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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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The year so far/Cill Rialaig Artist in Residence

It has been a very long time since I have blogged and I really cannot believe that it is nearly May! One of the last blogs I made about my work was after my residency in Sumburgh Head Lighthouse back in November! Apologies for the lack of blogging going on but since the beginning of this year, well just my life in general, I’ve literally went from one place to the next, one project after another barely giving myself a day to rest in between. The beginning of this year started off with me living in Venice for 6 weeks. I received a full fellowship to teach printmaking at the International School of Printmaking in Venice, (Scuola De Grafica) to be precise. It was here where I got to work on my practise, teach my specialisation of lithographic printmaking and explore the bizarrely beautiful man made Island of Venice. I’ve decided not to write a separate post about my time here as already the months have flown in but if you would like to see some of my work made in Venice I have some listed on my page: art site. It was a productive intense 6 weeks of making a new series of monoprints, collographs, playing around with painting and layering on top of the work whilst going to as many classes that were available to me at the School.

Since returning from there I had a few days to catch up with things in Scotland, I missed it so much when I was away. Don’t get me wrong Venice is an extremely beautiful place but it is not natural. I’ve never been immersed in a place that is not surrounded by mountains or nature, I’ve always chosen to go directly north, to places of sparse population and remoteness so it was a challenge for me and sometimes the hectic hordes of tourists and level of mass crowds would really stress me out! However, the history, art and culture of the place was truly amazing and the fact that it has barely been touched for as long as it has been built is astounding. A city degrading in such a beautiful way.

After Venice I then went back to my favourite place; The Isle of Eigg to spend a week’s residency with the Bothy Project. You can read about my time here where I’ve wrote a big article for the Bothy’s Website: Thoughts from an Island.

After the Isle of Eigg I then caught the ferry back to the mainland and flew to Ireland the following day. I told you I don’t give myself much time in between! I spent the beginning of my time in Ireland catching up with all of my wonderful family and travelling around part of the Wild Atlantic Way and The Ring of Kerry gathering inspiration as I went. It was then a 2 week period from the 29th of March to the 12th of April as Artist in Residence at Cill Rialaig Artist Retreat, known as one of the most remote artist residencies in the world; seemed pretty fitting for me then!

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Cill Rialaig Village which was built in 1790 sits high on a cliff at the very edge of Ireland, County Kerry looking right out onto the Atlantic and feeling the full force of the storms and wind that come off the ocean. This area was phase one of a self-help three part economic and social plan for the much neglected Gaeltacht (Irish speaking) area of Ballinskelligs, County Kerry. This involved the rescue and redevelopment of the pre-famine village of Cill Rialaig as a retreat for artists, poets, writers, film makers and composers of national and international repute.

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The aim of the village is to have a retreat and creative space for creatives to come to and make work without distractions in a very inspiring location. The residency was one I had known about for quite a while so I was eager to work there. Also Ireland is absolutely incredible, the history, the culture, the folklore, the magnificent landscapes which are so reminiscent of the Scottish ones; plenty to explore and mounds of inspiration for me. I’ve spent a lot of summers in Ireland growing up spending time with my family mainly in the County Clare area where the majority of them live and travelling further afield yet County Kerry was an area of Ireland I couldn’t remember much of and hadn’t got round to exploring as much.

Anyway, it turns out Kerry is incredible! I hired a car for my two week residency as I knew in myself that I would be eager to get out and about and travel around the coastline especially as the iconic Ring of Kerry and Wild Atlantic Way route was so nearby! As much as I loved spending time in the quiet solitude of Cill Rialaig Artist Village, I also wanted to venture further and hike, go and see the unique ruins in the area whilst drawing on site as some of the locations around the coast that I had selected specifically were geologically speaking absolutely fascinating.

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My two week period flew by, time stretched out in front of me at the beginning, a feeling of bounds of time, no distractions, me and the immersive cottage/ studio all ready to get set and make work whilst watching the sea right at my doorstep, yet after a few days I realised it was going in so quick (as these things always do) and I wanted to see more and more of the area.

