to take some pics myself...!!!)

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

John and Julie visit

I understand I have known John since his birth (I would have been two at the time, so don't recall the event). My earliest memories of him would be at age 5 or so. But, we have remained in touch all our lives, and this week, John and his wife Julie have made the trip to Skye from their home in Essex to visit us. 

I know I should have a picture of the two of them, but for now, here's a couple of pics from An Corran, near Staffin, where we visited yesterday...

We went to try to find the 170 million year old fossilised dinosaur footprints... and we were successful... here is one of them...

Then we went on to  Bearreraig Bay. 

Friday, 14 October 2011

Making the most of the weather

Don't tell any potential visitors, but we have had some dismal weather on Skye for the last month or more. Some friends are blaming this on the fact that we are currently having the roof replaced at the Barn...

However, not every day has been wet and misty, so when the sky turned blue and the sun shone the other day, on went the boots, and I sampled a forest track that I haven't been down before.

Walking forest tracks, one sees an awful lot of trees, but they can still be very beautiful. And a photo can't portray the perfect peace that surrounds you as you walk.

This particular track leads to a short (but very boggy) climb to the unplanted summit of a hill which affords some unexpectedly far-reaching views. This is north east, to the Trotternish Ridge....

...and this is approximately due south, to the Cuillin.

Thursday, 13 October 2011


Bright late afternoon sun and a heavy rain shower =

Sunday, 2 October 2011

What's the weather like - update

No sooner do I post an item about the weather, than Skye reminds me that it can do some pretty spectacular sunsets too. This was last night, viewed from the front garden here at Roskhill...

Saturday, 1 October 2011

What’s the weather like on Skye?

Unsurprisingly, many potential visitors will want to find out the answer to this question when planning their trip. Trouble is, there is no precise answer.

The Isle of Skye is also known by its Gaelic name of Eilean a’ Cheo, which translates into English as ‘The Misty Isle’. And there-in lies a clue to the climate.

It’s damp.

The air is very fresh and clean. The prevailing wind direction is from the west, where the air has moved over nothing but the sea for hundreds and hundreds of miles, where it gathers moisture. When the air is forced to rise, as it meets land, it cools and drops some of that moisture. So there is often mist over the hills, and it rains a lot. But - it is common for one part of the island to be wet and windy, while a few miles away, the sun shines brightly.

The average annual rainfall is around 55 inches (much more at high altitude). Compare that with London at 22 inches, Birmingham, 26, Manchester, 32. Records show it to be slightly drier in the spring, with May the driest month, and October the wettest. But then, May 2010 was one of the wettest Mays on record… so it is definitely wise for a potential visitor to expect to get some rain during a visit, and bring waterproofs! It is quite unusual for rain to ‘set in’ and continue to fall for days on end. Even when it does, the burns and waterfalls become torrents, so there is something exciting to see whatever the weather!

Unless you are coming from a really hot part of the world, you are unlikely to find Skye to be uncomfortably cold – at any time of the year. The coldest time is January/February, when around the coasts (where most people live) we are likely to see overnight frosts and maybe a little snow. It is much colder at altitude, and there will be snow lying on the hills most of the winter – stunning to see! So, winter visitors, bring your thermals…! The warmest months are July and August, when average highs will be around 16C (61F). This means most summer visitors will want to add a couple of jumpers to their packing list. Bringing layers is best, then you can add or remove a layer or two as the weather changes – and believe me, we can certainly get changeable days!

Another feature of our weather is wind. Skye is an exposed place, so if you are exploring hills or cliff tops, it will be windy. Gales and storms, with winds gusting to 60mph or more, occur most winters, though only last a day or two. Winds that strong are unusual in summer, but if you planning to be a spring or autumn visitor, better pack a hat and scarf as well.

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Mind the bog...


.....Too late.

