Archive for the ‘holidays’ Category

A brief 2018 re-cap and looking forward…

January 17, 2019

I’ll begin by wishing you a belated Happy New Year and hoping that this won’t be the only post from Garybuie for 2019! This feels a bit deja vue-ish I have to admit, but I always start out with good intentions and then proceed to get swallowed up by major refurbishment projects, followed by increasingly busy B&B seasons. However, the D.I.Y issues were completed before Christmas this year, so I now have until the 1st April to re-charge my batteries, with a couple of time-saving plans thrown into the B&B mix!

2018 was another busy year in terms of visitors, April now being the only month when our three rooms aren’t filled pretty much every day. We also had a successful chicken breeding program, using both our incubator as well as the services of our ever helpful Silkies! Bruce was responsible for most of our season’s chicks, although in other respects he wasn’t the best of cockerels. He wasn’t great at getting his girls to bed so many of them tended to stay out partying well beyond bedtime, perching on top of bushes blethering and being completely uncooperative when we came to usher them coop-wards.



So, it was time to go online for eggs to incubate, this time Blue-Laced Wyandottes, with a view to rearing a more authoritative rooster! You can see our lacey youngsters below, perching with some pals.

Lord Lacey (A.K.A. Denis – more on that another day!) is now our resident cockerel, besides Wee Man of course, and so far his behaviour and crowd control are impeccable!

Probably the most time-consuming aspect of running the Bed and Breakfast is the laundry. Many of our guests are ferry passengers staying just one night before their sailing. Consequently, we calculated that laundry duties probably take an average of two hours per day, sometimes still pressing bed linen as the new day’s guests are arriving. We have a neighbour who runs a guest house/self-catering cottage and she sends her laundry out. She invited me to ‘piggy-back’ on her laundry service to see what we thought. What we thought was…WONDERFUL! The particular service didn’t cater for smaller B&Bs, but this year they are, so for this season I have my own contract with them – YIPEEEE! It’s amazing what a difference those couple of extra hours make. Not only is there more time to keep on top of outdoor chores, but it also means that we can occasionally get out for one of our three-hour-holidays, on the bike with some butties! And no matter what you may have read about crowds on Skye, there are still places where you won’t see a soul…

Another very special outing was aboard Red Moon, a boat that can be chartered for sailings around Skye. We climbed aboard in 2017 for Kevin’s birthday treat and enjoyed it so much that we did it again last summer, the weather being so much better on that occasion. To be fair it’s not a three-hour-holiday as we needed to take a night off, when, after stepping on deck, we sailed and spent a night at anchor, enjoying wonderful views, food and company! Anyway, here’s just a brief glimpse of Red Moon, as really she deserves a post all of her own!

Late Spring and early summer saw some fabulous weather; dare I say that it was too hot sometimes? Yes, I dare! I’m not a hot-house plant by any means! We even had a Spanish guest who was complaining (lightheartedly!) that it was too hot and that all the travel books had advised to bring plenty of warm/waterproof clothing. Consequently, he didn’t have enough tee-shirts!

Needless to say, the minute school holidays started, and our family came to stay for a week, the weather changed and didn’t change back! At least our granddaughter, Holly, was happy to be dancing in the Rain!


And the kids could hide under the trees for their picnic!







But we still managed to get out and about, poking around in rock pools and finding fossils and dinosaur footprints!






And when the season was over, the big project this year was the installation, after a sixteen year wait (!), of a new kitchen! Like everything at Garybuie, stripping things back ALWAYS reveals some flaw or other. On this occasion, it was historical water damage to the floor. It was worrying to say the least when the joiner had to keep removing more and more of the flooring before he could make any progress!


Anyway, in then it was well worth the wait and I’m looking forward to cooking all those breakfasts when the new season begins!


And now that all the work is complete, there’s time to catch-up on other winter tasks…

…Dottie likes to supervise my paintings…

…Hamish likes to check on any parcel deliveries…

…and Patches is in charge of temperature control!

We headed south for Christmas, enjoying the company of our family and all the gifts from Santa…

…and in particular a special gift in the shape of Sean, our fourth grandchild, who arrived in early December! His brother, Patrick, seems quite happy with his arrival so far!

It’s Gertrude’s fault!

