Category Archives: Family

Visiting Scotland – What we saw in the Western Highlands and the Isle of Skye

Two years ago we stayed on the northern coast of Scotland and fell in love
with the Highlands, this time we went west, staying just below the Isle of Skye.
The epic western isles, vast mountains, and sweeping lochs will capture your soul.

Visiting Scotland - What we saw in the Western Highlands and the Isle of Skye - The Last Krystallos

We decided to drive the whole way, all ten-and-a-half hours, in one day so it was an early start. Bekah and her partner, Dave, followed, and with regular breaks we reached Scotland. We recalled the drive up and were excited to see the mountains again and just after Loch Lomond we weren’t disappointed. The Bridge of Orchy introduces you to the giants and the A82 though Glen Coe will make you stop and stare – do stop, you’ll need photos! We stopped for photos at Buachaille Etive Mor, or the Skyrim mountain as my family call it, a volcano of a peak! Up through Fort William and Ben Nevis and finally we arrived at the Five Sisters mountain range, nestling the road at their feet, and they welcomed us to the Kyle of Lochalsh.

Buachaille Etive Mor in cloud - The Last Krystallos

Buachaille Etive Mor © Lisa Shambrook

The Lochs, Cluanie and Duich, were smooth and reflective and throughout our stay we passed Eilean Donan castle several times. We visited the castle on our last trip, but it provided the perfect silhouette reflected against the mouth of Loch Alsh on our final night.

Eilean Donan Castle on Kyle of Lochalsh - The Last Krystallos

Eilean Donan Castle © Lisa Shambrook

One of the reasons we’d chosen to stay on the western coast was that I’ve always wanted to visit Fingal’s Cave on the Isle of Staffa, and travelling across Scotland takes time. We booked a Three Island Tour through Staffa Tours which meant our day began early. We caught a ferry across from Oban to the Isle of Mull, it was crowded and I struggled with the amount of people on deck to see us leave Oban. On the Isle of Mull we joined a double decker coach provided by West Coast Tours and through sheer luck got the front upstairs seats. The coach driver was great providing commentary on the history of Mull, whilst simultaneously navigating a single track road with passing points and tourist cars who don’t realise the size of a coach!

Basalt Columns - Staffa - The Last Krystallos

Basalt Columns – Staffa © Lisa Shambrook

The roads across Scotland in general are worth a mention. Many around the coast are single track and all have regular, signed passing points. The rule is to pull in and let faster vehicles pass, and to pull in where necessary to let oncoming traffic through. It works brilliantly, and is inherently better than the Welsh country roads with few passing points we’re used to at home! Btw, if you see a coach coming towards you, back up or pull in and give plenty of space, you’d be surprised how many people seem to be unable to reverse concisely!

To Fingal's Cave - Isle of Skye - The Last Krystallos

To Fingal’s Cave – Isle of Staffa © Lisa Shambrook

Back to Mull, a quick ferry across to explore the small island of Iona for two hours before we took a short boat trip to the isle of Staffa. As Staffa gets closer you are stunned by the tall basalt rock formations that give the island its name – staffa old Norse for staff, stave, or pillar like the columnar rocks. The boat pulls alongside Fingal’s Cave for a spectacular view, though don’t expect photos without people in them at this point. You might berate the tourists clambering over the rocks in front of the cave, but in a few minutes you’ll be one of them!

 

Am Buachallie - Isle of Skye - The Last Krystallos

Am Buachallie – Isle of Staffa © Lisa Shambrook

Fingal's Cave Staffa - The Last Krystallos

Fingal’s Cave – Staffa © Lisa Shambrook

You get an hour on Staffa, it’s not enough – I could stay all day – but it’s all you’ll get. We walked across the hexagonal volcanic rocks, well, I hurried – I’m a child at heart, to the cave. Currently you can’t get down into the cave since it was damaged by fierce storms, but you can appreciate the force of the ocean as it crashes over the stone and glistens in the sun. Greens and blues mingle at the shore offset by white seafoam and black rock.

Staffa Puffins - The Last Krystallos

Staffa puffins © Lisa Shambrook

Dan reminded me the island had more to offer and after a ten minute walk we discovered the island’s other wonder. On the cliffs are a plethora of puffins, nesting on the island from May to mid-August. The miracle is that they’re as fascinated by you as you are by them! We sat on the grassy cliff tops watching the birds as they perched, wandered, flew, and watched us back. I couldn’t believe we could sit literally a foot away from them and they barely batted an eyelid. Fingal’s Cave and the puffins were the highlight of my holiday.

Puffins on Staffa - The Last Krystallos

Staffa puffins © Lisa Shambrook

The next day we went hunting for more wildlife. Dunvegan castle and gardens sit in a bay on the north-west coast of the Isle of Skye. The castle’s history is Viking/Scottish and it’s a well-looked after example of a lived-in castle. Our main reason for visiting was to go on one of their seal trips, but you can only book a seal tour if you’re inside the castle grounds, so you’ll be paying for castle entry and then just under ten pounds per person for the boat trip.

Dunvegan Seals - The Last Krystallos

Dunvegan seals © Lisa Shambrook

The seals were adorable. A small boat and guide took the six of us out just in the bay close to the castle to their local seal colony, and the seals were out basking in the sun and dipping in and out of the sea. The middle of July meant pups were lively and bobbing close to the boat, despite their mothers’ barks to be careful! Our guide gave us lots of seal facts and legend, and told us about the castle’s history. We were lucky with great weather, glittering indigo water, and plenty of selkies, though I wish the trip had been longer.

Dunvegan Castle and Seal Colony - The Last Krystallos

Dunvegan Castle and seal colony © Lisa Shambrook

The Fairy Pools down at Glenbrittle on the Isle of Skye was our next destination. There’s a car park with an attendant, but when we arrived at 5.30ish in the afternoon there was no attendant to be seen, so we left the car. Also, the waterfalls are a huge tourist attraction and the car park could be very busy – there is an overflow car park at the end, but overlooked if you don’t know it’s there. When I said busy, I meant it. There’s a constant stream of people on the hike, you won’t be exploring alone. It’s recommended to go early or late to avoid the crowds and find the best light, and getting those perfect pictures will mean trying to dodge many people, climbing carefully, and missing out on some because people are bathing in the pools. It can be frustrating, but shouldn’t be missed.