Cupar is demonstrating the folly of stepping off the track through this particularly boggy section of recently felled forest. It is not an especially scenic place, but it gave us both a walk, and at least I kept my feet dry... Here's a couple of pictures of the track I walked on. (Incidentally, Cupar is visible in both the pictures - can you see him)?

Thursday, 22 September 2011

New roof for the Barn

We had been warned a couple of years ago that the roof tiles on the Barn were close to the end of their useful life. Apparently they wear away gradually, and become brittle and porous. So, work is currently underway to replace the lot, and we are having maintenance free facias and guttering fitted too, as well as new Velux windows for the kitchen and bathroom. The work is being done by a local builder, but redecorating is my job of course. It will be next spring before I tackle that!

Friday, 9 September 2011

Boots on again!

Sue was home all day, so could look after Cupar. The sun was shining (on and off), so remembering to find my spare camera battery, I grabbed at the opportunity to get my boots on and head off into one of the more remote parts of Skye. Ever since we have lived here, I have looked at our nearby mountains, thinking 'I must get up them one day' and I am now proud to announce that I made it to the top of this one yesterday... (The hill is Healabhal Mhòr, also known as MacLeod's Table North. Click on any picture in this blog to see it full size).
It's not an especially high hill - about 450 metres - and it's mostly grassy but there were some pretty steep sections, so the sense of achievement is immense. And of course, the views from the top make the effort of getting there even more worthwhile.

Having clambered down the steep bits (which is harder on the knees than the climb up...) there's just the squelch back home over the moor. (That's Dunvegan in the distance).

Monday, 29 August 2011

Camera hiccup

It was one of those rarer moments this year - I had some spare time, Cupar was happy with Sue, and the weather was good..... I could go for a walk!

I plotted myself a route which involved a bit of farm track and some off-track walking which took me to a remote inland loch, a few ruins (I love exploring ruins!) and finally, to one of Skye's bronze age souterrains - this one reputedly difficult to find, as it is just inside a forestry plantation.

All was well as I made my way up the track, and after a mile or so, approached a lovely stone built sheep pen - disused, but in good order. Out came the camera for a picture, and the screen read: 'recharge battery pack'... I muttered a few words that I wouldn't type here... Now what was I to do? Return home and not have my walk, or continue and not have any photos? I chose the latter, and am pleased that I did.

The loch was beautiful, and so, so quiet. The ruined farmstead stood solid and silent, but close to a splashing waterfall. The house is overgrown, roofless, but with walls still standing about 5 feet high. There's remains of a barn alongside. It was possibly inhabited well into the 20th century - I wonder who lived in such a remote spot, and how they lived their days?

A little further on, and with guidance from my magic little GPS 'sat nav' I found the souterrain. Wow! This would have been built some 6,000 years ago. The tiny entrance tunnel is in perfect condition, and leads into an underground chamber - possibly more than one. To get inside would mean crawling on one's stomach - definitely no room to crawl on hands and knees - so I just looked in awe from the outside.

I've ordered a spare battery pack for my camera now, so won't be caught out again. And I'll be retracing the six miles or so of my walk when I get the chance, so some photos will follow...!!!

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Back to School

Not me, I hasten to add... All that kind of thing thankfully came to an end in my former life....

But here in Scotland, the Autumn term started today - at least a couple of weeks before English and Welsh  schools get their pupils back behind the desks.

All it means to us, now, is that we have to remember to listen out for the school bus in the mornings as we walk Cupar. In the mornings, we walk up a local township road, and generally see just the same one or two cars every day, but the bus is big - a full-size single-decker - so it is best to be aware of its approach, and find a good place to pause for it to pass and give a wave to the driver.

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Drive carefully...!!!

Doing two turnarounds yesterday meant I had to drive right across the island twice. It was one of those weather days when anything could happen at any time with very little warning - dazzling sunshine, heavy rain, thick drizzle, swirling mist. We were getting frequent bright rainbows, and because of the rain, there were foaming waterfalls splashing down every hillside.

