On the Crofters Trail

On the reading pile this weekend (between flooring catalogues and kitchen cabinet fittings) is this poignant read.

Written by David Craig and originally published in 1990, this is now out of print and was a purchase from a second-hand bookseller.

It contains interviews with the descendants of those cleared from the Highlands and Islands who settled in Novia Scotia.

Some have letters from the period describing the atrocities in faded but visceral detail. Some have tales passed down through three generations from their great, great grandparents and recount them in detail.

There’s is something incredibly real and intimate about a book that contains a reference directly to the croft or township that you live in. For me it creates a tangible link back through time.

I look over the ancient but still visible lazy beds on the moor above the croft and feel a real link to the lives of those who wrestled them from the soil.

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 .

Ancient Thinking Stone

At last, a trip up to Skye with husband to walk the boundaries of the land and check out tree cover and renovation options for the barn.

The weather was truly Skye – blustery skies and squally showers interspersed with shafts of bright sunshine. It was November, so also cold and windy. We wrapped up warmly.

We spent a couple of hours on the plot, aligning the house plans with the best of the sea views over the Sound of Sleat and working out the best shelter. We’re lucky, as there are already trees on the South Western boundary which provide good shelter from the prevailing winds. We’ll need them…

And there is this beautiful outcrop of what we believe to be Lewisian Gneiss poking out of the moss at the top of the Croft.

An ancient stone. A stone for sitting and thinking, or maybe just watching the world go by.

And it’s the inspiration for the name Stone Croft..

Larch clad or render?

Missives are slowly exchanging between the solicitors, and whilst we wait our thoughts have turned towards who we will commission to help us build our croft house, and some of the designs that we might be interested in (and could afford).

Do we go timber frame and traditional block and render, joining the white, low homes dotted across the flanks of the island like small iced cupcakes? Or do we go for larch cladding, which silvers and blends into the landscape with age?

Do we go for a wood burner, underfloor heating, how green can we be with the build, how much space do we need?

Our evenings after work are filled with sewerage treatment options, the relative insulation properties of SIP and timber, and house plans.

Needless to say it’s all much more expensive than we imagined and will take everything we have. But we hold fast to the dream and have a call in with local architects to talk through the possibilities and practicalities. We will design and build a low impact home that will fit into the land and be easy and cosy to live in.

Somehow.

The formal offers

D4698007-4AA0-4D9A-A62E-833130248661.jpegOur Scottish solicitors have drafted formal offers of purchase on the Croft and the decrofted building plot, and after review with the estate agents this morning will be submitted to the sellers solicitors.

This process is very different to the English way of buying, with solicitors here involved from the very outset. The sellers have verbally accepted our offer but nothing is real under this system until solicitors have formally submitted and accepted written particulars.

This part is a little nail-biting, but I can only hope that if it’s meant to be that it will happen, and that we’ll get over each obstacle as it comes up…

For now it’s a waiting game. Sitting here at the kitchen table with a mug of tea, poring endlessly over the plot plans and the few photos that we have of the land…

The Journey Begins

14900357_1425788667449599_1623462875318700130_nThis is the beginning of the realisation of a twenty-five year dream to live on the Isle of Skye. We have just started the process of buying a croft on Sleat, in the south of the island, and are hoping to build a life and a home there for the future.

I know that the path to any dream can be fraught with difficulty and disappointment as reality kicks in and life happens, but a dream is a worthwhile thing to hold fast to, and I’ve held onto this for a very long time.

My busy work and home life in France and London over the last twenty years have kept me more than occupied, but throughout that time my little haven of peace and solitude has always been the Isle of Skye.

I used to escape to the island as often as I possibly could, at least once a year but sometimes more when I could squeeze time out of my work schedule. These trips mainly took place  in February or March with gales, power cuts, and occasional snow blizzards, but also with glorious skies, open-fired cottages and monumental views over the Atlantic. It provided a small, restful hollow where life ran at a different pace and I could explore my creativity.

This is an island of artists on the edge of the wild. It felt like home, and always has done.

Being able to share this with my partner who, despite recognising the rigours of life on a cold, wet Scottish island is also up for this, is simply the icing on the cake. I simply couldn’t do this without him. Thank you, Universe!

This blog will chronicle the process of buying and setting up our croft, designing and building a house that fits into the rural aesthetic of this amazing place and working through the shape of our new lives there. Welcome along for the journey, and wish us luck. I think we’ll need it ☺️