Category Archives: holiday

Christmas on Coll

What a lovely end to the year – we spent Christmas week on the lovely island of Coll, in the Inner Hebrides. It was a bit of an adventure getting there – we were meant to go on the Saturday before Christmas, and the ferry did indeed set off from Oban at too-early o’clock, only to find that the swell of the sea at the piers at both Coll and Tiree (the neighbouring island) was too much for it to be able to dock and let people off! To give the captain his due, he did try several times, motoring between the two islands, before deciding that it really wasn’t going to happen, so 8 hours after leaving Oban we arrived back there and had to spend an extra night there (luckily the youth hostel was a. very nice and b. not full). The following day they put on another boat for us, and this time we were able to land. This is the cottage we stayed in (which can be found here, and which I’d definitely recommend, for the snug accommodation and the warmth of the welcome, which included home-made cake 🙂 ).

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The Visit Coll website does say there is basically nothing to do there, which is basically right, but is all part of the charm! We were able to fully chill out and relax and not feel like we had to be anywhere or be missing out, which meant that we were able to read, play guitar (HD’s Christmas present), eat, walk around a bit, sleep and just chill – it was wonderful, and just what the doctor ordered. We managed to skype both sets of parents on Christmas Day, although the internet was a bit flaky then (HD reckoned there must have been a sheep in front of the dish on the hill that is something important to do with the island’s internet) – but it was nice to have contact with family, isn’t technology marvellous?!

Towards the end of the week the weather got worse, and the last couple of days it was pretty cold and wet, and the locals were murmuring about the ferry not being able to land on Saturday (when we were due to go back home). They had already said we could stay in the cottage longer if we had to, and we had the promise of the use of a washing machine and an invitation to a dinner-dance in the village hall on Saturday night if the ferry didn’t go, so we weren’t too worried, but I must admit much of Friday was spent indoors looking at the live weather stats on the Visit Coll site wondering if we’d get away! Both Thursday and Friday nights I hardly slept as the wind howling in from the Atlantic was so loud, so we weren’t sure what would happen, but in the end although it took the ferry a couple of attempts (the first time a rope broke, of all things) they did manage to dock and take us off the island as planned and we eventually got home early evening on Saturday.

Here are a few photos, mainly of beach walks (Coll, like many of the Hebridean islands, has some beautiful beaches with pristine sand). There’s a larger set on flickr here.

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Our holiday

We’ve been back a couple of weeks, but I realise I haven’t really blogged about what we got up to at the end of July.

I was already in Sheffield with work, and HD had a stag do there conveniently, so we started off in Sheffield, and then went on to see friends in York. This was meant to only be for 1 night and then leaving in the morning, but unfortunately Mercutio the Megane needed a bit of repair work, so we ended up in York for a bit longer than originally planned. We did reach our intended destination by the evening though, we spent 3 nights in lovely Whitby.

Whitby harbour:

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The following day was HD’s birthday, and we spent the day on the North York Moors Steam Railway. The tile shows the route we took, from Whitby to Pickering – it was through such beautiful scenery, it was lovely:

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Once we got to Pickering we had lunch and then spent an hour or so looking round the very interesting Beck Isle Museum of Rural Life before heading back to Whitby later:

IMG_8394 (near the museum – this just looked like picture postcard England!)

IMG_8429 (viaduct just outside Whitby)

The next day we explored St Mary’s Church and Whitby Abbey. It is all very atmospheric, and no surprise to anyone that Bram Stoker set part of ‘Dracula’ in Whitby.

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I wonder if Dracula had to walk up the 199 steps though, that might have worn him out a bit and caused him to do a bit less damage! Afterwards we went on a boat trip just out of the harbour on a replica of one of Captain Cook’s boats – it was a bit choppy!

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After we left Whitby we headed to my parents’ place, but on the way we came across Kirkham Priory. As we are Kirkhams this was very exciting – I don’t think we could stake much of a claim on it though, so I guess we’ll leave it in the capable hands of English Heritage!

