Wednesday, 28 December 2011

The Last Post; Scotland

Hi All,
Here is my last post regarding our tour of Scotland. It was mid-afternoon when we left the Kyle of Tongue and set off down the lonely A836 to Laig. Unhappily for us our journey wouldn't end there because the following morning we'd be heading further south and after a stop over in Moffat, we'd find ourselves back in the urban sprawl we call home. Still enough of that for now, let's get back to the journey.
After a few miles we came to Loch Loyal which was in a splendid setting surrounded by moorlands and mountains. The road sticks to the shore for the whole of it's length presenting visitors like us with a splendid panorama. Above I can be seen viewing one of the many lochs that can be found in this part of Scotland. Once Loch Loyal was firmly in our rear view mirror we carried on through a remote landscape until we came to Altnaharra. This is a small settlement with an hotel and a few guest houses which are no doubt kept busy by Munro Baggers (people who are obsessed with climbing mountains over 3000 feet high). The hamlet is situated on a crossroads, which is rare in this part of Scotland. A very small road heads off to the west, down through Strathmore to emerge on the north coast near Loch Eriboil, which we passed through earlier in the day. The other road out of Altnaharra heads due east and follows Loch Naver which lies just beyond the village.From here we carried on our journey southwards and after passing between two large mountains we arrived at Cask Inn. The place is named after what must be one of the remotest pubs in the British Isles. It's a very thirsty 12 miles from the nearest settlement at Lairg. .Eventually, we arrived back at the lodge and after spending another glorious evening watching eagles soar across the mountain tops opposite, we went to bed for the last time in Sutherland.My wife Terry Anne can be seen above scanning for eagles from the balcony of our lodge. The following day we were up early and set off on the long journey back to southern Scotland. I had intended on sticking to the A9 for most of the way but it was so busy when compared with the roads we'd be on, that when we got to Killiecrankie we turned right and followed a road around the almost deserted shores of Lock Tummel. Here we picnicked and walked the dog before commencing the rest of our journey to Moffat where we had a bed and breakfast booked for the night. We like Moffat even though it is always busy with tourists. We had a nice meal in the same hotel that we'd used a couple of years earlier and then for some unknown reason went for a short drive before retiring for the night. It was on this short excursion that when driving along the top of a ridge that looked over the M74 motorway we came across a roadside that was populated with parked cars and people with cameras and telescopes. They must be Twitchers (people obsessed with birds) I thought, perhaps there is an eagle in the vicinity. Anyway, being nosey we parked up and got out of the car to see what all the fuss was about and it turned out these people were Chuffers (people obsessed with steam trains) and a steam train was due up the valley at any moment. So we waited and watched with great excitement as the train came thundering along the pine tree covered valley that the railway track shares with the M74. If you look closely at the photo you can see one lane of the motorway and the cars.
Trains aren't really my thing but it provided a full stop to what had been a great holiday. As it happens the next morning we found ourselves sharing a breakfast table with another couple and when I told them about the steam train the man was almost in tears. Apparently he was he was an old chuffer of extreme persuasion and was mortified that he'd missed the event. We calmed him down by promising to send him a copy of the photo I took and he seemed well pleased with that.
After breakfast we drove non-stop back to Stafford and that was the end of our holiday. In fact it is the end of a Sassenach's view of Scotland because I have run out of material. You don't need to get the violins out, but due to domestic circumstances beyond my control we haven't been on holiday for over two years. However, the day will come when I and my wife will, with hearts full of joy and excitement, head north again to the majestic wilds of Scotland.

I hope you have enjoyed reading this blog as much as I have writing it and that you have a happy and prosperous new year.

If you would like to find out more about me or my books Please click here,
or if you would like to see some of my pyrography click here.
For my pyrography at special prices Please click here.
To see some of my wife's art and crafts click here.

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Ullapool and Durness

Hi all,
You may be sad to know that the post after this will be my last regarding a Sassenach's view of Scotland. The journey has been great but alas I am running out of material. To make matters worse, we only had a film camera at the time and it developed a sticking lens during the last couple of days of our holiday. We didn't realise until after the film had been developed when we found that half of the pictures we'd taken hadn't come out. Sadly, we don't have as many photos of a beautiful place that we should have. The good news is, I've still got the memories which will forever be etched in a special place.

