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Sunday 29 July 2012

Ullapool Part 4

Here are some more photos from the another trip on the "Summer Queen" - this time around Isle Martin near Ardmair.  Above - this wee dog was the Captain's dog I think and would run round checking on the passengers and stand at the front of the boat (forget the technical term!) and look out then return to the cabin - not sure if he was telling the Captain what he saw or just checking the Captain was going on the right direction!

Isle Martin - no one lives here now, but you can rent the cottage out. Though it has no electricity or running water!

Another hamlet on the shore of Loch Broom

Lots of seals basking in the sun. These are Common Seals (not so common now)

We also visited Lechmelm Gardens, just outside Ullapool. A lovely Victorian garden and arboretum from the 1870s. It was lovely to see Big Trees - Orkney does HAVE trees, but not so many as other areas, and very few woodlands or gardens on this scale. It also has to be said that these trees are Big, whereas in Orkney even the same species will be much shorter, due to the climate.  So it was great to hug a Big Tree..... These photos don't do the garden justice - there is so much packed into a relatively small space. It's wonderful!

A Californian Redwood (sequoias)

A tree with many trunks. A Cyprus I think.

This poor old tree had fallen over in a storm just before my last visit 2 years ago. The wood has been reused but the old trunk and root has been left to be colonised by lichens, plants, and various woodland insects.  It's wonderful!

We counted the rings on this tree stump - it was over 100 years old!

Oh I SO want something like this in MY garden!!

Rhododendrons, which can be a pest in open woodland, but are so pretty.

This weeping conifer was gorgeous.

One evening we went up the Braes (a big hill) to look back on the town as the sun was setting.

Loch Broom towards the mountains

And Ullapool in the sunset.

Saturday 28 July 2012

Ullapool photos Part 3

While I was in Ullapool I took a trips on the "Summer Queen" out to the Summer Isles. The sea was flat calm, it was fairly warm, with the odd shower of rain, but also SUNSHINE!  Above is Loch Broom, a sea loch which leads out to the Summer Isles and beyond. I'd definitely recommend a trip on the Summer Queen. The commentary is excellent, giving information on the landscape, history and wild life. We saw porpoises, red-throated divers (we have them in Orkney but I'd never seen them!), gannets diving, as well as seals, gulls of all varieties, fulmars and guillemots and and three specs I was reliably informed were sea eagles!  Here are some shots of the landscape - my camera wasn't up to taking photos of the wildlife! (If you click on one then you can see them in a photo-stream a bit bigger).

Right - the ferry on it's way to the Western Isles

A sea arch in Loch Broom

The hamlet of Polbain strung out along the hills

The Summer Isles Cafe & Post Office on the island of Tanera. The last independent post office in the UK! You can buy a stamp here to post a letter to the surrounding mainland, but any further afield you need a regular Royal Mail postage stamp. The boat stops with enough time for tea, coffee and cake here, or a quick walk along the shore or up the hill. Needless to say I opted for tea and cake!

I love the bright colours of these upturned canoes against the heather.

The "Summer Queen" moored in Tanera bay.

Mountains down to the shore

How about this for an isolated house!

The Rhue lighthouse - I seem to end up next to lighthouses...our holiday cottage was in this hamlet.

Coming back into Ullapool now. It's clear to see the effects of crofting on the field boundaries here. During the clearances when the highland crofters were forced to move to the coast, some ended in Ullapool and were given strips of land. First they had to pull the stones and boulders out - these made the fine stone walls bordering the strips. Then they had to work the fairly poor soil. The croft could only sustain one family, the eldest son would inherit and the rest of the family would have to leave and make their own way in the world. Many went overseas to New Zealand, the US and Canada.

Later we took a drive out of Ullapool - you can clearly see the heather and rough terrain. Beautiful to look at - not easy to walk on!!

OK so I said....

.....  this would be an Olympic free zone....but.... oh the opening ceremony was wonderfully bonkers and British! Not sure how well it will translate to countries that are unfamiliar with British culture, but I loved it: the quirkiness, the humour and wit, I was singing along to all the pop songs - THAT was MY history. Tee Hee!  And the final part was wonderful.  I had gone to bed earlier (can't stand the pace!) and was hoping that the copper things the children were carrying alongside the athletes were copper kettles and there would be a nice cup of tea for everyone at the end. Now that WOULD be British .  But apparently not. Great ending all the same.

If you haven't seen the opening ceremony and don't want it to be spoiled don't look at these clips. But they are two of my favourite clips!

Good evening Mr Bond

Mr Bean's Olympic Orchestral appearance

Loved the NHS/Great Ormand Street Sequence. We love our NHS :-)

A very British Ceremony!

Now it's back to the sport and I shall probably tune out for most of it, so good luck everyone. See you at the closing ceremony maybe!  Meanwhile back on Graemsay the sun is shining! Oh yes and I have work to do....

