Tag Archives: Wildlife

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. ๐Ÿ™‚

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 ๐Ÿ™‚ ) 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. ๐Ÿ™‚

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. ๐Ÿ˜. 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. ๐Ÿ™‚ 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. ๐Ÿ™‚
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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. ๐ŸŒž

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 Cafรฉ.

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 ยฃ13, 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 ๐Ÿ˜‰), fresh seafood, creative art and spectacular scenery. What’s not to love!

The Uists are definitely for us..X

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A stroll along the Crinan Canal, Britain’s most beautiful short cut.

On the last day of our holiday in Scotland ,we discovered the serenely beautiful Crinan Canal. Often described as ‘Britains Most Beautiful Short Cut’ , the waterway was completed in 1801, as a quick link between the West Coast and Islands and the Clyde Estuary. The 9 mile stretch of canal vanquished the need to travel round the coast of the vast Kintyre Peninsula, a very handy short cut indeed. ๐Ÿ˜

After noticing a sign for Crinan near the village of Slockavullin, where we were staying, we decided to go exploring in the car. 15 minutes later and we found ourselves in this picturesque wee harbour village. It is here that the canal enters the Sound of Jura.

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Crinan village harbour.
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Watching the world go by, as Hugo keeps an eye on the cake.
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A pleasure boat sets out for a cruise.

The quayside is an ideal spot to sit with a coffee and watch the world ( and their beautiful boats) go by. Queen Victoria herself took a trip up the canal in 1873.

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A moorhen hitching a lift. ๐Ÿ™‚
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Interpretation boards along the tow path tell the waterways history.

We decided to take a short stroll along the tow path, keeping Hugo on lead, as he is prone to jumping into canals given half the chance. The beauty of this walk, the wonderful watery views! On one side you have the calm Crinan canal, and on the other, the coastal vistas of the River Add Estuary.

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Duntrune Castle looks out toward Crinan. It is said to be haunted by the ghost of a handless Piper.
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Rosebay willowherb turning fluffy.
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Sleepy Duck.
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All aboard!
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Lock and Keepers Cottage.

Our short stroll took us past several boats negotiating the locks. It feels rude to stop and watch though. I’m sure I would get pretty flustered if I had a crowd eyeing my every move! In days gone by the Crinan Canal saw sailing and fishing vessels pass through, as well as Clyde Puffers.

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Fraser MacIver on his roof.

We soon came across a man fixing his waterside cabin roof. I am pretty sure he is the artist who uses the colourful caravan below as a studio.

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Artists studio.
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Art Honesty Box. ๐Ÿ™‚

I helped myself to a leaflet that says ‘ Canadian artist Fraser MacIver has lived on the Crinan Canal since 1997, taking inspiration from his canalside environment; as well as from the beautiful surrounding Argyllshire countryside’. I left money for a couple of pretty painted postcards.

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Scabious on the estuary side.

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Has anyone ever explored more of the Crinan Canal?

Would you be tempted to try a canal boat holiday?

Heather and Haweswater.

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Haweswater is a reservoir in the valley of Mardale in the North East of the Lake District. In the 1930’s this four mile stretch of water was created from the original smaller lake and the flooding of the picturesque Mardale Valley. Two villages, various farms and ‘ The Dun Bull Inn’ were destroyed, so that Manchester and other urban areas could benefit from a decent water supply. The reservoir still provides a good percentage of the North West’s water.

At the moment Haweswater’s water levels are much lower than usual, so it is possible to see the remains of the sunken village of Mardale Green, at the top end of the lake. However after parking at the Haweswater Hotel ( the only residence on the lakeside) and enjoying a spot of lunch, time restricted our planned walk to the ruins. Instead we ambled a couple of miles along the road to a heather strewn viewing point, the purple blooms are just coming into flower, and make for a beautiful backdrop. ๐Ÿ˜Š

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Possibly a Silver Y Moth, but please let me know if I am wrong…

The Haweswater Hotel was built in 1937 by the Manchester Corporation, after the flooding of the valley. Inside it is decorated in an impressive Art Deco style, harking back to it’s 1930’s beginnings. We actually stopped there in 2016 for a couple of nights…and it was almost empty of guests. Happily this Summer’s beautiful weather and the ‘reappearance of the village in the reservoir’ have peeked tourists curiosity, concerning this lesser known (though still idyllic) area of The Lake District….

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Have you seen any heather blooming yet? Its still quite early, so it was lovely to see this pretty plant already flowering on the banks of the lake.

Have you ever been to Haweswater?

Sunday Sevens 29th July.

A compilation of my week…..in the form of a Sunday sevens, 7 photos from the last 7 days, as devised by Natalie at Threads & Bobbins .

Seaside. My week started with a mini trip to the seaside. Just look at the gorgeous colour on the Heysham coast. Plus I managed not to lose my sandals in sinking sand on this excursion. So that’s a relief!

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In Hiding. It was my nieces 8th Birthday recently and as she is a mini David Attenborough in the making, her Mum & Dad gave her camouflage gear and a Hide. As she lives in the countryside its not unusual for Roe Deer, Hare and even Stoats to pass through this meadow next to the house. Yesterday we just got blown around in the wind..but it was a good giggle. ๐Ÿ™‚

Bee In The City. If you find yourselves in Manchester over the Summer, the colourful Bee In The City Art Trail has flown in. 100 Big Bees are dotted round the city, as well as 130 Little Bees. I captured a couple on camera whilst out in Manc with the girls. As ours was a shopping/drinking type of trip we didn’t really get involved in the trail, but there’s plenty of time to return. They will bee in the city until 23rd September 2018.

