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Friday 31 May 2019

I remember sunshine....

Sadly this week the weather has been chilly, breezy and today very very wet.  Leaving aside what is good for the garden, I'm grumpy as I want sunshine!  Anyway the previous week there WAS unshine so here are some pictures from then.....  Above Hoy High lighthouse, lovely to see kye (cattle) back in the fields after their winter inside in sheds.  Stromness and Orkney Mainland in the background across Hoy Sound.

Below, the remains of the old Sail Shed down near the "new" pier on Graemsay where our ferry comes in daily.  The shed housed what the name suggests - sails from the boats that most of the island folk had in the days before a regular ferry service! The hills of Orphir in the distance.

Looking the other way towards the old croft of Scarratain with a traditional grass roof.  Behind are the hills of Hoy, moorland, peat and heather....

The shore, and in the distance on the left you can see the outline of the small islands of Cava and the larger one of Flotta.  Flotta has an oil terminal on the island, although not as busy as in its heyday there is still a lot of activity there.  The island itself is fascinating to visit, with lots of wildflowers, other wildlife and WWII remains of gun batteries etc.

Viewing from Garson on Graemsay - Hoy High lighthouse, Sandside and the Orphir hills

There are a couple of bee hives on the island.  Here is one of the honey bees collecting some nectar from the many dandelions around.  You can see the sacks on the legs for collection.

Back home now - Hoy is under the duvet!

Meanwhile in the hen house the ladies are queuing up to lay eggs!

And here are some panoramas around the island. The "main road" from the top of Windbreck hill down to Sandside.

From the top of Windbreck hill heading down towards the main Graemsay pier.

Bottom of Windbreck hill

Saturday 25 May 2019

Sunshine and sunsets......

Back home now I'm enjoying the late sunsets and going to bed when it is only just dusk. Sunset tonight is at 22.03.

A room with a view..... this is after 10pm at night.

These photos though were taken about 10 days ago when we HAD sunshine.  It's been chilly, wet and windy this last week. Hopefully things clear up over the next week and we get decent temperatures again.

Though when it was what we called "hot" it was 18 degrees C.  Slightly warm by many standards I know. Ha!  Actually it got up to 24 degrees C in some parts of Orkney that day.

Hoy High lighthouse with a sail ship the Tecla that was around Orkney waters for a while.

Here she is in Stromness harbour, on the other side of the pier is the Hamnavoe, the ferry to Mainland Scotland.

These Narcissus are a late flowering variety and one of my favourites in the garden

Our flowering season is about a month behind further south in the UK. So these primroses were still flowering 10 days ago down by the pier.

And with lovely dog violets growing among them

Blue sky blue sea.... looking towards Stromness (a bit blurry!)

A panorama with Stromness on the left and Hoy High on the right (click to see enlarged)

Another panorama of Sandside bay, taken from the garden of a neighbour.

Our island post box.... a favourite nesting box for sparrows so in the Spring it has to be blocked off with a removable guard to protect the letters!

Meanwhile back at Sandside, Charlie the barn cat loves the sunshine too and comes to say hallo.

He's 13 - the same age as Button and is also a rescue cat.  He came to Sandside at the same time as Button but turned out to be largely feral and once he escaped he chose not to return to the house.  But he is quite happy in the barn with lots of hay and straw to curl up in, mice to eat, and a daily breakfast from me!  Button largely keeps out of his way as he is the dominant cat around the place.

And this creature was crawling along the kitchen floor.  She was huge.  And is a queen wasp - the species is unclear as apparently to determine that I need a photo of her face!  Frankly I was more interested in getting her out of the house before she started getting cross.  She could either be a very benign wasp or one of the more aggressive ones.  I released her in the garden.... I'm hoping she's not planning a nest there..... in hindsight I would have been better putting her further away but it was tricky moving her so....

And finally another sunset.....

Saturday 18 May 2019

A trip to Glen Coe and Glenfinnan in the Highlands

Glen Coe
I mentioned last week that I'd been away for a few days.  I was in Fort William in the Highlands with a friend, Anne, from London.  The weather was cool (cold Anne would say!), but at least it stayed dry most of the time and with very little wind.  Given the West Coast is known for high rain fall I think we did very well weatherwise.  Anyway I'll share some photos of our trip over the next few posts.

We took a tour around Fort William, Lochaber, Glen Coe and Glenfinnan. First stop was Glenfinnan for photos of the iconic stream train crossing the viaduct.  Depending on your point of view it is either "The Jacobite" steam train or the Harry Potter Express!  Either way it is brilliant to watch it go over the amazing Glenfinnan viaduct which was finished in 1901. Hundreds of visitors scramble up nearby hills or around the Glenfinnan centre to catch a glimpse of the steam train going over the viaduct.  We joined in, of course. 

It looks even better with the steam trail!

Sorry they are a bit blurred! I was way too excited to take proper pictures..... but there will be more photos of The Jacobite later as we actually went ON the train.  Whoo hoo!!

Anyway, also at Glenfinnan but sadly often ignored in preference of a steam train, is the monument to the Jacobite rising which began in by the shore of Loch Shiel in 1745.  This was when Prince Charles Stuart (Bonnie Prince Charlie) raised his standard on the shores of the Loch claiming his right to the British throne.  Sadly that claim ended at the Battle of Culloden in 1746. Bonnie Prince Charlie fled Scotland and never set foot on its shores again.  The monument was raised in 1815, and in 1835 the statue of an anonymous Highlander was placed on top

And then we set off for Glen Coe (or Glencoe).... I love mountains and these did not disappoint!

There is a lot of history in Glencoe, one infamous incident was the massacre that took place in Glencoe in 1692 when 28 men of the Clan MacDonald of Glencoe were killed by government forces (the forces included members of Clan Campbell) who were billeted with them. The massacre was on the grounds that they had not been prompt in pledging allegiance to the new monarchs, William II and Mary II.

Leaving aside the history, the landscape is just awesome.  We had a lovely sunny day to drive through the mountains. There was still snow on the hills and in the corries (the name given to "ice-gouged bowls" carved by glaciers during the last ice age).

Here are a selection of - er - mountains!

I mentioned snow in the corries...

A rather isolated house!  Waterfalls running down from the corrie with melted snow...

A former bothy, now a home...

And a photo of a deer, a helicopter and a mountain.  Now although the James Bond movie, Skyfall, was filmed in the area, I don't think 007 was in the vicinity, sadly.

Fort William is the end of the West Highland Way, a very popular hiking trial. There are also lots of tourists around, as well as serious hillwalkers and mountaineers.  It can get very busy in the summer, and don't forget the midges!  So we were very lucky with our trip in May, no midges, no wind, little rain, and not too busy with tourists!  If you are in the Highlands of Scotland I do recommend a trip through Glencoe!