Falkland Harvest Fest 24/09/2022

Harvest Fest at Falkland was blessed with beautiful weather so participants could meander between venues in bright sunshine. The event had a fascinating programme and my only regret was that I could not attend all it had to offer. Some of it was filmed so hopefully I will be able to delve into all I missed.

Falkland Estate Harvest fest

Ninian Stuart started the session in the big tent

This morning session welcomed Jenny Anderson from Really Regenerative, Professor Seaton Baxter (Natural Design) and Gordon Mole, Head of Business and Employability, Fife Council as speakers and each of them as well as Ninian highlighted intresting points. I especailly feel in love with the phrase “the mind can be anywhere but the feet need to be somewhere.

I also wished I was able of shorthand as Professor Seaten Baxter left with an amazing poem. He actually invited the audience to write a poem as the act of doing so engages one with one’s own emotion. I did try this last night together with my boyfriend which was a lovely experiement.

Falkland Hillfort

I ventured on to listen to Joe FItzpatrick’s “Revelations of archaeology of Falkland Hill’ which was fascinating and very engaging, especially as we were allowed to examine some of the finds. I also love and adore the engagement of local people.

2022 Archaeology dig

The lunch in itself was to die for, both main dish and cake and not to mention the amazing apple juice produced onsite.

So delicious lunchbox at Falkland Harvet Fest

After lunch I attended Gary Young (The Mindfulness Enterprise )& Madhu Mastan’s session “The healing & restorative power of mindfully connecting with nature”, which was insightful and also fun. Madhu, I will do some drumming!

If you attended any of the other sessions let me know and I will happily add your input here.

The exhibitors were also well selected: Reforesting Scotland, The Scottish Sawmill Services, Newburgh Handloom Weavers , The Falkland Society and the Falkland Estate itself promoting their barley which is being used by NcNean Whisky Distillery.

Also check out the Chidren’s Parliament for information on how the future generations are involved in the power of place that Falkland is. Not to mention their poems page.

Falkland truly spreads its magic: everything is connected, everything needs to go somewhere, nature knows best and it is the place to be.

I also met some amazing people and feel real gratitude for all I was able to experience.

Feeling connected
Falkland Harvest Fest Field
Sheep in the estate
a reflective moment … Ninian
Bridge on the Falkland estate
Harvest Fest beauty

Reflections on the 2022 season

Blair Castle
Nancy & CG
Loretta, Rada, John, Tom, Di & Mike at Gleneagles
The three ladies

I have been blessed with a very busy summer and much more importantly with diverse, interesting and truly lovable customers from all over the world. Including one lovely dog!

Four legged customer of 2022

My whisky inspired tours brought me to Mull of Kintyre- or rather Campbeltown, several times to Islay and almost uncountable number times into the lovely Speyside.

Palm trees at Laphroaig, Islay
Bunnahabhain Whisky Distillery
Inside Glenscotia During a private tour with manager Iain McAlister, Campbeltown
Inside MacAllan, Speyside
Machir Bay, Islay
Kilmeny B&B Islay
View from Kilmeny, Islay
Glenfiddich Whisky Distillery
Posh Restrooms for the ladies at Glenfiddich

The tastes of customers varied widely but on conclusion: If you do not like whisky you simply have not found the right one for you.

For some of my valued clients this meant that matching whisky with chocolate made all the difference and others aspired a taste for the heavily peated by adding cheese or cure sausage to the experience.

Many wee drams were had at a beautiful spot and that is just how it should be.

Equally popular have been Outlander tours which offer almost unlimited options with over 200 film locations with the six seasons out at the moment.

Kinclaven Bluebell woods

Some of my clients knew much more about Outlander than I ever will but I am indeed willing to learn from you too (this is a big part of what I love about this job!).

Lallybroch (Midhope Castle)
Preston Mill
Abercorn Church
Tibbermore Church

I was very lucky to offer some private tours at Glencorse estate (Thank you, Sarah!) and Falkland palace with the current keeper (Thank you, Ninian!). Both options were much loved by you.

Glencorse Auld Kirk
Glencorse Estate private Outlander Tour
View of Falkland Palace from the orchards

Most of our tours were a mixture of what Scotland stands for: breathtaking landscapes, packed with history and innovation, meeting Scotland’s ever helpful people, divine food and drink experiences and most of all emerge oneselve into solitude, nature and wildlife.

Ferry to Arran
Breakfast at Kilmeny, Isle of Islay

To keep it interesting I had a number of one day (occassionally even half day) tours from cruiseships as well as tours as long as ten days. All this adds not only to your experiences but also mine. Each of these tours offer a different connection with you.