February 16, 2016

Now I should have LOADS of pictures to show you after our trip south, enjoying a holiday with family at Centre Parcs in Penrith. The problem however, is that I neglected to pack my CAMERA! Can you believe it? I blame Gertrude, the storm that is. She swept across Skye the night before we travelled and in her rush, decided to uproot one of our large conifers out back. Uproot and leave reclining gracefully on the power cables! Fortunately, the power guys were on the ball arriving on the scene within the hour, calling in the tree-cutters, felling the tree, cutting it into logs and stacking them, clearing up loose debris and restoring power by mid afternoon! That’s what I call customer service! Anyway, in all the excitement, my camera was forgotten.
En route south, we stayed overnight in Falkirk and visited the Kelpies there. Of course no camera, so I’m relying on the Helix Park website to provide a photo of the breath-taking, 90 feet high sculpture. We could have stayed there all day, seeing how the appearance of the steel-clad beasts constantly changed in the shifting light. We will return!


As for Centre Parcs, we had a great time – mainly in the pool, where there were waves, rapids, slides and flumes galore! I’ll tell you something, Granny and Grandad Skye slept VERY well! The weather was kind too so the kiddies got lots of cycling in although poor Patrick was under the weather so couldn’t make the most of it. Here he seems to be using Jedi mind control to work the pedals, rather than his weary legs!


Even the twins’ legs gave out eventually, needing a ride home at the end of a long day…


Thankfully our daughter-in-law, Sarah, was more reliable than me in the photographic department!

On our return to Skye, the bathroom – yes, the saga continues – is almost complete. In the photos it looks complete but we still await a diamond bit and a plumber to return from holiday, cut the marble and plumb in the basin. ‘Smoked Trout’ is the paint colour. Who comes up with these names?!!




Back home – where flights are cancelled!

October 26, 2015

We’re home now after our wee jaunt to the Isle of Mull. We’ve been catching up over the weekend with all things Garybuie and of course Yohan, our WWOOFer. He did an excellent job of looking after the place and left today, leaving us home alone.
Yesterday, the rain poured with varying gusto so I decided to open up the Winter Spa for our feathered friends.


It was much appreciated – especially the unexpected salad bar!

winter spa

Today has seen a huge improvement on the weather front and everyone has had a happy, relaxed look about them; preening or just enjoying the sunshine…



…or water sports!


Flights are cancelled at the moment for the adult muscovies as they have undergone their annual moult. However, primary feathers are beginning to grow back in as you can see with Biggles, so normal service should resume soon!


The young muscovies however have a full set of flight gear – it’s just that they’re not quite sure what to do with it as yet!

flight gear

To finish this post, here are a few random shots from Mull…

Towards Iona

Towards Iona

Tobermory harbour

Tobermory harbour

Calgary - the original!

Calgary – the original!





Inquisitive Highlander

Inquisitive Highlander

Loch Spelve

Loch Spelve

Loch Spelve

Loch Spelve

old wrecks

Fingal’s Cave

October 17, 2015

At school, over forty years ago, I heard Mendelsshon’s Hebridean Overture for the first time and studied geology for the first time also. Since then, I’ve always wanted to visit Fingal’s Cave, erroded from a spectacular basaltic island and inspiring Mendelsshon, with its surging waves and superb accoustics, to write his stirring piece. It’s been a long wait but well worth it! (The weather was fantastic too!)

Fingal's cave

Fingal's cave

Fingal's cave

Finga's cave

Fingal's cave

In safe hands

October 16, 2015

Although vegetable production has been a disaster this year, our poultry breeding program has been very successful, the garden being well populated by the ‘Garybuie Gangs’!
Mrs Under-by’s gang…

Mrs Under-by's gang

…the Guinea Gang…

guinea gang

…Polly Blue-tail’s Gang…

Polly Blue-tail's gang

…The Shed (small) Gang…

The Shed Gang

…The Surrogate Silkie gang…

Surrogate Silkies

…The Turbo charged gang, our only hand-reared chicks this year, who are always so thrilled about getting up in a morning, I can’t catch them on camera…

Turbo charged gang

…and finally, the polytunnel gang.

Polytunnel gang

A lot of birds, a lot of work. We have just arrived on the Isle of Mull for a long-awaited holiday, so we needed someone to take care of our wee beasties; Yohan, another WWOOFer, has been getting to know the routines for the past few days and so we leave everyone in his very capable, French hands!


As I write, I am looking at a view of the harbour in Tobermory. We’re staying in a wee apartment on the top floor of the red building.


