Conair Pass - Ireland

Conair Pass - Ireland
Conair Pass - Dingle

Tuesday, April 21, 2015



Friday, April 17, 2015

Back on the Road - 2015

Susan and Tony are going back on the road.  We had a lovely, albeit short, holiday in Costa Rica earlier in 2015, and are now planning our "art trip" to Holland and Ireland.  We fly to Dublin, and then off to Amsterdam for our first week.  We have always wanted to see the tulip fields in bloom.  It is also a bit of a sentimental journey since I was born there but know very little about the country.

We then go back to Dublin to meet our friends and fellow artists and head off to Dingle for a week, and then to County Monaghan.  We will be sight-seeing, painting and generally having a great time with good company.

Looking forward!

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Journeying back to Edinburgh

Back on the bus and heading to Edinburgh. Through the highlands from Ullapool to Inverness and Culloden -site of a crucial battle between the Scots and the English which ultimately led to the highland clearances.  Near Culloden we visited the Clava cairns, Neolithic tombs and stone circles, set among noble beeches planted by the Victorians. 

Then on the road with a stop at Pitlochry for a quick coffee and toilet break before heading to our final destination. 

What a great tour!

Susan's Impressions on the Orkney tour.

May 30 2014
The Highlands are glorious – still snow on some of the mountains, Ben Nevis and others. Beautiful glens (valleys), rock filled streams and falls, billowing cumulus casting erratic moving shadows on the mountainsides. Stayed at Molly’s B&B at Dalmore House in Inverness.  Molly is a lovely pint-sized woman loaded with spirit and personality. 

May 31, 2014
Amazing bus trip to John O’Groats from Inverness.  We stopped at a very moving sculpture of a Scottish family of émigrés.  The man and older child are looking out with determination, across the water, striding forward.  The woman is looking sad and fearful, looking back at the land with a baby in her arms. Everything said in one visual image.

We crossed by Catamaran to St. Margaret Hope, a village on the harbour of South Ronaldsey, the first island in the Orkney chain. Found lots to photograph on the docks before leaving – mussels clinging to the undersides of iron girders, small white flowers growing among bits of rope, old chain, rusted rebar and rotted timbers. I could see my friend Jeff happy for at least a day, shooting on that dock. 

June 1, 2014
Orphir: Viking Saga Centre with remains of a round church, graveyard and other buildings, a house, meeting hall.  All local stone, which the Vikings adopted for building. A  well done film explained the Viking Sagas and Norse myths. 
Stennes: standing stones in a field, about 2,500 years old or more. Beautiful but somewhat ruined by graffiti, some as old as 1812.  
Brodgar: large circle of huge standing stones surrounding a small field of heather.  A large henge (ditch) about four feet deep and 5-6 feet wide surrounds the stone circle. Burial mounds are visible all around. The circle stands on the highest point between two bodies of water, one fresh and one sea. 
On the way to the stones we passed a nest of swans right next to the single lane path/road and next to the water.  Great photo op as the swans seemed completely unconcerned about our interest.   
Skara Brae was found by the Laird of Skaill House in about 1850, who was a distant relative – Farquharson MacRae.  Skara Brae is a Neolithic stone settlement more ancient than the pyramids of Egypt at about 6,000 years old. It was hiding under a large sand dune and was exposed when strong winds and a storm uncovered parts of it.  There are several stone buildings b in the complex, perched on a dune right by the sea, where the inhabitants would have fished and gathered sea food. One of the houses was reconstructed to give visitors a sense of the interior.  A low narrow entrance tunnel of local Caithness stone leads into a large circular room with several side compartments for storage and sleeping.  It had a high roof built of hides and poles into a point with a vent to let smoke out from the central cooking and heating fire. The roof was covered with sod for insulation. Stone aged tools and implements have been found on the site.  

Skaill House: owned by the Laird and lived in half the year by the family.  Full of beautiful rooms, Victorian and more modern furnishings, beautiful paintings and art work, some brought from India and the Far East where they traded and lived for a time. 

Kirkwall was home for two days on the main island. A pleasant prosperous town, but the worst B & B we’ve stayed in so far. 

