Mandy Charlton - Photographer, Writer, Blogger

Photographer of Families, Small People and Delightful Places. Travel and Lifestyle Writer and Blogger. Lives in Newcastle, Loves the North, Often Accompanied By A Beagle Named Holly Bobbins

Tuesday, October 06, 2020

How to embrace the cosy life and escape the winter blues


How to embrace the cosy life and escape the winter blues, mandy charlton, photographer, writer, blogger


This is a collaborative post

Without a doubt 2020 has been a challenge so far and with the longer nights encroaching I'm here to tell you how to embrace the cosy life and escape the winter blues.  I've had the seasonal affective disorder for many years and built up all kinds of coping strategies so I know what I'm talking about and the past couple of years I've mostly managed to knock it on the head by living the cosy life so here are my top tips.

The basics

There are some basic proven things that can work and I wanted to start with them.  Taking a vitamin D3 supplement really can help, I'm under the care of an endocrinologist who told me that the biggest vitamin we lack in the UK is vitamin D3 because we just don't get enough oily fish or indeed sunlight so taking this as a supplement during the dark winter months really can help.

Buying a lightbox and sitting in front of it for 20 minutes a day can also help if you can't get outdoors into the winter sunshine, there are all kinds of lightboxes available which range in price, you just have to find one you like, you can even switch your light bulbs to daylight bulbs which can help brighten up the living space although that in itself might not be enough so just bear that in mind.

How to embrace the cosy life and escape the winter blues, mandy charlton, writer, blogger


Live the cosy life

The most powerful tool I've learnt is to live the cosy life, dedicate the darker months to fairy lights, furry throws, comfortable furnishings and cosy pyjamas, candles which remind you of happy times or the rich scents of baked apple, cinnamon, pumpkin spice, all of these things give you a life which is more hygge and less horrible.

Connection with the earth

One of the best mindfulness tools is to reconnect with the planet, it's also called grounding, basically, we have moved away from our connection with the earth and so being barefoot on real wood flooring is one way of reconnecting ourselves, I know it might sound a little woo but honestly, the carpets many of us have in our houses do not help us to ground and it's one of the reasons I have real wood flooring all through my home and why I like to be barefoot as often as I possibly can.  If you can get outdoors and it's not too cold, try walking barefoot on fresh grass, or the ground or sand and breathe deep, honestly, I promise this stuff helps.

Celebrate the seasons

How to embrace the cosy life and escape the winter blues

Christmas is coming and it's going to be different this year so I don't think building up to "One special day" is going to work and in fact, it might prove to be completely counterintuitive so instead, I would encourage you to celebrate the seasons, embrace them for all they are worth and see the Christmas period as a wholly wonderful thing on its own.

The end of 2020 might well be a challenge and especially if like me, you live on your own so be good to yourself, treat yourself kindly and surround yourself with the people or animals who you do have near you, I know that Holly Bobbins and the cats are a great source of entertainment so they'll be good company and when it does come to festive decoration, well you can be sure this year I'm going big, even if it is only for myself because twinkly lights and a glowing Christmas tree are most certainly a tonic which can make everything better.
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Monday, September 28, 2020

Staying happy in an unhappy world


Iris rainbow, staying happy in an unhappy world, mandy charlton photography blog, photographer, blogger, newcastle upon tyne

It's hard staying happy in an unhappy world and the world we're in right now really isn't all that happy.  There are 94 days left of this year and I spoke about this on my Instagram over the weekend, it could be the saddest and most challenging 3 months of our lives, Coronavirus, climate change, Donald Trump, Boris and his conservative cronies, Brexit, my daughter being at Uni, only in Durham but not allowed to see me because she's in a new household, not seeing friends or even Looby nearly enough...

I could go on, it's just not a happy time but I don't think being unhappy is good for my psyche, it's bad enough that SAD is coming and this year due to hyperparathyroidism I can't take any vitamin D3, nor can I escape to a sunshiny place and let's not even start on the uncertainty of my photography business due to the restrictions.

Truly 2020 sucks and I cannot wait for 2021 but I have to stay happy, it's too easy a decline into bad mental health.

What is the answer?

