Monday May 19th
Blue sky at 0645
Light on the castle. Light on the island.
Skye revealed!
To walk. To see his special lane and take some of his places.
A gentle incline up the lane towards the viewpoint at Carr Brae.
Ten birds added in ten minutes
Cuckoos everywhere.
25 Willow Warbler territories within 2km.
Revelation of the week – they’re everywhere!
Views west and Bla Bheinn (Blaven) the closest Munro.
Will we get up there?
Hernonry, in the trees. They look like plastic bags.
A shambles, tattered on the branches.
A spinning coin?
A Wood Warbler. How bloody marvellous.
There it goes again. Pipits and Redpolls.
Where to look.
He points out the langoustine pots in the bay
Where today’s Clachan special will be caught
Primroses. Primroses.
Spring is late and beautiful.
It is yellow today, with all this gorse.
Look at the funny house!
It’s hog roast man!! My God, he’s weird.
And what a place to live.
Among the flags.
Breakfast back at base at nine (I cooked) and off to Skye.
To Kylerhea in the south.
A Wildlife Watching Hide.
Sea Eagles. Otters. Cretaceans.
Or perhaps nothing at all… ūüė¶
Unless you count the fifty seals that don’t move and look like rocks.
There’s never anything to see from
Purpose build public hides.
The windows open outwards? WTF??
A stunning walk though, overlooking the Sound Of Sleat
Where the tide races, faster than a man can run.
9 knots at times. Neil knows.
The Man Who Sailed The World
I love ferries me. And this one has stayed well, despite that bridge.
It works because it offers us a circuit home
With a ROTATING deck. Yes really. It’s actually a thing! How very cool.
A circle, from Kylerhea to Glenelg. Magical. Ten minutes on the boat, accompanied by one of the seals. Bobbing. Smiling.
Gannets too, diving in the Sound.
And there are sheep.
Really, sheep?
But sheep grazing on the beach and eating seaweed.
Caravans and a campsite.
On the fekking beach.
Wait. What’s that. Over there, high and some way off??
An eagle?
An RAF Tornado. Hmmf. Impressive though
The road is long
With many a winding turn.
Up round, down. In, out.
Isolated communities, the endless track that leads only into Arnisdale and takes the traveller to nowhere but Carron.
He told us we could get some tea.
And smiled to see
It was still thus after three years.
Sheena’s Wee Tea Hut is SO bizarre.
So her. Again.
My dear, you’d LOVE it here
Look at the GARDEN
The chairs. SO many chairs
All of a pickle…
He rang a bell and she appeared.
Sheena’s daughter. Lives in the house next to the wee shed.
Only took over from my mother five weeks ago. She ran this place for 20 years.
I’ll have a scone. A pound you say? A POUND?
Imagine that.
And tea. 50p.
Jam is free.
Swallows are a problem in my barn. I put the curtain up to keep them out.
Look, she’s here again…
I put this moment ‚Äď here.
And I put¬†this¬†moment ‚Äď over here‚Ķ
Come on, let’s walk. Past the big white house along the river.
Childhood home of Ian Fleming.
Ahhh, so that’s why Skyfall is set up here.
It’s so clear when you know.
Deer in a field. Deer in the river. Dead. Odd.
Perfect condition. Dead. Granite grey stone eyes. Shudder.
Deer on the hills in the distance.
Farmland, paddocks. Love this Right to Roam.
Wheatears, Common Sandpipers and…
What’s that whizzing round?
They’re Sand Martins.
Colony here on this bank.
Look at them in and out of their nest holes!
Did you know the same bird will use three holes that connect inside the sandbank, so any predators get confused.
  Spring is late up here. Ash and birch still in bud.
18:50 Time to move from Arnisdale back to Glenelg. Back past the beach.
Mist on tops. Light and water.
Remore derelict crofts
Buzzards hovvering at Ben Sgritheall.
I think, I think
Damn you, woman…
Beinn Alchurrn bears snow, lit in the evening sunlight.
Thick green the Movan woods
And ahead of us, across Loch Duish, sheets of falling rain.
The sun falls on curtains of mist
Gently swaying, swirling.
Car park to view.
My camera has died.
The nasal call of Twite.
It’s hail? It’s bloody hail! Wow and double wow.
We stand in sun, and miles below we seen the grass turn white
At the end of the loch at Spiel Bridge.
Driving slowly down. The bikers have stopped. Halted by insane conditions.
The car skids. Losing grip a moment.
If you don‚Äôt like the weather here ‚Äď come back in an hour!
Just minutes later it is over
And dinner’s on the stove.
They’re in the pub
And I am in the kitchen
9.15 Its cold. The cottage, not the food.
The pasta bake is steaming and the whisky and the cheese are ready.
(Yes, we stopped on purpose.)


