The last few days have been heavenly, sunny warm and a bit breezy but perfect weather for a few days of R & R.
I’ve been to Dunvegan Castle Gardens several times now, mostly with various members of our family as they have visited us on this glorious island yet each and every time its been a joy. Last year however, was the saddest, as the box hedges in the Round Garden were damaged beyond repair by the late snows, and the Tulips were sadly frost burned and sparse. These are just some of a Head Gardeners challenges and I have to say that visiting this Easter saw gardens that have had new life breathed into them. They are stunning, so hats off to all the hard work of this small team of gardeners.
We took the dogs with us and after renewing our ‘friends of Dunvegan’ membership which enables us to visit over and over again during the year, we went to wander around the beautiful grounds of the castle. The gardens at Dunvegan are a work in progress, as should all gardens that have a several hundred year old history. There is always something to renovate, reengineer or redesign, and this year was no exception. The most obvious was the round garden which suffered considerably last year with the late snows. This year there are new box hedges, carefully roped off so over enthusiastic children and over excited dogs don’t walk all over them. Give them a couple of years and they will begin to look as beautiful as those before them.
After our very enjoyable walk taking in new additions to the walled garden, we took a leisurely stroll to the cafe for a nice cup of coffee and sit down. You know, it crossed my mind that it is a rare event when a parent actually teaches their child how to properly approach a dog. A young French family with two small children, took the time to teach them how to offer their fist, fingers curled down, so the dog could sniff their skin, before going to stroke our dogs. Our lab, Tali loves kids, she loves cuddles and is as easy as pie to pet, however, our Vizsla, Lila is nervous of children – no reason for this, she just is – but after smelling the little girls hand she happily allowed her to stroke her head. Seeing the children pet both dogs sensibly and with knowledge was a real pleasure. I just wish more parents showed the same common sense.
One of the most enjoyable things about Spring on Skye is the returning birds. I know I have mentioned this before with the Curlews and their haunting call, the Skylarks and Grey Wagtails, but this week saw the last of the returning summer visitors. I had worried that, last year, after one of the Thrushes managed to kill itself by flying straight into one of our windows, we might not see the Mistle Thrush again, but yesterday saw the return of this beautiful bird much to my great joy. The Mistle Thrush is a lot larger than its cousins the Song Thrush and Blackbird and is therefore easily recognisable. They don’t actually migrate, they simply travel further south for the winter where food is more easily found and its not quite so stormy.
Back also are the Wheatears, beautiful birds with buff coloured breasts and and a black slash across the face. They seem to arrive one at a time and now after three days we have a small flock, with males displaying and generally vying for bits of prime territory to the front of our property.
In the evenings now, the crowd of newly returned summer visitors are joined by a flock of Meadow Pippits, that rush around grabbing at the unwary insects that inhabit our front lawn. It’s quite a scene and comical to watch.
But the last and most wonderful migrant is the Cuckoo. When I was a child, the sound of the Cuckoo was redolent of balmy summer days and was looked forward to every year. Over time though, the habitat of the various surrogate parents – namely Meadow Pipits, Dunnocks and Reed Warblers – began to disappear so the Cuckoo which lays its single egg in other birds nests had nowhere very much to go. However here on Skye, habitat is abundant and so every year they return, making me realise just how much I had missed hearing this incredible birds call. It brings a lightness to my step, not because the lazy creature can’t be bothered to make its own nest, and not because its young shove all the other eggs in the nest out, but because this bird has flown all the way from Africa to get here and reminds me of a time when we were surrounded by countryside and the air was clean – just like it is here on Skye. 🙂