What is the answer?  I'm not entirely sure but I know that in the last 3 months of the year good things do happen.  Let's start with the biggest thing to get excited about, Christmas!  Anyone who knows me or has followed me on social media anywhere in the last 15 years will know just how much I love Christmas, I am the Queen of Christmas and this year, I think we're going to have to go extra big on Christmas to deflect all of the collective sighs of the world.  

How to spend Christmas Day alone

At this point, it looks like I'm going to be totally alone on Christmas Day and I can't even have an open house, my support bubble all have their own families and the girls will be together with their paternal relatives, it feels like a tragedy but I'm thinking that TV will be wonderful, I can eat and drink what I want and to prepare for that I'm going to build myself a hamper of treats (like this one I just found at M&S) just for me with everything I love, maybe books, pamper stuff, chocolates, Gin (that's obvious), Champagne, maybe a new lovely throw to wrap myself in.  It's the best way I can think of to cope with the day and hopefully I will be able to see both of my daughters on Boxing Day when we'll pretend it's Christmas Day again.  Maybe we'll have the rule of 6 back by then and I'll be able to have friends over, I can hope...

Embrace Autumn


It's autumn in just a couple of weeks the full splendour of autumn will be present in all of our parks and woodlands, natures last show before it goes into it's long winter slumber and this year we need to embrace the outdoors as much as possible as it's when Coronavirus is at it's least powerful so think woodland walks, flasks of hot chocolate, toasting marshmallows, making smores, leaf kicking, wearing wooly jumpers in bright colours and more importantly just enjoying the family or friends we can actually be with, I had Sunday lunch with my support bubble yesterday and it was bliss, I'd been in semi-lockdown before shooting 3 weddings to make sure I was as healthy and risk free as possible so I hadn't seen them for 2 weeks, it felt like an age and it was just lush to be there, I think if we can appreciate the small things, we're giving our mental health the best chance to come out of this relatively unscathed.

The cosy season

The cosy season is the best season in my humble opinion, I live for twinkly lights and candles, surrounded by cosy throws and tartan blankets, even though I redecorated my home this year it's still all revolves around making your home a cosy nest to protect you from the world and now is the time to feel like you're enveloped in a safe nest.  You could (like me) try some new craft Gins or open a bottle of the good wine (never the cheap wine, wine should be savoured and drank slowly), grab some artisan nuts (stop, it, cheeky) and maybe some strong crumbly cheese or maybe a charcuterie board and pop on your favourite movie (Moulin Rouge until I die) or explore the latest box sets.  Read books, play board games, make conversation with those you're with (if you don't live alone like me, I just talk to the pets).  See this season as though you're in a bubble (many of us are) and embrace pumpkin spice everything.

I'm sure I'll have more thoughts and oodles of Christmassy content over the next few months so do look out for my Christmas Gift Guide, my Foodies Gift Guide and my "12 Gins of Christmas" article.  Though I don't have all of the answers for staving off the loneliness or just getting through this awful time, hopefully having some ideas and putting our heads together, we can at least attempt to get through this supporting each other, checking in on each other and dare I say it (I hate it) Zoom Christmas parties are back on the schedule.
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Thursday, September 03, 2020

What the hell is 2020?

Autumn strikes in inverness, What the hell is 2020? mandy charlton photography blog, photographer, writer, blogger

As surely as day becomes night, summer must also turn into autumn and I find myself asking "what the hell is 2020?"

Now I must firstly say that I'm currently sitting at my desk catching up on 9 days off whilst also throwing my arms in the air singing along to "Proud" and other wonderful music from my "Happy music for musical moments" Spotify playlist.  I'm happy when I'm at my desk in a way I don't think I ever was previously, there's a simple kind of joy in sending out parcels which bring delight to the recipients of what I like to call gifty goodness.  Who can even believe I'm sitting here in my home office where I have an online gift boutique?  Madness, that's what it is, that's what this whole year has been.

I've been genuinely distressed at several points of this year, I remember just after lockdown thinking I'd lost both of the businesses I had when we went into 2020 as well as being separated from my daughters for way longer than I wanted to be and that was even before I broke my arm!

Where are we now?

