Our highlights of 2014

1 august 023

Martin and Darach look for whales and dolphins off Neist Point.

Hello! Here we are at the end of our second full year on Skye and we’re starting to feel at home. In fact, we’re building up strong attachments to some parts of the island. There’s a lot to Skye and it’s nice to feel that we can now answer most of our visitors’ questions, whereas previously we might have had to admit we didn’t have clue.  So much to discover and only so much time. Our year seems to break into a seasonal rhythm and we really like the shift of focus from one phase to another.  Each part is quite different but equally enjoyable.

9 october 14 016

Taking a break from training on the Skye bridge

It’s a real buzz to see the trickle of early visitors turn into a flood as spring arrives. We love it when guests chat and we have the chance to get to know them a bit. It’s amazing how many different places they come from; Skye really does welcome the world. At this time of year you feel your energy levels rise and the bikes come out for their twice weekly run up the Armadale road. Martin’s summer training regime is tough (average speed has to go up every week!). Meanwhile, our nine-year-old, Darach, has found some good routes around the village to go exploring with his mountain bike. Summer’s just great; nothing beats being busy and it passes in a whirlwind of laundry and pedals.

Then, suddenly, Autumn is here and we have time to start thinking about other stuff. When we were planning to move west, we spent lots of time writing down things we dreamed of doing. This year the dust has settled a bit and we feel like we’ve managed to achieve some of them; a few things easier to instigate than others.

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Martin finds out what a ‘wet entry’ is while paddling with Skyak Adventures

Sea kayaking happens to be one thing that is pretty easy to get into. You can hit the pool with the local club in winter and practice rolling until you’re dizzy, then head out on the waves with one of the fantastic guides the area has to offer. We signed up for a couple of days with the well-known instructor Gordon Brown, of Skyak Adventures, for some intensive training at the end of March. It’s then you realize that rolling a kayak in a swimming pool is very different from rescuing yourself from disaster in the fast flowing narrows between Skye and the mainland. But, hey, we survived. A bit hard on Martin’s baker’s elbows, though. All of this got us thinking about ‘sustainable ‘pursuits; ie. things we can both do well into our dotage without compromising our health (yes folks, despite appearances we are both middle-aged). A good friend, who is also a kayaker, took up the hobby when she came to the conclusion that after years of hillwalking in Scotland, it’s good to give your legs a rest so you can use them later. In the interests of saving our tired joints we’ve followed this advice and gone for an activity that is engaging, but strangely restful: scuba diving.

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Vanessa braves the winter cold for some diving off Elgol

Before kids, we took a year out to travel and had the chance to try out some new activities; one of these was diving. We learnt the basics on Tioman Island, a wonderful place off the coast of Malaysia, and enjoyed our time so much that we stayed on to to do some more advanced training. About a month later, and gaining confidence, we were booked on a liveaboard dive trip to the outer Great Barrier Reef. At this point we had got to a level that we were happy to dive independently, and did so a few more times during the rest of our trip. On our return to Scotland, family came along and our diving ambitions sunk without trace. Until now.

28 march 14 085

A common sea urchin, found in abundance off Skye

As with kayaking, Skye is a fantastic venue for diving but it’s a bit harder to get any tuition. There are dive trip operators and lots of independent diving but no local training facility, so we would have to go further afield to get the refresher we were looking for. This led us to a dive school in Newcastle; a venue carefully chosen to be halfway between home and babysitting grandparents. However, submerging yourself in old quarry in England with only 20 cm visibility is a bit different from snorkeling in the clear waters of Skye. Very bizarre and quite testing – it never said anything in the brochure about diving in pea and ham soup. Luckily we managed to get the qualifications we were looking for and then felt ready to explore Skye’s underwater world more deeply.

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Martin gives our upstairs bathroom a crowbar makeover

We returned home ready to take the plunge… into a new round of renovation and decoration. It’s all part of the job description of a B&B owner but it’s the bit that is hardest to get excited about; especially when you have a heap of new diving gear and it’s sunny outside. This year, it’s been the turn of the upstairs’ bathroom to get a makeover. With much fortitude (and groaning) it was dissected and reassembled. It’s all shiny and new now – it’s a shame that people are actually going to use it.

We’re closed for the holidays as we write this. It’s nice to give the boys a bit more space to run about for a bit and we’re cooking up a storm in the kitchen. If we pull our finger out, maybe we can have hand-dived scallops for Christmas.

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The family enjoying an al fresco lunch here on Skye