Sunday 30 June 2013

Random Garden musings...

Friday was quite soggy here - it was raining when I woke up, and pretty much carried on raining and stopping, and raining and stopping, all day. I did get my head outside a couple of times in the gaps though, and was really quite chuffed to see just how lovely our little pocket-handkerchief of garden is looking at the moment...

Remember the troughs and baskets we planted up in the spring? Well they're flowering away beautifully now and making a wonderful splash of colour both at the front and back...add to that the chives which have such pretty flowers!

Hmmm...there are issues with not labelling things, aren't there! Dill, we think...although I don't actually remember sowing any....

Coriander....or perhaps flat leaf parsley?

 Ah! I know what these are - tomatoes, of course! Everything seems to be growing oh-so-slowly - need these little fellas to make a giant leap forwards so that we stand a chance of getting some fruit from them this year.

Now here you have one of the advantages to a rainy day - the fantastic pattern of raindrops on petals, and the light furring of moisture on stems and stalks.....


Friday 28 June 2013

Frugal Friday - planning Ahead

If you're anything like me, the warmer summer weather (Yes, we have had SOME of it, be fair!) makes me crave fresh fuit, veg and salads. No bad thing as, like most people, I do like to eat healthily if I can, however, disgracefully it is far from a cheap way to eat! I shop once a week - usually on a Friday - and so that means that we only usually have bought salad stuff for the first few days of the new week before it goes past its best. As the summer goes on we hope to supplement that with some odds and ends that we have grown - we have tomatoes, nasturtiums, and some herbs coming along quite nicely now - but as things stand right now I'm doing some very careful shopping to make the best use of our budget.

One of my favourite shots from 2006...
As you know I usually shop with a list detailing exactly what I want to buy, and that's what gets bought. At this time of year though that goes a bit awry as I prefer to leave it with the bland heading of "salad stuff" and then see what's good value. For a main meal I usually supplement salads with either boiled new potatoes, or bread, and I'm afraid neither of us are terribly keen on those rather flavourless lettuces that the supermarkets sell so many of, so I usually get something like rocket, watercress or herb salad to act as the base. Usually those things can be found on special offer - at the moment I've been buying them on "2 for £1" and this offer also often includes things like radishes, or spring onions, for an extra burst of crunchy flavour. Tomatoes are a must-have for me too - although not for Mr EH - and those HAVE to be British. We grow absolutely wonderful tomatoes in this country so it's a crime that even in the height of summer the Supermarkets sell so many of those nasty little Dutch waterballs. Next time you find yourself in front of the tomato section have a sniff at a pack of British vine ripened or similar and see just how glorious they smell in comparison - the same also goes for Strawberries of course - simply not worth buying out of season, but through the June, July & August good old British Strawberries are just the smell of summer, to me! At the moment our salads are tinged with a bit of luxury as we have the Hebridean Smoked Salmon and crab meat that we brought back from holiday - otherwise though they come with a crumbly cheese, tuna, or perhaps if we've had a roast chicken for a sunday lunch some of the leftover chicken and some crispy fried bacon. A lovely and budget friendly salad can be made with some freshly boiled new potatoes tossed in a little butter and lemon juice, and a few rashers of decent cooked bacon chopped up - mix the two together and combine with your leaves, tomatoes etc. The end of a loaf of home made bread, cut into cubes and fried makes delicious croutons - just sprinkle some salt and freshly ground pepper over during the cooking, or infuse some garlic in the oil you're going to use to fry them.

Scotney Castle, Kent, 2006
In a bid to keep costs down elsewhere on the grocery front, I'm trying to build my meal plans around stuff we already have in. So far as possible I always do this, but sometimes I get more inventive than others! There's still masses of Lamb in the freezer at the moment of course, so that helps - another of the meals on this week's plan was lamb chops with some more of the new potatoes (I'm SO looking forward to our home-grown tatties being ready!) and the remainder of the salad. Simple but oh-so tasty! When we got the lamb the chops came handily bagged in packs of two so I just grabbed a couple of bags out the night before, left them out to defrost overnight and popped them in the fridge the next morning ready to quickly grill when we got home that night.

