Skye in 5

Last August I visited the Isles of Skye and Mull in a Ford van turned caravan. I took hundreds of photos but these are the ones I liked best so I thought I’d share them here.

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This was the sunrise on our first morning of camping. We picked berries from the roadside and then headed off on the ferry to Mull from Loch Aline. You have to be up pretty early to see sunrise in Scotland in Autumn.

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This is the view up Ben More, one of the steepest munroes in Scotland. It starts on the shore of a sea loch in Mull. We went up and down in 5 hours, including a half hour nap at the top in the fog and a play in the crystal clear waters on the way down.

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This so me looking into the fog from the summit. Vertigo inducing stuff.

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This is one of the fairy pools on Skye at Glen Brittle. I loved this part of Skye, the waters were so clear and the colours were ethereal. We climbed down a pretty steep cliff to get to this photo but it was worth it.

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Finally the Old Man of Storr (not Stoor) Everywhere we went around this part of Skye was adorned with these cairns and I got a bit obsessed with them. I just thought they were so pretty.

So go to Skye and Mull in Autumn/Fall. The weather was amazing, the views were incredible and the food, especially at the Crab Shack and the Three Chimneys, was delicious.

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Glasgow at a Glance pt. 2!

_41754302_marditonea416Once again I turn to my friends to help me make the most of my last few months in Glasgow. Today we feature one of the first friends I made at university Leslie, who is 22. He currently works at The Nancy Smillie Shop, located in the heart of Glasgow’s West End.

Best place for a first date?

Would honestly recommend any of the coffee shops around the Byres Road, they all offer something a bit different and have a really nice, relaxed atmosphere. Avenue G is to name but one.

Avenue G just had a wee vamp of their menu as well! They have a good system in which you can buy one of their travel cups and get a free coffee or tea! But you’re right, most of the shops along Byres Road offer a little bit of privacy but aren’t too intimate, though Avenue G does often get quite busy up top!

Best place for a cheap meal?

Black Rabbit, Great Western Road. Why have Two for Tuesdays when you can have Three for Tuesdays? It may not seem like much but it does great food and sides and drinks included you can easily feed three people for under a tenner.

I will say I’ve visited the Black Rabbit (though very late at night) and was underwhelmed! I might have to reconsider things now….

Best place to go all out/best night?

For a night out, The Polo Lounge has always been a great night. A cheap drinks (£1.50 for pretty much a measure of anything) through the week and free entry all weekend if you’re there early enough. Has 2 great dance floors and an adjoining cocktail bar, with some decent entertainment some nights; all in all, a great place for a few (or a lot) of drinks.

I’m a huge fan of Polo’s tea pot cocktails. And prices. And music. And their naked butlers. Ok, I’m just a huge Polo fan.

Best place to go with your S/O’s parents?

The Grosvenor (Ashton Lane). Great refurbished cinema, fully licensed with bar, restaurant, and the novelty of being able to take the bottle of wine you got with dinner into a movie never gets old. It’s a great place to go if even just for dinner, especially if the steak is still anywhere near as good.

I usually take wine into the cinema regardless but it’s nice when it’s legal to do so… Their pulled pork burgers are amazing and if you have the SR app which I mentioned in my last blog you can get cheap cocktails during the week!  Orange Wednesdays also work in the cinema there.

Hidden gems?

Tchai-Ovna, Otago Lane. Idyllic tea house hidden in one of Glasgow’s lanes, Has a huge selection of teas, shisha pipes for those inclined, and hugely tasty vegan friendly nibbles – a relaxing place to go and sit hour for ages with a book or do some work.

Dammit, this was my hidden gem! I almost considered deleting this and forging Leslie’s response as I like it so much here. The teas are fairly expensive, bu the food is very cheap and delicious! There’s a great atmosphere inside as well, perfect for a rainy Sunday afternoon.

A place you couldn’t pay me to go to.

Ashoka. Don’t do it. It has good variety, but there are far better places for curry and the like in Glasgow, such as Shish Mahal on Park Road (Kelvinbridge), had amazing food and is decently priced for the quality. Mother India is also always a safe bet, if a tad on the pricey side.

Ashoka has some good lunchtime deals, but Leslie is right, there are better and more authentic places to go! Like the Shish Mahal, which holds a special place in my heart. Get their Chicken Chasni. It’s divine. I think they know me there actually….

