Squirrels again!

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Two squirrels at the same time this morning! The one on the feeder outside the kitchen window was very obliging but the other one, in the front garden on the Yew tree, was a proper fidget and wouldn’t cooperate by keeping still. Hence the latter is not in perfect focus, even through the window!


Glories of the garden

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Many lovely flowers on view in my garden right now. Unfortunately some of the paeonis have suffered from the cold and this one’s petals are looking rather sad.

The orchids are coming into flower all over the garden but especially in many of the planters and sinks.

Certain areas of planting create their own landscape view.

Just one of the many aquileagias  that are all around the garden, the majority of them self seeded. I love the delicate colours of some of them.

Wonderful weaving

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Friends have just been visiting and Juliet brought some samples of her weaving for us to see. Absolutely wonderful and so clever. I need to put in my scarf order for the autumn!

Felting workshop

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Just home from another fabulous felting workshop with Jennifer Budd (woolscapes.com). Great teacher, good felting companions and great location at kareliahouse.co.uk. And what a gloriously sunny and warm day. Is this, at last,  the start of summer?

The day was made up of needle felting and wet felting. Now just have to set to and complete the pieces by adding embroidery and possibly some needle felting. This is my wet felting piece and is a  representation of my garden when the Meconopsis are in flower.

Port of Ness and north Lewis

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Port of Ness is on the north east coast of Lewis, a short distance to the south of the Butt of Lewis. The harbour itself is an amazing construction, with a narrow entrance and then an inner section tucked away around the corner. An indication of the wild sea conditions that this part of the coast must experience at times. Located at the north end of a very picturesque and wide bay, it is the departure point each year for the ten men of Ness that undertake the annual guga (Gannet) hunt on Sula Sgeir. Sula Sgeir is a small, desolate island, out in the Atlantic, forty miles north west of Lewis. The Community of Ness was granted the only exemption, under UK and EU law, allowing them to hold their annual hunt and to catch and kill 2000 birds. The men live there for two weeks, sleeping in stone bothies that have stood there for a thousand years, and have to take with them everything they will need during their stay. The boat that takes them out returns to port, once everything has been unloaded and transported ashore in a small dinghy, and the men won’t see anyone from the mainland until the boat returns two weeks later, weather permitting, to bring them home again.

it remains a crofting and fishing community but the tourists are catered for with accommodation of various types, two restaurants, a little tea room and craft shop, a gallery, Sallie Avis Designer Harris Tweed garments and Breanish Tweed. Breanish Tweed produce the most wonderful fabrics using Shetland wool, cashmere, silk, vicuna and combinations of these fibres. The designs and colours are extra special and worth every £ ( or £££££££s!) you spend there. Iain Finlay MacLeod (Breanish Tweed)  also has other special talents – he is a creative writer and director. As well as fiction, he writes for theatre, television and radio.

As this was the last day of our holiday a walk was required, to give the dogs a good run before their long day in the car and on the ferry, and to give us a good dose of Hebridean air to keep us going until our next visit. We chose to park at Borve cemetery and walk across the machair to the shore. The sky was blue and the sea even more so. And despite the strong wind, it was warm! A wonderful walk was had by all and as we walked back across the machair towards the cemetery the older gravestones, standing proud on the high ground, resembled a circle of ancient standing stones.

Leaning against the small building, at the cemetery, were a row of plot numbers. Never seen this before and we wondered if they were redundant numbers or were waiting to be allocated a place within the cemetery. The view southwards from this spot was stunning. A wide, open landscape with the hills of north Harris in the distance.

Our day ended with a visit to Tiumpan Head. The air was filled with sea birds and we saw dolphins, Minke whale and, we think, a Basking Shark. Whatever the latter was, it was big and moving very slowly just beneath the surface of the water.

South West Harris

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The Golden Road takes you around the coast, south of Tarbert, to Grosebay and onwards.  A beautiful drive.

Out and about every day I don’t think we saw one line of washing that was not almost horizontal in the wind! It was quite amusing to see but obviously a great part of the world to be to get your washing dried. This line was at Luskentyre, just above the dunes. Luskentyre has to be one of the most beautiful places , with its long stretches of beach, turquoise sea and impressive mountain backdrop. We had a wonderful day in that area and have to recommend the Anchorage Restaurant, in Leverburgh. The scallops and langoustines that we had for lunch were the best we have ever eaten. So sweet and straight out of the sea.

At another of our stops we heard a Corncrake. Couldn’t see the elusive bird but the call is so distinctive. This was a first for us. We chose a quiet spot for a walk on the beach – difficult to find a place to park, as all the parking spots were occupied by camper vans! We had this vast expanse of sand completely to ourselves. Wonderful.

