A week (and a bit) in Scotland (holidays week 4)

On the Friday we drove up to Edinburgh, and had booked a slot at Fountain’s Abbey for a walk, but we got stuck in a lot of traffic due to a road closure, so that didn’t happen, stopping once at the services and once to stretch our legs, and finally getting to our hotel at around 8.30pm. I wasn’t sure how it would feel in the hotel but it felt very safe- you had to wear a mask in the lobby and communal areas, there were hand sanitiser stations everywhere (although I use my own- especially if they are pump ones I always wonder about how many people have touched the pump…) and it was all super clean.

We had brought breakfast with us so we were up early for our drive over to Skye. We chose to take the longer route through the park as it was more scenic.

We had booked an Air BnB (which was wonderful) as we liked the idea of self catering- we took a lot of food with us and only had to stop in a Co-op for a few fresh bits (thankfully small but also very organised with one in, one out and one way policies). The cottage (it was newer build but that’s what I am calling it) sat on the hillside with views across a loch, with sheep wandering past and birds flying by.

We had prepared for rain (we packed rain gear, books and games), but in fact were so lucky with the weather that we were either out for the whole day, or would come back for lunch and then head out again in the afternoon.

On the Sunday we drove down to Plockton and met up with my friend who lived in Inverness- we ended up spending the day there, having a walk along the coast to a castle, finding a place by the sea for a picnic and then heading back in the evening.

Holiday essentials of bug spray, hand sanitiser and wind balm.

On the Monday we headed to the fairy pools and had a walk up alongside the river and all the waterfalls (those stepping stones were big steps for someone with little legs!), and then in the afternoon went to Talisker Bay, which has black sand and black rocks and reminded me of a sunnier version of Vik in Iceland (I mean, we did go to Iceland in October but then we had snow and sideways rain…).

Talisker Bay

Tuesday was the only time we had rain (hence the mermaid t-shirt), but by the time we headed out it had cleared up. As we were taking most of our food with us I’d mixed up some oats and seeds so we could soak them overnight- are you even in Scotland if you don’t have oats for breakfast?

We drove over to Neist Point Lighthouse- a rather steep path up and down to the end. Once at the lighthouse and looking out to sea we could see movement in the water and realised we could see some whales, so we wandered closer to the shore. We also saw dolphins later on. We heard that other people had seen seals and ferrets (?) but we didn’t see those.

We could walk down to the village (Carbost) close to where we stayed and there was a very cute little coffee shop that sold rather nice baked goods, so we shared a few goodies from there (that is half the caramel shortbread as we shared and it was an enormous slice).

Yes we packed a jar of peanut butter.

I was keen to see some otters, so on Wednesday we drove over to an otter hide at Kylerhea (along around a 6 mile road of narrow single track with infrequent passing places- I was glad Andy was driving!). The actual hide was closed but you could still do the walk by the coast and up to the building, and we spotted lots of seals along the shore.

There was a walk fairly close by that ended up in Armadale Castle, so we parked there and paid to go into the grounds and then did the walk from there.

It was really hot so we were glad to walk in the shade of the woods for most of the walk, and the grounds of the castle had really pretty gardens with so many tropical looking flowers.

As we got home in the afternoon we decided to give one of our games a go- this one was a Disney villains game and it seemed rather complicated (it did have cool playing pieces). I chose Ursula from The Little Mermaid, but that turned out to be a mistake because her challenge in the game was harder than the other villains. I think if we play it a few times we will get the hang of it.

On Thursday we drove over to the Old Man of Storr to see the rock formations. The car park was being expanded and the path was being worked on too, so it was closed in places. It was very windy and felt very dramatic as the clouds swirled around the rocks, so you could see them for a moment and then they would disappear. Some of the walk was very steep, and although we could have walked further (the main path was closed but people were scrambling up the side and it seemed to be allowed) I didn’t fancy it, plus I wanted to try and see some otters so we headed down to the coast.

At An Corran Beach we looked for (and found) some dinosaur footprints, but sadly no otters.

On Friday we drove over to a causeway (well we parked on the island and then walked across to the causeway) via the Tattie Bogle (a sort of friendly scarecrow to welcome people into the village).

The walk was very boggy and there were midgies everywhere. I’d put my lovely Wideye spray on and by the end my legs were covered in bugs that had stuck to the spray (it’s a bit oily).  We saw plenty of sheep, and a rabbit, but no otters. Ah well.

I had read about a coral beach and we were not too far (Claigan), so I persuaded Andy to go there before heading back. It was another single track road to get there, and then the car park was totally full and also full of gigantic pot holes. While we were waiting someone was leaving, but I was worried the car would get stuck in one of the holes and the car was making all sorts of banging sounds as it drove into the holes.

Once parked we had a good walk along the path, first next to beaches with black pebbles and finally to the “coral” one (actually made up of fossilised sun-bleached skeletons of seaweed).

Once back we wandered down to the village, because Andy wanted to look in the distillery shop and it had been closed all week, but the queue was so long he couldn’t go in.

