The long way home – 25 May 2022

Just like the drive up, there’s not a lot you can say about driving about 250 miles, less than 20 of those miles being on motorway.

It was a fairly decent run down, although we did have to stop for fuel at Kyle of Lochalsh and pay the exorbitant £1.93 per litre. We could have filled up at Broadford for the £1.64, but the queue to get to the pumps looked as if it would take the best part of an hour!!

Still smarting from those highland bandits, we stopped at Fort William for essentials and lunch, then it was onward and downward until we parked outside the house and then the electronics of the car did a reset again. We’ve a few things to do in the next day or two, so I’ll keep an eye on it for further problems, then book it in to get this sorted out. Also, a letter to Nissan wouldn’t go amiss.

The garden needs a bit of a tidy up, but hopefully we’ll get that done in the next few days too. Scamp’s rhododendrons look really spectacular.

Maybe a wee dram before bedtime tonight, just to settle me down.

PoD was one last look out of the front window of our holiday home onto a gloomy looking sea.

Tomorrow? Probably emptying the cases and filling the washing machine. Scamp also wants a visit to Tesco.

Elgol – 24 May 2022

Today we finally made it to Elgol.

That strange place where the road leads to the sea and stops there. When the light is right and the Cuillins are lit by it it’s magical. Also when the light is poor, it’s mystical, seeing the mountains appear and disappear as the clouds break. Whatever the weather, you can turn your back on the crammed car parks, the pop-up coffee booths, the stalls selling trips out on RIBs to the islands and be somewhere else. Unfortunately there are masses of people arrive here, stop and say “Is that IT?” “Is this why we drove for miles and miles along a single track road in the rain, to see some mountains and some sea?” YES! “There’s not even a decent chip shop” NO! That’s part of its charm. Have I given you the impression that, I like Elgol?

It is a long drive from Staffin. All the way south to Broadford on the ‘main’ road. Then onto the single track road out to the west to Elgol. It’s around 55 miles and takes about one and a half hours. Going back it’s another 55 miles and another hour and a half because there is no alternative route. We stopped for petrol in Portree on the way down and drove down to just past Broadford where we stopped at Loch Cill Chriosd. A lovely quiet spot with beautiful views on a good day and today was a good day. There’s an old ruin of a church there, the Church of Kilchrist, but I was more interested in the landscape round the loch which is almost covered with rushes. On a day with little wind, the loch produces beautiful reflections. It was almost perfectly still today, although there was a shower of rain. Photos taken we pressed on to Elgol.

It was really busy. Cars and vans of the camper variety parked everywhere and anywhere. Scamp saw a likely place to park up near the village hall. There was one space left. Luckily we only had one car. She took some photos and then went to the village hall which had a tea shop beside it. I’d remembered my boots this time, so I headed down to the ‘beach’. As I’ve said before ‘beach’ is a misnomer. There’s no way you could erect your deck chair on this beach with rocks that are graded from fist sized stones to man sized boulders (or should that be ‘person sized?). However, those boulders didn’t stop a bridal party in suits and sticky-out white dress tying the knot beside the big eroded cliff! I was a bit peeved at first because that was one of the spots I wanted to photograph, but they were there first and I was only a nuisance photog who would have to be photoshopped out of their photos later.

The weather was jsut perfect and I got the photos I wanted with the equipment I wanted to use. I’d brought my old 10-20mm Sigma ultra-wide lens, fitted on the A6000 camera. It’s a really good lens that only works in manual these days, but I don’t mind that because it produces such good results. I’d brought the A7iii and kit lens as well, but having both meant I didn’t have to swap lenses. Someone had been thoughtful enough to sail a three masted sailing ship into position below one of the mountains as an extra little interest point.
After a while I’d taken all the photos I wanted and headed back up the steep hill to the tea shop where I thought Scamp would be waiting, but she was off on her own climbing a hill to another viewpoint, but had seen me and come back down again. I know now that we should have walked back up to the viewpoint, but honestly I was knackered with climbing that hill. A cup of tea helped and then we drove back those 55 miles to the house.

