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!

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!

 

Back in the saddle – 11 January 2022

After yesterday’s little hissy fit, I’ve returned to the 365 proper.

It does get difficult sometimes to keep finding interesting subjects to photograph, but it’s important to remember the associated benefits. It gets me out in the fresh air, although it also ensures that I spend more time than I should in post processing. It keeps the little grey cells working and when I do get a good photo, or find something I thought I’d lost, like today, it does feel good.

The day didn’t start well. We went to a funeral for a girl I don’t remember meeting. She was the daughter-in-law of one of Scamp’s oldest friends. Funerals are never pleasant occasions, but when it’s for someone with her whole life still to live, it’s worse than normal. That’s all I’m going to say, except I have never seen the chapel at Daldowie as full as it was this morning.

Drove home in blinding sunshine and got on with the day. The sunshine mellowed a bit as the day progressed, but there was still blue sky up there and there was directional light. I took a camera for a walk, while Scamp stayed home and read. I was framing a shot through some trees when I thought I saw a ladybird on a tree beyond my framed shot. It was indeed an orange ladybird with white spots. Possibly the one I’ve been looking for since about November. It was still tucked up neatly in a knot in the trunk. This time I know which tree to look for. It’s the one two trees east of the one with the stick. You’ll know it when you see it, well, you won’t but I will.

That ladybird changed the complexion of the day completely. Unfortunately, none of the photos I took did it justice, so it didn’t get PoD. That award went to an orange coloured leaf, beautifully textured and almost translucent when seen against the light. There is another photo on Flickr that I worked on a tiny little bit tonight. It dates from September 2005, over sixteen years ago! It’s worth a look.

Scamp made Carrot and Lentil Curry tonight. It’s not he hottest curry in the world, but what it lacks in heat, it makes up for in taste. An old favourite.

I don’t think it’s going to be as good a day weatherwise tomorrow, but we may go out again for a spin. Need to get a wall calendar some time soon!

How are the mighty fallen – 13 March 2019

Unlucky 13th?  It didn’t affect me, for once, well it did, but only marginally.

We drove in to Glasgow after lunch to show off our new-found confidence in Quickstep. They do say that pride comes before a fall or as the Bible has it: “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.” Either way, that’s what happened. Michael, as usual picked us up on a few little things we were doing wrong in Jive, then proceeded to tell us we weren’t doing one of the moves correctly. That might have because you hadn’t taught us it yet, Michael! It’s no use arguing with him, because he uses his deafness as a shield and just ignores complaints. I’m not convinced he is as deaf as he makes out. I’m going to get him one of those ear shaped erasers from CassArt and give it to him as a present. Rubber Ear indeed.

Anyway, we survived Jive and also the ridiculousness of Rumba and Cha-Cha which start on beat 2. Whoever decided that was lacking in the numerical department. We waited impatiently for the Quickstep music to start because we knew we’d ace it after two hours of practise between Friday and Saturday. It was a disaster. For once it wasn’t me making the biggest mistakes, Scamp just couldn’t put a foot right. Now I know how she feels when I screw things up. A cup of coffee in Nero made things better. Drove home and Scamp made the dinner, but managed to drop her fried egg on the floor. Maybe she should have had a Large coffee in Nero!

Drove in to Glasgow for the 6.30 class. CITRAC claimed the time from Cumbersheugh to Glasgow Airport was 42mins (on a good night it’s less than 20). It looked like the motorway was going to be a carpark again. Fifteen minutes later we were in the STUC building. Why have a display system like CITRAC if it’s totally inaccurate? Anyway, the 6.30 class was great fun as was the 7.30 class, but as it is closing soon, the numbers were low, although the spirits were not! Maybe it was that, or a footbath to ease her feet, or maybe it was a stiff G ’n’ T that put the smile back on her face, but whatever it was, she’s gone off to her bed looking a lot more like herself.