Group sizes also varied and on one occassion it numbered 13 plus 2 drivers (Thank you, Jim from Alba Private Hire!). This was a little out of my comfort zone, especially as it was relatively early in the season and booking restaurants and accommodation was still quite an issue. It did, however, work even though not everybody was always entirely happy as we catered for ages from 16 to 70.

Larmain, Isle of Skye
Harry Potter Glenfinnian Viaduct

I am very honoured by each of you placing your trust in me to make your travel memorable and fun.

Lastly, I learnt a lot from all of you. Thank you!

Whether you educated me on your countries, history, beliefs, traditions and culture or provided me with bourbon to try and learn about its creation process, whether you challenged me on vegetarian options, antihistamins, accommodation requirements it has always been fun and has certainly added to my portofolio for future guests.

With the quieter season approaching I will still be out on tour but I will also turn my focus back on practising and teaching yoga, including some workshops. I do apologise to my yoga crowd for not being able to teach all my usual classes throughout the season. I have been very lucky to get help from Gwen (Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!!), who is much loved by you.

I am also planning some trips to researchs add-ons for next season, so watch this space!

Mood of transport near Speyside Whisky Distillery

I would also like to apologise to all of you who I could not accommodate this year. I take ad-hoc bookings but am lucky enough to have most of my clients booking in advance. I will fit you in on short notice if I can.

Back to a thriving touring business

As soon as the season kicked in my blog posts as well as social media twiddled away. I was and still am just running with it. I have been loving every moment of it and had so many amazingly interesting people joining me.

It feels so good to get back to “normal”, being able to engage with people and have a good time together exploring beautiful Scotland.

Things, however, are not how they were prior to Covid. Businesses everywhere are short of staff and the remaining members of each business do their utmost to keep it up.

One roughly 40 bedroom hotel was run by two full-time members of staff and two part-time employees, who were attending the reception, the bar, the restaurant, the breakfast and the cleaning. They were totally overworked but still remained amazingly friendly.

I heard elsewhere that Ullapool’s hospitality businesses were sharing the few employees they still had left and agreed to close shop certain days of the week to make it all work.

Whether this is due to the pandemic or Brexit or a mixture of both is really not relevant. The fact is that people on holiday are not well catered for by overworked members of restaurant or hotel teams. Not to mention how awful the situation is for the workers themselves. You simply cannot serve the public with a smile if you are worked into the ground.

Bunnahabhain, Islay. Staff is always ready for a chat and a wee dram

My whisky endevaours lead me to all five of Scotland’s whisky regions and Islay and Campbelltown were outstanding.

Lindores Abbey Distillery

Speyside was lacking staff and booking got difficult as spaces were taken well in advance. Some exceptions of the rule proved to be: GlenAllachie, Glendronach and Glenfarclas. Glenfiddich would always acccommodate you as well. Thank you all so much! This is obviously not an objective analysis as I have not been to all Speyside distilleries.

Campbelltown

There is one in the area and (if you know me you will know which one) which simply does not appear to be interested in visitors.

Some were sadly closed, such as Edradour, Glencadam, Fettercairn and Talisker. The latter two are open again I understand.

Dalwhinnie always accommodates visitors and there are two newcomers I really adore: Lindores and NcNean. Both are providing fantastic whisky and offer a really unique experience.

NcNean

Remote restaurants were occcassionally difficult to find especially if the group was bigger than three. However, wherever I have been the food was outstanding and the staff were amazing.

I have heard of numerous businesses who had to close, most of them I will really miss and I do hope that there is a solution to the staff shortages and also the spiralling costs of living.

Scotland is such an amazing place, always interesting, never boring, sometimes rough but always breath-takingly beautiful.

View from Drimmin Estate (NcNean)

Keep up the good work! Here is one tourguide who truly appreciates all your hard work!

Overlooking Mull

2022 Scottish Field Whisky Challenge at the Sharaton Hotel, Edinburgh

I was very honoured to be selected as part of the panel for the 2022 Scottish Field Whisky Challenge which took place on 29th July 2022.

Ready for a challenge!

This year’s challenge entailed the blind tasting of 38 whiskies. After introductions the morning started with a knock out tasting to limit the number of whiskies for the afternoon tasting. It was lovely sharing tasting notes with so many real whisky aficionados, which truly enhanced the experience. It was also quite difficult to “spit” some of these amazing whiskies but everyone wanted to keep a clear head to write the tasting notes in the afternoon.

Meeting this years panel

Scottish Field provided a lovely lunch so we all felt sober enough to face the afternoon tasting with detailed tasting notes and ratings to be decided.

