Never say no to an adventure

We’re probably all a bit fatigued with inspirational quotes at the moment. They’re posted in Facebook and Instagram, plastered over T-shirts and cushions…

‘Never let go of your dreams’

‘Be your own inspiration’

‘Believe in yourself’

Let’s face it, they get pretty annoying after a while.
But sometimes you find a motto in life that deserves to be celebrated. Something to repeat to yourself whenever you’re faced with a choice. Something that even deserves to be written over an over-edited picture of a pretty landscape and made into an annoying inspirational quote…

Mine is to ‘never say no to an adventure’.

Life is short and this has served me well so far so I’m keeping it.

And it’s something I’ve listened to recently… This week I packed up my little cottage in the North End of Skye and moved out.
I’ve had plenty of adventures there that I still need to write about, WILL definitely write about. Just not yet, because, in the meantime, I’m off on another adventure.

It’s not the end of my Skye journey or even my life on Skye but it’s the end of my life in that house and a little pause in proceedings.
I’m sure I’ll have plenty more to write about when I get back (it won’t be long) but, right now, it’s time for adventures…



Alpkit: Go nice places, do good things

I was thinking this morning about all the things I’ve been up to over the past year that I’ve still yet to write about… foraging missions… whale rescue training… trips to Applecross, Harris, Glasgow, Edinburgh…
Then it occurred to me that I’d never shared the video made for Alpkit by Dom Bush who came to stay last August (blog post here)

Cumbria-based kit-makers Alpkit don’t just make fantastic products (their filoment jacket is probably the warmest, lightest thing I own) -they also have a really great ethos and attitude.
The company motto is ‘Go nice places, Do good things’ and they have a really dynamic and refreshing approach to how a business interacts with its customers. It’s a brand I’m really chuffed to have been involved with and highly recommend (and no, I’m not getting paid to say that).
You can see the adventures they get up to on their Facebook page here.

Dom Bush of Land and Sky Media is a fantastic award-winning filmmaker and it was great to have the chance to be filmed by him. Please ignore me and my lispy ramblings and just enjoy his beautiful camera skills…

To see more videos by Dom for Alpkit check out the Screenroom section of the Alpkit website here. The one about fell-runner Nicky Spinks is amazing -she’s a superwoman!
As well as a catalogue of their products they’ve got lots of interesting blog posts to inspire you to try out your own adventures.


A leaving note…

What is it that you actually do?


Me in my Skye studio (Photograph by the insanely talented Anthony Lycett)

For all my posts about my days on Skye and the things I enjoy doing, I realise that I never talk about my day job as an artist.

This evening I was posting some photos of my most recent work to my Facebook page (Katie Tunn Fine Art) and I found myself writing more about the background to the pieces than I usually do, like a kind of mini blog.
Since these new paintings are Skye-inspired I thought I’d share what I wrote…


Inspired by the ocean and the sky

(From Facebook)
‘Back in 2013 I took a month out to explore Scotland. As an ocean-lover and a geology-enthusiast I have always been entranced by the natural beauty of the country.
I had no planned route but as I roamed from place to place I realised I was in pursuit of something… The colour blue.

From the icy teal of the deepest Fairy Pools to the Caribbean turquoise of Coral Beach -I found glimpses of what I was looking for on Skye. It’s part of why I fell in love with this place and perhaps what led me to move here.

I’ve now been here for over a year. Although I’ve been making art the whole time, it’s been mostly my ‘bread and butter’ work, portrait commissions.
I love this type of work but for a long time I’ve been meaning to make some more intuitive art that reflects what I love about this island. I have no idea why but something always stopped me.

It took an impromptu painting session with fellow Skye artist and friend, Marion Boddy-Evans, to inspire me to loosen up and experiment.
Following her words of encouragement I’ve been rapidly turning every blank surface in my studio blue.


