I drove to Askernish to open up the cottage for guests arriving later in the afternoon. The day had been grey and dreary, but then the mood lifted, and now I’m glad I took the camera with me for Justin. Justin Case. The post Seabhal appeared first on The Big Garden and Croft.
Jonathan, August 2017 > This little lovely was grazing just below the window behind the TV. It didn’t seem to be troubled by Denise and I – as long as we stayed safely behind the other side of the glass!
I eyed a doe, but not a deer doe, a rabbit doe
Denise, July 2017 >
It’s more than a decade since we completed reconstruction of Eight Askernish, and the house started a new life as a self-catering holiday cottage. Since then, there have been no big changes or dramatic further development, and yet the cumulative effect after eleven years of maintenance, repairs and small improvements is readily apparent when comparing photographs of now and then – as in this Photo Update.
Jonathan was at Askernish a few days ago to cut the grass and replace the privacy lock on the bathroom door (fortunately we have a spare of exactly the same design – so that’s another imperceptible change!). It was a lovely summer day, and he took a few photos ‘for the family album’ – as one does.
Seeing them for myself, I was struck by how established Askernish now looks – compared to when the reconstruction work was complete ; or even to how it was before then, when we bought the place. What do you think?
Late March 2017 >
Spring has at last sprung, and the land and sky around Eight Askernish is stirring with promise of new life. Skylarks soar and sing, and Lapwings swoop and dive …
Indoors, final preparations for our first guests of the 2017 season. Outside, spring sunshine is spurring the willows to bud, so now’s the time to take and plant cuttings, making good the wear and tear of the past winter – from wild storms and hungry deer.
Jonathan, Late December 2016 >
A few weeks back, at Eight Askernish, Denise and I were packing up having completed our winter programme of redecorating (including, this year, new carpets throughout). My final task before leaving was to set up the wildlife camera. On each of our visits to the house, I’d noticed ‘calling cards’ left by deer visiting the garden in search of food, so on this last visit I attached the wildlife camera to a rainwater down-pipe, and directed it at the area where the deer paw the ground in search of the naturalized crocosmia/mombretia bulbs (which are rich in carbohydrates and minerals). Today – with Alex and Frazer Fotheringham from Wester Ross about to arrive for a Hogmanay holiday, I removed the camera and checked the contents.
Disappointment, yet again! About 300 each of stills and videos, but no deer – no wildlife of any kind. In fact the only movement of living things caught was of the grasses and shrubs rocking about in the wind! The sensitivity of the infra-red detector is adjustable, and I’d set it to react only to movement within about 50m, but it appears that the camera was far more interested in passing traffic, on the Askernish road, which is about 150m away!
What’s really interesting from the hundreds of images, capturing passing traffic – day and night, is that almost half of the traffic on the Askernish road is agricultural – and almost all of that tractors. In Askernish, at least, crofting is very much alive and well!
Early November 2016>
Our guests from Germany, planning to spend Hogmanay in Uist, have had to cancel, due to problems with travel. So, we now again have vacancies at Askernish throughout the ‘holiday season’, and we can offer a discount of £10 per night (see note, below). To take advantage of this, you’ll need to call us and book over the phone – we can apply the £10pn discount manually and take card payment there and then.
Note: 12 nights of £10pn discount are available. This discount is in addition to any other discount you may be entitled to. First come, first served!
Update: Who says blogging is pointless? Within a few hours of the above post we received a provisional booking for Hogmanay and beyond. We’ll still have room for guests over Christmas, and up to £40 (£10pn) of special discount still available.
End October 2016: We’ve just secured a 10-day booking for Eight Askernish. Our guests are coming from Germany! So, with Carrick already booked right through the Christmas and New Year holiday season (and there’s a German on the guest list there, too!), anyone looking for a cosy Christmas in Uist will have to make their mind up soon! Our remaining vacancy is at Eight Askernish, which is available up until 29th December.
Late October 2016: Guests consistently tell us they’ve had a wonderful holiday, though it’s not often we get to know what they’ve doing during their stay in Uist. So they could be just being polite – saying what’s expected. That said, a good proportion of guests stay a second or third time – or even more: so maybe they mean it after all!
The days of the Guest Book has been pretty much been consigned to history, but – contrary to what the likes of Mark Zuckerberg would have us believe – few people really do document every detail of their holiday on social media – or even the fact they’re on holiday at all! – and certainly do not write reviews just because they are asked for them. With almost every business clamouring not only for our custom, but for our feedback, we’re all now somewhat review-wary, feedback-weary. We let our guests know how they can leave feedback or write reviews if they really want to, but leave it at that. Very few do – and we’re okay with that. Their holidays are about them, not us!
Just recently, though, guests at Eight Askernish left for us a wee note telling us a bit about their walking adventures – including a long walk out to Sheisinis lighthouse on the wild and remote east coast of South Uist. They’d managed to get some great photos of Golden Eagles and White-Tailed Eagles. It’s good to use this website to showcase guests’ photos, and perhap a brief description of their walks: not so much to promote Eight Askernish as to promote the extraordinary wildlife of the islands, and to encourage visitors to be more adventurous in exploring Uist.
Here’s some images from Neil Milton.
We were at Eight Askernish today to cut the grass and open the house ready for guests arriving this evening. We’d pretty much finished, and as we had some time to spare, we decided to take the opportunity to get some fresh photos of the exterior of the cottage – perhaps from a new angle, for the website. That done, we returned to the van to pack up. Perhaps a few last photos of the landscape – especially across the lochs and glens to Beinn Mhor.
[D] What’s that perched on the electricity pole just across the road? [J] Is it … could it be? [D] No! [J] Camera – quick! Why won’t it take the d— photo? [D] Battery’s flat? [J] Aaagh! Too late – it’s gone.
Yes, really – right by the cottage itself!
So, all we could manage is a new photo of Eight Askernish.
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.
Ten Years After?
Ten Years after renovation was completed (just! – only just!) and our first ever self-catering guests arrived! Ten years after to the day, 27 May 2006. Penny Ritson – and her husband, from Warwick on Eden in Cumbria (coincidentally just down the lane from where we used to live in Wetheral, when Denise and I were first married).
For us then, in 2006, buying a property – especially one in such poor condition – to renovate and let out was a major project – way out of our experience and comfort zone! The house had to be stripped back to just the bare concrete walls (and even those needed repairing): even the concrete floor was ripped up and all the incoming services replaced. In fact that turned out to be just the first of so much other and far bigger building projects … but that’s another post, for another time!
Here’s a slideshow from back then. And if Penny Ritson is reading this and would like to return some time, we’ll be happy to offer a generous discount as a thank you for putting up with our beginners’ blunders!