Nature

Cuillins from Elgol - Isle of Skye

Return to Skye

I reached a personal milestone in my recovery from M.E. and managed to drive for 6.5 hours up to the Isle of Skye!

I used to live in Skye from 2000-2002 and I visited a couple of times after I’d moved further South, but I didn’t have the energy to travel that far, and drive around Skye once I had M.E.  I’ve been feeling a lot better, so I planned a trip up in September, and thought I’d share my photos and experiences.

It’s a lovely drive up there, and the scenery just gets better and better as you travel through Glencoe, Invergary, Shiel Bridge, past the iconic Eilean Donan Castle and over the bridge to Skye.  It’s been about 9 years since I’ve been up that way, and I think time had diminished it somehow in my mind; as I saw that wild landscape again, it was larger, more dramatic and more sublime than in my mind’s eye – it quite took my breath away. I stayed with my friend, Marion, in Portree the 1st night, and in the morning I drove over the hill to Struan, on a crazy winding single track road, to see my friends Zuleika and Beads in Caroy, on the West side of the island. There’s a great view of the entire Cuillin ridge from that road:

Cuillin ridge from Struan Road - Isle of Skye

Zuleika and Beads (real name – Mark – everyone knows him as Beads) live in a small cottage on their croft. They hand-built their cottage, and have continued to add bits to it, so it was great to see how the cottage and croft have developed. They live quite self-sufficiently growing their own veg and herbs, and keeping a few animals, generating their own power, using a natural water source and composting toilet. What always amazes me is their ingenuity at re-purposing and recycling material. A fish farm had been put out of commission near them and dragged up onto the land, so they sawed up the large circular plastic float and used it to edge their raised vegetable beds:

Raised beds, Chapel Croft, Caroy - Isle of Skye

It works really well, doesn’t rot, and holds in the heat.

Beads has really gone to town with his recycling and has made crazy animals and creatures from the flotsam washed up on the shoreline at the croft. They are so imaginative and fun:

Sheep made by Mark Francis

Sheep

Rat made by Mark Francis

Mole made by Mark Francis, Caroy - Isle of Skye

Rhino and Bird made by Mark Francis, Caroy - Isle of Skye

Rhino and Bird

Creature made by Mark Francis, Caroy - Isle of Skye

Creature made by Mark Francis, Caroy - Isle of Skye

Bird made by Mark Francis, Caroy - Isle of Skye

Bird on their gatepost

Butterfly mobile made by Mark Francis, Caroy - Isle of Skye

Butterfly mobile

Angler fish made by Mark Francis, Caroy - Isle of Skye

Angler fish

They were found all over the croft and the cottage! He’s planning on selling them and will have a website up and running soon. Beads is normally a carpenter, and had to get away to a job, so after my tour around the croft, I had a good catch up with Zuleika, drinking some fresh peppermint and lemon balm tea, picked from the croft.

I headed up to Waternish in the North of the island for the afternoon. I lived in Waternish most of the time I was in Skye, and it was great to get back to my old stamping ground:

View from Stein - Isle of Skye

View from Stein

I drove as far North as I could go on the Waternish peninsula, which took me to Trumpan, and the old church and graveyard there:

View to Dunvegan from Trumpan, Waternish - Isle of Skye

Dunvegan from Trumpan

I popped in to see Neal and Maddy at Halistra Pottery and bought a mug, and bought some lovely autumnal 4 ply yarn from Shilasdair:

Bought in Skye - Shilasdair Yarn & Halistra Pottery mug

Heading back out of Waternish, I went down to the bay at Camuslusta to see some friends. Initially, no-one was home, and a collie dog accompanied me on a walk along the beach:

Camuslusta, Waternish - Isle of Skye

Although he was more interested in chasing the chickens really:

Chicken, Camuslusta, Waternish - Isle of Skye

I finally managed to find Judith at home (it was her dog) and had a quick cuppa with her, before heading back to spend a quiet evening in Portree with Marion, and headed down the South part of the island, to the Cuillins and my friends Ray and Antje, and to a wedding ceilidh in the evening.