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At mum and dad’s we celebrated my dad’s birthday, a month and a half early but they are going away for a few days on the day so we went for a meal while we had the opportunity. We don’t see them that often, but it was really lovely and relaxing and they were on form. Dad has bought himself a concertina that he is trying to teach himself, so that will keep him (relatively) quiet and out of mischief for a bit!

The final weekend was a different adventure, we ended up on an archaeological dig at Flag Fen, a Bronze Age site near Peterborough. The dig was arranged through crowd-sourcing, so all the participants (novices like us right through to old hands) paid to participate, and got lots of tuition about archaeology and got to do our little bit for the project. There was also a cracking pub quiz, which our team didn’t win but should have 🙂 My photos are in a flickr set. I really enjoyed it, but am not sure my knees will ever quite be the same again!

It was all a really busy but great week. I think though I might want to do something a bit more relaxing next year – we’ll see 🙂

2011 Project365 (days 213-217)

5th August:

5th August 2011

The last day of our holiday was a treat, as we went to the Ancient Roman City and visited Kerensa. This beauty is from her garden which I found inspirational (reason to be blogged about some other time). It was fantastic to see her again, though embarrassing to look back through her visitors’ book to find an entry from me, with a different name, London address and a date of 6 whole years ago! We mustn’t leave it that long next time.

4th August:

4th August 2011

This is a wee view of the centre of HD’s parents’ home town. We spent the day with them and the nieces/grandchildren (ours/theirs), with a meal out followed by a look in the historic town centre and a couple of little museums.

3rd August:

3rd August 2011

We spent the day in Birmingham, visiting the Museum of the Jewellery Quarter including a very interesting guided tour, and then looking round a couple of nearby cemeteries (from which this picture came).

2nd August:

2nd August 2011

I was a bit stuck for a photo this day so here’s a picture of my Womad purchases.

1st August:

1st August 2011

This cute sign welcomes visitors to HD’s sister’s place, where we stayed after Womad for a few days.

2011 Project365 (days 119-122)

2nd May:

2nd May 2011

Amazingly, it’s not only been a bank holiday, but the sky has been this colour all day! This was taken in the back garden and isn’t really representative of my day (apart from the blue sky), but this morning I had a job interview* (I decided against asking the panel to pose for the camera before I left) and this afternoon we sort of meant to go and explore a local country park but in the end didn’t get beyond the tip, Halfords and Sainsbury’s. So I took this just now before the sun goes down and the blue sky disappears. I wonder if the pigeon is the ****** that crapped on my washing the other week (the washing line is just below).

* the interview went OK, but I could hear my voice shaking as I spoke and it took ages to calm down, so I’m really not sure how I came across. I’m not hugely confident I got the job, of course I thought of a good few things I should have said while I was driving home, but think that shaky voice notwithstanding I didn’t make a fool of myself and acquitted myself well enough overall. I should hear by the end of the week.

1st May:

1st May 2011

This represents the joys of interview preparation. The job involves working with vulnerable people, so I had to fill in the pages and pages of an Disclosure Scotland form (the Scottish equivalent of the CRB check).

30th April:

30th April 2011

Our final stop on our holiday before heading for the ferry home was to see my friend S, who left London for Northern Ireland just after I left London for Glasgow. This is a picture of Anoushka, her cat, who is a real character. I don’t think she’s quite realised she’s not a leopard – her movements are astonishingly big cat-like.

29th April:

29th April 2011

Whilst people were glued to the Royal Wedding, we were at another wedding: HD’s brother got married on the same day as the royal wedding. It was an absolutely lovely day. The weather was perfect all day, the ceremony was beautiful, it was fantastic to catch up with family members, the kids were all lovely, and of course the happy couple looked amazing. I have chosen a blurred picture as they do not read this blog; I really like this picture though as although it is blurred you can still see how they are gazing at each other and for this moment there’s nobody else in the world, just the two of them.

