Check out my guest blog here. Thankyou Holiday Scottish Highlands and Islands for hosting me.
It all began last year when the Daily Mail and the BBC got their knickers in a twist. *Skye is full, FULL I TELL YOU. Evacuate! Evacuate!* Pictures of a sign saying a campsite was completely full suddenly transformed into headlines representing the whole island. I was tagged by alarmed friends in the news story more times than the gin/psychopath surveys and Fair Trade sausage dog jumpers on sale.
Then CNN decided to list us on its *places to avoid* list for 2018. How dare they? HOW ACTUALLY DARE THEY?? Another symptom of my annoyance is over-capitalisation by the way. Let’s pick apart their evidence (which tbf demonstrated less research than an average Year 9’s RE homework).
There are about 10,000 people who live on the island. Most of those aren’t accommodation providers. Most of those who are have Bed and Breakfast accommodation with 3 or less rooms. So if you want to visit it’s simply common sense to arrange where you’re going to stay in advance. Huuuuuuge props to our Danish guests who have just booked for September 2019 this week.
Now, you come to Skye. What to see? If you Google *Top 5 places to see on Skye*, when you turn up it’s highly likely to be full of people who’ve also done the same search. Why not ask your friendly hotel bar-matron for advice? Be ready to be adventurous, amazed and possibly a bit muddy. Our beautiful island is a place to be, a place to experience, not a place to *do* or tick off. It’s why we don’t accept one night bookings. If you’re planning to drive the whole island in a day and be in Pitlochry before dark you’d probably be best staying on the mainland and chilling your beans a bit. If you take a selfie from your car while driving past the distillery then, yes indeed, you have technically *done Talisker* but you won’t know the joy of the 18 year malt old whirling like peaty nectar on your tongue. If you buy your souvenirs from the first shop you see your friends will indeed have a little something from Skye that will probably end up in a drawer. But you won’t have popped into Sally’s tiny shop in Fernilea to see her exquisite creations knitted with wool from sheep she has grown her actual self. You won’t have visited the *Made in Minginish* craft event and sampled Jenny’s Danish pastries. (If I’m there you won’t have a chance, if we’re honest. I will have eaten them all). You won’t have made it to ór in Portree, or crossed the water to Raasay and visited Fiona at the Silver Grasshopper. Or eaten amazing chocolate with Pam and Angus. Or….. or…..or….. In short, you’ll have missed out on some of the nicest people you could ever wish to meet. We have the most lovely guests, Klaus and Jessica, who come every year, for two weeks. They still haven’t seen everything.
Yes indeed there have been locals who have expressed the view that enough is enough as CNN said. But they don’t represent the majority of us who wish to share where we live with people who appreciate it. In the same way as I expect (if you’ve read this far) tourists who pee in people’s gardens and complain because there is no wifi signal at the Fairy Pools don’t represent you.
So, come and stay. With us, if you fancy something a bit different. Treat our island with the respect that somewhere so astonishing deserves. You won’t be disappointed. Trust me, I know my stuff…. now pass the chocolate buttons….
Before I start let me state that I am a bloomin’ good driver. Not everyone agrees. Johnny seems to develop phantom brake foot in the passenger seat of the truck. Also he alerts me to sheep/oncoming traffic/dust molecules when they are a very long way away. But anyway…
Dear lovely drivers who come to our island. I know it’s beautiful. I understand you slowing down to pop your Go-Pro out of the window and catch that view. I appreciate that our single track roads and passing places can be intimidating. So I really, honestly don’t mind you travelling at 25 mph all the time. I also sympathise with the *which side of the road am I on?* dilemma. After a year of living in Djibouti I still went the wrong way round the only roundabout in the country on my bicycle.
But please understand that those of us who live here have places to go. The bright lights of Or may be calling, with shiny things to buy as a treat for one of the staff…. There could be bargains to be had in the Co-op or an emergency squid run. That’s what passing places are for…. just pull over and let the little woman in the big truck pass. Then smile and wave…. if you don’t a fairy dies. or something. We don’t mean to stress you out, but when you have a picnic in a passing place or park between the hopeful cones on the distillery brae someone may shout at you a wee bit.
I promise I will be try to be patient with you. I want you to enjoy your holiday, to return to your home in one piece with a shed load of amazing pictures and memories. I want you to look back with fondness on the cheery islanders with their wavey hands and impressive cornering skills. Unless you’re in one of those *Wicked* camper vans (TM appaz). In which case I will run your tragic, misogynistic rear bumper into a big puddle.
I like gin. This will come as no surprise to most of you. You only have to look at Taigh Ailean’s Trip Advisor reviews to see I bang on about it quite a lot. And every person who doesn’t like gin when they arrive and skips off merrily singing the praises of a good grapefruit garnish is a personal brownie point between me and the juniper goddess Astarte.
People often ask me about my favourite gin – I really don’t have one. In the bar we have between 25 and 60 depending on stockists, season and demand. What I fancy depends on my mood, the time of day, the temperature, the company I’m keeping. I have a soft spot for Death’s Door from Wisconsin because it was the first *good* gin I ever tried. I am delighted that our two most local gins, Glen Wyvis (Dingwall) and Isle of Harris (Harris obvs) are delicious gins of excellent quality. The people at Daffy’s, Eden Mill and Caorunn are wonderful, friendly and produce the most beautiful glasses and accessories as well as fabulous gin. I could go on.
