explore

A Winter’s Escape

In the dark month of January, the chance to have a little break and be surrounded by forests came at the perfect time.

Nestled in a secluded and sheltered area of the Cairngorms lies the homely and inspiring accommodation of the Dell of Abernethy just a stone’s throw away from Nethy Bridge. This was the ideal location for us to be based to explore not only the area around the accommodation which is full of surprises but the wider area of the Glenmore Forest Park too.

Processed with VSCO with hb1 preset

Our accommodation for the few days we spent there was the beautifully renovated property of West Dell. Dell of Abernethy has 5 properties which offer the perfect escape for romantic getaways, family holidays, retreats and events. West Dell, East Dell, Little Dell, South Dell and Dell Lodge all have a unique feel and are original in their character and presence. It is the perfect location to get out and about or simply unwind, slow down, connect to nature and sit by the fire. There is no other properties nearby so it sits within a shelter of the trees with inspiring views as far as the eye can see.

 

The property has been renovated to a very high standard: retaining all of the unique features from the beginning with a cosy eclectic twist. The grounds around the cottage beckon you to have a wander and admire the wood carvings, the sculptures and the lanterns that dot around the trees (I loved this feature) it really brightened the place up in the evening.

 

We arrived late on the Saturday afternoon after a long and snowy drive from the Outer Hebrides. It was already getting dark and we were excited to just settle into the cottage, sit by the fire and unwind. It was also an added bonus when we were met with homemade brownies! The place beckons you to simply relax and be mindful of the surroundings around you, we tend not to give ourselves much time to read, think or simply do nothing but enjoy the moment in where you are so it was refreshing having no obligations, nothing we really had to do but enjoy the cottage.

West cosy

We embarked early from Dell on the Sunday morning to make the most of the bright winters sun (a welcome in the depths of winter) and made our way for the Glenmore Forest Park. We parked up behind Glenmore Lodge and took off for the walk that would take us up past Lochan Uaine, (The Green Lochan) Ryvoan Bothy and then up and over Mealla a’ Bhuachaille standing proud with incredible views over the Cairngorm Mountain Range and further North.

Processed with VSCO with hb2 preset

I have to say there is so much to do in this area around Nethy Bridge, Boat of Garten, Aviemore and Glenmore. As we only had a couple of days to spend in the area, instead of being overwhelmed at the abundance of walks to do, we picked the one that would cover a large area and spent time really getting to know that place, hence the reason we chose this one. We passed the unique vibrant waters of the Green Lochan and popped our heads into Ryvoan Bothy, (this is on my list for the summer) and then headed straight up the steep but impressive path which goes straight to the summit of Meall a’ Buachaille. We were very lucky with the weather, the light doesn’t last very long at this time of the year in Scotland so we were eager to make the most of the sun as it shone on us towards the ascent of the mountain. The climb itself is relatively easy (13 miles return loop) and is paved most of the way with rocks and a stony staircase all the way to the cairn at the summit.

Processed with VSCO with hb1 preset

We left feeling impressed with the area and more of a knowledge of the panoramic vistas that the mountain climb offered us. It was then onto the infamous Aviemore Mountain Café after exhausting most of our energy on the climb, also cake is always deserved after a hike right? The café offers up a hearty lunch with a unique menu, brilliant coffee and even more delicious cake, a warm welcome after being in the cold for the better part of the day. We then took a spin around the Glenmore Forest Park stopping at our favourite Loch Morlich for views over to the snowy dramatic mountains. By this time it was dark and there was only one thing to do and that was to spend the evening in the warm and lively Old Bridge Inn situated just outside of Aviemore. This was recommended to us by the brilliant team at Dell of Abernethy and it definitely didn’t disappoint! The Old Bridge inn served us hearty delicious food, it has a fine range of malts and local ales, hosts some varied music nights and has such a vibrant atmosphere!

 

On Monday morning we left early once again to head over to Inshriach where I had booked us onto a Nordic Woodcraft Course with Wooden Tom. The location itself is incredible, Tom Banks who calls himself Wooden Tom has a base where he has built a shelter/ cabin and workshop area in the middle of the forest on the Inshriach Farm Grounds. We spent the day with him learning about various techniques on how to carve from wood, the difference in working with certain wood, carving spoons and having a wonderful time learning a new skill which we will definitely be incorporating into life back on North Uist, (that is if we can find enough trees!) If you would like to book onto a workshop with wooden tom and learn a new skill which is completely environmentally friendly and highly recommended please head on over to the website. Courses are for solo learners or groups.

 

We spent the rest of our break enjoying our peaceful cottage at Dell of Abernethy and giving ourselves some time to relax and just enjoy the environment and atmosphere of the place. The Dell not only offers unique accommodation but is also available as a wedding venue and runs retreats and events  throughout the year!

