Category Archives: Family

Twenty-one Things I Love About Caitlin…

Twenty-one Things I Love About You…
To my daughter, Caitlin, on your Twenty-first Birthday
!

Caitlin, twenty-one today…
  1. You took us into a new millennium with a strong spirit and a head of dark hair.
One…

2. When you’d had enough hugs you’d say your tummy was full, you knew your limits.

Two…

3. Purple Teddy went everywhere with you and you even made local headline news when he got lost.

Three…

4. Your sense of adventure took you off on trips that we didn’t even know about ‘til you got home!

Four…

5. You are a tiger, our Growlithe, unable to keep still and full of mischief!

Five…

6. You love changing clothes, from army camouflage, to ballerina tutus, to trying on my wedding dress, and I could just as easily find you at a ballet barre or up a tree.

Six…

7. Full of sparkle, stars, a strong sense of self, and the heart of a wild fae.

Seven…

8. Every star is different, and you shine bright like a star in the night sky.

Eight…

9. You have a quick temper and a wit that is much older than you are. There’s an early cynicism in your heart, don’t let it unbalance hope.

Nine…

10. Enthusiasm lights you up when you’re learning about things that matter to you, keep that sense of justice and belief in what matters most.

Ten…

11. You are growing into yourself, with beauty, grace, and empathy. Don’t let anyone dull your soul.

Eleven…

12. Keep that stubborn streak and your sense of fair play.

Twelve…

13. You love creative arts – writing, drawing, and anything that lets you express yourself.

Thirteen…

14. Sometimes you just want to fit in, but you have a spirit that fights the system that experiments and embraces life in all its colours, and I know you will be whoever you want to be.

Fourteen…

15. Roxy is your best friend, and you both have loyalty and love in your hearts.

Fifteen…

16. A wry and morbid sense of humour measures you, but life is hard and that wit grounds you. You’re politically aware – you need that humour!

Sixteen…

17. You are carving out your place in this world, using art, compassion, and integrity.

Seventeen…

18. Kira gives you solace in an unstable world and you fight for all that’s right. Never stop doing that.

Eighteen…

19. Never forget to be yourself. Be true.

Nineteen…

20. You know your worth, a daughter of courage and spirit, our daughter…

Twenty…

21. The world is at your feet…it’s yours…

Twenty-one…

*Note: All photographs within this post are copyright to Caitlin or Lisa and are not to be reproduced or copied in any way.

Spent – When You Have Nothing Left To Give – World Mental Health Day 2020

October 10th is World Mental Health Day, and 2020 needs one.
Twenty-twenty has been a year like no other, and with years since 2016
 getting progressively more difficult, this one really took the proverbial biscuit.
Our state of mind and mental health is paramount,
and sometimes all you can do is look after yourself.

Mind points out: According to our research, with over 16,000 people, we know that more than half of adults (60%) and over two thirds of young people (68%) said their mental health got worse during lockdown. We know that many have developed new mental health problems as a result of the pandemic and, for some of us, existing mental health problems have gotten worse.

Personally, lockdown was a relief, a moment out of time when my mental health thrived. Staying at home, going out only for necessities and spending time in nature worked wonders on my emotional state. It’s the mixture of chaotic messages, ideas, rules, hypocrisy, and out of control official governmental plans since lockdown ended that have wrecked my mental health.

I suffer with severe anxiety and panic, depression, self-harm and self-destructive behaviour including dermatillomania and eating disorder, and I’m waiting ASD assessment. I live for routine, so any changes are difficult to deal with. When supermarkets introduced one-way systems, masks, social distancing, queues to get in, I took my daughter with me for support. Panic rose every time I went for the first few weeks, with panic attacks inside the shop, and even outside when I was asked why there was more than one person shopping for my household. I will add that Tesco was very supportive when I explained my daughter helping, plus I was also shopping for my elderly father who was shielding. Once I’d got used to it, I then struggled when restrictions were lessened.

Mask © Lisa Shambrook

I had problems wearing a mask to begin with. Sensory issues meant that anything covering my mouth created an unbearable urge to panic. I had to retrain my mind to accept that wearing a mask was a protection for me, and when I added that to my fear of contracting Covid19, and practising wearing a mask, bit-by-bit at home, I was able to wear one.

There are other problems, this year has been especially generous with complications and troubles, but I won’t dwell on them. This year has left many with heightened anxiety, depression, stresses and much more.

So, how do you deal with it? How do you deal with emotional exhaustion, both mental health related and in normal life – because nothing has been normal this year.