Fairy Pools Glenbrittle - The Last Krystallos

Fairy Pools – Isle of Skye © Lisa Shambrook

The pools and waterfalls are beautiful, and caught in the right light they’ll shimmer green, teal, and cobalt blue – truly magical.

Fairy Pools - Isle of Sky - The Last Krystallos

Fairy Pools – Isle of Skye © Lisa Shambrook

Wildlife continued with a trip to the Highland Wildlife Park just south of Inverness. You’ll be entering the edge of the Cairngorms, so if you’re making a day of it maybe travel a bit further and see the mountains too. The wildlife park has a small but very basic self-drive safari, but the main attractions are walking round the animal enclosures seeing polar bears, snow monkeys, an arctic fox and her cub, red panda, deer, wolves and lots more. We went to see the wolves for Cait. Pups frolicked and played and completely enchanted us.

Highlands Wildlife Park - snow leopard, polar bear, red panda, wolves, deer, arctic fox cub - The Last Krystallos

Highland Wildlife Park © Lisa Shambrook

Thursday saw us go out in the Kyle of Lochalsh on Seaprobe Atlantis from the port in Kyleakin, a glass-bottomed boat to see seals and underwater creatures. Plenty of seals, but not so much underwater. Lots of jellyfish floating about, a couple of pipe fish, and lots of hypnotising bootlace seaweed!

Portree, Kyleakin, Underwater and seals in Kyle of Lochalsh - The Last Krystallos

Portree Seagull, Kyleakin, Kyle of Lochalsh underwater and seals © Lisa Shambrook

I wanted to find dinosaur footprints at Staffin on Skye, but we had trouble finding access to the beach. We’d timed the tide, but it was difficult to work out how to find them. There was a stream we couldn’t cross and we couldn’t work out which side of the beach the prints were supposed to be, so we gave up. If you do want to find them, there are online articles which will point you in the right direction.

Family Selfie - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Instead we drove around the top of the island taking in the Old Man of Storr, Mealt waterfall and Kilt Rock. We got fish and chips at Portree and headed back to the south of Skye to Kylerhea and an otter hide. The road over the mountain to Kylerhea was gorgeous, narrow and wild, so pretty. There’s a small car park with an RSPB hide, and a short walk to the otter hide overlooking the bay. You can watch the small car ferry from the bay and spy on sea life and birds. We didn’t see any otters, it’s a long way down to the sea and though there was a small telescope, it was hard to pin point creatures. We did see a seal, gulls, an oyster-catcher, and a heron!

It was late in the day so we missed the last ferry at six, but the Kylerhea scenery was stunning – the green moss, ferns, and trees contrasting with stormy clouds over the slate-blue water.

Kylerhea - The Last Krystallos

Kylerhea © Lisa Shambrook

Our last day saw us take advantage of Plockton and Calum’s Seal Tours, he advertised the tour for free if you didn’t see any seals… Calum Mackenzie was fun and informative and he got paid as there were plenty of seals! If you’re lucky you could also see dolphins and sea eagles.

Applecross Bay - The Last Krystallos

Applecross Bay © Lisa Shambrook

Then we drove right around Loch Carron and crossed the mountain road to Applecross Bay. One of the highest passes, and reminded me of Snowdonia mountain roads, but single track. That evening, we explored a few of the local Inverinate roads, where we were staying and caught the sunset. Nothing better.

Applecross Pass - The Last Krystallos

Applecross Pass © Lisa Shambrook

On our way home we stopped in Stirling to see the Wallace Monument. 246 steps to climb, but a great history lesson.

Wallace Monument - The Last Krystallos

The Wallace Monument © Lisa Shambrook

We had a stunning week, fulfilling dreams, and discovering the West coast of Scotland. If you’ve enjoyed this, you can read more about our North coast Scottish adventure two years ago. It’s pretty much a guarantee we’ll be back!

Fingal's Cave, puffins, Dunvegan seals, fairy pools, Kylerhea, Eilean Donan, Buachaille Etive Mor - TLK

Fingal’s Cave, puffins, Dunvegan seals, Fairy Pools, Kylerhea, Kyle of Lochalsh, Eilean Donan Castle, Buachaille Etive Mor © Lisa Shambrook

This land is a magical land of rainbows, diamonds on the ocean, moss, towering mountains, tumbling waterfalls, mystic lochs, and enchanted landscapes. Just avoid the early morning and late night midges!

One day we hope to return and to stay…

What are your favourite places in Scotland?

This Winter – from Loss to Joy…

I always enjoy Winter’s colours, chill, the season of giving and new beginnings,
and a time of cosy, starry nights. My favourite season is Autumn,
but is closely followed by Winter and her frosty beauty.

This Winter - from Loss to Joy... - The Last Krystallos

Autumn ended a season of love within our family when we unexpectedly lost our German Shepherd, Roxy, to aggressive cancer, so Winter came with a chill that bit harder and deeper than ever before.

But even tinged with sadness, we found joy and ended the season with a new source of love.

December brought a time of reflection and family. We had many hot chocolates at Pethau Da in town and remembered Roxy.

Roxy - Hot Chocolate - Dr Martens - December - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Christmas is always family based and this one was no different. I buried myself in preparations and came up with a Christmas cake decorated just for us. Christmas was family and quiet, and lovely.

Christmas Tree - Decorations - Cake - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

January arrived quickly and wasn’t particularly easy for any of us, but it had its good points. It got colder and I love the frost, and I finished my trilogy of books, or at least all the first drafts of The Seren Stone Chronicles are now done!

Ice - The Seren Stone Chronicles - Frost - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Then at the end of January, I fell in love. We weren’t looking for another dog, losing Roxy still hurt, but whilst scrolling Twitter I saw Kira… A six-year-old German Shepherd who’d still not found her forever home. She had EPI, a chronic health problem and I felt she’d be harder to home than most dogs.

Kira - Rain - Lisa - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

February, three weeks later and she’s now home, with us. The Super Snow Moon welcomed her and though she has issues she’s bonded beautifully with us and is responding well to a new training routine, boundaries, and lots of love.

