When The Ferry Boat Comes In

Connecting mainland Scotland with the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides, the Ullapool Stornaway car ferry route operated by Caledonian MacBrayne sails 21 times a week. Each crossing takes around 2 hours and 30 minutes. The arrival of the ferry in the small fishing village of Ullapool is a major event.

“Granny we can see your washing line!”

IMG_9032To the top of the Victorian castle on the banks of the River Ness in the Scottish highland capital, Inverness.

A fantastic new viewpoint, at the top of the tallest turret in the photo above, offers panoramic views of the city and out to sea across the Moray Firth.  It’s a relatively new attraction, and local people are making the most of seeing their city from this new perspective; across the castle turrets, over the River Ness, with the cathedral on the opposite bank of the river, and out to sea.

Apologies for the breezy sound but I have kept it because I love the comment a little girl makes to her granny!

If you want to experience these spectacular views, the  seasonal opening times are below.  Be warned though, the queue to the top of the tower is up a narrow staircase with rooms to visitor exhibitions off it. It can be a bit congested, even in quiet times. Only 10 people are allowed on the viewing platform at any time, it is accessed though a turnstile on the staircase. Not so bad when it’s quiet, but busy times will be more of a challenge.

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Adieu 2016!

Burning up the old year, welcoming the new: the hogmanay bonfire of Biggar

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The extraordinary hogmanay bonfire of Biggar

The Scottish ritual of hogmanay ushers out the old year and welcomes the new.  And while there’s much tradition around whisky drinking with neighbours and taking a sod of peat or lump of coal for their fire, the South Lanarkshire town of Biggar celebrates hogmanay in a wildly pagan way.

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Holding their breath! Homes and public buildings close by the Biggar bonfire

In awesome annual spectacle, the citizens build one of the biggest bonfires imaginable on a public highway, using Manitous to reach the upper heights!  The mountainous pyre is lit on New Year’s Eve and burns for days; the street party begins  early evening December 31 2016 and ends sometime in the afternoon of January 1 2017.

Pagans consider fire to be a purging force; cleansing the air of evil spirits, cleansing the ground of disease and making way for fresh new growth.  The good folk of Biggar are purging for the world!

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Burning up 2016!

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While many tourists visit for the beauty of the local landscape, and especially the Pentland Hills, the mighty  bonfire is becoming an attraction of international renown. For those who can’t make it, there’s live  webcam coverage.

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On the Monet: a postcard from Giverny

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From the front door to the garden, Monet’s famous alleyway

Talk about in your face! The paintbox chaos of artist Claude Monet’s garden at Giverny is exhilarating. Under cloudless blue skies, October’s scarlets, yellows and deep mauves clashed unabashed. A spectacular visual experience.

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Primary colour daisies

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Horticultural impressionism

Impressionism reigns here; throughout his 43 years in residence, from 1883-1926, Monet’s planting scheme was about the colliding colour more than the plants themselves, though  he was passionate about finding the perfect plant for his palette.

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Claude Monet’s home for 43 years

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Many of his water lilies came from Latour Marliac nursery in the southwest of France, established in 1875, the nursery is still a thriving business and a beautiful visit. Monet’s fervour for water lilies was inspired by Latour Marliac’s exhibition at the 1889 World’s Fair in Paris.

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Dahlias and cleome

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Full on colour!

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Clashing with panache

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A glorious jungle

How to visit:

Easy! Take an SNCF  train to Vernon Station 45 minutes from Gare St Lazare, Paris.

From Vernon station there’s a regular shuttle bus to the garden.