This is what I posted yesterday:

Autistic shutdown is often caused by emotional and/or physical overload, meltdown, overwhelm, change, and other situations that become too much. It’s like having a dead battery. Many people, neurodivergent and neurotypical, can experience the sensation of being utterly spent, a lack of spoons (Spoon Theory by Christine Miserandino), and emotional exhaustion. Sometimes you have to give in to it. You can watch circumstances overtake you, your battery runs on emergency, and you desperately claw at the edges of the cliff you’re clinging to. Sometimes, if you’re not careful, you fall.

What can you do?

Take it easy. Take it one step at a time. Rest, Sleep, and allow yourself to recharge. You might bounce back quickly – a nap might be all you need – but you might need time to readjust, reassess your position, and small steps are fine.

I washed my hair and felt stronger, but aside from eating chocolate, yes, that counts, I didn’t do much until my brain had quietened and I’d been able to shut out some of the things that were shouting at me.

Family © Lisa Shambrook

Words of encouragement help, and here I will link an article I read the other day which made me cry because it was so true. This is How You Love Someone With Anxiety by Kirsten Corely. You can’t ever say “It’s okay,” too much, we answer texts immediately and panic if our texts go unanswered, we read too much into everything, and if it all gets too much, and it often does, we need to be held and be told “It’s okay.” Being hugged by someone who loves you can cure or help the worst things you fear. Real life hugs and virtual hugs are important. Your family can be your biggest support.

Nature is my saviour. When things get too much I get out. I have a dog, Kira, who has severe panic and anxiety, and cannot be walked near people or other dogs, so we go to the forest. I am blessed to live close to Brechfa Forest and there are multiple trails through woods and forest that we can take Kira without seeing anyone. This is a life saver, both for me and for Kira. When Kira’s walked locally by the road on pavement, she’s hyper-alert, aggressive, and full of panic – it’s not fun for anyone. Even a local dog trainer who trains guard dogs, admitted defeat with Kira, she’s a damaged rescue, who has only known real love from a few people in her life. In us, she’s found trust and unconditional love and her mental health thrives in our home. In the forests she is in her element and becomes a soft-natured, fun-loving, relaxed and adventurous pup. And that’s how nature works for me too.

Nature and Dog Walks © Lisa Shambrook

This year, with its trials, has taught us some of the most important things that life has to offer, and family and nature seem to top that for me. My friend Jessica Maybury wrote this piece The Greatest Travel Adventure Of 2020 and it resonates with me. Get out and see where you are. Since first having a dog, twelve years ago now, we’ve explored locally, and it’s a revelation. I haven’t discovered many new places this year, but it’s been a relief to know my locality and where I can go for peace. Go explore!

Sometimes medication can be the best help. Go and see your GP and get professional advice, there’s a place for medication, and there should be no stigma around taking meds that help you. No one blinks an eyelid when someone takes medication for diabetes or heart disease, or medication for thyroid issues because your thyroid is not producing what it should. Mental health issues arise because your brain isn’t doing or producing what it should and sometimes medication can put that right. I have taken antidepressants for periods on and off throughout my life, and I currently take medication for my anxiety attacks.

Cracks © Lisa Shambrook

The same goes for getting diagnosed with any mental health or other condition you might have. It’s tough to get a mental health diagnosis these days, the NHS is severely underfunded and many resources are difficult to get, but please fight for them. I’m about to begin counselling and hope it’ll give me some relief. My adult daughter received her Autism diagnosis just two months ago, after a 30 month waiting list and many years being let down by child and adolescent mental health services in her teens. The resulting diagnosis was definite and a huge relief. Validation can go a long way to finding peace or at least coming to terms with who you are.

And, perhaps, that’s the most important thing, coming to terms with who you are and what your needs are. You are you, and you’re enough whether you are in perfect health, or whether you have physical or mental health issues. Find what works for you, find support, and I hope you find what you need.

What helps you when life gets too much? How do you recharge?
I wish you all peace of mind in these tough years.

The Simple Things that Lift your Spirit

Sometimes the small and simple things are the things that lift us,
and in times like these where many of us are in lockdown and
missing our normal lives, the simple things are often the big things.

The Simple Things that Lift your Spirit - The Last Krystallos

My anxiety has been sky high since this pandemic struck, and finally I’m feeling able to release some of the tension and allow myself to relax. The change in daily routine has been a struggle for me, routine gives me safety and order, and any change makes my brain spin out of control. So, in addition to health worries, stress over income and work, and those immediate alterations we’ve all had to deal with, my mind has been rushing about like a wild rabbit.

We’ve tried to keep as much of our lives as constant as we can, but we’re also embracing the situation to positively change things where necessity demands. And it’s the small things that are enabling this.