2011 Project365 (days 113-118)

We are just back from a lovely holiday in Ireland (more of which in a separate post, probably tomorrow). We started off last Saturday heading over to Co. Clare on the west coast of Ireland, in the heart of the region known as the Burren staying in this cottage in the village of Carron which I’d definitely recommend, it was a lovely little quirky place to use as a base to explore the area. We were really lucky with the weather, there were odd days that were a bit overcast but we never got wet, and mostly it was really sunny and lovely, which was quite a surprise for the Irish Atlantic coast! I am now feeling very mellowed out and rested, and don’t want to go back to work next week! Anyway, here are some photos from Saturday-Thursday:

28th April:

28th April 2011

On Thursday we left Co. Clare and headed on up to Northern Ireland (more of that in another post), and on the way we went to the amazing Bru na Boinne, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Co. Meath (north of Dublin) which is around 1,000 years older than Stonehenge. The main site consists of three large passage burial sites, of which we visited two, this picture shows the burial site at Newgrange (we also visited the site at Knowth which reminded me of the Teletubby garden!).

27th April:

27th April 2011

This is the Poulnabrone Dolmen, in the heart of County Clare. It is a portal burial site, and is probably the most photographed monument in the Burren. That slab on the top apparently weighs 5 tons. Like Bru na Boinne, Poulnabrone is a neolithic monument.

26th April:

26th April 2011

This is a traditional music session at O’Connor’s pub in Doolin, Co. Clare (Doolin is well known for a number of pubs which have regular traditional music sessions). My dad will be *so* jealous I went to this!

25th April:

25th April 2011

This is another very famous Clare site, the Cliffs of Moher. Those of you who are fans of the film The Princess Bride might recognise them as the Cliffs of Insanity (they’ve also featured in one of the Harry Potter films). We had hoped to walk from the visitor centre south towards Hag’s Head, where there is apparently an amazing view north back towards the cliffs. However the clifftop walk was fenced off (not that that stopped quite a lot of people from walking a bit of the way) so we didn’t get to do that.

24th April:

24th April 2011

Easter Sunday. This place was the top of my list of must-sees while in Co. Clare – it turned out we were only 15-20 minutes drive away from THE CRAGGY ISLAND PAROCHIAL HOUSE!!!!!!! Any Father Ted fans will surely understand my excitement. There were another handful of pilgrims at the gate taking pictures (you can go for afternoon tea there but it needs to be arranged in advance; I was happy enough to just stand at the gate) and I very much enjoyed the banter (why say ‘cheese’ when you can say ‘DrrrrInk!’?). The dog belongs to the owners of the house.

23rd April:

23rd April 2011

Here’s the mysterious island of Ailsa Craig (also featured in my photo from January 3rd) – we passed quite close as you can see while on the ferry from Troon to Larne. I can’t believe people used to live here – it is so bleak and must have been such a hard life.

The Gallery – Holidays

This week for the Gallery Week 18, hosted by Tara at the Sticky Fingers blog, the theme is Holidays. When I saw the theme I have to say my heart sank. We are well into holiday season now, but thanks to my thesis and its scarily imminent deadline we won’t be having a summer holiday this year. Depending on finances we may try to get away later in the year, but who knows? Of course we did have our holiday this year already in Venice in February (which I blogged about with lots of pictures here), but as I have blogged about that before I didn’t want to go over that again. I was thinking of previous holidays from years gone by (I’ve had some brilliant ones, I must say!), but sadly all my film photos (pre-2004 when I got my first digital camera) are in storage and not yet scanned – I can’t wait till we no longer have to have our stuff in storage, I’m going to really really enjoy going through my old photo albums. Now that really will be a trip down memory lane!

Apart from Venice, HD and I have only had one proper holiday together, which was our honeymoon (we’ve been away together more than twice of course, but other times have been long weekends, staying with friends and family, or festivals, that sort of thing). As the honeymoon featured in last week’s Gallery post I felt a bit reluctant to post on it again, but it did get me thinking. With the vagaries of air travel (strikes, volcanoes, etc), plus the fact that we live in an incredible beautiful country with still so much to explore, we’ve both talked about wanting to explore more Scottish islands. Actually even outwith Scotland I realise that quite a number of my places-I-really-want-to-visit-before-I-die are islands. I can’t provide pictures from places we’ve not yet visited, but for this theme I chose a couple of pictures from Scottish islands we’ve already visited. Enjoy!

