Category Archives: Happiness

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?

When Darkness Falls – the Midnight Hour

What is your favourite time of the day?
Is it dawn with the light of a new day,
or the gloaming twilight and the indigo blanket
that sweeps across the sky bringing night?

When Darkness Falls - The Midnight Hour - The Last Krystallos
I love the night, the dark, the stars, and the romance of the cloak that night draws over us as dusk trails into starlight. I’ve always loved the dark, the late autumn evenings moving into the dark, cosy nights of winter have always brought me comfort. Maybe it’s because I like to hide away, maybe because I’m a night owl, maybe it’s just because I’m a stargazer and a dreamer…

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

© Lisa Shambrook

Just as some love the break of dawn and a new day, I love the closing of the day, its end and a time to snuggle down and sleep.

I wonder if the time of day we like the most says something about us? Perhaps those who love the sunrise and a new morning are more positive and forward thinking. Maybe those who love midday love the hustle and bustle of a lively world and enjoy being in the present. Maybe those of us who adore the quiet, solitary hours in the middle of the night are perhaps reminiscent, not negative, but maybe we dwell a little too long on the past? There might be nothing in my pseudo-psychology, but I know I might enjoy the night a little more as a dreamer.

Memory - Midnight - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

I was recently listening to Memory the song from the musical Cats and it never fails to make me cry. My throat tightens and my eyes are wet every time the words fill my soul. I remember the song from my childhood, one of those classics that stay with you forever, like On My Own from Les Miserables. Memory is so evocative, so real, so heartfelt, and so lonely, and I relate with every fibre of my being. I have spent too many nights standing beneath the moon in the early hours…

On My Own - Midnight - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

But, the night brings so much more than just memories…

It brings stars, searching out Orion as a child with my dad, teaching my children about the constellations, watching the Perseids meteor showers, and gazing at the ISS – International Space Station as it moves overhead like a single-minded shooting star.

It brings safety, home, and nights cuddled up with my family.

It brings solace after a tough day.

It brings late nights out and excitement at being out when others have gone to bed.

It brings rest, sleep, and relief, and dreams.

It brings love.

It brings silence, and introspection, imagination, and inspiration. I get some of my best ideas, clarity, and moments of sheer genius late, late at night. The early, early hours are when plot holes fix themselves, characters decide what they want to do, and endings of novels are resolved.

Stargazer Lisa The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

I love the night, the stars, its encompassing darkness, and the velvet night sky.

What is your favourite time of the day, and why do you love it?  

At midnight, in the month of June, I stand beneath the mystic moon. Edgar Allen Poe - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

The Power of Letting Go and Finding Joy

Sometimes the hardest thing you will ever need to do is to let go…

The Power of Letting Go and Finding Joy - The Last Krystallos

I have lived a life of clutter, of clinging on, of holding onto things that are no longer important. I’ve been attached to physical items for much longer than they were fruitful, and I’ve spent time in my life living in the past. How long have we lived amongst things that have outlived their value, or people and relationships that have become toxic, or stayed connected to past events that no longer benefit us, or remained within groups and communities that no longer make us happy?

A few years ago it became very popular to embrace minimalism, to clear out your clutter, to live with fewer material possessions. Books were published helping us declutter, to purge the objects that no longer satisfied us, and remove the distractions that stopped us being happy.

Back in 2014 Marie Kondo released her book: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying: A simple, effective way to banish clutter forever, and offered a solution. She told us to ask ourselves when looking at the things that surround us, “Does this object spark joy?”

Surely, this question is one we should ask ourselves in most aspects of life. There will always be things we have to do that don’t make us happy or spark joy, we have to work for a living, and we cannot remove all the negative or problems from our lives. But when there are things we can change we should create as much joy in our lives as we can. I don’t want to live my life missing out on happiness, fun, and joy.

Sometimes, letting go means releasing things that were once important – if they still are, you_ll find them again - Lisa Shambrook - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Oprah Winfrey explained, “I define joy as a sustained sense of well-being and internal peace – a connection to what matters.”

What matters to you?

