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Archive for the ‘Boats’ Category

One of the things that repeatedly surprises me about Scotland is the number of fascinating little out of the way villages there are, sitting quietly waiting to be discovered.

The county of Fife is full of such places, and yesterday I took the delightful assistants out for a seaside adventure in search of one.

Anyone who knows the Fife coast well might already be familiar with the village of West Wemyss (pronounced Weems), but it’s the sort of place you could easily miss, being at the end of a road that leads to West Wemyss and nowhere else.

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The village of West Wemyss, nestling on the Fife coast at the end of the road.

We parked in a free car park by the harbour, overlooked by some commanding buildings complete with pantiled roofs very typical of Fife coastal villages.

The cream coloured building is called the Belvedere, and was built in 1927 to serve as a miner’s institute and reading room. I would have liked to have gone inside and had a look for the books, but alas it was all closed up.

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The village of West Wemyss was a planned community, built by the landed gentry of the Wemyss Estate to house their workers.

Despite still having a few grand buildings the current village has a popluation of around 240 and I don’t imagine that these days many of them have work within West Wemyss itself.

The Wemyss family have lived in this area since around the 12th Century and in 1421 Sir John Wemyss built Wemyss Castle, which is now in a state of some disrepair.

The castle lies a short distance along the bay from the main part of the village.

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Wemyss Castle hiding behind trees and a most curious wall which, viewed from afar, I thought was a long arched bridge.

I’m sure there’s a lot of interesting history attached to Wemyss Castle, far more than I’ve been able to find with a quick online search, but I did learn that much of the Wemyss family wealth was built on coal mining. I also discovered that in 1565 Mary Queen of Scots first met Lord Darnley (the chap who was to become her second husband) at Wemyss Castle.

As we walked past the castle we noticed that close to shore in the bay, stretched out on rocks, were a few fat seals.

I believe that both grey and common (or harbour) seals are found in the Firth of Forth and I really don’t know which these were, but they were satisfyingly plump and shiny.

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Fat seals.

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Is a shiny seal a healthy seal? I like to think so.

Just inland from the seals was a row of large concrete blocks: tank defences put there during the second world war to stop the Jerries from climbing aboard our shores.

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Between the castle and the village, stuck onto an old bit of wall, were some mosaics, including one depicting two swans:

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Swan mosaics stuck onto an old bit of wall by the coast.

There was a snazzy mosaic door, too, which didn’t seem to lead anywhere but looked very pretty.

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Lovely mosaic door stuck into an old wall.

A plaque informed us that this artwork had come about as a collaboration between three local artists and the nearby primary school at Coaltown of Wemyss (another village along the coast). The project was supported by Fife Council and included a little picnic area:

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A view that delightful assistant no.2 claims brings sorrow to his very soul – a picnic area with no picnic in sight.

Constructed in 1512, West Wemyss harbour lies at the west end of the village.

In the old days it was an important port for ships carrying coal and salt (and, somewhat unfortunately in 1590, the plague, which spread from here throughout Fife wiping out a good many of the inhabitants).

These days it provides shelter for a few fishing and pleasure craft:

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West Wemyss harbour.

Next to the harbour we spotted a beautifully weathered building with a few bricks set into the surrounding stonework. It looked to me like a work of art.

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Interesting textures created by wind and weather, nicely contrasting with a bit of brickwork.

Having enjoyed a bracing walk along the coast with a cold wind blowing rain into our faces, we were ready for sustenance and plunged into the West Wemyss Walk Inn Cafe.

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The West Wemyss Walk Inn – the cafe inside is run by a combination of paid staff and volunteers, and jolly good it is, too.

It was lovely to get inside out of the wind and rain, and settle down in the warm cafe to peruse the menu.

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Inside the West Wemyss Walk Inn Cafe – cosy and welcoming.

I opted for the soup of the day, which was cream of tomato and came with a roll and – delightfully – a cheese and chilli stick covered in sesame seeds:

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Outstandingly good soup with bready snacks on the side.

Not having been there before I wasn’t sure what to expect, but am delighted to report that it was exceptionally good soup and a very nice little stick and roll. The soup tasted of fresh tomatoes and cream, it was thick and delicious and, I’m quite sure, the best tomato soup I’ve ever tasted.

Delightful assistant no.1 went for fish and chips, which came with a side order of bread and butter.

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Battered fish with chips, peas, bread and butter. Carbohydrates covered.