Shetland (HD’s not been here, this is from when I had the job interview last year. I can’t wait to take him back and explore some more):

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Arran (which we visited for my significant unmentionable birthday last year):

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Great Cumbrae (visited for a day ‘doon the watter’ in January 2009, and where the idea of moving to an island first really took root) (you can also see the bottom of the island of Bute, and beyond that the mountains of the north of Arran):

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and of course Harris from honeymoon (the first picture is as we arrived on the island, the second shows our honeymoon cottage on the shores of West Loch Tarbert):

first view of Harris, from the ferry The cottage and West Loch Tarbert

I wonder what the next one will be? 🙂

Venice

So. Venice. Photos. Here you go:

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IMG_1395This (above) is the church of Santa Maria della Salute, which (for those of you that know Venice) is at the end of the Grand Canal almost opposite St Mark’s Square. If you go out on the lagoon then it is quite a prominent landmark as you come back to the city, and it was also the nearest vaporetto (water bus) stop to our hotel. These photos don’t do justice to how enormous and over-the-top it was. Anyway, it was big and beautiful but not glitzy inside, and as I said a handy landmark for when we were heading back to the hotel.

Which was a funny old hotel. We’d only booked a 2 star hotel, figuring we were basically only going to be IMG_1115sleeping there so the facilities didn’t matter that much. We knew we didn’t have an en-suite room; actually only the toilet was shared, and we did have a shower in the room. Literally in the room – the cubicle was at the end of the bed. It was all a bit odd, but we got used to it, and at least although the room was a bit tired and probably could have done with a lick of paint at least it was clean, and it was handy enough for most places. The photo is taken from the front door of the hotel – it was certainly atmospheric and very Venetian!

The time we were there it was Carnevale so as well as the usual canals, gondolas, museums, and whathaveyou going on, there were also stalls upon stalls selling masks and capes, and people wandering around in various Carnevale costumes. Below is just a selection of some of the Carnevale-related stuff we saw – the first one is a very bizarre spectacle of someone being winched down from the top of the Campanile in St Mark’s Square to the roof down below, to the strains of the Hallelujah Chorus – I understand it’s a bit of a Carnevale tradition:

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IMG_1149On our first full day we did a walking tour, and were accompanied by a multi-lingual tour guide called Nicoletta whom I kept wanting to call Nessa – Swansea wibloggers, is it just me?!

The following day we went on a boat trip to 3 of Venice’s outlying islands – first Murano, which is famous for its glass factories – there were shops all over the city selling items of Murano glass. All we did there was IMG_1251have a demonstration at a glass factory and then a tour round their shop (!) – HD and I both alighted on the same item, a really beautiful glass fish, but then we spotted its equally beautiful price of over 4,100 euros, so out of the goodness of our hearts we decided to leave it there for other people to enjoy. We’re thoughtful like that!

After Murano we headed to Torcello, which was apparently the first bit of Venice to be populated (the island now though supports a population of less than 60). We had a quick look at the outside of the Cathedral and Church, via a very tranquil 10 minute walk along a canal, and then were back on the boat for our trip to the final island Burano, which is well known for its lace-making and for the brightly coloured fishermen’s cottages. We stopped and enjoyed the sunset there (not to mention a very welcome glass of mulled wine – it was getting decidedly chilly by this point!):

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I really liked Torcello for its tranquility and Burano for its colour – although it did give me a bit of a spaghetti western feeling, I don’t know what it was about the main street but I think a saloon with a horse tied up outside and a bit of tumbleweed wouldn’t have looked at all out of place, even though it was unmistakeably Italian.

