Late August 2016: Calmac have now published the ferry timetable for winter 2016-2017, from the last Saturday in October through to the last in March. We’re pleased to see the return of the Oban-Lochboisdale service! This is in addition to the now firmly established Mallaig-Lochboisdale route (and of course the Uig-Lochmaddy service as well). The pattern of sailings is irregular and difficult to summarise, but Calmac seem to be doing the best they can to meet conflicting demands with limited resources. Although much of the winter season you might well be able to just turn up and go – without vehicle registration, we don’t recommend it, and for some periods (especially school holidays) we recommend you make your ferry reservation as soon as your accommodation booking is confirmed.
Mid August 2016: This will be a sight familiar (if not so close-up) to our Carrick guests! The two rams knocking eachother about are just engaged in a wee tussle – nothing serious. The one on the right knows he’s a rung or two down the ladder! Whilst they’re busy squabbling – the others get on with eating.
Early August 2016: Seals are frequently seen stranding themselves on the skerries and strands of the Sound of Eriskay. They’ll spend hours perfectly relaxed for many hours, waiting patiently for the tide to float them off again. Here’s a Harbour Seal on the rocky shore below Carrick, though its personal space having been encroached upon, a moment later it slipped away back into the water.
Mid June 2016
Last-minute cancellation on medical grounds!
Carrick Eriskay is now available 12-18 June for stays of 2 nights to 6 nights.
£180 for a 2-night stay ; £70 per night for a stay of 3 to 6 nights
That’s a minimum of 35% off the normal price.
Cannot be booked online – please call 01878 700828 to book
End of Summer 2016
5% off a stay of 3 to 15 nights between 26 August and 10 September.
Enter discount code SummersEnd16 – Check Dates and Book! ⇒
May be used in conjunction with another discount code – please call 01878 700828 to book
Early June 2016: Almost all our self-catering guests are from various European countries: mostly their from the UK, France, Netherlands and Germany – though it’s surprising how many of our Carrick guests come just from Perthshire and Cumbria! Every year, though, there’s just one or two from much further afield – Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and the US. Their journeys are of course long, but can also be complicated, not least because they are often making an extended holiday taking in various destinations, perhaps including family visits. I think the record for both distance and complexity – and for that matter travelling stamina – goes to Jacalyn and her friend Mary, who come from California. They’re both nuts (in the nicest possible sense!) about sheep and wool, but Jacalyn is also a serial island-hopper. This year her journey took her from California to Denmark, from there to Faeroe, and then to Scotland via airports at Edinburgh, Stornoway and finally Balivanich. And back!
Read all about their island-hopping woolly adventurers at The Big Garden Blog!
May 2016: We’ve now installed the new big garden benches and table for the deck outside the sitting area windows. They were hand-built by Angus MacDonald at his joinery workshop in Daliburgh. (He’s now made for us a total of four benches and two tables.) They are very well made, and very comfortable. They’re the garden comfort equivalent of the sofa and coffee table indoors: even the same layout, but with a view instead of a wood-burning stove! We’re considering getting or making weather-proof cushions for the seats, though we find them comfortable even without. But we can sense questions coming already – so see the Qs&As below!
Q. Surely the garden furniture interrupts the view from indoors?
A. Well, no it doesn’t, actually: even sitting on a sofa in the sitting room, the garden furniture appears ‘below’ the sea and the glens and mountains of South Uist.
Q. Isn’t the colour of the wood a bit out of keeping with the house?
A. These are the natural untreated larch of the deck, and a primer on the new furniture. Deck and furniture alike will be left to naturally turn silvery grey, a process which occurs on exposure to natural daylight over a period of nine months to a year. Once grey the deck and furniture will blend in with the natural surroundings.
Q. Isn’t it a bit exposed where you’ve put them? Can we move them somewhere else?
A. If you’ve ever been in Uist during a big winter storm – or a summer gale that strikes out of the blue, you’ll understand why we’ve had to bolt all garden furniture to the deck! However the layout of the deck and positioning of the picnic bench, the garden benches and table, are all the result of careful study of the conditions at the house, and take advantage of the natural sunny spots and natural shelter (and Rhubarb the pet lamb managed to work those out on his first visit!). You’ll realize just how that works when you first sit down for a meal or with a coffee and cake and a book.
April 2016: At the end of last year’s holiday season, we committed ourselves to making improvement to the outdoor spaces at both Eight Askernish and at Carrick Eriskay. We want to make the outdoors as inviting and as practical as is the indoors. They’re very different cottages, of course, used in different ways, and tend to be booked by guests with different needs, so what we’re doing is … yes, that’s right, go on … the same! At both houses we know – from our guests – that when the occasion and the weather are right, they want to be able to sit outside – comfortably – for a meal, and it could as well be breakfast or morning coffee and toast as lunch … it could be anytime. Good food, conversation, bird song, the sound of the sea … perfect! Now, our own experience tells us that outdoor furniture has to be safe when a storm suddenly blows up, summer or winter, and that means picnic benches, and at Carrick it means bolted down! (Which, in turn, means something solid onto which to bolt!) So, we’ve made a start on improvements at both houses with a picnic place makeover!