WestDell38

If you would like to book in for a stay at this wonderful place (which I can highly recommend) please follow this link: Dell of Abernethy and pick one of these cottages to escape to, I know I’ll be going back as soon as I can! Thanks again to the lovely team of Wendy, Polly and Ross for hosting us in your beautiful corner of the Country and providing us with many spot on recommendations of places to eat, places to see and walks to venture on in the area! We had such a lovely stay slowing down and connecting to nature, thanks again for reminding us what is important!

To follow along on social media head on over to their social media pages: Instagram and Facebook.

Processed with VSCO with hb1 preset

Advertisements

My summer on the Isle of Eigg

I have now left the wonderful Island of Eigg, one of Scotland’s Small Isles after living and working here as a volunteer for just over two months. I’ve not updated on here for a while as since my last blog I was in this one place, this tiny unique and absolutely incredible Island. I have been truly immersed in the place, getting to know the locals a lot more, being outside as much as humanely possible and working with the Eigg Heritage Trust doing anything from cutting bracken to helping on crofts to clearing forestry paths.

To be honest coming out here and being a volunteer for the Summer was nothing to do with my art work, it’s been a long time since I have done something that has not been for the sole productive purpose of making new work and being in an art environment. I desperately wanted to take some time out and just be outside, working with the land, not for any goal at all but just to be here and immerse myself in a self sustainable Island that is full of some of the most genuine purposeful people I have ever had the pleasure to get to know. I’ve been to Eigg a few times before having fallen in love with the place a couple of winter’s ago and I knew that my first time working as a volunteer had to be out here, not only in my home country of Scotland but specifically Eigg, a place that has been drawing me back time and time again.

I travelled out to Eigg on the 18th of July and have spent the past two months as a volunteer for the Eigg Heritage Trust and spending the rest of my long days meandering all over the place, walking most of the Island, hiking when the weather allowed it, going over to the neighbouring Island of Rum for a few days working with the Ranger there, taking part in my first Small Isles Games and most social occasions including many a spontaneous Ceilidh, completely and utterly getting to know Eigg and everyone here as much possible.

I can honestly say that Eigg is the only place that I’ve ever been that I’ve had such a strong connection to. Even when the weather was completely chucking it down around me, even when the midges were out in force and even if I was completely knackered from walking here there and everywhere, it didn’t matter one bit as I was on the Island and there is a magic to the place that I can’t quite put my finger on. Yet I notice it in the people who have moved here or who keep coming back time and time again, they too I’m sure have experienced the exact same feeling. That overwhelming sense that you are meant to be right there, immersed and surrounded by the inspiring landscape and sheltered from the outside world that seems to be going a bit manic right now. In amongst all of the craziness is Eigg, an Island of purposeful living and a strong sense of community whose strong minded, determined and forward thinking locals seem to be going full steam ahead with their perspective on the world.

I’ve been thinking a lot about a place that chooses you, a lot of people come to the Scottish Islands and find them ‘idyllic’ ‘beautiful’ and ‘quaint’ tending to only skim the surface of a place and see them in the rare occasion when the sun does make an appearance. However my draw is a lot deeper than that, one being it is one of the last places where I got to spend a significant period of time with my late Dad who passed away very suddenly last year. We spent a week together in Sweeney’s Bothy in January 2016, a hilarious time where we were cut off from doing most things due to the prevailing 90 mph winds, yet we had the best time, just us, off grid sharing our common bond, being in the Islands and getting away from the city. I come back to Eigg and I see my Dad everywhere in this place, it’s funny how an Island that I’ve  never lived on for a long period of time has more of a strong connection to me than a place where I’ve grown up my entire life. We spent only a week here yet I’m closer to him here than anywhere because I know how much this place had an impact on him and the real memories we made here without any distractions whatsoever.

This is a reason among many that there is a strong pull for me, the lifestyle, the overpowering elements of the landscape where in our society nowadays seems worlds apart from being in the outdoors and surrounded by nature. Many people have no connection whatsoever to the earth anymore, how much we need this I’ve realised, to get our hands in the soil, feel the earth beneath our feet, we are natural beings shaped by the landscape and it is in our instinctual needs to be outside surrounded by nature. Overall, the place had everything that I ever did need, I really didn’t think I would have such a strong bond to it when I came back at the start of the Summer but I realised more and more how much more at ease I was within the environment and how I truly felt like I was surrounded by people who shared the same ethics as me, how refreshing.

Even though I didn’t set out with the intention of making new work whilst on Eigg, the inspiration prevailed and was in high abundance around me so I found that with my time on the Island came fresh new ideas, a new way of looking at the landscape and spending hours drawing outside in many of my favourite locations.

