I’ve written before about our favourite beach, Croy Shore, and over the years my husband and I have enjoyed relaxing walks watching the sunset in the weeks leading up to our wedding, summer days paddling in the sea and searching for starfish in the rockpools, and refreshing New Year’s Day walks here.
New Year 2016
We didn’t make it to Croy Shore for a walk on New Year’s Day itself this year as we were visiting my family instead, but wanted to visit before January was out. Unsurprisingly, on an overcast, cold and blustery day, we had the beach almost to ourselves and spent some time exploring the cave and rock formations towards the North of the beach. No matter the weather, I always find a wander along this familiar shoreline so steadying and reinvigorating.
This stretch of the coast is a place we’ve come to contemplate some of our most life-defining decisions and changes, to gather our thoughts and stretch our legs but also to immerse ourselves in the moment and savour the the regular crash of the waves against the shore and the view of Culzean Castle and Ailsa Craig in one direction and the Isle of Arran in the other. Have a lovely week. X
Of all the nocturnal light shows competing for visitors across the country, the Giant Lanterns of China at Edinburgh Zoo is definitely worth wrapping up and venturing out on a winter evening to see. This was our third time visiting the Giant Lanterns of China, and while previous years have focused on Chinese Astrology and Scottish and Chinese Myths and Legends, this year the theme was on the Lost Worlds of the Prehistoric Eras and was probably the best yet.
Wrapped up in boots and winter coats, with cold hands curled around cups of hot chocolate, we enjoyed wandering (or in my case waddling!) around the displays and learning about the different prehistoric eras from the infamous Jurassic era all the way up to the marsupial and ice ages. I’m always impressed by the scale and details of the lanterns with their feathers, spines, teeth, eyes, expressions and shading.
I have mixed feelings about zoos, but this event always reminds me of the valuable conservation work that Edinburgh Zoo does, as well as raising awareness that we must all do whatever we can to prevent other endangered species from extinction in our lifetimes. Have a lovely week. X
Usually by this point in the season, most of the fiery red, amber and gold leaves have fallen and faded to rusty shades of orange and chocolate browns, but November is still beautiful in a slightly more muted and sombre way.
I had some time to myself recently, and determined to get out during daylight to absorb some much needed Vitamin D, fresh air and gentle exercise, I pulled on my boots, gloves and coat, and took a wander around our local park. I spent a happy hour or so just meandering along the paths, snapping photos, collecting leaves to press and just thoroughly enjoying some time in nature.
It’s been a cold and frosty autumn in our part of the country, but very much appreciating the last few weeks of colour before the trees shed the last of their leaves, winter arrives in earnest and the build up to Christmas begins. Have a lovely week. X
Last weekend we made our annual jaunt to Pitlochry for the Enchanted Forest, which remains one of our favourite traditions, and a seasonal midpoint marking the transition into the colder, darker months of the year.
The theme this year was ‘Cosmos’, inspired by the skies above the forest and commemorating 50 years since astronauts walked on the moon. Now in its 18th year (and this was our 8th year visiting), it still impresses me that the creative team continue to explore new ideas and technologies, never content to just repeat what they’ve done before, and always striving to make it an immersive and interactive experience.
It’s so refreshing and restorative to have a night away at this time of year, from watching the scenery change as we cross the country with trees lining the roads already various shades of red, amber and gold, to treading the familiar paths around an illuminated Faskally Woods, pausing to take photos and appreciate the displays, sipping hot chocolate and treating ourselves to a little Christmas decoration from the merchandise stall, before returning to the hotel for a well-earned rest and waking up to marmalade on toast and porridge with honey for breakfast.
The Enchanted Forest is the first of a few seasonal activities we’ve got planned over the next couple of months, and as the nights draw in and life moves indoors, it’s lovely to wrap up warm and get outside for events like this that light up the long, dark nights. Have a lovely week. X
On a windy, overcast day, we took a trip to the little village of Portencross in North Ayrshire, somewhere we’d never visited before, but somewhere we’ll definitely be returning to.