So, where are we now?  Well, my gift boutique certainly seems to be thriving, even in August, the 4am of retail it did pretty well by anyone's standards and I have high hopes for Q4.  I'm still not fully ready to talk about the future of my wedding and portrait photography business, it's currently just in a coma sleeping, paid work is still incredibly hard to come by and after losing between £20-30K this year, well let's just say I try not to think about it for fear I'll throw up.  I don't think there are any answers as yet, we're in a massive bloody recession, people still don't feel safe and there are so many restrictions around what I can actually do that I do question often if it's even worth it.  Dammit though, I do still love photography and I love my clients, I love telling stories through images (and words) and I still cry at most of the weddings I shoot because love is beautiful.

What Happens Next?

What happens next is anyone's guess really, I do know that the one thing I have fallen in love with again is writing about my life and more specifically about travel so when Abigail asked me if I wanted to go to Gdansk next Monday for a minibreak, first I questioned how I was old enough to have a daughter who wanted to take her mum on a minibreak, then I accepted with much gratitude, I've had a Polish guidebook on my bookshelf for at least 2 years, I literally can't wait to go to Poland, to soak up the culture and to spend time with my daughter before she goes off to Uni in a few weeks.  I will, of course, take many photos and write a few words to go with each on both here and on Instagram and you can bet that my soul will be full and happy and nourished because travel fills my cup until it runs over and soaks everyone else it touches with love and enthusiasm.

The best adventures are yet to come...

Ways to support my writing


If you have enjoyed this article or found it useful and would like to support my writing I'd love a virtual coffee
I also have a lovely Facebook group I'd love you to come and join 
You could also come and follow me on Instagram to keep up with my adventures, I really am grateful for all
of your love and support.
Oh and of course, you could just treat yourself to something lovely from Philomena's Boutique, my gift boutique
which is diverse, sustainable and totally lush!

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Wednesday, September 02, 2020

Scotland By Rail Part 5 - The Best of the Highlands

Packhorse bridge, Carr Bridge, Highlands of Scotland, Scotland by Rail part 5, the best of the highlands



As the sun rises 9 days after I departed from home, I'm sitting on the train at Inverness having seen the best of the highlands and waiting to be spirited back to Newcastle.  Last night as I watched the sun setting over Inverness, I cried, happiness that it has been such an amazing trip and sadness that it was over.  Coming to the north of Scotland for 9 days is the longest trip I've taken since a trip to Gran Canaria for 2 weeks in 2013.

Long trips are always worth it!

Long trips are always worth it!  When you get to a destination it takes you time to acclimatise, time to feel settled but by the end, you almost feel like a local, you have sussed the best trips to take, you know where the best restaurants are and you know your way around, the little shortcuts, the best photo spots that maybe someone who's only there for a couple of days hasn't figured out yet.

It's not always possible for me to take such a long time away from my desk but you can be sure I want to do it as often as I can in the future.  There are so many places I want to visit and I'm finally getting to the point of having a life which is flexible enough to do that.  It's weird, I guess that it's taken a pandemic and change of career to enable that to happen.

Loch An Eilein, Rothiemurchus Estate, Highlands, scotland by rail part 5, the best of the highlands, mandy charlton, photographer, writer, blogger



Highlights of the Highlands

I'm not sure where to start with my highlights of the highlands, I could write endlessly about some of the things that I've done, but, dear reader, I know your time is precious so I'll try to be succinct and just round up a few of my favourite highlights - 


They're just a few of the things I really loved about this trip to Scotland by rail.  I never did make it to Wick, the public transport situation just made it too awkward by the time I'd been to Thurso, John o Groats and the stacks at Duncansby and Ullapool, I've wanted to visit Ullapool for years and still never made it so at least I know I have things to come back for and really, I'd love to do the whole of the Northcoast 500, either with a friend in a campervan or on an organised trip or tour.

There's also the west coast of Scotland which I've not done a lot of, I've extensively toured the Southwest coast of Dumfries and Galloway and I've done Ayr, I've even been to Ben Nevis and Fort William although it was so many years ago (Looby was about 6 months old) that I really can't remember a lot of it.