Other stuff we saw – these next 3 are the Rialto Bridge, Doge’s Palace and St Mark’s Basilica:

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We had mixed feelings about some of the things we saw – certainly I felt that as a city with a population of less than 69,000 (and therefore smaller than my home town, which isn’t big), but which was absolutely heaving with people all the time, I had no sense of what it was like to actually live there – it was absolutely beautiful of course, but these days entirely catering to the tourist market I felt, and I wasn’t so keen on that (HD said from this point of view it reminded him of Blackpool – he’s so cultured!). Every shop was either selling masks, Murano glass, or tourist tat, or was a restaurant, or so it felt. I didn’t see any shops for “normal” people – corner shops, supermarkets, etc, so it all felt a bit unreal. We also both felt uncomfortable about the city’s history – as we went round the Doge’s Palace museum we read about the life of the wealthy Venetians who ruled the place when it was a Republic, in seats of power by virtue of their wealth rather than because of any great aptitude or care for the people. We also saw on our walking tour how the grand houses all had 2 entrances, a grand IMG_1302ornate one at water’s level for the wealthy to enter, and a dull street-level one for the hoi-polloi. Also when we were walking round all the little back streets (it is a right old rabbit-warren there!) you could easily imagine what it must have been like to have a large population living there, not to mention rats and sewage and whathaveyou – in other words it seemed to have IMG_1368been built on injustice and inequality (even though I gather that it was quite progressive in comparison with some other parts of Italy at the time). It just made us both feel quite uncomfortable and ill-at-ease, I was quite surprised at how strongly we both felt that.

IMG_1305By the middle of the week I felt like I was rather OD-ing on 16th-18th century art and culture and was desperate to see something modern! On the Wednesday we spent a very pleasant few hours in the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, and this photo shows the gates to her sculpture garden. Peggy Guggenheim was a great collector of modern art (paintings and sculpture) and settled in Venice until her death. Going round this museum, which I loved, and the Doge’s Palace where a lot of the amazing paintings did so little for me, reminded me a lot of Tractor Girl’s thoughts on classical music and how there is very little of it she *gets*. If I go to the National Gallery in London, I could probably find only a small handful of paintings that do anything for me at all, whereas put me in the Tate and I’m in my element. As with many modern art galleries, I found myself having a reaction to most of the pieces at the Guggenheim – whether it was “wow”, “yuck” or “I could do better than that” (or, in the case of one sculpture in the sculpture garden, the first one you come across after showing your tickets, “That looks like the Black Knight!”), whereas with the art at the Doge’s Palace, I was largely thinking “yeah, whatever” (I’m such a Philistine!).

Talking of works of art:

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See that top lump of milk chocolate? I ate that, I did 😀

I haven’t mentioned the food yet, have I? To be honest, I probably ate my body weight in food most days, IMG_1391 but as we had to do so much walking (supplemented in my case by so much complaining and whingeing – HD really was very patient with me!) I luckily didn’t put on any weight, so that was a relief. On our penultimate night there we ate at the restaurant in this picture, Zucca, which we had found on a google search of veggie restaurants in Venice (it does meat stuff too, but most places didn’t have all that much vegetarian selection, Zucca’s menu was a bit more wide-ranging). This was quite an achievement, as it took us 3 attempts to get there – the first time we walked straight past it without noticing it, ate somewhere else then noticed it on the way back. The second time we did the same thing again, and then the 3rd time they were full, but let us book for a bit later in the evening which led to half an hour or so of sitting in the nearby square trying not to notice how just about every extremity was about to fall off from cold. But the waiting paid off, because the food was delicious and can I say they do the best chocolate mousse ever! Thank you.

On our final day there we took a boat out to the Lido (beach) and I think this was the first time that we had any kind of sense of how the locals live. There were very few tourists around (as they were mostly soaking up the Carnevale atmosphere) so most of the people we saw did actually stay there. We started off at the beach, looking at the Adriatic (which we realised neither of us had ever seen before), walked down the beach for a bit then caught a bus to the village of Malamocca which we both thought was very pretty. Then we caught a ferry to the next island down, stopped at a village whose name escapes me where the book talked about waterside tavernas, but I think they had all shut up for the winter, we didn’t find a single one! So we carried on down to the bottom of the island and caught a ferry to the next one and the village of Chioggia where we hoovered up pizza mid-afternoon (pretty much our first food of the day – no breakfast at the hotel as we were room-only, no lunch as we had thought we’d get it at the unnamed village), then wandered round Chioggia for a bit before doing it all in reverse and ending up heading back into Venice just in time for sunset:

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IMG_1429 Malamocca
IMG_1434 Unnamed village
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IMG_1454 Venice sunset (the church in the middle is the one near our hotel)

And so homeward. We caught the vaporetto from Salute to the bus station and then onwards to the airport – knackered but rested. It was a good holiday, and so good for us to get away together for a while. We’ll have to do it again sometime! (perhaps somewhere a bit closer to home next time, we’ll see!).