Kira - Snow Moon - Kira - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Now, March is upon us and the burgeoning shoots of spring are pushing through and Winter is over. It’s been long and hard, but we’ve found joy and reason and that’s what counts.

What did you love about this Winter?

What kept you going?

 

In Need of a Hug…

Feel the presence of love, wrapped up within a hug – Robert M. Hensel

In Need of a Hug - How Hugging offers affection, love, protection, and compassion - the last krystallos

I read this week that the more you hug your children the faster their brains develop. New-born babies shown more affection had stronger brain responses. This shouldn’t be a surprise. Touch and hugs show affection, love, protection, and compassion, everything a child needs. It’s one of the reasons babies are born and placed on their mother’s chest or at their breast – skin-on-skin touch helps bonding and gives comfort.

I also watched a report of a man, Antar Davidson, working with children recently separated from their mother in a migrant detention home in Tucson, who was asked to intervene and explain to three siblings aged 16, 10, and 8 that it was against shelter policy to hug. He was told to tell them to stop hugging. Antar refused and quit his job. These children only had each other left in a terrifying and alien situation and they were asked to relinquish touch between each other. It seems an atrocious and altogether backward move to make.

Then I saw this video of ten abandoned baby ducklings released into a pond. The pond’s resident mother duck, having recently hatched her own family of nine, immediately rushed to their side and ushered the orphans into her own family.

 

These three reports had a lasting effect on me this week. I’ve been distressed at the news of families being ripped apart at US borders. No matter your thoughts on immigration, removing a child from its parent is categorically wrong and never, ever the answer. Compassion seems to have taken a holiday from the current administration’s hearts.

A hug is worth a thousand words – anon - the last krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Removing touch from a relationship can be dangerous. The ability to convey love and emotion within a relationship is paramount to keeping a bond and an emotional connection. One of our basic needs is to feel closeness, to touch each other, and to feel security within love. Animals know this. My dog welcomes us home with physical touch, and my cats rub against us and crave being stroked.

Most of us welcome each other with a hug, or a kiss, or a handshake, depending on your relationship. I’m not a tactile person, and if I don’t know you don’t try to hug me. I have personal space, control, and consent issues and to share a hug with me I have to be emotionally connected to you. My immediate family, and very close friends are the only ones who can break into my physical hug circle. But I crave touch as much as my cats do!

You can't give a hug without getting a hug – anon - the last krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

I love holding hands, hugging, and snuggling with my husband, and my children give me the most amazing hugs! The act of a hug offers me security and love. To be denied this would damage me as a human being.

The mother duck immediately knew what the little ducklings needed. Affection and security and she offered both within moments of meeting them. This world is so divisive, judgmental, and bigoted we need acceptance, compassion, and love.

Can we welcome all those in need the same way this duck embraced an expanding brood?

In Need of a Hug - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

The best place in the world is inside a hug – J Quest

There are myriad articles out there extolling the benefits of hugs
and physical touch – and as long as consent is given – always ask first –
you should get and give as much as you can!

Ten Places I Found Joy This Winter

The cold months hold some real treasures –
here’s how and where I found joy this winter…

Ten Places I Found Joy This Winter - The Last Krystallos

It doesn’t matter what the weather, I spied a meadow through a gate swathed in fog and it made the most beautiful picture. The Elan Valley was cold and crisp when Bekah and I visited and the walk was stunning. A simple dog walk through local roads and fields conjure up joy especially when you’re wrapped up warm. The girls and I went up to Brechfa Forest to do a photoshoot for Cait’s art, the mist and rain offered a haunting vista through the woods.

Misty Meadow - Pen y Bont Elan Valley - Local Dog Walking - Brechfa Forest - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Vince and I escaped to London for a weekend, it rained, but The Phantom of The Opera made it memorable along with the sights and sounds of the city. Seeing the Shard disappear up into fog was beautiful. The seagulls perching atop George IV’s head and horse in Trafalgar Square were highly amusing as the statue itself had anti-bird spikes about the plinth, didn’t bother the birds, George’s head will do just fine!

Lisa and Vince Tower Bridge - Shard City of London - George IV Trafalgar Sq - Phantom of the Opera - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

I mentioned being wrapped up warm. Winter is cold, and my Scottish fingerless gloves were invaluable during the cold. My Stargazer pyjamas, I don’t think I’ve ever owned nightwear up ‘til now, but I love these! My grey scarf was a must this season, and I got Dr Martens, Cherry Red Arcadia for Christmas and matched them up with this cute burgundy tulle skirt to feel especially good!

Scottish Gloves - Stargazer - Grey Scarf - Cherry Red Arcadia Dr Martens - Burgundy Tulle - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Those fingerless gloves helped keep my fingers typing during my edits, even if Raven wanted attention instead. Writing and reading brings me great joy and tapping away at the keyboard during winter months is one of my favourite things. I redrew my maps and sketched for my new work in progress The Seren Stone.

Raven interrupting edits - research - A Symphony of Dragons - Maps and Edits - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

The best thing is getting out in the cold is for a Hot Chocolate and weekdays means my kids joining me at Pethau Da in Carmarthen.

Pethau Da Hot Chocolate - Bekah and Lisa, Dan, Cait and Lisa

© Lisa Shambrook

The other thing I spent a lot of winter doing was painting, some are secret projects, but I treated myself to some gorgeous art this Christmas from Tahina Morrison and J Edward Neill’s Hither The Wind and Amanda Makepeace’s Winter Raven. My children bought Vince and I the best anniversary gift with a print of the constellations on our wedding day. The stars are my thing!

Art - Hither the Wind - Winter Raven - Constellations - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Crystals and stars are my happy place. Peridot gems have been part of my research for The Seren Stone Chronicles, as are both smoky and clear quartz, I’ve been learning much about crystal therapy and using stones within my writing. The bracelet brought me great joy when Vince bought the Trollbead Wishful Sky set. It came along with one of my favourite quotes: I have loved the stars too fondly to be fearful of the dark…

Peridot - Smoky Quartz - Clear Quartz - Trollbeads - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Our pets give us huge joy, Roxy will flip to her back and ask for a belly rub which just melts us, Raven curls up and purrs like a motorbike, and Misty had us all in hysterics when I took my new Docs out their box and she jumped in. When I tried to reclaim the box you can clearly see her warning to just walk away…

Roxy - Raven - Misty - Roxy - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Then nature gives us the most spectacular displays. In December we had a Super Blue Blood Moon and as it shone over the River Towy, I stood totally entranced. It snowed, briefly in Carmarthen, but much more the country over, and just crunching in the little snow we had brought me joy! Snowdrops have just begun to nod their stunning heads, and chasing rainbows has always brought glorious moments.