Instead of going into detail about every single thing that I took part in and every hike that I ventured on, I’m just going to share my visual diary of photographs that I took throughout the summer. I also didn’t set out for this post to become so deep and personal about how I’ve changed here and why there is such a strong connection for me but I’d rather share how personal the place is to me and how meaningful this Summer has been in general. I found that being on Eigg made me realise a lot about myself and look at the kind of society I want to live in.

 

Here I am now having just left the Island this morning and looking back at the distinctive shape of the Sgurr, shaped by the sea and now heading off to the Isle of Skye to do a big project and onto the next huge upcoming expedition of Svalbard. From now until next year I have full on exhibitions, residencies and don’t have much longer than a week at a time in my home country, however I will always remember my purposeful summer on Eigg and just being outside working with the land, getting my hands dirty and walking everywhere. No purpose but to just be. A slight adjustment now that I’m going back to my other life of full on work but it’s time to move on, get back to my projects as a freelance artist but will still hold the sense of peace within me that I felt so strongly on the Island.

And so to summarise my time I would say get to know a place, spend longer than a week there if you can but most of all take the time to get to know the people, you will not be disappointed, especially with the wonderful characters you will encounter on Eigg.

I’d like to personally thank each and every Islander who I met and got to know and for making me feel like part of your small community, I’ll try and remember every chat we had, maybe not the ones after a few cans but just the general banter that is so rife here on this wee Island. I hope I’ve contributed to your Island in a purposeful way!

Till next time Eigg, I have a strong feeling that it won’t be the last you’ll be seeing of me, after all I do want to live there, I’ll just leave it at that. I’ve realised that if a place fits you, it pulls you in and you can’t do anything about it but make the decision to go and do whatever it takes to make it happen. And that is exactly what I’m going to do…

Enjoy my visual diary of this meaningful Summer!

13610111316172430313237img_1186img_1267img_1268img_1400img_1460img_1507img_1518img_2360img_2373img_2390img_2723img_2734img_3281

 

Shifting Land – New works made on Eigg.

As part of my two month long spell on the Island of Eigg, I have produced a new series of paintings and drawings, all 30 x 42cm. All work is made in response to the ever shifting colour, geology and landscape found on the unique Island.

These new works form a new way of looking at the landscape, built up of washes, textures and varied colours, I aim to convey the overwhelming presence of the land, the powerful elements that constantly shift over the horizon and the way in which the landscape is in constant motion.

You can also find more of the detailed images of the individual work over here on my website. If you have enquiries about the work or would like to purchase any of the individual pieces, please email me at ellisoconnor@hotmail.co.uk. All work is original and has been made directly on site here on the stunning western Isle.

Lastly, as it’s my last week here on Eigg, I’ll be publishing a huge blog post in a few days talking about my experience on the Island, my upcoming projects and in general just checking in as it’s been over 2 months since my last post!

img_3362img_3369img_3373img_3380img_3387img_3414img_3423img_3432img_3439img_3443img_3450img_3455

 

Isle of Barra and outdoor studios.

I spent a week on the incredible Isle of Barra for a week at the end of  June. Even though I’m currently located on the Isle of Eigg, I thought I would share some photographs with you all from my trip on Barra while I have the chance and some of the work I made whilst I was out there. I spent the week seeing as much as possible on the Island, walking around all of the various areas of natural interest, climbed Heaval, (which is the highest point on Barra) produced some new drawings whilst outside in the midst of the inspiring landscape and even got a day trip over to the neighbouring Island of Eriskay. I could tell you all of the exact places I ventured to and the geological interest they have but I think I’ll just let the pictures do the talking for now! Where are you favourite Islands in Scotland and what are your go to places for creative inspiration?

IMG_0710

I’ve noticed recently within my work that I don’t necessarily need to have a ‘studio’ in an exact place, a room in which I go to, to produce my work. All I’ve been inspired by recently is being able to go out in the various landscapes we have here in Scotland and set up my studio outside in the midst of it all. It’s a wonderful thing being able to set up a studio space outside, just you, the mediums, the paper and the natural wonders around you. And before anyone asks, no it is not ‘sketching’ I’m doing, I’m making work, just because I am working and documenting what I see outdoors does not make it any less significant if I was producing the final piece in my actual studio indoors. Sorry that went on a little bit, but what I’m trying to say and what the most important thing to me in my artwork is finding primary inspiration and working straight from it and of course take advantage of the inspiring places we have around us to fuel and enrich my practise!

IMG_0540

Anyway, here are some photos from my time on Barra last month! I hope you like them and feel free to follow along on my adventures through my social media platforms at:

Website

Twitter

Instagram

Thanks again for reading my blog!

IMG_0899IMG_0690IMG_0628IMG_0886IMG_0851IMG_0746IMG_0697IMG_0766IMG_0553IMG_0555