Herefordshire Week 229: Tuesday 14 – Monday 20 May 2024

Super Sunny Scotland. Essex. Home.

Hazel, Catherine and me, Loch Morlich Circular
Hazel, Catherine and me, Loch Morlich Circular

Tuesday – To the East Coast for beach walks at Findhorn and Lossiemouth, an excellent lunch (plus pints) at The Captain’s Table, Findhorn Marina, and fab ice cream from Miele’s of Lossie.

Me, Hazel and Catherine, Findhorn Estuary
Me, Hazel and Catherine, Findhorn Estuary
Catherine and Hazel, East Beach, Lossiemouth
Catherine and Hazel, East Beach, Lossiemouth

Wednesday – Into the Cairngorms via The Watchers at Corgarff Viewpoint and the Snow Roads Route towards Aviemore. Into Glenmore Forest to do the Loch Morlich Circular in the morning and An Lochan Uaine / Green Loch Return in the afternoon.

The Watchers at Corgarff Viewpoint
The Watchers at Corgarff Viewpoint
Loch Morlich panorama
Loch Morlich panorama
An Lochan Uaine / The Green Loch
An Lochan Uaine / The Green Loch

Thursday – Another gorgeous sunny day. Morning in the Spa (swam 50 lengths) then out with daypacks and sandwiches to walk the Cambus o’May circular. Hip gyp meant I got the bus back from the CoM visitor centre but we reunited for pints at The Alexandra Hotel followed by ice creams from Shorty’s. And celebrated the end of our five fab days with prosecco and crisps al fresco.

Well, it’s not raining here today!
Well, it’s not raining here today!
Cambus o'May Circular: Bridge and the River Dee
Cambus o’May Circular: Bridge and the River Dee
Celebrating our Craigendarroch Minibreak
Celebrating our Craigendarroch Minibreak

Friday – Au revoir Craigendarroch and to Newcastle via Bamburgh. LNER train to London, making it from Kings Cross to Liverpool Street station in record speed to catch the train out to Wivenhoe by the skin of my teeth. Witham-ites are in COVID quarantine….

HGV at Craigendarroch, Ballater
HGV at Craigendarroch, Ballater
Bamburgh Beach Selfie
Bamburgh Beach Selfie

Up early on Saturday for the long drive home, with a stop off in WTM for a bit of a sit on the porch steps with P, at Rugby Moto services which was full of Bolton Wanderers fans – yes, I did need to look that up 🙂 – and in  Ross for supplies. Back home to find the grass lush and green and long, and loads of buttercups and daisies. Thankfully no dead birds.

Forty Acres front lawn panorama
Forty Acres front lawn panorama

Unpacked then took it easy…aka binged on the first half of Bridgerton season 3.

Caught up with a bit of admin on Sunday morning and moved things out of my office ahead of Project Panelling, which starts on Tuesday. Lunched out on the patio then fired up the ride on mower for the mega mow…. Started easily and I set off over the new drive and towards the orchard, and there it stalled and I couldn’t get it to start. Checked the petrol – all fine – so I put it on to charge and hauled the Honda Mower around The Edges etc ….And, you guessed it, when I returned to the ride on mower a couple of hours later I looked at the petrol tank again – AND IT WAS EMPTY! Idiot. Or “Bufflehead!!” as we say in these parts. Had to drive to The Forge for more petrol, then mowed (No 6 setting). Got round everywhere except The Solarium.

Mowing part II: view from the ride on mower
Mowing part II: view from the ride on mower

Richard came to strim on Monday morning. It was overcast so I decided to give the grass longer to dry out and to see how easily the wallpaper would come off in my office instead – very easily it turned out with a sponging of water.

Panelling Prep
Panelling Prep

The sun arrived in the early afternoon so I took the ride on mower for a spin to collect the dryer grass – 15 grass collector loads in all.

Mowing part II: the second 5 piles.... and more to come
Mowing part II: the second 5 piles…. and more to come

Then to Winchester to lend a hand moving the old conservatory sofa from the kitchen to the garden room and for some party planning followed by a delicious BBQ al fresco. A lovely evening.