Holidays

I haven’t blogged for a couple of weeks as last week (as many of my usual handful of readers are already aware) we were on holiday in Venice for the week. I took about 400 pictures which will take a while to get sorted and online (not all of them!), ate too much, walked all over the place (Venice being that kind of a place), read more than usual, relaxed, enjoyed spending an entire week with HD (that was the best bit!), chilled, usual holiday stuff really. Now I’m back I’m trying not to think about going to w*rk tomorrow morning, and that I have to mark OU essays in the next couple of days and submit another chapter revision as well (the chapter should be OK, it’s the methodology chapter which was my favourite to write – it was very therapeutic as a lot of it was All About Me :D). I have just spent the last hour and a half sorting out a problem with my OU students who are doing some online group-work (which I have to say is on the whole infinitely preferable to the real-life equivalent!) – nothing serious serious but awkward and couldn’t be left. So now my (admittedly red wine-related) headache is showing no signs of disappearing, so I think I might be off to bed in a minute. Photos and holiday musings (of which there are a fair few) will have to wait a few days, I think.

This week I shall mostly be …

* marking OU essays, and
* writing a thesis chapter, and
* working full time, while
* trying not to cough up any more of my lungs (a fine image for a professional health promoter, no?).

No wonder I’m knackered.

But, excitingly, today HD and I booked our first proper holiday since our honeymoon almost 2 years ago. We are off adventuring in February, I can’t wait!

Honeymoon

I’ve been meaning for ages to put up some pictures from our honeymoon, but have only just got round to putting my pictures on flickr. Hopefully though this will give you a good taste of the beautiful Outer Hebrides, somewhere I’d definitely love to go back to. If you click on any of the pictures you should be able to see them bigger.

We only caught the ferry by the skin of our teeth on New Year’s Eve, but catch it we did, and we were blessed with a really calm crossing (having heard all sorts of tales of doom and woe as to the usual state of choppiness of the Minch, the stretch of sea between Skye and the mainland, and the Outer Hebridean islands. After just over an hour and a half, we were rewarded with a lovely sunset over Harris, our eventual destination:

first view of Harris, from the ferry

We saw in the new year very quietly – just us and Jools Holland on the telly at the cottage. We had a lie in on New Year’s Day, but I wanted to get out and about, so we drove to a remote beach on north-west Harris, and did a (scary) walk up some steep hills to get a view out over the Atlantic (next stop, America) and the small uninhabited island of Scarp. Here are some pics of that, including proof that we were both there!

Scary walkView to Scarp
View to ScarpView to Scarp

Once we’d reached the point where we took those photos of each other, although it wasn’t at the planned end of the walk, we decided that as the light was beginning to fade we’d better head back to the car. It was just as scary on the way back, and I found myself thinking as I clambered over rocks and tried not to look down at the sea that it would be just typical for me to manage this scary climby bit and then fall over on a flat bit at the bottom. And lo it came to pass, that in a field of grass about 200 yards from the car, I slipped on wet grass and rolled over in true comedy fall stylee, felt my knee twist, and that was that. Eventually I did manage to get up, and using both walking poles was able to hobble back to the car, but that evening it really hurt and I was in tears by bedtime. So the next day saw us heading off to A&E in Stornoway on Lewis (which although it is known as the Isle of Lewis, just like Harris is the Isle of Harris, they are actually attached to each other). Before we left though I took a picture of the view out of the kitchen window, something I did every morning so that we could see the various changing weather and colours and whatnot. Anyway, this first picture is our lovely view.

