The last couple of weeks have brought with them a change in the weather, lightning splitting across the sky and cutting through the bubble of heat that had dominated the summer so far. Week after week of unbroken sunshine and dry weather, temperatures always in the mid to high 20s, gave way first to the heavy relief of lashing rain, and later to a steadier coolness, swirling some of the earliest leaves off the trees.
This is the first time I seem to have found the time and space in a while to take stock and catch up on what’s been a long and lovely summer. We had a holiday at the beginning of July – our first family break away, up north for a few nights to a little cottage where we happily self-catered, keeping everything relatively routine for the little one; had lovely long walks, in woods, along riversides and in pretty towns; woke to ducks waddling past the door in the mornings, coming to say hello; and enjoyed family firsts at swingparks and the swimming pool, all thoroughly enjoying the time together.
The summer has been a truly beautiful one and both while we were away and back home, we have had so many gorgeous days and sunny adventures.
The pets have been doing fine – Jasper & Jet have been with us over a whole year now – we brought them home on 26th July last year to keep old man Perry company. I still remember so clearly driving them home and nervously doing the introductions, which were one of our most successful ever thanks to all three boys’ lovely natures. They’ve changed and mellowed a lot more even over that time, the bright-eyed and curious newcomers evolving into the two dumplings that are cuddling in of an evening this summer, so chilled out and so familiar. ❤
They had their first holiday too when we went away, as we had them booked in with a local pet boarder for the first time – I’ve never done that before with any of the little ones as we used to be just round the corner from my parents so the pets could just stay home, ably looked after by my dad. Last year we were due to board for the first time but I chickened out at the last minute due to so many ongoing needs the boys at the time had – and we ended up taking Reuben, Perry and Marley on holiday with us, a wonderful experience in itself. Jasper & Jet seemed to get on really well though at their holiday home. Dropping them off and picking them up was plain sailing, they enjoyed their adventures – and it was so lovely to have them home again when we all returned!
It’s been a horse-aversary this month too, celebrating 18 years with Charmer. It feels like such a huge spanning of time all of a sudden and it really is, been so lucky to have his company for almost two decades now. He’s been weathering the summer relatively well, with all its usual challenges – keeping him not too fat and not too thin, battling flies and midges, de-ragworting and keeping water and shade close by.. the usual fun! Overall though seems to have been enjoying it and been less plagued by midges than last year actually, so been able to enjoy some fly rug-free days with the sun on his back.
The extreme heat in the last few weeks has meant him sometimes needing to come in for periods during the day – which has brought me to the farm mid-day with my daughter in tow, the necessity giving me the push I needed to have the confidence to look after them both at once. He is just wonderful with her, affording the pram or sling the care he doesn’t bother to extend to me!!.. where he would happily give me a shove to get to where he’d prefer to be he’s always cautious, always watching and looking out for the baby. In the shade of the barn, now that she’s a little bigger, we’ve been able to spend a little bit of quiet time with her out of her pram or carrier and it’s been absolutely lovely to see her curiosity, his patience and them both getting to know each other. ❤
It’s been a really lovely summer – days long and warm and light lingering late. Outside, we’ve been enjoying watching the season roll on as the fields are farmed around us, the nesting sparrows coming and going, our resident robin in the garden, and the starlings that swoop around the village en masse – which I know will be coming to descend on us very soon as the berries on our rowan trees are reddening and almost ripe, and last year the starlings just went crazy for them – looking forward to seeing it again!
In the evenings, we’ve been treated almost every night to the most beautiful display from the bats who live nearby, swooping and gliding in the dusk. I absolutely love to just stand out in the garden as night falls and enjoy them passing by, they fly so very close but with such precision they never touch, they’re such amazing animals.
Hope you are all well and will hopefully write again sooner! Have a good week all. X
Enjoying the peace of a Sunday night at home as the most “hyggeligt” of weekends draws to a close – soup on the hob, candles burning and looking forward to putting feet up after a couple of tiring but lovely days in the outdoors, enjoying the very best of October’s charm.
We have been away overnight on our annual trip to the beautiful town of Pitlochry in Perthshire, to the Enchanted Forest sound and light show. We first discovered it in 2013, taking our old camper van up to a campsite nearby overnight, and just fell in love with it – so since then have returned every year, the last few with our friends, wrapping up once again to amble the tracks of Faskally wood, toffee apples in hand, twinkling lights overhead, hot chocolates round the fire pit as the night thickens, and everywhere we look something new to take in.
