I’ve been absent from social media and the blog for a short while. We’ve had half term and before that a trip to Inverness, and all those little in-between things which pull me away from writing. But I did manage to jot down some thoughts on our return from the city.
Whilst we were there we went to the shops and had a wander around. There was a Waterstones and lots of clothes shops, things we don’t have here on Skye.
We did buy the things we’d put on our list – necessities, mostly – and we made a few supermarket trips. But somehow I wasn’t particularly interested in shopping for the fun of it. If I’m honest I haven’t been for a few years now. Once upon a time I’d wander around department stores sniffing perfume and comparing lipsticks on the back of my hand, trying on piles of clothes and coming away weighed down with bags.
But since we moved here that whole concept of shopping for the fun of it has become even less appealing. Back in England, I'd demoted it to the lowly position of something to do on a wet day. Of course, I love bookshops, galleries and open studios - whiling away an afternoon in those kinds of places makes me very happy. But the prospect of trailing around the chainstores in Inverness just made me feel tired somehow. So I didn’t bother.
The best part of the trip was the journey. We haven’t travelled along that road before; Joe was beyond excited about seeing Loch Ness and we were, as ever, curious to see what the landscape would be like.
It certainly became gentler in appearance as we left Skye behind; less mountainous in places, more trees. Rivers and – where the mountains did still meet the sky – tumbling waterfalls, white against the russet bracken. Ribbons of mist weaving through the pine forests and the bare beech trees creating a haze of violet.
We saw castles and pheasants, fields of shaggy grey ponies, the skeletons of old greenhouses picked over by stormy weather. And the colours: chartreuse velvet moss on forest floors, banks of pristine white snowdrops, the houses along the water at Dornie: mustard, mint, raspberry red and periwinkle blue. Outbuildings and boathouses, corrugated metal painted cream and green like little 1950s cricket pavilions.
And the best part of all: a stop at Loch Cluanie on our way back.
We pass it each time we drive to and from Skye from England and it’s a stunning place but, with so much snow still on the mountains, particularly breathtaking. So we parked the car and went scrambled down the bank to the water.
Joe was fascinated by all the little piles of stones people had made (and promptly added his own). We found lots of pieces of driftwood, twisted and bleached by the salt and sun. They resembled antlers - perhaps a Tim Burton version - and we collected some to bring home.
Cluanie is a beautiful but strange landscape, almost lunar in appearance with the rocks, clear water, bare mountains and pale light. We took so many photographs there and kept pointing out new little discoveries to one another.
Driving back, as we passed herd after herd of deer and little feral goats (scaling trees), I realised that our priorities have changed more than I’d previously thought. We prefer a three-hour road trip through the wilds to ‘doing’ another urban hub*; there’s more pleasure in finding shells and driftwood than in buying yet more ‘stuff’.
Of course, we won’t be burning the driftwood as it’s so pretty. It did remind me of ‘Anne’s House of Dreams’, when Captain Jim's driftwood fire makes ‘pixy flames’, but I’m still not tempted.
So, a long trip (with an overnight stay) and then a school holiday. Joe and I did more exploring, this time on our own doorstep. We walked up to Dun Beag broch on a blue, breezy morning armed with bubbles, chocolate and a picnic blanket. The views across to Portnalong in one direction and Macleod’s Tables in the other were beautiful.
Not that it was quiet. Joe’s been learning about the Romans at school so we played a noisy and slightly odd game of ‘Romans and Pips’ (Picts, I’m assuming). I was the ‘horrible Pip’ living in my broch and Joe was the Roman coming to get me. Cue lots of unintentionally funny fierce talk (him) and intentional running away (me).
He’s back at school now, the holiday having only lasted three days. But we fitted lots in: the snowdrop walk at the castle (I’ll be adding some pictures soon to the Skye section of Frond & Feather), seed planting, reading The Twits…
And now all’s quiet again. Apart from the ever-present wind blowing down the chimney…
*We might not be into city life at the moment but the architecture, castles and museums are a different matter. Just a quick disclaimer :)