A winter detour to Ardgour.

We had a day off yesterday. It was still dark when Farmer did the feeding so we could get away in time for the 10.25 Fishnish Lochaline ferry. We had time once we got to the other side to take our favourite detour – the wild goat route. Roughly half way between Lochaline and Strontian we turned right down towards Kingairloch.

Pebble beach and bothy.

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Signpost, scratch post.

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Roadside Loch Linnhe. Fabulous views in all directions.

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Roadside wildlife.

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And wild goats on the beach.

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We only went as far as Ardgour. And we were back in Lochaline in time for the 4pm ferry having had a very enjoyable day out.

If you are coming to Mull this year, and planning to use the Glencoe/Corran/Lochaline route, and you have enough time between the ferries to take a detour, I recommend this one!

Today’s walk through the woods

The woodland on the hillside between the Ensay Burn and the farmhouse is known as Atlantic Hazel Woodland. It apparently has one of the highest densities of Hazel Glove Fungus growing within it to be found anywhere. The wood was featured on BBC Landward when they were doing a programme about Atlantic Hazel Woodlands.

Today I walked through the wood, catching glimpses of a Hare, who ran in front of me, as I fought my way through the undergrowth and brambles. I saw him several times during the course of my scramble. I wasn’t looking for the fungus today, just enjoying being in the trees, and looking through the spindly branches at the view down to the sea.

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Looking at other fungus.

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The relentless storms during recent weeks have taken their toll, and as I was walking I was thinking about the way the woodland changes with catastrophe. I really will miss this hazel coppice which has blown over this winter. You can see the thicker older growth, some of it the size of a mature hazel. The younger shoots which have grown up since we fenced livestock out of the woodland. Over it has gone now, its root plate lying at a 90 degree angle to the earth now. Will parts of it survive? Perhaps. Time will tell and we will wait and see. Farmer was reading about the importance of decay as a habitat, so this ‘stool’ will have a use for some time to come as it decays and becomes a different habitat supporting a new variety of insects and bugs. I still feel a little sad when I see another tree that has fallen victim to the winds, even though I understand the process.

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And finally out of the woods, looking over the tree tops to the calm sea.

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The Dervaig Dogs

It has been another glorious day here. Full blue skies after a frost overnight, and icy roads earlier in the morning.

We have a fantastic local shop in Dervaig and went this morning to do some shopping. We can get almost everything we need here, and Dougie will do pre-orders for our guests if they contact him through his website. This means guests can arrive off the 4pm ferry from Oban and pick up a box of groceries from Dervaig on their way to Treshnish. Shopping local, what could be better?

These two dogs were calming sitting in a farmer’s pick-up outside the shop – they are a familiar sight around the village!

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This is Walter, not so calming sitting in Farmer’s quad bike at Treshnish! This is a familiar sight around the farm!

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Too late to go back now

You would think I would know better by now, having installed a lot of new double glazed windows in the last 19 years, but I honestly think I just forgot.

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I forgot to ask the builder if the double glazed windows for Shian and Duill needed extension cills or not. Anyway I didn’t ask, and therefore I didn’t order them. There is plenty to be getting on with between now and when they arrive, so it won’t hold the project back but it did cause me a little bit of stress this morning. It is too late to stop now! The doorway from the sitting room in Shian out to the sunroom is now open!

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The founds for the Duill sunroom have been started.

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It was a beautiful day – all day – which helped get over the mega disappointment that we, and thousands of other star gazers, felt about the enthusiastic forecasting for last night’s Aurora Borealis! (It came to nothing over our heads anyway). And I will keep looking out on clear dark nights.

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I had a grand walk in the afternoon down to Calgary which made me feel a whole lot better.

Will we? Won’t we?

Everyone is talking about the Aurora Borealis! Recent solar activity indicates that tonight could be a very good night for seeing them. Treshnish has perfect dark skies and a north facing coastline. However…tonight’s weather forecast is for a cloudy night. Forecasts can be wrong can’t they? Please?