Today’s PoD was taken outside the GOMA this afternoon. I think this one is much better.  It was taken near Duntulm on Skye last Saturday.

Tomorrow is a tying up loose ends day, I hope.

Sleet, snow, hail and rain – 10 March 2019

Set off around 9.30 for the long drive back home. It wasn’t looking like it would be a pleasant drive and it lived up to that estimate. Driving down through Skye was ok with the snow keeping mostly to the mountains and higher hills. I managed to grab a shot of the Old Man of Storr just emerging from a blizzard. That became the PoD.

Carried on down to the biscuit tin also know as Eilean Donan castle at Dornie and stopped there for a coffee and a scone each. Suitably refreshed and after I’d had a quick look at some of the paintings for sale in the shop, we got on our way again. The weather worsened quite a bit and when we passed Loch Cluanie it was down to minimal visibility and the snow was beginning to lie on the road. I expected worse would be to come when we made the turn off to climb up to the Glen Garry viewpoint because the road is very exposed. I needn’t have worried because the snow clouds didn’t break and we had a fairly easy run over to Invergarry. From there it was on and off sleet and rain all the way down to Fort Billy where we stopped for lunch.

Refuelled at Fort Billy (oh how I wish the Juke had a proper petrol tank) and set off for Glencoe. Glencoe itself was fine, but when we got up onto Rannoch Moor the snow started again in earnest and we joined a conga line of cars battling down the road. The snow and sleet stayed with us all way down to Crianlarich and eventually faded out, leaving us free to drive down to Stirling and the welcome wide lanes of the M9. We had had a blue van following us all the way from Fort Billy. He/she seemed in no hurry to pass us and we kept a steady pace all the way. Just before they turned off the M9 heading for Embra they flashed their headlights and I gave them a wave. Hope they got home safe.

The rest of the journey was thankfully boring and pedestrian compared with the highlands. Enjoyed the time with Jac & Murdo, but it was good to be home.

Tomorrow? Gems and Salsa that’s about it.

A much brighter day – 9 March 2019

Ah, this was more like it. Today we’d drive round the top.

Bright sunshine with just the prospect of a few showers too to keep us honest. Drove down the drive and turned left. Found this interesting PoD at Duntulm. Taken with a wide angle lens it almost looks like a panorama. The light was kind to us me for once and showed up the textures nicely. It also shows the remoteness of the landscape. I was looking for a new road to travel, but couldn’t find one that looked interesting, so we just continued to Uig, but when we got there the weather closed in again and we didn’t stop. We just continued on our way round to Portree.

We’d seen Portree yesterday and I doubted that there was much more to hold our interest, so after getting some fuel we drove down to Slighachan then on to the Fairy Pools on the Glenbrittle road. Unfortunately the brand new carpark looked full and at £5 flat fee was a bit expensive for what it was. We turned and drove back to Portree where we had lunch in Aros. For once I had a decent toast there. Bacon and Mushroom. I must remember that if we’re ever there again. Usually everything is slathered in heavy, oily cheese but this was just what the description said. Coffee was great too – it always is. Scamp wasn’t so impressed with her Tuna melt which seemed to be more melt than tuna. Such a pity after mine being so good.

Drove back to Staffin and went for another dancing practise. This time we filmed it to see how we looked when we were dancing. Learned a lot, especially that our posture isn’t as good as we thought. Also we must remember to look forward or to the side, not at our feet. We even entertained Jackie and Mairi with our waltz steps. They were kind enough not to laugh!

Scamp went back with Jackie and I drove down to the slip to get some moody sea shots. Couldn’t quite manage to find the right subjects. Saw this woman laying out what looked like a rolled up canvas on the ground behind the boat sheds and holding it down with rocks. Later I found out she is the Dutch landowner. At least that’s what Jackie and Murdo think after hearing my description of her. Finally got some shots from the ‘beach’ and I might, just might have seen the famous dinosaur’s footprints.