As we were checking out on the Saturday we had the usual packing and sorting to do. We also had to cancel our Disneyland Paris trip, as they announced a 14 day quarantine (and I would only have 10 days when we got back before starting work), so we decided to add another day in Edinburgh on our way home.

On Saturday morning it was so misty that we could not even see the other side of the loch! It did burn off as we were driving back to the mainland. We stopped at Manuela`s Wee Bakery because they had amazing looking pastries but also the buildings looked like a fairy village! They did a marzipan croissant which was as delicious as it sounds.

The drive to Edinburgh was around 5 hours, so we stopped part of the way to have the croissant. I shall save Edinburgh for a separate post as this is quite long already!

Have you been to Scotland or Skye? 

Holidays week 3- the heatwave (if you can think back that far)

Well, maybe not quite a heatwave but more summer weather than this week of intermittent sunshine and showers.

With regards to my Strava log (which helps me to remember what I actually did), it went like this:

Monday: 10k in the sunshine

Tuesday: 8 miles

Wednesday: lots of walking

Thursday: Yoga and then a 6 mile run but it was very humid

Friday: not parkrun and then a hot walk/run home

We were then off to Scotland for a week so I’ll put that in a separate post.

Walking in the woods, hibiscus flower, tomatoes and Pudding Stop goodies

This is the best time in the holidays in my opinion, as you are far enough in them to have a good routine, but also the end is far enough away that the back to work thoughts don’t crowd the mind too much. The lovely weather meant lots of pottering in the garden and catching up on podcasts. Plus I actually get to enjoy our hibiscus flowers- they don’t seem to flower for that long and so often there will be loads of buds, we’ll go on holiday and when we get back they’ve finished flowering. Silver linings and all that.

I was also feeling a bit braver (or maybe more realistic?) and did a few covid firsts (I don’t want to say post lockdown, because although it’s all eased we are still not at the end). My neck and back bother me a lot and for the last several years I’ve been going to see a lovely woman for a deep tissue massage around once a month or every 6 weeks. The last time I went was in February and of course they have been shut for ages, but recently they reopened so I booked an appointment. I was pretty nervous but I felt very comfortable- they would obviously always wash things between clients anyway, but they had extra precautions, and I had to keep my mask on the whole time. I felt so much better after though (eg I can now look over my left shoulder properly when reversing my car). Afterwards I walked around to The Pudding Stop and picked us up some goodies- last time I did a click and collect to minimise time in there, but in fact it’s all glass so you can see in and they only let one customer in at a time so again it all felt fine.

I was glad to have done a couple of things like that because I had to have my car MOT and service that week (well technically I could have waited until October but I would rather have my car checked sooner rather than later just in case) and although I had booked online you still have to go into the office to go over the paperwork and hand over the keys etc. Again, masks on, although at one point another guy (customer) was in there and he didn’t have a mask and kept wandering about and getting too close. Anyway, after dropping my car off I walked the long way home (I think about 6 miles?) via Caffe Nero to get a croissant, through the golf course and woods.  I did a fair bit of work while waiting for the garage to call, and then walked back (the short way) to collect it.

Ordered myself a diary clip from Enchanted Cozy Co (on Etsy) and they now do personalised cozies so I got one with my initials as you do. Plus a croissant and also a delivery from Food Circle Supermarket who sell lots of bits when they are close to their sell-by date to reduce supermarket waste. I got some Clif bars and Kind bars to take to Scotland with us. 

On Friday we were going to head to Edinburgh, planning to stop in a NT place to have some lunch, so Andy had suggested that on my run I stop in at Waitrose and get us some lunch. Having not been in a supermarket since March it was very strange going inside. It was early in the morning and thankfully quiet, although there was a lady with a trolley who kept going into the box that I was in (the boxes marked out on the floor). I was also very disappointed with the options- I’ve really gone off cheese and can’t remember the last time I had dairy cheese (I have some dairy free stuff which is good if I make a pizza), and there were only a few veggie options and all of them had cheese, even a hummus and falafel thing which would usually be a good bet. Anyway, I ended up with carrots and hummus… not such the treat lunch I was hoping for!

What is your favourite treat lunch? We don’t have a Pret here but their hummus and crunchy veg wrap is sooooooo tasty. I also like a toasted panini but that doesn’t last well for a packed lunch!

Two things that are driving me crazy!

First up, the term staycation isn’t a new one. But somehow people (and I suspect holiday companies desperate to make some sales) have started using it in a different (and incorrect) way. A staycation is when you stay at home for your “vacation”. (Stayliday doesn’t  have quite the same ring to it so I’ll go with the Americanism. Although holi-stay could work?). It does not mean a holiday in the same country that you live in. It just doesn’t. Someone who lives in Maine isn’t having a staycation if they go to Florida for 2 weeks. People from London aren’t have staycations if they go to Cornwall or Wales or anywhere else in that UK. That’s still a holiday!!! We just got back from a holiday (yes, holiday) mainly in Skye and a bit of Edinburgh. That was not a staycation. It’s a holiday. If you camp in your garden then it’s a staycation. Or have a day trip from your home.