Scotland Bird List

A Systematic list of the bird species observed in Scotland during a week at Dornie in the Scottish Highlands
86 species

Mute Swan –¬†2 at Loch Linnhe

Whooper Swan¬†–¬†One immature bird at Loch Struadal, Dunvegan

Greylag Goose¬†–¬†Common and present on most Lochs

Canada Goose ¬†–¬†30+ grazing on pasture beside Loch Lomond

Mallard¬†–¬†Common and present on most Lochs

Eider –¬†First noted at Loch Carron, then at Loch Duich and Loch Long

Common Scoter –¬†Male just outside Tarbet¬†(Lewis) from the CalMac Ferry

Red-breasted Merganser¬†–¬†Pair on¬†Loch Long

Goosander¬†–¬†Pair in flight near¬† Loch Coir na Aar (Applecross)

Pheasant –¬†One feeding in a field at¬†Luss

Black-throated Diver¬†–¬†Pairs at¬†Fearnbeg (Wester Ross) and Storr Loch

Great Northern Diver ¬†–¬†One adult in¬†Loch Bay from the Stein Inn

Fulmar –¬†Several on The Minch from the CalMac Ferry

Gannet –¬†First seen from¬†Kylerhea in the¬†Sound of Sleat, and present at high tide in various Lochs

Cormorant¬†–¬†Common and present on most Lochs

Shag¬†–¬†Several on The Minch from the CalMac¬†Ferry, especially around Trotternish

Grey Heron¬†–¬†Common and present on most Lochs. Heronry on Loch Duich

GOLDEN EAGLE- Star of the week with eight sightings. Local bird to the east of Dornie seen twice, and then adult and juvenile seen well soaring at Waternish on Skye. Two birds soaring north of Bundalloch, relocated later on a mountain above Glen Elchaig

Sparrowhawk –¬†one mobbing a Buzzard in¬†Waternish Forest

Buzzard¬†–¬†Common and present over most Lochs and Mountains

Kestrel –¬†only one noted, near Glasgow

Oystercatcher¬†¬†–¬†Common and present on most Lochs

Ringed Plover –¬†At least four on¬†Claigan beach, near the coral

Common Sandpiper¬†–¬†Common and present¬†in good numbers around Loch Long

Kittiwake¬†–¬†Several on The Minch from the CalMac¬†Ferry, especially around Trotternish

Black-headed Gull¬† –¬†Common and present on most Lochs

Common Gull¬† –¬†Common and present on most Lochs

Lesser Black-backed Gull¬†–¬†Only one noted, at¬†Waternish (east)

Herring Gull¬†–¬†Common and present on most Lochs

Great Black-backed Gull¬†–¬†Common and present on most Lochs

Guillemot¬†–¬†Only one confirmed¬†on The Minch from the CalMac¬†Ferry,

Razorbill¬†–¬†Loads¬†on The Minch from the CalMac¬†Ferry

Black Guillemot¬†–¬†Several on The Minch from the CalMac¬†Ferry, especially in Uig. Also one in Loch Bay at Stein being attacked by a seal

Puffin¬†–¬†Loads¬†on The Minch from the CalMac¬†Ferry

Feral Pigeon –¬†Common. Rock Doves at Waternish (east)

Woodpigeon¬†–¬†only one seen from the cliff tops at¬†Waternish (east)

Collared Dove РSeveral pairs around Dornie

Cuckoo¬†–¬†Widespread on all hillsides and moorland. Three together on two occasions.