Catching the light


These new pieces are all works in progress as I explore different painting techniques to represent the colours of the ocean and the patterns found in minerals and gemstones.
It’s great fun to go back to using high-gloss surfaces, circular canvases and metallic colours, it’s been a while.
It feels like I’m beginning to really find my blue…’


All my favourite colours

The circular canvases in the somewhat blurry photos above are my favourite pieces so far but it’s been fun to play around with different surfaces and materials too, especially using stuff that I’ve picked up whilst cleaning beaches.
My studio has gradually become a shrine to cerulean; it’s a delight to walk in and be surrounded by splashes of my favourite colour.


Experimenting with beachcombed finds

As I mentioned above, this is a departure from my everyday artwork which mainly consists of portrait commissions. I specialise in drawings and paintings of people or horses, often with a military or polo theme. Yes, it’s incredibly niche but it’s a good market and one I enjoy working in.


One of my favourite finished commissions 

There are pros and cons with working to commission…
Pros: It’s guaranteed work and I really enjoy meeting my new subjects.
Cons: It can be painstaking with little room for error or movement. But worse, you never know whether your client will like it or not so there can sometimes be an agonising internal struggle to work out whether you’re really up to the job.

When working on a big commission I often spend most of my time doubting whether I can really paint at all and whether I’m committing some kind of fraud by pretending to do so. It may sound extreme but it’s not an uncommon train of thought. It’s what makes us try to be better artists.


The latest drawing commission 

It’s the lack of that internal struggle that makes this intuitive, abstract way of working feel more fun and carefree.
As my friend Marion wrote on her blog recently, you have to experiment and accept that you’ll make mistakes. I really owe her one for inspiring me to find that freedom with paint that I was beginning to lose a bit.
I’m looking forward to getting back into the studio and seeing what comes out next…

To see more of my work please visit my Facebook page: Katie Tunn Fine Art


One Whole Year #2: Another type of ‘changing’


So my last post was about a year of living on Skye and watching the island alter with each month. When somewhere is so naturally beautiful of course you notice the changes. Life here is defined by the seasons.
Even those who don’t work out at sea or on crofts have to mould their plans to suit the shifting hours of daylight. We rush about to get things done in the short days of winter and then, in summer, it seems like the sun has forgot to set and all our hurry disappears.

When I arrived here I didn’t realise I’d gradually become more attuned to the seasons.
In fact, I didn’t realise how much moving to Skye would change me in general.
I suppose it shouldn’t be a surprise considering I opted for an entirely new lifestyle…


Do I fit in yet?

Here’s what’s changed…

Firstly, I am now cold-proof.

By that I don’t mean that I no longer get the sniffles (although living away from the crowds does mean that you catch bugs much less frequently) -it means that I’m now well-acclimatised to the Hebridean weather.
There are many wonderful things about living in a big old house but warmth is not one of them; even with a full fire and the heating on full blast it still doesn’t always warm up fully.
95% of my skin remains covered year-round and I’m no longer bothered that I can see my breath when making a cup of tea or that I can’t feel my toes when I get up in the morning.
Now I actually prefer being cold, it makes me feel hardy (though what my guests think might be another matter!)


There’s no such thing as cold when you’re wearing the right socks

I no longer know what day it is.

This is a peculiar thing that affects most people I know on Skye. We run successful businesses and go about our daily lives with no issue at all but, when asked, we often can’t tell you if it’s a Tuesday or a Friday. Though it’s easy to tell when it’s a Sunday because everything’s closed.


I care less about money.

Although I sometimes enjoy the high life, I’ve never really been fussed about money (I did choose to become an artist, after all!)

I’m sure this lack of interest might come back to bite me in the bum one day (hello pension!) but right now on Skye it just doesn’t seem to matter as much. Whilst it’s nice to have enough cash to travel or eat out, the best things here are free.

That said, I’m not living the life of a monk.
As the quote goes, ‘Beware of artists as they mix with all sections of society’…  So I might seem to do fancy things, but it really is all by association.
It’s lovely to be invited to swish events but at the end I always go back to the house where I put on an extra jumper on to save on bills and ball up my receipts so I don’t need firelighters. Although the cost of living here is significantly less than London it’s still nice to need less.