Anyway on the Wednesday we went due west from our lodge at Rogart, near Lairg and followed a single track road, with passing places. The journey to Ullapool and back was 110 miles, which is a mighty long way on single track roads. The good thing about travelling around those roads in Scotland is the lack of traffic and the great visibility. Most of the countryside is wide open with great vistas so you can see the approach of another car from miles way.
The journey was great and so was Ullapool. We had a walk around the town then a spot of lunch in pub before visiting a garden and then starting back. It's sad that we have no pictures, but these things happen.

The following day we set out on another of our epic journeys; a drive along the side of Loch Shin and then up to the furthest North West Point of Scotland. Well as far as you can get in a car, it is possible to walk to Cape Wrath or even catch a special mini bus certain times, but we'd be close enough.

We started the journey by going West as we had in the previous day, but when we reached Lairg, instead of carrying straight on, we turned right and followed the banks of Loch Shin. Not long into the trip we came across a field of Highland cattle, which both my wife and I find adorable.

We stopped and took several pictures all of which came out okay.

As per the day before we were travelling on a single track road with very little in the way of traffic. The scenery all the way to Durness on the North coast was nothing short of breathtaking. Views of lochs, forests and mountains frequently gave way to vast areas of moorland where we felt as if we were the only creatures on earth. The only bad thing I have to say about Durness is that the price of petrol was eye watering; luckily, I filled up the previous day so I managed to retain the lining in my wallet.

After having some refreshments in Durness, we followed the coast road around Loch Eriboll. We stopped a while and took in the coastal scenery which included a Salmon Farm. From our vantage point on the cliffs we could watch the magnificent fish leaping into the air trying to get free from the cages which had become their home. We then crossed the Kyle of Tongue and having travelled almost 100 miles on single track roads we sadly turned South to return to our lodge. I will describe the journey back in my next post.
If you would like to find out more about me or my books please click here
or if you would like to see some of my pyrography work please click here
I sell some pyrograhy items at discounted prices on please click here
Finally, my wife also sells some very nice craft items which can be seen by clicking here.

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Dunnet Head

Hi all,
Last week saw us half-way around our circular tour to John o Groats and back. I will pick up the story from where we left it at Dunnet Head which is the most northerly point of mainland Scotland.
After leaving Dunnet Head we followed the coast road for about 25 miles miles, through the lovely little town of Thurso and eventually came to the outskirts of Portskerra where we turned left and headed back to our lodge in Lairg. We were going into what is known as, The Flow Country, an area of peaty bog that stretches for thousands of square miles.The next bit of road we'd travel on was classed as an 'A road', but if it was around our way, it would be called a lane. This, the A897 was the remotest bit of road I'd ever driven on in my life. Miles and miles of moorland stretched in every direction and if you passed a car going in the other direction you waved because it was nice to know you weren't the only people on earth. We would have to get used to being on our own because it would be 38 miles before we reached civilisation again in Helmsdale. Actually, I tell a lie, after about fifteen miles of wilderness we came to a place called Forsinard, where the railway line crosses the road. It has a station and a nice looking hotel, but that's about it. It reminded me of one of those frontier towns you used to see in the old western films and half expected some tumble weed to bounce down the road to greet us.We really enjoyed our trip through the remote Flow Country; we stopped every now and again for a cup of tea out of our jumbo flask and we walked our dog. We also stopped every now and again to photograph herds of wild dear that were often found grazing along the side of the road.By the time we'd got back to our lodge it was late evening and the mist was beginning to sweep across the mountain range opposite our lodge. We'd had a great day out and seen Scotland at its best.
If you would like to find out more about my books please click here
or if you would like to see some of my pyrography work please click here
With Christmas just around the corner you may like to know that I am selling some of my pyrogrpahy work at discount prices at this shop. please click here
My wife is also selling some of her craft-work in the shop next door please click here.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011


Hi All
just a quick post to let you know that I have just finished my first book trailer video which, will hopefully, help promote my book Bossyboots. I don't think it will win any oscars, but I had a lot of fun doing it. I even got to play my guitar on the sound track. If you like good music, you might want to turn your speakers down low or even off.

I'm hoping santa is going to bring me proper video camera when he slips down the chimney this Chrismas and then I can do something a bit higher tech. Meanwhile I thought I'd share my debute into the world of films with you.

If anybody is interested, I did it using windows movie maker which comes free on most computers. Perhaps not the best video editing software, but it's free, so I can't knock it.

