Tag Archives: Hebrides

Feeding our wanderlust: honey, lavender, pepper oatcakes; photos of Iona

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Sometimes, a phrase, an image, or an object triggers your memory and it’s as though you are transported back to another place. Last night, reading Laura’s blog, Laura’s Mess, I remembered standing under Western Australia’s big, open sky, with its sense of so much space, feeing the warm wind and warmer sun, and ouch-hot white sand under my feet.

Earlier that evening, we were planning a dinner party for 12 (!). Cheese and oatcakes got on the menu. And I remembered the oatcakes we had in Scotland. And that story on a packet of oatcakes, solemnly explaining that oatcakes began from the Scottish people’s frugal habits, when they would save their morning porridge by drying it into a cake for supper.

Dried leftover porridge. Yum.

So it was that I found myself making oatcakes that evening.

I used a recipe from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall who introduced it thus: “This recipe is Bill Cowie’s, island manager of Rona in the Inner Hebrides. He made a batch when we were filming and fishing with him in July. We devoured every last one, with cheese and homemade chutney.”

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I almost followed the recipe, the only changes I made were adding a bare half teaspoon of crushed lavender, and an overflowing teaspoon of honey, into the oatcake mix. I’ve been reading about lavender pepper spice mixes, and oats just love honey, and the whole thing just came together.

The oatcakes had a healthy back of the throat kick from a mixture of black and white pepper – I’d like to use the sweeter pink pepper next time – a bare hint of open grassland from the lavender, and the barest mellowness from the honey. Their flavours played off each other and made me want to use the lavender, honey and pepper combination in other things. 

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Scotland (2): peat bogs and sunset on the beach

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This is the second of four posts, of photos from our holiday in Scotland and Germany. The first one features the castles in Scotland, and brooding Edinburgh. This one is about peat bogs, rain, the Calmac car ferries and the unbelievably beautiful landscape that accompanied everything.

Peat bogs became a constant feature in our life once we stepped off the Calmac ferry, onto the Hebrides. After a few days I learned:

a) hills can become wetter and boggier as you climb up (water flows upwards??)

b) some moss or patches of grass are 95% water.

c) following the sheep is often a bad idea.

d) the top of a hill is always windy, cold, and raining.

Rain, it wouldn’t be a holiday in Scotland without rain. The animals seemed impervious, unless a loch was lapping at their feet. We now have shiny new waterproof hats (which work really, really well!), and a new ability to snap photos in the rain:

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On other days, miraculously, the sun comes through the clouds and transforms what we see. Even the Calmac ferries had a touch of glamour in such sunlight.

I don’t know if I’ve ever seen such clear, intense blue in the sky. The Hebridean landscape is beautiful in the rain, but it is breathtaking in sunlight, and made us want to stay there for much, much longer. Our favourite time of the day is dusk. From some angles, towards dusk, the light shimmered and gave the landscape and animals a kind of golden glow. If we were standing on top of a hill, we sometimes looked out onto the ocean that – reflecting the setting sun – is at once silver, gold, hazy, almost too bright, and small islands in the ocean looking like stepping stones to magic. 

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The quality of the light seemed to change by the day, and gave us such different views of the hills, mountains, lochs and the machair. In the evenings, we sat in our rental house, looked at the light falling on the lochs and peat bogs (and sipped whiskey).

We saw spectacular sunsets at 11pm and saw the last of sunlight lingering, even after midnight. We didn’t know it, it was the beginning of a heat wave in the UK and the rest of Europe. 

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On our finals days there, the sky closed over and become slate grey, cold, the clouds seem so heavy that they flow down mountains and into valleys. Then, as we walked down non-existent paths, we occasionally imagined ourselves alone in the land of Mordor (minus the fire-breathing Orc battle machines, thankfully). This, too, was mesmerising.

If only my skills with the camera could do justice to these places.

Next posts in this series: Skipping ahead to the fairytale castles and a UNESCO listed monastery in Germany. Then, back to Iona Abbey, the black houses, and mysterious standing stones in the Hebrides. 

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