I wanted to have a walk in the scenery in the morning, so I drove to Elgol for a walk on the cliffs. It was quite windy and threatening rain when I got there, which made it look very dramatic:

Cuillins from Elgol - Isle of Skye

Gars-bheinn in the Cuillins - Isle of Skye

Elgol cliffs - Isle of Skye

I walked along the cliffs to where they broke up into limestone pavements nearer the water, had a good explore, and the sun came out. I found a baby waterfall:

Baby waterfall at Elgol cliffs - Isle of Skye

and wild flowers: the Devil’s Bit Scabious was irridescent against the grey limestone:

Devil's Bit Scabious

and had a rest on the rocks in the sun, peacefully gazing out at the Cuillins. As I headed back to Elgol harbour, the midges rose up from the heather in the sunshine, and gave me a few bites! I was unprotected, without any midge repellant, as there was no sign of them when I left the car about an hour before. It shows how fast the weather can change in the Highlands.

I spent the rest of the afternoon catching up with my friends in Torrin under the glowering Blaven:

Blaven from the road to Torrin - Isle of Skye

The wedding ceilidh was fun in the evening, and I had enough energy to have a couple of dances. My best wishes go to Abigail and Tibor on their married life together.

I stayed with Antje and Ray overnight, and after a bit of a false start found my favorite beach in Skye the next morning:

Shoreline at Torrin - Isle of Skye

It was absolutely deserted, and the water was crystal clear and it has the most beautiful rounded egg-like pebbles and amazing white marble cliffs.

I helped Antje with her sock knitting when I got back, funny, neither of us knitted when I lived in Skye, but now we’ve both taken it up… I headed back home the next day. It was so marvellous to be in such a beautiful part of the world for a few days, and to catch up with old friends. We just carried on together as if I had never moved away; for all my friends there it was just as if I still lived in Skye and had just popped around for a cuppa. Thanks to them all for looking after me.

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Finding the Felty Folk

It’s been so lovely to see the sunshine again after an exceptionally long Winter in Scotland. I enjoyed watching the coverage of the Chelsea Flower show on the BBC, and it gave me quite a hankering to wander through beautiful gardens.

Saturday looked like it was going to be a glorious day, and I had planned to visit a nice garden – Monteviot Gardens, near Jedburgh. This was the first time I’d been there:

Monteviot Gardens

How lovely to have a river at the bottom of your garden, the water was like glass:

River Teviot

I had arranged with Neeva to get a message to Oosie and Diggly to meet me in the gardens, as it wasn’t too far from where they lived. So I was keeping my eyes peeled for them.

They weren’t in the Laburnum Tunnel; I thought they would have enjoyed climbing it:

Laburnum Tunnel

It wasn’t in its full glory, as it was in the shade, and the yellow blossoms were only just starting to come out.

They weren’t in the Arboretum; although I saw lots of good Felty Folk hidey-holes in the trees, and some fantastic twisted tree bark:

Tree bark

They weren’t running through the blooming Wild Garlic under the trees:

Wild garlic

Maybe it was too smelly!

I walked into the lush Oriental Water Gardens,

Water Gardens

and found them sitting on one of the bridges, soaking in the sunshine:

Oosie & Diggly on the bridge

“Hi!” I called out “I’ve found you. Aren’t you worried other people might see you there?”

Oosie and Diggly laughed.

“People make so much noise walking about we get plenty of warning before we have to hide,” Diggly commented.

Oosie & Diggly on bridge close up

“It’s good to see you again,” Oosie said.

They got up, ran across the bridge and leapt into the flower beds, swinging from hand to hand towards me.

Oosie & Diggly swinging

Oosie stopped right in front of me, swaying on a flowerhead.

Oosie swinging on flowers

“I haven’t seen you since the snow in March,” I said. “Isn’t it lovely now the sun has come out.”