A huge thank you to Leslie for his little guide to Glasgow. Again, if any of you think that your favourite place is not being represented drop me a line answering the questions above and I’ll include your opinions!

Glasgow at a glance

Being in your final year of university really clips your wings, travelwise. You can do all the money saving tips you can, but deadlines and coursework are always going to get in the way. So I’ve decided to get to know my own city better.

ImageI currently live in Glasgow, Scotland’s largest (but not capital…) city. 2014 is going to be a great time to be in Glasgow. The Commonwealth games, the VMAs, and Radio One’s big weekend are all held here this year! So if you’re gonna head here at some point make it this summer, especially if you’re interested in free ticket festivals.

I have lived here, on and off, for five years now, and I have found myself stuck within my comfort zone. So I made a small questionnaire and circulated it amongst some very kind people (to whom I now owe a beverage) to get some different places to go. This may turn into a mini series, it depends how many replies I get!

The first and very prompt response was my festival friend Kerry, who is a 22 year old working towards a BA Hons in Visual Arts at Glasgow Kelvin College and lives in the West End (a wise choice indeed). I asked her seven questions about Glasgow hot spots to which only a couple of our answers were the same. Great minds and all that. She has a very interesting project coming up which has had a lot of attention on social media sites, I think Gordon Ramsey has even participated. People are asked to send in a post-it with a drawing of their image of Scotland. You can do so too! until opening night in Kelvin College on March 6th 2014, and will remain open until the 14th – you should all check it out!

Best place for a first date?

I’ve always imagined The Stand on a Red Raw night would be perfect! You’ve got the intervals and the start to chat and work out if you like the person but then if it’s going badly you’ve got comedy acts performing so you don’t need to talk!

My first date with my current boyfriend was to Cafe Anduluz. It went really well, I think the tapas dishes make for conversation and sharing made it intimate but not weird. Plus great atmosphere and West End staff are awesome. We’re now regulars!

My answer to this was essentially the same. Tuesday nights or “Red Raw” at the Stand are always a great mix of cringe and entertainment. It’s so cheap and fun. I’m also a huge fan of Cafe Andaluz. Check their website as they usually have a deal on!

Best place for a cheap meal?

Cocktail & Burger on Sauchihall Street! £5 lunch deal with bottomless soft drink! Plus 10% for students and if you have the SRC app on your phone. They used to do 2 for 1.. but I have a feeling they’ve stopped. Really cool atmosphere and they showcase local art students too.

While I’m fundamentally against the SRC app (even though I have one and use it) I can’t really turn my nose up at a place that cheap!

Best place to go all out/best night?

I like a cheesy, cheap and cheerful night out… Bamboo!! Love a bit of horrible R ‘n’ B with some classic cheese thrown in.

Bamboo is definitely cheap and cheerful! Try Disco Badger on Fridays for some truly awful great tunes. Just don’t sign up to anything because they text you all the time and make you feel like you have friends.

Best place to go with your significant others parents?

Kelvingrove Art Gallery! If you’re struggling with conversation you can just pretend you’re really into a piece of art… and it’s usually pretty PC so not much to be offended by if you want to make a good impression.

Good advice and a good location, it’s a stunning building! Plus it’s free 😀

Best place to go with children?

I am stumped……… I took my sister to Scotstoun to see Glasgow Warriors and that was pretty fun! Science Centre still entertains me so that would be good fun!

When I was little I remember that the Science Centre was a big event. An adult can get in for just under a tenner and kids and students are obviously cheaper! 

Hidden gems?

The Flying Duck! Just across from the Cineworld. They do life drawing classes on a Tuesday evening and Jazz on a Thursday! Pretty neat huh.

Bajo. A really god awful shooters bar on Bath Street. It’s so bad, but so cheap and because not many people know of it or like it you get served so quickly!! Pornstars are my fave. And the staff are really chatty and when you start spending too much money they start to bring your drinks to your table. lawl.

Cafe Anduluz. I’m not sure it’s a hidden Gem.. but it’s my favourite restaurant, tapas baby.

I only recently discovered the Flying Duck! It’s a great wee gem, they have lots of board games as well, which can usually be turned into drinking games. I’ve never heard of Bajo, but that’s the reason I had this idea! I need to get down there…

A place you couldn’t pay me to go to.