Delightful assistant no.2 chose one of his favourite toasted sandwiches, a brie and cranberry panini, which came with a fresh side salad and a few crisps:

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Brie and cranberry panini with salad and crisps.

We all had tea to drink, and a free refill of the teapot. Everything we had was just the job to warm us up and make us feel contented.

The cakes on offer were freshly baked in the kitchen upstairs and looked very tempting, but we all felt too full to have anything straight after our savouries, so we’ll save that treat for another occasion.

On the windowsill next to where I was sitting there was a small Christmas tree made from driftwood and decorated with fairy lights.

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Driftwood tree at West Wemyss Walk Inn Cafe.

Behind the tree there was a framed certificate that made me happy; it declared that in 2013 West Wemyss had won a Silver award in Beautiful Scotland’s ‘Wee Village’ category.

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An award in the Wee Village category for the West Wemyss Bloomers, 2013.

I’m not surprised that West Wemyss has won such an award and I intend to revist later in the year when there are more blooms to be seen. Even on a dull, damp January day there were bright colours dotted about to cheer us up and make us glad we’d taken the little dead end road down to the coast.

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Bright colours to cheer a dull day in West Wemyss.

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A day or two ago I came across a photo competition on Restless Jo‘s blog.

The competition is sponsored by Rhino Carhire (clicking here will take you to the competition website) and features modes of transport.

In order to enter, you need to write a blog post including photographs of various modes of transport you’ve encountered. There are four categories: ROAD, AIR, RAIL and SEA and you can enter as many or as few categories as you wish, with as many photos for each category as you like.

I thought I’d struggle to find even one picture for each category, and that made me set myself the challenge.

These are not necessarily the best snaps I’ve ever taken but I quite enjoyed fishing around for one of each.

For the ROAD category, I thought of Iceland, where some of the roads are so rough and ready that not only are there no white lines or road markings of any kind, but you have to cross rivers to get from A to B.

My chum and I, who were on a field trip, had to drive across a number of rivers, and I was keen to photograph the experience.

On the occasion depicted below, I jumped out of the car and climbed over rocks till I found a place where I could cross on foot without getting too wet. My chum waited till I was ready to photograph him crossing, and then drove through the river while I snapped away.

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On the road in Iceland

For the AIR category the only photographs I could think of that I might use were shots taken from aeroplane windows. Many of these have bits of wing in them, but I took a few while flying over the Chilean capital of Santiago which were devoid of plane parts, and this is one of them. A mixture of fog and cloud produced this smoky scene:

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Flying across misty mountains into Santiago de Chile

The RAIL category was a bit trickier, because initially I was trying to remember if I had any pictures of beautiful old steam trains, but couldn’t remember taking any. I have a few views from modern train windows, but they didn’t seem quite sufficient. Then I remembered rather a nice railway viaduct in the Scottish Borders.

This is the Leaderfoot Viaduct and although no longer in use as a railway track, it has been very nicely renovated by Historic Scotland and is a charming piece of engineering history:

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The Leaderfoot Viaduct – an elegant way for trains to cross the River Tweed

I have quite a few pictures of boats, ships and life at sea, many of which were taken during my time working in the oil industry. I remember several rough trips in the North Sea, and thought I’d use one from such a trip for the SEA category.

This photograph was taken in the sort of weather in which, as the saying goes, you feel so seasick you worry you’re going to die, and then you worry you won’t.

During this storm I spent most of the time lying in my bunk feeling close to death, but for a brief moment I managed to leg it up to the bridge to take some pictures, before crawling back to my cabin and continuing to feel sorry for myself.

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Waves crashing over the bow during stormy weather in the North Sea

In order to enter the competition I need to nominate at least 5 fellow bloggers who might like to take part.

I feel bad about doing this so close to the deadline, which is 31 October 2013, but on the up side, if you can manage to squeeze an entry in you might just win yourself £1000.

I tried to choose bloggers I thought might be interested in entering at least one of the categories, but anyone can have a go, you don’t need to have been nominated in someone else’s post (I wasn’t!).

Dutch Goes Italian

Gippsland Granny

Rigmover

Meg Travels

Scott Marshall Photography

Even if you don’t win the overall winner’s prize of £1000 there’s always a chance you could win one of the category winners’ prizes of a Sony compact camera.

Best of luck to anyone who enters!

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Recently, with the very slow start of spring in Scotland (when I began typing this it was pouring with rain and about 10ºC), my thoughts have been straying towards happy memories of warm sunshine.