I’m missing walking my dog in the forest. Brechfa forest is ten minutes away, but we’re trying to adhere to the walk locally ethos without travel, so we’re revisiting some of the walks we used to do with Roxy. We’ve been walking Kira up in the solitude of the forest because she’s a rescue and because of her history she can’t deal with people, dogs, or cars. She’s relaxed, happy, and inquisitive on woodland paths, but as soon as you hit local streets with her she’s on high alert, nervous, and anxiety ridden, barking at every vehicle, person, and dog. It helps that the streets are more empty, and Sunday mornings are perfect, but walks can be an ordeal for her, so we’re trying different times and locations, in the hope to find the best conditions for her.

Blackthorn blossom and Primroses - The Last Krystallos

Blackthorn blossom and Primroses © Lisa Shambrook

When we’re out walking I’m noticing the beauty around mewildflowers pushing up through cracks in walls and pavement, forget-me-nots and violets spreading across verges, and spring primroses bringing sunshine to the roadside. Birdsong has increased, louder and more prevalent now there are fewer cars and people about. And, yes, I know we’re in lockdown, but the weather has blossomed just like the blackthorn hedgerows!

Walking, in itself, and exercise is something that helps lower anxiety, so finding calm walks helps us all. And talking of dogs, can you think of anything more simply beautiful than the love of a dog? When my anxiety spikes Kira is there to rub against me and love me, and when she’s anxious we scritch behind her ears and that softest of soft fur comforts both of us.

Lisa and Kira Brechfa and the softest soft fur - The Last Krystallos

Lisa and Kira Brechfa and the softest soft fur © Lisa Shambrook

I didn’t panic buy, just trying to keep to our usual routine, but I did buy extra chocolate. Like I said, the simple pleasures… We’ve made bread, chocolate-chip cookies, milkshakes, and hot chocolates.

I’m not a social being, I’m the archetypal introvert, but I have enjoyed messaging conversations with friends as we check up on each other, and social media has been both a blessing and a curse. It’s a wonderful way to keep up to date with the news and in touch with friends, and probably the only way I socialise, but the amount of misinformation that has been passed around is both stressful and frustrating. Add in a great deal of judgement and shaming, along with the constant link to the pandemic, and you have to know when to turn it off and get away.

Milkshake, Hot Chocolate and cookies - The Last Krystallos

Milkshake, Hot Chocolate and cookies © Lisa Shambrook

My favourite weekend was one where we turned off everything and marathon watched The Hobbit and then The Lord of the Rings – extended versions. It afforded me the luxury of escaping reality, of getting away and immersing myself in fantasy and beautiful cinematography. It made me stronger, happier, and more able to cope with current everyday life. The availability of entertainment, games, books, movies, and streaming services to watch has been a great escape for most of us, giving us time to leave reality behind for a few hours and fill our minds with something different.

The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings - The Last Krystallos

The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings © Lisa Shambrook

I have been playing with my crystals and bracelet beads, losing myself in the simple beauty and energies of crystals and rocks. I love the natural world and crystals fascinate me. My daughter even put together an anti-anxiety spell for me: salt for protection, rosemary for both protection and cleansing, sage for mental strength, and cloves to release negativity. Lavender and rose petals for peace and calm, amethyst to soothe emotions, and a sigil to be calm and clear headed, and sealed with the wax of a protective black candle. She also drew a tarot which fitted perfectly offering calm, peace, and renewed hope even in darkness and difficult and unexpected times. The simplicity of magic can be found when you need it.

Crystal Grid and Anti-anxiety Spell - The Last Krystallos

Crystal Grid and Anti-anxiety Spell © Lisa Shambrook

Time spent with my family, doing anything, binge watching TV, dog walking, playing board games, talking, or just general house tidying, is good! Fewer hours at work and outside commitments has let us lounge about in bed with lie-ins and extra sleep.

Maybe once this is all over and we try to return to normal, we’ll have learned that not everything is about money, the economy, or capitalism. That sometimes we need simplicity, time, and relaxation more than a twenty-four hour seven-day-a-week society. Spending time out, either alone, or with family, or friends is important, and if we can get out of a society that values cold hard cash and profit more than families, health, and humanity, maybe, just maybe, we can make life better and more rewarding – with the small and simple pleasures.

The small and simple things are, more often than not, the big things that matter.  

Rusty, Misty, and Raven…

Goodbyes are only for those who love with their eyes.
Because for those who love with heart and soul,
there is no such thing as separation – Rumi.