Campus.
Southside – my nemesis

Yeahh, the Southside isn’t great. Venture over the the Citz theatre though! And Campus… well it’s “a frat house” it’s cheap and crap, but don’t knock it till you try it! (Though you probably will knock it after anyways.

So a big thank you to Kerry! Go and check out her Post it project or send one in yourselves!

If anyone here is from Glasgow or knows it well and thinks that they can also do it justice please let me know in the comments!

Money saving tips for (a Scottish) winter!

It’s the time of year where I have to choose between heat and meat (meat’s expensive here, for those of you who are unaware.) So I took to the internet and the depths of my common sense to come up with some money saving tips. Seeing as some of you are spending winter in different places I figured that some of these might help you stay warm and in the black. 

  1. Blankets are wonderful. If you sleep with one underneath your duvet it keeps you a lot warmer, so there is no need to have the heating on at night.
  2. I’m also a fan of the old school hot water bottle, though I usually put it in my bed before the whole bed time routine, to let it heat up. 
  3. If you have a odd glove lying around, or a depleted scarf or something similar don’t throw it out. Cut and shape it into a sort of insole shape, tuck it in your shoe and wham, cheap insulation for your feet on early morning frost walks.
  4. Another tip I found on the internet, though I have not tried out as it doesn’t seem appealing to me is to put plastic bags around your socks for if the weather is very wet, as it keeps your feet/socks dry. I just don’t think I could be bothered.
  5. With winter, for me, comes exams. Perfect excuse to hit up the library for a study session and save money on the heating bill! Sitting down for long periods of time allows your body to cool, so it’s important to keep warm while studying.
  6. And at the mention of exams… For those of you who suffer Reynold’s, or are just sensitive souls like me, a handwarmer is the way to go, to stop your hand from freezing up during an essay. However, I think you can make them for next to nothing at home. Take an odd sock or small bag (like one you might get when you buy knock-of specs… ahem…) and fill it with rice. Put it in the microwave for about a minute and a half, depending on your microwave, then pop it in your pocket. Hand warmer.
  7. Invest in an electric heater. Cheap ones cost about £17/$27. Leave it near to your bed for a quick 20 minute blast of heat in the morning to coax you out of bed. I find that my electricity bill is almost always cheaper than the gas, so this way saves you a little bit of cash to celebrate when exams are over.
  8. Hit up charity shops for cosy jumpers. I myself do this at all times of the year…
  9. Eat. It sounds stupid but you do need to eat more in the winter. If you’re worried about weight I recommend porridge, which costs about 60p for 2kgs. Add lots of dried fruit and a bit of honey so sweeten it up. Or salt, if you’re over 50, because that’s a thing in Scotland. I also recommend a winter fruit compote which my mother makes. I’m not going to give you her recipe because one day I will make my millions off of it, but the BBC have a good, cheap version of it.
  10. Keep soups and canned goods in the cupboards and some frozen veg/meat in the freezer. Sometimes it’s too cold to go out and it’s nice to have emergency supplies.
  11. If you live in a flat you can put drinks in a plastic bag and hang them out the window to keep warm if you’re having a party! More room in the fridge for food.
  12. If you’re asthmatic/under or over a certain age/working in the health care profession, you are entitled to a free flu vaccine (in Scotland anyways).  Check your local GP of free clinic to see if anything like that applies to you in your area, as skipping out on the flu can save a lot of money in medicine.
  13. Speaking of medicine, a hot toddy will cure most things from a cold or sore throat to a broken heart. Or so I’m told, I’m not much of a whiskey fan myself. On the same vein, ladies, you can use gin as a mascara thinner if you run out of make up wipes. ho ho ho…
  14. Those those of you who celebrate Christmas, set up a secret santa with friends or colleges and stick to a budget. Alternatively try and make a “homemade pact”, where you give each other gifts you’ve made yourself. You’d be surprised at the nice things you can make at home, like bath bombs, some lovely felt gifts, food, or, if you can, knit something! It means a lot more, and isn’t that time consuming.
  15. If you have a radiator, try not to put sofas/desks in front of it. They really hinder the circulation, and while it might be nice to have cosy feet while you’re working, leaving that little spot seems much colder. You’ll use the same energy to heat up less space, which is just wasteful. 
  16. If you have the heating on, keep doors shut and turn off the radiators in rooms that are not in use. Every little helps!
  17. If you have a car, spray the wind shield with anti-freeze at night, then in the morning you won’t need to chisel ice off as much.
  18. In your car keep anti-freeze, a de-icing tool, a blanket, a first aid kit and a paper copy of ICEs (in case of emergency numbers) and your insurance people. Keep a couple of cereal bars and a big bottle of water wrapped in the blanket (make sure the lid is on tight) and a shovel in the boot (trunk). Winter is a dangerous time on the roads and you never know how long you might have to stay in a place. 
  19. Invest in a flask. Mine isn’t great so it also acts as a heating pad in the library. Most places don’t charge (or charge very little) for hot water, so bring some herbal teas and your own flask to the library. You even get a discount in some Starbucks with your own flask.
  20. Finally, make hay while the sun shines. Or make snowmen while it snows out. Make the most of winter by checking out free activities in your area, or taking a cold walk through the park to take some snaps during Golden Hour (which is now like 3 hours long and pretty early). Make snow men, go ice skating (not on ponds though, too dangerous) and wrap up warm!