I wonder if there's such a thing as the ultimate tour of Scotland where you see the best of the whole of Scotland, I'd love to do that as well but finding a friend who can take long enough off work and planning an epic long trip around the whole of Scotland is going to take some doing, for a start they'd have to deal with me for however long it takes, nominate yourself if you fancy it.

native scottish woodland, highlands, scotland by rail part 5, the best of the highlands, mandy charlton photographer, writer, blogger



What is the best tour of Scotland?

"What is the best tour of Scotland?" I hear you ask, well, for me I'd have to say that my favourite trip I took was the ultimate tour of the Isle of Skye with Wow Scotland but I did also love the trip to Glen Affric and the visit to the Cairngorms with Rabbies, they were all completely different in their makeup, The Ultimate Isle of Sky tour is a full-on 12 hour day but it's also the most photographically perfect day ending as the light softens so you get that perfect view of Eilean Donan Castle from the Kyle of Lochalsh.  Yesterday's tour of the Cairngorms with Willie from Rabbies was like going out with your dad in the 80's when on a Sunday afternoon he'd ask "Do you fancy a run in the car?"  Willie seemed to set his own schedule so be warned, it's quite possibly never the same trip twice.  


How much do tours of Scotland cost?


Tours of Scotland vary in cost depending on how long they are and where they depart, I found them to be really reasonable and you should expect to pay around £30-£40 for a one day tour of the areas surrounding Inverness or between £70-£90 for a one day tour to the Isle of Skye which is a much longer day and also much further away as you have to cross the Highlands from east to west.

Should I visit the Highlands

So, as I make my long journey home and if you're asking yourself "Should I visit the Highlands?" it would be a resounding yes from me,  it's actually around the 4th time I've been to the highlands although my first time making it to Thurso.  I would not hesitate in coming back, doing more trips and tours and just taking time to really soak in the atmosphere of this wonderful region.  Inverness may have a population of less than 100,000 (the exact number varied depending on which tour guide told me, from 50,000 to 100,000) but it definitely packs a punch.  Scotland will fill your heart with joy and no matter how long you stay there for, it will never seem like long enough.

Ways to support my writing


If you have enjoyed this article or found it useful and would like to support my writing I'd love a virtual coffee
I also have a lovely Facebook group I'd love you to come and join 
You could also come and follow me on Instagram to keep up with my adventures, I really am grateful for all
of your love and support.
Oh and of course, you could just treat yourself to something lovely from Philomena's Boutique, my gift boutique
which is diverse, sustainable and totally lush!
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Sunday, August 30, 2020

Scotland by Rail Part 4 - The Isle of Skye is Enchanting

Scotland by rail part 4, the isle of skye is enchanting, mandy charlton photographer, writer, blogger, solo travel in the Uk


The Isle of Skye is enchanting, it's the kind of place where you cry tears of happiness because you can't believe the beauty right in front of your eyes (or was that just me?). It's the kind of place that creatives yearn for and troubled souls crave to calm their anxious minds.  Skye in parts is so unbelievably beautiful that you never want to leave.

Book an organised tour

I went to the Isle of Skye on an organised tour with Wow Scotland, when you are travelling alone I find one thing which helps massively is to plan things, often if you want to remote places where there's not a regular bus service organised small tours are the best way to make sure you see as much as you can pack into one day.  Of course, it can be a little restrictive as you're subject to someone else's agenda but I'd much rather do that than risking not seeing somewhere at all and to be honest, on small tours, I find that the guides always know the best places and often they go to special photo points that the average tourist might not be aware of.

Getting to the Isle of Skye from Inverness and back is a full 12 hour day trip but the journey from the east of the Highlands through to the west and onto the Island is spectacular, you feel so tiny amongst the great Munro's and mountain ranges, there simply is no landscape the same as the highlands, yes it's got similarities to the Lake District but there's just something extra special about the Scottish Highlands.