Last year I saw the Northern Lights quite a few times, and became quite obsessed with checking forecasts and looking out of the window on dark clear nights to see if anything was happening.

Possibly one of the most amazing experiences of my life (really) was in the middle of October. Here is a photograph I took that night, half a mile away looking over Calgary Bay.

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And here is one I took earlier in the year, from the garden gate. How lucky was I?!

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I will be looking out for them, with my heart in my mouth, and with fingers and toes crossed.

Today’s walk

We cheated a bit this morning and drove down the track to the Haunn Cottages, as time was short. The sun was shining and I wanted to see the islands in the sun.

Farmer is in the process of gathering the ewes so there seemed to be sheep everywhere this morning.

Through the wooden gate beyond Haunn, what a view to the islands from here. Across sodden wet grass fields and down the steep path to the beach where Donald Sutherland was shot (in ‘Eye of the Needle’ filmed here in 1981).

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The Treshnish Isles from Haunn, Mull

Out on to ‘the flats’, all the while the distinctive shapes of the islands glimmering in the early morning winter sun. Every time I see them, I catch my breath. So beautiful.

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Winter sun at Haunn

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Across the Haunn flats to the Treshnish Isles

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From the Treshnish Headland walk

This is a section of the popular Treshnish Headland walk, which follows the coastline around, with wonderful views out to sea all the way along. Coves, caves, rock pools, cliffs and sheltered spots. A special place all year round.

After the festivities

We were all going to visit friends in Dumfries-shire for the weekend but then unexpectedly Farmer had to go down south for a day. So he took the overnight sleeper from Glasgow on the way down on Thursday night.

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Daughter and I stayed in Glasgow overnight. He arrived in London before 7am. We drove to Dumfries-shire in the afternoon. Farmer was able to get to Sussex and back in time for the 5pm from Euston back to Dumfries which arrived at 10pm. Job done.

It was wild, wet and windy on Friday so not a particularly pleasant journey down to Dumfries, but the next day we could all relax.

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Farmer went walking with his mate, the Artist.

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We even saw some sun.

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Sunday morning, we were up and away early as the weather forecast was pretty dire, and we had received a couple of texts from Calmac warning of ferry disruptions, so we wanted to get to Oban in good time. It was an easy drive up, particularly with the shortcut from the M74 through Glasgow to the M8, which has cut about 15 minutes off the journey time.

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It was great to get away for a few days, and lovely to get home again. The guests from New Year have all gone, so it feels very quiet. On Tuesday some guests arrive for Shieling though so we aren’t on our own for long.

End of an era

The last of my Scots Dumpy bantams has died. She is the one on the right hand side of the photograph below, taken in November. She must have been at least 10, possibly, 11 years old. There were white feathers in her wing so she may not have been 100% pure Dumpy, but she had their characteristic shorter legs, and bags of character. We will miss her. We bought our first Scots Dumpy hens in 1989 from a member of the Scots Dumpy Club in Oxfordshire if I remember rightly. They are an endangered breed, and have an interesting history going back about 700 years. It feels like the end of an era to me, and a resolve to get some more one day, and help nurture the breed.

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Happy New Year!

We saw in the bells in Tobermory last night – crowds line the street by the clock and after the bells have rung, a locally funded and organised fireworks display. It was lovely to watch the impressive fireworks and think about the year ahead. A really friendly place to see in the new year. A dance follows the fireworks, but we came home before that started.

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All in one day

The day started off dry and slightly dull, but it gave us a steady variety of sunshine and showers for the rest of the day. Farmer moved the ewe hoggs into the field below the farmhouse. Their troughs share the same view, out to the island of Coll and Calgary Headland, as the dining tables in both Shian and Duill.

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And did we imagine it was a little bit lighter at 4.30 today? We are more than a week past the solstice after all!