Here's the link and I'd love to hear your comments. Book Trailer

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Top of the World

Hi All
Continuing our journey around the north eastern tip of Scotland we soon found ourselves descending the gentle slope that has led a multitude of travellers to John o Groats. This is a fascinating place where visitors buzz about the place like wasps on a jam sandwich. To be truthful it isn't very big; there is a ferry terminus a few shops and the well known posers signpost.
We didn't linger too long in John o Groats because we needed to find a peaceful place to have our picnic. Taking a narrow road we headed up to Duncansby Head which is on the very tip of the north east of Scotland. We parked the car facing the sea and had glorious views over perfectly blue and smooth sea to the Island of Stroma. On that day, and in that weather I don't think there was a better place on the planet. I've called this post, 'Top of the World' because that's how it felt to be sitting at the tip of Scotland looking over a vast blue ocean. (The photo below doesn't do it an ounce of justice.)
Having finished our picnic, we were interested in some signs we'd seen pointing to Duncansby Stacks somewhere across the headland. It was time to stretch our legs so we thought we'd take a look. I guess it was a about a mile half there and back but well worth the walk. Two great pinnacles of rock could be seen sticking up from the sea that strangely put me in mind of a bra that Madonna wore in one of her videos.
The Stacks also provide a home for thousands of seabirds and it was great to watch them soaring around the cliff tops. My wife stood well back as she took the picture below because those cliffs are very high.

However, all great things come to an end and mindful of the fact that we were a long way from our lodge we set off to our next destination. Now, you may think that John o Groats marks the most northern bit of Scotland, but it doesn't, that accolade falls to Dunnet Head which is about 15 miles further along the coast. Compared with John o Groats and the magnificent Duncansby Head, Dunnet Head comes as a bit of a disappointment.
Don't get me wrong, it's still a nice place and the romoteness in which it sits gives it a certain charm but having little in the way of altitude the visitor is unable to glean the best view from what is undoutably a fine spot. The picture below is of me walking our dog just about as far north as you can get on the Scottish mainland.

Dunnet head marked the half-way spot in the days trip and as it was now mid afternoon we reluctantly got back into our car to start the long journey back to our lodge in Rogart.
I leave this post here and leave you with the usual links.
About me and my books please click here.
About my pyrography work please click here.
My discounted pyrography shop click here.

By the way, my wife was so taken with my shop on folksy .co she opened one of her own where she displays some of her paintings click here to see some of here stuff.
If you live in the Stafford area you could be forgiven for if the title of this post reminds you of the night club that, on a Saturday night, sat in it's own pool of detritus in Stafford. The establishment was always known to me and my friends as Top of the Grot and I think that just about summed it up.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

The road to John o Groats

Hi all,
After my last post which took us on a leisurely circular tour, today we are going to make a start on a long day out. We will be driving the 78 miles up the A9 to John o Groats. Then across the north coast through Thurso to Portskerra where we will turn south again and follow one of the remotest A roads in the country (the A897)back to Helmsdale on the East coast. ) All in all it is a round trip of about 180 miles, which is a lot in one day considering we will be visiting a few places along the way. We were a few years younger when we did this trip and it is hard to believe that we could cram so much in one day when now I get tired just walking to the kitchen. Ah well, nice to have the memories.

We started the day by picking up the A9 at Loch Fleet and then turning north along a nice stretch of road that hugs the coast for much of the way to John o Groats. We soon fond ourselves going through the small village of Brora where a stone monument at the side of the road marks the spot where the last wild wolf in Sutherland was killed in 1700. The man who carried out the deed was a hunter called Polson; I bet he didn't know that his name would go down in history.

Writing about the last wolf in Scotland reminded me of something funny I overheard the previous week.
The first woman asked "Are there any wild bears in England?"
"I don't know replied," her friend, "there are probably some in Scotland."
At the time of hearing this conversation I was concerned about some people's ignorance; how could their general knowledge be so poor. Perhaps it's all down to priorities and remebering what you thing is interesting or important. I bet they could name everybody who is currently starring in 'I'm a Celebrity Get me Out of Here,' where I certainly couldn't.

Ten miles later we came to Helmsdale and stopped to stretch our legs and have a cup of tea before carrying on with our epic journey. It wasn't long after leaving Helmsdale and it's lovely harbour that we came to a visitor's centre for Caithness Glass. The building was impressive so we decided to take a look and had a unique experience. Visitors stand along a gallery looking down upon a factory of workers who are all busy making glass products. Watching them melt the glass, blowing it and shaping it into bowls and vases was brilliant and time well spent. There were lots of colourful items of glassware on sale in the shop but we didn't buy any. Glass can be pretty, but like its touch, it leaves me cold.