This year’s show, Oir an Uisge, or Edge of the Water, incorporated so many rainbows which I just loved. On rainier nights the magic of the forest is sometimes brought to life even more – with extra droplets everywhere to reflect the lights in different ways – and last night was certainly no exception; the weather lending itself so much to the theme and everything in the forest winding its way in – most beautifully of all when the supremely unperturbed swans woke to serenely join in the display.
There’s something really lovely about having a traditional break at this time of the year; a watershed moment before winter sets in to slow down for a weekend and take it all in. From the trundle up in the car, walls of trees in every shade of autumn lining the roadside and the Young Farmers’ hay bale displays catching our eyes along the way; the evening walks through the forest; late nights round the fire with our friends, chatting, relaxing and enjoying the warmth; cooked breakfasts the next day and a wander in the beautiful town on a long easy morning – with so many lovely gift shops to browse including a little Christmas shop with carols playing and tiny cups of mulled wine pressed into our hands as we crossed the threshold into its cosy taste of the season to come – it is all just such a lovely experience.
As ever, though, I enjoy getting home just as much as getting away. Heading back to our little house, the preparations in full swing for our daughter’s arrival – now just seven weeks away; our ever-boisterous boys Jasper and Jet keen to get out to play; and my fluffy-as-a-bear Charmer ambling up the hill at sunset for a dinner in his stable that only weeks ago he was passing up in favour of the summertime grass – it all never fails to make a trip complete. Back at home now with just a quiet evening in ahead of us, I am looking forward so much to the cosier months ahead.
Hope everyone has had a really lovely weekend, and have a good week all. X
In the last week or so, while we’ve still had (mostly!) warm sunshine through our days, there’s been a subtle change in the air as night falls, earlier and earlier, around us.
The creeping in of darkness as we reach the end of August and into September never ceases to surprise me. Suddenly 8.30pm field checks are done in half-light, the strings of streetlights across the water glinting and dusk already falling as I greet my boy with his usual treats and bits and pieces.
This is a wonderful time for him – the midges finally easing up slightly, the flies kept at bay, and he starts to settle into the coolness again with a relaxed toss of his head, enjoying these days that are not quite the full force of summer anymore but don’t have the new challenges winter brings either. 💜
Right across from our house, the sheep are grazing closer than ever and it’s lovely to be able to spend the morning coffee times, out with an extra warm jumper now if it’s right at the break of day, watching and listening to them.
Perry, Jasper and Jet are all getting on fine and all well and truly settled together in their cage and full of fun of an evening when out and about. They love the breakfast routine and are always up and waiting from the first second the door opens to see what what the day will bring.💙
Hello from all of us and hope you all have a good Friday and a wonderful weekend. X
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
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.
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
In the last month or so, we have been blessed with some lovely weather – quite possibly getting the best of our summer weather in late spring, as has happened a few years, but whatever comes next, been lovely to enjoy.
I love to get out walking, clear my head and enjoy the views, whether it’s in good weather or bad – in the last year or so more than ever, my husband and I have been step-counters, Fitbits on our wrists, and have made the effort to be out for a bit in the evenings regardless of the whipping wind in winter time, walking along the streetlit seafront with chins buried in scarves and hands deep in pockets, putting the world to rights and enjoying the exercise and thought-gathering time.
As we come into a time of light nights and brighter weather, getting out walking is easier and even more enjoyable, and getting out at lunch time for a break in the working day and in the evening at the farm with the pony or back home are highlights of my day.
Very often, however, it’s easy to take for granted the places we stride out in and have around us. Have had so many chances to wander on beautiful days in beautiful places in the last few weeks and very grateful for them all.
I’m lucky to work on the edge of the same university campus I lived and studied in for years as a student, and on my lunch breaks always prioritise a venture out to the loch and the grounds where we’re lucky to have so much wildlife and nature. The other week on my ramble, found a whole new level to the surroundings, finding my way out into the woodland at the foot of a hill and a whole new place to walk and explore.
We’re also at the wonderful time of year where we have cygnets on the loch, growing and learning with their parents and a joy to watch.
Back home, we are settling into our new village and been enjoying wanders nearby in the evening, as well as longer walks that take us down to my family in one direction, for barbecues, nights round the fire pit and long walks in the woods with the dog; and in the other down to the shore and woods I used to play in when I was little, revisiting old dens and favourite spots.
By the time we get back home later at night, the light has shifted and we’re always so fascinated by the bats flying overhead, swooping so close to us but never touching, absolutely amazing animals. ❤