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I had no set project for my time at Cill Rialaig. As a bit of a Residency fanatic I have decided to slow down a bit and realise I can’t do residencies constantly back to back, I enjoy them and have done many since graduating from Art School 2 years ago yet I’ve collated so much information, documentation and work from each one without giving myself time to process them in between so for this one I knew that my intentions were to hike around the wonderful coastline, make work when I felt like it, give myself headspace and make the most of my two weeks of quiet solitude right at the very edge of the Atlantic.

Anyway, here are some images of the work I made on residency. After accumulating a lot of varied drawings and paintings in the past year from residencies in Iceland, Shetland, Norway, Svalbard, Venice, and now Ireland I have certainly amassed a lot that I would like to sit back and look at all together and see how my work has changed and developed from spending time in each place.

Thanks for reading as always!

The Great Glen

If everyone doesn’t know this already I’m a tad obsessed with the mountains of Scotland especially in the North West region. I had some free time amongst projects and commissions in the month of April to go on a quick trip up to one of my favourite spots in Scotland; the mighty Glen Coe. It’s a place I know like the back of my hand and it’s a place I will never stop going to and exploring. Each time I visit I see something new in the landscape, the light dramatically changes each hour or so and the mountains still give me that familiar feeling of overwhelming awe.

I’ll just let the place and the photographs I captured whilst there speak for themselves. If you have ever never been to Glen Coe I urge you to visit. You can drive there, park up in the area and go on a massive hike, escape the crowds and get right into the mountains, there are so many trails that take you right into the wild valleys where you don’t see anyone for a long time, that’s the best way to do it in my opinion!

If you want to view my full photographic portfolio and other work please head on over to my website at: Ellis O’Connor.

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Outlander Commissioned Project

I was excited to be invited from Visit Scotland and the wonderful team at Amazon Video UK to be a part of the project to document some of the most well known filming locations in Scotland for the upcoming release of series 2 of Outlander!

We spent the week touring around the various locations in Scotland and I was responsible for capturing these historic places whilst promoting them through the power of social media.

Of the many places we ventured to, a lot were local to me in the area of Fife and Perthshire of Scotland.

We started off heading to Falkland where we explored the quaint town that was used as the scenes from Inverness in season 1 of Outlander, Falkland Palace and the incredible grounds which surround the well preserved building. Then it was onto to a few more impressive castles in the Fife area, followed by Courses for Cooks and staying in the Old Manor Hotel in Leven looking out over the water. The next day we headed straight for the beautiful town of Anstruther, we were able to climb aboard the infamous boat,then it was onto the Fisheries Museum, Culross Tavern, Culross Palace Tour and Herb Garden, Deanston Whisky Distillery and then stayed in the Dunblane Hydro.

The last day was spent exploring Doune Castle which was used in the series as Castle Leoch and Duncarron Medieval Village where we got to dress up in the attire from the 17th century whilst getting to wander around the fort and enjoy a meal with the Clanranald Team. To find out more about what these guys do head on over to their website at Duncarron.

Here are some of my images that showcase some of the key filming locations used in Outlander in some of the most impressive areas of Scotland! Hope you enjoy and if you have never watched Outlander I urge you to do so, it’s one of the most epic, slightly addictive and beautiful series ever made. I’m biased though as it’s all filmed in the most amazing country, Scotland of course!

Season 2 of Outlander went live on the 10th of April and has so far released 3 episodes on Amazon Prime. They release a new episode every Sunday morning. You can also catch up on Season 1 if you have never watched it on Amazon Prime where the full season is there ready to stream.

It was an absolute pleasure getting to work on the press trip with Amazon Video UK at Amazon Prime and Visit Scotland whilst also getting to meet Susan Brown from Eyes on Scotland who gave us some amazing facts about the places we stopped off at; so much knowledge! It was a different kind of project for me but right up my street especially being able to explore some of the most scenic parts of our country learning about the history and culture behind these iconic places! Hope you enjoy the show!

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