Onwards and upwards, we arrived in Wick where we visited a supermarket to get some provisions for the picnic we would be having later and visited the busy harbour. That's me in the picture below enjoying a peaceful moment with my pipe.
We are now about half way to John o Groats and this is perhaps a good place to leave this post for now; I will continue it in a few days time.

Here's a quick reminder that you can find information about me and my books please click here.
More information about my pyrography work can be found by clicking here.
Finally if you are interested in buying some pyrography work you can find discounted items at my shop on by clicking here.

Monday, 14 November 2011

Lairg and The Falls of Shin

It is Monday on the second day of our holiday in the North of Scotland. We left our lodge in Rogart at about nine o'clock and proceeded towards Lairg, a town that sits neatly at the southern end of Loch Shin. Now, if you've read some of my blogs you will know that we have always enjoyed good weather when we have been north of the border, but today was an exception because it was coming down in torrents. On the way to Lairg we passed a bus that had skidded off the road and had gone through a fence, no doubt the accident was caused by the weather condition. The usual emergency crews were in attendance and I felt sympathy for the people who were doing a grim job in such foul conditions.
Because of the weather we didn't stay long in Lairg and carried on towards our destination, which was the Falls of Shin. We had read a write-up about the salmon that could be seen leaping up the falls and because neither of us had witnessed such an event we decided to remedy the situation. The good news is that as we took a lovely ride, on the B846 from Lairg, the sun came out and it turned into a lovely day.
Now the bad news, the falls were splendid enough with some nice viewing points, but, although I almost popped an eyeball from staring too hard, there wasn't a salmon to be seen. John West must have been there before us and banged them all in a tin. Anyway, having seen (and heard) enough of the gushing water we walked back up the path and called in at a huge log cabin that served as a visitor's centre and had some lunch.

After a delicious meal we carried on following the river as it snaked its way down the valley to the Kyle of Sutherland and then onto the Dornoch Firth.
This is a large inlet where the River Shin meets the North Sea and it is very scenic. A ferry used to be the only form of crossing here, but now a magnificent bridge carrying the A9 spans the water. We stopped for a while and had some tea from our flask and walked our dog before heading back to our lodge.
During the ride back the weather changed again and we entered a hail storm the likes of which we'd never encountered before, or again since. The hail stones were almost as big as marbles and I can only wonder that our car didn't finish up covered in dents.

If you want to find out more about me or my books please click here.
Or if you would like to see some of my pyrography work please click here.

Here's just a reminder that I also have some pyrography work on sale at the website. The difference is that the items on here are sold at bargain prices please click here.

Monday, 7 November 2011


This post is about the first day of our holiday in the highlands of Scotland. We are based in a lovely lodge on a hillside overlooking the village of Rogart which is about ten miles from Lairg. We had done a lot of travelling over the previous two days so today's priority was to find entertainment within easy reach.
We started off with a short drive to Loch fleet where we admired the scenery especially the vivid yellow gorse that covered the far side of the loch.
We walked the dog and sauntered along the shore before driving a little further to the little seaside village of Dornoch.

Here you may recall that Madonna got married in a nearby castle a few years ago. Luckily when we were there all was quiet. Having had a tranquil morning we retraced our steps over Loch Fleet and headed three miles further north to the village of Golspie. Dunrobin Castle the home of the Duke of Sutherland is situated in the village and as it is open to the public we decided to give it a try. The castle with its magnificent turrets looks down over the sea and lovely gardens.
It was in the gardens that we enjoyed a flying display by some birds of prey. My wife, Terry Anne, even had the pleasure of being allowed to hold one. It is a memory that will stay with her forever.

The only sad thing about the visit to Dunrobin Castle was its association with the Highland clearances. Between the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries thousands of Highlanders were driven from there homes to make way for sheep. These were cruel times and the then Duke of Sutherland was heavily involved in the eviction of people from his land.
When we were visiting the castle one of the tour guides told us a story that explained that although it happened a long while ago feelings about the clearances still run high.
Apparently, the previous week an elderly tourist fell over and a doctor was called to check her out. When the doctor arrived he declared that he would not step over the threshold of the home of the Duke of Sutherland because of the families links with the clearances. To receive treatment the lady who had fallen over had to be carried outside and laid on the tarmac drive. To be fair, they did lay her on a blanket but it was still a rum situation.