“It is,” said Oosie. “It makes it so much easier for us to get about too.”

She swung herself along, with Diggly following, and jumped from flower to leaf to rock to bridge, exploring the garden.

Finally they slowed down and caught their breath, resting in a clump of Gunnera leaves, which swayed wildly as they landed.

Oosie & Diggly on Gunnera

“Have you explored the rest of the garden yet?” I asked.

They both nodded.

“Yes, we came early while it was quiet, we played for quite a long time on the tunnel thing!” exclaimed Oosie.

We chatted for quite a while, catching up with news of the Felty Folk, until it was eventually time to leave. I remembered I had an invitation for them.

“Would you both like to come to a feast I’m going to have in my garden soon?”

“Ooh, yes!” they cried, “that sounds marvellous!”

Oosie & Diggly close up

“Alright. I’ll get Neeva to send a message to you as usual to let you know when it’s going to happen.”

I left Oosie and Diggly on the leaf, chatting away about the imminent feast.

Gunnera

Thanks to S.Miller for use of some of the photographs here.

Felty Folk snowball fight

Before the snow melted, I took a walk around the back of my house to see the snowy scenery. It was a bit of a grey dull Sunday afternoon, but the snow looked lovely:

Snowy field

I walked through woodlands, and reached a gate:

Snowy gate

where I could see the partly frozen and flooded Leader Water still flowing through the field.

Icy Leader Water

I was just about to turn back for home, when I heard some familiar squeaking behind me. I looked around, and there were all of the Felty Folk on a nearby snowy bank:

FeltyFolk in the snow

“Hi all of you,” I exclaimed, pleased to see them, “what are you doing out in the snow, you don’t usually like to come out in it?”

“Hi,” they all replied. Neeva came nearer and explained,

“Well, the snow is nearly melted in parts, and it wasn’t too difficult to get about, so we thought we would come out and see some daylight.”

“I had the same idea,” I said. “How come Diggly and Neeva are here too? I thought they lived further South now.

“We came up for a visit,” Diggly said.

“Then it snowed, and we got stuck here, as it was too difficult to travel in the snow,” Oosie continued.

“So they’ve been staying with me ever since,” said Neeva, smiling.

I was still chatting with Neeva when I noticed Oosie make a snowball:

Oosie starts snowball fight

and aim it at Neeva:

Oosie with snowball

“Look out!” I cried. But it was too late:

Neeva hit by snowball

Oh Dear.

Neeva hit by snowball close up

“Two can play at that game!” she yelled, and hurled a snowball at Oosie:

Oosie hit by snowball, Lauder, Scottish Borders

A playful snowball fight ensued among the younger Felty Folk, with the Gillie Dhu, Dod and I laughing at their antics.

Eventually they were all snowed out and a bit soggy:

All snowed out

“That looked like fun,” I said to them, “I think you’d better get home and dry off.”

Snowball fight

They laughed and we all headed off up the track together.

The Crystal Well

I made a return visit to the Crystal Well, near St. Boswells, at the end of the Autumn and saw some of the Felty Folk again. I was directed to the Crystal Well when looking for a geocache, (a good example of how geocaching leads you to interesting places). I went with my friend from Newcastle, who took the photos of my red shawl I showed you in my last post. I really enjoyed my last visit, and was fascinated by a plantation of trees there:

Tree avenue in Summer, St Boswells, Scottish Borders

I loved the rhythm of the receding trees. I was keen to see what they would look like in Autumn colours.

As I got out of the car, I was greeted by a Robin, really close by:

Robin, St Boswells, Scottish Borders

It had been a frosty weekend, and although the sun was shining, there were pockets of thick frost, which created wonderful sculptured foliage:

Frosty Maple leaf, St Boswells, Scottish Borders          Frosty leaves, St Boswells, Scottish Borders

Frosty fern, St Boswells, Scottish Borders          Frosty Butterbur leaf, St Boswells, Scottish Borders

Which contrasted with the bright trees:

Trees on Fire, St Boswells, Scottish Borders

When I visited the well in Summer it looked like this:

Well Pump and view to River Tweed, St Boswells, Scottish Borders

This is what it looked like in Autumn:

Autumn well view, St Boswells, Scottish Borders

And by the river:

Frost and Sun, view to River Tweed, St Boswells, Scottish Borders

I walked towards the well, and thought I saw something quickly move there.