A night staying in a mountain bothy costs nothing. It’s not fancy but good fun

*On the topic of money, I thought I’d mention one of my favourite things about Skye… there’s less of a class system here. Yes, there are differences in wealth but everyone is part of the same community and generally visits most of the same places. 
I always think of the jobs up here being like in a children’s story book or tv show; there’s the postman, the bus driver, the shopkeeper, the doctor… and they’re all respected in the same way. I think that this more level playing field is great.


You don’t need much to enjoy the view

It’s not just money, I also need less ‘stuff’.

When you don’t have many shops around it forces you to buy less stuff. The thing is, once you’re used to it you realise it’s not really a hardship.
When I went home this Christmas we went into a huge shopping centre and found it kind of gross how people were rushing around with piled-high trolleys grabbing at gifts without thought. It just felt a bit excessive; not what Christmas should be about. I think living on Skye has made me more aware of that.
Of course, I still enjoy shopping (duh!) but I do it far less and I only buy things I really love.
Perhaps, too, it’s also a stronger link to the environment that has made me more aware of the impact of limitless consumerism and the effect that has on natural resources.


When you do beach cleans it makes you realise how much stuff there is that we don’t need (this was from Duntulm beach last week -sad irony that this is the only turtle I’ve seen here)

I eat differently.
Living on a croft has made me look at dairy differently; when you see the connection between a mother and calf each day it becomes hard to justify drinking milk and supporting the process in which it’s made.
So I swapped to almond milk and now try to eat vegan food as much as possible, although I am happy to eat certain animal products like our neighbour’s eggs or local venison.
However, my views on food are now somewhat long and complicated so this is perhaps a whole other post for another day…


A mummy cow on the croft

I don’t think an adult in a backwards cap is odd anymore.

In England a fully-grown, 30+ male wearing a baseball cap the wrong way round would be seen as ridiculous. Here it’s not an uncommon sight… Something to do with outdoor adventures, mountain biking and snowsports.
Maybe they’re just big kids or something.
Actually, I take all of that back, I still think it’s really weird.


Dude, I’m not sure about your hat…

So, there are still some things that have stayed the same.

As I mentioned at the end of the last post, I don’t think I’ll ever get bored of the beauty of this place, each light and season shows something new. If I ever get jaded then maybe it’s time to move on.


Still a delight to see cows on the road

Here’s what hasn’t changed…


I still love sheep… And cows… And buzzards… And all the other animals that we come across each day here.
If I have to brake to a halt in the middle of the road because of a load of sheep crossing then I’ll still get my camera out to take a picture. I’m also probably just as likely as ever to post it to Facebook with the tired old caption of ‘Skye traffic’.
I still find them charming and characterful and I’m pleased that that never faded away.


I see ewe, baby!

I still enjoy dressing up.

Of course, a glitzy party dress isn’t going to see as much of Skye as a pair of waterproof trousers and a tatty old Barbour but it doesn’t mean there’s no reason to try.
Although it’s frivolous I always try and put on a sprinkling of glitter with my perfume each day and, whilst my high heels gather dust, wellies don’t really look so bad with a sequin skirt…
Or maybe they do, I don’t know, or care really. You can’t have a bad day if you’ve put a little sparkle into it….


A rare chance to scrub up at the Polo Awards in May

I’m still the same shape.

Whilst I’m not fat I’ve never been particularly svelte or skinny either; I love food and I’m happily soft and a bit squidgy. But I figured when I came to Skye I’d spend all my days out roaming the hills or battling the sea. I’d be some kind of muscular, athletic superwoman.
I didn’t reckon on the cake factor…


Afternoon tea at Kinloch Lodge

There’s so much good food on Skye, dammit!

