Longhouse design

The time approaches for us to design our house and apply for planning permission to build on the decrofted part of the land.

There is already outline planning permission granted for a one and a half storey house, but full planning permission and building warrants will be needed next.

We’ve been working with Dualchas, Skye based architects. They design homes based on the original black houses of the Hebrides, houses that are long and low, that tuck into the hillsides, and are built to cope with the high winds and rain.

It became apparent quite quickly that by the time we factored in the groundworks, a long access road, a sewerage plant and everything else, that this was going to be an expensive exercise! A custom designed house with everything that we wanted was starting to look like a stretch too far.

Dualchas also however have a series of SIP (structured insulated panel) kit homes that contain all the best elements of their design – big volumes in the living areas, lots of light, great energy efficiency, remarkable build strength – and which prove marginally less expensive for what we want.

Our wish list:

*For the house to be super efficient in terms of energy consumption and to be cost-effective to run.

*To have big windows on the south side for solar gain and to make the most of the views.

*To sit quietly and naturally in the landscape, respecting the local vernacular.

*To be built of natural materials (slate, wood, stone).

*To have enough space for a utility room, a boot room and a larder for food storage and preparation.

*To have generous living space, with room for our massive book collection.

We have lots of work to do now to try and balance our budget with our desires and find a compromise that works for us and the land.

Let the balancing act begin ! ☺️

From the shore

Some days appear magical, and although I know that they may only happen rarely between the many more frequent grey, rainy days, I think it’s important to recognise and celebrate them when they do.

This was taken from the shore on Skye by husband, no filters, no enhancement, just a phone camera.

I think it looks like a Japanese watercolour.

And a capture of a misty moment that we hope to be seeing much more of soon.

Exploring the croft

We’ve spent the last few days exploring the land. The croft is situated on a south east facing slope. Because it hasn’t been used for many years apart from occasional grazing, rushes have overtaken much of it, and there is little tree cover with the exception of a few small birch groves acting as a shelter belt to the west of the land.

There are exposures of lewissian gneiss in various places, but there also appear to be layers of shale, as exhibited here in an exposed cut above the stream. You can see the soil layer overlaying the shale. Local spot PH testing shows that the soil over the shale is around 6.5-6.8, so not as acidic as we had feared.

There is also a sheltered valley to the north, where the burn flows. It’s lightly wooded and overgrown, with the stream running through the cut.

It’s much more diverse and untouched in nature than I thought from our first viewing, which is wonderful. We’re already hatching plans for where we could plant a small orchard, and where we could create a pond.

Now to focus on planning permission and building warrants…

Sunrise over Knoydart

No filters. We woke up to this stunning sunrise over the Knoydart hills this morning at 6.40 am. Can’t wait until we’re enjoying this from our own Croft house! It makes early morning rising something to look forward to.

One day soon .

Fallen trees and a soggy bottom

It’s been a bizarely warm, cloudy day today on Skye, but we’re here! We spent the afternoon taking soil samples and exploring the croft with planting plans in mind, and it was so mild that we left our waterproofs hanging on a fence. Not at all like February.

On the western boundary of the croft is a grove of trees, providing a welcome shelter belt. At some point in the past an enormous fir tree was felled, and the trunk, denuded over time of it’s branches, still lies there.

We explored the bottom of the croft more thoroughly, a rough, overgrown area that borders the high moorland and common grazings at the back of where the house will be built.

We knew that there was a burn on the western boundary of the croft, running between us and our neighbour, but what we didn’t know was that there was a small tributary stream that runs through our land which joins the main burn, hidden in a low dip to the north.

It’s quite magical. The trees overhang the cut that the stream has carved for itself out of the bank. Everything is green, mossy and lichen-covered. Today the only sound was the gurgling of the stream, the occasional bleat of sheep and the song of the birds.

Our very own soggy bottom.

Consolatory cheese scones

We may not be on Skye this weekend as planned, but we are sitting with our feet up at home, a much happier little spaniel, a rescheduled flight, and a plate of hot, cheesy sourdough scones for supper.

There’s always an up side if you look hard enough for it ☺️

Of sick dogs and cancelled flights

We’ve been waiting impatiently for the opportunity to get back up to Skye for the last three months now.

Work schedules, family commitments, and the time it took to complete the croft purchase all conspired to stretch that time out to what seemed like an agonisingly long wait.

But eventually the week of the flight to Inverness approached and we started packing our bags and finalising the visit arrangements. And then disaster struck.

In the week before we were due to leave, our lovely old spaniel got sick. Up several times a night, my husband slept downstairs on the sofa with him so that he would be close in case anything happened. Bertie was listless and weak, had continual diarrhoea which his medication didn’t seem to be helping, and we were terrified that his time had come.

We cancelled the flight and the accommodation. We cancelled the dog sitter. We couldn’t leave him.

Exhausted from several nights of worry and scant sleep, we despaired of when we would get the chance to make the trip again, feeling both frustrated and guilty at voicing our feelings at a situation that was of no-one’s making.

Last night he turned the corner. He brightened. He started to eat again. We breathed again and watched in delight as he gained in energy. We dared to wonder whether we could get him comfortable enough over the weekend to squeeze a short few days in on the island out of the original week that we had planned.

The bags are still there, still packed on the bedroom floor, awaiting the outcome of the next few days.