Tag Archives: seaside

A week on a Scottish Island ~ North Uist in the Outer Hebrides.

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Rocky beach on North Uist.

Back in August ( was it really that long ago?) we made the journey North to the Isle of Skye, stopping overnight in the small ferry port of Uig, before our crossing to Lochmaddy on North Uist, the following afternoon. So why did we choose a remote island in the Outer Hebrides as our holiday destination?

Some years earlier we had enjoyed watching a TV show called Monty Hall’s Great Hebridean Escape, where marine biologist Monty Halls and his madcap dog Reubs stayed in a restored crofters cottage on North Uist whilst working as a volunteer Wildlife Ranger on the island. The TV programme definitely put the thought into our heads about visiting the Outer Hebrides but it wasn’t until eight years later that we were flicking through a Unique Cottages holiday brochure and saw the cottage they had lived in for six months had been renamed Montys Cottage and is now a holiday let. We decided to book it there and then. 🙂

Over The Sea From Skye. Our time on Skye was brief but we did manage to visit a couple of places on the Saturday morning. After a comfortable stay in the Uig Hotel ( very friendly and welcoming, especially to our dog Hugo 🙂 ) we took ourselves off to the mystical Fairy Glen. Its miniature round grassy hills, one of which is basalt topped and from a distance resembles a ruined castle, have been used as landscapes in fairy tale films ‘Stardust’ and ‘The BFG’. We also visited The Skye Museum Of Island Life at Kilmuir. This collection of thatched Highland cottages housed everything a typical crofters village would have needed to make a living from the land and the sea.

The crossing from Uig to Lochmaddy on North Uist takes a little under two hours. Caledonian MacBrayne Ferries operate services to the islands and we spent the trip up on the deck, watching shearwaters skim the surface of the water and gannets dive-bombing the waves. There are dog-friendly areas inside too, so this journey is easy to make with a four-legged friend. 🙂

As we approached Lochmaddy we were welcomed by late afternoon sunshine and we couldn’t wait to get into the car and drive the 40 minutes north to our accommodation.

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Monty’s Cottage.
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Interior.
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Lochan in front of the cottage.
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Ruins on the way to the headland.
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Highland Cows on nearby beach.

Monty’s Cottage. Located down its own secluded lane, a few minutes walk from the sea at Griminish, Montys Cottage looks just like it does in the brochure. A cute white washed crofters cottage with a thatched roof and incredibly thick walls, surrounded by the most beautiful countryside. It felt surreal that this place where Monty Halls had mapped out walking routes for the islands and Reubs the dog had run free on the sands, was to be our home for a week. 😁. Inside the cottage was cosy and well equipped. The owner had left us fresh milk, bread, eggs ect, which did prove a godsend as there were no shops open the following day. Be prepared that shops in the Outer Hebrides don’t usually open on a Sunday!

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Compass Jellyfish.
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European Otter!
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Red deer on the way to Cheese Bay.
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Curious Seal.

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Wildlife On North Uist. The landscape of North Uist is more like a waterscape. There are over 800 freshwater lochans on the island. The watery habitat is perfect for wading birds and for one of Britain’s more elusive species of mammal, the European Otter. European Otters will swim in seawater but also need to bathe in fresh water to protect their coats. We were lucky enough to be able to watch two otters playing in the sea nearby the cottage. A magical experience indeed. 🙂 Other wildlife we spotted on North Uist included several birds of prey, red deer, grey and common seals, many beautiful wildflowers and….. jellyfish galore.

All this wonderful wildlife was on our doorstep, literally. Gaggles of greylag geese flew over every day, a merlin regularly hunted for small birds and field mice in the meadow next to the garden, seals watched us watching them as they bobbed in the bay and scores of compass and lion’s mane jellyfish washed up in one of the several little coves nearby. Corn buntings and countless other small birds make their home on North Uist and it’s neighboring islands. They are basically a nature lovers paradise.

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A typical traffic sign. 🙂
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Balranald Rspb Nature Reserve, North Uist.
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Seal watching on Berneray.
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Snoozy seal and pal, Berneray.
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Our Lady of the Isles, South Uist.