Friday 27 July 2012

Ullapool Part 2

I promised you further pictures of the mountains and countryside around Ullapool and here they are! I can't believe I've been home nearly a week already. Time does fly...when you are working hard!

These photos were taken largely on a bus ride I took out to Lochinver. This is a scheduled bus route but it works well for a tourist like me too.  The journey takes about an hour on the bus from Ullapool along the main road, then you get an hour in the village (time for a cuppa, or a walk up the street), then back on the bus to Ullapool. It also gave me time to pop into a local shop and buy some fresh wild salmon caught in the loch that very morning. A much more delicate colour and taste than farmed salmon, which is what I usually eat. It was delicious baked in foil with a little butter and served with some new potatoes and sugar-snap peas!

Anyway back to the photos. The one at the top is of the mountain we looked out at from our cottage. The following photos were largely taken from the bus so not quite the best shots, but they give a flavour of the landscape.

I can assure you - this is NOT a volcano! Just an interesting volcano shaped cloud over this mountain!

In the distance, my favourite mountain, Stac Pollaidh

The mountains just rise out of the heather.

Farms and houses on the way to the village

This ruin has been the subject of many a photo I know! (Or this subject has been the ruin of many a photo....?)

And here we are at the village of Lochinver, on the banks of the loch.

And on the way back a good view of Suilven

Once back in Ullapool it was time for a cafe latte in my favourite cafe in Ullapool - The Gallery Cafe.

The cafe sells photos from one of Scotland's leading photographers, Angus Bruce. To see excellent pictures of the area take a look at his web site. The photo of the cairn terrier dog covered in Snow is his own wee dog that accompanies him up mountains and round lochs. Those little legs have covered some distance!

And so to the Olympic Games....

The Opening Ceremony is tonight and the radio and TV is whipping everyone up into a frenzy!  I'm sure it will be a great event, Britain does pagentry rather well :-)  It's wonderful for all the UK athletes to be competing on "home soil" and I wish them all the very best and may their dreams come true. It is also something that many athletes (I use the term in it's broadest sense) the world over have been working towards and again I wish them well. It will also be fantastic for those involved in any shape or form at the Olympic venues, and for many sports fans.  But I'm not a fan of watching Sport, no not even the Olympics on home ground (and frankly the mascot looks a bit creepy!). So apart from watching the Opening Ceremony (if only to see sheep and cattle grazing in Central London!) and some of the equestrian events, it will pass me by as the others have done. To those of you who enjoy watching the Olympics - have a good time!  I'll see you in a few weeks - tee hee!

Orkney *was* included in the torch relay, and indeed a friend of mine ran with it. Again it was great for those who participated. I didn't SEE the relay because it was scheduled to arrive and leave on a day before any of the boats from the isles would get into the Orkney Mainland!  The scheduling was due to it needing to go up to Shetland and then on somewhere else in one day.  But hey - it came here and lots of people were pleased it did.......


So, to the photo above, which is of a tiny flower called Primula Scotica. This tiny flower grows in the UK only in the very north of the Scottish Mainland, in the county of Caithness, and in Orkney. A friend, J, took the photo on the cliffs at Yesnaby.  I've blogged about this before in 2009, but thought I'd share this lovely photo. The other wee flower is called "self-heal" which is also a small plant but looks huge in comparison to Primula Scotica!

Thursday 26 July 2012

The happiest places to live in the UK....

....are, according to a UK Government survey, Orkney, Shetland and the Western Isles!! Tell me something I don't know. Tee Hee!  Here's a link to a BBC news article reporting on the data with a short film here.  It has to be said I haven't seen the original data and surveys are liable to biases but .....well...... it does make sense, to those of us that live here anyway!!  (Orkney, specifically Kirkwall, appears in the early part of the film clip!).

Wednesday 25 July 2012

Busy week.....

It's a busy week - yesterday I went over to Kirkwall, on the Orkney Mainland, to do some food shopping. Having been away for a week the cupboard was bare, so to speak.  I also needed to cut the grass around the house and in the walled garden. At this time of year it grows almost while I'm watching it. And again as I'd been away and missed a mowing session, it was overly long. Unfortunately in my enthusiasm I tried mowing it when it was still rather damp, which ended up in me stalling the mower and flattening the battery in a fit of temper!  Fortunately neighbours were on hand to "jump start" it and get me on the road again - with strict instructions NOT to overtax the mower by trying to mow the grass when it was too damp! Later in the day the grass was dryer and I got most of it done.

