Blackberries, cobnuts, lighting the woodstove again, blankets, candles, stews, crumbles: I just really, really love autumn.

Glen Tanar National Nature Reserve

Route: from a car park, along a river, through a forest and up to the moors...I didn't have the map
Distance: Oh, I dunno, 4 hours' worth?
Cake: Lizzie's Victoria sponge

A gorgeous autumnal walk through Glen Tanar Forest in the Cairngorms, one of the few remaining ancient Caledonian pine forests and so completely unrecognisable from the usual pine plantations. 

Mist, dewy spider webs, a hill called Baudy Meg, autumn colours, red-eyebrowed grouse, toadstools, froglets and...MY FIRST EVER SIGHTING OF A LIZARD IN THE UK (which, like all the very best things in life, was captured only in my memory.)

Garden Heaven

So completely inspired by our friends' incredibly beautiful garden after spending the weekend with them.

It's surrounded by hills and forest and extends to acres of newly planted native woodland.

There is a lovely big vegetable garden,

full of raised beds,

and the polytunnel is pretty handy at 57°N.

(I tried* to grow pumpkins in our garden the first year but slugs ate all the plants at about 2cm. 

*In that I threw some pumpkin seeds at the compost heap. Now that 2/3 of the kids are adults and there are no longer 34 animals living in the house - true story - I may be prepared to offer a little more in the way of nurturing to annuals. There, I've said it. I may be willing to try the Three Sisters for a third time lucky.

And see those stunning asparagus ferns behind the pond? Perhaps I will consider raising the dead, a bed.) 

I have brought home some water mint from the pond and some of these lovely hops, although the place I intended to grow the latter has turned out to be 1cm of soil on top of concrete so some rethinking is required.

There is no concrete here. There is an orchard

full of bees

and chickens

and half a dozen velociraptor chicks that follow you everywhere you go.

It's heaven, really.

Normal For Our House

I had already had my first cup of coffee before my younger son came down and pointed out the great tit, unable to get out of the kitchen the way he had come in (the cat flap...).

He flew off seemingly unscathed.


Birthday present, by Rona Innes,

 found at the little Tram Stop Market outside St Mary's Cathedral.

Bass Rock Gannets

More often I take pictures of Bass Rock from North Berwick Law, but here is North Berwick Law from Bass Rock. The sea was like glass and shortly after I left, the dolphins appeared. *sigh*

Bass Rock is the world's biggest gannet colony with 150,00 of the huge white birds. 

It's easier to appreciate their massive wingspan - up to 2m - as they fly over the boat.

The air is full of them and reeks of fishy shit, which I quite like.

There were still some fluffy-headed dark chicks.

This guga - a young gannet - has left the nest but won't be mature and fully white for five years. He could live to forty.

Usually, when you go to look at wildlife, or even watch a nature documentary, it ends with a depressing talk about how these animals are about to disappear forever. Not so the gannets of Bass Rock whose numbers are increasing year on year. Go gannets!

Pentland Hills - West Kip, East Kip and Scald Law

Route: From Threipmuir car park, up West and East Kip and Scald Law then circular through the valley
Distance: 7-8 miles
Cake: the husband's lemon drizzle

On an art theme, we pledged the four miles from Threipmuir car park to the top of Scald Law to Emma Herman-Smith's North Light Arts' project, Milestones

'MILESTONES is an ongoing, collaborative project that aims to cover 1,000 miles of walking in Scotland. Anybody can pledge miles and place porcelain ‘milestones’ at appropriate intervals to record their journey. Choosing any route over any distance, together we will collate images, reflections and responses to being in the Scottish landscape. '

The heather was in bloom and the hills were purple - early autumn is one of their most beautiful times of year.

From right to left: West Kip, East Kip and - the highest point in the Pentlands - Scald Law.

West Kip is a beautiful shape and a steep incline.

From the top we could see the lower level walk we had done a couple of years ago in snow.

I am always amazed by how big the Pentlands range is, given that it bumps right up against a capital city Yet another reason I love and live in Edinburgh.

Loganlea Reservoir is below, to the left, and the path continues along the ridgeline,

then descends from Scald Law through Green Cleuch (the valley) back to Threipmuir.

Just before the end, one of my familiars leapt out to meet me.

Always magical.

A Walk Around Jupiter Artland

I prefer my art outdoors.

Arguably I prefer my art as outdoors.

But when I am trying to relate to people rather than just birds and herbs and soil, I love a sculpture park. Especially where there are pieces made from natural materials; where there is no clear delineation between made art and found art. 

And where there are woods. 

And science. 

Charles Jencks' amazing landforms, Cells of Life, illustrate mitosis.

There's so much to find; it's like a treasure hunt. 

A sometimes slightly scary treasure hunt.

My favourite is (perhaps predictably) Andy Goldsworthy's Stone House, of which this is some leftover material, forming Stone Coppice.

Tania Kovats' boat house contains 

water from a hundred British rivers.

I love the way there are echoes everywhere, and so many shiny things.

A cafe

(with butternut squash and pistachio cake),

 a peacock,

miniature donkeys...

...and bees? (You can't always tell what's art and what's not.)

Plus I managed to buy more bloody violas.