Seal, Donna Nook, Lincolnshire - 2007
I always keep my eyes out in the Supermarket for reduced price pots of herbs too - the kitchen windowsill currently has a thyme plant and a wonderfully fragranced Greek Basil - which were both rescued from a slow death and cost 19p each. A few days standing in a tray of fresh water and they've got a new lease of life - outside of course we also have our Parsley (a previous year's supermarket rescue!), sage, rosemary, bay and chives - all ready and waiting to add a bit of wonderful fresh flavour to meals. As for every meat-based meal we eat we have another which is effectively vegetarian (Don't tell Mr EH - I don't think he's noticed!) the herbs really come into their own.

Dusk at Leigh on Sea, Essex - 2007
As we are out of the house close on 12 hours a day for most of the working week, I usually try to make most of our planned meals something which can either be cooked ahead - stews, curries, and pies for example, or which is very quick to throw together, but equally packed with flavour. Those salads are a great example, and the chops. Other favourites like this are couscous (flavoured with North African spices and with lamb and chickpeas added), roast vegetables (butternut squash, onions, potatoes, carrots and cherry tomatoes for example) served up with pasta, and omlettes.

Which meals do you keep on standby for those particularly busy,  or particularly financially squeaky weeks?


(Yes, another post with utterly unrelated photos - this time particular favourites of mine from 2006 & 2007!)

Wednesday 26 June 2013

Hidden London...

I met a good friend for lunch the other Friday. In between all the eating and drinking (there MAY have been a glass of something lightly sparkling involved) we talked, among other things, about the hidden stuff in London, the things that the vast majority of people walk past without even looking at. After she had headed home to Surrey, and I was walking back through to get on the tube, I started really looking around and hunting out the odd things along my path.

I walked through Horse Guards Parade first - past the smartly dressed members of the Household Cavalry on guard at the entrance. Straight ahead of you, at the other side of  Horse Guards Avenue is the Guards memorial, which most people will likely recognise.

But look - just off to one side is this memorial to Lord Kitchener...

...I remember seeing that years ago, when I was a child my Nan used to take me all over London - her own knowledge of the Capital was just superb, and she taught me about so many of these little hidden places, like Postmans Park, for example. (Google it - I can't find any photos on this computer!)  Anyway, I had another quite specific statue in mind next, so turned onto The Mall where the flags were fluttering proudly...

...don't worry, I didn't take my life into my hands to take this shot - there was a traffic island...and, incidentally, FAR less traffic than you expect there to be. I got distracted before I got to my next target by this...

It's Scott of the Antarctic of course - or Captain Robert Falcon Scott to give him his proper name - and I had absolutely NO idea he was there! ("There" being at the Mall end of Waterloo Place, for those who know London at all). Impressive eh? I couldn't get a full height shot of him on his plinth sadly as in spite of the fact that I was clearly standing there photographing it, a couple of tourists came and plonked themselves down on the base of it - gah! I mean, how rude?!  Anyway, that did mean I lingered less before heading onwards - to this...

This is the memorial to the Crimean War, with Florence Nightingale taking her place at the front.

Oddly enough so far as I can find out there is only the one Statue to Nightingale in London, although Derby has three.

I was back in London the following day, and obviously still had my "spotting the not-so-obvious" head on as I saw this fascinating clock on the way to the platform for our train from Kings Cross...

...I was quite disappointed when I got to the other side of it that it didn't run from 1 > 12 on that side!


Friday 21 June 2013

Frugal Friday

I have mentioned before the regular payments we have set up from our main bank account across to our various savings accounts, and I thought it might be of use or at least interest to some people to have a bit more detail of how we work all this out.

