nationalpark

A sanctuary in the woods

 

I was in need of an adventure, the Cairngorms National Park of Scotland is a place that I have shamefully not as explored as much as the other Highland areas so when I was asked to find unique accommodation which was prime situated in the Cairngorms, I knew just the place.

The Lazy Duck is located in Nethy Bridge, six acres of idyllic land surrounded by sublime forestry and stunning lookouts to the iconic Cairngorm Mountain range in the distance. A haven in the trees, a place almost hidden, only revealing its gems to people who truly want to feel at peace within the landscape and not ‘escape’ but ‘reconnect’ with the simple way of life and ideals that are important. These include; being with nature, lighting your own woodstove and fire and slowing down by embracing the art of ‘slow living’ whilst spending time in a hand crafted accommodation that not only suits the ethos of the area but stands alone in its craftsmanship and peaceful and homely build.

The remarkable site, settled, and sensitively developed by husband and wife team David and Valery Dean has grown organically from the small eight bed mountain hut style hostel to the three more semi off grid huts and bothy, bespoke and original and each standing alone in their attention to detail nestling within the trees or by the water. The ethos of this place is about getting back to nature and slowing down, reflecting on the Highland landscape and getting back to basics; no distractions other than the wonderful setting and location itself.

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I arrived on a clear crisp Wednesday afternoon, via a small road that leads you into a simple haven within the pines. I was met by one of the very knowledgeable volunteers who gave me a tour of the six acres, carefully pointing out all the details of the place and the interesting history of every build. I was honoured to spend my two nights staying in the Lambing Bothy, the latest addition to the Lazy Duck Family.

The bothy itself is right on the edge of the forest where the sheep graze and the hens free range. The bothy stands alone in its original build. Attention given to detail within and out with the hut was clear to see. Every part of this wonderful little shelter brought me back to understanding what is important, the craftsmanship in the make of the box bed and the striking oak table top that fits perfectly within the interior of the place. Everything I needed was there and it begged me to slow down whilst finding comfort in the woodstove, the lookout to the pines that cocooned this spot and the gentle sounds of the animals that wandered the ground around the hut.

I spent my two days at the Lazy Duck finding solace in the location and gaining some much needed head space in the bothy. I drank in the gentle sound of the animals treading the close cropped lambing field watching the light change dramatically every so often over the distant mountains. I listened to birds high above in the towering forest, but most important for me was just being there, soaking it all in, particularly the atmosphere and sacred energy of the place.

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The area is surrounded by some of the most fantastic scenery to be enjoyed in Scotland. When I wasn’t spending hours tucked away in the Lambing Bothy, I was out exploring the area including hours walking around the famous Loch Morlich, a rewarding hike out to Lochan Uaine (The Green Lochan) and taking in the sights of Cairngorm’s northern corries from Aviemore, a paradise for walkers, climbers and nature lovers. A small distance in the car or a hike if you are wanting to really see more takes you to some of the most scenic areas in the Highlands and the Lazy Duck is perfectly situated right in the midst of all of these fantastic outdoor pursuits.

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The accommodation draws in many different people all looking for something different and tending to find whatever it is they are looking for within the peaceful holistic atmosphere of the place. Ranging from ones looking to slow down and recharge on natures ways, hike and explore the adventurous area, be more mindful, or simply want to just relax and respect this wonderful little corner of the earth, a haven for us all. The Lazy Duck site beckons you to ‘unplug’ from the fast paced stressful anxieties of modern life and ‘plug’ into something more, a way of being and allowing yourself time to think, time to feel, time to slow down and simply time.

My lasting impression has been one of pure joy and happiness at getting to spend time at the Lazy Duck. I couldn’t have been more relaxed sheltered in my hut, bringing in the dark nights by the fire which I will say retains the heat exceptionally inside, I was even spoilt and indulged in an outdoor log fired heated tub under the magic of the clear sky and full moon, an experience I doubt I’ll forget! The team were incredibly knowledgeable and speaking to the owners themselves enlightened me even more on the well thought out ideology of the place and what they are passionate about; sharing their quiet sacred corner of the earth with people who want to get back to what is important and spend time finding ‘it’ in the quiet solitude of the land.

