Scotland Road Trip: The Quiraing

Just joining the story? Start with Part One, Two or Three.

After leaving the north coast of Isle of Skye, we headed southeast to hike up to The Storr. Despite visiting in the off season, the trail leading up to the ancient rock formations was incredibly crowded. So we enjoyed the view from the bottom and decided to camp in a less popular area: The Quiraing.

The rain held off for the most part as the sun graced the mountains across the sea. We climbed up from the valley floor to the foreboding rock walls of The Prison and on past The Needle, a 120 foot high pinnacle of jagged rock. This entire area is part of a landslip that has been moving for thousands of years and is still settling into place.

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After scrambling out of The Prison via a windy scree field we stopped to enjoy the incredible views before turning inland. Our goal for the night was to camp at the famed Table, a massive grassy flat high above the valley floor where iron-age farmers hid livestock from invading Vikings.

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A sharp left turn led us up a very steep slope. Here we paused for a brief argument about whether or not this was the right way to the Table. It was.

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Unbeknownst to me, I was sheltering a very tiny stowaway in addition to carrying my 40 pound backpack. With every step up the near vertical face, I felt my knees quiver as though something might snap. I suddenly felt exhausted, out of shape and overwhelmed with emotion. A couple weeks later I found out I was pregnant, which explained everything.

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We found The Table, set up camp and promptly brewed a hot cup of tea. After dinner we watched the sun set over the Trotternish Ridge. Bunnies hopped around the grassy bowl and ravens soared overhead. The wind howled all night and we woke to a frosty ground.

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To be continued…


 

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Autumn Arrives in Yorkshire

Growing up in Houston we had just three seasons: Hurricane, Christmas, and Summer. The colourful leaves, brisk temperatures, evening campfires and cosy flannels of autumn were nothing more than a myth I saw on TV. So when I actually experience a true autumn first hand it still shocks me, as if Bigfoot himself were strolling past. I marvel at the obedience of the trees as they trade summer greens for amber and gold. The last fat blackberries ripen alongside dusky blue sloes, shiny red rose hips, apples, elderberries and the elusive wild plums known as damsons.

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The wind howled for days as if mourning the loss of summer. Suddenly chilly mornings prompted a return to porridge. We did our best to welcome the new season throughout the week. We made two litres of sloe gin with the wild berries we’d picked the day after our wedding, which will deepen in flavour under our kitchen sink until Christmas. Maybe we’ll toast our new baby with the cheery aperitif.

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On Wednesday we went apple picking. Daley’s dad Ian showed us his secret tree, where he seemed to know everyone who drove past. We spent a happy hour with a long pole and a net to catch the falling fruit. Tomorrow I’ll turn them into a traditional Tarte aux Pommes before stewing the rest with cinnamon to freeze.

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We gathered pocketfuls of rose hips on our evening walks. Daley knew them as itchybuds as a kid; they’d break them open to stuff down each other’s shirts for a day’s worth of incessant itching. I’ll leave them whole to infuse in oil for a stretch-mark preventative serum as my belly grows bigger by the day.

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Supper took a decidedly autumnal turn as well. We made a gently spiced butternut squash soup laced with apple, onion and garlic. Linguine with sweet late season cherry tomatoes bursting in hot olive oil. Hearty black eyed peas with a hint of smoky bacon. Warming coconut chickpea curry with spinach. Roasted lemon and thyme chicken thighs with potatoes, squash and onions. I don’t have photos or recipes for you but I promise to be better about that for the rest of the season. For now I’m off to the library to print CV’s as I scrounge for a two-month gig before baby’s arrival.


 

Scotland Road Trip: Rubha Hunnish

Just joining the story? Start with Part One and Part Two.

We love food. Nine times out of ten, if we break our weekly budget it’s because we are weak in the face of good food. When we travel, we usually camp rough and skip paid attractions in order to maximise our food budget. In my hurried research for this trip, I discovered The Three Chimneys, a tiny restaurant honoured with a Michelin star in 2015. Although the restaurant has not regained its star in subsequent years (yet), it remains a highly recommended stop on the island. With its daunting ££££ price tag, we decided to play it cool and visit for lunch. The small but dignified dining room was a tranquil cocoon quietly celebrating the island’s offerings.