Super Blue Blood Moon River Towy - Rainbow - Snow - Snowdrops - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Lastly, there are moments of joy in unexpected places. Discovering baby reindeer in town at Christmas, finding Jack Frost’s handiwork on your car windscreen when you get up, holding a baby dragon in an acorn cup… and the beauty in things that aren’t always beautiful, the rainbows of colour in an oil spill on the pavement.

Reindeer - Jack Frost - Baby Dragon - Oil Rainbow - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

These are the things I notice,
simple and, sometimes, small things that bring me great joy.

Loved the stars too fondly to be fearful of the night - Sarah Williams - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Where did you find joy this winter?  

Belonging, Being a Loner, and Finding your Tribe

I’m a loner. I’m not alone, I’m not lonely – just a loner.
But when I find my people, I am one with them and of them.

Belonging, Being a Loner, and Finding your Tribe - The Last Krystallos

I’ve always wanted to belong. I ache to belong, to find my place. Outside of my family, this has been so difficult. In Real Life, except for inside my own four walls, I’ve never felt I belonged anywhere. For a long time, for many years this saddened me. I spent my early adult years longing for an attachment outside of my family and this yearning crushed me.

An introvert by nature with severe social anxiety meant close friends would always be hard to find and maintain. I held back, fearful of pushing myself where I wasn’t wanted, or of people leaving. I developed the skills of being a loner. I knew I could always trust myself, so my own company became comfortable, along with the close companionship of my husband and children. The only place I belonged was with them.

I am homesick for a place I am not sure even exists. One where my heart is full. My body loved. And my soul understood - Melissa Cox - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

I used to be lonely in real life, but I lost myself in writing, in creating worlds and characters, and with each word, line by line, chapter by chapter, I became a fulfilled loner. I value my time alone, as much as I adore my time out with my family. I relish time to sit and be me, as much as I love sitting in a coffee shop with one of my children. I jealously guard my own time.

But this doesn’t mean I’m antisocial, or adverse to friendships. In real life I have, maybe three people, outside my own family, who I feel I could go for a hot chocolate with and chat when I need to. And this is okay, because the pressure to physically socialise doesn’t weigh me down. I can still develop real life friendships.

Heathens - Twenty Øne PilØts - the last krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

I often hear that technology has ruined communication, or made us lazy, or stopped us from developing relationships. You’ll never find me blaming tech when it has exponentially enhanced my life in so many ways! As a loner with social anxiety I avoid social events and activities as much as I can. Tech doesn’t change that. That’s who I am. If I was a gregarious extrovert, I might be out partying, but I’m not, so, much of my social life is technological. I socialise online.

People talk with frowns of teens being glued to their phones and not getting out and enjoying themselves. Have you ever stopped to discover that the extroverts are still actually out having fun in person with their friends – they never stopped doing that – and the introverts with their noses stuck to their phones are also conversing, messaging, laughing, and sharing and having fun with their friends? Some love to go out and watch a movie with mates then go for a drink afterwards. Others are watching movies in sync on Netflix with their friends in other countries or towns then chatting about it after in the comfort of their own homes. We are perhaps, via tech, the most sociable and informed society ever!

I am aware that I am less than some people prefer me to be, but most people are unaware that I am so much more than what they see - Douglas Pagels - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

I discovered my people on social media. My friends, my tribe, are right there at my fingertips whenever I need them. They span my own country, they live in Wales, England, Scotland, and Ireland, and they live further afield – in the US, Canada, Australia, Israel, Europe, and in many other places. They are moments away from me when I need a virtual hug (I get plenty of real ones at home), advice, laughter, news, deep conversation, superficial conversation, and best of all – love.

They love me for who I am, I don’t need to fit into their schedule, we don’t need to answer private messages immediately, tech offers us relationships with people we’d never have discovered at home without it.

Social media is not perfect, but it helped me belong. It helped this loner discover a plethora of like-minded people, of people with differences, people who disagree with me but love me anyway, people who have time for me. I know some of these people in real life, some I will never meet, but they all have a place in my heart. And I am never lonely.

true belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world - Brene Brown - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Do you belong?
Are you happy with your place in life and who you are?

Visiting Scotland – What we saw in the Scottish Highlands

So, this is the post that will entice you to the Scottish Highlands
– which as you saw last week, just became my default favourite place!

Visiting Scotland – What we saw in the Scottish Highlands - The Last Krystallos

We split the twelve hour journey of just over 600 miles over two days, staying in Moffat, just over the border, at a lovely B&B before traveling up to the north coast. Sat Nav on our upgraded hired Toyota Land Cruiser decided she wanted to take the long way round on the second day – had enough of corporate driving and she wanted to see the north country as much as we did! So instead of driving up through Stirling, we found ourselves circumnavigating Glasgow and heading up to Loch Lomond, and why not? The loch is huge and it’s where we began really noticing the mountains…

Beinn Dorain - The Last Krystallos

Beinn Dorain – © Lisa Shambrook

We rounded a bend on the road leading towards the Bridge of Orchy and had to stop to take in Beinn Dorain as cloud topped it like an unseasonal snow cap! Then the mountains at the western end of the Grampians just kept coming and we kept stopping to take photos – always remember to add time to your expected arrival due to stopping for photos – because you will… Then Buachaille Etive Mor towered above us like a craggy volcano and it kept on through Glencoe and Ben Nevis.

Ben Loyal - Buachaille Etive Mor - Beinn Dorain - Ben Nevis - Ridge in Skye - The Last Krystallos

Ben Loyal – Buachaille Etive Mor – Beinn Dorain – Ben Nevis – Ridge in Skye – © Lisa Shambrook

We’d planned to stop for lunch at Castle Urquhart by Loch Ness, but instead we had lunch at Fort William, and by the time we reached the castle it was overcrowded to the point of us only needing a quick photo op in the car park before moving on.