Earlier in the day we’d said goodbye to June and Ian who were off in the morning with Jackie to catch the bus that would take them down to Glasgow. I didn’t really envy them the trip, with their first, and only, stop in Fort William. Then the next half of the journey to Glasgow itself, then another bus to Cumbersheugh. In another way I did envy them the ability to just sit there in relative comfort instead of having to drive down the road. That’s what we’d have to do tomorrow.

We’d been invited to Jackie and Murdo’s for dinner. It was a reasonably comfortable night, so we just walked down to Burnside. I was cautious with my alcohol intake because I knew I was driving us home the next day. Scamp got the offer of a dress for the next wedding from Jackie, an offer she couldn’t or wouldn’t refuse, so we carried that back to the house later. We’d still a few things to pack, so with that done we went to bed, because tomorrow was going to be a long day.

PoD just had to be Elgol!

The only plan for tomorrow was to stop at Columba for a slice or two of the wedding cake, then drive, drive, drive.

Boots – 23 May 2022

Today we climbed Quiraing. Not mountain climbed it, in the car, of course! Are you mad!

We drove up to see then fantastic new car park and it really was a totally different place from the one we used to know. No big boulders poking out of the hard packed earth. No mad foreigners (that includes english) parking anywhere they felt like it, which sometimes meant actually on the road. No, there is now a purpose built car park with plenty of room for everyone from normal folk to those who drive camper vans. There is a down side, of course. It’s no longer free. That didn’t seem to bother the folk who were filling up all those spaces. We didn’t stop. I’ve photographed the view from the top of Quiraing more times than I care to remember and it in all sorts of weather. No, today we were just being nosey!

We drove on to Uig and stopped at a viewpoint at the top. Just hard packed earth, but free. The whole of Uig bay was laid out below us. I took a few shots that I’d later merge into a panorama or two, then we faced the drop down into Uig proper and the tortuous hairpin in the middle of the drive. Came through unscathed and continued on to Portree. There’s nothing much to see in Uig apart from the ferry terminal to Lewis, or is it Harris? I can never remember.

We were heading to Elgol and its strange eroded rock face at the north end of what is laughingly called a beach. It’s really just a jumble of boulders from ones the size of your fist to massive ones the size of a small car. On a good day there are great views of the Cuillins. But not today. The weather was fine, in fact it was nearly perfect with white clouds in a blue sky, but unfortunately, just before we reached Sligachan, I discovered I’d not brought my walking boots. The thought of climbing over those boulders in my shoes didn’t inspire me, so we stopped and I took a few shots of the Cuillins from the almost diametrically opposite direction. Mountins continuously being covered and uncovered with cloud and with rain showers washing across them. It wasn’t Elgol, but it would do. We turned and drove back to Portree, bought some expensive petrol (£1.71 per litre) and went to Jans Vans for lunch, a hard brush for Scamp and a chilli plant for me.

From there we drove up to Staffin and went down to the beach with its grey/black sand. That’s where today’s PoD came from. It’s a time exposure looking towards Flodigarry, using a 10 stop ND filter. I just knew you wanted to know that Jamie. Scamp hung around for a while, but then went back to sit in the car.

With a few shots in the bag and one I was sure would be PoD, I drove back to the house and we got ready for tonight’s family meal in Columba. There were eight of us being fed on Chicken or Pork or Veggie Haggis with potatoes and broccoli as side dishes. Lots of talk at the table and Scamp was interrogating Allan about the correct way to cook Jackfruit. I was impressed how much information he passed on, explaining the good and bad points of this strange vegetable that we’ve only recently discovered. A good night, even if Mairi wasn’t feeling like joining us.

We drove back to the house because June and Ian had some more preparations before they leave for home tomorrow.

It was a well filled day. Tomorrow we’re hoping to get to Elgol with boots!

The day after – 22 May 2022

… the night before.

This was going to be a day of recovery. Recovery from too much to drink, from too much food and from too much dancing in new shoes.

We didn’t break surface until after 9am. Tea in bed with a good book. Then after that and after showering away yesterday’s excesses, breakfast proper. A look out the window confirmed our suspicions that there wouldn’t be much sunshine today. There would, however be a lot of rain.

Scamp went next door to speak to her sister and to see how she and Ian were getting on. She had walked much further than I had. I didn’t even pass the threshold. I took today’s PoD from the open kitchen window.