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13 Years. Wil and I celebrated 13 years of being together this weekend. Here we are yesterday evening at my nieces Birthday Meal. XXX

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Happy Blogversary. And this one crept up on me ~ hence the not terribly original photo of a piece of Rocky Road with a candle stuck in it ( Very nice Rocky Road btw, from Betty May’s Kitchen in Clitheroe) ~ its actually 6 years since I started this blog. Wow! I am still loving my little space here on WordPress, and would like to thank everyone who stops by occasionally. Thank you!!!!!

Here’s to another great week!

Salthill Quarry Local Nature Reserve.

To ease my England V Sweden viewing angst, I thought I would write this post at the same time. Ha! I am a very nervy audience…

This morning I had a wander round one of my local town’s two Nature Reserves. Salthill Quarry has appeared on my blog a couple times, but as I haven’t visited for over twelve months, I thought I would drop by for a nosy. The Quarry is a designated SSSI because of its geological formations…but I was there for the flowers…and the butterflies. ๐Ÿ™‚

The 7.00 hectare Nature Reserve has grassland and woodland habitats. I was certainly glad of a little shade. The sun beat down as I looked for betony, orchids and scabious. Some of the land was dry and parched. Still no sign of approaching rain here in the North West.

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Roses on the way to the reserve.
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And a Painted Lady on Buddleia.
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Into the Woods.
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A Swallow-Tailed Moth ~ I think..
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Speckled Wood.
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Feeling parched.
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Hmmm Spray painter, if your going to do this , at least do a neat job! This is the Crinoid Seat that looks across to Pendle Hill.
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Lady’s Bedstraw.
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Orchids.
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Almost hidden ~ a blue damselfly.
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Marjoram.
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Scabious.
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Under the Umbels.
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Brown Ringlet.
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Harebell.
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Green Damselfly , maybe?
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Six-spotted Burnett Moth.

Feeling slightly calmer now. …

Thanks for accompanying me on a wander round Salthill Quarry Local Nature Reserve.

Hawthorns Photo Scavenger Hunt ~ June.

Phew! What do you think of the Hot Hot weather we are experiencing here in the UK at the moment? I am definitely not used to this kind of heat. I find myself only truly enjoying the temperatures either early in the morning or after 8 at night. Reaches for a tub of Ben & Jerrys! Here are my photos for this month’s Scavenger Hunt….

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Yellow. I was definitely tempted to post a flower picture here, but instead chose this photo of band member Holly Ross of The Lovely Eggs on stage at Break In The Clouds Festival ,

which we went to last weekend. Not everyone can rock the colour Yellow…but I think she can. ๐Ÿ™‚

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Starts with a T. Has to be this Tiger I saw chilling in the sunshine at Blackpool Zoo a few weeks ago.

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Lilac. My Mum’s garden was buzzing with insects when we visited earlier in June. I forgot to ask her what flower this was. Any gardeners know the name of it, feel free to let me know. ๐Ÿ™‚

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Starts with a G. Back to Blackpool Zoo and a group of Giraffes. Apparently a Group of Giraffes is called a Tower. ๐Ÿ™‚

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Silver. After checking on the #30dayswild facebook group, I discovered that this busy moth I photographed in Gisburn Forest is called a Silver Y Moth. You can’t really see on this photo , but it has silver y-shaped markings on its forewings.

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My Own Choice. Cute socks worn by my goddaughters at the festival we went to at the weekend.

Thanks for dropping by and stay cool…X

Flora, Fauna and a Festival in a Forest.

I haven’t just been spending my time yomping up hills recently. At the weekend Wil and I joined some friends at the annual Cloudspotting Festival in Gisburn Forest, a popular family-friendly Arts & Music festival, set in the heart of the beautiful Forest of Bowland in Lancashire.

As this year’s festival was actually on a smaller scale than usual, with two nights camping and one full day devoted to fun events for all the family plus some great Live Bands, it was called A Break In The Clouds. Being my first ever experience of Cloudspotting, I wasn’t sure what to expect!

Apart from the early evening midgie beasts ( we were in a forest after all) , I loved it. When I wasn’t participating in laughter yoga, noshing on yummy festival food, drinking cider in the Bitter Suite Bar, listening to storytelling by the campfire or dancing along to Sweet Baboo’s psychedelic floor- filling tunes, I was chasing butterflies in the surrounding wildflower meadows. ๐Ÿ˜

Our friends daughters ( aged 7 and 8 ) had a wonderful time too. There was plenty going on for kids including Forest School, The Highway Rat Trail and Interactive Theatre ‘ The Sorrowful Stag’ . What was lovely about ‘A Break In The Clouds’ was the chilled friendly vibe. It felt very safe and allowed the kids a rare degree of independence, that children don’t get to experience so much these days.

Here are a few images that myself and my friend Fiona took. ๐Ÿ˜Š

Cloudspotting Hen Harrier.
Wildflower Meadow.
Bronte & Lydia.
Festival Footwear.
Silver Y Moth.
The Sorrowful Stag.
The Sorrowful Stag.
Festival Food.
Common Spotted Orchids.
Holistic Therapy Trailer.
The Green Canteen.
Damselfly.
Small Skipper.
Forest Camp Fire.
Festival Thoughts Tree.
Headliners, Lancaster Band ~ The Lovely Eggs.
A Break In The Clouds. ๐Ÿ™‚

The Cloudspotting Festival is set to return in it’s fuller form in 2019. ๐Ÿ™‚

Are you off to any festivals this Summer?