A Love Affair


british-isles-mapI’m sure for many of you reading this, there will have been countries or places that you have visited that have touched you in a way that you never forget. That place for me is The Outer Hebrides and in particular, The Isle of Lewis. If someone said to me, ‘Lottie, you have to move to an island and stay there for the rest of your life, where would it be?’ My answer, without a moment’s hesitation would be, ‘The Isle of Lewis’.

heb2

Although my love affair with The Outer Hebrides (or The Western Isles as they are also known) began as an adult over 20 years ago, I was by no means a stranger to Scotland. In my youth most of our summer holidays were spent in Scotland, as that is where my Mother and her siblings were brought up after evacuating from Holland during the war. I have a very clear memory of the long car journeys driving up there from Suffolk, the excitement of seeing the countryside turn from flat to hilly, to mountainous and of the biting midges welcome when at last we arrived 8/9 hours later. Whilst it may not be everyone’s idea of fun to be holed up in a remote, isolated Victorian hunting lodge in Caithness, soaked with driving rain while trampling across prickly grouse moors in Perthshire, or fishing in mosquito infested lochs in the Isles of Skye and Mull, my memories of those holidays are supremely happy, and never more so than when there were lots of other cousins around to share it with.

otter1lottienevin2013

Later on as an adult with 5 young children of my own, I felt a burning desire to retrace some of the steps of my own childhood. In introducing my own brood to Scotland, I in turn discovered new parts of Scotland that I had always wanted to visit. The islands of The Outer Hebrides beckoned to me and I could not resist their call.

For the first time since I’ve been writing this blog, I have no photos of my own to post which feels very odd. I’ve done a couple of quick drawings but for really fabulous photos and a fantastic website that I discovered earlier on today, I suggest you click on the link below and all with be revealed. I liked this site so much that I wrote to the owners and told them. It’s definitely worth checking out if you have the time and may even inspire you to visit The Outer Hebrides yourself, you may also see for yourselves why I fell so madly in love with the place!

http://www.virtualheb.co.uk/machair-wildflowers-western-isles.html

In my next post I shall be waxing lyrical about all the things to see and do there, plus some great tips on how not to lose your children, how to do the heimlich manoevre whilst driving at high speed on a motorway, swimming with seals and when’s the best time to go whale spotting, to name but a few….

36 thoughts on “A Love Affair

  1. If that’s a ‘really quick drawing’ from memory of the hunting lodge you stayed at, m’dear Lottie, I’m in awe of your spontaneous bursts of color and creativity. Sounds like a positively gorgeous place to visit! Can’t wait to take the wild ride and read all about the heimlich maneuver 😉

    Like

    1. Thank you Amit! yes, it was a very quick 10 min max painting and the otter was a scribble – if i dilly dally and shilly shally then i start getting too fussy – i love drawing in pen, even though the mistakes are clear it forces me just to press on with it!! The heimlich manoeuvre (not even sure if that’s the correct spelling!!) was terrifying and as for the poor baby, it’s a wonder she wasn’t taken into care!

      Like

  2. Yes, Lottie. Those dreams can be nagging and often those fleeting memories are very powerful and a draw-card to once again re-visit those places of years ago.
    I loved your drawing, and love the yellow warm paddock surrounding the cottage.
    Does it make you home-sick at all?

    Like

    1. I’d move there like a shot Gerard. I’ve loved the place ever since I first went there. It’s difficult to explain but I shall endeavour to in the next post. I love nature, water, the sea, light – all those play a part but it’s much much more than that. I hope you understand!
      Glad you liked the little pictures, thank you 🙂

      Like

  3. Like like like the colour drawing. On the map it looks pretty remote but I haven’t delved further yet to see what it’s like. I’ve spent a whopping four days in Scotland and will return one day, a wild coastal place or two being high on the agenda.

    Like

    1. You’ll love the wild, west coast – it’s all very beautiful. The islands are fun to go to as well – if you don’t want to go as far as the Outers, try the Inners – Skye, Mull, Rhum, Eigg and Coll etc – they are gorgeous and a bit more sheltered from the raging North Atlantic winds!

      Like

  4. The otter instantly says Ring of Bright Water to me. I loved the book as well as Tarka the Otter. I’m really looking forward to chapter two. Your childhood sounds like something out of Five go off to Camp. I suspect the kids of today get few chances to enjoy the freedom to loaf and roam in remote places. I mean what would happen if little Johnny got muddy and wet, or worse still, wandered off alone to watch wildlife. I shudder to think. I suspect, Lottie, we were the last generation to enjoy such pleasures. How did we cope without a PlayStation or a Wiiiiii? I think we should be told.