Docklands by night - 2007
Like most people, we used to cheerfully muddle from month to month with no real idea of how our incomings stacked against our outgoings. An unexpected bill, work needing doing on the cars etc would be a major problem, and things like insurances were spread across 12 monthly payments (at increased cost) to make them easier to manage. When a few years ago we decided that it was time to take things in hand, we were quite taken by surprise by the amounts of money that were just frittered away. It's easy for this sort of spending to creep up, and only when you actually take the time to stop and analyse your finances properly do you start to notice why there is a shortfall where there should be a profit!

With my self-employed income relying on when invoices get paid (my invoicing is always done for the last day of each month but there is invariably a small discrepancy with when clients actually pay) but MrEH's salary dropping into the bank on a set day each month, our Direct Debits (DD's) are split into two groups - one set paid on/around the 1st of each month, with the others being set to on/around the 15th. The cashback credit card DD is taken at the very end of the month, usually around the 26th. In addition on the 1st of the month a regular payment is set up for MrEH's personal money - from the joint account where his salary lands, back to his personal account. My Invoices are usually paid between the 5th - 10th of the month, but for tax purposes these payments head directly to my personal account. The very first thing I do before ANY of my income can be considered "ours" is remove 25% of it into a separate account - this covers my tax & NI contributions, and ensures that when payment for those becomes due I don't get into a muddle. If you are self employed you MUST do this - that money simply is NOT yours and should never be considered as such! Once that's taken account of I transfer over my contribution to our joint account, leaving my personal money for the month behind.

Millennium Bridge & St Pauls - 2006
As well as the standard DD's for mortgage, utilities, insurances etc, we have a few regular transfers to various online savings accounts. With 2 cars to run, there is a sizeable annual cost right there, so we transfer a lump sum each month to an account from which our servicing, insurance and road tax costs will be paid as they arise - this also includes an amount for "contingencies" like new tyres, and unexpected repairs. We also have a "Household" account which receives £25 per month - this covers home insurance and small items that need replacing. The food budget comes from our "ClubCard Plus" account with that well known supermarket beginning with the 20th letter of the alphabet - a monthly DD goes out for that and we have what is effectively a cash-card which we can spend on in-store and also use to withdraw money from cashpoints as well - for every pound we spend in-store using the card we get an extra Clubcard point too.  other savings accounts are set up from our Joint Account too and also receive monthly contributions - the Holiday account of course, one for Christmas spending, and one for general "fun" stuff which means that when we have a busy time there is a bit of cash there to dip into for things like weekends away or the costs incurred volunteering at the national Beer festival in August.  Personally I also transfer money into an account for fun stuff, and another more general savings account. General days out, trips away, birthday presents and the occasional treaty takeaway are paid for from our own personal spending money.

I mentioned insurances earlier on - and those pesky "easier payment options" that all the companies generally tend to offer - well of course they do, each time someone elects to pay their policy cost spread over a year the company gets an extra cut from the fees charged for this facility! The exceptions to this are generally life Insurance and Pet Insurance, both of which opt for monthly payments as standard and won't normaly charge any extra for this. If you're looking to "get your financial house in order" then my suggestion would be that one of the first things to prioritise is getting money set aside ready to pay car & home insurance policies "up front" at the start of the year. Likewise, if your TV license is currently paid on the old quarterly DD system, you're paying extra for this, too, so it's worth either paying upfront on that, or indeed getting swapped to the monthly DD instead which doesn't attract a fee.

City of London - 2008
Once all the DD's and regular payments into savings are accounted for, anything left in the Joint Account will pay whatever is owed on the Credit Card bill when that arrives. As the card is a cashback-paying one we work on the basis of using this for everything we possibly can, and paying it off in full each month. Finally, on the day before payday, any surplus in the account is taken as "free money" and can be transferred to our "mortgage overpayments pot" - this also applies to any "unexpected money" as I've mentioned before. We're restricted on the amount we can OP to the mortgage each year, and this year we will hit that limit, so we'll be transferring the money from that account over to the ISA each time it hits an agreed level.