Half way through the whisky tasting

It was a glorious summer day in Edinburgh so after we had all handed in our ratings and tasting notes, we ventured out to enjoy the sunshine and cocktails before we said our goodbyes and headed home.

I still have no idea which whiskies I was allowed to sample and await that revelation with great exitement.

The entire experience will be rounded up with the awards dinner which will also be hosted in the Sharaton on 28th of October 2022. Surely, more whisky to look forward to!

Cawdor Castle & Gardens

Scotland has in excess of 3000 castles, many can be visited and I will feature a few of my recent visits and of course all time favourites, such as Stirling or Ediburgh or Eilen Dunan Castle.

Cawdor Castle is privately owned and very well maintained. It is a true pleasure to visit. Be my guest and view these lovely insights:

Cawdor castle’s beautiful entrance
Cawdor Castle
The family logo

Sorry for the inconvenience!

Without thinking I pressed the update buttons for WordPress and the Word Theme which resulted in a critical error on the website. Luckily, it still displayed the landing page but that was about all the functionality it had.

My sincere apologies to anyone who tried to look something up. These things never happen at a good time and as I was quite busy it took a while to be rectified and actually only happened because of the most patient person in the world: Robert from DotScot. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Newhaven, Edinburgh: Tender has arrived

I was on tours two days in a row; day one a wee tour from a cruise ship and up to MacAllan whisky distillery the following day. This is such a privilege and such a rewarding job: you meet new and interesting people every day, you still discover new things in beautiful Scotland and most of all you always learn. It is a never ending joy.

MacAllan is currently only open to the public on the weekends and provides private tours during the week, which last about three hours. My guests took five hours so it must have been good.

Arrived at MacAllan
MacAllan distillery is a truly stunning design
The building compliments the landscape it is embedded in
On weekends the Brasserie and shop are also open to visitors not booked in for a tour
The estate itself is also stunnigly beautiful
Way in

You are never short of things to do in Speyside, even if whisky is not you main theme I may add. While my guests were looked after by MacAllan I visited the The Cooperage, Aberlour Whisky Distillery and Glenlivet Whisky Distillery, went for a walk outside Aberlour and ended up have the most amazing Thai lunch at The Croft Inn, which I very highly recommend!

Aberlour Whisky Distillery
Glenlivet Whisky Distillery
The Croft Inn
Amazing food with a stunninng view and among lovely people
Cooked with love by Nat
This was the best duck curry I ever had!

OYB (on your bike) in May for Starfish Travel

As stated earlier in this blog I had the privilege to participate in the Creative Mindful Retreat hosted by Visualising Scotland, Rebecca on the Wing & and Mindful Routes.

This wonderful retreat included one day on your bike, which was a true pleasure. Back home I went on a 14 mile walk for the Siobhan Trust followed by a day tour down to Kelso which was blessed by wonderful weather and customers.

Tentsmuir forest part of Siobhan’s Walk
Siobhan’s Walk 14th May 2022
Birkhill Gardens
Ruins of Roxburgh Castle
Floors Castle viewerd from Roxburgh ruins
Schloss Roxburghe

Just before the season begins for real my usual mode of transport, the four wheeled Viano, required some TLC, so the aircon got serviced on Monday, it had a valet on Tuesday and has since been away to get the paintwork tidied up.

The garage who serviced the air conditioning kindly provided me with a courtesy car

It was very weird sitting so low to the ground and felt a little retro too. I went to investigate Linlithgow a little on what turned out to be a rather rainy day.

Linkithgow Palace
Canal centre
Linlithgow

The car was finished in time for me to get back to Cupar to teach my yoga class.

The day the car got a valet while I took my bike to teach two yoga classes which let me cycle 15 miles. On Wednesday I loaded the bike into the Viano to dropped the car off at the paint shop in Dundee and cycled 13 miles back along the coastal path.

Dundee rail bridgeRiver Tay
Ice cream on the way

I had to have an ice cream break since the weather was so stunning. While the Viano was at the paint shop I got on my bike another two days and summed up 60 miles of cycling for the week.

It is my birthday today so I filled it with yoga and some pony riding. Normal Starfish Travel tour guiding duties will resume as of tomorrow

Birthday yoga
Pony adventures

Siobhan’s Trust Walk finally happened on 14th of May 2022

3rd time lucky and not only that we were presented with stunningly good weather to conduct the 14 mile walk from Tentsmuir Forest all the back to Siobhan’s residence, Birkhill Castle. There was also the choice to opt for a 4 mile version as well as a meander through Birkhill’s garden.