More travelling

February 19, 2015

In reality this time, not in the virtual sense! That was quite a trip on Tuesday though, wasn’t it? All those people wanting to chat over there in Illinois! Anyway, now we’re heading south; it’s time to visit the family once more, before the B and B season begins. So, here’s just a very short pictorial record of our route on the first day…

Leaving the mountains of Skye

Leaving the mountains of Skye

Loch Linhe

Loch Linhe

Waterfall in Glencoe

Waterfall in Glencoe

Looking back

December 31, 2014

It’s weird isn’t it? All year long I think that we’re just doing the same old, same old, which in a sense we are; daily routines are the same, seasonal activities too. But within that daily and seasonal rhythm, many changes have occurred. Of course the weather alone is responsible for many of those changes and our regular shot of THE VIEW demonstrates that to a certain extent.

The View

The view

the view

the view

the view

The view

The view

the view

The View

Of course our other view can sometimes take our breath away too.



This year there have been a couple of structural changes around the place; a new conservatory replacing the old…



…and a new cover for the polytunnel. (The hens are VERY pleased – no leaks in their winter spa!)


It’s the animals however, who contribute most changes within a year. There have been some new permanent residents arrive at Garybuie this year. The Three Musco-teers…

The Three Musco-teers

…and latterly, the Guinea-gang.


There were plenty of non-permanent additions too. BB became a mum for the first time…

silkie family

…and helped to increase our Silkie breeding stock by two! Thelma and Louise.


Later, she raised six ‘regular’ chicks. Trusty old Brenda raised an early brood of four chicks and the Nest Thief reared 7. We thought that poor Brenda was doomed after being hit by a car but after some R and R, she seems back to her usual self.


And how can we forget what was probably the highlight of the year? FORTY-TWO Muscovy ducklings and all within the space of a week!


muscovy ducklings

We were fortunate this year as we only lost a handful of young birds. Unfortunately, we also lost Dotty, one of the Musco-teers, who was determined to make a nest across the river, never to return. However, our big loss this year was Hamie.


Overall, we’ve had a great year at Garybuie, certainly more positives than negatives. A great growing year for the fruit and veg, more success than failure on the poultry front and our best season yet with the Bed and Breakfast side of things, meeting many lovely people from all over the world. We have taken some time out from our wee patch of Skye this year, visiting Glasgow’s artistic attributes for the first time…

Some furniture designs by C.R. MacIntosh

Some furniture designs by C.R. MacIntosh

Druids, mistletoe

'A Funeral Service in the Highlands' James Guthrie, 1881-82

‘A Funeral Service in the Highlands’
James Guthrie, 1881-82

…and the prehistoric sites of Orkney. Beginning 5,000 years ago in neo-lithic times…

Skara Brae

Ring of Brodgar

…moving on to the brochs of the Iron Age…

Broch of gurness

…through to the Vikings…

St Magnus cathedral

…and the second World War – with everything that came in between!

Created by prisoners of war

Created by prisoners of war

Further time out took us south to see our rapidly growing grandchildren.

Holly and Jake


Finally, I’d like to share a touching moment with you. Two of our guests this year, Hans-Georg and Barbara, commissioned a pet portrait for Barbara’s dad as a Christmas gift. Just after Christmas, Hans-Georg sent me this photo of when dad opened his gift. Apparently he was delighted. It was a very kind gesture to let me share in the moment – a lovely gift for me in fact!

Sammy for Xmas


Every picture tells a story

November 13, 2014

Whilst on holiday we visited a couple of antique outlets, one of them on our last day in Lancashire. We always try to visit this one when we’re back in that part of the world and we’ve had some nice things from there over the years. On this occasion it was a painting, or, more accurately, an etching. It caught both our eyes because it was a portrait of a Scottish gentleman from way back when. We thought that it was perfect for Skye; a ponderous old crofter, conjuring up some scheme to screw yet MORE money out of the government whilst enjoying a wee dram! How wrong we were!


Below the etching is written: etched by Léon Richeton after J. Pettie R.A. followed by what looks like a small doodle of a little girl in a bonnet.
Too enticing for words so we just had to check the internet for both names! Kevin got the bit between his teeth and soon discovered a site, The Orchar Collection, displaying an identical etching along with a big surprise!

The scene depicts the aging Rob Roy (1671-1734) and is taken from a painting by John Pettie (location unknown). It was likely inspired by Pettie’s, and Orchar’s, interest in the novels of Sir Walter Scott and the growing interest in Scottish Romanticism and History. Orchar and Pettie were close friends

If you do take a minute to view the Orchar website, then you’ll notice that the portrait shown also has a ‘doodle’ (or remarque), this time also showing a man’s face and a curious oval shape.