I almost managed a paddle a day during our Scotland (and Northumberland) jaunt:

River Dee, Balmoral

A paddle in the River Dee, Balmoral Castle
A paddle in the River Dee, Balmoral Castle

North Sea, Findhorn

Findhorn Paddle
Findhorn Paddle

North Sea, Lossiemouth

Paddling, East Beach, Lossiemouth
Paddling, East Beach, Lossiemouth

Loch Morlich

Loch Morlich Paddle
Loch Morlich Paddle

An Lochan Uaine

Seated paddle in An Lochan Uaine / The Green Loch
Seated paddle in An Lochan Uaine / The Green Loch

North Sea, Bamburgh

Not really a proper paddle .... but close!
Not really a proper paddle …. but close!

Swallows zooming, a blackbird with no tail feathers, goldfinches nipping in and out of the hedges, a robin perched atop the tall pine / fir singing loudly every morning – the dawn chorus has woken me up every morning around 4.30am since I got back (I have managed to get back to sleep mind you).

Think I might had chopped the hind leg of a toad while Honda-mowing by the small pond, which is full of tiny water boatmen / beetles, a newt or two. And gunk. The large pond is lined with yellow flag irises, and cow parsley.

Big Pond
Big Pond

In better news, we have a resident rabbit – for the first time in years.

We have a resident rabbit
We have a resident rabbit

TV: Stacey Solomon Renovation Rescue, Digging for Britain, The One Show, Location Location LocationBridgerton (season 3, part 1), Doctor Who (Gotta love Ncuti Gatwa!!!)

Podcasts: Americast, When It Hits the Fan, History Extra, Shedunnit, The Rest is Entertainment, Gone Mediaeval, Empire.


Photos: Herefordshire week 229 on Flickr.

Phil: Pause continued.

Herefordshire Week 228: Tuesday 7 – Monday 13 May 2024

Essex hiatus. Up to Scotland.

Catherine, me and Hazel at Balmoral Castle
Catherine, me and Hazel at Balmoral Castle

Spent super sunny Tuesday to Saturday in Essex, catching the train into London on Saturday evening and heading down to H’s.

Morning coffee, Wivenhoe Riverside
Morning coffee, Wivenhoe Riverside

To LHR on Sunday morning to catch BA1308 to Aberdeen. CP met us at the airport and drove us to Ballater via a big Tescos for “essential supplies”. Settled into our luxury suite at the Craigendarroch then went down into Ballater for a stroll around the village before returning to our suite – suite! – and celebrating the start of our mini break with a large G&T. Dinner courtesy of the Keiller Brasserie.

Bridge over the River Dee, Ballater
Bridge over the River Dee, Ballater

Monday – Braemar, Balmoral & Ballater, and a swim in the pool to ease my hip / thigh muscles while C&H walked the seven bridges. Thai takeaway for tea – yum!

Balmoral Castle
Balmoral Castle

Lovely hearing curlews and cuckoos in WIV, and waking up to oyster catcher calls.

But this is the closest we got to red squirrels in Scotland….

Balmoral Castle: Beware Squirrels Crossing
Balmoral Castle: Beware Squirrels Crossing
The Specialty Shop, Braemar
The Specialty Shop, Braemar
The closest we came to a red squirrel .....
The closest we came to a red squirrel …..

Just don’t mention the Corgis…..

Felt animals taken to a whole new level ....
Felt animals taken to a whole new level ….

TV: Eurovision, Rob and Rylan’s Grand Tour, Digging for Britain.

Podcasts: Americast, When It Hits the Fan, History Extra, Shedunnit, The Rest is Entertainment, Gone Mediaeval, The Today Podcast.


Photos: Herefordshire week 228 on Flickr.

Phil: Pause continued.

Herefordshire Week 127: Tuesday 31 May – Monday 06 June 2022

Queen’s Platinum Jubilee. Back to St Andrews.


Took things easy in Tuesday morning, feeling the ill effects of Phil’s cold. Awful internet all afternoon meant that work was relatively quiet too. The day’s major highlight was the arrival of my Indian Tourist Visa. PHEW.

Better on both counts on Wednesday. In the evening, pre holiday pizza by Phil and more of The Morning Show.

Pizza - The Man Behind The Magic
Pizza – The Man Behind The Magic

First strawberry crop too.


