Sunday, 23 June 2013

Last Holiday Post (Warning: Spider photos!)

I just thought I'd fit in one more holiday post.

You may have noticed that I've been doing a spider-watch all week. You have to expect creepy-crawlies in an old property, and it was interesting to see what we were going to find each day.


First spider seen on the day we arrived

This morning in the early hours, around 3am, I was awoken by the cats clambering all over my bags, which I'd packed last night. I had a feeling that they were probably spider-hunting, and after a few minutes I had to get up to investigate. Mischief almost had his paws under one of my bags, and when I lifted it up I could vaguely see a small dark shape. It didn't get very far though, because Mischief ate it. Oops. But at least he saved me from the fate of finding a spider amongst my clothes when I unpacked them this afternoon!

Later, when I went to sit at my usual spot by the living room window, I was faced with this lovely sight


I'm not quite sure how Mischief (I'm assuming he was the culprit) managed to squash it - the usual technique is just to chase them and eat them. So that was a nice thing to clean up just as I was about to eat my breakfast!

Anyway, enough of the creepy-crawlies! It was an early start this morning to get everything packed up and loaded into the car, including two reluctant cats who were just starting to enjoy their new life in Scotland. I took some last minute photos of the cottage.


Goodbye living room!

Goodbye kitchen!

Goodbye dining room which we never used!

Goodbye bedroom!

Goodbye other bedroom!

We left at 7.40 - I drove from the cottage all the way to Luss on the banks of Loch Lomond where we stopped for a quick loo visit, and then we swapped over and Chris drove the rest of the way home. We arrived back here just after 3pm.

I always feel very down when we get back from holiday, mainly because I love Scotland so much - I want to live there! (I know I'm being slightly unrealistic because living and working there will be different to spending a lazy week on holiday, but still...). Having said that, it is nice to get back to your own home, and your own bed - I've had a banging headache all evening so I'm looking forwards to collapsing into bed shortly. The cats have settled back in very well, as though they've never been away.

Just before I go, I'll show you the little stash of goodies that I bought myself.


From the Highland Soap Company, I got two bars of soap - Wild Scottish Rose and Sweet Orange and Cinnamon; a Lavender and Tea Tree body wash; and four bath melts - Rosebud; Orange and Cinnamon; Lavender; and Sweet Orange. I just had the bag on my lap as I typed out the names and the smell is divine! There was so much to choose from in the shop I could've spent ages 'sniffing' everything, but Chris was waiting outside so I felt a bit rushed. I think they have an online shop though... ;-)

I also got a pair of slipper socks, and a pair of ordinary ones (plus a pair for Chris, because it was three items for £10!). I bought three fridge magnets, which is becoming a bit of a tradition for us when we go on holiday, but I didn't photograph them. I feel like I bought more than this during the week, but I suspect the rest of it was food (fudge, mainly) and has been eaten already!

Well, I think that really is it for the holiday blogging. Cup of coffee, paracetamols and bed for me, now!

Saturday, 22 June 2013

Last Day

Sadly, today was the last day of our holiday. We wanted to go out somewhere today, but not too far, so we went to Spean Bridge. We've driven through it a few times this week, and have been umming and ahhing about whether to go into the Mill, so today we finally went in for a look around.


It was quite pleasant - a gift shop and a separate whisky section, a weaving exhibition (which was basically just a loom) and a cafe. I bought a few items in the gift shop, and then we went next door to the Highland Soap Company. I'd bought some soap as presents for people earlier in the week in Fort William, but realised I hadn't bought any for me, and I just felt like treating myself. So I did!

After Spean Bridge we carried on to Fort William, but when we got there we decided not to stay, and instead we went back to the Nevis Range area, as we were toying with the idea of going up Ben Nevis on the gondola ride. In the end, we didn't bother with that either. A bit further down the hill was a farm shop and a rural education centre so we called in there for a quick look around and I took a photo of Ben Nevis - at least, I think it is!

I think it's the one in the middle with the little bit of snow on it...
We started to make our way back to the cottage, just stopping at one last gift shop, which looked more promising than it turned out to be.

When we got back I took up my usual position in front of the living room window to see what birds I could photograph, and later I had a walk around outside with the camera too.

As much as I love the cheeky chaffinches, I commented that I wished there were some different birds, and they must have heard me!