The Remarque portraits of a girl and a man are unidentified although it is possible that the male is a self-portrait of Richeton. The odd, egg-shaped object at the far left is a mystery. The name ‘J.Pettie’ is included in print at bottom right. Below the print (beside Remarque) ‘etched by Léon Richeton after J. Pettie R.A.’The Remarque portraits and signature look to have been printed rather than added in graphite.

It is likely that this print was the one exhibited at the Dundee Fine Art Exhibition, Albert Institute, 1879 (West Gallery, No. 1159) and either already in Orchar’s collection or subsequently bought by him.

Needless to say, seeing an etching the same as ours piqued our interest even more. So much so that Kevin emailed a Dr William Rough, Teaching Fellow at the School of Art History, University of St Andrews, explaining our finding of the portrait, our small amount of research so far and would he have any further information about the portrait. This was his reply…

Dear Kevin and Christine,

Thank you for your email. It is an interesting piece and I’d suggest it probably is quite rare.

The Remarque portraits are usually added to the prints to mark them out as quite rare during the printing process. So it would seem likely that your print was completed before the one in the Orchar Collection. Beyond that I don’t have that much more information on your specific print I’m afraid. You could contact the British Museum as may the Victoria & Albert Print Department. The Fine Art Trade Guild may also be able to provide some information.

As to value I’m afraid I can’t help you. Even rare prints are often not that expensive but a good printseller will be able to give you a valuation should you require one.

I hope this has helped!

Best wishes

Dr William Rough

Dr Rough was duly thanked for his kind response and that we hadn’t expected the etching to be of any significant value as we only paid £20 for it! His almost immediate response was:


I think £20 is a very good price! It really is a beautiful image.”

Moving forward in time, one portrait about which I know all there is to know is ‘Sammy’. I showed you his beginnings before we went to visit family and now he is complete, heading to Germany tomorrow to his rightful owners!



More rocks and a broch

May 18, 2014

Our last day. Our first port of call was the Brough of Birsay. Some planning is required to visit this site as it is connected to the mainland by a causeway only accessible around low tide.

brough of birsay

There are some interesting rocks alongside the causeway. These fossilized sand ripples caught my eye…


…just like ones today.


The original residents of the brough were the Picts, who lived here in the 600s and 700s. Today the most obvious evidence of them is in the (cast replacement) symbol stone in the graveyard. Unfortunately, the lap-top corrupted my photo of the stone when it had a funny turn, but here is a shot of the information board so that you can at least take a peek at Pictish art.

pictish art

Much of their settlement was overbuilt by the Vikings and a lot of what is on view today on the Brough dates back to the Norse settlement from the early 800s to the 1200s. Development over time makes for further confusion, and the picture is not helped by coastal erosion, which probably means that a large part of the original settlement has been lost to the sea.
The church is the only really identifiable building remaining on the site dating back to about 1100 and was dedicated to St Peter. Though very small it is of Romanesque design. It probably had a square tower at one end, and a semi-circular apse at the other. Enough of the church is standing to reveal a wall cupboard on one side, and parts of two windows complete with evidence that they may have been glazed.

In the next picture the main structure is the church and its attached buildings and graveyard. Beyond this, towards the shore, is a confusing jumble of paved areas and walls that represent successive waves of Norse building over the top of earlier Pictish structures. One building has been identified as a possible sauna and bathhouse, probably associated with what might be an Earl’s house next door to it. Another area of slabbed flooring shows clear signs of the drain running underneath. In the foreground to the right are the elongated remains of early Norse houses.

brough of birsay

We visited our last – and one of the best we thought – piece of archaeology in the afternoon; the Broch of Gurness. Brochs are fortified dwellings and are unique to Scotland. They were built by farmers, successors to those who, many centuries before, built the great tombs of Orkney. The broch at Gurness was excavated in 1929. We’ve visited quite a few brochs in the past but this is the first one we’ve seen which has many internal structures still visible. Also, unlike many brochs which stand alone, this one is surrounded by a sizable village. Brochs were built in the iron- age, about 2,000 years ago.
This photo shows the entrance into the broch with its surrounding houses in the foreground.

