A September to Remember

A September to Remember

September is always a busy month for us with birthdays and anniversaries to celebrate as well as catch-ups with friends, and it’s only now that I’ve found time to sort through the photos and reflect on some of the highlights.

Earlier in the month, my husband and I celebrated our third wedding anniversary and ten years together with a romantic break at Stobo Castle. We had the loveliest time exploring the beautiful grounds, swimming in the pool, sweating in the sauna, soaking in the outdoor hot tubs and sipping cocktails in the bar.

A lot has changed since that Tuesday morning a decade ago when the bold, young student surprised this shy bookseller by asking her out for a coffee mid-book purchase, but I’m always very grateful that he did.

We also had a wonderful weekend away with friends in the countryside, enjoying rambling walks during the day and cosy chats round the firepit late into the night – as well as making friends with Bria the pony, and the cats.

31 Making new friends

Finally, this week we celebrated my grandmother’s 92nd birthday. My nanna has been quite unwell over the summer, but it was lovely to have the family together to celebrate the generous and independent woman she still is.

As it draws to a close, September has definitely been a month to remember, full of good times and good company. Have a lovely week. X

Exploring Cowden Garden

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Tucked away in the grounds of Cowden Castle Estate in Clackmannanshire, the Japanese Garden was originally commissioned by Isabella ‘Ella’ Christie in 1908, and brought to fruition by the female Japanese garden designer, Taki Handa. The Japanese Garden was closed to the public in the 1960’s due to vandalism, however, a restoration project was undertaken by Ella Christie’s great, great niece, Sara Stewart, and the garden has recently been re-opened.

A path skirts around the pond in the centre of the garden, and the garden features traditional elements of Japanese gardens such as bridges, stone lanterns and a Shinto shrine, which makes an unusual contrast against the Scottish landscape. There were a few gardeners still hard at work on the day we visited – and it’ll be interesting to see how it’s changed the next time we visit – but it’s already a beautiful and tranquil place to explore.

You can read more about the history of Cowden Garden and the fascinating life of adventurer Ella Christie here. Have a lovely week! X

Cycling around the Isle of Cumbrae

Cycling around the Isle of Cumbrae

The weekend was spent celebrating my husband’s birthday, and as he doesn’t like too much fuss, we decided to have a little day away together; he suggested cycling around the Isle of Cumbrae, somewhere I’d never visited before.

We took the ferry from Largs to the Isle of Cumbrae, which runs every fifteen minutes during the summer, and the crossing itself only takes about ten minutes. From the ferry slip, we hopped on a bus to Millport, the only town on the island, where we hired a tandem bike for £7 an hour and set off clockwise around the island.

I was a little apprehensive as my husband cycles to work most days and I can’t remember the last time I was on a bike, but it didn’t take us long to find our balance and a leisurely pace that suited us both. The road around Cumbrae is about 10 miles long and relatively flat making it ideal for walking or cycling, and there are very few cars on the road. It took us about two hours to cycle around the island, including stops to enjoy the scenery and a picnic lunch.

The Isle of Cumbrae doesn’t have many tourist attractions, yet it’s one of the most accessible Scottish islands to visit and it’s so peaceful that it feels further away than it actually is; we both enjoyed our little tandem adventure so much that I’ve no doubt that we’ll be back again. Have a lovely week. X

An Enchanted Weekend in Pitlochry

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One of the events I look forward to every October is our annual trip to the Enchanted Forest in Pitlochry. This was the sixth year that my husband and I visited, but the first year that schedules allowed us to visit the forest with a couple of good friends, and it was lovely to be able to share the experience together.

We have always been lucky with the weather, and although the path was a bit muddy in places, it was a mild and dry evening with a waning gibbous moon just visible above the tips of the tallest trees. The Enchanted Forest follows a path around Loch Dunmore in Faskally Woods using the bridge across the loch to create a figure of eight circuit. It is only a couple of kilometres long but there is always so much to see that we can easily spend an hour or so meandering through the forest savouring all the different sights and sounds of the show, and we always wander around more than once.