Island Hopping. Very handily North Uist is one of several Outer Hebridean islands connected by causeway roads, making it very easy to visit it’s equally picturesque neighbors. Collectively they are known as The Uists. In the north is beautiful Berneray , which in my opinion boasts the most stunning beaches. All white sand and turquoise ocean. To the south is Benbecula and South Uist, both worth exploring too. And further South is pretty Eriskay , where Bonnie Prince Charlie first landed on Scottish soil. Eriskay is also the real-life location of the shipwreck and lost cargo that inspired the film ‘Whisky Galore’. We didn’t manage to visit the islands of Barra and Vatersay which are accessed by boat. Maybe another time!

Never ending sands, Sollas, North Uist.
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Eriskay. Beach in front of the Am Politician Bar.
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One of Berneray’s stunning stretches of white sand.
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South Uist. Beach near Howmore.

Life’s A Beach. How I long to stroll again on those never ending white sandy shores. The beaches in the Outer Hebrides can match any in the Caribbean I bet. Though we occasionally had to wrap up to walk on them..even in August! There are so many stunning stretches of sand that it’s hard to pick a favourite. 🌞

As you can imagine Hugo had a riot chasing sticks and balls along countless beautiful beaches. Our far from chunky labrador ended up almost whippet thin after a week in the Uists.

Berneray Shop & Bistro.
Lobster at Namara Seafood Café.

Food & Drink. I must admit we cooked most of our evening meals at the cottage, stocking up at the co op 5 miles away in Sollas. Having Hugo with us meant that we had to find pet-friendly places to eat and there are only a few on North Uist. We found both the Lochmaddy Hotel and Langass Lodge near Locheport to be excellent when it came to eating out. Both welcome dogs and have good locally sourced menus.

Wil was really happy when oneday by chance we discovered Namara Seafood Cafe. This place feels a bit like a hushed up secret ,as it is located in a remote working harbor at Kallin on Grimsay ( another small causeway island), miles off the beaten track. The cafe is part of a chandlery ( boat supplies shop) and is by no means posh. It does serve the best fresh lobsters and crab though, straight from the ocean. Wil was one happy man as he tucked into delicious lobster & chips for £13, sat on a bench outside.

Are there any pubs on the islands? Well, not many! And none within walking distance of Monty’s Cottage. In fact the only pub on North Uist is The Westford Inn which we never got round to visiting. It looks like a good one though, serves meals and is dog friendly.

Reflections ~This road ends sculpture is a sweeping ceramic tiled seat at Claddach Baleshore, North Uist.
Sanctuary is a road ends sculpture at Locheport, North Uist.
Mosaic Mackerel on the shoreline near the arts centre in Lochmaddy.

Public Art & Landmarks. The Uists are home to many artists and creative talents, so it was fun to search out the various sculptures and art instillations on the islands. Even in a week we did not find them all. Interesting historic landmarks include the Neolithic chambered cairn Barpa Langais at the top of Beinn Langais , resplendent in heather by August. Also look out for the Hut Of Shadows at Sponnish, which hides a camera obscura within.

Dotted round the islands are several working craft studios. I noticed beautiful pottery at Shoreline Stoneware in Locheport and bought a lovely print of the machair ( coastal wildflower meadows) at Puffin Studio Crafts on Benbecula.

Heather,Grimsay.
Hugo, Berneray.
Rocky coastline, Lochmaddy.
Clachan Sands, North Uist.
Monty’s Cottage.
Berneray. It’s western beach once stood in for Thailand in a tourist brochure!

Are the Uists for you?

If you don’t mind not seeing a soul when you walk on the beach, don’t mind a short drive to the nearest shop and don’t expect a phone signal or WiFi, you will love holidaying on these Hebridean Islands.

Walking, wildlife, stunning beaches, turquoise sea, friendly folk( when you bump into any 😉), fresh seafood, creative art and spectacular scenery. What’s not to love!

The Uists are definitely for us..X

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Sea Air ~ Heysham.

On Sunday we found ourselves on the Lancashire coast, sipping Nettle Beer and surrounded by vikings!

We drove to the sea, passing through the brackened moorland of the Trough Of Bowland.

Heysham Power Station.

Then on through Lancaster and toward Heysham, an ancient fishing port, now more widely known for it’s ferry terminal and power station.

We had decided upon Heysham as a dog-friendly beach destination. One that hopefully would not be too busy with daytrippers. Fellow blogger Christine had mentioned that the area has a Wildlife Trust Nature Reserve, so we used it’s small free carpark and went for a wander.

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Gatekeeper.
Common Blue.