If I look out of my window I can see the cafe that does the best brownies I’ve ever tasted (Single Track, by the way, it’s amazing, go there).
If I drive down the road I reach Skye Pie where Simon and Kirsty sell their little pastry-wrapped bundles of deliciousness.
Then there’s the freshly-baked artisan bread at the Skye Baking Co or the lovely afternoon tea at Kinloch Lodge…

On Skye there is no escape from good food!
With the rough weather it’s been less about burning calories and more about burning logs on the fire with a nice cup of tea. I’ve put on a whole stone in weight since I moved to Skye!
Though maybe that’s why the cold doesn’t bother me so much now…

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Festive treats at Skye Pies

I still love a party.

Of course, parties don’t come up very often here so when they do it’s a real treat.
My only problem is that now I get so excited that I tend to go too hard too soon and therefore render myself completely useless for the next few days!

I’ve been lucky enough to be invited to a fair few estate parties on the mainland since I arrived here. The new friends I meet think I’m a wild party girl from Skye; what they don’t know is that I’ve just been saving it up for months so I’m like some kind of human champagne cork.
There’s been some funny stories as a result, but I’ll save those for another day…


Uh oh…

So there have been some changes and some not-quite-changes. But it’s amazing to learn what happens in a year.
I wonder what adventures there are to come in the next one…

One Whole Year #1: Changing seasons


Just enjoying the view

Well, time runs away and the weeks fly by… I rush about from here to there, busy busy busy; too occupied to have sat down to write a blog post for months.
Then all of a sudden an anniversary passes…
One whole year on Skye.

In fact, that was a few months ago now. I’m not sure what happened to this quiet island life; the last few months have been a blur of artwork commissions, Christmas travels, catch-ups and birthday celebrations. Barely a pause.



Celebrating one year on the island with a fire, bubbles and a tasty Skye Pie

As some of you have noticed, I haven’t posted much recently. I think it’s because I’ve got so much to write about, loads to tell -it’s a bit daunting to know where to start!
But I’m making it a New Year’s resolution to get back on track. My most recent comments have been so kind and encouraging that I’d be an idiot not to try a bit harder!

So, one whole year on this magical island…

Firstly, “yah boo sucks!” to anyone who thought I couldn’t hack it!
Have I said before about how some folk here say you have to do three winters on Skye before you’re accepted?
Well, I’m not sure about that. I think that an incomer here is probably always an incomer; I’ve met people who have been here for forty years who are still considered ‘new’ (probably a good thing as it means I don’t have to change the name of this blog yet)! But acceptance is another thing. Skye folk are so wonderfully kind that I never felt like an outsider; they’re always welcoming.



One of the locals

15 months here means that I’m halfway through that supposed three winter period and I’ve now seen every season on Skye. Well, almost every season…

Ignoring the tourist hoardes, summer on Skye is supposed to be a little bit like paradise. Don’t scoff, the Scottish summertime is stunning. It exists, I’ve seen it. I’ve even caught a tan.
Only, this year it didn’t come.

Every time my family asked about the rain they would laugh and say, “well, you did move to Scotland!” My defence of the West Coast weather was rudely undermined by the daily drizzle.
Luckily this isn’t the norm; even my poor neighbours and landlady were apologetic that I wasn’t experiencing the best summer Skye had to offer. I didn’t mind, it just gives me an excuse to stay on and try another one!



Moody shifting skies

Although I still haven’t got the chance to explore in a T-shirt there’s still been some beautiful days.
When I lived in London it was wonderful to return to the family home and see the seasons change. At our cottage in Chiddingfold it’s a treat to see nature changing; the colours deepen and the smells emerge.

Seeing the seasons in the English countryside is one thing but up here it’s even more intense. Being immersed in a dramatic landscape means noticing all the changes on a grand scale. Whole swathes of hillside turn from dark monochrome to bright green then to hazy purple then vivid rust before back to snowy black and white again. Sometimes at sunset the light catches these colours in such a way that they look like they’re on fire. There’s nothing like it.