I realise that Scotland isn’t the coldest place in the world, and those of you in North America/Canada and Russian are probably scoffing, but most of these will get you through a rough winter in Scotland. We’re entitled to moan because our winter usually lasts until April, and then we just get rain. 

If you have any other tips let me know!Image

Isle of Lewis – Callanish

So my place of work, like everywhere else on the island closes on Sundays. Which gives me a lovely day off every week. Last Sunday I was recovering from the Hebridean Celtic Festival on Borsta beach and being uncharacteristically without camera I have no photographs of this stunning location. Though, to be fair to past me, I also had no towel, swimming costume, phone or shoes so I really don’t think I was in the best state to take artsy fartsy pictures. Festivals have a way of knocking me out for a few days. And my feet were too sore from ceilidh dancing to even contemplate shoes.

Anyway, moving swiftly on.

Yesterday I decided to go and visit one of Lewis’ many mysterious places; Callanish Stones. If you have been to/seen/heard of Strathclyde University in Glasgow you will know of Steelhenge, which is a steel sculpture based upon these stones. Callanish is quite a lot like Stonehenge, but a lot smaller; which I was surprised by actually.

Me, at Callanish II
Me, at Callanish II

If any of you have seen Disney’s Brave you might already be aware of them but if not I’ll give you a quick run down. These are (at least) three stone circles which were created about 5000 years ago. There are may theories on what they are, from tombs to astrological maps. Some people think they happened by chance, others think it might be some sort of pagan thing which lost it’s meaning after the conversion to Christianity. Some legends say that the stones are actually giants that refused the conversion

I, as ever, did things a bit backwards. I visited Callanish II and III before Callanish I, which doesn’t really change anything but I wasn’t really aware of what was going on. However, they were pretty spooky anyways. I think if no one had been there and it would have been very creepy. Word of warning; wear long sleeves and trousers. you have to walk through a field of long grass and later on a field of sheep, so there are lots of clegs and ticks. Clegs and rat bastards. No joke.  

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There was a Danish family sitting eating sausages rolls in the middle of the circle for about half an hour so I amused myself with more arty angles of the stones. Which is difficult to do with people wandering about to be honest. However, one mean look and an exasperated sigh and most people tend to scurry along. Whilst taking the photo to the left here there was in fact another man taking the same photo towards me. We mutually decided not to get in each other’s way. Because I’m a nice person most of the time. 

To get the Callanish I you have to do a small trek. At the tourist information center it tells you that the walk is around a mile and will take you half an hour. 

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Now, I’m not as fit as I once was but I’m certainly no slow poke.The walk is definitely no where near a mile, it took me about 5 minutes to walk up a mild incline. There’s a lovely rocky out crop with a breathtaking view of the lochs. 

If it had been a nicer day I’d have loved to take a picnic and made a day of it. I went up to the Butt of Lewis which was also breathtaking but once again I didn’t bring my camera as I had planned to drop my car off and the wind sort of lead me to the lighthouse or whatever. I’m gonna go up there again next Sunday, weather permitting. I’d like to camp up there actually, it was so peaceful, even with the campers that were there already.

Anyway. That is my island experience thus far. I’m gonna shove a pic of Hebfest in just to show you how fun it was. If you’re not into bagpipes or kilts or mass Scottish dancing and flourishing (a special kind of clap used when dancing which can cause blisters if you do it to much — trust me on this one it has happened) then maybe Hebfest isn’t for you. Otherwise do it. See you there next year! DSCN1468