The Gulf Stream Doesn’t Always Protect Us

January 22, 2018

We don’t often get snow here on Bute and the child in me has been a bit envious of all the   recent news footage of everyone else very prettily blanketed – apologies, of course, to all folks who have been ‘disrupted’ by the stormy weather.

It snowed for a few hours on Sunday morning and I couldn’t resist taking my camera to church with me.


Hardy worshippers arrive at the United Church of Bute.

This carving was removed from St John’s church before it was demolished – I think it represents the baptism of John the Baptist.


The ancient monumental stones in the surrounding graveyard look bleak and pretty at the same time.


The wee birds in the garden were appreciative of the food we always put out for them but the daffodils will have to take their chance against the weather.


Of course, all the snow was gone again within a few hours!


The Flower Show

September 13, 2016

The Flower Show aka Rothesay Horticultural Society Annual Show had to be a bit different this year.  After decades of being held in early September in the Pavilion the venue was changed because of the ongoing refurbishment of that iconic building.  The Show committee managed to shoe horn all the exhibitors into Trinity Church, its halls and even marquees in the garden.


Mixed herbaceous border flowers in the church.

As well as reduced display space there was also a much tighter fit for viewing visitors – just as well that plant growers and flower lovers are a generally friendly bunch.


A Bumblee

The floral artists were quite tightly squeezed for space but still turned out beautiful displays.  It was impossible to get far enough back from the big floor standing exhibits to take photographs.


I personally did not like this year’s craft theme of ‘Weddings’ so only entered one black and white photograph of zebras from our recent trip to Namibia (obviously not wedding related!) and was quite chuffed with a Third Prize from an entry of 18.


A Mouthwatering Line Up


Another example of perfection.

Inevitably there was much talk of the awful growing conditions we have experienced this ‘summer’ here on Bute and the consensus of opinion was that particularly fruit entries had suffered.

The following photographs of our little ‘orchard’ will create a false impression.  In reality some of the trees do not look in the best of health – sadly I suspect canker.  Not removing any yet but will do some serious pruning and play a waiting game.


Three of the dozen juicy looking plums before they all fell off.


The Bramleys look good but the foliage is a bit sad.

This is the first year that the Conference Pear has had fruit.  It looks really impressive in the following photograph but I have to confess that each pear is about two inches long and hard as a brick.


The young rowan tree is laden with scrumptious looking berries – I hope the birds appreciate this feast.


Another first for our orchard this year has been the appearance of two hazelnuts.  We have never seen squirrels in our garden so I am hopeful that these nuts will still be there when they are ripe.


I had to do a quick google on hazelnuts because as well as the precious bounty of two nuts the bush is covered with tiny yellow catkins – to my relief this seemingly sometimes happens.

Winter is certainly drawing in – the Waverley has stopped visiting, the farmers are furiously dodging downpours to harvest, the Flower Show is over, leaves are changing colour, the ferries were off yesterday because of the wind.  Bute is still the most beautiful place to live.

A New Use for Roof Slates

March 1, 2015

For the last few weeks, between dodging the worst of some horrendous weather, my hard working  gardeners have been building two extremely beautiful raised beds in the tiny front garden.  This photograph will help  refresh your memory as to what the plot was like when we arrived here nearly 7 years ago.

Moving in Day

Moving in Day

There was a concrete edged patch of scrubby grass, dull grey concrete slabs and a generous surround of red ‘municipal’ chuckies.  On the list of refurbishing priorities this garden was down near the bottom and would have to wait.  At long last it was time for the make over.  I thought long and hard, finally convinced the chancellor of the exchequer, drew up some sketch plans of my ideas, and M and his team managed to interpret my vision.  Site planning meetings with much head scratching and waving of my arms in illustration followed.  There were a number of technical challenges to be overcome – the sourcing of the main material (old discarded roofing slates) and to devise the actual building method.

Unfortunately I have no photographs of the building work in progress – it really was appalling  weather to be outside never mind building.  There were days when the ferries were tied fast to the island and going nowhere when my stalwart workers battled on.  The finished result is very beautiful.

The raised beds are made of layers of slates and mirror exactly the size and shape of the house windows above.  The surrounding ground is thickly spread with a layer of what I call beach pebbles, although I hasten to add that these were not taken illegally off any of Bute’s beaches.