‘And the rest is rust and stardust’


I arrived on Skye in winter on purpose. It was to be a 6 month escape; close the doors, light the fire, curl up with a whisky, read a book. Time out. Hibernation.
This didn’t happen.
Aside from the obvious fact that I well and truly got ‘Skyejacked’ (brilliant term, not my invention!), I actually found it hard to stay inside when there was so much exploring to be done. Wind, rain and cold are fine if you’re dressed up properly to protect you from them so the weather didn’t bother me.
Last January/February was one of my favourite times here. Of course there was the epic January storm with 100mph winds that caused havoc with 4-day blackouts and damage to houses and crofts. Not great. But after that there was a period of calm with fresh snow and bright blue skies that made everything dazzle. It was crisp and soft and quiet in a way that seemed magical.


And all at once I saw a crowd…


There was an unexpected surprise that came with moving into my cottage. As the ice thawed and the days became (slightly) more warm I noticed a little spot of white appear at the edge of my snow-scorched lawn. Snowdrops!
Over the next couple of months I would rush to the window each morning to see what had appeared. First came the snowdrops, then the gold of a crocus, then a purple crocus. At one point, like a joyful finale, my whole lawn was covered in daffodils in various shades of cream and bright orange egg yolk.
I’d never been interested in flowers before, suddenly I’m a convert.
Of course, spring blooms go hand in hand with baby animals and on the croft I was surrounded!



New arrivals

I would wake up in the morning and drag my groggy body down to the kitchen to make myself a cup of tea. As I stood at the sink for the kettle to boil I’d look out the window and right there in front of me would be a couple of tiny calves with their new brown skin gleaming in the morning sun like freshly opened chestnuts. Then I’d take my tea to the porch at the other side of the house and watch the lambs run and jump about in the field like little boisterous wisps of cotton wool. It’s like living in a children’s picture book or Easter card.
Forget therapy or medication, you can’t have a bad day when you wake up to this. If there’s anything more joyful than a miniature calf bouncing around like an overgrown excited puppy I’m yet to see it.

The less said about this the better. How many words does the British language have for rain again?




Loch Mealt and Beinn Edra in autumnal colours


Skye excels at beautiful landscapes; it shows off -an A* student. But there was something I missed about autumn here…

There are very few trees in the North of Skye and, of the ones we do have, only a small fraction are deciduous; the sea and the wind up here have scoured the landscape making it bare of all but the toughest plants. So no shifting palette of rich oranges and golds, no rustle of papery leaves leaving their branches, no smell of leaf mold to breathe in as you wander. It’s a season for all senses; you can feel the changes with your eyes, ears and nose.

In an uncharacteristic turn, autumn in the North of Skye seemed to me to be more subtle. It can begin with vibrant purple heather blooms in September but most of the flowers seemed to be hiding this year, made shy by the constant summer rain. Instead the hills slowly turned from one colour to another, bit by bit, quietly.
Then one day, when driving along a normal route, the sun will break through the mist and pick up the rust colour of the recently-green hillside. It’s a colour so vibrant and intense that when caught in the light it can look almost crimson; reflected in the glow of an early autumn sunset it sometimes looks aflame.


Russet hills beyond the Loch Damh

In October I was invited by an old friend to spend some time on an estate near Torridon. On arrival our lovely host took me out on Loch Damh to pick up some of the other guests who had been up on the hills all day. On our way back the sun was setting on the russet landscape and I exclaimed with joy at how beautiful the light and colours were. My friend turned to me and said, “But you live here, don’t you see this every day?”
I smiled.
Every day here is different. Each morning brings something new; a new colour, a new species, a previously unnoticed view  -it’s one of the things I appreciate most about my Scottish home.


