Scribbles from Seal Cottage (Part 2)

Once more writing from our summer holiday home on Islay, this time as our week away is drawing to a close, with our ferry back home booked for 9am tomorrow and just one last day of exploring the island ahead of us today. 

This week has been one of the most peaceful holidays we’ve had, and there have been so many highlights in a restful few days adventuring at easy pace around the landscape. On Tuesday, we spent a lovely afternoon at the RSPB Loch Gruinart Nature Reserve, a beautiful expanse of land with amazing walks and dug-out hides in concealed wooden sheds where we could settle and watch hen harriers circling overhead and everything from wrens to buzzards swooping across the stillness of the hills.


We have spent days browsing tiny shops in tiny villages, local craft fairs here and there, cosying up with hot chocolates in hotel bars when the rain comes on and in the brightness of early evenings walking along huge untouched beaches where only the sheep contentedly lie.

In the middle of our week here, we decided to take a day trip across to neighbouring Jura, which was one of the most breath-taking places I have ever seen. With only 200 people there and 5000 deer, it is one of the wildest and least populated of all the Scottish islands, and we were so looking forward to seeing it, but it exceeded all expectations. I absolutely love rural Scotland, and there are so many corners where such incredible beauty can be found; but, within minutes of alighting on the island from the tiny drive-on ferry, I was absolutely speechless at just quite how incredible it was. Having pulled over to watch a buzzard circle overhead, we found ourselves at the vantage point of a whole group of red deer, antlers glinting in the sunlight, grazing, communicating and eventually taking flight across the hillside en masse, disappearing into a thicket of trees and leaving us amazed to have been able to watch such a breath-taking display. 


After a meander in the main village of Craighouse, a lovely lunch at the one and only hotel, a tour of the whisky distillery and a wander along the street, seeing the busyness of a Wednesday afternoon, with the mobile bank and fish van both parked up; we got back in the car and followed the road as far as we could, with the sea glinting to our right, Paps of Jura dominating the landscape to our left, and each twist and turn bringing new sights as we journeyed on. 


My favourite place we’ve ever been to outside Scotland is without a doubt Iceland, where we had our honeymoon three years ago and returned to last year, knowing we’ll be back again and again. The winding drive through such abandoned and completely still landscape did remind me of some of our drives up the hills there in the winter of 2014, gasping as we turned a corner to another incredible waterfall or reached a new height where the snow flakes were gently falling for the first time all year – yet what is so incredible here is the wildlife as well as the landscape. Reaching the end of the road, from where the most northerly points of the island can only be reached on foot, the last rural farm houses lying behind us, we again were face to face with a herd of deer, peacefully grazing in their untouched world. 

Back on Islay, strangely ‘busy’ by comparison in spite of being such a quiet island itself, we’ve trekked out to Finlaggan, the historic seat of the Lord of the Isles; stood on the shore at Bunnahabhain looking out to the most northerly point of the island; stopped still in the peace of ruined chapels, Celtic crosses weathering time, and warm working churches alike; and befriended the loveliest highland cattle around our little Portnahaven. 


By evening, we have more often than not been back at our cottage, and dropping temperatures have given the perfect excuse to light up the fire and settle in. We’ve done nothing but read at nights (many of my books animal or pet related which I look forward to writing about here too!) and for the pets, the evenings have been absolutely wonderful. 


The decision to bring them on this holiday was absolutely the best one. Just as we always enjoy having quality time to spend with each other when we’re away, we’ve enjoyed having quality time to spend with them too. Without all the demands of home life, we’ve sat peacefully for hours and the boys have adored curling up beside us with just the crackle of the flames. Perry, at home always on the go, has been uncharacteristically keen for cuddle, spreading out in the warmth and lifting his head whenever one of us has the audacity to stop stroking him. 

Marley has enjoyed mornings sat on the front doorstep, the sea air helping clear his wee lungs; and Reuben has again surpassed all our expectations by still being with us and what’s more still being content and happy. He’s eating, drinking, and enjoying time with his brothers and with us, which is all we can ask for. Have thoroughly enjoyed having them with us on our adventure. 


Looking forward too of course to getting back home again, and to bring reunited with the pony (who I’ve happily been provided with photos and tales of throughout the the week!); but this has been the loveliest week away and have truly loved Islay and Jura and all they have to offer. 