Up early Thursday to get to Abergavenny for the 8.30am train. Gorgeous day, with the Black Mountains looking at their most tempting, but I was destined to spend the next 7 hours on the train: Abergavenny-Crewe; Crewe-Edinburgh; Edinburgh-Leuchars. I joined the southern contingent of the St Andrews Ladies at Edinburgh and we splashed out in a taxi to get us from the station to our fab Fife Cottages house in St Andrews.

Lovely sunny afternoon, and the earlier arrivals were already settled out on the terrace with glasses of Prosecco enjoying a long overdue (twice deferred) catch up. A lovely afternoon eased into an equally lovely evening. Perhaps a few too many glasses of fizz and munchings of crisps, but hey…

We woke to another sunny day. Leisurely breakfast, then out for a stroll over to the Old Course, on to the Castle and the Cathedral, out to the end of the pier and then back to The Quad, St Mary’s, various student flat locations and the three streets of town. Back at base for a late lunch out on the terrace, with tea and Fisher & Donaldson cakes a bit later when Prof M FRSE came round. A late afternoon walk along the West Sands to The End and Back then Fish & Chips from the Tailend for dinner.

St. Andrews
St. Andrews

More sunshine on Saturday. Another slow start, watching Friday night’s Platinum Party from Buckingham Palace – complete with Paddington – and deciding what to do. We plumped for the Fife Coastal Path south from the East Sands, Prof M joining us as far as the caravan park. Fabulous weather, St Andrews looking at its absolute best. I can’t quite believe I spent 4 years there. I loved it, but it doesn’t seem real. And it really doesn’t seem like thirty years since most of us graduated.

St Andrews - East Sands
St Andrews – East Sands

Another late lunch, a spin out to David Russell Apartments (aka David Russell Hall) and Fife Park to pick up a bike provided the opportunity for H and I to walk back via the Sports Hall and the North Haugh (with a stop for photos outside the Institute of Mathematics), Kinburn Park and the Bus Station.

Back to Mathematics on the North Haugh
Back to Mathematics on the North Haugh

Then a lazy late afternoon enjoying the sun trap back garden with a drink or two before dinner out at Forgans followed by ice cream from Janettas – open to 10pm!

Sunday. Sunny. The first set of farewells then down to the West Sands to watch the Chariots of Fire 5k Run. Helen, Hazel and I headed back to the North Haugh via Uni Hall and then into town for a potter, postcards and pizza for dinner. Another lazy afternoon in the sunny garden then to the Picture House for Top Gun: Maverick. Home for pizza and salad, and to tidy up the wine. Perfect end to a lovely long weekend.


Monday, the weather had turned to cloud. Sorted out the house, strolled down to the Old Course, narrowly avoided being brained by a golf ball and then took our taxi to Leuchars for – in my case – the three trains home: Leuchars-Edinburgh; Edinburgh-Crewe; Crewe-Hereford.

The long journey home was improved by the news of a no confidence vote in Mr Johnson (even though he survived it), and in particular our MP‘s open letter and the catalogue of issues that reflect my own loathing of this Prime Minister, his personality, his populist policies and his privilege.

Phil’s friends from Munich arrived late evening. Supper in the conservatory then bed.


TV: The Morning Show, Platinum Party at the Palace and The Platinum Pageant

Podcasts: World Book Club, Lingthusiasm, History Extra


Photos: Herefordshire week 127 on Flickr.

Phil: w/e 2022-06-05.

Trip No. 1 of 2022: St Andrews, Scotland

We made it!

A walk along the West Sands, St Andrews
A walk along the West Sands, St Andrews

Destination: St Andrews, Scotland

When: June 2022

What: The long awaited long weekend back at the Alma Mater with the St As Ladies.

How: We’ve rented a pretty amazing looking house with a garden via Fife Cottages. Hopefully travelling there and back by train – but only if Advance fares materialise. Super Off Peak Return is currently coming in at £262.60….

Why: Nostalgia.

A long weekend on Skye: The Caledonian Sleeper, Shorefield House, (Some) Sun and Strolls

Phil and I are back from a lovely few days on Skye. We caught the Caledonian Sleeper train up to Fort William, leaving London on Wednesday night and arriving Thursday morning, returning to London overnight Sunday/Monday.  We hired a car from Practical Rental – Fort William to get us to and around Skye.

