Highland Light

after the winter...

…that never really was

(it was just a long. long, wet, windy, frequently stormy and at least once hurricaned, autumn.

Then in late March came a balmy spring, which sent us scampering from our Glasgow hangout to the beach at Ayr

Ayr, March 28th 2012

This was the hottest March day in recoded Scottish meteo-history. Some rare sights for Ayrshire in spring:

Ayr, March 28th 2012

But within a week winter finally arrived. Snow fell overnight across Scotland on April 2nd, though here in the Great Glen we got off very light. Just a couple of inches in our garden and a picturesque powdering of the hilltops. By the end of Wednesday the 4th, we had a beautiful and summery gloaming light on the loch, below the snow-capped peaks:

Glenalbyn Gloaming 4/4/12



first serious fall of the winter, and first to reach the low altitude we live at


Widget says it’s here to stay a while

snow widget

we're back

from our first, long-delayed, much prevaricated

trip to the Eilean Siar, the Western isles.

Ten days across Lochaber and Skye to Harris, Lewis and North Uist. With a very brief foraging trip to Benbecula.

And now we’re back in the metropolitan hubbub that is Fort W...

Yachts on Loch Linnhe

... and it’s another regatta night at the yacht club. So it’s good to see the Lochaber light again, and yachts on the water below the kitchen window.

Backfill of blog with tales and pics from the Isles to follow in the next few days....

For tonight, no more. This being the tenth anniversary of Jim’s mother’s death.

a Hebridean adventure

starts here

Down and out of Fort William, in the Cooper D Convertible

We're off!

and off to Skye. This time via the Glenelg to Kylerhea Community Ferry. The road to Glenelg gives a new perspective on the hills of Kintail, as we climb up above Loch Duich

Above Loch Duich

and as we look back from Skye

Above Kylerhea

The Ferry boat itself reveals its origin as the wee vessel that used to ply the waters of Loch Leven, twixt N. and S. Ballachulish, before the Ballachulish Bridge was built about 40 years ago now

The Ferryboat Glenachulish at Glenelg pier

The Cooper D purrs gently over the hills and (not very) far away, and we see the sun go down over the Minch from Uig at the western end of Skye.

The Uig Folly at Dusk

Tomorrow to Harris, and beyond!

a week after the storms

and the evenings are getting better

This is more like it.

More like we expect, and feel entitled to expect, in a late West Highland spring. Nice wee bit o’ gloaming - a.k.a. l’heure bleue

from afternoon darkness, to brightness at midnight

some spring, this is

This was yesterday, about twenty past two in the afternoon, in Glencoe. Waterfalls blown upwards, or dashed aside on the rocks, beneath a dark, wintery sky, and with winds close to hurricane force

Glencoe - darkness shortly after noon

Then tonight, about ten days overdue, our first bright midnight sky of 2011

Fort William's First Bright Midnight of 2011

Note the Pole Star shining.
More rain forecast for tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow.

could this be the last time

the last time we’ll look out the window and see

the world’s last ocean-going paddle steamer, the PS Waverley docking at the Fort William town pier?

Could be, because she’s under threat. The company of enthusiasts (Paddle Steamer Preservation Society) who bought the ship from Calmac for £1.00 in 1976 are having serious difficulty keeping her going with current fuel prices.

So this may be the last shot we’ll get of her reversing away from the pier, beginning her characteristic reverse U-turn across Loch Linnhe, before heading off down the loch to Oban and beyond. Let’s hope not….

You can see more about the PS Waverley, and maybe contribute to help her survive another year, here, and on her Facebook page here

back to the beach at sunset

it’s the eve of our 10th Wedding Anniversary

and here we are back at our old honeymoon haunts - and chasing again the sunset down to the beach at Traigh, by Arisaig. This time, though, there’s snow on the beach, right down to the high tide mark

Midwinter Sunset at Traigh 2010

just another winter sunset

in Fort William. Just one hour ago.

Sunset on Loch Linnhe at Fort William<br />Loses a bit in the jpeg compression, but still - hopefully gives some idea why we choose to be here...<br /><br />Loses a bit in the jpeg compression, but still - hopefully gives some idea why we choose to be here...<br /><br />Fort William : Sunset on Loch Linnhe

Loses a bit in the jpeg compression, but still - hopefully gives some idea why we choose to be here...


it’s that time again, when nights are bright and days never really end

This taken around 00.45am today, Tuesday June 22nd 2010, from our window - shortest night of the year, and among the brightest

Midsummer Midnight

that time of year again

each year about this time we here in Fort William get one or two visits from the last ocean-going paddle steamer in the world.

