What’s been happening in 2018?

Otter Lodge Shed

It’s easier to remember what you do in some years than others, because the odd things stands out and seems to blot out all the rest. This year we had ‘The Shed’. Depending on your viewpoint (and probably your gender) this will either set your heart racing or send you to sleep. But this was no normal shed; it was a whopping 6 by 5 metres. And unlike most new wooden structures on Skye, this was definitely not a glamping pod. A lot of this year seemed to be filled up with its preparation and completion; but it’s very satisfying now to look out of our window, contemplate its nice wooden tones, and think about all that extra space for stuff. 

Between the frantic digging and painting, there was the odd other thing that managed to sneak into our year. We were very jammy when it came to the weather. We missed the infamous ‘Beast from the East’ in February, and it was generally very bright and sunny right through to August. No excuses when it came to prepping the shed groundwork on the weather front.

Martin finds his happy place after raiding the local Jewsons

We timed our visits off the island pretty well, too. Our February school holiday trip down to the central belt managed to avoid anything nasty. It was a really nice visit to Scotland’s two biggest cities, Glasgow and Edinburgh, enough museums to make Vanessa happy. Not only that, but we all managed a leisurely lunch at Valvona and Crolla; possibly Scotland’s most famous deli.

As a consequence of the intense shed-building activity, the amount of regular weekday road cycling that got done was a bit less than usual. Despite this, weekend mountain biking came to the fore. Now the boys are getting bigger, and have a bit more stamina, you can go a more meaningful distance without having to bribe them with ice cream. Another thing we’ve discovered is that the mountain bikes are great for exploring new bits of our neighbouring wilderness. We had a really nice trip up Loch Long, starting near Eilean Donan castle and heading up into the back of beyond on an estate track that just went on and on. Well, it definitely seemed that way when we had to cycle back and look for Martin’s favourite multi tool that he had accidentally dropped on the trail (if you’re a regular cyclist, you’ll understand why this was so devastating). One of the highlights for Darach this year was a trip to Fort William for the annual Mountain Bike World Cup and, for once, Martin got the chance for a jolly during the summer season. It’s a great event and he might want go back another year if he’s not building another shed.

Mountain Bike World Cup

Two lads from Skye enjoying the Mountain Bike World Cup

The one thing that has continued, regardless of DIY responsibilities, is our regular scuba diving. Now that we’ve been on Skye a little while and word has got about what we do, we’ve been getting some interesting requests for assistance. Everything from checking the moorings of artificial islands used for nesting rare birds, to supplying compressed air for a TV company trying to recreate the effect of a boiling deep fat fryer! We also happened to get an email at the beginning of the season from someone who seemed keen to do some actual diving with us. This was a surprise. Several months later, and we now have our own Skye and Lochalsh Diving Club (currently three members). 

Scuba diving on Skye

Vanessa gets kitted up for a November dive off the coast of Skye

Some things do have an impact on our diving, though. This summer there’s been a lot of travel disruption on the road to Loch Carron, with apocalyptic tales of three hour waits while they shore up the crumbling cliffs by the road. This has pretty much cut off some of our favourite diving spots, so we’ve been spending time looking for new territory. We’ve ventured up the far side of Loch Duich a good bit. It looks just a stones throw across the loch from Eilean Donan, but it’s actually a good thirty minutes drive around from the castle. Unlike some of the dive sites further down, this area of the loch gets currents, which bring a lively diversity of new stuff to see.

Another place we’ve been checking out for diving is the Isle of Raasay. It’s obviously not somewhere we can easily go for a dive and be back in time for tea, but it’s good for when you have grandparents visiting. The old ferry pier at Suisnish Point makes for a very fine dive, with an explosion of life on and around the pier legs. If you bother taking a ferry all the way to Raasay, it’s definitely worth leaving plenty of time to explore both land and sea.  We’ve been doing quite a bit of visiting in recent times (it’s currently Vanessa’s second favourite island). We’ve enjoyed a walk along Calums Road and a visit to the new distillery, and still made it back for the last boat home.

Chilling out on the CalMac ferry

Chilling out on the CalMac ferry

The seas around Skye are normally pretty chilly, but they reach their maximum temperature of about fourteen degrees at the start of September. This happens to be when the annual K2K swim takes place; starting at Kyleakin on Skye and finishing at Kyle of Lochalsh on the mainland. Vanessa did it last year, but soon realised that training with only her road bike and swimming costume might have been a bit of a handicap. So, with a new wetsuit and a rigorous regime in Broadford Bay,  2018 was going to be her year. The big effort was worth it and she was rewarded with a time less than half of her previous best.

Annual K2K swim

Swimmers prepare for the annual K2K swim. No rules regarding what you wear (apart from the day-glo cap!)

We decided not to be too ambitions in our holiday plans this year. Sometimes the most relaxing breaks are those that don’t involve too much preparation and travel, so we booked a cottage down in Galloway. This is a corner of Scotland that many of our visitors zoom past on their way to the Highlands, and to be honest, maybe this is why it’s so appealing. It’s full of cows and very, very green. It sounds a bit sad, but lush, green grass that you can sit on without getting a wet bum is a bit of a novelty for us. Not only that but we were keen to go for the excellent mountain biking on offer; well, particularly Darach, who has managed to persuade us all that muddy single-tracks can be almost as fun as skinny tyres . There are seven world class mountain biking centres in the south of Scotland and our cottage was a stones throw from one of them. We all enjoyed some really lovely biking; apart from Ewan who did, indeed have to be bribed with Cream o’Galloway icecream on this occasion. But he did admit it tasted better because he’d been cycling.

Closer to home, now that its quiet we get more time for going out in the evening. As always, the local events organiser, Seall, keeps coming up trumps. This year’s musical highlights included the Orkney band Saltfishforty, a house concert from an American folk combo the Pearson family, and an unmissable gig with pipers Ross Ainslie and Ali Hutton. We’re just off to Elgol to the opening night of the Festival of Small Halls this evening. We’ll let you know how it was!

Glorious South Skye