Here’s what we did.

Wednesday 17 May 2017: London Euston – Caledonian Sleeper

A pre boarding glass of wine at Gino D’Acampo, then off to Platform 1 to walk the length of the train to find coach Y. Next time we’ll know that the old hands have their pre departure tipple in the dining coach… and that it’s a very, very long train.

As the train trundled north we settled in to our berths. A good night’s sleep.

Thursday 18 May 2017: Caledonian Sleeper – Fort William – Loch Lochy – Kintail – Dornie – Plockton – Broadford – Edinbane

Two cups of coffee and a pack of shortbread accompanied our wake up call at 8am as the 6 carriage train made its way through the Highlands. Green glens and hills gliding by, the gorse in bright yellow bloom, rivers and lochs and morning mists.

Caledonian Sleeper: looking back
Caledonian Sleeper: looking back

Our arrival into Fort William coincided with The Jacobite getting up steam, and the lovely gent from Slipway Autos was there ready and waiting with a sign and and our Practical Car Rentals Citroen C1. Super speedy admin – the first time I’ve used the DVLA / GOV.UK online service create a ‘check code’ to share my driving record with a car hire company and it worked like a dream. The only bit of paperwork was the Vehicle Rental Agreement! Done and dusted in less than 5 mins.

I tell a lie, there was one more bit of paper – a handy map of the Fort William & Lochaber area which made our drive to Skye super-easy: North up the A82 to Invergarry then west along the A87 all the way to the Kyle of Lochalsh and across the bridge to Skye.

En route, a leg stretch and photo op at Loch Lochy, a late elevenses / early lunch at the Jac-o-Bite Inn in Kintail (in a downpour), and another photo stop at the stone slipway at Aird Point (Dornie) with its views across Loch Duich to Eilean Donan Castle. A detour north towards Stromeferry and around the peninsula brought us to Plockton for a stroll around the village and harbour.

Then across the sea to Skye.

Broadford was our first stop on Skye. Easy (and free!) parking (hark the Londoner) looking out over Broadford Bay. Another stroll, via the scattering of small shops to the old stone pier then back through town and out the other side and onto the stone beach. Crystal clear waters, fiery seaweed, bluebells and trees in bud. Beautiful.

Phil at Broadford harbour, Skye
Phil at Broadford harbour, Skye

Continuing north along the A87 we skirted sea lochs and scurried under looming mountains, veering north west at Portree and turning onto the A850 at Carbost/Borve, the scenery shifting at every turn.

Our destination – the small village of Edinbane and Shorefield House, our B&B for the next 3 nights. Both bed(room) and breakfast definitely merit their 4 stars.

After a warm welcome from Hilary and Peter, we settled in and took up the offer of a refreshing pot of tea and the decidedly superior selection of biscuits before heading out on foot to explore the village and for a pre dinner stroll along the banks of the Abhainn Choishleadar.

The “Where to have dinner?” decision was easy – the excellent Edinbane Inn is a couple of minutes walk away from Shorefield House. As it turned out, lots of other people had the same idea, but our hour’s wait turned into 20 minutes and that gave us time for a pint and some crisps, both Skye-made, before tucking, slightly tipsily, into a tasty, tasty meal.

Then back to base. Still light at 11pm.

Friday 19 May 2017: Edinbane – Coral Beach – Neist Point Lighthouse – Portree – Scorrybreac – Trotternish Peninsula – Portree – Edinbane

The sunniest day of our sojourn on Skye.

A feast of a breakfast* at Shorefield House then off, driving west along the A850 to Dunvegan, past the castle and turning north along a single track road running along the shores of Loch Dunvegan to Claigan. First stop – Coral Beach, which came complete with seals leaping in the bay and a cold wind. Back in the car, back to Dunvegan and onto the B884 heading west across the the Duirish Peninsula to Neist Point and its famous lighthouse. A steep path / steps down – better views from the cliffs close to the parking area, and you can see the sea birds nesting on the cliffs too.

After retracing our road to the A863 we continued south east to Struan where we turned left onto the B885 to take the short cut across the island to Portree.

