Explorations & decisions

It’s been a strange summer. While much of the South has sweltered and shrivelled, we have had far more than our fair share of precipitation. We are fortunate in many respects, yet we couldn’t help but watch with frustration as May and June, our usual good-weather months, passed into damp July. Just the occasional, tantalising glimpse of sunshine fooled us into thinking we were going to get what everyone else was getting, while we promised not to complain if we did! Then along came August, far too soon, and it’s been mostly glorious, the heather bright and magnificent, the sea and river water warm enough for swimming without a wetsuit, which I am doing as often as I can!

While climate change is obviously of grave concern to all and not something to be made light of, it does tend to play havoc with one’s outdoor sketching plans. We were so very lucky that the last Scotland itinerary, at the beginning of June, hit upon perhaps the best week of the entire summer. It could have been a different story, though, and if the seasons are to be permanently disrupted it will become more of a challenge as years go by. With this in mind I am in the process of designing an east coast itinerary based in and around Inverness, which benefits from a far more stable climate and probably a greater range of wet-weather options. The trip is not quite ready yet but will be announced here in the near future.

In addition, I am altering the ‘Field of the Yellow Haired Boy’ itinerary to be based in the large fishing village of Ullapool instead of Achiltibuie. I do this with rather a heavy heart, as Achiltibuie and the villages of Coigach are special indeed. There is very little available accommodation, however, and as many guests tend to book their sketching holiday at the last minute, that accommodation is usually full by the time they want to book it. Ullapool, twenty-six miles by road (though only seven by sea) has a much greater selection, ranging from campsites and hostels through B&Bs and cabins to luxury guest houses and hotels. There are excellent evening eating options also, making it a fine choice for a holiday.

We will, of course, still be visiting Coigach and painting its stunning scenery but there are some really excellent locations nearer to Ullapool and in alternative directions also. I recently enjoyed a walk to the mysterious Dun Canna, the remains of an ancient fort on a promontory overlooking Isle Martin beneath the towering cliffs of Ben More Coigach. The swirling mist – actually it was a persisting haar – added to the atmosphere and I had the place to myself. It is certainly worth an afternoon on the new itinerary, which will be posted on the website very soon.

I will let you know when it’s ready, but first it needs a name! Who would imagine that this would be the trickiest part of designing a sketching or painting holiday?