After lunch we re-entered the bright world in a daze, on a serene high from the incredible meal we had just shared. Blessed with another day of sunshine (how??), we drove to the northern point of the island to find our home for the night. A friend of ours (hi Paul!) had recently shown us a book about the Bothies of Scotland, inspiring us to stay in one ourselves. Bothies are humble huts scattered around the countryside for shepherds to find respite from the cold, wind and rain. They are free to stay in, but are first come first served, so you might end up sharing with a few other smelly walkers.

There is a beautiful bothie perched on the edge of a cliff at the northern edge of the Isle of Skye. It’s called the Rubha Hunnish Lookout and has a wall of windows facing the sea where you can watch for whales and basking sharks. We tucked the car away in a small parking lot near an iconic red phone booth before walking up towards the cliff. The peaty ground was soaking wet and my boots sprang a leak inviting cold water in with every step. But the sun was warm and the wind had eased, so the walk was pleasant.

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Another group of walkers had beat us to the bothie and there was no more room for the night. We stayed to chat and enjoy the view for a bit, then headed back out to find somewhere else to rest. This blessing in disguise led us to my favourite camp site of the entire trip, nestled on a patch of rare dry ground between two sheltering hillocks.

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There was a small stream of frigid water running down one side of our camp, which Daley saw as the perfect opportunity to get a wash. He stripped down and stepped into the cold ankle-deep water, wetting down and soaping up before taking another small step forward to rinse. But with a peat bog, every step is a gamble, and this time Daley was up to his hip in freezing, wet, half-decayed plant matter. So much for getting a wash! I was laughing too hard to get any pictures until after we both regained composure, and I’m still kicking myself for it.

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Dark rainclouds threatened but passed as we filtered water from the stream and ate our dinner. The dissipating storm made for a stunning sunset overlooking the north Atlantic as a lone fisherman patrolled the water below us. The next day we’d head down the East coast for the Quiraing.

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To be continued…

Scotland Road Trip Part Four: The Quiraing


 

Scotland Road Trip: Neist Point

Read Part One Here.

Just as we came to Loch Lochy (yes, a real place!) we passed a Volvo with a blown-out tire at the side of the road. Moments before, we had agreed to stop to help if we saw any stranded motorists. We U-turned and pulled up behind the Volvo. It turned out to be a rental car hired by two blonde South Carolinians on vacation! We had a roadside southern girls reunion while Daley put on their spare tire. They insisted on giving us the £40 cash they had in their pockets as a thank-you, which we decided to pay forward to someone in need. More on that later.

The sky lightened and the scenery became more watery as the day went on. After a long, grey, landlocked winter I was ecstatic to be nearing the ocean. We soared over the fjord-like Loch Alshe on Skye Bridge and officially arrived on the Isle of Skye. Shortly we came to the old bridge at Sligachan, whose arches frame the Black Cuillin mountains.

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We’d set our sights on Neist Point as our camping spot for the night, so we made our way to the westernmost tip of the island. The island was blissfully empty and we hardly saw anyone else on the road. Only sheep and lonely cottages punctuated the barren landscape. We had the good fortune of visiting in the peak of lambing season, and I was overjoyed by the abundance of tiny new lambs bounding and wobbling around.

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We reached our destination a couple hours before sundown. Neist Point is home to one of Scotland’s most famous lighthouses and is an iconic sunset photography spot thanks to its westerly views. As we set up our little home for the night, photographers began arriving in droves. We happily perched at the edge of the cliff, huddled in our sleeping bags eating beans on toast as photographers around us frantically worked for the best shot. At one point there was a full-blown altercation right in front of us between two groups of photographers angling for the same spot. The sunset was a bit of a dud and the frigid wind was brutal so everyone soon left us to the empty night.

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To be continued…

Scotland Road Trip Part Three: Rubha Hunnish

Scotland Road Trip Part Four: The Quiraing


 

 

 

Scotland Road Trip: Leeds to Glencoe

We took a super last minute weeklong trip to Scotland at the end of March. By “super last minute,” I mean on Sunday we decided to go and on Tuesday we went. Just the previous weekend we had forced the ol’ VW Polo to Wales and back, and she really was in need of some TLC. But we crossed our fingers instead and packed up for the 500 mile drive to the mystical Isle of Skye.

I’ve always wanted to visit the Isle of Skye because it’s my paternal ancestral home and because it’s one of those stunning edge-of-the-world places modernity seems to have left behind in the best way. Winter’s last shrill howls were dying away in the new green light of spring. The island would be empty of tourist buses and hopefully we wouldn’t freeze.