Ben Nevis - A9 - Road to Tongue - The Last Krystallos

Ben Nevis – A9 – Road to Tongue – © Lisa Shambrook

We crossed the bridge at Inverness and moved up into the Highlands. Lochs glistened, swathes of purple heather covered the hillsides, the sun disappeared behind clouds and the mountains hid, then they towered again as the mist evaporated. Glens and forests carpeted with the most luscious green had rivers and waterfalls, and finally as we drove up the single track road for an hour to Coldbackie, the sun began to set behind the rugged mountains of the Sutherland range, with Ben Loyal on the horizon and lochs of gold glowing in the sun’s last fiery rays beside us. It was enchanting.

We woke up the next morning with a view to die for…

Coldbackie Morning View - The Last Krystallos

Coldbackie – © Lisa Shambrook

We took the Pentland Ferry on a wildlife cruise at John O’Groats, hoping to see seals, puffins and other advertised wildlife, we saw seagulls, lots of gulls, and scarfies, and even a stray jellyfish, but not much else. The ferry did take us around Duncansby Head and the stacks and red sandstone cliffs are stunning. And we got that obligatory photo of the family standing beneath the signpost at John O’Groats just like we did at Land’s End seventeen years ago!

Duncansby Stacks - John O'Groats - The Last Krystallos

Duncansby Stacks – John O’Groats – © Lisa Shambrook

Eilean Donan Castle has all the beauty and excitement of a fairy-tale as you approach and by all means go and take photos of the glorious building on the edge of the loch at Dornie, but we felt cheated by the tourist trap the castle has become. There are no photos of the interior of Eilean Donan, because the current owners don’t allow it, and you are herded in like cattle, as the castle attempts to make as much cash as it can. Don’t get me wrong, the castle and interior is beautiful, but you are only allowed to see the displayed rooms, so many are shut off, as are the buildings surrounding the main hall and castle. I was hoping for Viking and Medieval history, but only got the last century, and the current owner’s family pictures are, strangely, dotted all through the nineteenth and twentieth century rooms, moving you awkwardly out of the period they’re exhibiting. Go and take photos, but save your money and find another castle to go inside!

Eilean Donan Castle - The Last Krystallos

Eilean Donan Castle – © Lisa Shambrook

Then we ventured on to the Isle of Skye. The Fairy Pools have been on my bucket list for years – but I was so disappointed to find that due to the intense rain that night, the river you have to cross to get to the Fairy Pools was overflowing, and without proper waterproofs we’d have had soaked feet/shoes all day, and possibly all holiday. Many, many visitors that day traipsed down to the river and had to turn around unable to cross it, though it couldn’t have been more than five feet across. There was a lot of disappointment in the air, and it wouldn’t have cost much to make the stepping stones bigger, or put in a small wooden bridge to allow access. The Fairy Pools are still on my bucket list and I’ll make it another year.

Skye Ridge - Fairy Pools - Eilean Donan - Heather - Fairy Pools - Kilt Rock Waterfall - The Last Krystallos

Skye Ridge – Fairy Pools – Eilean Donan – Heather – Fairy Pools – Kilt Rock Waterfall -© Lisa Shambrook

We did see the Old Man of Storr, jutting out rock formations, and then Mealt Waterfall with Kilt Rock in the background, and the waterfall made my day!

When we finally wandered down to Coldbackie beach, more of a climb actually, we were met with the most gorgeous little bay. White sand ran from the dunes to the sparkling water, and what water! It merged from every green to every blue you could imagine…from crystal white Quartz froth, to pale Amazonite, and Adventurine, then to Turquoise, and rich Apatite blue, before darkening to the tone of Sodalite. An ocean of jewels!
Quartzite and Pyrite glittered in the rocks and I quickly became a beachcomber!

Coldbackie - The Last Krystallos

Coldbackie – © Lisa Shambrook

We headed west to Durness and visited Balnakeil Craft Village, then walked down to Smoo Cave. In Smoo Cave you can pop in and see a waterfall for free, or wait for a short tour from local geologists and diggers. Write your name on the board and then they’ll help you board a small dinghy and move you across the pool inside the cave to see the waterfall close up. Then you get a short tour of the caves and a keen geologist will tell you all about the area and the current dig! It was up close and personal and well worth a fiver each for something very different.

Smoo Cave Waterfall - The Last Krystallos

Smoo Cave Waterfall – © Lisa Shambrook

Achmelvich beach was recommended to us, Evan – this one was for you – and it didn’t disappoint. Like Coldbackie, white sand spread at your feet and clear blue/green water lapped at the shore. We sat up on the rocks and ate chips while basking in the sunshine.

Achmelvich - The Last Krystallos

Achmelvich – © Lisa Shambrook

We’d had a Whale Watching Boat Trip cancelled earlier in the week due to high winds and rain, and refunded we spent the money in Wick on a tour in a rib boat instead. Caithness Seacoast was great! We dressed in waterproofs and braved a grey day out on the sea. The East coast cliffs were gorgeous, and the local guide very informative. We learned about Viking history, right up to the present day, and it was fascinating. He hoped we’d see more wildlife, but he pointed out that this late in the season (last week in August) most of the young had left, so puffins had flown two weeks prior and many of the seals had moved too. Again we saw Scarfies and Fulmars, and of course many gulls, and eventually we did see a seal! We sped about the sea, beneath arches, around stacks, and in caves, and stopped in several coves. We learned the fishing history, and saw Whaligoe Steps, an inlet which became a harbour in the eighteenth century, and crews of women would gut the fish in the harbour then walk up and down the 330 or 363 (locals dispute the official 330) steps, 250 feet, with full baskets before taking the fish to Wick market.

Caithness Seacoast Wick Coast - Fulmars and Scarfies and Seal - The Last Krystallos

Caithness Seacoast Wick Coast – Fulmars and Scarfies and Seal – © Lisa Shambrook

After the boat trip and lunch we visited Castle Sinclair Girnigoe, free, and atop a gorgeous cliff, then we saw the Trinkie a tidal swimming pool, rather abandoned at present, and then we looked at Whaligoe Steps from the top!