I am moving forward after years of severe depression and moments of psychosis, and allowing myself to let go. I am slowly progressing through my home removing things that no longer hold emotional value and if they don’t spark joy, they will go. I am re-evaluating, working out what makes me happy and what doesn’t. There are things that are important to me, yet they have brought me great sadness rather than the joy they should. Sometimes, letting go means releasing things that were once important – if they still are, you’ll find them again. I’m going back to basics in many ways, in an attempt to remove the negativity in my life and replace it with positivity and joy.

I’m learning to let go.

Frozen The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Have you ever ditched something from your life which has made you infinitely happier?

How easy do you find letting go?

Acceptance, Courage, and Wisdom – Living without Guilt

If there’s one thing I will take into the New Year – 2018 – it’s living positively,
and to do that convincingly I am doing away with internal judgement and guilt.

Acceptance, Courage, and Wisdom - Living without Guilt - The Last Krystallos

Not only are we quick to judge one another, but we do it to ourselves all the time and it piles on the guilt. We have to appreciate that we are human beings and we have limitations. We can do all we can, but then we have to know that we can do no more and not sink into a pit of guilt. That metaphor is real, guilt is a pit. It’s a pit of sludge that weighs us down and sticks and stops us from climbing out.

I beat myself up about what I cannot do, and I persuade myself that others are judging me on my flaws and failings. None of us are perfect, none of us are meant to be.

We are all creatures that struggle and rise and fall, and need support, compassion, understanding, and love. Practise those same tenets on yourself too.


© Lisa Shambrook

The Prayer of Serenity was written for all of us, whether you believe God gives you power or you find your power from within, this plea is for all: God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference – Reinhold Niebuhr.

Let us practise love and acceptance from within and without. I know that when I struggle I’m not the only one, others around me are struggling too. If we could remember that when we think of others, even when we feel hurt or betrayed, we will be better, kinder, gentler people. I wrote recently about Being Kind, and it truly is the way to be, the only way to be. If we can be kind to those around us we can be kind to ourselves.

I wish as human beings we could live as the twelfth Doctor recently prescribed: Never be cruel, never be cowardly, and never, ever eat pears! Remember, hate is always foolish, and love is always wise. Laugh Hard, Run Fast, Be Kind. OK, pears are fine, sorry Ten, really they are, but the rest – yes.

Always – Be Kind – within and without.


Being Kind – World Kindness Day

November 13th will be World Kindness Day –
How will you be kind-hearted the whole year through?

World Kindness Day - Be Kind - 2017 - The Last Krystallos

I wrote about how Kindness is the recipe for keeping romantic relationships alive, The Most Valuable Way to a Happy and Successful Relationship, and it appears it is perhaps one of the best ways to be happy in all our relationships – whether they are life-long or just passing.

Kind words are easy to speak - Mother Theresa - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

In Charles Kingsley’s tale of the Water-babies, Mrs Do-As-You-Would-be-Done-By was a lovely lady who treated the babies as she wished to be treated, with unconditional love and treats. In contrast, Mrs Be-Done-By-As-You-Did was hard and sharp and treated the babies as they treated others, until they learned the lesson of treating others well. Which would you prefer to have around?

We have turned into a society of people who wish to do whatever we want without consequences and that includes how we treat those around us. We need to reassess our ethics. We can fight for and rise to catch our dreams, we can work to succeed, and we can push ourselves, but we don’t need to do it at the expense of others. We can fight to help others reach their potential, help them to succeed, and support those who need it. We can work together, and kindness and compassion are paramount to achieving that.


© Lisa Shambrook

Kindness is a base response, it’s automatic, it’s a default we should all have.

Kindness doesn’t need explaining. If you ask any child, especially small children, how you should treat others they will almost always say with kindness. Be kind. If they get it, why don’t we?

Kindness covers so many things – when you search the thesaurus you come up with a plethora of words, including:  affection – altruism – benevolence – courtesy – decency – compassion – gentleness – goodwill – goodness – grace – graciousness – hospitality – humanity – patience – sweetness – sympathy – tenderness – tolerance – understanding – unselfishness – charity – consideration – heart – helpfulness – kindliness – philanthropy – tact – thoughtfulness.