Heysham Nature Reserve covers 17.00 Hectares of various habitats, leading down to a rocky beach, lorded over by a whopping big power station. Beauty can be found in industry. Numerous butterflies fluttered busily around the reserve, the shore was a sea of pretty purple, and snowy white egrets pecked for tasty morsels on the strandline.

Stunning Sea Lavender.
Little Egret.
Lighthouse near the ferry terminal.

Popular with dog walkers ,the nature reserve has walking trails, plenty of dog waste bins and even provides drinking water for thirsty hounds. There is a dog-free portion to explore too, for those of you who prefer to wildlife watch in relative peace. 😉 After our walk we ate a packed lunch at the small picnic area by the car park.

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Picnic Area at Heysham Nature Reserve.

We then decided to drive round to Half Moon Bay on the other side of the ferry terminal. The car park here was very busy. It soon became apparent we were visiting Heysham on it’s annual Viking Festival Weekend! The cliff top walk into the village was teaming with tourists, admiring the far reaching views over Morecambe Bay. You can’t tell from my pictures how busy ( or warm! ) it actually was..

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The coastal walk to the headland with views over Morecambe Bay.
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Next to the ruins of St Patricks Chapel are six coffin graves cut into the cliff. An image of them appears on the Black Sabbath album ‘The Best of Black Sabbath’.
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Relaxing on the headland.
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Small Copper Butterfly.

Heysham’s Viking history dates back 1000 years , with the grounds of St Peter’s Church in the village containing both Saxon and Viking remains. I wrote more about the area on a previous visit ~ Heysham and Half Moon Bay.

Once in the Village it was obvious that everyone had embraced the Viking connection!

Feeling rather thirsty at this point, I decided to try a glass of the local delicacy ‘Granny’s Home Brewed Nettle Drink’. After Wil and I visited Heysham last year, I was telling my Mum all about our day there, and it turns out Heysham holds many happy childhood seaside memories for her. One of those was drinking a non-alcoholic tonic called Nettle Beer. It turns out a well known local personality called Granny Hutchinson used to brew the drink in her cottage, using nettles found round and about. Today the old recipe has been passed down through the generations and is still on sale in Heysham’s cafes. Keen to sample this traditional fare, I bought a £1 glass of the unassuming brown liquid. It definitely has the Famous Five ‘lashings of ginger beer’ factor!

Below are a few photos from the Viking Festival.

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Spirit of Heysham sculpture.

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We did not stop to long at the festival as it was incredibly warm, especially for Hugo. I’m not sure how the people in Viking costumes fared in the heat!

Have you ever been to Heysham?

Sunday Sevens 22nd July.

Having had a whole week off ( oh yes! ) , I thought I would share some of what I have been up to, in the form of a Sunday Sevens. Sunday Sevens is 7 ( or more) pictures from your week and was originally devised by Natalie at Threads & Bobbins

Fun With Family. Last Sunday my brother stopped over, so we headed to our sisters and had an afternoon out at Beacon Fell Country Park, looking for all the sculptures on the trail. Woodpeckers, Owls, Hare and Dragonflies…to name but a few. You can read about a previous visit to the park here.

Before losing my sandals!

Sinking Sandals. Also this week my lovely friend Lou visited us on route to her graduation in Liverpool. Before dropping her off at Crosby Station ,we paid a visit to the Art installation Another Place at Crosby Beach. 100 Iron Men stand looking out to sea, over 3 miles of coastline.

Lou squelching her way over to one of the 100 Iron Men.

We were very stupid and decided to head out over the wet sand to examine one barnacled specimen. Don’t try this at home folks! Lou was fine, but I ended up losing my sandals to the squelchy Mersey mud. 😦 I know it could have been a lot worse. :/ After that we stayed close to the promenade!

Big Butterfly Count. Heres something I was excited to join in with! Every Summer the Big Butterfly Count asks that you take 15 minutes of your time to sit and watch butterflies. 🦋 I decided to count the butterflies we saw whilst relaxing by the dunes at Crosby Beach. It was a great location as I spotted Peacocks, Tortoishells, Whites, Six-spotted Burnets, a Painted Lady and a Common Blue. Why not give the count a go and submit your results here.

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#walk1000miles.  A riverside walk to a nearby village yesterday, brought my miles walked total for this year so far to 909 miles!  Think my swan friend here was impressed!  Hopefully I should hit 1000 miles in August and then my aim is to walk 1500 miles by the end of the year. That would be pretty awesome!

How are you? Any good plans for today ( Sunday) ?  Hoping to head to the coast again. Will try not to lose my sandals this time……

Snowdrops and the Sea ~ Hornby Castle and Morecambe.