A potter around Portree and then the Scorrybreac Circuit. A pleasure in the warm afternoon sun; the wind had died down completely.

Green hill, blue waters. Scorrybreac Circuit scenery
Green hill, blue waters. Scorrybreac Circuit scenery

The lovely early evening light saw us complete the drive around the Trotternish peninsula, with several stops for photos of the Western Isles. Beautiful.

Evening light over the Western Isles, from the Trotternish peninsula
Evening light over the Western Isles, from the Trotternish peninsula

Our plan to have dinner somewhere in Uig was foiled by all the possible pubs’ car parks being too full, so it was plan B – back to Portree and the Lower Deck Seafood Restaurant down by the harbourside.

Back to base and the wifi to work out a plan for tomorrow, which looked likely to be damp….

* juice, muesli with plain yoghurt and fresh raspberries, oatcakes and cheese, granola and blueberries, veggie fry up – two veggie sausages, scrambled egg, fried mushrooms, fresh fried tomatoes, clootie dumpling – toast and tea. And that was just me.

Saturday 20 May 2017: Edinbane – Carbost / Talisker Distillery – Broadford – Elgol – Edinbane

I was a bit more restrained in my breakfast order this morning – mushrooms on toast (after muesli with yoghurt, prunes and water melon) to allow room for at least one triangle of toast and jam/honey (which I just about managed) and a nice big cafetiere of coffee between us. That set us up for a somewhat damp day, driving around the west of the island.

Taking the A850 west and the south east again, we detoured off onto some of the map’s “white” roads, via Harlosh and Vatten, around Loch Bracadale. Really lovely, even in the grey.

We were heading to the Talisker Distillery, on the shores of Loch Harport. Busy on a drizzly day, so we had an hour to while away before we could join the first tour of the afternoon. Easily done strolling along the waterfront and pottering around the small display in the Visitor Centre. A bit heavy handed with the history and The Brand – you could tell there was a big business behind it.

The tour was interesting, and there was a tasting at the end. As driver, I was given my wee dram in a small takeaway pot. Very Good.

The weather hadn’t improved, and didn’t, which made for an afternoon’s drive – east to Broadford for coffee and cake at Café Sia, then west along the B8083 to Elgol, almost at the end of the Strathaird peninsula. Very picturesque, and an opportunity for a photo of some free ranging Highland cows.

Highland cow, Strathaird peninsula
Highland cow, Strathaird peninsula

Then all the way back to Edinbane for dinner at the Edinbane Inn. Not nearly so busy as on Thursday – but we had booked a table in the restaurant Just To Be Sure.

Sunday 21 May 2017: Edinbane – Armadale – Invermoriston – Fort William – Caledonian Sleeper

Farewell to Skye and another damp day. So I started with a full veggie breakfast (including potato scone) to make up for it. As well as muesli and fresh fruit. And toast. Coffee again.

East and then south to Portree and south again along the A87. Through Broadford and onto the A851 – to Armadale and the CalMac ferry terminal. The next sailing to Mallaig and the mainland was docked, but we resisted temptation (and the risk of a dint or a scrape on the hire car) and returned to the mainland via Broadford and the bridge.

Looking across the Sound of Sleat from Armadale
Looking across the Sound of Sleat from Armadale

East along the A87 all the way to Invermoriston, where we stopped at the superb Glen Rowan Cafe for the best coffee and cake of the trip. Highly recommended.

Then the A82 south west, along the shores of Loch Ness – not a Nessie in sight – and onwards through the Great Glen, arriving back in Fort William with a couple of hours to spare before catching the 9pm Caledonian Sleeper back to London.

That gave us time to tour around the ring road and one way system before parking back at the station, to stock up on dinner treats from Morrisons, to walk the length of the High Street and down to the shores of Loch Linnhe and back to the High Street again for a pint and some crisps at The Grog & Gruel.

A painless car key drop at the ticket office, then down to coach Y and into our cabin for a picnic dinner watching the Scottish scenery roll by…..

Caledonian Sleeper at Fort William
Caledonian Sleeper at Fort William

We were back in London Euston by 9.15am Monday morning, in time to join the commuters on the Circle line heading east to the City.