Frost and well, St Boswells, Scottish Borders

I crept around to the side of the spring, and look who I saw:

Autumn well, St Boswells, Scottish Borders

Can you see him on the left by the railings? It’s the Ghillie Dhu: often the most difficult of the Felty Folk to see, and rarely keen to talk to me. When I got closer to the well he moved away.

Crystal Well, St Boswells, Scottish Borders

I had a closer look at the carved face above the well:

Well carving, St Boswells, Scottish Borders

I heard a small voice below me,

“Go away! I’m busy communing with the Spirit of the Well. Go and find Neeva, she’s exploring the woods nearby.”

I looked down, and there he was:

Ghillie Dhu at the well, St Boswells, Scottish Borders

He looked quite cross, so I backed away, apologised, and went to find Neeva.

I headed to the tree plantation, and was disappointed to find all the leaves had fallen off the main plantation trees:

Treetops, St Boswells, Scottish Borders

I had forgotten they were poplars, which drop their leaves quite early in Autumn. It still looked dramatic though:

Through the trees, St Boswells, Scottish Borders

Autumn shadows, St Boswells, Scottish Borders

I had hoped there might be a carpet of golden leaves below the trees, but most of them were black and brown. However, this one looked lovely:

Poplar Leaf, St Boswells, Scottish Borders

It gave me an idea for a colour combination to use with some beautiful golden handspun yarn I have.

I went in search of gold leaves, and found some:

Golden Leaves, St Boswells, Scottish Borders

This reminded me of a Klimt painting:

Klimt-like trees, St Boswells, Scottish Borders

And a single leaf, still clinging on:

Golden Leaf, St Boswells, Scottish Borders

I walked back into the plantation, and noticed some of the trees looked like they were wearing mossy legwarmers:

Moss legwarmers, St Boswells, Scottish Borders

And then I saw Neeva:

Seeing Neeva, St Boswells, Scottish Borders

“Hi Neeva,” I said. “You’re far from home.”

“So are you. I’m surprised to see you here,” she replied.

I explained about my previous visit, and she said she had come with the Ghillie Dhu on his pilgrimage to the Crystal Well for a change of scenery. Although she said she was a bit bored now she was here; and that the Ghillie Dhu was doing meditation, and communing with the Spirit of the Well, and they could be here for a while yet.

Neeva and Moss, St Boswells, Scottish Borders

I was a bit concerned about disturbing him, but Neeva said he was often a bit grumpy anyway, and not to worry. We headed back to the Crystal Well together, Neeva stopping for a frolic in the leaves under a hazel tree.

Neeva in leaves, St Boswells, Scottish Borders

The shadows were getting longer and it was time for me to return home. I was concerned about Neeva travelling in the dark, but she reassured me that she was staying with some other Felty Folk nearby, and would be travelling back the next day. Although the Ghillie Dhu would stay at the well overnight. I asked if Neeva had seen the Spirit of the Well.

Neeva in leaves, St Boswells, Scottish Borders

” I’ve only seen her faintly,” she said,  ” she can’t be seen by humans at all.”

“Why does he do the pilgrimage?”

“I think it is a kind of cleansing experience, and is done to mark a change of some kind. I don’t really understand it, it’s to do with his ceremonial duties too,” she explained.

We walked along the path together until we reached the steps I had to climb to get back to the car.

Neeva on path, St Boswells, Scottish Borders

It’s interesting that the Ghillie Dhu makes his pilgrimage here, as the information board at the well says it is quite modern:

Well sign, St Boswells, Scottish Borders

I’m sure the spring itself is old…