Scotland by rail part 4, the isle of skye is enchanting, mandy charlton photographer, writer, blogger, solo travel in the Uk


Pack those snacks

Now what I will say is that the day was long, our one and only stop long enough to grab food was at 11.15 in the pretty village of  Portree with it's iconic painted houses in the harbour.  We didn't get back to Inverness until after 8pm so pack those snacks, I had an anxiety attack in the afternoon and I think it was to do with my eating, I ate way too much sugar in the morning and then when my blood sugar plummeted I ended up with shaky legs having an anxiety attack and not being able to walk all of the way to the fairy pools,  it was a fair distance and my catastrophising mind told me that I would get lost, have an accident or just not make it but I still had a lovely time and sat in one of the most beautiful places on the whole of the Isle of Skye for a while.
Scotland by rail part 4, the isle of skye is enchanting, mandy charlton photographer, writer, blogger, solo travel in the Uk


Isle of Skye tour highlights

There's honestly so much to see and do on the Isle of Skye that you could spend a week exploring, for instance, one of the Isle of Skye tour highlights was a stop to see the Old Man of Storr, now if I had been visiting and not on an organised tour I would have wanted to go there and get close up as there is a trail and it's such a spectacular rock formation, I reckon if you could get up close in the golden hour the photos would never disappoint. I also loved the Fairy Pools and would like to go back and see them up close when I'm less anxious.  Portree enchanted me with it's painted houses which are iconic and seen on so many calendars of Scotland, you never know, I might do my own calendar of pretty places I've visited over the last few months, there have been many.
Scotland by rail part 4, the isle of skye is enchanting, mandy charlton photographer, writer, blogger, solo travel in the Uk


Inspired by the Quiraing

The Quiraing is a landslip on the Meall na Suiramach, the northernmost summit of the Trotternish Peninsula of the Isle of Skye.  Rob, our tour guide said that no matter how often he went up there it never looked exactly the same because the light was constantly changing.  We were actually so lucky when we were there as the skies were clear above and you could see for miles.  The Isle of Skye is known for its mists which roll in and out so if you go, just be aware that you might not be able to see quite so far as I did. 
Scotland by rail part 4, the isle of skye is enchanting, mandy charlton photographer, writer, blogger, solo travel in the Uk


Eilean Donan Castle

The absolute highlight of my day wasn't even on the Isle of Skye though, Eilean Donan Castle has been on my wishlist since 1986 when I first watched Highlander, yes Christopher Lamberts Scottish accent was deplorable but to me, it's still one of the greatest movies of all time... 

"I am Connor MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod. I was born in 1518 in the village of Glenfinnan on the shores of Loch Shiel. And I am immortal". Which by the way is quite similar to "I'm the Doctor. I'm a Time Lord. I'm from the planet Gallifrey in the constellation of Kasterborous. I'm 903 years old and I'm the man who is gonna save your lives and all 6 billion people on the planet below. You got a problem with that?"  Clearly, I like an epic immortal Scotsman but you knew that already didn't you dear reader?

Suffice to say Eilean Donan Castle lived up to everything I'd imagined and the only thing that would have made it better is if I could have gone inside but it was right at the end of the tour and the castle was closed, still, it's a good excuse to come back and it did mean that the light was soft and beautiful, this photo is definitely going on my wall.

After Eilean Donan castle we also stopped off quickly at Urquart Castle but honestly, it just paled into comparison for me, I'd already peaked at the Kyle of Lochalsh with Eilean Donan.

More tours of the Highlands

I've since booked another couple of tours for the rest of my trip, both are with Rabbies , tomorrow I'm going on a tour to Glen Affric, Culloden and Clava Cairns and on Tuesday I'm going on the Cairngorms national park and Speyside whisky tour and you can be sure I'll report back to tell you what they're like

How much do tours of the Highlands and Islands cost?

I actually think tours are always reasonable because you get to see so much over the course of the day, The Ultimate the Isle of Skye day tour cost £74, the others were between £30 - £40 and I literally booked those on a whim this evening as today I walked over 20km and went on a trip to see the Moray Firth dolphins with Dolphin Spirit which cost me £19.50 and I didn't see one dolphin, I did see the heads of about 3 seals but I guess you take your chances with wildlife cruises and it was still a lovely boat trip.

Whatever happens over the next couple of days you can bet that I'm going to be shattered when I go home on Wednesday, I always go home from trips more tired than when I got there but is it even worth travelling if you're not going to squeeze every last inch out of them?