Secondly, I keep seeing these nonsense posts on facebook. I can’t work out what the point it (usually these chain posts are linked to data mining and things like that). It goes something like this. “2020. Australia had record bush fires. We had a worldwide pandemic. We had to queue to get in shops. Schools were shut. Blah blah“. More awful stuff. Then “I am going to add this to my timeline so that each year it pops up in my memories so I won’t forget“. Now, say what you will, but I don’t think I am ever likely to forget this year. Are you?  In all honesty, do you think that in a few years time you will be sat scrolling through your phone and the memory will pop up, and you will say “oh look, I’ve just been reminded about Covid-19. I’d forgotten all about it”? No. That won’t happen. No-one is going to forget this year in a hurry. Or ever. And what is the point? I can’t see the original post- it seems that people copy and paste it into their own timelines. So can the original poster see who shares it? Or who copies it? Do they earn cash for getting the  post shared? Anyway, a lot of stuff on facebook annoys me but I refrain from commenting because if you don’t have anything nice to say…… But I feel I can rant here freely!

Please tell me you are with me on the staycation term? 

Do you think you will need help remembering this year?

A new routine for the weekend, waffles and French toast

As has been the routine since it’s been allowed, last Saturday I went to my parents for a run with my dad and brother, before having breakfast in their garden. It was fairly warm, and we got to chatting about what we will be doing in October for this sort of thing. (I think technically I could go inside my parents house now, but we would rather be safer and stay in the garden)- I am thinking of bringing along some porridge in a thermos cup to have, plus many many layers!

We had waffles with hummus and avocado for dinner. The batch usually makes 4 waffles, and we usually have 2 each with the savoury toppings, but this week decided to have one savoury and then one sweet to properly recreate the Norwich Waffle House experience (where you can get 2 half portions for main and dessert – the St Albans one just does normal sized ones and there is no space for dessert if you had one for your main!). I topped mine with maple butter, chocolate chips and banana. Very tasty.

On Sunday we had decided to have another walk- this time more like 8 miles as opposed to the nearly 14 miles of last Sunday. I had prepped baked French toast the night before so we had a leisurely breakfast before heading off.

This time the weather was perfect- sunny but fairly cool, and no downpours either.

Once home we had time (and energy) for a bit of gardening and then Andy watched the Grand Prix while I watched some more classic Disney.

I had not watched Sleeping Beauty since I was little, and I had a weird flashback to the fear I felt when I saw the magic puffs going out of the chimney of the cottage. It was strange because when I think about the film, I just think about the bits that are a bit annoying (eg her needing to be rescued/ typical princess things), and the three fairies and all of her woodland animal friends, whereas when I was actually watching it, that was suddenly what I remembered.  It doesn’t top the Disney classics of Little Mermaid, Aladdin or Lion King for the catchy songs and humour.

As I didn’t run on Sunday, I went out on Monday morning instead (the joys of the holidays). I finished up going through a golf course and the woods- I saw both types of woodpeckers (at different points) which was exciting, and apt as I was listening to Marathon Talk where Tony was talking about spotting an eagle on his run.

As I had some bread left over I used the vegan French toast recipe from the Fearne Cotton book, and it worked out so well (basically you use a little chickpea flour to thicken the milk)- along with some peaches and mango it was very summery. This powered me through several hours of gardening (I dug up more grass from around the pond, added more stones to the edge of the pond, planted out some lavender plants grown from seed and varnished the signs for the garden at work).

Often in the afternoon we  make a pot of tea, and if there has been any left I’ve been putting it in a glass and leaving it in the fridge to cool- then the next day adding a bit of milk to make my own iced tea latte. A London Fog is my favourite tea drink from Canada – it’s basically a latte made with Earl Grey tea and vanilla added to the milk- so I made an iced one using Earl Grey tea, but any tea will do. Bird & Blend’s Peach Cobbler tea makes a nice one too.

What are your favourite classic Disney movies? Any that you are not so keen on?

A little idea for how to help out

I am sure that like me, you have been bombarded with emails from cafes and restaurants trying to persuade you to visit them using the eat out to help out scheme from the Government (info here if you haven’t heard of it).

One day in the week I had to take my car in for the MOT, and walked the long way home, and as I walked past Caffe Nero (and had my mask with me from the garage- it’s like when we all had to remember to bring a bag for life to the shops) I popped in for a croissant. The barista hinted to me that I should say I was eating in, when I had clearly said takeaway, because then I think it would have been half price. Anyway, on my walk home it got me thinking. The tagline really annoys me (a bit like the Ofsted line of “raising standards, improving lives” which should really be “checking standards”…) because there are other ways to boost the economy, and set against the newest obsession of fat shaming and blaming people who are overweight for having worse C-19 symptoms, it seems to go against that (lose weight, but also have a half price McDonalds…). What if we actually could help?

I listened to a Reasons to be Cheerful episode (7th July) about tackling food poverty, and the number of people needing to access food banks during this crisis has been huge. So, here is  my little idea. If you can afford it, then if you eat out and save money  using this scheme, donate that money to a good cause- your local food bank, hygiene bank, animal rescue centre- whatever cause is close to your heart that has suffered during this pandemic. You can donate online to the Trussell Trust here.