Quite spectacular. (Of course, my camera was safely tucked up at home...grrr)

Now, Saturday is the day in the week when many people begin their holiday, so there were a lot of people driving across Skye yesterday who hadn't been here before. Many of these visitors are foreigners, often driving unfamiliar hire cars and for them, on the 'wrong' side of the road.

Can you see what's coming...? Suddenly-appearing stunning scenery, wet roads, unfamiliar car, someone in the back shouting 'stop, I want to take a photograph'...!

I didn't hit anything, and didn't see any accidents, but near-misses were happening all the time. Cars were parked in the daftest of places, or stopping suddenly without any kind of signal, or creeping along at 20mph inviting reckless overtaking.

My message - when you come to Skye, don't be surprised to find it to be beautiful. And if you are driving, while your passengers may excitedly point out every highland cow or brilliant rainbow, you need to keep concentrating on getting those passengers safely to where you are going. PLEASE remember that there are other people on the road, and don't leave your driving skills at home.

Friday, 22 July 2011

Great weather

We are enjoying a spell of especially good weather just now. There's a breeze to keep the midges away, but the sun shines much of the time, and the temperatures are up to about 20C.

I've mentioned previously that I have a contact who owns a building plot in Harlosh (a couple of miles from Roskhill). He has a shipping container on the site, and I have taken on the job of giving it a couple of coats of rust-proofing paint. I have to admit, I am thoroughly enjoying spending the occasional hour or two on the job, and when I glance over my shoulder - this is the view...

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Squeaking dog

Cupar is very fond of playing with a tennis ball - when we first tried it, he was clearly very motivated to 'fetch', whether this was a natural instinct, or learned behaviour, we will never know. However, he will now drop the ball at my feet and back off a few yards, then lie down, waiting for the ball to be thrown and retrieved again. He'll keep this up until I get fed up - he seems to be completely tireless.

Cupar also has a talent for finding balls lost by other dogs. The other day, just as we set off for a walk in the Dunvegan woods, he found one which, to his enormous delight, squeaked when he squeezed it. He insisted on carrying it throughout, so our entire walk was accompanied by plaintive little squeaks from the ball, echoing around the silence of the woodland.

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Long-term residents

I guess most places in the world have been occupied by humans for thousands of years, and man has left his monuments and burial mounds and so on.

Somehow, though, when you come across such a location on Skye, where some of the remains are just 'there' - for you to touch, and explore - the feeling of history is much more tangible.

I explored one such place the other day. This is Rubha na Dùnain, near Glen Brittle. No-one lives there now, and it is a three mile walk from the nearest road. But there are relics everywhere. This has been a busy place for thousands of years. There's a neolithic cave, which has been excavated, and signs of its use as a stone napping workshop were discovered....

There's a chambered cairn, also excavated and left open, so the entrance passageway and burial chamber are exposed.  It was built at least 5000 years ago! (Sorry, I didn't get a good photo of that one)....

 There's an iron-age Dun... 

 Then there's a canal, providing access from a small  loch to the sea. The canal may be over 1000 years old.

And there's quite a substantial house, also possibly 1000 years old, but with a chimney added in the 16th century. And ruins of so many other houses...

Plus - of course - some great views...
(Click any picture to see it full size)

Monday, 4 July 2011

It's looking good on the allotment

I know - you really want pictures of lochs and mountains... after all, we do live on Skye...

Sorry! We are in full 'work mode' here right now, with turn-rounds, washing and ironing (interspersed with frequent dog-walks) taking priority over jolly hikes on the hills.

Mind you - I am yearning to get my boots on, and have just bought a new camera... so keep watching this space...

But for today, the best I can offer is a couple of today's pictures (old camera) of the Roskhill allotment. It's looking pretty good, considering the shaky start following the cold and windy spring.

Here's the broccoli (nearest, left) sprouts (with the taller sticks) and dwarf  runner beans. 
Lots of other stuff in the other beds....