Broch of gurness

Looking at the artist’s impression of how the buildings looked originally, it must have been an impressive structure.

broch of gurness

Inside we could see the central hearth…

broch of gurness

…and what are essentially stone cupboards…

broch of gurness

…and there’s a well which is constructed in a very similar way to the one we saw at Mine Howe the previous day.

broch of gurness

Here we are looking in through someone’s front door!

stone-age dwelling

Also discovered on this site was a more recent Pictish house. This was moved stone by stone and re-constructed a small distance away so that excavation of the dwellings underneath could be carried out. It is known as the ‘Shamrock House’ because of its lobed construction.

shamrock house

At the visitor centre there was an intriguing wood knot to peep through…

wood knot

…and take a look at life inside the broch.

around the hearth

Of course Orkney isn’t just about archaeology so tomorrow I shall share some of the scenery and birdlife.

A hole, a passage and a tricky path

May 17, 2014

Early in 1946 an excavation was carried out at an earth mound in the Tankerness area of mainland Orkney and is known as Mine Howe. A deep rock-built chamber was uncovered which was interpreted, wrongly, as the remains of an Iron Age broch (tower) and the excavation was then filled in again. In 1999 the local farmer rediscovered the entrance and cleared out the chamber once more. Reading about this in our guide book got us quite excited as it seemed to be something a wee bit unusual and Kevin can’t resist going underground! However, when we finally found Mine Howe, the place was deserted. Kevin’s not to be thwarted if there’s a hole to be investigated, so off we went in search of said hole! Bingo…

There he goes!

There he goes!

What the farmer found was a passage that sank nearly vertically into the ground and was accessed by 29 steep stone steps.

mine howe

Half way down, these doubled back on themselves at a “landing”, and at the bottom there was a very deep step into the bottom of the chamber.

mine howe

Apparently, two long, low galleries extend outwards from the half way “landing”. There was evidence of electric lighting from when the site had been a visitor attraction, but as we only had a torch and no information, we missed these structures. Maybe that was a blessing or Kevin would no doubt have disappeared further into the hillside!
The roof of the main chamber is beautifully corbelled in from the walls and capped off with a large flat stone.

mine howe

Subsequent work showed that Mine Howe is a very important site, even by Orkney’s remarkable archaeological standards. The central underground structure is believed to date back to the early Iron Age and have a ritual purpose. It was surrounded by a massive causewayed ditch. A settlement grew outside the ditch in the later Iron Age or the Pictish era. There was evidence of metal working also. Unfortunately, as only two people at any one time can get into the structure, it was a logistical nightmare for those all-important money-making coach parties, which resulted in closure of the site through lack of funds. Hopefully in the future further work will be carried out on this fascinating and unusual site.
Next stop was the Brough o’ Deerness, just slightly further east. A gentle coastal walk, passing the intriguingly named ‘Gloop’…


…which is a collapsed sea-cave, led us to the brough. The site was once connected to the Orkney mainland by a land bridge, but a geologist’s investigation in 2008, confirmed this had crumbled away a long time before it was occupied.
Now the site is not one of the easiest to reach with a steep descent from the headland, followed by a steep, narrow ascent along the south face of the Brough to reach the summit. You can see the narrow path on the right of this photo. Believe me, it was a lot closer to the edge than it appears! At least there was a rope handrail for those of us not keen on heights! Also, on the summit, can you see what are the remains of a chapel?

brough o' deerness

Dating from the late Norse period, this chapel is, apparently, the focus of a complex archaeological mosaic, consisting of a bank and wall and a tight cluster of an estimated 30 structures, which are now just grass-covered outlines. There were a number of burials found during the excavation of the chapel in the 1970s. One of these was buried against the chapel wall, and was radio-carbon dated to the 11th/12th century. From this, it would appear that the chapel is contemporary with the later settlement structures.

brough o' deerness

The excavated later structures were domestic — finds included loom weights, soapstone pot, pottery and a spindle-whorl — but there also appeared to have been metalworking carried out on site. Used mould sections were found, but these were too fragmented to allow the archaeologists to ascertain what they were used for.

And to end the day? Well, why not go for a hands and knees experience, crawling into another tomb, the Cuween Hill cairn, by the village of Finstown.

cuween cairn

Although small, Cuween cairn is nonetheless an impressive feat of prehistoric engineering. It’s cut into solid bedrock, and comprises a main central chamber with four smaller chambers branching off from each wall.




Thought to date from around 3,000 BC, the cairn was excavated in 1901. Back then, the remains – mostly skulls – of at least eight people were found inside. This small number led to the suggestion that, during its use, the chamber was cleared out periodically, with only the most recent, or significant, skulls left within. Aside from the human bones, perhaps the most interesting discovery was that of 24 dog skulls. This led to the suggestion that the tomb’s users may have had the dog as their totem.

Don’t worry, your knees are safe – we’ll be above ground next time!

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