I had a leisurely start at 10 am and had the company of Lucazs and Fran. We took an extended lunch break with cheese, crackers and port and helped to clean up and take the tent down.

We only returned to Birkhill Castle at around 5pm and were welcomed with BBQ food and more port.

The walk had good attendance and hopefully will have raised plenty of future funds for all the good the Siobhan’s Trust does.

Tentsmuir Forest

Leisurely walking through Tentsmuir Forest
Having a wee moment of rest
Along the river Tay
Beautiful clouds and delightfully warm weather
A mindful moment
The old lighthouse
The more modern version
Beautiful walking along the coastal path
Bluebells in May

Mindful creative retreat, Forres, Moray

Kim Grant from Visualising Scotland, Rebecca Gibson from Rebecca on the Wing and Jen Price from Mindful Routes organised the perfect retreat at Victoria’s The Loft, which was a truly perfect location for our intentions.

Cosy little huts for creative thoughts and peace of mind
Comfortable and very inviting communal rooms to socialise
The kitchen contained everything anyone could wish for and the showers were amazing too
The huts were very cute, spacious, comfortable and very cosy

Kim is mostly involved in creative photography but is an equally talented writer. She lead several amazing walks along the coast line inviting all of us to explore our creativity in taking photos as well as encouraging us to turn our focus to the little things, notice the colours changing, finding an object which would bind our minds and engage in some creative writing. Additionally she is outstanding in providing technical knowledge and inspiring us to explore different technics.

Attempting a blurring technic on seals in the far distance
Sunset mood at Cave Bay
Focus on the detail
Drinking in the blue of the fading light

Kim is also extremely talented in being in the right place at the right time. On our first evening we were privileged to observe some dolphins, which really is a thrilling experience.

Playing dolphins right in front of our eyes
Dolphin with baby

Rebecca is a wildlife author by profession and an nature lover by passion. She possesses inner peace and calmness in conjunction with her exhuberance for anything living. Sharing time with her will sharpen your awareness, enhance your learning and most of all will enable you to notice things you may have overlooked all your life. Did you ever asked yourself how a fulmer flies or how a dipper sounds if he is upset (or in our case needs some food)?

Wee dipper being fed
Oyster Catcher with a mission
Heron
Toad

Jen is a personal development coach, a breathwork teacher and mountainbike coach. All of which she incorporated into our retreat and invited us to “risky play builds resilience” on a mountainbike experience. It was a fun day on the bike and everybody did it.

Risky play builds resistence
Creative writing
Thoughtfulness
Gathering our thoughts
Biking with a view
Jen is flying

Our four day retreat was over way tooquickly, everything flowed, there no pressure to particpate and the various activities complimented each other, not to mention that everyone participating was a true pleasure to be with.

Thank you all!

With some luck there will be another retreat end of Septmeber 2022. I cannot wait

Outdoor yoga in the morning
Retreat!

Gaelic & Wildlife Walk in Cupar

with Alexandra Hoadley, Conservation Project Officer for Fife Coast and Countryside Trust, and Kirsty Strachan, Community Development Worker (Gaelic) at Fife Council

Today I had the opportunity to join the Gaelic and Wildlife Walk in Cupar, This was my second walk and I did enjoy it just as much as the first one. We had warm temperatures and bright sunshine (both thinks we obviously always have in Scotland). Both Alexandra and Kirsty are fabulous story tellers, immensely engaging and super knowledgable.

The name Cupar stems from pre-pititsh times and mean the coming together as Cupar is the place where the two rivers, the Eden and the Landy Burn, come together.

We had the opportunity to learn a bit on meandering rivers since we were walking alongside one, which in places was restricted from meandering.

Alexandra providing insides on many native trees, such as the Scot Pine and you will have to forgive me for not remembering the Latin name. I do, hoever, remember that it can produce 3000 cones a year and is regarded as a blessed tree, used as way marker and that people in fishing villages used its roots as candles.

Somehow the Capercaille came into the conversation and we learned that it means the wee horse of the forest and if you ever heard one of those birds they do make sounds like a wee Shetland pony cantering through the woods.

The Ash tree is regarded as the most blessed tree, the tree of life and can turn its entire crown toward the sun.

The cailleach bheag is the crested tit in English, however cailleach in Gaelic means old woman (or witch) and bheag is small and perhaps the song of the cailleach bheag/crested tit does sound a little like old women chattering?

I massively enjoyed our donder across Cupar Park and will hopefully join the next one too.

Tomorrow at 1.30 pm at Waid Academy in Anstruther there is a talk on place names

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