Then today I had a visit from a fellow blogger and her family!  Babzy is staying in Orkney for the week, on holiday from France, and very much wanted to visit a small island. So, she and her family and friends came out to see the island today. Fortunately the sun shone most of the time. We had a lovely time chatting in the conservatory. Babzy speaks very good English and the others understood most of what we were saying, with just a little translation needed. My French is appalling so I didn't even attempt to inflict it upon them. After tea (I knew I would get on with her when she said she was a tea drinker ;-) ) and biscuits and cake we set off to inspect the garden. Oh - my embarrassment at the weeds which are overwhelming the vegetables! I need to spend a few hours out there working!!  Then we ventured down to the shell beach which has the coral sand - after a diversion with the hens and some young chicks. I MUST take some photos of the young chicks.  Babzy and co then went off for a walk around the island and we met up again just before the ferry left.  It was a lovely afternoon and I really enjoyed meeting them.  I'm glad the sun shone on Graemsay for their visit - it will hopefully keep it in their memory!

Button is demanding lots of fuss after my absence.  She is a very robust cat and doesn't seem too traumatised when I go away, but she is good at sending me on a "guilt trip" on my return.

I'm busy with work at the moment, as I have another project as well as my usual work to do. So I've had to work out a timetable to make sure I fit everything in this week.  The sunshine and sunsets call me outdoors though, so it IS hard being disciplined to stay indoors. We haven't the hot temperatures of the South of England (they are in the high 20s C), but we have reached 18 degrees (68F) which is pleasant and around my preferred temperature! And as you can see above - the sunset has been lovely. Sunrise today was at 04.44 and sunset at 21.48. The sun is slowly creeping it's way back across the Flow to it's winter position.....sigh.....

This boat visited Graemsay yesterday delivering some farm machinery for one of the farmers. Our own ferry has a weight limit on the crane which means it can't lift heavy machinery, so the ferry company organised delivery using a work boat from one of the companies working on the renewable energy projects. The crane looks huge! It seemed to make easy work of delivery anyway as was sailing back to Stromness pretty quickly.

I'll leave you with another photo of the sunset this week..... I'll post more photos of my holiday later in the week, once I "catch my breath"!

Monday 23 July 2012

Ullapool and mountains....

As promised, here are the first of some photos I took on holiday last week. A friend and I had a cottage in Rhue, just outside Ullapool on the West Coast of Scotland. It had a stunning view of Loch Broom, mountains, and the Summer Isles. Ullapool itself is a lovely fishing village. It was founded in 1788 by the British Fisheries Society as a herring port and was actually designed by Thomas Telford. In the 1980s the harbour was filled with Russian trawlers (known as the Klondikers) but now it is just the small local fleet that use the harbour. Ullapool also acts as the gateway to the Outer Hebrides with a ferry taking cars, cargo and passengers back and forth. Many visiting yachts are moored in the harbour too. So it's fairly busy with folk travelling to and fro the isles, as well as those wanting to walk among the hills and mountains around Ullapool itself.  Though we thought it was much quieter this year than when we visited two years ago. This was confirmed by some local business folk and retailers we spoke to. Whether it is the economic recession or the British weather that is putting folk off is unclear.  But we did our best to put money in the local coffers - particularly the coffee and cake establishments ;-)

This is Sammy the seal (a grey seal) in the harbour ready to steal the bait from those fishing off the pier, or waiting for the boats to come in for a tasty morsel. The local children have named him Sammy - however apparently there has been a "Sammy the Seal" in the harbour for over 20 years - and Sammy has changed size, shape, colour, and even sex this year!  But whatever the seal - it's always called "Sammy" by the locals!

Here are the mountains I mentioned. I love wandering among the mountains (the bottom of them, not walking up them!). This is my favourite, known as Stac Pollaidh. I love it's knobbly spine - not unlike my own ;-) These photos were taken on the winding mountain road to Achiltebuie.

Not sure which this one is....

This is Suilven, another of my favourites.

Hmmm not sure of this one either....

There was, of course, the opportunity for refreshment in Achiltebuie, then I sat reading while J. went off to explore on foot a while.  I was puzzling how the inhabitants would get to this particular cottage! (Summer Isles in the background).

And then back to the cottage in time for a beautiful sunset..... More photos to follow later this week!

Sunday 22 July 2012

A different view of a sunset.....

Just back from holiday in Ullapool (West Coast of Scotland). Catching up and will post photos of mountains and lochs sometime this week.  Meantime - above is the sunset from outside the cottage we stayed in at Rhue, just outside Ullapool. A cold beer and a sunset - lovely way to end a lovely week.  And before everyone asks - there were NO midges!!

Arrived back late last night - a ferry was put on to Graemsay and Hoy especially to get folk home from Stromness after the "Shopping Week" (gala week) final parade.  Lovely to get home even though it was rather late (11.30 pm). Saw the closing fireworks behind the "Hamnavoe" which I had sailed into Stromness on a few hours earlier.

(This one looks like the pier light is spitting fire!)

Surreal experience - coming out of the Co-op supermarket in town to see Vikings in the streets of Stromness!!  Then I realised it was Shopping Week and the Shetland Jarl Squad were in town.  Apparently they had visited one of the archaeological digs earlier in the week, in their full regalia. Think it startled the archaeologists to see a Jarl Squad wielding axes advancing on them!