So that's how WE do things - how do you arrange your finances? Have you only recently realised the benefit of setting aside money to cover the "just in case" stuff? Do you have a great long list of online savings accounts attached to your main bank account too?


(And yes, this is another of those "completely unrelated photos" posts!)

Wednesday 19 June 2013

Taking time to...

...stop and smell the roses.

These are on my way from where I park my car to the office...

And yes, they do smell as beautiful as they look!


- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Friday 14 June 2013

Frugal Friday...

This could alternatively have been titled "A Non-Frugal Fortnight" I think! There's no doubt about it, a fortnight's holiday for 2 in the Hebrides really isn't going to win any awards for frugality! Having said that, we had a fabulous time, and came back rested and content with life, and the whole thing was budgeted out and paid for and we don't have months and months paying off a hefty bill, so all good there!

Howmore Church, South Uist
We sat down a couple of days ago to go through our budget figures to work out where we need to adjust things ready for next year - I keep track of things like how much fuel we use in the car, and what we spend on food shopping while we're away - and we put relatively little on the credit card, and again, we note those things that we do pay for that way. The fuel economy on the car fell a little this year, and we did more miles than we have in previous years, meaning we went over our Diesel budget by around £30 - so we've increased that figure for next year. Realistically as the cars get older we have to expect that we won't get quite so many miles to the gallon from them, but as both still do somewhere close to 60mpg we can't really complain!  As ever fuel prices while we were over there were high. We filled the tank as much as we could at Fort William where it was roughly the same price as at home. The diesel price in Stornoway at 141.9 per litre wasn't too bad, but when we filled up in Uist we paid an eye-watering 151.9! The rental of the cottage we stay in can be expected to increase by around 10%, as can the main ferry costs. We are agreed also that the route back travelling via Oban is definitely one we want to use in the future. Travelling this was this year cost us £35 more than our old route, but was very definitely preferable - we'll be doing that again!

Lochboisdale, South Uist
We have worked out with our good friends at the pub a very agreeable way of dealing with the small change that we collect through the year towards our holiday spending budget. They go through masses of change - from 5p upwards - over the bar, and of course when they get change from their bank they have to pay! This year we took up our bagged up cash and exchanged it for notes with them, thus saving us the hassle of having to pay it in, and saving them both some of the cost of additional change, and costs for paying in - an arrangement which very definitely works for both parties! On the subject of spending money, we're increasing that budget a little going into next year too - although we will probably not end up using the full amount of the increase, and thankfully prices on the Islands, although higher to start with than mainland, don't seem to have increased at quite the same rate as elsewhere. Our holiday Food budget has been set at the same level for the past few years - we do our "main" shopping on the Credit Card (to earn cashback) and then the little odds and ends when we just pop in for a loaf of bread or something tends to come out of our regular spending money, so there is some cross-over here.

Sculpture, Sidinish, North Uist
Although we stay in a self-catering cottage, we do tend to mix up meals out (quite often at lunchtimes) with cooking for ourselves, and generally eat in a couple of the local hotels a few times, and a couple of times at the pub too. picnic lunches on the beach are always great options of course, and there are so many wonderful things available there for those sorts of meals, Salmon pate & oatcakes, smoked salmon with good bread, or some of the wonderful Highland cheeses that we can't get down here. The sandwiches we got from 40 North on Lewis definitely count as one of the nicest lunches we had this year! The meals we cook for ourselves at the cottage vary between the same sort of staples we eat at home - pasta, roasts, curry, to the delicious local scallops and local black pudding we cooked on our last night. We're quite happy to pay a bit more for our food than we usually do - thanks to our budgeting and saving through the year we can afford to do so, after all!

