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June 14, 2012

Wind and rain forecast for tomorrow. After 10 weeks or so of stunning weather (sunshine and calm) this comes as a shock ! Happily, the settled weather looks set to return after Saturday. After such charmed weather anything adverse seems impossibly remote,  so I enclose a cute picture of Snuffy in the snow just to give us a thrill of chill. (Or, as the miserable old Scottish adage goes ‘Aye, we’ll pay for it !’)

Things in the hostel and on the croft go well. Marc is now joined by Nathalie (Quebec) and Petri from the Netherlands. Marc continues as Man Friday and currently is taking down some fences so as to extend the wood /wild land around Cnoc Buie, Natalie is busy making the hostel beautiful and homey for the guests and Petri is busy in the gardens, saving them from my indolence and neglect. Snuffy has shamelessly chosen Natalie above me and runs to her whenever possible. Watch ‘As Good As It gets’ with Jack Nicholson and you’ll get the picture. Me ? Offended ?

A chap called Derek came to stay with some folk a week or so ago. He runs a big fast RIB out of Craobh Haven and is making a commercial venture out of taking small groups on customised trips around the Inner Hebrides. Comfy places to stay, good food, wildlife -that sort of thing. We got talking about the amazing selection of good restaurants dotted around these parts and the delight in arriving at them by boat. A bit of derring-do combined with fabulous food: a winning combination !

So here are my current favourites.

‘Gille Brighde’ ( It means ‘Bridget’s boy or follower’ and is the gaelic name for an oyster catcher. You’re never far from the Fire Goddess up here. Tiny place on the lovely island of Canna and overlooking what must be one of the most well loved anchorage in the Hebrides. Business is weather dependent ! They have few bookings until the boats start arriving in the late afternoon (when there is a race to get your name down !) and it tends to get very busy. Amanda and Aart do a fantastic job of welcoming hungry sailors and preparing delicious food (mainly seafood of course).

‘The White House Restaurant’ ( in Lochaline and run by my friend Jane. Spectacular food and a quiet sophistication. Jane is involved in the Slow Food Movement and this underpins the ethos of the restaurant.  It’s a place where it feels right to make an effort to dress up for. You don’t have to, but changing into your gladrags to row ashore after a bumpy and wet day on the water is one of life’s pleasures. And this restaurant and its sense of specialness deserves it.

‘Cafe Fish’ ( in Tobermory is a joy. Sit in the art deco pier building overlooking Tobermory Bay, enjoy the frenetic buzz, great food and multitude of languages and sneek an occasional proud glance at your boat swinging on its mooring – and which is of course just the most beautiful and wonderous thing in the harbour. The family who own it have the best strap-line ever: ‘The only things frozen here are the fishermen’ !

‘Isle Ornsay Hotel’ on Sleate in Skye ( An absolute delight and try to stay the night in the main hotel. Old fashioned comfort combined with elegant decay and delicious food, calmly served.  I love it and want to go back.

‘Am Birlinn’ near Dervaig on Mull ( Birlinns were the mediaeval Hebridean war galleys (which you didn’t mess with) -incase you were wondering. A gem of a place owned and operated by the inspirational and enterprising Morrison family. Modern and fresh layout with good artwork, excellent service, unpretentious and excellent food. If you’re lucky, Ian will get a ceilidh going.  Mull’s lucky to have it. A treasure.

‘The Boathouse Restaurant’ ( on Morvern. A beautifully converted old boathouse and another wee gem of a place only half an hour or so by fast boat from Oban. It serves local produce and is another of these splashes of heaven. I wonder if Oban has a fast water taxi ?

Last but not least is the Argyll Hotel on Iona (  A perfect setting, friendly and capable staff and food to die for. One of these places that YOU HAVE TO GO TO. It has it’s own organic garden and holds a Green Business Tourism Scheme ‘Gold’ Award. If you stay, ask for a room overlooking the Sound of Iona. Just lovely.

So, get yourself a boat and go exploring.

The sheep were sheared and dosed yesterday and it all went smoothly. The sun shone, the sheep behaved, hostellers came out and helped round them up (better than sheep-dogs …) and Marc, Natalie and Petri all helped while John MacInnes (from the deep south of Iona) rattled through the shearing in just a couple of hours. I’m really delighted to have that out of the way so early in the summer and the sheep will be happier for it too. Hugh MacDiamid came up with a great word for the specific time of year around shearing,  the ‘yow-trummle’ (ewe tremble). Late spring / early summer but still sometimes with a bit of chill in it. Below you will see a photo of the magnificent ‘007’ before he becomes ‘Shorn Connory’… Terrible joke, I know.

Over the next couple of weeks I need to sort through piles of fleeces to decide which ones I’ll sent to the spinner and have woven into blankets. Hebridean fleeces are gorgeous to handle -soft yet incredibly oily with all the lanolin to keep them warm. Another of my sensory pleasures ! In fact, I’ll finish with a smell-picture. Imagine a late autumn night, dark and still, with a smirr of rain coming in off the sea.  As you stand there, absorbing the velvet darkness, the most wonderful tangy, cosy, wet and foozy smell rises to envelope you, and you realise that the sheep are all standing there, companionably, close by.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Genie Quincy permalink
    June 15, 2012 3:31 am

    You need to publish a brochure of the eateries. Thank you.

    • June 22, 2012 3:51 pm

      Hi Genie,

      Often thought about it because there are so many good restaurants and producers in these parts. It’s a busy life though, so maybe one day !

      Kind regards,


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