    Like

  5. I suspect poor little Johnny would hate The Hebs – he’d be bored shitless!
    As per my comment on your last blog ‘en afrique’ what you’ve just said has reminded me of a boy that I saw when we were on safari. Please if you will, picture this scene…..we are in the Masai Mara game reserve, we are in the most incredible countryside, teeming, I repeat teeming with wildlife – Lions, Cheetah, Leopard, you name it it’s there. We approach the great Mara river and witness THE most spectacular sight – something like 15,000 wildebeest crossing. There in the landrover next to ours is a young boy (lets call him Johnny), playing on his Nintendo DS – I seriously could have wept!

    Like

  6. As a boy I had a hankering for the Amazon via National Geographics in the school library, I guess one reason why I have fitted into being quasi Brasileiro (nearly Brazilian). You can’t beat realising your dreams.

    AV

    Like

    1. And you have! How wonderful that you are where you want to be – your story just goes to show how ‘where there’s a will, there’s a way’.

      You are absolutely right AV, ‘You can’t beat realising your dreams’,

      Like

      1. Even my late mother knew that this was my place. In 1996 I had been back in NZ for 9 months, I was saving to return to Brazil and she asked me how much I needed for the ticket, I had saved, but was $300 short. The next morning (Monday) she slapped $300 on the breakfast table and said “Bugger off, you’re like a bear with a sore head!” It was said in a loving manner, that was one of the legacies that my Mum left me. I flew out Tuesday night….

        I am living my dream.

        AV

        Like

      2. You know AV, your Mother sounds like she was a wonderful woman who cared very much for you. I like her attitude a lot!

        Your story is inspirational – I LOVE IT and thanks for sharing 🙂 I wish more people had the courage to live their dreams as you have

        Like

      3. That’s why it will be difficult for me at the recent lose. She gad attitude, yes, which added to her vitality. A friend in NZ once said to me that I was living a dream that was scary to many. It’s not scary, and it’s not courage, it’s believing that you can.

        AV

        Like

  7. I am so glad that you wrote about the Hebrides. I have always wondered about that place and I never looked it up to see what wonderful things there are to see. Such beauty. Yes I would love to live on an island as well as in a quaint house if I did not have all these pets and I were 30 or more years younger and getting my US retirment check. I’d even get on a boat to cross over (no plane foe me). Yhat’s saying a lot for me to be willing to move, since I am not the “travelling kind.”

    The guy that took all those wonderful photos, I suppose lives there. I don’t think that he missed any flora or fauna. I adore the sheep and the cattle. BUt i must see if there are horses or ponies. Now I will return to peruse the sight- I made it a favorite, so that I could find it easily. The guy should have a blog. Wonder if you, Lottie might get in touch with him- just to see what he is about.

    The islands off Great Britian,Scotland, Ireland have always intrigued me. I like the beauty and what seems to be absolute quiet and dignity.

    Can’t wait to read about the adventures you had with the kiddos.

    PS : I am always so impressed by your husband saying something nice about your posts. He appears to be one of the best.

    Regards,
    Yvonne xox

    Like

    1. The British Isles is indeed a very lovely place – the only thing that let’s it down badly is the weather …yes, I know, I know I know!! It’s not that we don’t get some lovely weather at times, it’s just that it’s never consistent, and you can never rely on it – If The Outer Hebrides had the weather of say for example The Caribbean or The Tropics it would be one of the most popular destinations on earth I’ll bet!

      Luckily I don’t need 365 days of sunshine to make me happy, I’m content to go with whatever the elements throw at me (well, for most of the time!)

      And yes, my husband is my greatest critic, friend and soul-mate ever, I am very blessed.

      Like

      1. Thanks for the reply. It made my day for you to write that you are indeed blessed with a soul-mate. Every married or unmarried person that has a partner should be as blessed as you.

        And yes I understand about British Isles weather. It is to the isles advantage however, because the bad weather has probably offered some degree of protection from over population and development..I’m referring to the small islands around Great Britian. But then I got to thinking. Maybe the isalnds have been invaded and I am not aware of it. I should have looked that up before I wrote all of this.

        Like

  8. Though I’ve never been, there is something completely enchanting about the Hebrides, and Lewis in particular. I love that you added the Virtual Hebrides link. Fantastic! I had no idea there were so many varieties of wild flowers. The beaches are amazing though, aren’t they? It’s hard to believe it’s cold there with the white sand and turquoise water.

    Your painting of the cottage is charming. It tugs at my heart in a lovely way.