Tea & cake - important to budget for.
Remember, while we're spending the amount we do on the holiday, the cost is spread across a full 12 months, and is one of the standard payments that comes out of our bank account before we really notice it's gone. It doesn't affect our 50% plus overpayment on the mortgage, and we're not borrowing money to afford to go on holiday and then having to pay it back. If you're physically paying down "regular" debt then it makes sense for holidays to be one of the things that you put aside for the time being in order to achieve your debt-free status that much sooner, thankfully we're not in that position and we definitely appreciate our break away from it all!


Thursday 13 June 2013

Still walking...

...Remember a while back I told you I had been filling the time between when I leave the office I work in and when I collect MrEH from his train by going for a walk several days of the week? Well I'm still doing this, and as a result am constantly looking for new routes to walk round. Thankfully we've got some nice bits of surprisingly open countryside locally to where my work is based, so as well as the lake I mentioned previously this week I've been exploring a bit of heathland/woodland. Do you want to keep me company? it's always nice to have someone to chat to as you walk...

We start off by heading along one of those rather nice Victorian roads that you get sometimes in this bit of London. This one is quite a mix of very posh and rather more modest houses, but so many of them have wonderful original features to look at as you pass, and the majority obviously take a real pride in their gardens too - there are some beautiful ones ranging from chic little courtyard style efforts to beautiful overgrown cottage garden affairs. Spotted this rather pretty pink plant flowering away merrily in one, look...

...just a bit further now - we reach the end of the road, turn left and then look - this is what we have to walk round...

...apologies, is IS a bit grey and overcast looking today, I know. Plenty to look at though and hopefully we won't get TOO damp walking round. Oh look - there's the promise of summer loveliness to come over there - elderflowers!

Might have to pick some of those once they are fully out - MrEH fancies making some more Elderflower Cordial I know, and these are far enough away from any passing traffic that pollution won't be an issue - how wonderful! Those aren't the only things flowering either - look over there...

...Wild Roses - so pretty and delicate in colour!

Now I'd not realised but this area official forms part of the Corporation of London's Epping Forest - and apparently they have set up lots of "walking trails" all named after the trees commonly found in the individual area of the woodland they they are in - I found this sign telling me all about it...

...I know each and every one of these areas, and several of them might possibly make good alternative after-work walks for me too so I might have to investigate those. For now though we've got the rest of THIS walk to finish, so come on, let's step out before the rain starts in earnest!

One more patch of colour to look at before we've done - and what a lovely bright colour it is too...

Is it Gorse, you say? No, although I can see why you'd think so (and until recently I probably would have done, too!) - this is Broom, and when you look at a slightly wider angle photo you can see where it gets it name, look...

I hope you enjoyed our walk - it's just under 3 miles by the time we get back to the car so that's a good bit of exercise for the end of a working day isn't it!


Ps - In case you want to find out more about where we've been walking - it's got its own website HERE with a bit more information and some links.

Wednesday 12 June 2013

A Short trip North...

**Should have appeared on 6th June...not sure what went wrong!**

We’ve made our usual trip up to Lewis and Harris over the past couple of days – early ferry on Tuesday, and early ferries (this one is 7.15am, leaves from the Island north of here which takes around 40 minutes to drive to, and you always like to get there a little while before the sailing time “just in case”) are never good, but do have the advantage of meaning you get to see lovely early-morning skies like this…

The ferry crossing is a lovely one too – I usually end of asleep for part of it after the early-rising but this time was so bright and with such lovely light falling across the water and the hills I stayed awake throughout! Once off the ferry at the other side we headed straight up through Harris and on to Lewis. First stop was our campsite for the night to get the tent set up – once that’s done our time is our own and we wasted no time in getting sorted out and heading off again – Stornoway first to get supplies for lunch, and then a gentle drive around that area – to a few places we both like. After lunch we decided to drive North – to Ness and the Butt of Lewis. Ness is an odd area – very remote indeed and almost not feeling like part of the same Island as Stornoway in many ways.  It does have the Eoropie Tea Room though (the owner of which makes exceedingly good cakes!) and also this stunning harbour right next to a little sandy bay…