I used to have a terrible problem with itchy feet (I refer to wanderlust, as opposed to athlete’s foot-type afflictions which I have thankfully never suffered from).

All through my 20s and early 30s, I had daily dreams about dashing off hither and thither. Every now and then my dreams translated into reality, but before long I’d be back home again cogitating where to go next. I got so used to this state of affairs that I doubted I would ever grow out of it.

Then, when I started working offshore and was miraculously paid to go abroad, I thought my itchy feet problem had been cured. When I was at work I was usually on a boat bobbing about at sea, which satisfied my need for adventure, and when I wasn’t at work I was relaxing at home and perfectly happy not to be popping off anywhere else.

However, it’s now about 18 months since I more or less decided to stop working offshore, and just lately I’ve been aware of an irritation in the soles of my feet. It’s very slight, barely perceptible most of the time, but it’s on the edge of my consciousness.

And so, to the point of this post, which is to relive sunny days of travels past.

Mallorca (aka Majorca) is one of the places I have some sunny pictures of and I’ve been fortunate enough to visit the small Spanish island twice, first with my friend Sheila, and then with my dear mama.

On both visits I stayed in the lovely seaside resort of Puerto Pollensa:

Pier at Puerto Pollensa

Me at the end of the pier looking into the lovely, clear (and surprisingly cold) water at Puerto Pollensa

Lorna at Port de Pollensa

Finding shade is my usual habit when faced with glorious sunshine, even when I’ve gone somewhere deliberately to soak up the rays.

I stayed in the same hotel both times, too; it was pleasantly situated close to the beach with a quiet road and some hills at the back.

View from Mum's room

As always, food was of the utmost importance, and I ate well in Mallorca. The salads were particularly welcome in the hot weather.

A big tomato salad

My delightful assistant with a massive plate of tomato and mozzarella salad with olives

Even in the heat, however, one doesn’t want to forego the option of sweet treats.

Mum's chocolate cake at Sispins

My delightful assistant’s highly understandable choice of chocolate cake for pudding

I couldn’t get enough of the hot chocolate that was on offer at a cafe near the hotel; it was thick, silky and intensely chocolatey:

The chocolate was so thick!

If I was able to leave it for long enough (extremely difficult), a little skin formed on top, which pleased me more than I can say.

Just look at the way it coated this little biscuit:

Thick chocolate coating a biscuit at Gran Cafe in Port de Pollensa

This chocolate was so good that a version of it appears in my novel. I wanted to let my main character experience it, because I know how much she likes her little treats.

In addition to delicious food there were some beautiful buildings, particularly in the old town of Pollensa, a short bus journey inland from the port.

Interesting architecture at Pollensa

Lovely wooden shutters in Pollensa old town

Attractive house in Pollensa

A hot slog up a long flight of steps in the old town was worth it for the view from the top.

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Only 365 steps till you reach the top…

View from hilltop at Pollensa

Why isn’t there a tearoom up here?

There were houses all the way up the sides of the steps, many of which had nicely tiled roofs and flourishing pot plants:

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One of the things that makes Puerto Pollensa such an attractive spot is the line of pine trees bowing out over the water:

Mum looking out to sea at Port de Pollensa

My delightful assistant alone with her thoughts, gazing out over the blue sea.

In Scotland, evenings on which one can stroll outside without a jacket or cardigan are few and far between. In fact, even on the warmest of summer evenings in this fair country I can’t imagine ever leaving the house to go for a walk without a sleeved covering of some sort.

Balmy summer evenings are one of the things we Brits prize when holidaying abroad in warmer climes.

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As the sun sets over Puerto Pollensa the warmth of the air is sufficient to allow pleasant cardigan-less wandering along the beach. A treat for all the Brits on their hols.

As I finish this post,  I am delighted to report that not only is the sun shining but the forecast for the weekend isn’t too bad at all.

Perhaps this is indeed the proper start of spring, from which we will move seamlessly into summer.

If this jolly weather keeps up, I can possibly even shelve any thoughts of absconding and content myself with the delights of living in this lovely country.

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Here’s a little game for you.

A few years ago a small stowaway hopped onboard a ship with me in Shetland, and has been my travelling companion on a number of offshore trips since.

I haven’t been offshore for over a year now and my small companion has mysteriously vanished. I think she got tired of waiting for me to go anywhere exciting and has galloped off on her own little adventure.  I could probably lure her back by leaving a trail of Maltesers in the garden.

Agnieszka at the Maltesers

She’s in all of these photos. Can you spot her in each one?