Taking in the hills

Whilst I adore the writer, Samuel Johnson, when it comes to Skye I’d prefer to give his famous quote a James Boswell kind-of spin…
When a girl is tired of the Highlands & Islands she is tired of life.
There’s still so much more to be seen…

Review: Ullinish Lodge -a hidden gem

Last month I was lucky enough to be invited to try a meal by chef Richard Massey at Ullinish Lodge on the West Coast of Skye.
Despite living here for a year it’s not a place I knew much about; I’d heard the name here and there but never thought to investigate. Skye is a surprisingly large island with a constantly evolving hospitality scene and it’s easy to miss places that aren’t always in the main guidebooks.


Ullinish Lodge on Loch Bracadale with the Cuillins in the distance

It took just over an hour to drive there from my house. The winter nights have drawn in so quickly;  one week the evenings are light, the next it’s like the switch has been flicked off.

I bounced along the single track road in the dark and the shady outlines of sheep and deer moving just outside the beam lent an eerie feel to the journey.

I arrive at 7:30 on the dot. It’s a blustery evening so I hurriedly crunch over the gravel to escape the chill wind.

As I rush through the doors I’m greeted with warmth twice over… Firstly with cosy relief from the cold then secondly with a kind welcome from Brian, one half of the husband and wife team who run the lodge.

Inside it’s old-fashioned.

This isn’t a criticism; when coming in from the cold to the fire and soft furnishings, it’s just right. It has the feeling of a large home.

Brian shows me to the lounge where guests are invited to have drinks and canapes before moving into the dining room. I was the only person there and I took advantage of it by greedily nabbing the best sofa spot in front of the hearth.


A cosy seat by the fire (with a glass of Designated Driver’s Finest, unfortunately!)

Despite still being in high season the lodge was quiet. A number of guests hadn’t turned up, perhaps they’d got lost on Skye’s endlessly wiggling single track roads?

The dining room was similarly traditional in style but the dimmer lighting softened the smartly starched white tablecloths and made it feel relaxed.

It felt like a place where the food served would be rich and French-influenced. Gentleman’s club food; lots of red wine reductions, beef fillet and other expensive but heartily robust things.

But then the amuse bouche arrived and I realised that this wasn’t going to be an average country house hotel meal…


Local oyster with cucumber noodles and verbena dry ice

The little appetiser consisted of a fat, frilly oyster perfectly perched on the wide rim of a raised glass plate. As I leaned in to inspect it I was joined by the owner, Brian, armed with a teapot from which he poured a little liquid into a hole at the centre of the plate.

Being served by the host himself is a nice introduction.

From the hole came an eruption of dry ice vapour scented with lemon verbena; it swirled round the oyster and cascaded over the rim of the plate. With the fronds of seaweed poking up through the clouds it was a perfect impression of sea foam flowing onto a Skye shore.

This was pure showmanship.

The oyster was intensely creamy and left almost bare save a small nest of dressed cucumber noodles. I have a lot of respect for a chef who is confident enough in his ingredients to let them speak for themself. It also hints that this is a kitchen that uses showmanship to enhance the dining experience rather than a smoke-and-mirrors tactic to distract us from less-skilled cooking.

True to this clue both the starter and main were artful, clever dishes.


My starter: ‘Roast quail breast -confit leg -button mushroom -pickled onion -raisin’

My quail starter was the kind of dish that’s so full of flavour it can only exist in starter-size. Too intense to be supersized but perfect in miniature.

Each tiny element was considered, right down to the tiny raisins that were soaked to such a level of plumpness that they were like  exploding doll-sized sweets.

The choice for mains was pork or turbot. As I don’t eat fin fish the choice was made for me. Being extra difficult I usually also avoid pork but as most of the meat at Ullinish Lodge is locally-sourced from familiar Skye-based producers such as Orbost Farm I didn’t mind making an exception.

*The menu here is a two-choice one so if you’re a particularly fussy eater (like myself) it’s really worth letting the lodge know well in advance if there’s anything you don’t eat; it’ll make everything easier for both you and the kitchen!*


The local sourcing detailed on the menu

Again with the main, the balance of flavours here was spot on.