And so if you are like me and want to find some much needed inspiration whilst slowing down and reconnecting with nature, head to this unique place within the trees. The Lazy Duck site certainly draws you into its charm and I can’t help but find myself planning a visit back real soon!

For more information and to book a stay at this simple yet special place head on over to their site at:

www.lazyduck.co.uk

Week 6 & epic Ring Road Trip!

What an amazing past couple of weeks it has been and this blog post is going to be crammed full with recent images of my adventures around Iceland!

The start of the week 6 began with clear days and hiking once again! I started off the week with a big walk to the northern beach of the town here, black sands, an epic view over to the Westfjords and a scavenging of some interesting materials to draw back in the studio. It’s pretty compulsory here that if the weather is clear and there is not much wind, it is a must to go on a walk. I’ve found it really important especially in such a remote place to get outside as much as possible to clear my head and find more and more inspiration for my visual work and writing. The light is getting less and less here in the north, there is on average about 7 minutes less of sunlight every single day so when it is light outside it’s pretty important to go on a walk especially if I’m going to be in Iceland right through the dark winter period!

Anyway, I spent the rest of the week finishing up some drawings in the studio before my road trip commenced and spent more and more time recording the environment around us here in Skagastrond. I’ve been cycling a lot here recently too, i got a surprise one day when I cycled along to the southern beach here and found a massive pack of wild horses in the water, it’s occurrences like this that make me realise how truly epic it is to be so connected to the nature and wildlife here in Iceland.

I left my temporary little home town of Skagastrond on Thursday the 12th to head down to the big city of Reykjavik that is. The reason being? I was meeting up with my boyfriend who flew up from Scotland and who i was really looking forward to seeing also for us to spend a busy time together travelling around the whole ring road of Iceland: challenge accepted!

I was told on numerous occasions before setting off on my trip around the coast that it was better to go on the trip sooner than later as the weather can change very quickly and dramatically here in Iceland so i was anxious to set off. Also another reason for my excitement was that I had been living in Iceland for 6 weeks and still had not got to view the amazing wonders of the south of Iceland and the many many natural wonders around the rest of this rocky outpost in the middle of the ocean.

We stayed over in Kex Hostel in Reykjavik on the Thursday eve which was a lovely pit stop (and in my opinion the best hostel in the city) and then set off early on the Friday morning desperate to see as much as possible! We aimed for the South Road ring road 1: the weather was clear, the landscape was completely white and I was desperate to see some of the sights I had been told of with my own eyes!

Day 1: The first two stops we made were at the mighty Seljalandsfoss and Skogafoss waterfalls. Both of them blew me away, we were incredibly lucky and even got to walk right up behind the Seljalandsfoss falls and conquer the Skogafoss by climbing right up to the top of it with such an inspiring view from the top. We even managed to catch a clear sight of the Vestmannaeyjar Islands in the distance. Sadly I didn’t have enough time to catch the ferry over to these islands but I’ll definitely be back there and spend a longer period of time in that area! We drove further along the coast and had to stop the car and just get out and walk to appreciate the beauty every 10 minutes or so. I realised that no matter how many photographs I have seen of Iceland or how many stories I have been told of how truly epic these roads and sights are, I still had to see it for my own eyes and get blown away at the same time. We spent the rest of the day seeing more and more of the South and then caught the sunset at Dyrhólaey overlooking the black sand beaches of the south and the many sea stacks including Reynisdrangar and rocky formations that are so unique to the area. We spent our first night in the south at the Vik Hostel which again I would highly recommend. It’s based just on the outskirts of the beautiful town and overlooking the cliffs and black sand beach that holds Vik as one of the most well known areas in Iceland.