The blackbird has been a few times already, but then I 'spotted' the Great Spotted Woodpecker which was exciting for me because I think it's only the second one I've ever seen in my life!



We haven't seen much in the way of buzzards this week, which is a bit of a surprise considering the location, but I think this was one which was circling almost directly above, although it was a very wide circle. At one point I think it was being chased away by a gull from the loch.



I'd got so used to seeing the chaffinches, blue tits and great tits on the feeders that I nearly assumed this was one of them, until I realised it was quite a lot yellower! According to the RSPB website, I think it's a siskin


And when I went outside with the camera I finally got the photos I'd been trying to get all week, by various methods. The very cute housemartins in their nest under the eaves





So that's that. The holiday has come to an end. I've done most of my packing, there are just a few things to gather up in the morning. I should really go to bed early and get a good nights' sleep, but on the other hand I want to stay up as late as I can to squeeze out every last bit of the holiday that I can before we have to go, do you know what I mean?

Maybe I should walk round the cottage making a list of things that we need to remember to pack in the morning?

Anyway, I hope you've enjoyed reading about our little holiday in Scotland, I've certainly enjoyed writing about it!

Bye for now!



Friday, 21 June 2013

Monsters Of The Deep

Since we're so close to Loch Ness here, we thought we might as well do the 'Nessie' experience, so we headed up to Drumnadrochit and the Loch Ness Exhibition Centre. I forgot to take a photo, so I'm borrowing this one from www.lochness.com


I have to say, it was definitely worth a visit. In a small group, we walked through a series of rooms, stopping in each one to watch images projected onto screens, whilst listening to a very informative voiceover explaining how the loch was formed, when and where the first accounts of the 'monster' appeared, and the science behind all the investigations over the years. You might have expected them to really 'play up' to the whole Loch Ness Monster myth, but actually they were very objective and matter-of-fact, explaining that there isn't really enough life in the loch to support some kind of giant creature, and that most of the sightings can be explained by other means. If people have seen a 'large fish', it's most likely to have been something like a sturgeon.

The only thing that spoiled it for me was that halfway around I suddenly had the awful thought that I'd left my hair straighteners switched on, and once you've thought something like that, you can't unthink it, can you? I could vaguely remember plugging them in, switching them on and using them, but I couldn't remember anything else after that. Did I switch them off? Did I unplug them like I usually do? I think they're supposed to automatically turn off if they're not used for 10 minutes, but what if they don't? We didn't come straight back to the cottage, because I tried to tell myself that I was worrying over nothing and that I would've turned them off, but it did kind of put a downer on the day.*

After the exhibition, we just popped back down the hill to a couple of gift shops, and a pet shop where I bought some more peanuts and sunflower seeds to replace the ones that disappeared yesterday.

From Drumnadrochit, we basically just followed the road around Loch Ness and back down the other side. We passed through Inverness, but didn't stop.

Inverness Castle, quickly taken from the car while at the traffic lights

Loch Ness

As we drove along the narrow road, to our left were, I think, the Monadhliath Mountains, but my geography isn't great so don't quote me on that. They always sounds to me like something out of Lord Of The Rings. Wherever we were, it was bleak but beautiful



This road dropped down to a lovely little loch called Loch Tarff,


and then eventually we were back in Fort Augustus, where we bought a couple of delicious sausage rolls from the butchers next to the locks. I also got a chance to go into That Cute Little Highland Shop which was closed on Monday - it was a very cute gift shop, but I didn't buy anything.

We came back to the cottage then, and I put some of the peanuts and sunflower seeds on the table outside the living room window. They were extremely popular with the chaffinches:



I think this was a juvenile, because it kept fluttering it's wings the way baby birds do

It had started raining at this point - wet chaffinch!
 I think this was a coal tit which came for something to eat - it was so tiny and cute!


And this is a great tit, posing on the bird table branch


As you can see from the photos, the weather stayed nice while we were out, better than we were expecting, and it only started raining this afternoon after we'd got back. We've just been pottering about inside the cottage; the other day I bought myself a little cross-stitch bookmark kit which I made a start on, although it doesn't look as though they've included enough thread to complete the design. I'm not wasteful with it either, I use as much of it as I possibly can, so I know it's not me. Might have to write to them to complain ;-)

So, it's our last day tomorrow. I think we're going to go out in the morning, but we're not sure where yet, and then the afternoon/evening will be spent packing and tidying up, so that we can get away pretty early on Saturday. Hmm, that's a depressing thought...