Let’s allow our hearts to pick one of these words, one of these qualities, and put it into action in our lives…


© Lisa Shambrook

Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word,
a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring,
all of which have the potential to turn a life around.
– Leo Buscaglia

What are you going to do today…and tomorrow?
Make Kindness your built-in default.

Light Up Your Life – Be a Star

How do we deal with darkness and light in our lives?

Light Up Your Life - Be a Star - The Last Krystallos

Terry Pratchett in Reaper Man wrote: ‘Light thinks it travels faster than anything but it is wrong. No matter how fast light travels, it finds the darkness has always got there first, and is waiting for it.’

…but I agree with Robert D. Hales that ‘Light dispels darkness. When light is present, darkness is vanquished and must depart. More importantly, darkness cannot conquer light unless the light is diminished or departs.’

Moreover, Teal Swan tells us: ‘There is no source of darkness in this universe. There is only the presence of light and the absence of light. Darkness does not exist; it only appears to exist. In truth, it is only the absence of light.’

Both Light and Dark - J. K. Rowling - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

However you choose to deal with the two elements, they will touch your life. The old Indian legend: There are two wolves who are always fighting. One is darkness and despair. The other is light and hope. The question is: which wolf wins? The one you feed. Offers the best insight into how we should deal with them.

I often feel, though, that darkness has been given a bad narrative, I like the dark. I love winter and its cosy early nights, I love being out beneath the stars, and sliding beneath a warm duvet to sleep in the pitch black is heavenly. I’m more comfortable with dark colours, earthy tones, and have a black cat. The dark has its place, without it our internal clocks would go crazy, and so would we!

We need the dark to appreciate the light. Like all opposites, without it life would be dull and unrewarding. Even if we use symbolic darkness, we still need sadness, despair, pain, and trials to know and love happiness, joy, good health, and fulfilment.

Stars can't shine without darkness - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

And after all: Stars can’t shine without darkness…

We’ve all been through dark times and, generally, come out the other side better people. The light at the end of the proverbial tunnel is most welcome. Darkness gives us the opportunity to grasp light and embrace it. Eleanor Roosevelt said: ‘It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness…’ Light your candle and let your light shine.

I’ve written before on who we are, and we’re all a mixture of light and dark, but it would be good to allow our sparkle to shine. We can be positive, happy, and bright, and shine like stars.

Dance until the stars fall from the sky and fill your hair with sparkle and light - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

We are an intrinsic part of this universe, whether you feel it spiritually or physically. In Cosmos, Carl Sagan tells us: ‘The nitrogen in our DNA, the calcium in our teeth, the iron in our blood, the carbon in our apple pies were made in the interiors of collapsing stars. We are made of starstuff.’ We are made with the same atoms, molecules, and particles as stars… Think about that for a moment. In fact, this quote from sci-fi writer Doris Lessing enchants me: ‘We are all creatures of the stars and their forces, they make us, we make them, we are part of a dance from which we by no means and not ever may consider ourselves separate.’  So, let’s shine like them.

How do you see yourself? Are you made from the same stuff as stars? Whether you believe in Deity, Humanism, Atheism, or you are just Agnostic, DNA and the science of genetics is undeniable. However we dress it up we are created, made, formed with interstellar dust!

And whenever I talk about dust I am pulled right back into Lyra’s world in Philip Pullman’s: His Dark Materials… I won’t give away what Dust is, but it is integral to consciousness. Go read the books…

Light is a fluid of sunbeams - At-Tunikhi - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

So, light and dark, particles, DNA, and dust, interstellar stardust, are part of us. When we feel dark, or lost in the shadows, we can light the way. Light lives within us, and we can emit it without even thinking. Imagine what we can do if we choose to? ‘To be a star you must follow your own light, follow your own path, and never fear the darkness for that is when the stars shine their brightest.’

Shinesparkle, glitter, effervesce, shimmer, and glow with the light that lives within you.

Light replaces darkness - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Find your path, join your constellation, follow your dreams…
Know that when darkness falls it will always be replaced by light.

