A blog about us


This month, Martin and I celebrated our tenth wedding anniversary; ten years since we got married in Auckland and two years at Otter Lodge. So here’s a funny thing; we’re not New Zealanders and neither of us are from Skye. How on earth did we manage to wind up here?

Our island home is used to incomers and the first question you get asked when you arrive is ‘What brings you to Skye’? I always answer, ‘Business’. Umm, yes. OK, not very interesting (unless you’re fascinated by the tourist occupancy statistics of the West Highlands). So here are a few other reasons, and a bit of info about us…


Martin contemplates another Munro to add to his list.

Take two outdoor-types; one from Norfolk (a very flat part of England) the other from Aberfeldy (a small town in Highland Perthshire). We met, many moons ago, through a venerable Dundee-based mountaineering group, the Grampian Club (est. 1927). I have to mention this club because, as a twenty-something rookie hillwalker from Norfolk they really taught me the ropes. They like to have regular outings, right through the winter, and are absolute sticklers for having the right kit. Woe betides any members that turn up on an October day without crampons and ice-axe; everyone has to fill out forms to prove it. It’s fair to say some find the club’s organisational methods a bit fussy; but with so many experienced, enthusiastic and generous members I can think of no better, and safer, environment for an aspiring mountaineer to learn about Scotland. And, incidentally, meet their future spouse.


Mountaineering in the Peruvian Andes. Remarkably, this old photo owes nothing to Instagram.

We met, bonded over mountains and Van Morrison, and in 2003 set off travelling on a gap year: the gap between having a life and having kids. And that’s how we ended up in a registrars in New Zealand, having decided to tie the knot somewhere between the Himalayas and the Andes. It was quite a year; a bit of ice climbing, a bit of scuba diving, a bit of kayaking and a whole lot of bus journeys. We sampled many styles of accommodation around the world (apart from the kind with room service) and at some point a seed was planted. We came back down to earth in Scotland.

Vanessa Charles 1

Vanessa’s previous incarnation as an expert on the Antiques Roadshow (maybe).

Martin is a baker by trade and he was serving a traditional apprenticeship in Aberfeldy when I was still in black eyeliner. My background is in heritage conservation, having spent over seventeen years caring for Scotland’s treasures: I’ve worked with everything from ancient parchment manuscripts to drawings by Charles Rennie McIntosh. As an adopted Scot, my knowledge of the poetry of Robert Burns is admittedly patchy but I have an intimate knowledge of the ink he used, and the paper he scribbled on.

While I was sticking things together in a lab and contemplating a new career in hospitality, Martin was at home looking after one, then two baby boys. Then we started looking for a business. We searched high and low for the right place. Martin was what you could call an ‘itinerant’ baker, so he already had a good knowledge of west coast life having lived on Islay, Iona, and in Fort William. Not only that, but his dad was a fisheries biologist and he spent many a day in his youth tramping over the remote corners of Scotland looking for salmon. And me? I had worked in Dundee the whole time I’d been in Scotland.

We honed our criteria down to somewhere rural; but with a pavement so that our boys can walk safely to school. We didn’t want to live in the sticks. We wanted somewhere we might make a living. We wanted a grocery shop close by and a vibrant cultural life. We wanted sea and mountains. We wanted Skye – it just took us a wee while to realise this.

And now we’re here, we couldn’t imagine being anywhere else.


Martin searches for a home for his family in the Highlands of Scotland.