Upon leaving Leeds, our first scenic stop was a Gregg’s in the touristic town of Windermere, in the Lake District. For any Americans not familiar with Gregg’s, imagine a place where you can buy airplane food on the ground. It’s not good, but it holds a sentimental place in Daley’s heart and it was the only place open at 7am, so we stopped. The Lake District was gloomy and beautiful, the rain worsening as we climbed Kirkstone Pass. We saw nothing but sheep, clouds and an empty road winding through the ancient mountains.

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After awhile we got back on the motorway and made a beeline for Glasgow. We didn’t stop there, as Daley declared it “an absolute shithole.” If you’re offended, don’t be. He says that about pretty much every city. We skirted Loch Lommond, brilliantly lit by an unexpected sun, ringed in verdant hills and studded with tiny tree-specked islands. Then on past Glencoe, the menacing Three Sisters and Ben Nevis, still entrenched with ice and snow. It became very dark, very cold, and very windy.

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To be continued…

Scotland Road Trip Part Two: Neist Point

Scotland Road Trip Part Three: Rubha Hunnish

Scotland Road Trip Part Four: The Quiraing


 

 

 

 

The Best Fish & Chips in Yorkshire

We were driving somewhere in the Yorkshire Dales a couple weeks ago when we were both suddenly stricken with hunger. That might seem like a dramatic phrase, but I assure you it is the correct one for the moment. It was pouring rain and an odd time of day between lunch and dinner. We stopped in at four or five pubs, dripping wet and forlorn, and were turned away each time. We didn’t have enough cell phone service down in the dales to use Google Maps, so we were Jews in the desert aimlessley wandering and praying to Jehovah to send us some manna.

Finally, we saw a sign for a cafe in Pateley Bridge just a few miles away. We asked a walking Yorkshireman the way and soon turned onto the most adorable British high street I had ever seen. Our spirits lifted as we walked towards the cafe under a cheerful bunting of tiny Union Jacks. Alas, the two steel-faced waitresses informed us that the kitchen was backed up and there would be a forty minute wait for food. We looked around at the nearly empty dining room and walked back into the rain.

Directly across the street was a glowing white sign: FISH & CHIPS. A life-size fisherman statue stood in the yellow light spilling from the open door, beckoning to us with a massive cod like Yeshu himself. We entered, our expectations as low as our standards. We ordered chips with curry sauce and left to eat them huddled in the car. And HOLY SH*T. These were without doubt the best chips we’d ever had. Crispy on the outside yet fluffy on the inside, fat and thick yet impossibly light without even a hint of greasiness. We vowed to return.

On Fridays, Daley gets off work early, usually around 3 in the afternoon. We love to start the weekend right away by getting out of Leeds before sundown. So this past Friday, we went back to Pateley Bridge. Daley let me drive (brave) and planned a route for me on the tiniest, windiest, most English roads he could find. He tried to nap while I tried not to crash into a wall, field, passing wagon (that’s truck for us Amurricans) or stray cow.

It was a beautiful late summer day, sunny and crisp, and the countryside was gilded in afternoon light. Every fifteen minutes or so I’d slam on the brakes and manoeuvre into a pathetic excuse for a lay-by in order to take pictures. Daley loves when I do this. See below for a few photos of our afternoon drive. Sorry, no photos were taken of the actual fish and chips. It’s just not possible to eat them while also taking photos of them, and well…  priorities.

So to spectacularly bury the lede, for the best fish and chips in Yorkshire, head straight to High Street Fisheries in Pateley Bridge. And don’t forget the curry sauce!

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Hello!

With my family halfway around the world and Daley’s family in different cities around the UK, we wanted to create a place where everyone we love could check in with us. We’ll be posting photos to Instagram (@helloparsons) and our personal Facebook pages, but in typical Parsons style, we wanted more.

More room to chronicle the recipes we’re trying, the seasons we’re passing through, the beautiful places we’re seeing and the incredible people we’re meeting. And let’s be honest, more room for the deluge of baby photos hitting the internet sometime in December.

So we created something I loved to make fun of in college: a family blog! This is a place for us to say hello to you, whoever you may be. And for you to say hello to us. We’d love to hear from you in the comments section found at the bottom of each post, so please don’t be shy!

Lots of love,
Charlotte + Daley

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