While I'm talking about the Duke of Sutherland, you may be interested to know that the Duke of Sutherland is associated with Trentham gardens, via marriage to the Marquise of Stafford. When leaving Trentham by heading south along the A34, you may have seen a statue looking down at you from the woods on the right hand side of the road before you get to Tittensor. Well the statue on the top of that column is the Duke of Sutherland.

Just a reminder that if you want to find out more about me or my books please click here.
Or if you are interested in seeing some of my pyrography work please click here.
If you would like to buy pyrography gifts at discounted prices please click here.

Sunday, 30 October 2011

The Great Glen

Hi all,
After eating a welcome and tasty evening meal at Banavie, on the side of the Caledonian canal, we decided to take the dog for a walk before returning to our B&B at Torcastle. We took a B road which would take us in a circular route along the Great Glen to Gairlochy. On the way we stopped and gave our dog a walk along an almost deserted road where we enjoyed brilliant views over the Caledonian canal and beyond to the peaks of the Nevis range of mountains that dominate the area. We eventually arrived at Gairlochy and turned right towards Spean Bridge. Here we stopped for a while and admired the Commando memorial and more spectacular views. The memorial, made from bronze, was place there in 1952 in honour of the Commandos who trained in the area. I guess the SAS have taken over the dreams of young boys nowadays, but when I was a lad, my mates and I all wanted to be Commandos. And so we returned to the B&B; we had come a long way from Stafford and it had been a long day.

The following morning we awoke to some nice weather and indulged ourselves in a delicious full Scottish Breakfast. This would set us up for our journey up the Great Glen where we would skirt the shores of three Lochs on our way to Inverness. Not long after setting out we came to the first, Loch Lochy where the views were lovely in all directions. So too were the views along the banks of the smaller Loch Oich which is the home to the village of Invergarry. Loch Ness, is a place that that springs to the minds of a lot of people when they think of Scotland and I was looking forward to seeing it for the first time. However, it didn't quite live up to its reputation. It was wide and long, and the views were nice, but it couldn't compare with most of the scenery we've seen in Scotland. Anyway, we stopped for a while, had a cup of tea and scanned the water just like all tourists. No, we didn't see Nessie, it must've been the monster's day off.
Eventually, we reached Inverness where we turned left and struck a course due north on the A9. We crossed the spectacular bridge that spans the Beauly Firth and another that crossed the Cromarty Firth. We stopped and had a picnic lunch, gave our dog another walk and then carried on over the Dornoch Firth to Loch Fleet where we turned left to try and find our lodge which was somewhere near Rogart. We followed the directions as supplied by the booking agent and soon found ourselves winding up a very narrow mountain track. We were beginning to wonder if we'd made an error in navigation untill we crested a brow in the road and saw our lodge perched wonderfully on the hillside.
We were soon inside and marvelling at the view from the lounge window and balcony. The picture in the holiday brochure didn't do it justice and neither can any of the photos I took. The view however, did have a downside; I like to have a good read in the evenings when we are on holiday, but, the book I took with me was almost untouched. Every night I would sit by the window with my binoculars and gaze at the Golden Eagles soaring along the slopes of the mountains on the opposite side of the valley.
Even our dog Buzby enjoyed the view.
Here's just a quick reminder that you can find out more about me and my books by clicking here.
If you would like to see some of my pyrography work or my wife's paintings please click here.
I also have a shop on where I sell pyrography at discounted prices
please click here.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Glasgow to Torcastle

Hi all,
In my last post about Scotland we had just left Glasgow, so today we will continue our journey towards Rogart. Today's post will take us from the outskirts of Glasgow to our B&B at Torcastle, just beyond Fort William.

It never ceases to amaze me just how quickly one escapes the clutches of Glasgow when travelling north up the A82. One minute you are surrounded by imposing high rise buildings and then suddenly, you are smelling the sweet air that drifts down off the Trossachs. The road as far as Tarbet which is situated about three quarters of the way up Loch Lomond is a good one. It follows the shoreline for most of the way and there are lots of picnic spots overlooking the Loch. It was now lunch time so we stopped and ate a couple of delicious sausage sandwiches that my wife had made the night before.

Full of grub, we carried on past Tarbet and beyond the end of Loch Lomond to Crianlarich, which borders the very remote Ranoch Moor. The countryside in this part of the world is awe inspiring and it sets the traveller up nicely for the spectacular that is Glen Coe,

where huge mountains roll down to a thin ribbon of road that winds through the valley. We stopped half-way down Glen Coe, got out our flask and drank in our surroundings along with a nice cup of tea.
Eventually, we arrived at Loch Linnhe
where we turned right and followed its shores up to Fort William. The photo above is of Loch Linnhe, with my wife and our dog Buzby, who is, more sadly than I can explain, no longer with us.