Hope you all have a lovely weekend. X

Scribbles from Seal Cottage

Writing from our holiday cottage on the beautiful Isle of Islay, where we are making our home for the week on the edge of the water in Portnahaven, a village on the south-western tip of the island. Beyond the stillness of the little bay outside our front door, the powerful waves of the Atlantic crash inwards just yards away and there is nothing to the west until Canada is reached, the sea just rolling on and on. 

We arrived here on Saturday, and it feels, in the best possible way, as if time has slowed down to almost a standstill since we did. The pace of life here is so easy, and we have spent most mornings and most evenings simply watching the seals in the water, learning their calls, their patterns and the spots on the rocks they will return to each day at the same time.

The island of Islay is a truly beautiful one and already we have explored some incredible places, walking along Machir Bay in the sunshine, waves crashing in; touring the smallest and most family-run of Islay’s eight whisky distilleries, watching the entire process from malting to bottling taking place on site; driving through the most incredible countryside on narrow lanes, adapting once more to the passing places and to making way for the sheep, the highest priority of road users, whenever they require it! 

There is something incredibly relaxing and refreshing about holidaying close to home, and these are usually my favourite breaks – visiting old favourite places or discovering new parts of our own country we haven’t before, and finding corners of it where life slows down so much.

This year, being just a couple of hours’ drive (and a ferry ride!) away meant we decided to bring the pets with us. Not Charmer of course, who has stayed happily at home on his own farm, being looked after very ably by my friend at the yard; but the little ones managed the journey very well indeed and so far seem to be loving the jaunt! 

We had planned to travel them in their carry case and leave the cage in the back but they seemed more content just in their usual bed, and so we left them there, where they curled all three in a pile for the duration of the journey very happily, just doing the usual dozing they generally do in the daytime.
The boys posing with their ferry ticket, as we didn’t quite pluck up the courage for an on-deck selfie! 



It’s been lovely while we’ve been here to have them with us, especially as autumnal-feeling windy nights and the cosiness of the cottage have meant our evenings have been spent inside, and they have enjoyed the easy time in front of the fire.

One of the main reasons we decided to bring them with us, even though it was a slightly longer journey than we’d usually want them on, was that both Marley and Reuben haven’t been well. Marley is having trouble shaking off a chest infection, which I’m sure we’ll beat before too long, but at the moment is needing anti-biotics and a wee steam in the shower room to help his breathing. He seems to be making strides forward and we’re hopeful we’ll get it shifted very soon. Haven’t written about Reuben’s health in a while though and unfortunately his prognosis is not so good. He has been given a presumptive diagnosis of kidney disease – any further tests to fully confirm would be too invasive for him but his symptoms all line up – and unfortunately there isn’t too much we can do. This means he’s really just enjoying the finer things in life, extra cuddles every night, whatever scraps of our food take his fancy, and what medication we can give him to keep him as happy as possible. A few weeks ago he had dropped weight significantly and we thought we were on our last days, but time and time again he’s rallied; and although we always know we could be saying goodbye to him anytime, and knew when we brought him here he might not have the full week with us, it’s a wonderful bonus that he’s had so many good days in the last couple of weeks and that he’s come with us on this little adventure and enjoyed his nights by the fire here. 

Reubes loving the warmth of the fire

Our week here has got off to the loveliest start, and watching the spectacular sunset last night, listening to the wails of the seals on the rocks, was so incredibly peaceful.

View from our cottage last night

We’ve seen so many weathers so far, whipping wind, lashing rain and glorious sunshine by turns; another reason I love a Scottish holiday, waking each day to unpredictable and dramatic weather, framing the beautiful landscape in so many different lights. 

Looking forward to plenty more exploring and relaxing here, and will write again soon. 

Hope you are all having a lovely week. X 

Holidays are here… 

Holidays are here in our house, and three sleepy faces are enjoying a Saturday long lie in the sun before we all head off for a few days away! 

This is the first time we’ve ever taken the boys on holiday with us, but heading to cottage not too far away and both Reuben and Marley needing extra help and daily medication just now made it the perfect time to give it a try! 

Looking forward to it very much but for this morning enjoying the relaxing and preparing at home! 


