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Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Flowers at Doune

scabiousI’ve been to Doune at different times of the year,   In spring the foxglove dominates the countryside, in summer it’s the wild orchid, and in autumn the blue scabious, such a pretty little flower on a long bare stem, grows in profusion, among the grasses and the meadow hawkweed. 

scabious experiment

 grasses and wild flowers


scabious and stone

These two small photos were just experiments with my camera, but I think they turned out well enough.



This year I found one or two white scabiousesblue and white scabious that I don’t think I have seen before. The two together look very attractive.

This is the meadow hawkweed,not a dandelion quite like a dandelion but with a fine stem, and petals that are flatter at the tips, but still serrated .

 Of course being the middle of September, the heather was still in flower.  In fact even some earlier flowering bell heather was still in bloom.  It usually puts in an appearance in early July whereas the ling blossoms later, in August.heather and bogmyrtle2

Here’s some heather growing with some bog myrtle.  Bog myrtle is quite good for keeping the midges at bay, midges, for the uninitiated, being tiny mosquito type insects that can be a positive pain in the neck in mild humid or damp situations.  On the west there are millions of them – and even if they don’t bite (it’s only the females that do the biting), just their flying around you is enough to really hack you off!  Kenneth McKellar, a very popular Scottish singer of the latter years of the 20th century, wrote a silly wee song about the midges…. describing them as having teeth like piranhas, and a friend says that it wouldn’t matter how many you killed, there would be thousands more that would come to the wake!

heather and bogmyrtle

They really do seem to be particularly vicious on the west coast in summer, and those of you who, like me, are particularly tasty to the little….creatures, will be very grateful for some sprigs of bog myrtle around your person!  You can crush the leaves and rub them on your face and arms, or simply tuck a small spring behind your ears!  The little son of a friend of mine once heard his mum talking about bog myrtle and got hold of the wrong end of the stick.  “Why’s it called bog mental?” he asked,   and bog mental it has remained to us, ever since!bell heather and ling  That wee lad is now about 20!  

Here are both types of heather growing together.  The traditional Scots heather is calluna vulgaris, or ling, and a whole hillside of the stuff scents the air with honey.  In fact heather honey is really the bees knees of honeys, if you’ll pardon my little joke there about the bees!  Bell heather is named for its flower shape, its latin name though is Erica Cineria.

baby bracken and stonesUnfortunately, these days,bracken is crowding the heather hills and choking it.  It’s not ragwort that councils should be pulling out by the sides of roads, it’s the ever evasive bracken.  I didn’t have the heart to uproot this tiny little bracken though!  

 cinquefoil These are just a few more of the flowers we encountered at Doune,  cinque foil – from the five leaves - eyebright a tiny eyebright,like st johnswort

i don’t know the name of this one on the right, and couldn’t find it on the web.  Anyone able to tell me?red clover 

This is our red clover,left,and below is a very late flowering sea thrift.seapink

seed heads






I’m pretty sure these are the seed heads of a couple of  hawkweed flowers.to doune and back 361

No yellow flower but this is the silver weed, the undersides of the leaves appearing silvery.

It wasn’t just flowers I photographed. I also managed to get some photos of tiny toadstools like these orangey yellow one and the tall thin black ones.orange fungi 

to doune and back 703






black toadstoolsThere were lots of fungi around this autumn.

Well, this was going to be Flora and fauna, but I think the fauna has to wait till next time!  I’ve gone a bit overboard with the flowers. Anyway, hope you aren’t over bored!

Talk again soon.

Monday, 26 September 2011

exploring at Doune

One afternoon, Morag and I decided to take a bit of a walk over to the other side of Doune Head, the headland being where the ancient prehistoric Dun or settlement had once been.  boundaries and cultivation strips Over that side there’s plenty more evidence of the old Doune, with ruins of cottages, overgrown field boundaries, and the lazybeds I mentioned last time.doune ruins 

You can see the boundaries quite clearly in both these pictures; cultivation plots in the one above and a ruined cottage in the one on the right.  It is the best preserved cottage in the area, I think.

 cornkiln2 There’s also the old corn kiln, which I have photographed before, where the inhabitants of 17th/18th/19th century Doune would dry their grain before grinding it for flour or maybe for making beer.  It is about 8 feet in diameter, about 2 feet high, and would have had a fire lit within the circle of stones, beneath a large dish-like object on which the grain would be spread.  You do have to use your imagination a bit but the heather is growing on top of the circular walls and the dark hole would have been where the fire was stoked.

The land is very boggy so I expect the “Dounies” of old would have dug some drainage ditches.  It’s also not very good land – you can see the amount of rock around -  but the plots would have been built up and fertilised with seaweed, over many years.

by the fank Further on, and still near the shore is the stone-built sheepfold or fank, in Scots – from a Gaelic word – where the ‘post-1852 clearance’ sheep would have been gathered in at certain times during the year.   You’ll probably have to enlarge this picture to see the outer wall of the fold on the left.  the fankIt comprised a holding area from where the sheep could be separated into two smaller areas, and a narrow run that would allow the separated sheep to run out of the fank at the far end.the fank2  



Well, the sheep are all gone now too.  We didn’t see any around the Doune area. It’s a bit ironic!



rock pool

From there we came down to the stony beach with its tiny bit of sand to look at rock pools - and look for stones, in my case!  back to douneWe met Marge on her solitary walk and all headed back to the lodge together, me lagging behind as usual to take photos.  cuilins from doune

the Cuillins over the Sound and beyond Sleat

Doune Head


Doune Head – pieces of the vitrified fort or settlement of Dun can be found up beside the rowan tree. In more recent history there was at least one cottage down on the shoreRon on our beach 

Ron in the sea at the beach in front of the lodge!