For me the ham hock croquette outshone the fillet; the little breaded parcel was intensely piggy with a satisfying saltiness that worked nicely with the milder neep pieces.

I enjoyed the playful ideas such as the apple sauce ‘apple’ (using spherification to remodel the gel back into a fruit shape).

It’s those kind of touches that show that the chef is enjoying flexing his creativity.

If I’m going to be picky about this dish I could say that perhaps it didn’t need as many elements. I could have enjoyed this dish just as much without the fillet or the pork pie, although the latter adds another fun part to some serious cooking skills.


My main: ‘Lochaber pork fillet – ham hock croquette – pork pie – crackling – neeps -apple sauce’

When it comes to puddings I’m not usually that fussed.

If I’ve spied a cheese trolley meandering round a dining room I’ll usually eschew the sweet course altogether and sit in anticipation for that exciting moment when the wheels stop next to your chair and you get to peruse the tray like Augustus Gloop at a pick n’ mix counter.

Perhaps this disinterest is because I often feel like chefs play safe with puddings. Those tried and tested flavours, all delicious, but rarely as interesting and exciting as the preceding savoury courses.


The cheese taster plate. For a cheese lover the selection wasn’t particularly groundbreaking but the frozen grapes were fun and the oatcakes were delicious (I’d have happily taken a box of them home!

At Ullinish you get both cheese and a pud -the best of both worlds for us indecisive gluttons.

First came a small cheese taster plate (basic but good) followed by a choice of two desserts; either a rhubarb crumble souffle or ‘dark chocolate, sour cherry, apple’.

I opted for the latter and couldn’t have been more pleased… It was a STUNNING dessert.

The not-too-sweet, cherry mousse-filled chocolate sphere that sat guarded by gently boozy cherries and zippy variations of apple is carved into my memory as one of those plates that when you think of it you smack your lips and murmur “ooh, I could eat that again right now…”

In fact, the apple components were so vibrant that the smell of fresh green juice rose off the plate even once it was gone (perhaps I just ate it so quickly that the smell didn’t even have time to dissipate!)


Pudding: ‘Dark chocolate – sour cherry -apple’ (even just looking at this photo is making my mouth water…)

As I said, I’m not a pudding fan so I don’t say that lightly.

I’m lucky enough to have eaten at a lot of top restaurants…

*please excuse shameless name-dropping here*

Aikens, Ramsay, Kitchin, Kerridge, Roux… I’ve enjoyed loads of incredible meals.

But which puddings do I remember from any of those visits?

Not one.

I took my coffee and petit fours back in the sitting room.

From the modernist world of dry ice and sodium alginate I find myself once again amidst lace tablecloths and doilies.

The petit fours are the sole little reminder of the cooking that’s just gone. One was a chocolate truffle with a black-hole intensity so strong that I could barely take more than a nibble. The other was a Laphroaig marshmallow in a freeze-dried raspberry coating that was so airy it felt like it was made with the ‘angels share’. It was such a tiny part of the meal but, again, it is one that sticks in the memory.


Coffee & petit fours

In fact, all of the small intermediate dishes were done well.

To stop myself from rambling (more than I already have) I’ve only focused on the main dishes. Yet the canapes, the warm breads, the palate cleanser and, of course, the petit fours were all well-executed.

I’ve got to admit that I came away from Ullinish Lodge pretty surprised.

I like to think I know a lot about the foodie scene on Skye, how did I miss this?


The menu

I’d seen a couple of photos with handpicked veg and herbs from the kitchen garden on Twitter but that was about all I knew about this restaurant…

(FYI, the little microgreens on each plate weren’t always necessary. Though in the case of that pudding they gave a barely-perceptible note of pepperiness.

But, the idea made me smile -a little example of a chef who takes joy in growing his own produce)

Not only that, the entire meal is priced at £55 before drinks and service. For this level of cooking that’s fantastic value.