Swift¬†–¬†Not observed north of¬†Moffat

Great Spotted Woodpecker¬†–¬†One calling in the trees between Dornie and Carr Brae

Skylark¬†–¬†Especially good number son the grass at¬†Claigan near the coral beach

Sand Martin¬†–¬†Small numbers in several rivers. Located a colony of ten pairs at¬†Arnisdale

Swallow –¬†Common in barns around Dornie and on Skye

House Martin¬†–¬†Common in barns around Dornie and on Skye

Tree Pipit¬†–¬†Best views at¬†Kylerhea and by the Storr Lochs

Meadow Pipit¬†–¬†Common and widespread on all moorland and mountains. Hence the Cuckoos.

Rock Pipit¬†–¬†Common and one or two present on most Lochs

Grey Wagtail¬†–¬†Only one noted at Carr Brae

Pied Wagtail¬†–¬†Uncommon. First noted on farmland near Sheena’s Tea Hut in¬†Arnisdale

Wren¬†–¬†Common in ¬†woodland

Dunnock¬†–¬†Common in ¬†woodland

Robin¬†–¬†Common in ¬†woodland

Whinchat¬†–¬†Only one pair noted, at¬†Carr Brae

Stonechat –¬†Widespread on moorland and mountain in small numbers

Wheatear¬†–¬†Widespread on moorland and mountain in small numbers


Song Thrush¬†–¬†Common

Mistle Thrush¬†–¬†At least four birds around¬†Carr Brae

Sedge Warbler –¬†First heard at road bridge near Eilean Donan castle, and in gardens at Dornie. Seen well at Stein

Blackcap –¬†Occasionally in woodland. At Kylerhea and Carr Brae

Garden Warbler¬†–¬†One singing and seen briefly at¬†Carr Brae

Whitethroat¬†–¬†Occasionally on scrub at¬†Carr Brae, Waternish and Applecross

WOOD WARBLER –¬†Other star bird. Superb close range views on a wall at Carr Brae

Chiffchaff¬†–¬†One singing in gardens at Dornie. Otherwise scarce?

Willow Warbler¬†–¬†Common and widespread in all mountain gullys and birch woodland

Goldcrest¬†–¬†First heard in pines at¬†Carr Brae

Long-tailed Tit¬†–¬†Two or three heard only in woodland by the rapids at¬†Killean

Blue Tit –¬†Common

Great Tit –¬†Common

Coal Tit¬†–¬†Often seen in pines at¬†Carr Brae

Jay¬†–¬†Only one noted. Flying across the road at¬†Spean Bridge in the¬†Great Glen

Magpie¬†–¬†Only one noted, on roadside at¬†Dumbarton

Jackdaw –¬†Numerous on fields around¬†Moffat

Carrion Crow¬†–¬†Present from¬†south of Dumbarton

Hooded Crow¬†–¬†Common and present over most Lochs and Mountains

Rook¬†–¬†Numerous on fields around¬†Moffat

RAVEN – Star bird Number 3¬†¬†–¬†Pairs at least¬†over most Lochs and Mountains. Six together at Carr Brae

