Sponsored by Calmac – Isle of Rum

At the end of June I was fortunate enough to be invited out to the incredible Island of Rum with Calmac Ferries! The Isle of Rum is located off the West Coast of Scotland and is the largest of the Small Isles. I was pretty excited as I had been to the Island before but hadn’t had a chance to do much exploring so now was my time!

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Day 1

We set off from Mallaig on the Monday morning bright and early. We were lucky with the journey as it stopped in at Eigg first so I got another glimpse at one of my other favourite Islands. We arrived and were met by Dave; one of the Island residents who takes visitors around on a buggy transfer!

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We checked into the Rum Bunkhouse met by Jed another one of the Island residents who runs the modern and very well equipped bunkhouse located right on the water and close to the heart of Kinloch Village. It was then onto the first walk of the day: this time a hike on the Northside Nature Trail. This circular trail took us 1 hour and is easy enough to circumnavigate and is ideal if you are just on the Island for a day trip. It takes you up and along the north side of Kinloch Glen, giving you views out into the NNR and a glimpse of the true wild Rum. We also passed by Croft number 3 who had a whole variation of animals and a lovely shed full of handmade gifts made on the inspiring Island.

We then went on the second walk of the day, this time to the Otter Hide! It is only a thirty minute return walk from the new pier and takes you through Loch Scresort’s southside woods. The walk itself is a gentle one along a good quality, but unsealed, path and can be enjoyed by all and passes some of the islands initial settlements. There are a few ruins of black houses from the Highland Clearances within the woods. We spent a great deal of time wandering through the woods and then taking in the sights at the Otter Hide, a fantastic and well-made building which blends right into the wild landscape of Rum. Sadly we seen no Otters but it is an ideal place to sit and just look out to the surrounding Islands and passing sea traffic.

After our two big walks of the day we then headed off for the Island Tea Shop to meet Kim the owner who provided us with a three course meal of local produce in the Island’s community hall. Rum Café is open 10am-4pm, Monday to Saturday, for soups, plated sandwiches, baked tatties and home-made cakes. Packed lunches will also be available on request. Evening meals available 6-8pm but must be booked in advance. Later that evening we set off for the third walk of the day: up to Coire Dubh (just to the back of the village), a 30 minute walk to the corrie with great views of Rum and Skye. There are so many self-guided walks available on Rum and I would recommend anyone that goes to the Island to just get out and explore, the only inhabitants of the Island live in the village of Kinloch so as soon as you leave the village you are met with a true wild and incredibly varied rich landscape where you tend not to come across another human for a very long time!

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Day 2

We set off early having hired bikes with Fliss at Ivy Cottage and headed straight for Harris, a 16 mile return trip to the rugged and exposed south west of the Island. The Harris road is fairly smooth with some rough patches and it’s just under 8 miles one way. You take the road out of the village up 2 miles to the crossroads, then take the left branch. It’s a gradual climb up to the highest point in the road, then it’s a brisk freewheel down into Harris Bay. As soon as we made it down to Harris Bay we were met with a large and friendly group of Rum ponies who happily greeted us along with a pack of feral goats who I was pretty surprised to come across! The Rum pony is an island type of the Highland Pony breed that is native to the Highlands and islands of Scotland and has been present since the last ice age. The first record of these ponies on Rum dates back to 1774. The ponies are a working herd and are used during the deer culling season to extract deer carcasses from the hill. They are also used as a grazing management tool outside of the deer culling season when they live out wild on the hill and can be found grazing at Harris.

Harris was the place on Rum that I was looking forward to going to the most, partly because of the unique and wild geology in the area but also because of the feeling you get when you are there. You truly feel like you are at the edge, it’s very barren, raw, elemental and feels like you really have to work to get there which makes it even more special. It’s also a breath-taking experience seeing the Rum Cuillins from the other side, the force of the mountains in their full majesty. We spent a good few hours wandering around Harris Bay taking in the bizarre sights of the Mausoleum, the farming remains of the old ‘lazy beds’ and of course spotting the many deer and Highland Cows.

It was then onto Kilmory Bay which is a 10 mile return trip from Kinloch Village. As we were at Harris anyway it took us a lot quicker to cycle on the pleasant path all the way down to the beautiful bay. Kilmory is located on the north coast of Rum and there is a 4WD road that you can take to get there. As soon as you reach Kilmory Glen you are met with the stunning views over to the Skye Cullin whilst entering the Kilmory Red Deer Project study area where we were met with many many deer, some even wandering around on the beaches! It was another few hours spent wandering around the stunning beaches that this part of the Island had to offer.

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The evening was spent in one of the Islands new unique properties that are available to stay in. The Rum BBQ Bothy is located right along from Kinloch Village and is set right on the water looking out to all the peaks on the mainland. It has all the amenities you need and is a unique self-sustainable build which I really didn’t want to leave! We ate local venison cooked on the bbq right in the centre of the bothy, the best way to end another full on adventure packed day.