‘Though my soul may set in darkness, it will rise in perfect light;
I have loved the stars too fondly to be fearful of the night.’
– Sarah Williams, Twilight Hours: A Legacy of Verse

Loving Autumn…

Autumn is the season that inspires me a season of falling autumn leaves, woollies, hats and gloves, boots, hot chocolate and autumn tone jewellery, cosy cats, apples, acorns, conkers, Halloween and pumpkins, candles, toadstools, and autumn colours of bronze, brown, red, amber, yellow, silver, and gold. 

Loving Autumn - The Last Krystallos

What do you love about Autumn?

Loving Autumn - Yellow Leaves Acorns - The Last Krystallos

Yellow Leaves – Oak and Acorn and Acer © Lisa Shambrook

The leaves fall patiently, Nothing remembers or grieves,
the river takes to the sea, the yellow drift of leaves.
– Sara Teasdale

Loving Autumn - Winter Woollies Boots - The Last Krystallos

Woollies and Sweaters and Boots © Lisa Shambrook

Fallen leaves are autumn’s equivalent to snow – they bring out the child in you. 
– Anon

Loving Autumn - Hot Chocolate Jewellery - The Last Krystallos

Hot Chocolate and Autumn Jewels © Lisa Shambrook

The morns are meeker than they were, the nuts are getting brown;
the berry’s cheek is plumper, the rose is out of town.
The maple wears a gayer scarf, the field a scarlet gown.
Lest I should be old-fashioned, I’ll put a trinket on.
– Emily Dickinson (Nature 27 – Autumn)

Loving Autumn - Cosy Cats - The Last Krystallos

Cosy Cats © Lisa Shambrook

Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it,
and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns.
– George Eliot

Loving Autumn - Fruits Acorns Conkers Apples - The Last Krystallos

Apples – Acorns – Conkers © Lisa Shambrook

A few days ago I walked along the edge of the lake and was treated to the crunch and rustle of leaves with each step I made.  The acoustics of this season are different and all sounds, no matter how hushed, are as crisp as autumn air.
– Eric Sloan

Loving Autumn - Halloween Candles Colours - The Last Krystallos

Halloween – Candles – Autumn Colours © Lisa Shambrook

Colors burst in wild explosions, fiery, flaming shades of fall.
All in accord with my pounding heart, behold the autumn-weaver,
in bronze and yellow dying. Colors unfold into dreams,
in hordes of a thousand and one.
The bleeding, unwearing their masks to the last notes of summer.
Their flutes and horns in nightly swarming. Colors burst within.
Spare me those unending fires, bestowed upon the flaming shades of fall…
– Dark Tranquility (With the Flaming Shades of Fall)

Loving - Autumn Toadstools - The Last Krystallos

Toadstools © Lisa Shambrook

Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.
– Albert Camus

What are you loving this autumn?

Visiting Scotland – What we saw in the Scottish Highlands

So, this is the – very long – 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 – The Last Krystallos – © 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

Where In The World Would You Live? The Scottish Highlands

If you could live anywhere in the world –
with money no object – where would you live?

Since I was young, my answer was always Canada, but that just changed! We spent a week in the Scottish Highlands, and for the first time on holiday we didn’t want to come home. I grew up in Sussex, with the rolling Downs behind us and the seaside in front, and it was beautiful. Then we moved to West Wales and I fell in love with the ocean, woodlands, and craggy hills and mountains, and it’s gorgeous. But Scotland with its lochs and mountains is just another world altogether.

It took less than a week to become irrevocably captivated and enchanted by this mysterious land. Scotland, and its Highlands, is a place where the world stops, where you can be enveloped in nature, swathed by mist and then glorious sunshine, where green is the most verdant you’ve ever seen, and mountains rise from purple heather laden fells. A place where the ocean dances in the jewel tones of amazonite, adventurine, turquoise, apatite, and then sodalite. A place where magic reigns.

Grey Mares Tail Waterfall - Ocean Cave near Wick - Wick Ocean - Loch and Forest near Altnaharra © Lisa Shambrook

Grey Mare’s Tail Waterfall – Ocean Cave near Wick – Wick Ocean – Loch and Forest near Altnaharra © Lisa Shambrook

If you could live anywhere at all – where would it be and why?

Next week, I’ll treat you to the sights we saw in the beautiful Scottish Highlands…