There is a small castle at Portencross, which is free to explore, but a little underwhelming compared to some of the other sprawling castles steeped in history around Scotland. The top of the castle does offer some lovely views of the coastline, the islands of Wee Cumbrae and Great Cumbrae, and even the CalMac ferries transporting passengers from Largs to Millport and back again.
From Portencross we wandered north to Hunterston Power Station. It’s a short walk, only a mile each way on a relatively flat and straight path with crocosmia, aster and yarrow growing wild on either side. We probably walked a little further as we deviated from the path a few times to scramble closer to the sea to watch the waves crashing against the rocks and so my husband could search the rock pools for crabs and other marine life – always the highlight of a trip to the seaside for him.
With everything else we’ve had going on this year, we haven’t had much time for day-trips or adventures, but we both felt refreshed after our day by the sea, enjoying the fresh air and the chance to explore somewhere new, chatting about everything and nothing, and just letting our minds and feet wander. Have a lovely week. X
We were up bright and early yesterday for a New Year’s Day walk at our favourite beach, Croy Shore in Ayrshire. We never remember to check the tides before visiting but we were happy to discover that it was out when we arrived giving us an opportunity to meander towards the rocky outcrops that are usually inaccessible when the tide is in.
Strolling side by side with our hoods up against the chill wind and the sun warming our backs, the pale blue skies gave us a perfect view of the Isle of Arran and the Holy Isle. My spouse and I weren’t brave enough to take a dip in the sea, but it was a refreshing walk and felt like we were breathing in all the hope of a new year and letting go of the year before. I always feel inspired by new beginnings, and it’s exciting to think of all the opportunities to meet new people, visit new places, try new experiences, to learn and grow that a new year promises.
This week I’m enjoying a few more days off at home before we put the Christmas decorations away for another year, we return to work and normality resumes. Happy New Year and have a lovely week! X
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
Throughout the month of June, the Wildlife Trusts are encouraging people to get outdoors and enjoy nature, and I wanted to share a little photo round-up of one of the ways that I’ve been participating in the 30 Days Wild Challenge this year.
Near my workplace, there’s a park where I like to eat my lunch and stretch my legs whenever the weather permits. My lunch-break walks are a welcome interval during busy work days, providing an opportunity to slow down and gather my thoughts, and at this time of year, I particularly enjoy watching the damselflies flit around the pond.
These photos were taken on my phone, and required a combination of patience, stealth and speed, but I’ve relished the challenge of trying to capture some of the little details I notice on my wanders. Have a lovely week. X
We’ve been enjoying a prolonged spell of good weather in our part of the country, and a few weeks ago we took advantage of the sunshine and warmth to have a little day trip to Cramond Island and the Edinburgh-Kyoto Friendship Garden.
Cramond Island sits about a mile off the coast of Cramond village in the Firth of Forth. At low tide, it’s possible to walk the causeway that connects the island with the mainland, and Queensferry Lifeboat Association helpfully provide safe crossing times for every day of the year.
Cramond Island was part of the defences during both world wars and the abandoned gun batteries and searchlight stations are still standing today. It’s a small island and it took us about an hour and a half to meander around the buildings and along the beach at a leisurely pace.
Back on the mainland, we visited the nearby Edinburgh-Kyoto Friendship Garden set in the grounds of Lauriston Castle. Spring is my favourite time of year to visit the Japanese-inspired garden as the cherry blossoms are in bloom.
My husband and I wandered around the gardens reminiscing about the places we visited in Kyoto on our honeymoon, chatting about adding a few Japanese plants to our own garden and simply enjoying the beauty and peacefulness of our surroundings.
Both Cramond Island and the Edinburgh-Kyoto Friendship Gardens are a little off the beaten path and as a result weren’t overly crowded when we visited, and it was lovely to enjoy a leisurely wander in the spring sunshine. Have a lovely week. X
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.