Lovely Texture and Colours

Lovely Texture and Colours

Then of course I had the fun part of planning, buying and planting the plants.  I have no idea if my chosen ones will be successful or not.  There are quite difficult growing conditions involved – north facing, with no sun for 4 months of the year, salt laden atmosphere and of course the frequent winter gales with rain, sleet and hail that falls vertically or sometimes horizontally.  We had an enjoyable visit to the wonderful McLaren’s nursery and brought home 54 assorted low growing alpine plants.

23 Varieties of Alpines

23 Varieties of Alpines

Surprisingly I had two calm afternoons and got the bulk of the planting completed.  The odd half hour here and there over the next week saw it finished.  Now I have to wait to see what will thrive or indeed survive.

Approximately 2,000 slates ...

Approximately 2,000 slates …

5 tons of pebbles ....

5 tons of pebbles ….

... and 54 plants

… and 54 plants

Plus of course, many, many hours of hard labour.  A further two days were needed to solve the problems needed to provide a smooth, wide path for the elderly residents and their wheelie bin.


Bring on the sunshine!


Glasgow is Buzzing

July 22, 2014

We spent a beautiful sunny, summer day in Glasgow yesterday where the anticipation and excitement are clearly beginning to kick in ahead of the Commonwealth Games – Opening Ceremony on Wednesday.  Yet another sporting extravaganza to glue me to my TV for another ten days.

Another New Best Friend - Clyde

Another New Best Friend – Clyde

The street behind looks very quiet but it was after all only 9.50am on Glasgow Fair Monday.  By the afternoon the streets were heaving and all the pavement cafes looking suitably continental.  I am sorry we didn’t try to get tickets for any of the events but I will join in the cheering from my sofa.

The wonderful weather continues to provide perfect growing conditions – four or five days of warm (even hot) sunshine followed by a day of torrential rain, a surprise repeating climate pattern for West Coast Scotland this year.  The garden is looking quite good as a result.  This long view of the back garden shows the amazing changes I have managed in a relative short time.  It will be six years next weekend since we came to live here in Rothesay.  At that time the rear garden wall was falling down and choked with brambles and seedling trees, the middle fence and beech hedge were not there, there was no ‘orchard’ and there were no flowers or shrubs.


The drying green and grey concrete slabs still need ‘attention’ as does the wee patch of garden at the front of the house.  I don’t know what metal the bird bath is made of but it is not entirely happy living in a constantly salt laden atmosphere.

The real wee birds still enjoy the water

The real wee birds still enjoy the water

The lace cap hydrangea have been particularly good this year – can’t remember the names of them.



The almost black stems of the blue hydrangea make a very good contrast.


The fruit trees look very healthy in the low evening sun but the crop is going to be quite poor – plenty of well fed insects and birds though.


The eryngium grows to be about ten feet tall now and I find the flower ‘balls’ fascinating.  They are about 2 -3 inches in diameter and at first are closely covered with spikes which then open into hundreds of tiny blue flowers.  Even after the flowers have gone the resulting seed head is just as beautiful and fascinating.

With half the tiny flowers open

With half the tiny flowers open


Settling Down

July 4, 2014

… whatever that means!  For us the first six months of 2014 has been filled with so many exciting events and trips I feel I have somewhat neglected my original remit for this Blog of chronicling the everyday occurrences of living on the beautiful Island of Bute.  Time to take stock after the 70th and 40th Birthdays and the amazing trip to the Galapagos Islands and return to everyday living.  Immediate pause – the Waverley has just paddled past the window and disappeared into the wet mist with her few passengers huddled into the lounges – summer in Scotland.  Actually we have had summer weather for the past 6-8 weeks.  Last Sunday we took an impulse trip on the Waverley on the short route from Rothesay to Tighnabruiach – a delight in the pleasant sunshine.

The garden is looking quite good but not up to the standards of the public gardens of Rothesay – the Esplanade and Ardencraig particularly are neat and colourful as always.  We have visited two quite spectacular other gardens recently.  The North Buteshire Literary Society made a return visit to Dumfries House for their summer outing.  We saw part of the new walled garden being constructed there and I believe it was opened by the Queen yesterday.

Dumfries House

Dumfries House

On an even grander scale are the grounds surrounding Hampton Court Palace – also visited recently during a whirlwind week in London.