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Day 3

On our last day on Rum we started the day off by joining onto the Ranger Walk from the ferry terminal. We met Trudi the local Ranger who took us on a leisurely two hour small group walking tour whilst telling us about the local flora, fauna and unique geology and history of the Island. After the Ranger Walk ended we headed off to the very quirky and eccentric Kinloch Castle for a small group guided tour with the castle warden. The castle itself is absolutely bizarre inside and is definitely worth a look, it seems so mad to have such a building on such a wild Island yet it is home to some of the most sacred objects from around the world and extremely historic paintings. Our last stop of the Island tour was meeting Sylvia, the local historian who had just recently opened a new Heritage Centre on Rum which is definitely worth a look around.

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After a whistle stop tour of the majestic Island it was time to head off on our Calmac Ferry back to Mallaig! Rum is a paradise for hill walkers and mountaineers. Even though this was a sponsored trip from Calmac I would highly recommend checking this Island out for yourself and can honestly say there is so much to see not only in the village where there are many businesses flourishing but in the great open expanse of the wild Island. Rum is home to some of the most spectacular mountains to climb, coasts to explore, wildlife to watch and is begging for you all to explore it for yourselves! Catch you on Rum, it won’t be long until I’m back for another big journey, this time I think I’ll aim for the mountains!

Here are all the links for the businesses I’ve mentioned in this blog post:

 

 

 

 

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A stopover in Shetland

So up until now I’ve not really stopped travelling. I left Norway the third week of May and then went straight to Shetland, then onto the mainland, then up to Ullapool, over to the Isle of Lewis where I travelled down through the Isle of Harris, Berneray, North Uist, South Uist back over to Mallaig where I then caught the ferry to Eigg to where I am right now. Talk about going the long way around. I’m going to spend quite a bit of time though on this post showing some of my photographs and travels around Shetland, a place that will forever inspire me, also because I took so many photos whilst there and had such a great adventure.

I spent only a few days in Shetland having explored the Islands quite thoroughly in the past few years and me being me I decided to fly back to the Scottish Mainland via Shetland from Bergen, a good way of connecting the landscapes together. My accommodation for my few days in Shetland was the beautiful homely and well situated Ortolan House B&B, a large Georgian townhouse dating from the 1780’s, well located in the central conservation ‘lanes’ area of Lerwick, less than a minute’s walk from the bustling main street which is home to all amenities. Ortolan has a wonderful well-established walled garden with stunning views overlooking Lerwick’s busy harbour and the tranquil island of Bressay. The property offers two exclusive bedrooms with an emphasis on having a relaxed and comfortable stay and I certainly did have that! Here’s a few images of the accommodation and the places I explored whilst on the Northern Isles.

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Sunday

My first full day began with a trip over to the neighbouring Island of Bressay. A quiet place but home to many wonderful clear coastal routes, I aimed for a few hours there to take in the sights and also view Lerwick from a different perspective. I spent my time wandering around the Island and taking sanctuary in the beaches that surround the west coast of the Island. I then spent the rest of the day wandering around the Mareel and Shetland museum, always a great place for finding new contemporary art that’s inspired from the unique Shetland landscape. It was then onto Burra for a coastal hike with a couple of local artist friends, impressive geology and wild seascapes leading us around the shore.

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Monday

I set off in the morning for an Island I’d never been to before. I’ve been to every single one of the Shetland Islands now apart from Foula and Fair Isle, that is a must for in the autumn of this year! And so Whalsay it was, without a clear plan I headed off for the ferry with just one aim, try and hike around most of the Island and see the unique natural wonders and coastal paths.

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Tuesday

On my last day of my short trip I hiked out to the Knab, one of my favourite coastal walks in Shetland and ideally located so close to Lerwick, such incredible views over to Bressay and down to the south of the mainland. It was then onto a boat trip around Bressay with Shetland Sea Bird Tours, the same lovely couple who ran the accommodation I was staying in. Turns out both Rebecca and Phil not only run their homely Ortolan B&B they also are very knowledgeable and expert guides on bird and sea life. Not only do they stock an enviable natural history library for their guests but with their combined knowledge and expertise they are perfectly placed to advise and even facilitate your time in the field. The trip to Shetland was perfect in gaining some inspiration from a landscape that so richly appeals to me, and leave with a new appreciation for the varied geology there.

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Again another wonderful trip, I’ve realised that my blog is turning a bit into a travel, photography and art blog which I don’t mind one bit. I’ve gone from one project in one country to the next consistently this year and I find it good for myself and reflection through my art to document and write what I’ve been up to in the place. It’s also really fulfilling for me to share it with you all so again thanks for reading this. My next blog is going to be about my further onward travel around the wonderful Scottish Islands where I’ve been recently, it’s good to be back in my home country, a place that inspires me to the highest level and always will do.