I did, however, have to go to the door in the afternoon when an american lady decided she’d just drop in to see us. I don’t know who she was or what she thought she was doing, but she soon got as far as the front hall before she got the “bum’s rush”. She allegedly thought this was a B&B and her husband wanted to use our ‘rest room’. I told her very little, and directed her to the house at the end of the drive. I know there is a sort of open door policy in the Highlands and Islands, but it’s strictly for locals, not for americans wanting to use our facilities. Anyway, we don’t have a room to rest in.

The rest of the day was without incident, but with a lot more rain. It was fish and chips for dinner. Both of which were cooked in the oven. Not an exceptional meal, but after yesterday’s excesses, something more grounded was required today.

Watched the Spanish GP, a boring race with little to recommend it.

Tomorrow we’re invited to dinner at Columba. A family dinner.

Wedding – 21 May 2022

The wedding wasn’t until 3pm, so we had a whole morning to fill.

We drove up to the tiny little parking place above what I heard a guide describe as “the healing spring”. We’d walked this path a few years ago, but it obviously didn’t make a great impression on me, because I couldn’t remember anything about it. It was a pleasant wee walk down around some hawthorn bushes and we did take a short detour that led us into a whole host of wild orchids. One of them made PoD. We thought the path would take us down to the shore, but it ended quite abruptly at a strange wee lochan of perfectly clear water. It was almost turquoise in colour. On reading about it later, it turned out that was the ‘healing waters’ and people would travel from far and wide to bathe in it and drink the waters, although there was no record of it having any medicinal properties. We chose not to bathe in or drink the waters and anyway we’d forgot our swimming costumes. There didn’t seem to be any way down from the lochan to the shore, so we walked back up the path we’d just come down, almost just in time to get back to the car before the rain started. Yes, we did get soaked.

We’d a couple of hours to have a quick lunch before we needed to get dressed for the wedding. The car was to pick us up at 2pm to be at the site for the wedding. June and Ian were to go first and then the driver would come back for us. That rain that started when we were waking back to the car had continued and got heavier when we were back at he house. Scamp and I were dressed when the car arrived to for J&I and Scamp went out in the rain to help June into the car. After that we had a while to wait before it was our turn. Eventually the driver arrived for us and just as we were setting off, I realised I didn’t know where I’d put the house key. Not having pockets in my kilt, and all the pockets in my dress jacket being sewn up still, I couldn’t think where the key would be. Eventually I found it had dropped in between my jacket and my waistcoat. It must have landed there when I was putting on my seatbelt.

So, we got to the wedding which was indeed in a barn, but what a barn. Carpets on the floor and seats arranged in rows. Family members at the front and also-rans at the back. Decorated with tassels, hundreds of them, hanging from strings on the rafters. A humanist ceremony with a Celebrant rather than a minister or an official at a registry office. This was much more relaxed and personal. I liked it.

From the barn we walked down a path lit with fairy lights to the marquee, in the sunshine. There we met with the new Mr & Mrs Macdonald who had gone on ahead. We were also able to have a glass of Prosecco and Canapés before being seated in the marquee. I had Scotch Broth with Texel lamb, peas and barley while Scamp had Artichoke & Spring vegetable soup, both served with sourdough rolls.
Our main courses were Curried lentil, sweet potato and spinach pie for Scamp and Moroccan spiced mutton & apricot pie for me with various sided dishes Boston style baked beans, Rosemary and sea salt potato wedges and Sautéed spring veg. Dessert, if you had room for it, was Four different types of donuts. I made room! Food fit for a special wedding.

After a decent time, the four piece band of fiddle, accordion, keyboard and drums got us all on the dance floor. Scamp and I did a few of the country dances, but as the night got older, the length and speed of the dances seemed to increase and we saw watching rather than taking part. June and Ian left around 10.30pm, but we stayed and even managed a very badly danced salsa when the band were on their break. After their break, the band continued, but the pace was now frantic. Soon, too soon, we were at the last dance which was an Orcadian Strip the Willow which must have been the longest, fastest and most out of control of the night. We had no wish to be part of it, but Scamp’s younger sister was keen to join in. Well done to her. A rousing rendition of Loch Lomond signalled the end to the festivities for most of us.