(Some of them are quite tricky, but she’s there all right wearing her little horse blanket, knitted especially for her by a lovely Polish surveyor called Anna).

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I spent Christmas 2007 on a boat in Hammerfest, way up in the north of Norway, and my mischievous little chum got herself right in amongst the festivities.

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A very merry Christmas one and all, 

and many good things to come in 2013!

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There is a small town on the Fife coast that has, for years, been home to award winning fish and chips. Despite having visited this little place on a number of occasions, up until recently I had completely failed to sample the famous food.

I am delighted to say I have now rectified the situation. True vegetarians or vegans look away now:

It was amongst the best fish I’ve ever tasted, very fresh and cooked to perfection:

The town that supplied this fish is called Anstruther, and it was originally a fishing village. It’s home to another award winning business, also connected with fish – the Scottish Fisheries Museum:

On my next trip to Anstruther I would very much like to visit the museum and, as if an extra lure were needed, it boasts a tearoom.

The fish and chips above appeared on a glorious summer’s day a few weeks ago, when my delightful assistant and I were moseying around the Fife coast lapping up a bit of holiday atmosphere. If you want to feel in the thick of things on a sunny afternoon in Fife, Anstruther is the place to be. It always seems to be buzzing with life and the queues for fish suppers (aka fish and chips, I don’t know if this is a Scottish or British expression) never seem to dwindle.

Part of the reason I hadn’t partaken of this excellent fish before was due to offputting queues on previous visits. I suppose there must be a saturation point and some quiet periods, but going by what I’ve observed it would seem that the punters just can’t get enough fish suppers in Anstruther at any time of day, on any day of the week. Providing fish suppers to the people of Fife is, quite obviously, a thriving and profitable business.

As well as excellent fish, Anstruther has a harbour full of lovely boats, including this beautiful lady:

The elegant 70ft long Reaper is what’s known as a herring drifter. She was built in 1902 and spent many years at sea, mainly around the Shetland Islands, picking up herring. She also did a bit of work for the Admiralty in the south of England during the war years, and in 1979 she was purchased by the Scottish Fisheries Museum. She’s been featured in films and on TV, and if you fancy calling her your home for a few hours, you can rent her out for events.

Curving around the harbour are some pretty buildings, many featuring the distinctive red pantiles associated with much of the Fife coast:

It was an unusually warm day for Scotland, with a cloudless blue sky (not all that common on Scotland’s east coast). At least I could remove my outer layers, unlike this fluffy fellow taking respite in a shady spot:

When Anstruther got too much for us with its busyness and bustle, we popped into the car and drove off to a quiet hillside for a little amble. If you’ve seen my Capture the Colour post, you might recognise the subject of this next picture:

The foxgloves on top of the little hill we climbed had a fine view over fields to the sea. I was unreasonably proud of myself for managing to snap some without being stampeded by savage equine beasts (my apologies to any horse fanciers, my terror-induced language belies my admiration of the fine creatures):

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“There is nothing– absolutely nothing–half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.”

Kenneth Grahame, from The Wind in the Willows

Delightful blogger, Robin, author of the splendid Bringing Europe Home blog is setting a blogging challenge each week, based on her chosen topic “Quotes from the Masters”.

She would like people to come up with a photo, a story, a poem or whatever else they feel inspired to post, with reference to the quote she posts on her blog. This week’s challenge is based on the above quote from The Wind in the Willows. I’ve read the book several times, and boats have been quite a big part of my life for the past few years, so I thought it an appropriate time for me to jump in.

A couple of years ago I attended a boat handling course in the beautiful town of Grimstad in Norway. I learned how to drive a little FRC (fast rescue craft) and a larger workboat. I found the big one a bit stressful because there was a lot to remember when I was at the helm, but the wee one was a lot of fun (it went pretty fast).

There were usually five of us on the boat at a time, four trainees and an instructor. My other three crewmates were also my workmates (the course was paid for by our employer), and two of them in particular were very competitive. They were always wanting to do the driving and be in charge and, quite frankly, I was happy to let them. I did quite enjoy my turns at the wheel, but on the whole I prefer to let someone else look after a boat while I’m on it, so that I can sit back and admire the scenery.

This photo shows one of the competitive crewmates taking his preferred place in the driving seat, while I happily mooch about at the back enjoying the lack of responsibility. This was just before we left the pontoon, all dressed up in our big orange survival suits (it matches my hair, don’t you think?).

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