Well actually at Carrick it’s a lot more complicated. There’s the complicated shape of the house, the fact that the place has to be wheel-chair accessible throughout, yet hard paving (or more specifically, the fill under it) can’t be built up to indoor floor level against a timber house … We’ve always known the answer has to be decking, but it’s been difficult to decide how it should be laid out, how far it should extend, how much to spend. After years of prevarication, we finally committed to buying the materials for 50 sq.m of decking at the back (seaward side) of the house, and make the best we could within that constraint. Well, after eight days and probably sixty hours of difficult and heavy work, it’s now finished. The decking boards are of Scottish larch, fixed with stainless decking screws, and just those two things cost the best part of £2000 (about 10% of which was for delivery) ; but that’s what’s needed to stand up to the extreme environment here. As can be seen from the photos, the deck is not elevated, it’s ground-bearing, not even 100mm above the original and surrounding surface, and there is definitely no silly ballustrade to block the view. The larch is untreated (though we’ll probably apply a clear anti-fungicidal treatment, in a year or so’s time), and the natural colour will, over the course of this year, naturally fade to silvery grey, and thus blend back in to the surroundings.
Whilst the weather has (thankfully!) been sunny and dry all week long, I’ve had to wait for the sun to swing round far enough to reach the back of the house, and anyway there’s been a bitingly cold north wind all week long! Working on the deck, outdoors all day for a week, we’ve spent more time at Carrick – and certainly outdoors there – since we built the place in 2008-2009, and as a result we’ve discovered that there’s a ‘sweet spot’ at the back of the house – the north, where the sun lights up the ground at 11am – at least a couple of hours before anywhere else at the back, and remains in the sun right through until it gets dark (at nearly midnight in mid-summer). Amazingly it’s also more sheltered (relatively sheltered!) in winds of almost any direction. And – by very happy co-incidence, it also happens to be an obvious place for the picnic bench. And thus, with that cheery lift in spirit that comes with serendipity, we’ve bolted the picnic bench down to the decking in exactly that spot!
(The observant may have spotted in the photos suggestions of incomplete workmanship. Well that’s because this is Phase 1!)
Next? At both houses, new picnic benches, island-built: in our extreme climate, the softwood and plain steel screws of flat-pack products don’t last long! But at Carrick there’s much more than that to do. A few weeks ago we ordered a pair of garden benches and low table – for the deck in front of the big sitting room windows; but the island joiner seems to have disappeared, so we’re not sure when we’ll get them! Over this summer and next we’ll work patiently to extend the semi-wild and cultivated planting closer to and between the new decks, so as to increase shelter, privacy, and to bring wildlife ever nearer to the house ; but doing so without impinging on the view.
We do hope Kenna and Craig don’t read this – it’s meant to be a surprise for them!
March 2016: It’s the hungry season, as winter grazing becomes harder to find and the island’s free-ranging livestock stray further in search of nourishment. Jonathan found our youg ram lambs (now nearly a year old) down on the rocky shore of our croft, nosing amongst the seaweed for … well that’s as yet unknown. With his wellies on anyway, J climbed down amongst the rocks and seaweed to investigate. The rock is bare above spring high tide line, but below that the rock – black with algae and treacherously slippy, is mostly hidden beneath a dark brown blanket of slithery spiral and bladder wracks. There are, however, level areas where the weed is just a ‘single layer’ deep, and the plants are easily pushed aside to reveal a hidden shore – a hidden world.
Over the bedrock, between clear-watered rivulets and pools, there’s a carpet of countless shells – periwinkles, whelks, black-footed and common limpets (we seem to have a nursery for limpets), common otter shells, shrimps, sea anenomes … and lots and lots of pottery shards. What seems so extraordinary is that everything hard – shells, pebbles, ceramics – are splashed liberally with a multicolour fresco of coloured algae: greens, pinks, purples, delicate pale blues. (Somewhere in these photos is the neck of a whisky bottle – complete with screw cap: can you find it?) What seems so un-preposessing a shore of monochrome black and tan, belies a hidden shore of colour and life. Oh – and one other thing J found whilst down amongs the rockpools: his left wellington boot has a leak!
Jonathan: Readers of our Big Garden Blog will no doubt recall the recent post about a local villain with a taste for Chicken Breakfast. Well, it seems he was literally caught in the act! No, not on CCTV, but by our guest at Carrick. Shona Grant, who … well here are her own words:
Already it seems a while since I was on Eriskay already though it’s only just over a week! The house was lovely to stay in as always and I got some good photos. As you say, a real mixed bag of weather. I’m not sure if you have noticed but you are missing a black hen. I was having breakfast one morning and saw a Golden Eagle sit on the garden fence post, then it swooped out of view down to the byre and returned with the hen. I managed to take a few photos of it before it flew further away from the house. Quite something to see! I was surprised to see it so close to the house.
Although clearly we’re upset to lose one of our valuable pure-bred Welsumer hens, I have to say that a photo as exceptional as this does go some way to compensate! Well done Shona for both keen observation and quick response … and all between mouthfulls of breakfast.
We’ve hoped that the panoramic windows looking out over the croft would bring wildlife within reach of the comforts of home, but never had quite this in mind!
January 2016: Caledonian MacBrayne (Calmac) have now published the ferry timetable for summer 2016, covering late March to late October. This is exceptionally early in the year to do so, but that’s because there are big changes to the services and timetables, and some travellers may need to reconsider their travel plans. The biggest change is that there is now no service between Oban and Lochboisdale, whether direct or via Castlebay. Instead the revived service between Mallaig and Lochboisdale – offering a sailing time of just 2½hrs – now sails daily during the summer timetable. Another important change – introduced in late 2015 – is the extension of Road Equivalent Tariff (RET) pricing to inter-island ferries, reducing charges by 50%-65%. We have therefore updated our getting here, getting about information and advice page – ‘Find Us‘