Fort William looked very nice and I am disappointed that we didn't have time to explore it. It was now late in the day and we needed to book in at our B&B and have a bit of a rest. We easily found the B&B in the small village of Torcastle and once we'd sorted ourselves out, we went out for an evening meal. We hoped to find a nice village pub and that is exactly what we found in Banavie, a small village situated towards the bottom end of the Caladonian Canal. In fact, the pub was right on the side of the canal next to Neptune's Staircase, which is one of its wonders. Neptune's Staircase is a set of 8 locks that are part of the total of 29 that raise the water levels as it travels up the Great Glen. Below, you can see a picture of the Canal with Ben Nevis looming in the background.

The Caladonian Canal was engineered by Thomas Telford and built to provide a short cut for ships travelling around the north coast of Scotland. The canal links several lochs, including Loch Ness, on its 62 mile journey from Inverness on the east coast to Fort William in the west. The canal took aproxiamately 17 years to build and was completed in 1822. It was a terrific feat of engineering, but sadly, it never fulfilled its potential. By the time the canal was finished, ships had become much bigger and couldn't fit through the lochs.

I'll leave this post here because I think we have gone far enough for one day.

Here's just a reminder that you can find out more about my books by clicking here.
You can also see some of my pyrography work by clicking here.

Finally, you may interested in checking out a website called Folksy. It is a website where crafty people can sell the stuff they have made themselves. There are some great things on there at very reasonable prices.

I have set up a shop on to sell some of my pyrography work and to get the ball rolling I am offering some of the items from my website at a discount on Folksy. Here is the link if you would like to take a look.

Monday, 17 October 2011


Hi All;
Today we are setting off to the last destination on our tour of Scotland and this time we will be going way up north to the village of Rogart. Below is a picture taken on the road to Rogart complete with rainbow. You will probably notice that the photos from Rogart are not as good as normal. The reason is that they were taken with an old-fashioned film camera, so sorry about that, but I'm sure you'll still get a feel for the place.

It was going to be a long trip, so we planned to stop at a B&B near Fort William to break up the journey. However, before we go dashing off to Rogart, when I was writing this post I was reminded of some trips to Scotland, which I did on a professional basis.

I did some subcontract work for a chap who dealt in machine tools, presses lathes and the like. Anyway, in the course of this business we would drive from Stafford to Glasgow; do the business in the factory that we were visiting, which usually took about 5 hours, and then I would drive back to Stafford again. I did all the driving because my colleague had a medical problem that meant he could fall asleep at any time; I didn't fancy going arse over tit on the M6 motorway, so I kept a firm hold of the wheel.

It was funny when I think about those trips. We were both in our late fifties and neither of us in the best of health. He had a serious medical problem, as I just mentioned, and I was recovering from a heart-attack. We set off at 5am and stopped for breakfast in Morrisons on the outskirts of Glasgow. We needed food, not just for sustenance, but because we didn't want to take our medication on an empty stomach.

Perhaps you can imagine the scene that was undoubtedly caught on Morrisons CCTV more than once, and I bet it left a smile on the face of anybody who saw it. When we arrived at the store it would have only just opened and the car park would be almost empty. I parked the old grey Mercedes in one of the disabled bays outside the store then we went in for a big Scottish breakfast. We always enjoyed the breakfast and it set us up for the day. Once we got back to the car my friend would sit in the passenger's seat with the door open and take out a syringe which he would use to inject his medication into his stomach. Meanwhile, I would stand at the side of the car and get out the jar of tablets my wife had prepared for me. I would put the jar of the top of the car then get out a bottle of water which I would use to take a succession of tablets. Given our ages and the state of our health I think we did well to drive to Glasgow, do some work and then drive back all in the same day.

Thankfully, my wife and I found our trip to Rogart was much less hectic, we took it at a leisurely pace and at that time I was blissfully unaware of the heart attack that would come a couple of years later.

I always thought that my Scottish holidays didn't really start until I'd negotiated Glasgow, and so it was on this trip to Rogart that we found our spirits lifting as we tootled up the A82 towards Loch Lomond and our B&B which was waiting for us at Fort William.

I don't want to rush the second half of the journey so I will leave this post here with a picture of a small loch near Rogart.

