Tag Archives: Harris


Thanks to a post by World Without End the other week and a subsequent comment here by Pants with Names I discovered the wonderful world of The Gallery over at Sticky Fingers blog. Although I’ve had a couple of photo blogs and post plenty of photos here, I haven’t ever really got into photo memes before, but there is something about this one (possibly the no pressure, do it if you want and it’s fine to miss a week if the subject doesn’t grab you vibe about it) which appealed. This is my first post contributing to the Gallery, and hopefully I’ve not done anything dim or broken it or anything. (that’s not just me being falsely modest by the way – I don’t entirely understand all the instructions and won’t be able to add this post to the Sticky Fingers list until I get back from work later on, hopefully it will be more obvious then and the widget thingy that I don’t really understand might make sense!). This week The Gallery is also complicated by being a joint meme with the Writing Workshop at Sleep is for the Weak which is a new blog for me. The writing thing is a bit scary (ironic as I am currently writing a 100,000 word thesis) but I will have a go anyway. The prompt for both the writing and picture is emotions, with the idea that you go away and post a picture/piece of writing inspired by the prompt.

Don’t worry I won’t always write such a long blurb if I participate again, it’s just because it’s new to me and so I thought I’d explain to my usual readers so it is a bit less random!

Anyway. Emotions. (Disclaimer: this is a bit, er, emotional).

View to Scarp

The pictures I’ve chosen for this theme are not new, but I’m really happy to be revisiting them. They are both from our honeymoon on the beautiful island of Harris in the Outer Hebrides in early January 2008. They are also both of my lovely husband HD not facing the camera (sensible guy, he knows what I’m like when I’m behind the camera!). This first photo is taken on New Year’s Day, 1st January 2008. We’d arrived at the cottage on the island the day before, so this was our first trip out exploring (regular readers may remember that at the end of this walk I had a comedy fall and ended up on crutches and bandaged from ankle to hip after tearing my knee ligament, so much of day 2 of our honeymoon was spent in A&E in Stornoway!). Here HD is looking over to the uninhabited island of Scarp, lost in thought.


This is from a few days later, this time he is looking over to the uninhabited island of Taransay (can you see a theme emerging here?!). The reason I chose these two photos for the theme of emotions is because with both of them, when I see him looking out across the sea, lost in thought and contemplation, emotional doesn’t begin to describe how I feel. I feel quite overwhelmed at this deep thinking, funny, weird, gorgeous, sexy, complicated, introverted, geeky, different, strong, sensitive, lovely, generous, thoughtful, cute guy. He makes me feel secure, happy, goofy, hopeful, giggly, thoughtful, proud, sexy, nurturing, and gives me room to dream and space to be me.

The place too does something to me at the deepest emotional place. There’s something about the Scottish islands, raw, beautiful, rugged, wild, that speak to my soul and help me to breathe.

HD and Scottish islands. No wonder I’m feeling so emotional.


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!):

Peglegbedroom shot

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
Calanais standing stonesCalanais standing stones
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 🙂

Celtic Connections 2008 – part 1

I will get back to the honeymoon blog entry, but I wanted to blog about the Celtic Connections concerts we have been to so far this week. Not that I want to make you jealous or anything 🙂

First up, on Wednesday we were at the ABC, which is a former cinema but is now a concert venue. The event was called Balkan Night, and featured two Balkan bands, plus support. The support band was a Scottish group called the Stobo Village Band, and here is the only decent picture I took that evening, which is of them (they played traditional Scottish music and were very good):

Celtic Connections - Stobo Village Band

The two headline bands were firstly Balkanopolis, a band from Serbia that did both traditional and jazz music. We both thought that the jazz stuff was a bit inaccessible, but the traditional stuff, particularly when they included singing, was fantastic. The lead guy played loads of instruments (various whistles, flute, clarinet, sax, mandolin etc) but most notably played some bagpipes which looked like they had been made out of a potato sack with knots at the end and which he had to blow into to inflate before he could play them. Because of the shape and colour of the bag, I thought that it looked like a plucked turkey when it was inflated, and when he held it I had to laugh because it reminded me of how Rod Hull held Emu. The second band was from Croatia and were called Kries – I’m not sure how to describe their music, but the Celtic Connections blurb referred to their singer as “shamanic” and I can see where they got that from. We liked this band a lot. Here are pictures of both of them – Balkanopolis on the left and Kries on the right (they’re not great pictures though):