Spider-watch: one or two little ones here and there, but nothing major to report




* I had switched them off, but they were still plugged in and switched on at the mains, which I'm annoyed with myself about, because I always unplug them, usually... I think it's early onset dementia...




Thursday, 20 June 2013

Mallaig

Today started out quite wet and overcast. We both got up really early, but then Chris nodded off again on the sofa, so I spent a couple of hours trying to take photos of some of the garden wildlife.

As I've been looking out of the living room window, I've noticed something small and brown running across the grass, onto the patio and then back again. I managed to get a couple of photos of it this morning - I think it might be a vole:


I bought some bird food the other day and hung it out, but noticed this morning that the bag of peanuts and the bag of sunflower seeds had dropped off. I went out to pick them up but they were nowhere to be found. When we arrived on Saturday, the owners did tell us that there was a pine marten which sometimes steals things like fat balls, so I'm assuming he or she has made off with both entire bags of nuts and seeds!

The main birds that we seem to get on the feeders are chaffinches, great tits and blue tits




There are also housemartins (I think) nesting in the eaves, right above the bedroom window. I spent ages this morning trying to get a shot of them flying into or out of the nest, and this is as close as I got

a bit of wing

a bit of wing and tail
They're too quick for me!

Anyway, eventually we set off for Mallaig. We passed a little church which is a bit of a favourite of mine, and which I was able to get a quick snap of today, although it wasn't looking too good in the damp, grey murk...


On the way we called at Arisaig, to visit a family friend, but unfortunately she wasn't home, so we continued to Mallaig.



We had a walk around the shops and a nice pub lunch, just beating the rush of people who arrived on the steam train from Fort William, which I tried to take a photo of as we drove past when we were leaving




The weather wasn't bad while we were in Mallaig, but on the way home it was hit and miss - there were some fairly angry skies


Instead of coming straight back to the cottage, we drove past the end of the road to see if we could find a local hotel that we could go to for an evening meal on either Thursday or Friday. We didn't find one, but it did give us the opportunity to take a photo of the cottage from a different angle

the metal bridge, leading to the cottage on the right

Well, blogger is being a bit awkward so I think I'll leave it here. Don't know what the plan is for tomorrow yet.

Spider-watch: Three evicted this morning - two from the bedroom and one that was just hanging around on the front door...

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Skye

Well, we went to Skye today, but somehow it was a bit disapointing. I'm not sure why, I think it was just a long drive to get there, and then all we did was have a walk around Portree and then come back to the cottage. I think we should've left earlier and maybe planned a few more places to visit, but there you go. I'd also had a really bad night's sleep as I'm suffering from a sore throat; I was awake during the night and then got up quite early, but then on the way there I could hardly keep my eyes open, which was annoying because I didn't want to miss any of the scenery.

The weather had taken a turn for the worse today too, it was quite a bit cooler and eventually started to rain, and that didn't help either. We've certainly been spoiled for the last couple of days. The highlight of Portree was probably when we popped into a hotel for lunch - I had a tuna and cheese panini, Chris had cheese and ham. It was served with salad and coleslaw and was delicious!

So, after the glut of photos on the previous posts, the only one I managed to take today was this one, of the Skye Bridge, from the car as we approached it






Not sure what the plan is for tomorrow, I think we might be going to Mallaig. The weather forecast isn't very promising though, so I don't know whether I'll get many photos taken.

I feel shattered at the moment, so I'm going to put my feet up for the evening!

Spider-watch: another new visitor in the bedroom, and one in the living room...


Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Fort Augustus - Part Two

Warning: another photo-heavy post, animals this time!

As mentioned, Fort Augustus is home to a rare breeds croft which we decided to visit.


It was a charming, understated place






reached via a little footpath which ran alongside the river



and you paid your entrance fee into an honesty box.


Without further ado, lets meet the animals!






We think this was Charlie...


... unless this chicken in trousers was Charlie...





















Bye for now, do call again!

Crikey, I didn't realise how many photos I'd taken as we walked round, this is only a selection of them!

I'll stop now.

Skye tomorrow, hopefully...


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