Starling –¬†Common

House Sparrow –¬†Common

Chaffinch –¬†Common and widespread

Goldfinch¬†–¬†Only noted around¬†Eilean Donan and Dornie

Siskin¬†–¬†Several pairs singing and showing well¬†Carr Brae¬†and¬†Kylerhea

Linnet¬†–¬†Two by the bay at¬†Dunvegan

Twite ¬†–¬†First seen on farmland at¬†Bundalloch. Also at Dunvegan and Trumpan

Lesser Redpoll¬†–¬†Several pairs singing and showing well¬†Carr Brae

Bullfinch¬†–¬†Pairs showing well at Carr Brae


Meet Me In My Dreams
He walked quickly off the station platform, out through the turnstile on the north side, pausing only to glimpse at an unnecessarily provocative poster beside the ticket office. He was tired, already, which frustrated him mildly having kept himself awake on the train for fear of missing the stop. The time of her arrival was foreseen and he kept checking both the temperature and prevailing traffic conditions, anxious that circumstances would remain favourable and he would, at last, be able to spend some time with her and say some of the things on his mind. For years, they had lived unknowingly parallel lives, drifting across one another’s timeline. He knew she was always somewhere in the city, had caught glimpses and read reports, but only on the odd occasion had he seen her, crossing a street or sitting in a cafe as he went past on the bus. On the rare chance they should meet, their conversations were always too fragile and brief. There was that time in the gallery in Tottenham Street, by the fireplace. And he smiled recollecting how they had physically bumped into another browsing in a box of old books at the Market. Music and more recently art brought them together, a magnetic attraction that pulled all with common interest out of their individual, disconnected situations. Through these media he felt a means to establish a more purposeful connection.
Looking around¬†now slowly, from the seat he chose in the rundown shelter overlooking the carpark, he could see the remains of the priory opposite, where he and Josh had played cricket as children. He wondered if the stoats were still there, or the countless balls they had lost when Josh carved his too-short, too slow bowling to shreds with six after six. Poor Josh. The memory of his brother both saddened and affirmed him… He loved to go there alone too and had done so many times in his youth after the accident, sitting among the ruins, watching the wildlife and seeking comfort in the silence. Imagining that he could glimpse the shapes of the Franciscan monks that used to inhabit the stone chapel.
Someone called his name. He was sure of it, and spun around. Miles away.
There she was, clear as real, waving, holding her hat onto her head with her free hand. He smiled, and raised his own hat in greeting, standing taller than he otherwise might, brushing dust and a cobweb from his trousers. In doing so, he noticed how worn his shoes were. She would notice too, but would say nothing. She never did. At her car, they embraced. Polite, reserved and awkward. After an exchange of pleasantries, she showed him scarves. Intricate things of simple beauty about which he knew little, but appreciated the intensity with which she told him of their journeys into her possession and how obviously important to her it was that he took his part in the choice she had to make.
They walked, and as they did so, anxiety, nerves and stress fell from him like shedding skin, blown to nothing but dust in the gentle breeze. It was a beautiful day, the last of that particular April, and the sky played blue above. He told her of his own history with the Priory and she laughed at how silly he was playing such ridiculous games. They looked carelessly for a moment after ancient cricket balls in the nettles that grew thick along what remained of the east wall, but then her insistence took hold, keen to see everything he had asked for all at once.
Moments later, through trees sloping down to a wide field, they came upon a bridge, just inches above the surface at one end of a long Shimmering Lake. In the distance, to the left, he could make out the roof of an ancient building. Tudor at least, by the chimneys. Interesting, he nodded, and immediately tripped. She was kneeling down, out of his line of vision, giggling joyfully at a brood of week-old ducklings. Charming, and utterly delightful. He steadied himself on her shoulder, and bent to appreciate them beside her. A flicker of static passed between them. It was as he feared. A reminder of her temporary form, the instability of the situation and the proximity of circumstance. How pale she was! How fragile. She was there of course, but it was easy to see how she may not be, just like that. The scene refracted in the surface of the water. Jolted into some other kind of focus.
The house stood at the end of a typical English driveway, edged by the kind of post and rail fencing that advised the grazing sheep to stay off certain areas of grass. The geese took little notice and the Jackdaws even less. An impertinent Robin showed no respect whatever for the privacy of couples at the tables around the tearoom, relying on his charm and ubiquitous familiarity to steal crumbs off plates, courting affectionate laughs as he did so. There was a door round the back, heavy and dark, that she knew they could open with ease and slip inside the silent hallway. Intricate balustrades lined the wide stairway, carpeted in the softest colour, matching exactly in his mind‚Äôs eye the bluebells that lined the woodland on the other side of the lake, that he had glanced and admired from the train window. Opposite him, looking up from a magazine, a woman had smiled at the same scene an hour earlier. ‚ÄúBeautiful, aren‚Äôt they? The bluebells.‚ÄĚ He nodded.