    Wonderfully written post, Lottie. I can hardly wait for part two! xoxo

    Like

    1. Maybe, just maybe we could make this a destination to visit together? How does that sound for a plan?

      The link I found is great isn’t it! The flowers, machair as it’s known, is a blanket of colour against the harshness of the grey rock and the dark, often tempestuous sea. You’d be amazed at the variety of plants that grow there on what seems very barren land. It’s something to do with the shells being pounded up by the wind and then forming a layer over the top soil which results in a very rich bed in which plants thrive – I could get more technical but I think i’ll leave it out for fear of this turning into ‘Gardeners question time’

      The waters are so pure and clear and the sand so white. You can find wonderful shells here, see otters, amazing seabirds…it’s paradise I tell you! xoxo

      Like

  9. Oh Lottie, you made me greet! We didn’t have quite so far to go as you … and we went from London, not Suffolk. But your lovely lines about how the countryside changes as you drive north and more north, and how it sort of infects your spirit, took me straight back to our Scottish family holidays of the 1950s, also accessed by means of a very long drive (“Are we there yet?”). It was always magic to finally reach Northumberland, where the essence of the Borders begins to be truly felt, and the light and the air seem to take on a “northern” freshness. And then you cross the actual Border, just after crossing the Tweed at Berwick, which isn’t English and isn’t Scottish and is still technically at war with Mediaeval Russia.
    It’s funny how the mind works … You immediately began to look for heather and seeing a purplish hue on a hill is as exciting as spotting an unreachable patch of snow high on some distant line of peaks. Our special pleasure was that we knew Grandma would have scones and honey oatcakes ready for us and that the breeze on the cliff-top – there is always a breeze – would smell of North Sea kelp and carry its customary dark hints of the Arctic.
    Our Place is on the east coast between Edinburgh and the border (we are real Sassanachs 😉 ) and it’s always been my spiritual home. It never faded but it did become an imagined place because I spent so many years away – until 2011, only two visits, in 1968 and 1987, since 1963, a full half century. But we’re going again this summer for a spell, so to speak. Magic. So’s your piece.

    Like

    1. Richard, I love your comment and It warmed the cockles of heart hearing your story. I’m on the hoof right now but as soon as I’m back at home, in front of my computer and not having to type cack-handedly from my phone, I shall enjoy getting back to your comment. Lottie

      Like

    2. Funnily enough your comment made me greet too! It was so beautifully written, such an eloquent description of your childhood memories.

      My first draft of my last post, was in fact going to contain a much longer description of the journey up there but written as I remembered it as a child.

      I have a very vivid memory of one journey in particular – My parents had decided to drive up to Scotland through the night which in itself was the height of ‘excitingness’ for a young child! I pinched myself to stay awake for as much as possible of the journey so as not to miss anything – never mind that for a few hours it was pitch black! Inevitably sleep caught up with me and I dozed off in my little nest in the back of the car. But when I woke, dawn was breaking and we were in the Borders – just like the scene that you described.

      My Father was listening to Radio 3, and as I watched the flecks and streaks of blood red sun appear on the horizon I felt absolute euphoria – this was the first time that I had ever witnessed the sun coming up and, the day that I fell in love with Mozart. I remember the piece clearly – it was Mozart’s piano concerto K 488. here is the link

      Like

      1. You’ve hit the nail on the head Andrew, it is Divine. And, ‘Scuse the pun, but hearing this piece of music for the first time aged 7 was instrumental in my falling in love with classical music!

        Like

      2. Oh Andrew, I know and love this piece of music. Thanks for putting the link up on here and sharing this gorgeous and tear jerking music!

        When I was a little’un it was just the same, Dad did the classical and mum did the funky stuff – it’s a good combo to grow up with I reckon!

        Like

  10. I loved the hebrides (found you via Yvonne and Andrew btw).
    One of my very favourite places if I had the money to retire there.
    But for weather, when we spent three weeks there, couldn’t beat it. We came home to england with a mediterranean tan, and I so didn’t want to leave.

    Look forward to more WI posts.

    Like

    1. Hello! 🙂
      How exciting to have another Hebridean fan on here. very jealous of your mediterranean tan, i don’t think I ever managed that up there but, there are certainly days when the weather is gorgeous and the sun beats down on the islands making the lochs sparkle like diamonds and the waves glitter as they roll onto the pristine white shores….heaven!

      Like

      1. I’ve posted some – scanned – photos on my not-a-photo blog of Islay, Lewis (Callanish), so I’ll add the links later. I’ve got loads more but I post on that blog as and when the feeling takes me.

        Like

  11. My husband is from the Faroe Islands and I must admit that there’s something special about those North Atlantic islands. Though, the climate there is much too hostile for me to consider settling down there permanently:)

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s