The cliffs behind the harbour are home to nesting Fulmars – odd looking birds these, members of the Albatross family in fact, and quite happy to fly around having their photos taken – so we experimented for a while with our new camera lens…

No visit to Ness is complete without a trip up to the lighthouse at the Butt – dramatic seas even on a relatively calm day, as soon as you step out of the car you can hear the waves crashing…

Then back south again – with one brief stop – I just love this little Post-Office with it’s door and shutter painted phone-box red – it looks lovely open, but closed the colours make so much more of an impact, and with that sky…

Final port of call for the day – after we’d eaten a rather excellent Chinese takeaway for dinner – was Shawbost beach for a spectacular sunset. Hebridean sunsets are some of the best – and this one wasn’t bad at all…

More to come from this trip – and the sun kept shining for us!


Saturday 8 June 2013

The adventure continues...

Well it seems when I posted previously that our Hebridean adventure was over, I spoke too soon! We made it to the pier in plenty of time, had our tickets checked, filled out boarding cards and all the usual odds and ends, then had a wander around while waiting for the boat to arrive into Lochboisdale from Oban. A short while before due arrival time - 13.40hrs - we wandered to the headland outside the hotel to watch her arrive....only she didn't! By 13.45 the Calmac chaps on the pier waiting to receive her were looking at their watches, and by 14.00 the rest of us were doing the same! At about 14.10 a couple we'd met on the RSPB Raptor Walk with Stuart on Thursday came over to say hello, and he confirmed that he'd been told that there was a problem with the boat's stabiliser fin - they couldn't get it to retract apparently, and were in the process of trying to fix it...hmmmm. It was pleasant enough sitting in the sun, and this news didn't seem too desperate, so expecting to see MV Lord of the Isles appearing round the headland any second, we sat, chatted and waited.

Half an hour or so later and still no ferry, I decided to go and find one of the pier staff and see what the latest was. No change - they were still trying to fix the problem, the boat was still just out of sight around the headland, but apparently the skipper had confirmed that if necessary he would be able to get the ferry berthed OK at Lochboisdale...worryingly there was no mention of whether he'd then be willing to take her out again!

By this time I think we were all starting to wonder whether in fact we would be sailing - there is no scheduled departure from Lochboisdale on a Sunday so if the boat didn't go as scheduled there was a chance we'd be there until Monday - the only viable alternative being to see if we could get on a ferry across to Barra in order to get the ferry from there but even that wouldn't get us back to Oban until after 2pm - meaning a very late arrival indeed home in Essex! Eventually the chap we were sitting chatting with went off for a status update, and came back with the cheery news that they were now moving again and should be in view shortly, and sure enough very soon thereafter she appeared round the headland for all the world as though nothing had been wrong!

They positively chased the cars that had been on board off, practically hurled those of us waiting aboard, and got underway again as quickly as possible, but still nearly 2 hours late unfortunately. As I'm writing this while we're aboard, I currently have no idea how much - if any - of this time we'll manage to make up, but cross your fingers for us please!


*edit*  I was unable to get this to post earlier in any event, so have an update! We didn't make up any time on the crossing in spite of flat calm seas, and arrived at Oban bang on our revised ETA of 21.05pm. Thankfully we had a flying journey through to our overnight stop and arrived at Stirling Services - where this is being posted from - exactly two hours after disembarking. I do hope the poor people we were talking to earlier on - whose overnight stop was at Carlisle (something we had considered ourselves) have a similarly smooth journey through to there and don't arrive there too late!

Time to head South...

That's it - another Hebridean adventure over and done with....well nearly. As I type we're sitting in the rather excellent Lochboisdale Internet Cafe about to have tea and cake (Carrot cake for me, Chocolate for MrEH - somewhat predictably as some of you will know!). The sun is shining again, the wind has dropped, and the 5 hour ferry crossing from here to Oban is promising to be rather a nice end to the holiday.