Castle Sinclair Girnigoe Wick - Eilean Donan nr Skye - Urquart Castle Loch Ness - The Last Krystallos

Castle Sinclair Girnigoe Wick – Eilean Donan nr Skye – Urquart Castle Loch Ness – © Lisa Shambrook

On our last day we stayed local, hiked up to Varrich Tower (though it says it’s a castle), had lunch near Loch Eriboll, I was enamoured by the little headland in the loch – rather desiring to live there – but it’s gated so you can’t go down. We took a back road to Ben Hope and took photos at an old roundhouse before wandering into the forest near Altnaharra. The forest was everything a woodland girl would love, heather, moss, Scots Pines, toadstools, and a loch hidden away inside.

Forest nr Altnaharra - The Last Krystallos

Forest nr Altnaharra – © Lisa Shambrook

Our last surprise was realising how close we were to the Kelpies, named after the mythical water horses said to be in Scottish lochs and rivers, at The Helix as we drove through Falkirk and we doubled back to see them. Thirty metre tall horses, Glaswegian Andy Scott’s amazing sculptures of steel will literally steal your heart.

Kelpies at Falkirk - Roundhouse Ben Hope - Grey Mares Tail Waterfall Moffat - The Last Krystallos

Kelpies at Falkirk – Roundhouse Ben Hope – Grey Mares Tail Waterfall Moffat – © Lisa Shambrook

We saw deer, and an otter, and sheep guarded the roads! We had rainbows almost every day, sunrises, sunsets, mountain ranges like towering wise old wizards, fairy glens, sparkling lochs, cascading waterfalls (we saw Grey Mare’s Tail waterfall in Moffat on the way home), and the jewelled ocean…

Deer - Thistle - Loch Eriboll - Heather - Sheep - The Last Krystallos

Deer – Thistle – Loch Eriboll – Heather – Sheep – © Lisa Shambrook

And thus ended our tour of Scotlandbut have no fear,
we will be back, and maybe one day, we’ll be able to stay.

Have you visited Scotland? If so what did you love most?

Coldbackie Beach Panorama - The Last Krystallos

Coldbackie Beach – © Lisa Shambrook

Roundhouse Ben Hope - The Last Krystallos

Roundhouse Ben Hope – © Lisa Shambrook

Coping with Alzheimer’s: Sadness, Love, and Humour

I saw a lonesome forget-me-not gaze up at me the other day,
late in the year for these delicate blue flowers,
but they will always remind me of my mother.
They will forever be linked with the disease that stole her.

Coping with Alzheimer_s amid Tears of Sadness, Love, and Humour The Last Krystallos

The forget-me-not is the poster flower for Alzheimer’s, so when I noticed this little blossom peering up at me, it brought the condition back to my mind, and reminded me that I hadn’t yet read a book loaded up on my Kindle. Maybe it had been too soon when I bought it, Mum passed away at Christmas last year, but sitting in the Dr’s waiting room with Dad the other day I clicked on the book and opened it.

Coping-with-Alzheimer's-Forget-me-not- The-Last-Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Instead of bringing tears, which it does too, it brought a smile to my face, many smiles. Finding a kindred spirit can do that. I relate strongly with the author S. R. Karfelt. Her candid humour, outright frankness, and sincerity shone through in her words. Our situations regarding Dementia are different, we’ve been through very different circumstances, but the familiarity of her anecdotes and narrative rang so true.

Alzheimer’s is the thief of time, stealing memories and lives with no compunction at all…and it is on the rise. More and more people are being diagnosed and figures show that 850,000 people lived with dementia in the UK in 2015 and it’s set to rise at a rate that will mean over 1 million in 2025 and 2 million in 2051. I’ve blogged about Prevention and Awareness before, and there are things we can do, changes to our lives, diets, and routines that can help, but this post isn’t about prevention or cure, it’s about living with the disease.

Coping-with-Alzheimer's-time-The-Last-Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Please remember that living with Alzheimer’s affects a whole plethora of people for every one person diagnosed. Whole families and communities have to come together to care. When someone in your family has dementia, you can’t walk away, you can’t hide, you can’t bury it. The condition sneaks up and robs you of your loved one, but unlike other diseases that leave you to grieve after you lose your cherished family member, dementia leaves the shell of the person with you. I can’t describe the pain that that instils.

In her book, Nobody Told Me: Love in the Time of DementiaS. R. Karfelt has been through all of this and eloquently puts her experiences on paper. For anyone facing dementia within their family, this is a book that will show you that you’re not alone. You’ll know you are part of a growing number of people dealing with this disease and staring it right in the face with defiance – and humour you have to laugh, and you’ll cry too. Lots.

So many stories in this book tickled me, made me smile, and made me belly laugh, because I’ve been there. You have to attack Alzheimer’s with humour, wit, and love, they give you the strength to carry on.

Coping-with-Alzheimer's-Home-The-Last-Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

When Mum complained of the noisy street party going on in her back yard, outside her house, we had to humour her, because my parents lived in the middle of a field, not a sound anywhere. When she thought I was her mother, I held her close and rocked her. When she was convinced Dad was a doctor, I told her she’d better take her medication with no complaints. When she thought Dad was a stranger who had kidnapped her and was holding her hostage, I talked her through it, tried to allay her fear, and help her calm down.

Can you imagine believing you’re only fourteen, and then finding out you’re married and he’s an old man? Imagine looking in the mirror expecting to see your twenty-five-year-old-self gazing back and instead seeing a seventy-year-old with a very different face? Imagine nurses/carers visiting every day when you don’t think anything is wrong with you at all.

Coping-with-Alzheimer's-raindrops-The-Last-Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Imagine forgetting how to walk, or how to lift your food from the plate to your mouth with a fork. How would you feel if you couldn’t remember the beginning of the movie you started watching an hour ago? How would you feel when your grandchildren walk in and smile at you, but are complete strangers because you believe you’re twenty, and there are still eight years before you give birth to their mother yet?

Think about being in hospital or a home and not having a clue how you got there, or why, or for how long, or who took you there, or where you are, or why you’re there, or how long you’ll be there, and there’s nothing wrong with you, where are you, how did you get there, there’s nothing wrong, who took you there, when can you go home, as there’s nothing wrong… Where am I?