Here's just a reminder that my new book A Staffordshire Boy: Tales of Fishing and Other Fun is now available from the usual place. For more details about it and my other books please click here.

My pyrography collection is also growing, if you would like to see some of my work please click here.

Friday, 14 October 2011

A Staffordshire Boy

Hi All,
My apolgies to those who are awaiting my next post about my tour of Scotland, but I've been working my fingers to the bone finishing and publishing my latest book. Although this is my fifth book it has taken much longer than the others to write. I started the process in 1999, so it's been on the road for 12 years.

The actual title of the book is, A Staffordshire Boy: Tales of Fishing and Other Fun, which I guess gives a clue to its content. It covers the years of my childhood from the mid-fifties to the mid-sixties and charts the things young boys got up to in the countryside before computers and ipods were invented.

I know lots of people have written their childhood memoirs and almost as many have concentrated on misery. I had a good childhood and I hope this book provides some balance by not only being interesting, but also giving the reader a good dose of entertainment. I came from a large family, lived in a council house and my dad kept Joules Ales in business, but hell I had a good time.

If you want to know what lads in Seighford got up to in probably the best decade since the war please click here to find out more

Normal service will be resumed on the tour of Scotland in the next couple of days, when we will be going way up north to Rogart.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Clock This

Hi all,
Just a quick up date on the pyrography front. Last week I said I'd show you a picture of the clock I was working on. Well it took longer than I thought, but here it is.

I'm pretty proud of my efforts considering I've never done a clock before and the design is all mine. For my next project I'm going back to doing some boxes because they are much quicker to do.

If you would like to see more of my pyrography work please click here.
If you would like to see more about me or my books, or just read some fun stuff, please click here.

PS My wife Terry Anne just finished a beautiful painting of a cockerel, so I have added it to my pyrography site for you to see.

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Hollow Mountain & Angus

Hi, our last day holidaying at Lock Awe had arrived all too soon, but at least the sun wasshining. We decided to stay local on out last day because of the long journey back to England the following day. We skirted around the eastern end of Loch Awe and followed its shoreline towards Taynuilt. However, before we left the loch we arrived at our first destination, Hollow Mountain Visitor's Centre, which is perched on the side of Loch Awe, below Mt Ben Cruachan.Angus Gardens
Hollow mountain is an electricity generating station that is buried 1 Kilometre under ground. The generators are powered by water and there are guided tours to see the vast caverns that house the huge turbines. My wife and I are both wimps, we don't do heights and we certainly don't do underground, we leave that pleasure to moles and troglodytes.

We amused ourselves for a while by checking out the exhibition and and the gift shop and then went into the cafe for lunch. The views from the window as we waited for our food were nothing short of spectacular. We were at the northern tip of loch Awe and here it was so narrow the trees and fields on the far side were in sharp focus. Not only did we have a great view, but we also had some entertainment in the shape of a show off in a speedboat. The whole of the cafe was watching as he came flying down the loch cresting the waves like James Bond. As he reached the cafe he had to turn his boat because the loch was getting very narrow. Without slowing down, Mr Show Off flipped his boat into a left hand turn and started carving a majestic crescent through the water. However, this didn't go according to plan because the boat took on a mind of its own, it straightened up and ploughed straight into the trees on the far bank where to rapturous applause from us all, he sank.

When I say sank, part of his boat finished up below the water and he scrambled to the shore. I guess somebody must have called the the rescue people, but he was still there when we'd finished our food and left.

After enjoying our lunchtime entertainment on Loch Awe, we carried on to Angus Garden which are situated down a quiet lane about 2 miles from Taynuilt. The Garden were built in 1957 by Betty Macdonald in Memory of her son, Angus who was killed a year earlier in Cyprus.Below you can see a memorial bell which is very touching.
Entry to the garden was by honesty box and it was very quite when we were there. There are no shops selling ice cream, plants or compost. These are woodland gardens, and appreciated by those who like peace and quiet, so they suited us very well. We had a lovely stroll around a small Loch that took in views of Ben Crauchan and we were struck by the contrast. At the visitor's centre there was very busy with chattering people and one only had to look out of the window to be thrilled by suicidal speed boat drivers. Here in Angus Gardens there was serenity and it was where we would sooner be.View of Ben Cruachan from Angus Gardens
I'll leave you with a picture of Loch Awe taken by my wife Terry Anne, early one morning. It was taken from the veranda on our lodge before breakfast and I think it sums our holiday up perfectly.