But gin in particular, it seems to me, Scottish gin, has become a bit of a *thing*. And this I do not love. The ‘shhhh, it’s actually gin’ coffee mugs and ‘I’d rather be drinking gin’ aprons have me singing the twangy beginning of the Stones’ Mother’s Little Helper rather than chortling into my nosing glass. Gin flavour popcorn, crisps etc are an abomination against both salty snacks and gin. I need to know exactly what my taste receptors are getting. Which is why I have always been suspicious of Snack-a-Jacks (surely something can’t come in caramel AND salt and vinegar flavours?) and why my mother’s cream cheese and Marmite profiteroles sent me into a small bout of hysteria one Christmas dinner. Don’t even get me started on the pea and banana salad…..
And the new gins, oh the number of new gins. Each week more come flooding into the market. Some, for example AVVA, are a welcome addition. Classy, herbilicious and crisp, this gin from Elgin has already become a local’s favourite. (The joy of seeing a large Skye bloke in bobble hat and wellies demanding lime AND berries with his gin because that is the correct serve never gets old). But some new gins are so much form over function, so much hype you can almost sniff the musty seats of the bandwagon…..
So, is my love affair with gin fading out in the same way as my pash for BA Robertson or my obsession with pastel hair extensions? I don’t think so, I hope not. I’ll keep you posted. In the meantime have a very wonderful Christmas, may your gin fizz be the fizziest possible xx
I’ve come a long way in the past 18 months. My Amazon recommendations for instance. They used to be glories such as Irregular Choice pumps, obscure snail slime face cream or biographies of random feminist icons. Now it’s mostly multi packs of Toilet Duck (or Lavatory Pheasant as I prefer to think of it) and ultra bounce pillows.
It’s like that with moths. I used to consider them creatures of dust and fear, whilst I’d never deliberately squish one I have been known to evacuate a room if one is mindlessly circling a light. They all looked the same to me, and that look wasn’t a good one.
A few months ago I was chatting to my new friends (and Fritz’s walk buddy’s pack leaders) Jean and Keith. I was rather disappointed when Keith mentioned he was interested in moths as up to that point I had thought they were really very interesting people. But then I learned that there is a moth specific to this area. Not just this little island, but this little part of this little island. It’s called the Talisker Burnet moth and it is terribly rare. I would tell you where to find it but Jean said if she told me she’d have to shoot me. And that would be a shame. This moth flies in late June and early July and it’s actually quite pretty. I did some reading and found out my perception of moths was all wrong. The place that I live in never ceases to surprise me. I’m looking forward to going *mothing* or whatever it’s called, later in the year. Tho I might be wearing Irregular Choice pumps because not everything has changed.
I don’t seem to be very good at blogging. But something has really touched me this week and inspired my (apparently biannual) blogger’s brain.
I caught this tweet from @Justacard1
‘If everyone who’d said ‘How Lovely’ about our beautiful gallery had bought JUST A CARD we’d still be open’.
Skye, and the Highlands in general, are full of amazing galleries, artists’ studios and little shops full of beautiful handmade loveliness
I take it for granted that if I need an enamel brooch handpainted with a Skye seascape, I can pop into Skyeworks and get one. If I want a scarf knitted within a mile of where I live from local sheepswool, I know Made In Minginish will have a variety to choose from.
But we’ve all done it…pottered round a gallery, admired everything, avoided eye contact with the hopeful looking gentleman in the corner and scooted out empty handed with a cheery *thankyoubye*. Now I’m thinking, would it make a difference if I bought JUST ONE CARD? If we all bought a little something to recognise the effort and love that the gallery people have put into their business. Maybe I’ll buy more than that, but you can never have too many cards, right?
The eagle eyed amongst you might have noticed it’s been a year since my last blog post. (That feels a little like it should be preceded by *bless me father*).
I spent a long time reading blogs, hanging out in forums and even read a book about blogging. I clicked on *21 Christmas gifts for bloggers* and so many *how to*s my head went spinny.
I was struck by the cyclical nature of bloggers reading other blogs, endorsing the products of other bloggers and receiving freebies in return.
At the end of this extensive research I came to one conclusion… I am not cut out to be a blogger.
So altho you might have clicked on the word blog at the top of our web page this is not a blog. It will be a collection of rants (many of which will finish ‘Skye: not just the Fairy Pools’, ponderings and things from our adventures that amuse me.
If you’d like to send me something for free however, I won’t say no.
Fritz after a very muddy walk. Taigh Ailean is a very dog friendly place to stay – a welcome haven all our well behaved four legged friends!
Just make sure you wipe your paws down!
By Katie Heron aged 48 and a bit (a big bit really).
Some people can’t believe I’ve got to this age and never written a blog post before.
‘You’ve got an opinion on everything’ they say, possibly supportively.
Some people don’t really know what a blog is and some, like me, have never really been sure that anyone will be interested in my ponderings and musings.
But our wonderful new website (thankyou so much Skye Websites) is in need of a blog so I am going to step up to the challenge.
Maybe I’ll never hit the giddy heights of the Huffington Post (110,000,000 followers) but I hope those of you who read it will find it interesting/informative/amusing.
Johnny, The Sossidge and I have been here at the Taigh Ailean Hotel for nearly 5 months.
There have been days when I’ve been so tired a small breeze would topple me over.
And days when the hoolie has been blowing so hard that dog has actually toppled over.
But we love it.
Every single blooming day.
The residents of Portnalong have welcomed us with a kindness that is overwhelming.
The views from the hotel in every direction range from lovely to breathtaking.
It’s our home.