Ways to support my writing


If you have enjoyed this article or found it useful and would like to support my writing I'd love a virtual coffee
I also have a lovely Facebook group I'd love you to come and join 
You could also come and follow me on Instagram to keep up with my adventures, I really am grateful for all
of your love and support.
Oh and of course, you could just treat yourself to something lovely from Philomena's Boutique, my gift boutique
which is diverse, sustainable and totally lush!

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Thursday, August 27, 2020

Scotland by Rail Part 3 - John O'Groats is Inspiring

Scotland by Rail part 3, John O'Groats is inspiring, The Duncanby Stacks, Mandy Charlton Photographer

John O'Groats is Inspiring, that's actually a lie, John O'Groats is full of souvenir shops selling magnets and postcards but the area around John O'Groats is life affirmingly inspiring!

How to get to John O'Groats from Thurso

At the time of writing the bus timetables have recently changed to introduce more services, I got the number 80 bus at 8.30 from just next to Santander in Thurso, the coach sized bus navigates the tiny and often unmarked roads leading towards Wick and John O'Groats with skill.  It takes around an hour for the journey and may well be one of the prettiest bus trips I've been on and possibly the most remote too. The buses are maybe once every couple of hours so make sure you don't miss the one you want.   The bus drops you off at the John O'Groats bus stop which is next to a technicolour hotel and a craft and souvenir village, from the bus stop/car park,  it's just a few steps to the famous sign and as it was so early in the day, I didn't have to wait long for my photo.

Scotland by Rail part 3 - John O'Groats is inspiring, the famous sign by Mandy Charlton Photographer, writer blogger



The walk to the Duncansby Stacks

The best thing to do when you've had your photo is to avoid the souvenir shops (although I did buy a fridge magnet for posterity) and take a walk in an easterly direction to the Ducansby Head Lighthouse and the Duncansby Stacks.  It's about a 6-7km round trip and it's sorted of marked out in the way that the Scottish are like "ah well, you'll find it if you keep walking." Please say that in a Scottish accent and you'll know what I'm talking about.
John O'Groats is Inspiring, Sannick Bay near Duncansby  Head by Mandy Charlton, Photographer, Blogger


The walk itself takes you along the cliff tops of the very edge of Great Britain, any further you'll be in the sea, fascinatingly Shetland is still another 152 miles further north and one day it's a journey I need to go on.  On a clear day depending on when you're there you may spot Dolphins, Seals, and even Orcas (May/June is migration time) but today all I saw were sheep and seabirds.  Before you get to the lighthouse you'll also pass Sannick Bay, a white sandy beach with azure blue waters, I marvelled at the same kind of clear blue waters you get overseas, of course, not quite the same temperature as the Cote D'Azur.
John O'Groats is Inspiring, The Lighthouse at Duncansby Head, Mandy Charlton Photographer, blogger


The Duncansby Head Lighthouse is the true most northeasterly point of Great Britain although John O'Groats gets all of the credit (probably because the car park is bigger and the lighthouse is up a hill).  It's at this point when you reach the Lighthouse that you take a right and just keep walking the half-mile to see the 2 huge Duncansby Stacks rising from the North Sea, there a few things that take your breath away in life but seeing these for the first time is one of them.  It feels so otherworldly, so end of the earth, that this is the exact experience you imagine when you plan a trip to the very top of the map.  It's not the most challenging of walks though walking up the hilly road towards the lighthouse will burn a few calories and by the time I completed my return trip back to John O'Groats, I was in need of a cuppa and thanks to a cabin I managed to acquire a very reasonable coffee and some super cheap chips (for a tourist destination).

Scotland By Rail Part 3 - John O'Groats is inspiring, Duncansby Stacks, Caithness, Mandy Charlton Photographer



After I recovered I had a little time to kill as the next bus home wasn't until 1.40pm, (clearly they've been scheduled for half-day trips and really that's what you need if you want to factor in the walk) so I browsed the John O'Groats Brewery which isn't yet fully complete but I did manage to acquire a little bottle of local gin which I'm going to save for a special occasion.  



A Very Big Achievement


All in all, today for me felt like a big achievement, just to make it over 400 miles from home via rail and coach on my own when I sometimes can't even leave the house makes me feel like an invincible superhero.  I've been through a big period of transformation in these last few months and although I will always have anxiety, I'm really starting to feel so much more adventurous and like I have a whole new lease of life.  Sure, life is going to have its challenges still but I'm feeling pretty stable and ready for my next adventure.