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I had been researching Snowdrop Walks in Lancashire and found two. Both were at historic piles and not to far from the sea .Lytham Hall near St Annes and Hornby Castle , a short drive from Morecambe. I managed to persuade Wil that we could incorporate snowdrops and seaside into a good day out for ourselves and our Labrador Hugo. Off we set on a dreary grey day in Clitheroe, heading for Hornby Castle near Lancaster . We actually ended up blessed with some sunshine. 🙂

Hornby Castle in the Lune Valley overlooks the village of Hornby and the river Wenning. Parts of the building date back to the 13th century and the impressive tower that dominates it’s shape is 16th century. The castle is privately owned and the gardens are only opened to the public a few days a year

Hornby Castle from the weir.

It was lovely to see all the many varieties of snowdrops in bloom. They carpeted the woodland, grew in thickets by the river and adorned the lovely walled garden. Hugo’s favourite part was exploring the riverside walk.

I wish I had taken more snowdrop pictures for you all. They really were stunning! Entry to the Snowdrop weekend was £4 per person and included a talk about the castle in the drawing room ( which we managed to miss! ) and you could buy plants, hot drinks and cake in the walled garden. A pottery exhibition was also in the grounds. If you wish to visit Hornby castle yourself, the next opening weekend is 19-20 May, Bluebell season. 🙂

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The village of Hornby itself is quite pleasant and Hornby Post Office & Tea Rooms are a very good stop off point for a spot of lunch. The picture above is quite deceptive as the place was absolutely rammed, due I think to the Snowdrop Weekend and a second hand book sale in the village. The old fountain in the village depicts a cat with a rat in its mouth, said to represent the former owner of the castle, Pudsey Dawson, who brought in cats to clear the castle of a huge rat population in the 19th century. Yikes!

In the afternoon we headed to the coast and went for a blustery walk on the beach in Morecambe. Luckily at this time of year you can depend on pup friendly beaches, even if it is somewhat freezing! Morecambe has appeared in my blog quite a few times so apologies for any repetitive photos. Its a very photogenic place though, if a bit worn and weather beaten.

Eric Morecambe Statue.

The bracing winds encouraged us to head for the Midland Hotel that looks over the bay and the long stone jetty, decorated ( as much of the town is) with seabird sculptures and poems.

The Midland is a Grade II listed Art Deco design hotel , which was built in 1933 by the London, Midland and Scottish Railway. Like many grand seaside hotels it fell into disrepair and decline. In 2008 it was re-opened to the public, all restored and its elegant curving façade happily housing a lovely hostelry once again.

After enjoying our hot drinks we headed home through the Trough of Bowland, calling in at my sisters for another brew. Can’t get enough of brews in this weather!

Have you been on any snowdrop walks this year? Or bracing beach walks for that matter! 🙂

A family friendly bike ride ~ Lancaster, Hest Bank and Morecambe.

It’s been a good few years since I’ve got on a bike, never mind atempted to ride one, so when our  friends  suggested a family friendly cycle route between Lancaster and Morecambe, I was a little apprehensive to say the least. But after borrowing one of Wil’s bike helmets, my sister’s bike ( Thanks Sis! ) and my 7 year old niece, I was good to go. 🙂

We began our cycling adventure in Lancaster, parking on a small pay and display car park , not far from the Millenium Bridge. The route , which was mostly flat ( hurrah ! ) and part of the Lancashire Cycleway  took us along an impressive expanse of car free cycle paths. It meandered through woodland, clung to canal side, dodged the crowds on Morecambe Sea Front and followed and crossed the River Lune , before arriving back at our beginnings 20km later. 

The kids were nothing short of impressive on this bike ride. 🙂  It’s perfect for families though, with only a couple of roads to cross and various refreshment stops.  My friend Jo and I decided we would have to invest in some padded cycling shorts for our next outing!  Boy am I sore today. Ouch! 

I didn’t manage to take as many photos as I would have liked, due to my rather precarious bicycle balance. So a few  of these pics were taken by Jo and Fi. The one of Lune Aqueduct, I pinched off Pinterest.

Ready ! Steady ! Go !
We crossed the impressive Lune Aqueduct that carries the Lancaster canal over the river Lune.