This is life with Alzheimer’s. It hurts – not only the patient, but the family, and carers, and friends… Alzheimer’s hurts everyone it comes into contact with.

So, if you’re dealing with, living with, coping with Alzheimer’s please know that you’re not alone. Please laugh as much as you cry. I’ve told my children that if I ever get this disease they are to treat me like normal, but play to it, allow me to stay in the time that I believe I am in, humour me, give me adventures, if I don’t know where I am – make it up!

Coping-with-Alzheimer's-leaf- The-Last-Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

People will tell you how to cope with this condition when you’re caring for a loved one who doesn’t know who you are, but as long as you are compassionate and loving, you’re doing the right thing. Take time out. Laugh, I cannot say this enough, not at the person sometimes not even with the person, they won’t understand and you don’t want to hurt or alienate them even further, but you need to deal with the mess it makes of your life too, and once you’re out of the immediate situation talk through the absurdity Alzheimer’s proffers you and laugh at it. Irreverence can see you through it all.

Tears will fall, that’s a guarantee, but don’t ever think you’re alone.

The Alzheimer’s Society is an amazing resource who will help you through this minefield, as will those who’ve been there already. Stay strong.

Nobody-Told-Me-S-R-Karfelt-Dementia

You can buy
Nobody Told Me: Love in the Time of Dementia
by S. R. Karfelt on Amazon UK Kindle Hardbackand Paperback.
Amazon US Kindle, Hardback,
and Paperback, and from your local Amazon and other online bookstores.
Please visit her website for further information and links.

Where does the Beach take you?

It’s turning into beach weather here in the UK…
though, in my opinion, all year is beach weather for me.
I love wandering a lonely, cold, winter beach as much as
paddling through the surf on a warm, summer evening.
But what entices you to the ocean, what floats your boat?

Where does the Beach take you... - The Last Krystallos

Is it the heat, the sun, and the chance to sunbathe, or family time and BBQs, building sandcastles, and jumping waves, or do you prefer to explore, climb rocks, and appreciate the beauty?

Do you enjoy the sounds of the ocean rolling across pebble beaches? I grew up in Brighton, and the sound of the sea turning pebbles brings back all kinds of memories.
I adore walking barefoot over sand, and letting the surf lap across my feet, so the gorgeous West Wales beaches, where I live now, fit me perfectly…

Pebbles-vs-Sand-The-Last-Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Do you like the flora that thrives in the salty air, and the seaweed decorating the beaches? I have a weird penchant for wearing seaweed hairpieces…

Flora-and-Seaweed-The-Last-Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Do you collect shells, do you search out conch, mussels, and pretty shells, and do you put them to your ear to hear the sea? Do you listen to the shrieking gulls with pleasure or irritation?

Wildlife-and-Shells-The-Last-Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

And speaking of irritation, do you feel compelled to share your chips with the local birds? Fish n’ chips on the beach can’t be beaten! Do you sit on the beach with can of coke and newspaper wrapped chips and watch the sunset? Do you embrace your loved one as the sun disappears below the horizon in a fiery ball and the stars begin to sparkle?

Sunsets-and-Food-The-Last-Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Do you love your feet in the ocean, do you paddle or dive right in? On the hottest days, dunking beneath the waves can be refreshing and invigorating.
Or do you prefer to sunbathe, lying on the beach worshipping the sun, or do you take a book and lose yourself in stories?

Feet-in-the-Sea-and-Relax-The-Last-Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Are you one of the lucky ones who can surf the waves – either on a board, or in a boat? Can you relax on board and let the ocean rise and fall beneath you?

Boats-and-Ocean-The-Last-Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Do you love to explore, to climb the rocks, dive from cliffs, build dens, and get creative? Do you take photoshoots of mermaids, dystopia, and conquer pirates?

Explore-and-Dystopia-The-Last-Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Are sandcastles your thing? Are you an architect of the golden grains? Do you build turrets, and moats, and make lolly stick flag poles? Do you sculpt the sand to your every whim, designing and creating with imagination and the salty breeze? Can you build towers of pebbles, balancing in an ever more intricate game of Jenga?

Fun-and-Craft-The-Last-Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

The Palace Pier, now the Brighton Pier – though I can’t ever call it that – was a haunt for my childhood self, walking along the wooden timbers watching the green sea swell beneath me, feeling the ocean in my hair.
Do you search for lonely bays, lost coves, quiet havens, and romantic harbours? Do you walk from one end of the beach to the other, kicking through the rippling waves?

Bays-and-Piers-The-Last-Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Or are you like me, as long as my feet are in the water, I let the siren call of the ocean beguile me, and I lose myself in the beauty of the sea?

Beauty-and-Waves-The-Last-Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

What is it for you? What draws you to the beach, to the salty sea?

What entices you to the ocean?

Your Vote Counts – Vote for the Future #GE2017

This week, in the UK, we Vote…

Your Vote Counts - Vote for the Future - General Election 2017 - The Last Krystallos

My colours are nailed to the wall, always have been…
I’m the kind of person you can read like a book
and I wear my heart on my sleeve.

I’m not going to tell you who to vote for, but if you’ve seen my Facebook or Twitter you’ll know where my heart lies, and I won’t apologise for posting information and my political beliefs.

My plea for this election, a sudden – out-of-the-blue – UK General Election, called purely because the Prime Minister thought she’d win with a landslide, is to vote for those around you rather than for yourself, if your circumstances permit.

We’ve seen this world – this society – become overwhelmingly selfish. Those who are wealthy – want more, those who have enough – want more, those without – want more. It’s a natural ideology, we all want more, and that’s okay, but only one of those groups actually need more.

I’ve been on both sides of the coin, excuse the pun, we’ve counted the literal pennies and had nothing left at the end of the week, and at other times we’ve been able to save and spend. 90% of those without are without because of circumstance, not a lack of hard work, or laziness, and it’s highly offensive to blame people for their circumstances without knowing or understanding them.

The test of our progress... Franklin D. Roosevelt

We need to be considerate and compassionate and vote accordingly. We need to vote to help jobs, to save the NHS, to save lives, to offer affordable education, to raise living wages, to raise living standards, to eradicate poverty, to care for our children, the environment, and their future.