Later that evening we had one of our better sunsets, so I’ll sign off with that for now.doune skies3

Talk again soon.


Saturday, 24 September 2011

A recommendation

Just a quick little post tonight to recommend a great blog I found recently and to whom I am going to award the Your Blog Rocks award!  Katrina is from the west of Scotland, but lives on the east and is Pining for the West!

She writes mainly about books she has read, but also about places  she has visited, Scots words, exhibitions, the weather, DVDs, films, cooking, crafts……….. there’s just SO much to dip into!

So I want you to have this award, Katrina – Your Blog Rocks!

More from Doune next time.

Talk again soon.



I don’t believe it!

PS to my PS at the end of tonight’s blog below this!  I spent hours trying to get the layout right and every time I previewed it, it had all got tangled up, with pictures overlapping each other and script going in lines down between pictures, or getting hidden by the pictures!  I kept going back and redoing it, and In the end when the preview looked as good as I’d got all night, which still wasn’t brilliant I posted the darn thing – with apologetic PS -  and lo and behold, it printed out ALMOST perfectly!   So the preview doesn’t always mean that’s how the post will look once it’s printed!  I could scream!  Anyway I hope you enjoy reading about the spectacular boat trip now. Keep scrolling down!

A spectacular boat trip

a fine morning After a few days of bad weather Wednesday dawned fine and reasonably clear!  The Cuillin mountains were “up” – we say they’re either up or down depending on the mist cover! – and it promised to be a grand day. The young couple staying in one of the guest rooms, as opposed to the lodge where we all muck in, decided to do a long walk from the top of Loch Nevis, back to Inverie where they would be picked up again, so Morag and I decided to join them on the boat up the loch and back. 

martin in the cabin It being Steve’s day off, it was Martin who skippered Gripper as we set off not long after breakfast.   pinhole view of loch nevis The isles of Eigg and Rum were still misty on the western horizon but the sun shining from the east across the water was beautiful.  There were no seals to be seen on the rocks as we turned into the mouth of Loch Nevis, just cormorantsonly a flock of cormorants drying their wings after some serious diving.

plastic mary We passed the statue of the virgin Mary, hands held out towards the water – the Dounies irreverently call her Plastic Mary, as from a distance she looks like the kind of plastic model sold as souvenirs – inverie and on into the widening loch, the small village of Inverie, on our left.


leaving cuillins behind Zooming on, we left a churned up trail behind us, and the Cuillins on the far away horizon.  On our right is the stretch of land separating Loch Nevis from Loch Morar,  and somewhere on the Morar side of the loch the evidence of an old pre-Clearance settlement could be seen very clearly, although maybe it won’t be so clear in the photos.  a preclearance settlement morarThere are lots of old cultivation strips clearly visible up the hillside,runrigs

obviously massively overgrown now after 150 years, but the rows and rows of them would seem to indicate the presence of quite a big settlement there once.   This is called the runrig system and where the band Runrig got their name!  Wikipedia says “The name refers to the ridge and furrow pattern characteristic of this system….., with alternating "runs" (furrows) and "rigs" (ridges).” They are also known as lazybeds – again from Wikipedia “parallel banks of ridge and furrow are dug by spade although lazy beds have banks that are bigger, up to 2.5m in width, with narrow drainage channels between them.”  I was surprised at how far up the steep slope the strips went!

the whale boatDown on the shore near Sourlies we saw the strangest boat I have ever seen.   I seem to remember from a previous trip up the loch that the owner of it planned to take it on a world tour, but Martin says it has always just been there.  It is meant to look like a whale! 

tarbet Just a bit further on there is a break in the hillside, providing a pass from loch to loch.

cameron mackintosh's tarbet


At this end of the narrow strip of land between the lochs is Tarbet where recently this large grey house was built to replace an older house that was burned down some years ago. The owner of the big house is Sir Cameron Mackintosh, producer of such famous theatre stage shows as Cats,  Les Misérables, and The Phantom of the Opera.  He is apparently a very popular and generous landowner.  The house looks rather empty and boarded up, but maybe it was just the way the light was that made it look this way.  From these windows the view is pretty much the same as my photo four above, of the Cuillins through the loch entrance.

The day just could not have been better.  Views were stunning, the  loch so calm that the reflections were incredible.


kylesknoydart reflections

We approached the narrows at Kyles-knoydart on the left


 kylesmorarand  Kylesmorar on the right. Kyle comes from the Gaelic word  Caol, for a narrow piece of water.



As we entered the kyle this was our view ahead! (left)

and this is the head of the lochcamusrory.



at camusroryAt Camusrory, Alex and Karen climbed off the boat to set off along the path that would lead them into the hills,by camusrory

while we set off back to Doune,  with a wee stop at Mallaig for Martin to pick up some stores. bustling mallaig


I do like Mallaig.  It’s bustling and busy with boats, and reminds me of some of the Norwegian fjord settlements!  mallaig


back to doune



 Heading back to Doune we passed the entrance to Loch Nevis once again,eda frandsen 

and when we reached the Bay, there was Eda Frandsen, Doune’s tall ship.  I wonder where she’s been off to this week.  She actually didn’t stay long and we didn’t see her again till the end of the week. She is usually chartered by the week for a sail round the islands, generally with some diving thrown in!  Perhaps skipper Toby forgot something vital and returned to fetch it!

buoy and bird I swear this cormorant sits here permanently on this buoy in the bay.  He was obviously quite unconcerned about our closeness to him!  I wonder if he’s ever been up to the head of Loch Nevis?

Talk again soon.

PS.  I’m sorry about the layout not doing what it should.  I have no idea why sometimes I have such big problems with it!  I have spent far too long playing with it tonight that I refuse to do it yet again.  I’m sure you’ll manage to read it – eventually!