The theme changes every year, but the designers often draw their inspiration from nature; this year the show was called Oir An Uisge meaning Edge of the Water in Gaelic, and both weather and water were recurring motifs. I’m often guilty of viewing life through a lens and it’s especially challenging to remember to lower my camera and actually experience the Enchanted Forest because it’s all so wonderful and I want to capture it all.

We have stayed in a few different hotels and guest houses in and around Pitlochry over the years, but this year we returned to the Atholl Villa for a third time as the rooms are clean and comfortable, the staff are friendly and helpful, and it is conveniently located just a five minute walk from where the shuttle buses collect and drop off visitors to the Enchanted Forest. The following morning, we took a wander around Pitlochry itself, which is a pretty town full of boutiques, gift shops and cafes, and although I don’t really start getting excited about Christmas until after Guy Fawkes night, I can’t resist a quick look in the Christmas Emporium whenever we visit Pitlochry.

This was the first time we’d left our cat Mara alone overnight since moving into our new house, and she gave us a very warm welcome when we returned from our little adventure. It’s lovely to be cosy at home again after an enchanted weekend away with friends. Have a lovely week.

A Postcard from Argyll

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Over the last few years as part of our effort to simplify our lives and downsize our possessions, my husband and I have eschewed buying gifts for each other in favour of treating each other to experiences instead. This year for my birthday, my husband whisked me off to the Argyll coast for a little adventure together.

We traveled to the Isle of Seil about 20 miles south of Oban as my husband had booked a wildlife spotting trip by speedboat for us. We were provided with waterproof trousers and jackets, as well as a life-jacket and binoculars by our guides before boarding our vessel. Skimming along the waves in a speedboat turned out to be a thrilling albeit turbulent way to travel, and we were very grateful for our waterproofs by the end!

The tour lasted two hours and took us from Easdale, past the lighthouse on Fladda, before passing round Luing and Scarba.

We saw grey and common seals on Luing and Scarba. I’d only ever seen seals in sea-life centres or aquariums before this so it was lovely to see them wild and in their natural habitat, and they were not at all bothered by our presence. The seals were one of the highlights of the trip for me and I could happily have spent the whole day watching them laze on the rocks and splashing in the water.

The porpoises that sometimes visit the area were too shy to show themselves on the day we visited, but there were wild goats, as well as red and fallow deer grazing on Luing. Our sharp-eyed guides also pointed out a female hen harrier among the trees on Scarba, though she was a bit too far away for me to snap a photo of, but it was still wonderful to see such a rare bird of prey.

The final part of our speedboat journey took us to the Corryvreckan whirlpool which lies between Scarba and the tip of Jura. Local legends state that it was an old witch washing her plaid that created the whirlpool. This part of the experience probably wasn’t much fun for anyone prone to seasickness but it definitely impressed upon me the raw power of the Atlantic Ocean, and the skill of our skipper.

Back on dry land, we stopped to admire the Clachan Bridge, also known as the Bridge over the Atlantic, which connects the Isle of Seil to mainland Scotland. At first glance, it looks like a bridge over a river, but closer inspection reveals seaweed clinging to the rocks at the water’s edge and a narrow section of the Atlantic Ocean flowing between the two banks.

The nearby pub is called the Tigh na Truish Inn (or the House of Trousers) because defiant islanders used the inn to change out of their kilts into trousers before travelling over the bridge to Scotland, where the wearing of kilts and clan tartans had been outlawed following the Jackobite’s defeat at Culloden.

We stopped in Oban for something to eat, and as it’s been several years since we last visited, wandered up to McCaig’s Tower, which offers a view (Scottish weather permitting!) of the harbour below and the islands of Kerrara, Lismore and Mull in the distance.

I often lament that I live in a beautiful country with fascinating landscapes, wildlife and history but have explored so little of it, so it was a lovely birthday adventure and an experience that already stands out in my memory. Have a lovely week.