view from the cottage - West Loch Tarbert

Next up is the end result of the A&E trip. It transpired that I had torn my knee ligaments – which would explain the pain anyway! I was very embarrassed thinking about my medical history, which mainly consists of comedy falls and damage to various bits of my left leg (broken foot, torn knee ligaments, torn ankle ligaments, dislocated knee, and torn left shoulder ligaments just for a bit of variety once). If it wasn’t so far past the sell-by date I think I’d take it back and ask for a refund and a new leg, as it is definitely getting beyond a joke! This was just what we needed at the start of honeymoon! (this is the closest you’re ever going to get of a bedroom shot by the way!):

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The bandage was meant to be on for a week, but after 2 days it was driving me mad (and was also not really compressing the knee like it was supposed to) so I took it off. I’m such a bad patient.

I took some pictures out and about near the cottage. The first is a picture of the cottage (which was gorgeous, 5-star self-catering, all mod-cons (including jacuzzi and dishwasher), and even the ironing board cover was tasteful!), and the second is of some of our neighbours. I think they’re young Highland cattle (aka hairy coos), too young yet to have the trademark scary horns. Then the third one is of the end of the path past our cottage – we were able to walk (or in my case hobble) about a quarter of a mile, and were rewarded with lovely views out towards the island of Taransay, which was used by the BBC in the millennium year for the reality show “Castaway” if anyone remembers that:

our cottageMeet the neighbours
looking towards Taransay

As well as exploring Harris we spent quite a bit of time on Lewis as well. Harris has much more dramatic scenery, it’s quite mountainous and rocky (in fact it has virtually no trees) with amazing sandy beaches on the west coast. Lewis is more bleak and less hilly, with large parts of it covered in peat moors (in fact we had a peat burning fire in the cottage which meant we were always lovely and toasty warm). Probably the most famous historical site on Lewis is the Calanais standing stones, which are older than Stonehenge. Most of these pictures are of the main standing stones, but a mile or so away from this site are two smaller stone circles, so the last two are from Calanais 3 – I’m particularly pleased with the last one:

Calanais standing stonesCalanais standing stones
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Calanais 3 standing stonesCalanais 3 standing stones

Another famous historical site on Lewis is the Carloway broch, which is a Bronze (I think, could be Iron) Age dwelling place which has been remarkably well preserved, and which apparently had people living in it as late as the 18th century!

Carloway BrochCarloway Broch

Not far from there is a well-preserved Blackhouse Village, which has small stone and thatched cottages that were until fairly recently inhabited and preserved the old island way of life (one of them is now a youth hostel), and a Norse kiln and mill:

Blackhouse VillageNorse mill and kiln

We travelled up the north-west coast of Lewis to its most northerly point, the Butt of Lewis – here are a couple of pictures of the Butt of Lewis lighthouse and the rocks the lighthouse is warning sailors about. We didn’t stay here long though – it was far too cold!

Butt of LewisButt of Lewis

By this point in the honeymoon it was the weekend again – if I remember correctly the Saturday we didn’t do much as it was raining lots (one of only two days we had to stay indoors due to the weather, mostly it just rained overnight and wasn’t too bad at all during the days). On the Sunday I found a little church on Harris, but I won’t say much because I Mystery Worshipped it – when the report comes out I shall make sure to link to it! Then in the afternoon I got out my pastels, for the first time in about 2 years (yikes!), and sat in the garden of the cottage and drew the view. I’ve included a picture I took before starting the drawing (the weather and colours kept changing even in the hour that I was doing the picture, so the end result is a kind of composite of the various weather and light conditions). By the time I got to the point that I was ready to do the boat, the wind had blown it so that it was facing me head rather than side on (or whatever the correct nautical term is) so I had to make it up and you can see that it isn’t entirely accurate when compared to the photo. But overall I’m quite pleased with it, especially as this is the first drawing I’ve ever done at A4 size (usually I do A5) and so I was pleased that it wasn’t disastrous!