Happy July all! X

Happy World Rat Day from our mischief 💙🌍🐁

Today, 4th April, is officially World Rat Day, a day which since 2002 has celebrated rats as pets, and as the intelligent, affectionate and amazing animals those of us who have had the honour of having them in our lives know them to be. 


Possibly one of the most underrated and misunderstood animals, rats have long suffered from a bad reputation despite their bright characters, their cleanliness, and even their incredible usefulness to humans (over the last years Giant African Pouch rats have become more and more instrumental to the discovery of landmines, as well as identifying TB and other illnesses.

As animals and as pets, rats have so much to give, and our four brighten up every day in our house. 

Tonight, Ty, Reuben, Perry and Marley have enjoyed a few extra treats, and seem happy to see their very own appreciation day.. 😉


A very Happy World Rat Day from all of us. X

Holiday adventures with the fluffy pony and our mischief of rats.. 💙

A long and lovely holiday from work has drawn to a close in our little neck of the woods, and although it’s always great in a way getting back to routine again, it’s been absolutely wonderful having time off to spend with each other and with the pets.

Our new wee boys Reuben and Perry have been settling in very well and at over a week with us now are really starting to show their personalities. They are absolutely lovely with each other and with us and are just a joy to be getting to know. One of our main focuses this week has been on bringing them and Harvey and Ty together too.

There’s been a few ups and downs already in the intros, I always find them so nerve wracking, but all in all things seem to be going well. After several short stints and then a couple of longer ones all together in the smaller cage we have for hamsters, the Ferplast Mary, the boys have all now been in the main rat cage, our Mamble 100, for a few days; and, while still keeping themselves to themselves a bit more than rats we’ve introduced in the past, are all living at peace.


Everybody taking a corner in the Mary cage in an earlier stage of intros, no one quite sure who would make the first move

Perry and Harvey quickly making friends – to date Harvey has been nothing more than my usual unflappable dumpling, not a hint of aggression and simply happy to eat and sleep regardless of who his roommates are!


Our “Shy Ty” however, now re-nicknamed “The Tyrant” after this week, completely shocked us by making a strong play for top dog. He has always been so submissive with Harvey, and previously with Chae and Winnie too but when introduced to Reuben and Perry he was our main problem, definitely displaying a strong dominance. 


Really he wasn’t too aggressive at first, just unsure, but the new boys are quite nervous and as their squeaks seemed to frighten him more it led to a good few stand offs and tussles.


Eventually though, agreements seemed to be reached between Ty, Reuben and Perry (Harvey still snoozing oblivious and enjoying all the food everyone else ignored!), and we all made it into the Mamble cage. For the most part so far, Reuben and Perry spend time in the hammock and on top shelf, while Ty and Harvey are on the bottom, but Ty, now being more submissive but still being treated very warily by Reuben and Perry after his earlier assertions, does make frequent attempts to get into the hammock to sleep with them both, which has led to the odd scuffle over the last couple of days.


In general, however, everyone seems to have achieved a level of peace, and hoping that they just continue to become more comfortable with each other as time goes on.


Perry and Reuben in the hammock, with Ty and Harvey on the shelf just beside them last night, all looking relaxed.

It’s been really nice spending so much time at home, pottering around, enjoying the break and keeping an eye on proceedings with the boys, but I have also enjoyed lots of time out with my biggest fluffliest boy.

Charmer has been all caught up this week on appointments – we now have teeth rasped, new shoes on, annual vet check and flu jag done, and have had some lovely walks too. One of the interesting things to come out of the vet visit was the assurance that despite my boy’s assertions to the contrary, his eyesight is not at all deteriorated since this time last year, so these “can’t possibly go on” displays in the woods might just be a dose of the cheeky Charmer of old – and with shiny new shoes, any sharp teeth resolved and this new knowledge we strode out on a lovely ramble this weekend, exploring the woods, fields and tracks happily once I had the courage of my convictions not to misconstrue any laziness as compromised vision and to shift him on!


Had a lovely walk, enjoying the November views and the new wrapped-up feel riding has in these cold days, always now followed by a hot chocolate in the barn while my boy polishes off his dinner – now with a splash of warm water added to it.

It has been a wonderful, home, cosy and animal-filled week off, and as it draws to a close have loved every minute.
Have a lovely week all. ❤️