So, it was now time to go. Time to pack up and make our way through the dark (there are no streetlights here ) and in the rain to try to find our taxi which we were assured would be waiting for us. We missed it, but caught it again when it was climbing the hill with the Gillies family in it. We eventually got back to the house about 1am. I took the opportunity to download my photos to the laptop and have a browse through them while having a final G ’n’ T with Scamp. Got to bed just before 2am, so as you will already have gathered, this is a catch up.

Tomorrow (today) we will be recovering.

 

Washout – 20 May 2022

We’d gone out with the intention of driving down to Elgol. That didn’t happen.

We did drive down to the Co-op in Portree for something for tonight’s dinner for us, a couple of litres of milk and a bottle of gin for June. Then we took the road south although it was raining and kept going south into the teeth of a gale and driving rain until I pulled in at a parking place. The place where we’d stopped to photograph the waterfall on Wednesday. There we turned around and drove back to Jan’s Vans for lunch. It was pointless to drive on to Elgol in such weather. Sure, we might have arrived there to wall to wall sunshine. That’s quite possible on Skye. It’s also possible that there would be nowhere to park and the clouds would still be dumping rain on us. No, this was the sensible solution.

After lunch we drove back up the East road to the house. Shared out the messages with June and Ian and had a coffee in our own half of the house. All the while it was raining. But after an hour or so it began to tail off and I thought I might just get out for some photos. That happened when the sun did shine and the clouds did lift.

I drove down to Staffin shore, the beach with lovely light coloured sand. Unfortunately, today you could hardly see the sand, there were so many folk down there. Walking groups, family groups, people with dugs and just ‘folk’. Of course, they ubiquitous Camper Vans were there in their dozens too. Big bloody white boxes with a wheel at each corner. I gave up and drove down to the Slip where there were only two cars and a Manitou digger, forklift, jack of all trades. It looks brand new, so can’t belong to anyone on Skye. I got a few photos, but nothing spectacular. And, of course then the Camper Vans started arriving, so I left.

I drove up past the house, up to Loch Langaig near Flodigarry. It’s a big loch set among a horseshoe of hills. Lovely wee clean burn runs out of it and that’s what I was intending to photograph. I managed a few shots that I quite liked and decided to change lenses. When you’re in the hills, you should keep and eye on the clouds. The direction they’re coming from and how fast they’re moving. If I’d done that I might have noticed they were breaking over the hill tops and I might have got back to the car without getting soaked. I didn’t notice. I did get soaked.

But, I did get the photo. A low level view of the burn running off the loch and that became PoD. Best photographing day I’ve had since we arrived.

It’s unlikely I’ll have very much time for photography tomorrow. Lots of dressing up to do and lots of running around like a headless chicken. Isn’t that what weddings are all about?

Off to the big city – 19 May 2022

Today we set off to visit the big city – Portree.

As usual on our first full day on the island, we set off on an anticlockwise tour of the island. The first half is the most scenic, hugging the east and north coast of the island on mostly single track roads. We met a few ‘Zoomers’ as usual. The ones who want to travel at 20mph to get a good view of the scenery, completely ignoring the signs that suggest that you use the passing places to allow faster travellers to pass you. They are just lazy or are so entranced by the views that they forget that other people behind them may need to catch a ferry, or be in a certain place by a certain time. Worse, though are the ones who own the road. They too ignore the passing places and just drive straight towards you and try to hustle you off ‘their’ road. They are the dangerous ones. We met both kinds today. We also met a herd of cattle, not ‘Highland’ cattle, just ordinary beasts with their calves running around their heels. Some tiny wee calves too. “Dog sized” was Scamp’s description and it was very true, they must have been fairly recently born.

We did the full circuit of the island and stopped at Jan’s Vans for lunch. It was extra busy today with many people walking round this hardware emporium holding buzzers that would call them when their table was ready. We didn’t have too long to wait until ours buzzed and we got seated at table 10. It was a 20 minute waiting time for food, but that didn’t bother us because we weren’t going anywhere in a hurry. I ordered “The Works” which is the middle sized All Day Breakfast. I’ve never been quite hungry enough for The Full Works. Maybe some day. Scamp, of course had Macaroni ’n’ Cheese with chips. We did have to wait about the full 20mins, but it was worth it. We followed it with coffee for me and peppermint tea for Scamp with two of the worst pineapple cakes I’ve ever had. Extra thick pastry base and a tiny teaspoon of pineapple and an equal amount of cream. Not good enough, Jan’s Vans!