Rusty - ginger cat, Misty - grey cat, and Raven - black cat

Twenty-eight years ago, just after Vince and I got married, we rescued Rusty, a skinny five-month-old kitten, living wild under my in-laws’ garden shed. We took him home and discovered he was literally a week or so away from death. He had skinned pads on his paws, half a tail, and was severely malnourished. We loved him for twelve years. Four months after losing Rusty, we took our children to pick up Misty, a five-week-old grey kitten. At the farm, the farmer (inundated with cats and kittens) shrewdly placed the tiniest black kitten, Raven, of the same litter in my ten-year-old daughter’s hands. We went home with two cats. Last month and this month, after fifteen-and-a-half years, we said goodbye to both cats with heavy hearts.

We have been extremely blessed by all three cats, and as Charles Dickens said – What greater gift than the love of a cat. Cats love because they want to and when you have the love of a cat you truly have a gift.

I want to remember my cats and how their little paws have stamped themselves right into my heart.

four photos of Rusty ginger cat. ONe on bricks, one asleep on bed, one in a tree, one in snow.

Rusty © Lisa Shambrook

Rusty stole my heart, my little orange tiger, and my shadow. Wherever I went Rusty followed. He’d accompany me in the garden, sunning himself amongst the catmint while I gardened, he’d sit beside me as I wrote on my laptop pushing his head under my arm, and when my lap was empty he’d cuddle up on it.

Rusty was adorable, had the softest snow white and golden ginger fur, and the brightest amber and green eyes. He was the sweetest cat in the world, loving unconditionally like a puppy!

Rusty was also the clumsiest cat I’ve ever known, missing half his tail seemed to affect his balance and spacial awareness, making him a cat who’d jump up onto a table and knock everything off it in the process! He even got lost when we moved to Wales getting shut in a neighbour’s garage overnight. Then another time he disappeared and failed to come when he was called. We found him around the corner mewing piteously at a neighbour’s identical front door. He was my world when we had no other pets and a young family. He was gentle and playful and all the children adored him. He passed away at twelve-years-old after kidney failure from an infected cat bite.

It was April 2004, and I missed Rusty so bad that we decided to find another cat, and Vince knew a friend with a farm full of cats, and we went to collect Misty. The farmer was canny and when Raven was placed in Bekah’s hands there was no going back and one cat became two.

Though sisters, Misty and Raven were so different. Misty was grey and white like the early morning mist, and she purred quietly, was gentle, loved her food, and didn’t stray far from the house. Raven, as black and sleek as midnight, purred like a motorbike, was fierce, adventurous, and a true explorer. Misty loved bathing in the sun close to the house, probably so she could easily hear food being put out… and Raven would disappear for hours and hours, traipsing through the forests and coming back whenever she fancied.

four photos of Misty grey cat - one stretching on bed, one in a box, one with a daisy, one with pumpkin

Misty © Lisa Shambrook

Misty and Raven spent their whole lives ignoring each other, as siblings often do – you never found them together, they wouldn’t sleep on the same bed during the day, and up until their last year they hissed at each other whenever they met in the house! However, if one was in distress, they joined forces and fought for each other.

Raven got into trouble, a lot. She was tiny, skinny, and passionate, but she attracted trouble like a magnet, costing us hundreds in vet visits to treat the wounds she sustained from other neighbourhood cats. Misty would sit on our flat extension roof and when other cats came by with threats Raven would rock up and rescue her. As they got older though, more cats appeared in the locality and they found it harder to hold their own against the younger cats. A few years ago, a family of six cats showed up and ours found it hard. When Raven went missing for three days, and finally turned up stressed and perturbed, we decided to make them house cats. Misty accepted it easily, having never gone far from home, Raven though found it much harder, but it worked out and they became happy indoor cats.

four photos of Raven black cat - one curled up, one looking stately, one with a daisy, one with pumpkins

Raven © Lisa Shambrook

Misty slept with Cait, and Raven cuddled up to Bekah every night, enjoying the convenience of our beds and ignoring any cat beds we ever provided. When Bekah moved out Raven chose my bed, and stalked in every night after being fed. She’d sit on my pillow while Vince and I hugged, then she’d mew when she decided it was bed time, and push between us to claim the centre of the bed!

We now have our beds back to ourselves, and that’s probably when I miss them the most. It’s nice to cuddle my husband without interruption, but I used to love going to sleep with a warm furry body curled up against my shoulder.

When you needed a hug Misty and Raven would be there, snuggling close, pushing their head against you, purring and loving. After fifteen years their health mirrored each other and they slipped downhill with old age and common cat issues. Misty developed hyperthyroidism and then kidney failure, and Raven was thwarted by liver tumours, and they passed away within a month of each other.

Rusty - ginger cat, Misty - grey cat, and Raven - black cat

Rusty, Misty, Raven © Lisa Shambrook

Like I said, echoing Dickens, what greater gift than the love of a cat.
We had one of the greatest gifts, three times over.

To Rusty, Misty, and Raven…

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