Otter Lodge Blog: What’s been happening in 2016?
Wow, 2016 has been busy! Apart from the fact that quite a large number of people decided to visit Skye for their holiday, we seem to have packed in quite a lot in between the cooked breakfasts.
We normally start the year with a long list of various tedious jobs to do and this time it was the turn of the stairs to get a makeover. This became a bit of a nail-biter as what was originally planned to finish at the end of January, well, dragged out a bit.
We took the kids down to London during the February school holidays; a big event for them as they had never been up in an aeroplane before. Or been in an underground train. The possibilities for mind-blowing entertainment were endless.
All too soon after we returned to Skye; still in hope and anticipation of a new staircase. An early Easter was starting to loom large and our bookings were filling up – the last thing we wanted was a big hole in the ceiling where the stairs used to be. Vanessa’s mum came up for a visit and distracted us for a while. We had a few outings, including one to Dunvegan Castle. They had nice stairs. Eventually a man with a van turned up and singlehandedly brought the entire staircase in through the back door (strong, healthy folk on Skye!). However, we were then in the position of being two days before Easter with no carpets and the hall only half-decorated. In the way of all good stories, things were okay in the end, but a bit close for comfort!
It’s quite usual after an early Easter for it to get really quiet again, and we made the most of this by trips out with the boys, including a memorable day over at Glen Elg. It’s always worth a trip across on the old Kylerhea ferry. All good fun, but the real highlight of this lull was a visit by a group of divers from South Shields with their two rigid inflatable boats.
After it became clear to them that we were maybe just a little bit interested in scuba diving they generously invited us out for a few trips, including one to the HMS Port Napier in Loch Alsh. This WWII wreck has always been a diving ambition of ours; you can sometimes see parts of her exposed at low tide from the A87 near Kyle, but we soon discovered she’s ginormous. Big thanks to the guys from South Shields!
Scuba diving has generally been a big part of this year. If you ever wondered what kind of a state we’re in after we emerge from the depths, here’s a chance to find out …
As well as honing our skills in the deep we’ve also been learning as much as we can about Skye’s marine environment. We did some training last year with a scheme called Seasearch, in order to be able to carry out basic marine surveys, and have been beavering away since then recording what we find on our dives. We’ve also had the odd request to take a gander at people’s boat moorings. As is customary here in the Highlands, the result has been some very nice favours in return, including a cracking family boat trip to Rum in the summer.
Our lads have also kept busy. Darach has been playing football regularly with the local club and we were recently initiated into the time-honoured tradition of the Football Dinner Dance. As with so many local events here on Skye, the turnout was mightily impressive. The population of Broadford might not be huge, but if there is something going on people generally turn up in their droves to support it.
Music has also been a big part of living here. There is more stuff happening than we would ever have the time to go to. Darach and Vanessa have already cut their teeth playing brass at lunch clubs and remembrance commemorations. They’ve also played with the Skye and Lochalsh orchestra. There’s only one orchestra on the island and they are very relaxed when it comes to previous experience (basically: if you can play something, you’re in). In revenge, Ewan has started chanter lesson, the entry point to eventually learning the bagpipes. A chanter looks a bit like a recorder and sounds like a bluebottle in a lampshade. Martin has yet to take up an instrument and is considering buying ear defenders.
There’s been a bit more sea kayaking happening this year. Darach became old enough to join the local club and he and Vanessa have been out during the summer evenings or training in the local pool during winter. The best part of kayaking for Darach has been the bits when you’re not actually in the boat and he’s been practicing jumping in the water at every opportunity. The boys have also been out on their bikes a lot. Local hero Danny MacAskill still has a lot of influence here amongst the kids on Skye. He did a fantastic show for them over the summer which resulted, bizarrely, in us being given a Go-Pro camera by the man himself (something to do with insistent loudness of Ewan’s voice in a crowd). Watch this space for YouTube movies of the boys hurtling down hills on their bikes at terrifying speeds.
We bit the bullet and closed for a week mid-October to have a holiday with the boys, staying at cottage near Oban. There was loads to do. We even managed another boat trip; this time out to Fingal’s Cave. Many moons ago, Martin worked on one of the boats taking tourists from Iona to Staffa, so it was a bit of a pilgrimage for him. He must have heard Mendellssohn’s Hebridean Overture played at the cave a thousand times or more. Some things don’t change.
We’re all looking forward to another exciting year on Skye. Many thanks to all our friends and guests for making 2016 so memorable and warm greetings to all from Otter Lodge!