We captured the castle

We rubbed our eyes in disbelief when we awoke, for the gloom had lifted, the wind had blown the dark clouds clean away and the sun shone down from the sky, it’s rays bouncing off every surface in the garden. It was a perfect day to step into the tapestry of colour and changing life that has so excited me of late, as one season bursts forth from another.

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We took a trip to Bodiam Castle in East Sussex. The castle looks as if it has been drawn from a child’s fantastical imagination, all sweeping turrets and arrow-slit breaks in the weathered stone. The visit allowed me to continue to explore my love of the world around me at it’s transformative best.

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Within the walls of the castle I found such varied textures and colour.

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If you are in the area and in need of a day-trip, I would definitely recommend the castle. Aside from the fact that it’s super value for money (and you get to support the National Trust in the process), the staff are really friendly and keen to engage with young children about the history of castle, and the scenery surrounding the ruins is beautiful (especially viewed from the battlements).

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“Days decrease, And autumn grows, autumn in everything.”

I might have mentioned once or twice or a dozen times that Autumn is my favourite of all seasons. Not for me the blossoming explosions of light and colour of Spring, no for me, Autumn is the beginning, even if it is the beginning of the end. I managed to escape into the woods in a pause between torrents of rain, and thought I would share some photographs of my surroundings as nature’s palate transforms from the luscious technicolor of Summer to the burnt russets and golds and ochres of Autumn.

I’d love it if you would share your own thoughts or images in the comments.

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The Isle of Raasay

In a break from my usual Sussex-based wanderings (sporadic in nature of late, due to all manner of Autumnal colds and sniffles), I thought I would share some photographs from the beautiful Isle of Raasay, which I visited just over a year ago. I’m not sure I can convey the wonder of such a place, suffice to say the experience wanders often into my thoughts and when I daydream about a life with less people and cars and chaos, my mind tends to stray to this small Island.

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Standing on the edge of the world

We travelled the length of the country by sleeper train, and continued our journey from Inverness to Kyle of Lochlash, where we (and many other tourists) hopped aboard the bus to take us over the bridge to Skye. We were the only ones to jump off the bus at Sconser, where we boarded the ferry to Raasay.

The Isle of Raasay is sandwiched between Skye and the Applecross Peninsular of the mainland, with the cool water of the Sound of Raasay on one side and the Inner Sound on the other. These fresh and unpolluted waters are home to a diverse array of marine life, including seals, dolphins, porpoises, and whales.

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Raasay, which in old Norse translates as ‘Roe-deer’, is the family home of the Macleod clan and the influence of this ancient clan is imprinted across the island. The family’s grand house is now an Outdoor Activity Centre, but stands proud and tall as a relic of the family’s dominance over Island life. These days tourism forms the basis of Raasay’s economy, but don’t let that put you off – we saw very few visitors during our week there but found the community very welcoming.

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In 1912 the company Baird & Co purchased the Island and began to mine for Iron. During the First World War a section of the village was requisitioned for use as a Prisoner of War Camp (our cottage had been used to house prisoners), and German prisoners were used to keep the mine running during wartime. The mine closed just a few years later, but it’s ruins dot this peaceful landscape like strange industrial skeletons, and serve as a reminder that although a large portion of the Island appears untouched, man has left his mark.

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The East Coast of the Island is a draw for fossil collectors. We explored the shores of the old crofting community of Hallaig, destroyed during the clearances. Although accessible, a good level of fitness is required to reach the coastline and it’s definitely a journey to set a day aside for. We hired bikes from the Island’s hotel and although we were not quite prepared to give our legs such a workout, the views made our aches and pains the next morning more than worth it, and in fact we repeated our visit the next day (gluttons for punishment). On the first day we followed the dusty road along the South East coast until it began to trace a zig-zag shape as it climbed towards the Jurassic cliff tops. Upon reaching a grassy path, we locked up the bikes and continued on foot, following sheep-trails as golden eagles swooped overhead. On the second day, we cut down to the shore by following the river on it’s path, past waterfalls and the ruins of crofter’s cottages until we reached the beach. Embedded into the rocky coast are ammonites and belemnites, and a vast variety of large Pleinsbachian bivalves.

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The most magical aspect of the Island is it’s ancient forests with floors of deep and spongy moss. We followed the well-marked miners trail, as well as exploring the forest near the main village of Invervarish.

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There’s so much more to this Island than I can possibly convey in a simple blog post. I haven’t even mentioned the incredible Calum’s road or the story of the Macleod Clan’s financial downfall (it has a lot to do with the stone mermaids, pictured above). It is quite simply one of the most magical and ethereal places I have visited and I long to return. If you plan to visit the Western Isles, don’t limit yourself to the tourist hub of Skye. Raasay might be just a fifteen minute ferry ride across the sound, but it’s a whole other world.