Ways to support my writing


If you have enjoyed this article or found it useful and would like to support my writing I'd love a virtual coffee
I also have a lovely Facebook group I'd love you to come and join 
You could also come and follow me on Instagram to keep up with my adventures, I really am grateful for all
of your love and support.
Oh and of course, you could just treat yourself to something lovely from Philomena's Boutique, my gift boutique
which is diverse, sustainable and totally lush!



Share:

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Scotland by rail part 3 - Thurso is cold!

Scotland by rail part 3, Thurso is cold, mandy charlton photographer, blogger, scottish travel

Thurso is cold, 13c cold, Britains most northerly town feels like it's closer to the arctic and indeed Scotland's most northerly islands are actually closer to the arctic than they are to London. I'm not a big fan of the cold so to feel the brisk wind and the autumnal chill in the air did not please me greatly.  Mainly I've brought with me T-Shirts so I may have to purchase another jumper.  I also smelled those first outdoor autumnal scents,possibly a testament to the most northerly situation of Thurso and also the fact that we enter into September next week.

Last night I wrote about the differences in Coronavirus polices when travelling in England and Scotland, well, I have an addendum from the far north.  I'm staying at Thurso House, a cosy bed and breakfast near the beach in Thurso, it's the most expensive room of my trip at £70 per night but breakfast isn't available at all due to Covid and when you check out you have to strip your bed and put it along with the towels in a bin bag which you then tie up!

I did meet the owners earlier and they're lovely and also super helpful.  No information in the room that I could see but I did find a map and they'd kindly had the bus timetables printed out for me as they're all irregular due to COVID.  I really thought all of the variants in policies were down to staying in a different country but now I have no idea as it seems to vary from place to place.  It's great that each place wants to keep us safe I just wish there was a standard set of guidelines so you knew what to expect when travelling.

Scotland by rail part 3,Thurso is cold, Mandy Charlton, photographer, blogger


The Far North Line

This mornings journey to get to Thurso from Inverness was everything I had imagined and more.  The station at Brora was one highlight as the train goes down the main street right in front of people's front doors on it's way into the Highland village station.  Altnabreac station was literally in the middle of nowhere, I couldn't see a single house, just barren heather covered hillsides. Apparently when you travel on the far north line you can see lots of wildlife like stags and seals but I think they may all have been hiding today.

If you haven't done the rail journey between Inverness and Thurso, I really recommend taking the day to do it, yes it takes 4 hours but it's incredible.  You're so close to the coast you can almost dip your toes in the water and at points you're so high and remote you wonder why they decided to put some of the stations in place.  The train was not busy but there were other passengers, with only 4 journeys a day there seemed to be more locals than tourists on the train and arriving in Thurso there were maybe 20 people getting off the train.

Thurso, Britain's most northerly town

If you're expecting a large sprawling metropolis when you get to Thurso you'd be mistaken, it may be Britain's most northerly town but it's much more like a large English village.  It feels like stepping back in town, i'm not sure if it's much quieter than usual but arriving on a Wednesday afternoon to businesses which were closed for a half day felt very like staying with my granny in the 1980's.  That's not necessarily a bad thing of course, I came for a gentle pace of life and that's what I got.  I did a lovely riverside walk that took around an hour and then I added on a trip to the ruins of Thurso castle, accessible by walking through an inauspicious industrial estate but worth the walk.

Scotland by rail part 3, Thurso is cold, mandy charlton photographer, castle and rail travel



Thurso feels remote, you stand at the end of the harbour looking out to the nearby Orkney Islands and you feel like you're standing at the end of the earth and in a way you are, you know all those lumpy bumpy bits that stick out on the map of the British Isles, well if you come to Thurso you can say you stood on them, this is literally where the map runs out and any further you'll be swimming in the cold clear waters of the Pentland Firth.

Tomorrow I plan to get the bus to Wick, To John O Groats and I'm going to walk from John O Groats to the lighthouse at Duncansby Head, the northeasterly point of mainland Britain, I hope to feel like I'm standing on the edge of the world.

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