Celtic Connections - BalkanopolisCeltic Connections - Kries

On Thursday we went to the Old Fruitmarket (I think my favourite venue for seeing music in Glasgow) for my personal must-not-miss-at-any-cost concert. The support band were, once again, excellent – an Irish trad singer called Nuala Kennedy and her band, who certainly warmed us up (I did take a couple of pictures of them, but the photos weren’t very good), just in time for a band that I first saw last year when I was in Sibiu, Fanfara Ciocarlia who are a gypsy band from Romania. I remember having a blast last year, and this year they were just as good. We were right near the front, having pushed forward after the support act had finished, so I got some better pictures this time, as you can see:

Celtic Connections 2008 - Fanfara Ciocarlia

Then yesterday we were out again, this time to a venue called the Classic Grand which I’d not been to before (on the way out I overheard someone saying that in his childhood it had been a cartoon cinema, and then a porn cinema, before becoming a concert venue and club). The support act were a Swedish group called Den Fule, who were OK, but I felt didn’t really know what they wanted to be – trad, jazz or raaaaarck. When they dabbled in trad stuff I liked it, but they rarcked out a bit much for my taste (although, I have to say that this was the first ever time that I have seen rocking out on the bass clarinet, which I found quite amusing). The band that we’d come to see though was one that I saw last year when they were a support act and who I’d liked much more than the headline act. Last night, just like last year, Moishe’s Bagel were brilliant – well worth seeing if you want a good night:

Celtic Connections 2008 - Moishe's Bagel

They were just as good in somewhere like the Classic Grand, which is quite a small intimate space, as they were at the Fruitmarket last year.

Earlier today we went to one of the Come&Try workshops which get put on every year. In fact we had tickets to do this workshop last year but then were both ill so had to miss it. It was Come&Try Waulking, which is an amazing fusion of Gaelic song and physical work traditionally used in the Hebrides during the manufacture of Harris Tweed. Basically a whole crowd of people around the table sing very rhythmically whilst pummelling a line of Tweed in and along the table (the pushing it in and out reminded me of the hokey-cokey!) in order to shrink the cloth, waterproof it and get the dye to set (in the olden days this was done by soaking it in stale urine, nowadays they use chemicals at this point, we just poured water on it!). We learnt the songs first – the two people facilitating the workshop sang the whole thing, and we sang what were known as “vocables” (I presume that’s how it’s spelt) which were kind of the Gaelic equivalent of “fal-de-dee” which didn’t have meaning within the song but were used to emphasise and keep the rhythm etc. I actually knew a couple of the songs already as they had been recorded by Capercaillie, one of my favourite groups, but it was really good going through them and learning a bit about the Gaelic pronunciation. Gaelic’s a beautiful language, we overheard it spoken in Stornoway while we were on honeymoon and it has the most wonderful sound to it, and I also think it looks beautiful written down – maybe one day I’ll get round to learning it. After learning some songs we put them with the tweed, and I must say it was a fascinating couple of hours! Here are a few pictures from the workshop:

Come and try - waulkingCome and try - waulking
Come and try - waulkingCome and try - waulking

You might be able to see from the final photograph that we also had the end of the workshop filmed by Gaelic children’s TV – the girl on the bottom right, in the grey top, is their presenter. So maybe that’s another few seconds out of our 15 minutes of fame!

Once the workshop was over we browsed round the stalls which were in the foyer of the Concert Hall, and I’m afraid I indulged in something I’ve wanted to buy for years and years and never got round to – a whistle (plus a teach-yourself book). I could have bought both the big and small whistles, but figured that as well as not really being able to afford the big one, with the lack of time available to me at the moment it would probably be enough to get my head round the small one. If all goes well, maybe I’ll buy the big one next year. It will be nice to try something musical again, having not played anything for so long.

We’re off to another concert this evening, and next Saturday evening, and I’m going to one mid-week with some colleagues from work. I’ll report back on those next week.