Yesterday afternoon was spent on our favourite beach...well, one of them....

...eating one of our favourite lunches - Hebridean smokehouse pate, Stag Bakeries Oatcakes, and "The Dunes" tea-and-cake-wagon's Custard cream biscuits which are nothing LIKE any other custard creams you can ever have imagined...look -

See - if all custard creams looked like that they wouldn't be left languishing at the bottom of the biscuit tin any more, would they?! They taste just as good as they look too, I promise you - in fact, we have a couple stashed away ready for eating on the ferry later on.

Yesterday evening was spent in the pub as you might expect, getting licks & wags from pub-dog Winston! Then this morning we finished packing the car up, checked through the house for anything we might have inadvertently left behind, and then made our way South down through North Uist, Grimsay, Benbecula & now South Uist - the cafe is but a short hop to the ferry terminal so we've not left ourselves far to go before it's on to the ferry and on the first leg of our journey home.  This is the first time we've travelled back this way - each time before we've taken the early "Crack of Death" as a friend calls it, ferry back from Lochmaddy across to Uig, on skye, then driven down from there, staying in Carlisle overnight on the saturday. The ferry crossing from Lochboisdale was slightly more expensive, but there is less distance to cover on the other side and  it's been SO much more pleasant to be able to take our time this morning, not rushing about, and having to get up at 5am...

So for now it's goodbye to the Hebrides for another year - as ever, we'll be back!


Friday 7 June 2013

Short trip north...part 2

The second day of our “trip North” didn’t look too promising at the start – lots of cloud hanging around although it was warm enough.  By 10am though – just as we were packed up ready to leave the campsite – the sun did its job, burnt through the misty cloud and it was clear we were set for a lovely day! We popped to Stornoway to buy all our favourite goodies – black, white & fruit puddings from MacLeod’s butchers, kippers and smoked cheese from the smokehouse, and Stag Bakeries biscuits & Oatcakes, plus beer – slightly less attractively from Tesco but there you go! Then back round to the West Side of Lewis – we’d heard about “40 North” - a rather wonderful little deli/shop selling superb sandwiches etc so we decided to pop there to get lunch sorted – it was so good I’m going to blog about it separately at some stage!  So, onwards – to Carloway, and an absolute treat to see the place in sunshine!

We left shortly after the minibus full of overexcited teenagers turned up. One of the grand things about these sorts of places up here is that you can (carefully) explore them – Dun Carloway still has some of its staircases in place inside the double-skinned walls, so you can get a really good look at the place inside and out, as it were – but these were taking that freedom rather to extremes we (and the majority of others there) felt – Swinging on stone lintels, clambering up the walls etc…not great. We headed on to another wonderful place – Calanais…

The stones looking gorgeous in the sunshine, there! I’ve blogged about the history of the place plenty before – so if you’re interested, look back via the tag. To sum up though – ancient, they don’t quite know how old but it was there when the builders at Stonehenge were still scratching their heads over how to do their fancy tourist-friendly version, and predates the pyramids.  Due to the (for the Hebrides) quite high numbers of visitors getting photos can be tricky – I tend to be quite methodical – sort out the shot, get it all set up and the camera focused, and then just sit and wait for the right moment to press the shutter.

We left just as a minibus of overexcited teenagers arrived in the car park….good timing, that! Time to turn south again – with a stop at Seilebost for the annual “postcard shot” over the white sandy bay at Luskentyre…

…would have been a grand day for paddling I should think! No time to stop there this trip though sadly – we had a ferry to catch. Another glorious crossing too – sunny and even quite warm – unusual when you’re out on the water up here at this time of year. The Black Guillemots seemed to agree as they were sunbathing on the channel markers we passed…

…Fashion conscious little chaps too – they clearly understood that the red markers would complement their colouring far better than the green ones!