May: Artist in Residence with Leveld Art Centre, Norway & New Work

So for the month of May I was Artist in Residence at Leveld in Norway, a small village in the Ål municipality, Hallingdal home to 300 inhabitants about 700 m above sea level. Another remote mountainous location: perfect once again for me. I feel like I’ve done just about every remote artist in residence programme that there ever has been!

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I spent the 4 weeks mainly based at the Leveld Art Centre, it’s very much a residency for creatives to go to and be immersed in the village and location without any distractions. There’s not even a shop in the village so it really is about going there to get headspace, think about your ideas and work to develop on a project that needs time and space.

I’ve realised through close inspection and really challenging how I think about my work and how I intend for it to develop that there is very much a clear style within my practise and how I respond to the landscape in which I immerse myself in. A major part of me making the art work is being surrounded in an environment that not only invigorates me in terms of remote and harsh elements, it also provides me with the right visual inspiration for me to go forward with new work. The harsh strong black lines I use convey the significant unique texture, shape and linear quality of the landscape whilst the energetic mixed medium marks are responding to the temporary elements that surround the land. It is about connecting people to this energy that exists in nature. I hope my photos of my work below show this kind of idea and give the work clarity.

And so I won’t go into detail about every piece of art work I made, instead here is some photographs that show the location of the place and some of the new works I produced within my time there! At the moment I’ve just left my post as artist in residence in Leveld and currently in Bergen where I will then depart for Shetland then back to the Scottish Mainland so that’s what to expect from my next posts!

Thanks again as always for reading and if you would like to purchase my work head on over to my online shop for small original works at online shop or you can browse my full portfolio at website.

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The beauty of Treshnish, Isle of Mull

I ventured off to the Isle of Mull having not been on the Island for a few years, eager to see the startling landscape once again and variations of geology that Mull is home to. I was even more excited to stay with Treshnish and Haunn Cottages located right on an incredible coastal farm with panoramic views over to the Isle of Coll and the Treshnish Isles. It’s even close to Calgary beach with many hiking routes surrounding the area so it seemed like a perfect base for me to relax, be inspired but also to see many varied landscapes.

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I was only on the Island for three days but I sure made the most of it. When I go back, (if is not an option) I  definitely intend to just stay at Treshnish point from the cottage and wander around that area as there is so much beauty and variation in the landscape. I would recommend to really take in that area and slow down with the remarkable location of the cottages. However, because I only had a few days I was eager to get out and about and see more of Mull as it has been way too long since my last visit.

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The background of the farm is a very interesting one: There are 8 cottages, 4 at Treshnish, 4 at Haunn but all with simply spectacular views to the vast expanse of sky and sea around the coastline. The property was one that intrigued me in general because of the sustainability and environmentally friendly ethos it promotes. It has been integral to the owners to preserve the quality of it being untouched. Each building has been carefully decorated to a high yet homely standard, many antiquities that fit the purpose of the location. Modern and homely, whilst preserving the natural quality of the cottages as they always were; slotted perfectly into the landscape, years’ worth of history and tales within the walls. They do not impose, they simply blend beautifully into the location, a shelter against (I’m sure some pretty wild elements) however I was fortunate enough on my stay to have 2 days of sunshine and a day of hail, high winds then sunshine again!

The farm also provides many wonderful opportunities for walking and exploring the varied landscape whilst having idyllic beaches nearby including the infamous Calgary Bay! The cottages are even located within the National Scenic Area of North West Mull, a perfect base from which to choose to enjoy the wildlife, (I saw a few golden eagles) walking and exploring lots! There are nearly 4 miles of dramatic coastline to explore – offering wonderful sea and island views.  Look for the Treshnish Islands, Ulva, Gometra, Iona, Coll, Tiree, Rum, Eigg, Muck and Skye. The highest ‘hill’ on the farm is Cruachan Treshnish so it is the best hill to climb to catch the loveliest views. My home for the three days was the Shieling, to be honest I would have been happy in any one of the wonderful properties but this was one perfect for just me, cosy, homely and a quiet secluded spot where I could to and process all the inspiration I had loaded up on from the day!

Here’s some more really interesting history about the place:About Treshnish.

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Day 1: 

Carolyne at Treshnish was so helpful and knowledgeable in providing me with information on what to see locally and also around the Island. She organised a boat trip for me to join onto with the team over at Turus Mara, a family business based on the Isle of Mull. They have been running these exciting and scenic tours to the Treshnish Isles and Staffa for 44 years! Tours can be joined from Mull and Oban and run from Ulva Ferry on Mull to the Islands.