Day 2: Saturday, we awoke early and took a massive walk along the infamous black sand beach in Vik. The tide came in quick and I realised how powerful the sea around Iceland is, this place is truly wild! We drove further along the South Road passing numerous wonderful sights. The day was calm again, we were told how lucky we were considering in Iceland by this time in the year there is normally snow storms! We headed towards the infamous Vatnajokull Glacier which is the largest glacier in the whole of Europe. The landscape rose and changed dramatically along this ride, revealing smaller hidden but just as incredible waterfalls, unreal rock formations that made me feel as though I was on another planet. We made another pit stop at Skaftafell and Vatnajökulsþjóðgarður National Park which was another overwhelming experience! Lastly for the day we finally caught sight of the Vatnajokull Glacier in the distance which spreads out completely over an insane amount of landscape and mountains! It was here where we made one of our last stops for the day: a place that I have been dreaming about for as long as I can remember, a place that I know will inspire me and my artwork significantly for years to come and a place I finally got to experience: Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon. I can’t even begin to sum up how I felt seeing these magnificent shapes of ice float from the glacier right out into the sea and then washing up as giant crystals on the black sand unspoiled beach. I’ll leave it up to you to experience it with your own eyes as I still can’t get over how special it truly was. I have to say this part of the ring road from Vik to Jokusarlon Glacier Lagoon has to be my favourite part of the road in Iceland, the sights and the quick changes of the dramatic landscape absolutely captivated me! We made our last stop in Vagnsstaðir Hostel which was brilliantly located right on the ring road and not far from the lagoon. That evening I didn’t want to just stay inside after experiencing some of the most breathtaking landscapes that Iceland had to offer so we drove further along to Hoffell where there is remote and natural geothermal hot pots situated not far from Hofn. We bathed in the pools right under the stars and I felt completely lucky to be in Iceland.

Day 3: Left our hostel and headed straight for the town on the coast, Höfn. By this time the snow had blown immensely over night so there was no more sunshine for us on the trip! I find Iceland in the snow and storm blown lands much more atmospheric though, it gives it a true heightened sense of intensity and rawness! We then headed up the Eastern Fjords past some of the most impressive landscapes and volcanic rock formations. There was jagged mountains all the way up covered in snow and sitting side by side some beautiful wind swept lakes. We arrived into the town of Egilsstaðir in the east after a very long drive and went further on to our accommodation for the night in a remote little cabin right off the ring road. I found it on air bnb and would highly recommend! It’s called Egilsstaðir Stóri-Bakki and was exactly what we needed, a quiet retreat in the middle of a lovely secluded landscape! The cabin had everything we needed and more, and even got a wonderful showing of the northern lights to top the night off!

Week 7

Day 4: Monday, left from our cabin and drove further up the North East, the snow was really bad with whiteouts in some areas, never ending roads through windy lands, it felt like I was truly in the real Icelandic winter! We stopped over in Myvatn and went to the Myvatn Nature Baths along the North and then a while exploring the geothermal active areas of the North and mighty blue colour of the lagoons. We then had an epic drive to Akureyri passing frozen over lakes, minus temperatures which were rapidly plummeting and white misty mountains. The weather rapidly got worse on the road out of Akureyri but I still tried to appreciate the beauty of the landscape! We made it all the way back to where I am currently staying in Skagaströnd after the longest day driving on the ring road!

Day 5: The last day, we drove all the way back down to Reykjavik just in time for Ally to make his flight and then I came back up to my tiny town in the North. It was a very intense and jam packed journey around the ring road that I would definitely recommend to everyone to spend more time doing but in the short amount of time we had before the winter set in I believe we made the most out of it and experienced some of the most amazing parts of the journey. I’ll definitely make more time in the future to experience the Westfjords and some more of the remote hidden gem towns that are situated all around this beautiful country! The 1 road takes you through sights that change drastically, from mossy landscapes, to lava fields, to desert lands and then to glaciers that surround you, it truly is a road trip that will not only stay with me in my mind as being the best I’ve done yet but also will continue to inspire me for years to come!

I’m back in the North now and the end of this week has brought blizzards and a massive snow storm with it! I’m focusing the rest of my 2 weeks here as artist in residence with Nes by finishing off my paintings and drawings, getting out and appreciating the beauty around me as much as I can (wind permitting) and spending time with the lovely group of artists that I share this residency with!

Here’s some photos of my trip around the ring road, will be updating lots more soon, I just have to get round to actually sorting through the thousands of them…

 

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