April 2016: We’re working on a ‘picnic place makeover’ at Eight Askernish (and also at Carrick – The Blue House, Eriskay) to make outdoors as inviting and as practical as it is 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 … similar. At both houses we know – from you! – that when the occasion and the weather are right, you 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 … perfect! Our own experience tells us that outdoor furniture has to be safe when a storm suddenly blows up, summer or winter, and that means picknic benches, and at Carrick it means bolted down! At Carrick we’ve just completed a deck of larch, to complement the house ; but at Eight Askernish we’ve kept it simpler – again, in keeping with the house, widening out the stone path to create a clean, dry, level area for the picnic bench – so much more satisfactory than on wet grass! Next? New island-built picnic benches: in our extreme climate, the softwood and plain steel screws of flat-pack products don’t last long!
March 2016 : This morning – a glorious sunny morning, almost as warm as summer, Jonathan went round to Eight Askernish to open up the house for guests arriving for a three-day stay – and a wedding. So, that’s the start of this year’s letting season – and means improvement and maintenance jobs done – for now. There have been three main improvements this winter: the whole-house ventilation and heat recovery system, completed just last week. Before that – before Christmas, in fact – we widened out the path around the house so as to create a firm clean area for the picnic bench to stand on, instead of grass. And in-between we created a decent wheelie-bin stance, storm-proof, customer-facing (ie it has labels explaining what should go in each bin) and bin-men (sorry! meant wheelie-bin emptying technician) friendly. Okay, nothing very exciting ; but, you know, it’s the little things that matter most. Just as J was leaving, he spotted the first daffodil flower of the season, and as he knelt down to take this photo, the guests arrived!
March 2016: Recently we’ve been spending the occasional half-days at Eight Askernish installing the new whole-house ventilation and heat recovery system. But we’ve not been alone. and that’s not all that’s been going on there. Most of the willow trees now look as though they’ve been through a shredding machine – and a malfunctioning one at that. The blanket of orange-brown leaves fallen and decaying over the banks of mombretia have been scuffed away and there tubers are scattered over the ground. And were there any room for doubt as to the nature of our nocturnal visitors, there are little piles of dark brown nuggets – like sheep poo, but bigger and more pointy. Red Deer! At this time of year they are very hungry, and come down from the wild hills that line the east side of Uist to maraud our gardens. They’re stripping the bark off the younger willow branches, and the mombretia tubers are full of starch and vitamins.
Many islanders insist there are too many deer, and they need to be heavily culled to reduce numbers. Disturbing the mombretia is not really much of a problem – the tubers they leave will soon multiply, fertilized by the deer poo ; but the willow trees – and indeed trees of any description – are extremely difficult to grow and short-lived, and after the deer have finished with them they don’t exactly enhance the garden – and anyway will die off very soon. We’ve decided to respond by expanding our planting of rosa rugosa, the thorny stems of which protect it from deer, but which provide numerous benefits to all concerned: they grow well even at this extremely exposed site ; they provide excellent low-level privacy, shelter – for humans and for birds and insects ; they produce lovely flowers over a long season that scent the air, and then colourful hips which feed birds through late autumn and early winter ; and in early spring the green tips are tolerant of browsing by deer, as the taller shoots need pruning back anyway – it stimulates stronger growth nearer the ground.
January 2016. Congratulations to the Christie family, expecting a double duty of nappy changing this coming summer. Alas the abundance of maternal joy is not easily combined with the rigours of holidays with an extended family, so they’ve reluctantly decided that this year they must forego their regular fortnight’s family holiday at Eight Askernish. Thus two weeks in July have been freed for others to enjoy the delights of Uist in high summer. If you don’t want the full two weeks, that’s fine – you can book as little as three nights. But if you do want the full fourteen days, you’d better get a move on!
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