Hampton Court

Hampton Court

Beside this I would describe my garden as ‘wildlife friendly’ – except for deer.  It looks like we will have mixed fortunes from the fruit trees this year – not a single plum or pear, a handful of cherries which will be gobbled by the birds before I get to them, and a reasonable crop on all three of the apple trees.

As we climbed one of the many imposing staircases inside the Palace I glanced over my shoulder to find Henry VIII coming up behind me.  I was overcome with the strange urge to drop a deep curtsey.

My New Best Friend

My New Best Friend

The main reason for our visit to London was to make use of one of Colin’s birthday presents.  Our very generous children had arranged a day at Lord’s cricket ground for us to watch the first day of the England v Sri Lanka Test (I won’t mention the result).  We had a wonderful time – very hot and sunny, an entertaining crowd, free flowing Pimms, and a good view of the cricket.  We follow the cricket on television but this was the very first time I had witnessed a game live in front of me.  I would love to go back but would miss out the ‘hospitality’ part the next time – that was great on the day but I think it would be more fun to sit with people who had really come to see the match.

Just like on the Telly

Just like on the Telly

It has already been quite a summer for sports – too many late nights watching the World Cup, Wimbledon not very exciting, and now not long until the Commonwealth Games.

Glasgow Gets Ready

Glasgow Gets Ready

As I mentioned earlier, until today we have had really good weather.  It is a joy to see visitors strolling about enjoying putting and ice creams, and on the hotter days the beaches have been crowded (in Bute terms – maybe 40 folk per mile of sand).  Every weekend sees an influx of yachts into the harbour and  there have been at least two Saturdays when races have either started at Rothesay or have swept across the bay en route for the Kyles.

During our regular Tuesday evening walk with the SAS (Strollers and Striders) we have enjoyed brilliant weather, good company and, of course, this beautiful island.

Looking towards Kilchattan Bay

Looking towards Kilchattan Bay

Easter at St Blanes

April 25, 2014
The Sunshine of Daffodils

The Sunshine of Daffodils

We had some really good weather over the Easter weekend and, as always, it is great to see so many visitors about.  I have been working in the garden and admiring the blossom on all the wee fruit trees  – could be looking forward to plenty of cherries and plums.

As is the tradition on the island, Christians of all denominations congregated at St Blane’s Chapel for a ‘Sunrise’ service (actually 7.00am, a bit after sunrise).  A good number of worshippers and dogs on a fair morning but with a chilly breeze.

Worshippers Arriving

Worshippers Arriving

The amazing ‘Kist o Whistles’ came too, to accompany the singing of the people, bleating of the lambs and cawing of the rooks.


The tiny Victorian portable organ is a tangible link to times past, although nothing near as ancient as the walls and gravestones surrounding us.

St Blane's Chapel

St Blane’s Chapel

After the service there were cups of tea or coffee and hot cross buns before folk began drifting home.  We resisted the temptation to go back to bed – instead had a leisurely breakfast before going to our own Easter morning service.

Christ is Risen - He is Risen Indeed

Christ is Risen – He is Risen Indeed

Occasional Signs of Spring

March 22, 2014

In spite of the weather Nature seems to have noticed that we are three quarters way through March.  The wee garden birds have become much noisier as they squabble for a turn at the bird feeders and yesterday I saw a crow flying with a foot long twig in his beak.  The Castle swans have taken up residence in their favoured spot under a tree by the moat.  The Council garden team have spent the last week working their way along the front giving the trees their bi-annual ‘hair trim.

'My' tree

‘My’ tree

The photograph above was taken on one of the sunny days.  We had another of these rare days today albeit interspersed with horizontal sleet.  Much as I love gardening it is too cold for me.  Using binoculars from the kitchen window I can see lovely fat leaf buds on some of the fruit trees at the top of the garden – how sad and lazy can I get!

Another sign of spring is the winding down of the winter (indoor) activities – a sudden rush of AGMs, and for Colin the last curling match of the season.  There are still not many visitors about in town and not many pleasure craft in the bay, only a sail training yacht a few times.  Of course, some folk have to work on the sea at all seasons.


We had a lovely influx of visitors last weekend to help us celebrate a ‘significant’ birthday – a brilliant dinner party at the Kingarth Hotel.


He’s not quite ready yet to ‘sail off into the sunset’  –  hoping for many more years to enjoy our sunsets.