Great Bernera and Uig

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Nowadays you can drive over a bridge to the island of Great Bernera and what a great place it is to visit. Some excellent craft producers and equally excellent hospitality provided at the Community Centre where we had lunch. The attraction for our visit to the island was the Iron Age House reconstruction. After a great storm in 1993 an area of the dunes was washed away and evidence of a Norse settlement was exposed. Excavations took place and it was discovered that the Norse settlement had been constructed on top of an iron Age one. The site was back filled after the work was completed and the decision made to build a reconstruction closeby.

You park at the cemetery and walk towards the beach where you will see the Time and Tide Bell. This is one of 12 situated around the UK coast. The bell is rung by the water as the tide comes in and goes out. Over the dunes and suddenly below you is the wonderful building. There are similarities in the construction, which were probably developed much later, to blackhouses. A low wall of stones surrounds the outside and then the house is built within that but on a slightly lower level. The outer wall provides a little shelter from the wind.

The house is rectangular with curved ends and has a low stone wall as the base of its construction. Wooden poles form the roof which is covered in turf. Until last year the roof was thatched but it was having to be repaired so frequently that they decided the Iron Age people would not have had a reliable enough supply of material with which to re-thatch so often and must have had a turf roof. You go down steps into the house and enter through a low doorway.  The building is divided into two rooms – one large and one much smaller one. You enter the latter by going down two more steps. They believe this smaller room was a storeroom. A peat fire burns all the time in the centre of the main room and the place reminded us very much of the Crannog reconstruction at Kenmore, on  Loch Tay.

The lady, who is the guide, was so informative and enthusiastic about the whole project. The local historical group look after the site and their only funding comes from visitors like us. Thankfully, at the moment, this provides enough income for them.

From Bernera we drove out to Uig. The tide was right out and a vast expanse of beach was exposed. We had a great walk and the dogs thought it was fantastic. They raced about all over the place, chasing each other and generally having lots of fun. We even came across some giant footprints in the sand. Possibly the ghost of one of those chessmen found in the dunes here in the 1800s!! This must be a very popular place in the summer months, as the caravan site was fairly crowded already and there were numerous camper vans lurking about the area.

The weather turned a bit damp and the sheep had obviously sought shelter as it waited for the bus. We suspected that it might have rather a long wait for one to come along!

Callanish and Carloway

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Callanish Standing Stones – impressive but not the overwhelming experience, for us, that is portrayed in all the information. In fact, we were rather underwhelmed! Perhaps because we have seen so many standing stones, over many years, in many places. Not such large amounts of them in one place but it was the natural patterning on the stones that created more of an impression. I think these places have more of an impact, certainly on me, when there are not crowds of other people there at the same time. Trying to take photos without strangers in them proved very difficult.

It was obviously a very special place for those who constructed it and it is sad, in a way, that we will never know exactly why these stones were placed around the country other than many of them are found on raised ground, a natural part of the landscape, and visible for some distance from all directions. Which also makes it a pretty bleak spot when there is a semi gale blowing and, despite the sunshine, the temperature was more like January than June. We retreated to the cafe in the visitor centre and enjoyed a very good lunch.

We had Carloway Harris Tweed on our list of places to visit and headed there next. A delightful half an hour was spent assisting the weaver, Norman Mackenzie, whilst he mended broken threads and generally got the loom set up properly so that he could continue weaving the new piece of cloth. He uses a Hattersley Loom that is 60 years old and produces single width tweed. He then told us all about the history of Harris Tweed, explained how he set up the warp threads and filled the bobbins that carry the weft threads. After that we were allowed into the tweed room. Alladin’s cave for me!

His tweeds are a mix of vibrant and more traditional colours and it was so difficult to make a choice. Fortunately, I have a very generous husband who encouraged me to get whatever I wanted and so I did. As you can see!

Arnol Blackhouse

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Arnol Blackhouse is a wonderful place to visit. Very atmospheric with the peat fire burning and filling the place with a blue haze and pungent smell. The smell of peat lingered on our clothes for some while afterwards! The house was lived in until the 1960s, when the lady and her daughter moved across the road to a ‘white house’. The walls are incredibly thick – an outer and an inner stone wall with the gap in between filled with stones and turf. The smaller extension was the barn and then you went directly from there into the main building. This was made up of the byre at one end and then a living room with the peat fire on the floor in the centre. There was a box bed in the corner and then another room with two more box beds.

Across the road are the remains of more blackhouses and you see similar ruins dotted across the landscape of the whole area. Some still with part of the roof intact but mostly just the walls of the building standing next to a ‘new’ house.

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