Broccoli and sprouts again, and potatoes nearer the shed...

and strawberries...!!! Sue will be making jam soon!

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Life goes on...

Many apologies to our regular Blog followers for the recent gap in postings.

Just recently, there's not been a lot of interest going on to report...

I suppose I could tell you about the new glasses I've just bought from Specsavers.... I think they'll be OK, but they are super-clever varifocals, and apparently they need to fit exactly right on my nose and ears before I can see exactly right, and we are not quite there yet....

Then, I suppose you just might be slightly interested to learn how I have been coping with EVERYTHING (including 4 miles of dog walks every day) while Sue has been away visiting her Mum for over a week...

Or... I could tell you about all the weeds I have been tweaking out from in between my baby veg plants on the allotment...

... or the lawn mowing...

... or the ironing...!!!

But really - life goes on, just the same, and just as much here as everywhere else on the planet.  I promise we'll do our best to post something interesting soon...!!!

Friday, 10 June 2011

The allotment needs its own blog!

I took a couple of photos of the Roskhill allotment today, and then immediately realised that, if only for my own records, I should be photographically recording every significant event that takes place there. If I can find the time, I'll look into adding an allotment-specific page to this blog. If I can't find an easy way to do it, I might start a new blog. just detailing everything I do on the plot. It'll be useful for me, and just might be of interest so someone else out there too! Here's today's photos from Roskhill:

Can you believe that view...???

Incidentally - I also currently have use of another bit of land on a building plot in nearby Harlosh. There, the soil is wet and heavy boulder clay, and there are rabbits... Aargh!!!  But I am having fun trying to see if I can successfully grow any vegetables on the site. My first planting of sprouts were rapidly devoured by the bunnies, so sprout-protection is now in place... I think potatoes would do well there, but I was a bit too late this year to get any planted.

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Ben Tianavaig - a great walk

Anyone who has visited Skye is likely to have gazed upon the triangular mountain that rises to the right of Loch Portree. This is Ben Tianavaig. The hill is also prominently visible from Braes, and from one of the bedroom windows at one of our cottages - Aird View. Here's Ben Tianavaig seen from the beach close to Aird View:

Finally, a couple of days ago, the time and weather were right, and I took a walk up the hill. Wow! It's wonderful! The most difficult bit is finding the start of the path in Camustianavaig township - well, I can now tell you, it's right by the post box! The climb starts at sea level and rises some 1,300 feet to the summit. There are a few steepish sections, but mostly the gradient is comfortable. Best of all, there are no burns to ford, and no seriously boggy bits either. Once out of the bracken forest at the start, the going is over short springy grass, and the views are just sensational. My photographs don't do them justice, but enjoy...

There is a traceable path all the way up

The summit is at the top left of this picture

Aird View is approximately in the centre of this picture...!!!

Just look at how far you have come...

The summit, with the Cuillin beyond

Looking north from the summit to The Storr

Friday, 27 May 2011

Soggy spring

Does bad weather ever make you miserable? You are not alone...

I'm copying below a short section of an email received yesterday from a friend who has lived on Skye for many years, and who tries to be as self sufficient as possible.

"There are really no words to describe the awfulness of the weather, so think I'll pass on that one and hope like me you have enough things to do inside to take your mind off the otherwise unbearably depressing effect of watching everthing outside either shrivel and blacken in the wind or keel over with the weight of the water attacking it from the top as well as at the roots..... Things here are so badly battered now that they will never fully recover, even if we were to get a heat wave as from to-morrow, it's this learning to be accepting no matter what, that I find hardest, and don't expect I'll ever fully master it, or perhaps even want too if it comes to that ! "

Yes, it can be tough. I will be re-planting some of my allotment too. It was disastrous harvests and subsequent famines that drove many of the residents to leave Skye in the 18th century.

Friday, 20 May 2011

Latest Cupar pics...

....with a bit of a look of, 'will you get off that computer and take me for a WALK?!!!'