They walked through what seemed like countless oak panelled rooms, carved in the linenfold style of 16th-century artisans. One particular drawing room was lined with the most hideous embroidered silk. Old, and therefore impressive and mysterious. But, he thought, that is not enough to make it actually ‚Äėnice‚Äô. He felt the same about the busts and cameos that lined the Great Hall. Henry VIII, Oliver Cromwell, Milton. Superb craftsmanship, but of little interest. One room led into another directly, a chapel, a smaller drawing room, a dining room ‚Äď all with views out over the lake. Some geese landed noisily outside and distracted him for a moment. ‚ÄúPink-footed Geese‚ÄĚ said an elderly female guide authoritatively, to three tourists he hadn‚Äôt noticed in the building before. ‚ÄúI‚Äôve seen lots of them in Norfolk, especially in winter. They are unusual here. Marvellous birds. The picture on the left here is of‚Ķ‚ÄĚ He smiled inwardly, and felt the urge to correct the woman, but resisted causing embarrassment at the last moment. They were Greylag Geese, common as muck, no doubt nesting in the reeds opposite where he had already seen two other pairs. Still, she no doubt knew an awful lot more than he did about picture framing and medieval textiles‚Ķ
It was while looking disdainfully at an ebony casket inlaid with shells (displayed behind glass, though why anyone would want to steal such a thing he could not imagine) that he realised she was gone. He felt no alarm, but more than a little surprise and frustration. Was it really to be so short? Had he got some of the elements wrong? A error perhaps, in the mathematics of his plan? Neither of them knew how long they had (Josh reminded him of that), or what would occur to break the spell. Or how soon they would awaken from the dream.
And whose dream was it anyway? Her city, or his? They both had history there, mental maps. Memories and aspirations. Yet it was a different place to each of them. And never the same when ever they each returned to what they thought might be familiar places.
He nodded a short ‚ÄėThank you and goodbye‚Äô to whoever it was that was telling him the history of the casket (he had not listened to a single word) and headed for the staircase marked by an arrowed signpost and defined by the omnipresent braided rope suspended between two white posts. He knew where she would be, and made for the Kings‚Äô Chamber at the back of the house. The door was open, and he entered rather too brusquely. One of the curtains on the four-poster bed stirred and rippled. Looking down at the bed, he could see the shapely indentation where her body had lay, leaving an imprint on the quilt and pillow. He could not help but curse mildly, under his breath, and leaned heavily against a corner pillar: Why was it ever thus? Damn and blast it!
Gathering himself reluctantly, and surveying the room from this corner, he realised the walls were almost entirely covered with the most intricate woodcut prints. Portraits, country scenes. Birds, animals. Reproductions of well-known paintings. He walked over and admired them closely. Fasinating skill. There was a piano opposite too, a Broadwood, he guessed around two-hundred years old. Irrestible, and he played for a hour, filling the chamber with music that rose and fell in delicate, complex cascades.
She clapped, and he spun around. Smiling aloud. ‚ÄúBravo!‚ÄĚ she gleamed. ‚ÄúCome, let me show you something else.‚ÄĚ He took her outstretched hand, as thin and old as parchment. Lined with stories he longed to read. She was urgent again now, purposeful, and lead him down endless stairways to the basement. Her footsteps clipped lightly on the flagstones, but he could barely see anything in the dim light of the passageway. They stopped abruptly, pressing their backs to the wall as the burly figures of three men shuffled past, carrying a piece of heavy furniture into one of the unlit rooms off to their left. In the half-light cast by one of the men‚Äôs torches, she saw books and her eyes lit up. She made as if to follow them, but was roughly discouraged with a grunt, a push and a slamming of the door.
‚ÄúNo matter.” She shrugged imperceptibly. “Look at this.‚ÄĚ
Reaching into a wicker basket on the floor she picked up a lamp and flicked on the blue light, holding it up to the wall on her right. It revealed a map. One of the oldest maps he had ever seen of the city he had known all his life. Looking at it now in the glow of an electric torch, it was clear he did not really know it at all. ‚Äė1677‚Äô read the figurative text in the heading, and he traced his finger gently over the words ‚ÄúRiver Of Thameth‚ÄĚ that ran across the centre of the huge image.
Some parts of the city were unchanged since that time, but it did not extend even as far as he had walked. There was a wasteland east of the Tower that bore no symbols or linework, just the single word ‚ÄúMarfh‚ÄĚ. He breathed inwards deeply. By profession a cartographer, this was Manna to him and he marvelled at the details, the darkness, the skill of the calligraphy and just the presence of this remarkable artefact. As his pulse quickened and he leaned closer to the document, she raised her arm in order that he might see more clearly. He took her hand, purposefully, gently, guiding the light according to his will. She moved freely, allowing him to move her fingers as he might and neither of them spoke for the longest time. Drawing in herself, she traced her left hand to the east as well, seeking out the city‚Äôs oldest music hall off Ensign Street between the areas of Wapping and Whitechapel. What was she trying to say? Was this her origin? Bluegate Fields?
He was reminded of the story of The Labyrinth of Limehouse, wherein, it is said, there lives a Minotaur…