Scotland – from Stirling to Blair Atholl

 

 

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After a month in Stirling we took to the road, heading west. Above is Stirling Castle, overlooking a field of Highland cattle. Our first stop was Oban, including a day trip to the Isle of Mull (don’t sing it, it never goes away …) then to Skye via a small ferry. After a loop around Skye we continued north, hugging the coast all the way. This meant travelling on single lane roads over mountains and along the coast, avoiding sheep and Highland cattle wandering the roads oblivious to any danger. Then across the top, down the east coast and back into England. We were blessed with the weather, mild and sunny nearly the whole way.

There were many highlights – breathtaking and unexpected scenery, a variety of castles in all states of repair, from ruined to still inhabited, a guitar festival in Ullapool, seeing stags and does late one night, and hearing the stags roaring in the night … we stayed in regular B and Bs, Airbnbs and even a castle, which happened to be in the right place on our 35th wedding anniversary. The photos below were taken on my phone, so please excuse any quality issues, and are just a selection of a great many!

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Inveraray
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Standing stones at Lochgilphead
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Easdale – this small town was on a slate mine. All the houses were built of stacked slate.
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The only bridge over the Atlantic Ocean!
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Oban
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Duart Castle on the Isle of Mull – note the rather creepy horse-hoof candlesticks.
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Evening across the harbour at Oban
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Glenshiel
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Unusual cloud on Skye
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Dunvegan Castle in the north of Skye
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Skye – waterfall and organ pipe rock forms in the background
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Inverewe garden – although a long way north, the warm Gulf Stream winds mean that this garden can support a wide range of plants, including Australian tree ferns.
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The Highland cattle were completely unfazed by traffic close by.
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Graveyard with a view at Ullapool
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Achiltibuie

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Talmine, on the north coast of Scotland
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The Stacks at Dunnet Head. There were seals resting on the rock ledges at the base of the Stacks. This is the most northerly point on the mainland, not John O’Groats as we are led to believe.
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Ackergill Castle where we stayed for our 35th wedding anniversary – it just happened to be in the right place at the right time.
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The dining room in Ackergill Castle
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Dunrobin Castle – the holiday home of the Dukes of Sutherland. In the garden was a summer house full of trophies from hunting trips, including heads of an elephant, a giraffe, buffaloes, tiny deer, tails of elephants, rhinos, not to mention the stuffed birds and human trophies from Neolithic graves. Deeply shocking.
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The walled garden at Blair Atholl Castle

 

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Six days in Iceland

The idea of the Northern Lights, the drama of short days and long nights, snow and ice inspired this short trip to Iceland. Having just had a big birthday, this was a treat that I couldn’t resist when it was suggested. So, since we were going to be in the UK for Christmas this was the ideal time. Just six days, but that was enough to drive from Reykjavic to the eastern side of the island, along the southern coast. We booked a self-drive tour which provided a detailed itinerary and hotels booked along the way. The first night was Reykjavic – an old, small city with narrow streets leading down to the harbour, lit up with Christmas decorations, busy and vibrant.

After picking up the car, a small 4-wheel drive with studded tyres, we made our way east. There was quite a lot of snow, unusual for this early we were told, but the roads were clear – at least to start with! First stop was a geothermal power station, architecturally beautiful, providing power and hot water efficiently to the area.


The further we travelled, the more build-up of snow and ice on the road, but the car hung on. It was only stepping outside you realised just how icy it was, your feet threatening to shoot away from beneath you.


Seljalandsfoss waterfall. The main fall was still flowing, but all around were icicles frozen in mid fall. When we returned two days later, most of the snow had melted, giving us a view of the intense, dark colours of the landscape.


Sunrise at Geirland.


Skaftafell National Park – we walked as close as we could get to this glacier – I love the semi-abstract shapes that appear in it.

 

   Jokulsarlon, the Glacial Lagoon was the most extraordinary place. A glacier flows down to the river mouth, where large blocks of ice break off and float down to the sea, or are washed up onto the jet black volcanic sands. Some of the ice is intensely compressed and clear as glass, some of the blocks are full of oxygen and bright turquoise.

Iceland is a memory of roads that are only defined from the sky and landscape by small yellow posts, majestic scenery and the inexplicable beauty of the Glacial Lagoon, sunrises and sunsets of intense colour. Landscape in intense, deep tertiary colours. It won’t leave me for a long time.

2015 has been a year of big events, some happy, others quite the opposite. One daughter bought a house, the other got engaged, my mother died, we took our big trip around Australia for three and a half months, now Iceland and a wonderful family Christmas in London, but just before Christmas my brother died. I am thankful I happened to be in the UK for my mother’s funeral, and that I saw my brother, and will be here for his funeral. Thank you to all my blogging friends for your encouragement and wonderful support of my art, it makes such a big difference to me, and you all inspire me constantly. So, here’s looking forward to a peaceful and happy 2016 for all of us!

100 days under canvas part 5 – flowers 

  
Western Australia is a unique state in many ways, but one aspect I delight in is the abundance of wild flowers. There is nowhere else in Australia where you can randomly stop at the side of the road – almost any road – and find an array of flowers diverse in colour, shape and form. I have taken photos of hundreds so choosing just a few to show here is tricky. You can Google ‘Western Australian wild flowers’ and come up with a massive array, so I will just show a few that I found particularly interesting or appealing. 