Some years we’ve sailed on the Waverley, down Loch Linnhe to Oban and beyond to Iona, or out by the Sound of Mull to Tobermory and into the Atlantic beyond Mull and Ardnamurchan. This year we just happened to meet her as we were driving home from the Kilmallie Singers’ annual concert at Ardrishaig.

Saw her first by Castle Stalker, and drove on to await her by the Corran lighthouse,
PS Waverley passing through Corran Narrows

then finally as she arrived at Fort William’s town pier
PS Waverley arriving at Fort William

(Note: Built in Glasgow in 1948, the PS Waverley is just a wee bit older than Jim, and we wondered if she’d make it back this year. Not her age, you understand: just that a couple of days ago was the 70th anniversary of the Dunkirk evacuations, and we wondered if the Waverley might be over there, since her predecessor, the previous PS Waverley, was sunk at Dunkirk.)

spring, and the Hills are Burning

long evenings, now. This shot taken tonight from our driveway

about 8.45pm, with a fine sunset glow in the wispy cirrus, and fires still alight where the annual heather-burn is underway.

You can see flames near the top of Meall an’t Slamain, and more smoke rising out of the glen to the left.

Fire! Fire on the Mountain!

Not a bad view, we have here!!

amaryllis by Leica

early, even premature, sign of spring.

Only this is amaryllis domesticatus, on the kitchen window sill.*

Still, makes it feel like winter’s ebbing out. And it’s a fine thing to capture with a new Leica M8 and a Voigtländer 75mm f2.5 lens, on a quiet and chilly afternoon in the endless winter of 2010

*Photog’s note: what you’re seeing in the out of focus background is the colours on the hill across the loch from us. The white towards the top is snow, lying still quite deep in the gullies, and below that just the regular, wonderful, autumn/ winter/ spring browns, in their turn above the blue of the loch below. Some bokeh! Some kitchen window!


www3? that's Winter Wonderland Week 3

And here were we, out by the bottom of the Glencoe ski run, by the Black Rock Cottage and looking towards the frozen slopes of the Buachaille Etive Mor (great herdsman of Etive)

One of the defining images of the Scottish highlands. Jim took this shot today with his Epson R-D1 and CV 25mm f4 lens.

Ruth was driving, but slowly and gently enough to allow a fairly sharp foreground

Forecast says we may have another two weeks of this wonderland still ahead of us. Can't be bad! There was a little rain today, though, for the first time in weeks, and the temperature leapt to a basking -1ºC in Fort William just as darkness fell. So could be the thaw is at hand, or not....



Picture taken 00.09, 01/01/10, as Fort William welcomes in the New Year

Still to come: pictures from 2009 in Scotland, Italy, Yorkshire and South Africa....


voyage to the northern perimeter

between Saturday the 9th and Thursday the 14th of May

we took a trip up round the very north of Scotland - you'll see our route in Multimap form here - with overnight stops in Dornoch, Thurso, Tongue and Lochinver, and passing through - inter alia - Wick, John O'Groats, Assynt and Ullapool.

On the way out we stopped at Inverness Airport to pick up Peter Wareham who wanted to come along for the ride.

First night we stayed in Dornoch. Most famed in recent times for hosting Madonna's wedding the day before we got married in Morar (we owe her one for distracting the paparazzi from our nuptials). But as well as its cathedral Dornoch has a rather fantastic beach where we watched terns and diving gannetts

in the long-evening light.

We'll post a full gallery of pics as soon as other things allow - it's off to Yorkshire next weekend, and Ruth's computer screen's gone blank - but for now, here's a shot of John O'Groats (not nearly as crass and commercialised as people tell you)

and one of Thurso beach - which according to the Rough Guide doesn't exist!! - but which does, and to prove it hosts surfing championships (BRRR!!!)

Thurso, though, is a nice wee working town, and rightfully qualifies as Scotland's "Best Kept Secret".

One of the great surprises was Tongue - a genuinely pretty little village in Sutherland, and one with a dramatic setting, beneath Ben Loyal. Here is the view of the Ben from the village at sunset:

Come back soon for more pics from the far north!!


hailstones and rainbows

sometimes it's hard to explain

how magical the climate up here can be, even when it's not the best of days weatherwise

So here's a pic from our window this morning as a hailstorm made its way down Loch Linnhe, passing across a pair of rainbows