If you would like to know more about me or my books please click here
If you would like to see some of my pyrography (burning lumps of wood with red hot poker)then please click here.

Sunday, 25 September 2011


Over the last few days we clocked up a lot of miles touring the West Coast around Oban, so today we decided to stay close to our lodge on Loch Awe. In fact our destination was just a few miles away on the opposite side of the loch. Sitting in the foothills of Ben Cruachan, the highest mountain in the area, we would visit Inverawe Fisheries. We wouldn't be doing any fishing because we had no tackle and although I love angling, game fishing isn't what I do. We would however, take advantage of the visitors centre, the cafe and some of the lovely walks that were on offer.We enjoyed a lovely peaceful walk around several small lakes and stopped every now and again to watch anglers pit their skills against the trout. For those who like game fishing this place is marvellous.Not only are there the already mentioned lakes, but it is also possible to fish a stretch of the scenic river Awe. With regards to walking, there are many nature trails, one of which descends to the shore of Loch Etive. I would like to have taken that walk, but the tiredness that comes with old age, and lack of time, wrestled it from me. Instead, we retired to the cafe, had a light lunch in very pleasant surroundings. Before leaving, we wandered around the visitor's centre and shop for a while and then set off for a leisurely drive back to our lodge. During out journeys to and from our lodge we had passed a bit of an old tree sticking up at the side of the road. It was gnarled and twisted, but put me in mind of a horse's head, so as we were passing it again on our way back I decided to stop the car and photograph it.I was surprised and glad that somebody else had had the same thoughts about this piece of wood because as I got closer I could see that somebody had given it a pair of eyes to make it look even more realistic. We arrived back at our lodge satisfied with our day out and even had enough energy to enjoy a stroll down to the shore where our own private bench awaited us.What a shame this holiday was coming to an end, we only had one day left now, so we'd have to make the most of it.
Here's just a reminder that if you would like to find out more about me or my books click here Or if you want to take a look at my pyrography work please click here

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Going Potty

Hi all,
Since taking up pyrography in April I've created much more than I ever did when working in watercolour. Today, I've added the eighth precious little trinket box to my website. I think it's my best yet and priced at under a tenner.I can imagine some handsome fellow placing an eternity ring in it and giving it to the love of their lives.

I have also managed to finish and frame a rooster that I've been working on for some time. Sorry this item isn't for sale, I like it so much it is hanging next to my computer.

I am currently working on a clock and should be able to show you that next week. If you are thinking of having a go at pyrography, and have some questions, I would be pleased to answer them if I can. Below you will find the usual links to my websites.
Please click here to see more pyrography.
Please click here for information about my books.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Seil Island

Today we will be visiting Seil Island and crossing the Atlantic. Luckily for us, we won't have to go on a boat or an aeroplane because many years ago the Scots built a bridge. Below you can see the bridge which famously spans the Atlantic ocean.The bridge is not only functional, but also very pretty. If you look closely at the photo below, you will notice a pink rim across the top. These are fairy foxgloves; a beautiful little wild flower that only seems to grow wild up north.
By the time we'd finished exploring the bridge, we were getting hungry so we retired to the strangely named, Tigh-an-Truish Inn, where we had a very nice meal in the garden. If you are wondering about the name of the Inn, Tigh-an-Truish, actually means 'house of trousers'. It comes from the time after the Jacobite rebellion in 1745 when kilts were banned on the mainland. It is rumoured that inhabitants of Seil Island changed from their kilts into trousers, at the inn, before going onto the mainland.

After our meal we carried on to Easedale, a tiny village with a lovely harbour.
We wandered around a while and immersed ourselves in views of magnificent scenery. Everywhere you look in Easedale there is a stunning view.
Easedale is also the home of the Highland Art Exhibition. It is very difficult to describe, but I will try. The word exhibition is a little misleading because to all intents and purposes, it's a shop. It was started by poet, artist and composer, C J Taylor, who died in 1998. The exhibition displays some of his creative works which are spread throughout a vast assortment of souvenirs. In fact, the place could be described as a big gift shop which revolves around one man's work. We didn't buy anything but we were extremely fascinated. After leaving Easedale we took another road to the other side of the island and ended up at the village of Cuan, where the people of the next island, Luing, catch the small but lively ferry. However,it was late in the day so we didn't bother going over; we turned around and went back to our lodge, happy and satisfied with our day.

If you would like to see more about me and my books please click here.
If you wpuld like to see some of my pyrography work please click here.