visitscotland

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.

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!

 

 

 

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

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!

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