I want to vote for the future of this world, not my present one, but for policies that will guide and save our future – not condemn it and future generations. If I can do that I will save my present world alongside the future.

I want to vote for the future o f this world... Lisa Shambrook The Last Krystallos UK General Election 2017

© Lisa Shambrook

Please educate yourself, learn about the parties and their policies: Labour Conservative Liberal DemocratsGreenUKIPPlaid CymruSNP…  Read the manifestos and vote with your conscience.

As a final point – no matter what, please vote.

It wasn’t long ago that only Landowners and the Aristocracy could vote.

It wasn’t long ago that only men were allowed to vote.

It wasn’t long ago that only those over the age of 21 were permitted to vote.

There are still countries that deny the right to vote, through gender, age, circumstance, and still countries that do not hold free elections.

People have died for your right to vote, and every single vote matters. It doesn’t matter if you are 18 or 118 – your vote is important in free politics.

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing. Edmund Burke

© Lisa Shambrook

There are plenty of apps and information out there to help you make your decision. Take a look at this 2017 Election Quiz or this one 38Degrees GE2017…and see whose manifesto policies you affiliate most with. Don’t listen to the mainstream media, do your own research.

But, most importantly, use your privilege to cast your vote – make it count…

…For the Many, Not the Few…

Which Animal Lives in your Heart – what Animal Are You?

Many of us identify with animals…
we relate to certain creature characteristics, to animals we connect with,
on both an aesthetic level and on a much deeper spiritual level.

Which Animal Lives in Your Heart - What Animal are You - The Last Krystallos

Lots of novels bond their protagonists with animals, from Philip Pullman’s Lyra and Pantalaimon, her dæmon, in His Dark Materials, to Harry Potter and his stag Patronus, and countless other books. My own Seren Stone Chronicles, which I’m currently writing contain animals that have connected with some of my characters, and it’s definitely fun to write.

Many cultures have beliefs that connect them to animals like Native American Spirit Guides and Animal Totems. There is huge significance to those who recognise their animal guides, and it’s not a frivolous choice of whatever creature you like, but a deeply sacred experience. There are plenty of online games and quizzes to find your Spirit Animal, but it doesn’t work like that, a Spirit Guide will come to you, not the other way round and no one can assign an animal to you.

So, I am not talking about Spirit Guides or Spirit Animals here, I’m taking a more light-hearted look at animals that we feel a commonality with.

Years ago I wrote a paragraph, at a time when I felt trapped and confined in my life, and I yearned for escape: ‘I once answered a question: If you could be an animal, which would you be and why?  No hesitation… I would be a horse, a wild horse. “I couldn’t stand being a trained horse, left in a field and ridden when the owner wished…” I wrote. “I would be wild and free, roaming valleys, mountains, forests… I would race, chase the wind and explore, as free as the air. Graceful and beautiful.” Then I put a spin on my answer, I wouldn’t be a horse, I’d be a unicorn. I would not only be wild and free, but I’d be mythical and mysterious. People would wonder if I really existed, I would live in dreams, a free spirit, magical and carefree… I would be a unicorn.’

When I came upon this piece recently, it made me think about animals we relate to, and what animal I would associate with myself? Then I expanded and was curious which animals I would link my family to. I wonder if they agree?

Although I don’t like to limit the choice to one, I’d still love to be a unicorn – I know much more about myself and I believe I am probably a Squirrel

Lisa Squirrel

© Lisa Shambrook (bottom right: Squirrel wallpaper)

I’m anxious, socially awkward, and a hoarder. I scamper about erratically, bright-eyed and bushy tailed, collecting treasure – acorn cups in particular – and I am very much at home in nature, within the forests, wandering through mossy glens beside trickling streams. I will observe you from a distance, and maybe, just maybe, if I feel confident enough, I’ll sidle up close to see if I can trust you enough with my presence! I am soft, nervous, bold, a paradox, and wild, just like a squirrel.

Vince Bear

© Lisa Shambrook (top left: Bear wallpaper)

I see my husband as a bear, a big, brown bear. He keeps me safe, and gives me confidence and my trust in him is implicit. He’s large, in the best way, has a huge heart and when I’m in his arms, nothing can touch me. When he’s grizzly and grouchy he needs love and appreciation, and then his fur fluffs up and he’s happy to explore and adventure with us. His inner strength shines like the sun. Vince is cuddly, protective, tender, warm and passionate, just like a bear.

Bekah Fox

© Lisa Shambrook (top left: Fox wallpaper, bottom right: Fox wallpaper)

Bekah is a wild one, she moves to her own beat, and follows her own path. She has a nature that embraces adventure and exploration, and a spirit that defies definition. She knows what she’s doing, constantly bettering herself, learning new things and developing. Bekah is an individual – conforming is not in her dictionary – and her style is her own. She is passion and cunning, spirit and character; she’ll twinkle like the stars and keep you enchanted and enthralled, just like a fox.

Dan Dog

© Lisa Shambrook

Dan is definitely a puppy dog. He’s cheerful and loving and sensitive to everything about him. He’ll play with gusto and disregard, and throw himself right in at the deep end. Dan will be your rock, your companion, the person you can rely on, and he will trust you just as you trust him. He is faithful and strong, playful and open. You’ll know exactly where you are with him. He’s adorable, happy, stubborn, funny, and caring, and will always be there for you, just like a pup.

Cait Wolf

© Lisa Shambrook (top left: Wolf wallpaper)

My lone wolf is Cait, a spirit that seeks something deeper and won’t rest ‘til she finds it. She’s a deep thinker, an empathic soul that desires the best in an imperfect world. She wonders in the simplicity of nature, and yearns for compassion in her fiery heart. Cait will champion your cause and fight for your rights while wrapping herself within her own aesthetic. She is quiet, sullen, bright, and quick-witted, sharp and devoted, and she will move beneath the moon, just like a wolf.

What animal do you relate to most and what do you think others’ would perceive you as?

If you could be any animal, which would you choose?    

And…I might be a unicorn, or a squirrel, but I am also a dragon, and a cat…
and much, much more! What about you?