Three German blokes asked a waitress for the wifi password while I was in the queue for the coffee. The girl rattled off the “TheRedBrickCafe” and was about to turn away when one asked her “Could we have that in English now?” Luckily she laughed and wrote it down for them. We forget just how quickly we speak in Scotland. There were three American ladies in front of me in the same queue, all asking questions: How hot is the chilli? Is the salad vegetarian or vegan? What kind of coffee do you use? Then a man sidled up and I thought he was going to jump the queue, but in a mid-western drawl he said “I hope you don’t mind, I’m with them.” pointing to the ladies. I said Ok, I’d trust him … this time. He half smiled and said “I have to authenticate”, and showed me his credit card. He was paying!

After we left with a couple of new cups and two microwave safe bowl for breakfast, we went to the Co-op and then home by the usual east side road. Stopping at Staffin Slip to check out the new hardcore that’s been added to the slip to provide a base for a new terminal there. Took a few photos there, but there are so many mobile homes parked there now, it’s difficult to get a clear landscape view. Driving back to the house, we caught a glimpse of the marquee that’s been erected for Saturday.

June and Ian arrived tonight after having had dinner with Jackie and Murdo. Scamp and Jackie had a long discussion about dresses and fascinators an combination fascinators and hats. Strange concoction!

Later Mairi who owns the house dropped in with a cake and some fresh eggs. Again we sat and talked. When she left, I took the two Sonys out and got today’s PoD.

Not sure what’s happening tomorrow. No firm plans made.

Emptying bags – 18 May 2022

There’s not much you can say about driving 250ish miles with a couple of stops.

Actually it was a fairly pleasant drive up through the west highlands to Fort William where we stopped for lunch and essentials like beer, wine and prosecco, and also to take on some really expensive petrol. Not the most expensive petrol we saw, because further on in our journey at Loch Cluanie we found an out of the way hotel with petrol on sale for £1.99 per litre!

We passed Eilean Donan Castle, but didn’t stop although a lot of folk did pause to photograph the biscuit tin castle that isn’t nearly as old as it looks. No, we went on over the bridge which has lost some of its elegance with a new conveyer belt stretching out to a deep water mooring for ships to take on what looks like gravel from an excavation. Such a pity. I’d still photograph it if the light was right and then just photoshop out the offending structure. We made our second stop near Loch Ainort to photograph the falls. They weren’t as impressive as they sometimes are, but it wasn’t raining and there was the opportunity to get the camera out of the bag and I wasn’t going to pass up on the chance! It’s a long time, and many cameras ago, since I last took pictures of them. That became PoD.

We didn’t bother to stop in Portree, but carried on to Digg and pulled up at Jackie and Murdo’s house around 5.30pm. Not a bad time after leaving home about 10.45am. A cup of coffee in the house and time for Scamp and her sister to catch up on preparations for Jaki’s wedding. Just a quick stop to break our journey before we drove to the cottage. Our holiday home for a week.

Just had time to start unpacking all those bags and then we walked down to J&M’s, which is barely 200m from the cottage, for dinner. After dinner and after Murdo had shooed off his brother and his sister in law, we sat in the living room, me with a glass of very nice Johnnie Walker Black Label and Scamp and sister with a G ’n’ T, while Murdo took up station in the kitchen watching Rangers ultimately lose the championship 5-4 on penalties. Such a terrible way to lose. We spoke to Mairi later and she had us in stitches with her stories of the bride and the bridesmaids antics getting a spray tan for the wedding. A spray tan in Skye?

We left later and made our way back to the cottage, were I’m writing this.

Tomorrow we may make our usual journey round the top of the island and down to Portree. The big city!

 

Stuffing bags – 17 May 2022

Scamp was out this morning, early and I decided I should make a final push at stuffing things into bags.

Yes, but stuffing things into bags in such a way that I’d be able to find them again later! That took up most of the morning, by which time Scamp had returned with confetti and cards, because we’re going to a wedding, not today, thankfully, but soon.