*For transparency’s sake I must state that I was treated to this meal by the folks at the lodge. However, you mustn’t take that as a sign that my praise has been bought. If it was a crap meal I’d say so. Or at least, I’d just give a very brief, factual description of the food and leave you to realise the rest!*


Looking from the lounge into the reception

If you were to ask me to sum up Ullinish in brief I would say that it’s like a embodiment of Skye itself, a condensed example of this island as a whole…

On the face it’s traditional, homely, perhaps even slightly old-fashioned… BUT if you look properly then you’ll notice there’s something exciting happening at the same time, something creative and skilled and very interesting indeed.

I really liked it here, this hidden gem, this won’t be my only visit.


Spot the orca

Spot the orca

I’ve just got home after an impromptu orca-spotting trip
(well, I say ‘orca-spotting’ but it was really just a few hours staring at the sea…)

There were a couple of reports on Facebook about a pod being spotted near Neist Point (the most Westerly point on Skye) and there was a possibility that they’d be heading North.

I’ve been working on a portrait in the studio this month so I washed my paintbrushes, made a Thermos of tea, then headed up the road to the ruins at Duntulm, a good vantage point.

The wind made the water choppy and my eyes were streaming. Not ideal for seeing the white mist of a blow or the dark surface of skin or fin.
Still, I sat and scanned the water as best I could.

I sipped the tea (instantly chilled by the wind) from my Thermos and nibbled on a Single Track brownie whilst tourists came and went around me wondering what this bundled-up human being was staring so intently at.

Can you tell it was chilly?

Can you tell it was chilly?

Eluded this time.
After about an hour and a half I got up and wandered back to the car, imagining the whole way that there was a pod of orcas jumping up in acrobatic cheekiness the moment I’d turned my back.

At home I checked my emails and posted a picture online to say that I’d gone for a look but that the shiny buggers were nowhere to be seen.
Often when I post a beautiful picture of Skye someone will tell me how lucky I am to live here. It’s just happened twice with my orca-spotting photo.

I don’t completely disagree with it but I always find it’s a funny thing to say…

I am incredibly lucky with so many aspects of my life.
I’ve probably had too much good luck… at least more than my fair share.
But coming here wasn’t luck. I didn’t just float up here on the breeze; I made a conscious decision to live here.

Moving to Skye was a choice. It meant making sacrifices…
In choosing Skye I’m far away from my the people who care about me most; my family and friends (even the stinky old dogs who I miss to bits).
There’s almost no getting dressed up and going out (something I used to love). There’s no pub. There’s incredibly limited dating prospects. There are less career opportunities (I’ll never become wealthy from my existence here).
I’ve even started to feel the odd pang of loneliness.


…there’s nature, wildlife, landscape, light….
These things, for now, are what make me happy.

Brogaig Beach. Worth giving up a few things for

Brogaig Beach. Worth giving up a few things for

In a way, I suppose it’s a selfish existence, to leave loved ones behind for something that I want.

Of course, there is some element of luck; I’m lucky to have had the freedom to come here and I’m lucky that those loved ones have supported me in this decision.
A happy healthy family, no partner, a flexible career… all this meant that I didn’t have ties to keep me in one place. THAT is what was lucky.

But the bottom line is that I think we make our own choices.
I’m lucky in many ways but with Skye I wanted to move somewhere pretty so I did (I might get invited to a lot of fancy things by fancy friends but at the heart of it it’s really a simple life)

Life is short so we need to find what we love and…
…actually, ignore that, it’s a quote by Charles Bukowski: “Find what you love and let it kill you”. I don’t intend to shuffle off this mortal coil anytime soon, thank you.

Basically, what I’m trying to say is… just make your own luck.

Try to be near what makes you happy

Try to be near what makes you happy

As I write this someone’s just sent me a message saying that moving somewhere so remote is brave.
If ‘lucky’ is the adjective I hear most often, ‘brave’ is the second one.
Don’t even get me started on it…

*Also, lucky is when you go out to look for orcas and actually see them.