We had an eventful Easter, with family visiting for the second week and temperate weather for most of the holiday. There’s been a lot of walking, chocolate, good food and (mostly on Joe’s part) excitement…
It’s so uplifting to see spring really taking hold now. Island winters can seem everlasting: cold, grey and windy. Casting off the layers and dusting off the cobwebs is such a relief - especially as there are so many false starts. As soon as the sun comes out, you think ‘Is this finally it?’ but then the rain and gales return and you retreat again.
We took a drive down to the south of Skye, to do the Easter egg hunt at Armadale Castle and Gardens. It’s a beautiful place with deciduous woodland and a great play area looking out across to the mainland, a lovely tea room and a family-friendly visitor’s centre. It was hot - even the breeze was warm - and we wandered around the ruins and the ponds finding clues and spotting bluebells and primroses and a few fritillaries..
What I love about Armadale is that it feels so spacious. There never seem to be too many people around, but even when the season picks up there’s just so much open space to be had. So we lingered and talked, ate ice cream and had lunch and drank pots of tea.
And then we took a leisurely detour on the way back.
The Sleat Peninsula is known as ‘The Garden of Skye’ because it’s so green and the hills are more undulating than the mountainous north. It’s also much quieter as the main tourist hotspots (and selfie-taking must-sees) are further up the island. The Fairy Pools, the Old Man of Storr, Kilt Rock, the Coral Beaches, the Quiraing, the Fairy Glens… visitors tend to make a beeline for them and so the south is relatively quiet.
Indeed, there’s a new initiative called #Skyetime which aims to get visitors to reduce their impact by exploring lesser-known parts of Skye, to stay longer, buy local and to move away from the ‘island-bagging’ trend.
We found some amazing beaches. Deserted, too. Some sandy, some rocky. No plastic washed up on the shores. Views across towards Elgol and the Cuillins.
There was much beachcombing and gazing out to sea, paddling and just soaking up the warmth and sunshine. If you squinted a bit it was almost Mediterranean; the bent, wizened old hawthorns became ancient olive trees and the mountains in the distance were reminiscent of Greece or Turkey.
No, I hadn’t had a post-lunch G&T or two…
Joe adores being by the water. He’d stay for hours quite happily and I think we’ll definitely be going back soon. It’s about an hour away, and I suppose that - even with living on Skye, where travelling is just part of daily life (it’s a 44 mile round trip to the supermarket) - that’s what stops us heading south more often. And yet when I think of us living back in England, driving to the coast would be a huge journey complete with motorways, traffic jams, parking shenanigans and lots and lots of other people doing the exact same thing.
We didn’t have the option of finding quieter beaches then. There were very few of any kind of beach and they were all really crowded on a sunny day.
So that puts the hardship of an hour’s drive, through stunning scenery, into perspective.
And now here we are. School’s been open again for almost a week. There are things to do inside and out. I poked at one of the sash windows the other day and my finger went straight through the rotted frame. I immediately thought, ‘£££’. Sigh.
We’re at the castle after school almost daily now, looking for the glasshouse toad and clambering down the rocks to the water’s edge. I borrowed one of the River Cottage guides from the library yesterday: Edible Seashore, and Joe’s fascinated. He’s also discovered little fish darting about in the stream which separates our garden from the croft next door. This means he has to check on them every morning and again after school.
We went crabbing yesterday. I bought him a hand line and some bait from the fishing tackle shop next door to the MOT station. It’s a tiny little place and so completely lost in time. The elderly proprietors tend to sit in the doorway looking out across the loch, and it’s a bit of a novelty when anyone actually goes in. As I paid for our items, the lady pointed at Joe and whispered. ‘Does he like tablet?’ (the Scottish version of fudge, I suppose - it’s got more sugar in it than sugar has). I said yes, he had a sweet tooth, so she put a packet in a paper bag and handed it over ‘as a treat’. I thanked her effusively. She smiled and said, ‘It’s only a few days past the sell-by date, it’ll be fine.’
I managed not to laugh.
I won’t go into Joe failing to catch a crab but somehow managing to hook a schoolfriend playing on the slide and drawing blood.
I think it’ll be the castle after school today. It’s brightened up again and I can’t resist the woods and the walled garden now things are blooming and the bluebells are coming into their own. Tomorrow morning Jay’s working so I might take Joe foraging for more nettles and wild garlic. And I’m hoping for an hour or two in the workroom for a bit of printmaking…