Next post will be back to sketches!

   
    
    
    
    
    

   
    
   
 

100 days under canvas – part 3. From Broome to Tom Price

  
When last I wrote, I was in Broome and the picture above is one of the iconic sights that every visitor has to see, a string of camels walking slowly along Cable Beach at sunset. I have to say I was very happy to watch, riding camels is not something I aspire to. 

From Broome it was back to the red dirt roads, up the Dampier peninsula to Cape Leveque. Kooljaman is perched on the tip, with beaches on either side. To the west, no  swimming in the deep blue water, but you can walk along the white sand, with red cliffs at your side. The eastern beach is for swimming, clear pale blue water, white sand and sharp black rocks made from coral. We lay back in the water and floated blissfully. 

   
 
Above, some unexpectedly large traffic on the road in, and sun setting in the west. We also encountered wild donkeys on the road. 

   
 
From Kooljaman we only drove a short way down the road to Middle Lagoon. We had heard it was beautiful so went to have a look, ending up staying three nights. The picture above shows the view from our camper trailer. From there, a brief visit to Broome for supplies, another beachside camp at Barn Hill, then Indee Station, a quirky farm stay, very welcoming people. There was ‘happy hour’ in the homestead, bring your own drinks, nibbles supplied, which was a great opportunity to chat to other travellers. And there were Sturts Desert Peas growing around the farmyard. 

    
 
The next day took us to Tom Price, a small mining town, but the journey there was spectacularly beautiful. Wildflowers were out in force, purple mulla mulla, yellow sennas, eremophylas in pink, purple and white, and so many more. 

   
    
   
The road took us round the northern side of the Karajini National Park, one of our favourite places that we decided not to visit this time. The scenery was stunning, rolling , rugged hills, folded and uplifted, intensely coloured, red rocks, green spinifex and the colours from the wildflowers. 

   
    
   

    
 
This is where I will stop for now. The next post will be about snorkelling on Ningaloo Reef.

Queensland patterns and textures

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Sorting through the photos from my recent trip, I realise that many of the photos are not showing beautiful scenery or wildlife so much as textures and patterns. I am always drawn to this kind of imagery – some will be used in future drawings and paintings, others are simply stuff I liked. Following will be a small selection of these, some are easily identifiable, others are just strange or beautiful shapes and forms. In the picture above I was looking down on Cooktown harbour as the sun set.

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greenPlantweb EyreCk4 mangroveweb kookaburraweb sandduneweb sandpattern2web sandpattern3web sandpatternweb Atherton boxweb butterflyweb fungiweb sandstarweb shellweb valleyweb waspweb waterfallweb Wilcannia2

Outback wildlife

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Time to sort the photos now – in this post will be a selection of the animals, birds and plants I came across in the first part of my recent trip through outback New South Wales, South Australia and Queensland. I don’t regard myself as a serious photographer, it is more about recording moments, sometimes for future reference for artworks, or just for a memory. One of the great pleasures of travelling is observing wildlife that you just can’t see in everyday life. Not a lot of explanation of these photos is needed, just a few captions. Above is a large male red kangaroo watching us curiously.

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Pelicans, ducks and other water birds feeding in a billabong right behind our camp outside Wilcannia, NSW.

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A small kangaroo living amongst the mullock heaps in White Cliffs. These heaps are the results from opal miners’ diggings and there are numerous mine holes amongst them, probably quite a few with the remains of kangaroos in the bottom.

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Zebra finches collect in their thousands in trees near water holes, their soft but insistent calls filling the air.

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On the way to Birdsville we met a man travelling with his camel. He had already walked several hundred kilometres and still had a long way to go to get to Birdsville, but was happy to stop and chat.

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Roaming cattle were one of the road hazards we were keen to avoid.

corellasCorellas are highly social birds, collecting in groups of thousands. The sound of their calls as a a huge cloud of them circles above us in the early morning or evening epitomises camping in the bush.

emusEmus climbing over a bank near the road.

FeralcatA large, healthy feral cat. On the other side of the bush had been another feral cat – this was the winner of the stand-off. Cats are a big problem in the bush, clever hunters and great survivors they decimate populations of small native animals.

EyreCk5Pelican on Eyre Creek. We spent a night bush-camping by the creek, watching the hawks, spoonbills, egrets, budgies, water hens and many more, happily feeding, enjoying the water in the seasonal creek which is often dry.

EyreCk3This large egret looked tentatively balanced in the dead tree on the edge of Eyre Creek, but it was a perfect vantage place for it to spot fish to dive for.

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Innamincka2 Innamincka3We watched several varieties of birds popping in and out of nest holes in trees at Innamincka on the edge of Cooper Creek, near where Burke and Wills came to the end of their ill-fated journey, returning from the Gulf of Carpentaria.

tracksOn the sand dunes at the edge of the Simpson Desert there is no sign of life till you look down – tracks of small mammals, reptiles, birds criss cross everywhere, with the occasional cat or dingo print among them.