I embarked on the tour from the Ulva ferry and what a day it was! Again we were very lucky with the weather, (I like to think that it’s never bad weather in Scotland, you just have to wear the right kind of clothing) however there’s something pretty special about being on the sea under a clear blue sky and seeing the Islands and surrounding landscape in all of their majesty, that and the fact that the sea wasn’t rough! We headed straight for the Isle of Staffa, leaving the drama of Ben More and the sublime mountains of Mull behind us.

Now the Isle of Staffa has been a place that has been on my bucket list for a long time now, having been fascinated by the Islands from a very young age I made a pact with myself to visit every single one, I’m doing pretty well but the Treshnish Isles were still unexplored to me. The approach to Staffa (pillar Island) by sea is remarkable, the linear magnificence of the rock formations jutting out at stacked angles and the great basalt columns which have inspired millions are a geologists dream!

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We had a couple of hours to explore Staffa which was brilliant as the other boat party were just leaving so there weren’t many of us on the Island. I ambled around, heading for the highest point but then of course Fingal’s Cave was calling and I even spent a good few minutes in there on my own before the rest of the party joined! It is a place that no matter how many times it has been documented or how many images I’ve seen of the cave and rock formations, I’ll never forget the feeling of being sat on the rock looking down at the bright hues of the water and hearing the echoes of my voice carried and bounced around the geological forms. An otherworldly experience.

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Turus Mara collected us and we then set off for the Island of Lunga, the larger of the Treshnish Isles. It was here where I realised how popular puffins are! Like Staffa, Lunga is of volcanic origin and the geology there was just as remarkable! Populated until the 19th century, the Island stills bears the remains of black houses. We had a few hours on the Island which meant I could really explore some of the wilder more remote areas of the Island far from any of the tourists who seemed to just huddle around the magical puffins, (understandably.)

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Lunga is designated a site of special scientific interest because of the abundant plant life found there, many rare plants are endangered and native to the Island. I found walking around the high cliffs of the Island with panoramic views out to the West how large a population of birdlife there was, not only the infamous puffins but guillemots and razorbills too, I’m sure there are even more depending on the time of year!

All in all it was a spectacular day from setting off before 12 and not arriving back to Ulva until 6pm. We had plenty of time to explore the Islands and even sailing back from Lunga stopped to see many seals, and the neighbouring islands of Cairn na Burgh MòrFladda and Bac Mòr. Thanks again to Turus Mara for having me aboard the trip, what a fantastic day! If you would like to book a trip out to the Treshnish Isles with them have a look on their site at: https://www.turusmara.com/timetables-booking/ highly knowledgeable about the local wildlife, history and geology, a big recommendation from me!

Day 2

Now my second full day on Mull was mad, I awoke early and with the beautiful weather I wanted to get out and see as much of the Island as possible.. And that I did! I definitely don’t recommend driving as much as I did and taking in an Island as quickly as me, after all I’m all about the art of slow travel but because I was on my own it was brilliant to just be able to stop whenever and wherever to take in the sights! On this day I ventured all the way down the east coast of Mull taking in the views of the Ardnamurchan Peninsula then over the mountain road towards Carsaig. The mighty roads of Mull are spectacular, lochs, towering peaks and many places to stop and take in the views! I drove all the way down to Carsaig and hiked out to the natural arches, this was one of my main reasons for coming to Mull and the geology there didn’t disappoint!

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I spent a good few hours around this part of the Island and then headed off to my next destination: the Isle of Iona! I’ve been to Iona before yet I wanted to go back for a couple of hours while the sun was out (you have to grab the opportunity in Scotland!) I set off for the highest point on Iona, took in the views and then wandered around some of the secluded beaches in the North of the Island.

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I absolutely love Iona with its sacred and unique archaeology. My last stop of the day was the stunning west coast road that leads from Loch Beg all the way up and around to Gruline making my way back to Treshnish that way! A long windy drive but so worth it, this has to be one of my all-time favourite road trips, each bend I was met with either a sheep, (remember to take it slow) a jutting cliff, an incredible view out to the Hebrides or simply a charming home buried into the land. Traces of history everywhere!

Day 3

My last day on Mull and I thought it would be best to make the most of the location at Treshnish and set off for a big hike around the farm. I spent a good while seeing the full immensity of the farm and visiting a viking burial site, a ruined township and many many sheep all roaming around on the hillside. It also was a great opportunity to see the Haunn Cottages, equally as stunning as the other cottages but that extra bit remote! I’ll let the photos do the talking for my walk around the area, it truly is an inspiring place.

If you would like to follow more of what Treshnish and Haunn Cottages get up to follow them on their social media which captures life on the farm and living in a remote yet scenic area perfectly and of course if you’d like to book a stay here is the website once again with all information!

Thank you once again to the wonderful and inspiring Carolyne and Somerset at Treshnish, I’m looking forward to coming back already! Thanks as always for reading and if you have any questions about the place or what I got up to on Mull simply comment below!