West Loch Tarbert - view from the cottageWest Loch Tarbert - by me

Next up is a view of our cottage from the main road, which gives you a great idea of the location. If you can see a cluster of 3 white cottages to the left of the picture, ours is the furthest right of the three. Then the other picture here is of a view of one of the large, beautiful sandy Harris beaches from a viewpoint a few miles away, which will give you an idea of the type of scenery we were surrounded by:

The cottage and West Loch TarbertHarris beach view

A bit further into that drive I was blinded by the sun whilst in the middle of a rain shower, and my first thought was “where’s the rainbow?” As you can see, we found it (this is again looking over to Taransay, but from further south in Harris):

Rainbow over TaransayRainbow over Taransay

We watched the rainbow fade (whilst eating our cheese sandwiches – very romantic!) and I took some arty shots of us and the beach:

Harris beachHow romantic!

Here’s a final view over towards Taransay, and then a shot of a 16th (I think) century church on the south of Harris, St Clement’s Rodel:

View over to TaransaySt Clement's Church Rodel

The next day we headed back down the coast road towards Scarista Beach, which consistently appears in “Top 10 beaches in the world” lists. Just before we got there, I managed to get a shot of an older hairy coo (and was glad I was a bit of a distance away, I wouldn’t want to get on the wrong side of those horns!). Once we got to Scarista we flew HD’s power kite which was fun (once I’d figured out how to not make it crash to the ground at enormous speed). I also included a picture of our trusty car here (more on that later):

Hairy cooScarista beach
Kite-flying on Scarista BeachOur trusty car (RIP)

Towards the end of the honeymoon I got up, opened the blind in the kitchen to take my daily picture of the view, and found a rainbow greeting me. So I rushed out in my dressing gown (much to the bemusement of the workmen at the next cottage – it was *very* cold and windy!) and took some pictures. And then the next picture is from our last day, when we were in Stornoway and visited the Lewis war memorial:

Rainbow over West Loch TarbertLewis War memorial

The final two pictures are of our last morning – we took the walk along the loch path for a final time, and also up to the main road to have a last look over the loch and the cottage:

West Loch TarbertThe cottage and West Loch Tarbert

On the way back we had the treat of being tannoyed on the ferry, arranged by Smudgie whose brother is a CalMac Ferries Captain (he wasn’t the captain on our particular ferry, but he did get a mention – the tannoy message congratulated HD and I, wished us a happy honeymoon, and then gave congragulations from Captain Smudgiebrother). Again the ferry crossing was remarkably smooth and unchoppy (for which I am very grateful, I hate choppy ferry crossings), and we arrived at the ferry port on Skye and prepared to drive home.

Unfortunately, once we were back on the mainland and had been driving for a while, the temperature gauge on the car suddenly lit up. This was not good for lots of reasons, not least among them the fact that although we were on the mainland on a main road, it was a mainland main road in the middle of nowhere and it was very cold and very dark. HD managed to pull us into a layby on the other side of the road, and on lifting the bonnet we found lots of steam and not much water. A very amusing call to the AA later (the guy first asked me if the A87 had a street name to help him find us, and then when he’d found the rough area on the map asked me if I could see a large loch. I had to explain that as it was pitch black I couldn’t see anything at all, and going by visual cues wasn’t going to help us much!) we were eventually found by the AA contractor, but then it transpired that my membership only entitled us to be taken to the nearest AA garage and not home. So HD phoned the RAC (of whom I hadn’t realised he was still a member), and the same AA man turned out to also be an RAC contractor, so in the end it was his garage that took us the remaining 130 miles home, with the car on the back of the lorry. It turned out that it was a serious problem (the head gasket had gone), and as the car was not worth much (I bought it for £350 over 5 years ago, and although I had to get it patched up every so often I think I can say I got my money’s worth from it) we had to get it scrapped, and last week it was finally taken away to the great garage in the sky. So it was a bit of a dramatic end to the honeymoon, and is a bit of a pain as we are now carless which means we can’t reach the storage place very easily and the stuff we need to take to the recycling is building up in the kitchen because we can’t get to the tip.

But – not to end this on a gloomy note – Harris and Lewis were amazing, the honeymoon was great despite comedy falls and car deaths, and I’d go back there again with no hesitation. A very fab start to married life 🙂