The Hest Bank Inn is a great refreshment stop.
Fish & Chips in a Basket. Nom Nom.
Look out tower , Morecambe.
Big Bird…..and small bird. Ha Ha. 🙂

Colourful seating outside The Midland Hotel.
The Millenium bridge crosses The River Lune in Lancaster.

We all really enjoyed our bike trip. Any recommendations for fairly easy … and flat routes, in the North West , let me know. 🙂 

Butterflies, Seabirds & Rock Pools.

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Large Tree Nymph Butterfly.

In my last blog post I was feeling all Autumnal , but then Summer made a reappearance on Sunday 🙂  Happily we were put in charge of my niece and nephew for the day ….or was it the other way round !  Anyway we decided to head for the coast.  First we found ourselves at Williamson Park  on the outskirts of Lancaster.  With 54 acres of beautiful parkland , the impressive Ashton Memorial and far reaching views across Morecambe Bay, there’s certainly plenty to see.  But it was the Butterfly House and the Mini Beasts that the kids and I were interested in. Whilst Wil took Hugo for a walk , we got up close and personal with allsorts of cute creatures.  🙂

Tropical Blue Butterfly.

 

Common Garden Skink eating lunch.

The Butterfly House in Williamson Park is a former Palm House which resembles a tropical rainforest.  Indeed my camera lense started steaming up as soon as we entered!  Colourful butterflies flutter amongst the greenery and there are also various reptiles living here.  We were especially enamoured by the Common Garden Skink and a Chinese Water Dragon, who seemed a very friendly fellow.

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Chinese Water Dragon.

 

Meerkats. 

As well as The Butterfly House ,there is a Mini Beasts House, an Aviary and Meerkats, so plenty to keep the kids oooohing and ahhing for a little while. We also found an adventure playground, before meeting up with Wil and Hugo in The Pavilion Cafe. And we had to have a quick look in the gift shop too of course!

If only we had climbed up The Ashton memorial.  The views are apparently stunning from the first floor viewing gallery. That’s a definite for next time.  The memorial dominates the Lancaster skyline and was commissioned by Lord Ashton, as a tribute to his late wife.  Constructed mainly from Portland stone, with a copper dome, the structure was completed in 1909, and is now a popular venue for weddings and other events.  But now let’s head to Morecambe, whilst the sun is still shining. 🙂

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Tropical flower.

 

 

 

 

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Ashton Memorial

Morecambe’s Seafront is home to the Tern Project , an art trail that celebrates the varied birdlife and wildlife that make their home on the Lancashire Coast. Look out for poems and puzzles, jokes and riddles and lots of birdy sculptures.  Many can be found on the long stone jetty in front of the Midland Hotel, and along the promenade.

 

A Bird’s Eye View across the Bay.
Comerants.
Lapwing.
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Ringed  plovers.
Magpie.
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Mythical Bird.

When I asked my niece and nephew what they enjoyed the most about our day out, the answer was rock pooling!  These two could spend hours looking for crabs and water snails. Simple pleasures eh. 🙂

 

Gone Crabbing !

Here’s hoping for some more summery days to lead us out of September. X

Summer Links & Likes.

Hey , I totally missed putting up a Links & Likes for June, so without further ado, here’s  my Summer Edition. It will most probably come in two parts,  as we have some way to go yet,  thank goodness!  There’s definitely a bit of a travel theme going on here. So hopefully a bunch of holiday inspiration. 🙂 . Enjoy!

Know where to find the best Ice Cream Parlours in the North East?  Chloe has put in some serious research!

Paul is galavanting round Iceland , ticking off Game Of Thrones filming locations. 🙂

Polly attends a family wedding in beautiful Portmerion , and gets to wear a gorgeous vintage dress. 

The Greedy Sisters do great City Travel Guides!  Look out for their latest adventures in Athens and Avignon. 

Church yards make perfect haunts for summer wildlife, as Amanda finds out,  in Yorkshire.

Yarn bombed Seahorses and Mermaids! Where else but Saltburn by the Sea , with Jo of course!

And more seaside fun. 🙂  The Retro Poodles are in sunny Seaham….and look at the treasures they have found. 🙂

Christine is Wild Swimming amidst stunning Lake District Scenery.

Piia  has wrote an informative guide  Ten Free Things To Do In Helsinki. Makes me want to get up and go!

How lovely to holiday on the beautiful Island of Islay , as seen here on A Mischief Managed – and other Adventures.


And Bev celebrated her blog’s Birthday….by drinking Champagne in Champagne!

Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoy the blog posts. 🙂