June 2
Back to the ferry and a sojourn across the north coast of Scotland.  Incredibly moody vistas of highlands, moors, mountains, inlets, lochs, gorse, rocks and trees.  The moodiness was helped by low hanging clouds, intermittent sun and soft northern light sifting through the layers of cloud and fog. Lots of sheep, some cattle and great photo stops. Our great luck – the rain would stop whenever we wanted to take a photo! Even the highland cattle – the loveable ‘herry coos’ as Karen, our guide called them, cooperated and posed for portraits with their little ones, looking like large teddy bears. Herds of red deer gazed at us curiously as they bedded down for the night. 

Dinner at a beautiful inn by the water (Skerrish?) with the whole group, all friends by now. Karen showed some of her photos over dinner, with a slide show on her laptop. We’ll miss the group: Kathy and Julia from Alberta and BC, Sabina and Birgit from Germany, Linda and Demitrij from Australia, Calvin and Sara from Hong Kong, Jo from New Zealand.  An excellent group of travellers we hope to stay in touch with and of course our most excellent driver and guide – a professional shepherdess and wonderful photographer, Karen Marr with Rabbies Tours.  We’re back to Edinburgh tomorrow.

Sunday, June 1, 2014


While on the bus, I have been trying to do some rapid sketches to capture the landscape and note colours and shapes. 

This sketch lists some of the sites we visited today.  The stones of Stennis stand amid the heather on a small rise above The road.  We also visited the Brodgar ring and Skara Brae -  a site where changing winds uncovered a Neolithic village  that had been buried in the sand dunes. We also visited Ophir, a Viking site, where there are remains of a medieval round church and a drinking hall which would have been used by a Norse earl of Orkney.  

Some highland scenes. Wonderful greens and the Colour of the gorse and rhododendrons which grow wild here. 

Drove by Bamburghq castle the other day. Grey stone, green hedge, but the most enormous orange poppies by the side if the road.

Each sketch is less than half a minute since the scenery changes at every turn in the road.  Wonderful!

Touring the Orkneys

What a fascinating place. Here, history is part of the present, and both are products of the location and geography of the islands. Standing stones, chamber tombs, a village emerging from the sand dunes, and cairns speak to Neolithic times, and some of the earliest inhabitants of the islands. Runes carved into stones, ruins of round churches and halls and the sagas tell of the Vikings and the Norse earls of Orkney.  Castles, churches speak to Stuart times. Monuments to lord Kitchener, the history of the Scapa Flow in both WW1 and WW2 speak to the more recent history of this place.  The people use the past to build their present and future. They use rocks from Neolithic sites to build their houses or decorate their lawns.  In fact, the search for these stones is often how they discover these sites. We visited a 5000-6000year old chamber tomb that is so well built that it will never collapse unless we try to fix it. ( early "archeologists" explored the mound with picks and small explosives)

The island is almost minimalist. No enormous highlands. Just rolling green tree-less hills leading to cliffs over the sea.  Sheep, cattle, prosperous farms.  Small compact towns with stone houses. Farm houses and cottages that all seem to have vistas.  Ruined stone houses that seem to be ageless. It is hard to know if they were abandoned 30 years ago or 300. And above all, an air of ancient roots and a comfortable now.  We love it here, and I am already trying to figure out how to express this in painting. 

We promise be to show pictures in future blog posts, but haven't had a chance to go through the (now) thousands of shots we have taken between us. My camera is still cooling after today's ventures. 

Tomorrow we return to The mainland and tour north part, ending up in Ullapool.  I can hardly wait

Tuesday, May 27, 2014


Landed safely, and now ensconced in our apartment hotel just off the Royal Mile near Holyrood Palace. We have discovered these apartment hotels, and have found them to be a great place to stay. A little more pricey than a B&B but cheaper than most hotels. In Dublin, we stayed in the Staycity apartments, and here we are at the Holyrood aparthotel in a lovely studio apartment. These places have all the conveniences of an apartment. This one even has a dishwasher. We enjoyed the ability to wash clothes in the tiny washer-drier in our Dublin apartment so that the citizens of Scotland do not have to put up with our smelly clothes.