Bag stuffing completed and purchasing completed we settled down to lunch.

With some time to spare, I wangled a 3 for today’s Wordle. Scamp wasn’t so lucky, with a 6, but at least she did get the word, which is the target to aim for some days. If you haven’t a clue what I’m talking about, search the interweb for Wordle and join the people driven crazy by this addictive word puzzle. It’s like the old ‘70s peg game Mastermind with a touch of Scrabble thrown in for good measure.

That entertained us for a while before we had to decide what dinner was going to be. I suggested the easy way out – get an instant curry from M&S. That seemed to hit the spot and off we went in search of that quarry. We found a couple of new curries on the shelves. Scamp chose a Prawn Bhuna and I had a Lamb Rogan Josh we also had some Onion Bhajis. We walked back up the road and Scamp volunteered to take the food home which gave me the chance of a walk round St Mo’s. Found today’s PoD near the pond. It’s an as yet unidentified spider with its dinner of a black fly. No macro lens today, so this was captured with the kit lens.

Back home with just enough time to get changed before we headed off for the last week of Jamie Gal’s little pop-up salsa class at the Fort Theatre in Bishopbriggs. Such good fun, and such a pity he doesn’t have the time to keep it going. I’ll miss the exercise on a Tuesday night.

Back home the Bhuna was too much for Scamp so I ‘helped’ her to finish it as well as my own. The verdict was that the Bhuna was just hot enough to be comfortable. The Rogan Josh was good, but needed salt and the Bhajis were just ok. At least we didn’t need to cook it.

Heavy rain tonight that is due to last through the night, leaving a better day tomorrow. Let’s hope they got it right.

 

Tidying up loose ends – 16 May 2022

Lots of stuff to do yet, but it’s getting clearer what’s needed and what’s not.

It was a wet morning and Scamp was out to Tesco, which gave me a chance to tidy up the back bedroom and clear a space to work on. When she came back the settee was cleared and ready.

To save time we just drove to The Fort. We were parked right next to another blue Micra. Exactly the same model and style. Twins! I wanted a book at Waterstones and she was looking for cards and gift boxes for yesterday’s gifts. I hate that work, ‘gift’. It’s so lacking in definition and emotion. I’d much rather say ‘Prezzy’, but I don’t suppose you can go into a shop and ask “Where do you keep the Prezzy boxes, please?” So that vanilla word, ‘gift’ will have to do. In Waterstones I managed to find both the books I was considering, sitting on the rack next to one another, so I bought both. One with a gift voucher (there’s that word again. I’ll call it a book token next time) and one with real money. The books were “May God Forgive” and “Bad Actors”. Met Scamp on the way back from the book shop and we drove home.

Back home it was lunch time and also time for a couple of chapters in my new Robert Pobi book “Under Pressure”which looks like another page turner. (Hazy, I don’t know if Neil has read this one, it’s the next in the sequence after “City of Windows”. Maybe you could mention to him.) I gave myself a limit of reading until 2.30 and then I had to start sorting things out after. I ended up with the settee covered again with clothes ready to go into cases. After I’d done all I could do, I grabbed a camera and two lenses and walked over to St Mo’s, hoping for some damselflies again, but there were none. The rain from the morning had disappeared and it was actually quite warm. Much warmer that the 10ºc we had going in to The Fort. I did find a big spider tending its web just by the side of the boardwalk and it became PoD. Not much light though, because those heavy rain bearing clouds were still hung overhead, so I took that as a sign to take my lucky spider shots and go home.

Dinner tonight was a bit of a mix up. Boiled some spaghetti, then cut some shallots and red pepper thin and fried them in some oil before adding some passata. While it was cooking through, griddled some slices of courgettes, aubergines and mushrooms in my ribbed pan. When the pasta was cooked I added it to the sauce and served the veg as a side. It was different and it seemed to work. This chapter is a reminder to me of how I made it.

We had a quick refresher of the “Baby” waltz, the Sweetheart Cha-Cha and the Fishtails from the quickstep.

Tomorrow is the last day of the short salsa class in Bishopbriggs. Who knows what Jamie Gal will throw into the mix!