Home for dinner and to prepare for tomorrow’s journey back down the road.

A Grey Day – 8 March 2019

A good day for dancing the greys away.

It was too dull a day for taking the Juke round the top end, so we just drove through the rain down to Portree, the big city. We headed for Jan’s Vans. A real find in Portree. Jan’s Vans is really just a big hardware store. Nothing fancy, but everything from a needle to an anchor. I’ve never actually seen any anchors in there, but I’m sure if you looked long enough you’d find one. We really were there for lunch, because it’s decent grub. Certainly not anything fancy, just good food. After lunch we went for a look round the shop part of the establishment and found lots of interesting and cheap stuff. Laces for my dancing shoes, memory foam insoles for the same. Bottle brushes that Scamp had been searching for everywhere. We passed on the ride-on mower for £2400 because it would be difficult to get it home. I suppose we could have ridden it, but it wouldn’t have been a comfortable journey.

We had a look in Skye Batiks to see if they’d any nice shirts. They did have, but not at a nice price. £50 for a short sleeved shirt is a bit expensive for me. A quick trip to the newsagent’s and that was it for Portree. We headed back up the road through the rain showers. Scamp had arranged with her sister that we could book the hall in her outdoor centre for an hour or so of dance practise. It was indeed a good idea and we got some useful dancing practise in and I grabbed PoD which was taken from one of the windows onto the wild Skye landscape.

Back home and after dinner we had a fair bit of excitement when the chimney in the house caught fire and the fire brigade had to called. As it’s a volunteer group the men had to be assembled and driven up to the house in their brand new fire engine. It didn’t take much more than fifteen minutes and the fire was out by the time they arrived, but it was quite a worrying time. The guys were really efficient and put everyone’s mind at rest when they checked the chimney and the wall with their heat sensitive camera. Later we managed to settle down with a G&T for some and a dram for others to calm us down. It will be talk of the township tomorrow.

Tomorrow we’re hoping for better weather and less excitement.

Coming Down – 27 May 2018

“Coming down is the hardest thing”. That’s what the late Tom Petty said in “Learning to Fly”. It’s true and it’s even more true when you’re driving away from Skye and the sun is shining.

We left early, just after 10am, because we were ready and there seemed no point in prolonging the agony. The drive down was amazingly quiet, at least until we reached Rannoch Moor where we picked up some traffic. We stopped at the awkwardly named Lochan na h-Achlaise which apparently translates as Loch of the Armpit, or Loch Oxter. Anyway, that’s where I got PoD. It took a little longer to process than I’d anticipated. The basic levels and stuff was done in Lightroom and then I handed it over to ON1 for some more delicate make-up. The result went back into Lightroom for the final cropping and I’m more than happy with the final result.

Loch Oxter got quite noisy too with a collection of BMWs, Subaru Imprezas, Audis and assorted low riding Peugeots about 10 in all showing an impressive turn of speed as they turned the A82 into a drag strip. Noisy, dangerous and quite exhilaration, although others of the ‘blue rinse brigade’ were heard to say that “there’s no need for that” and “shouldn’t be allowed”. True, but that’s only because they were never young once. Some folk are born old.

Back on the road stopped for lunch at Morrisons in Fort William The next drag was a real drag. For about a mile and a half outside Callander we crawled forward in a long queue held there because of two sets of traffic lights. One set was true traffic lights at a junction and the other was a set of pedestrian lights where the ‘grannies’ were crossing and re-crossing the road just to annoy us drivers. Can’t they find somewhere better to spend their Sunday afternoon? I think it’s the same ones who where hissing and harrumphing about the folk of the testosterone brigade up at Loch Oxter.

Once we were past there, it was plain sailing all the way home. About 6 hours driving with half an hour out for lunch and half an hour out for Callander. That’s about average. It’s a long day and a long drive, but it has to be done and at least there weren’t very many potholes on the road.

Tomorrow is a relaxing day. Very little or no driving planned.