It’s the ruggedly handsome island I’ve always daydreamed about. With a couple of days leave still left to take before Christmas, I decided to fulfil my romantic little reveries and book a long weekend over the sea to Skye.

I’m far from unique in my idealised vision of the island, which explains its brimming population every summer, when domestic and international visitors alike descend upon Skye to see its surrounding beau idéal for themselves.

High season runs from April to October, so our late November/early December trip was very off-peak – something people didn’t hesitate to warn me about before we went. Since my plans consisted of walks and seeing some iconic landscapes- while staying in a self-catered cottage – I wasn’t too bothered about this.

However, people were not over exaggerating when they said the island closes down over winter. Anywhere really outside of Portree or Uig (the main two towns) is completely dead – something we discovered on our last night when we thought we’d venture out for dinner, only to discover the only place open for miles (including back over the bridge to the mainland!) was ‘Taste of India’ in Kyleakin. It was lovely but didn’t necessarily fulfil my vision of a cosy, island restaurant experience!

Unfortunately for us our wee visit coincided with Storm Diana, so a lot of our outdoor adventures were accompanied by wind, rain and hail. To be fair, it’s Scotland in November so it’s to be expected, though obviously a visit during the dryer months might suit people who aren’t necessarily used to such meteorological factors. 

Here are some of the things we got up to during our two full days on Skye…

Fairy Pools

Through my incessant Instagram scrolling (no, you have a problem..) I’d seen so many amazing photographs of the Fairy Pools that I insisted they were the first thing we saw on Skye. Luckily the weather stayed clear enough for long enough that we were able to actually walk around them properly and enjoy them.

Even while experiencing the authentic Scottish weather of four seasons in one day (or rather, hour), these naturally-formed pools and waterfalls are so magical. In between the hail when the sun shone, the water was so clear and turquoise and I felt I could sit and watch them for hours. 

TOP TIP: if you’re visiting here in winter, do not be extremely optimistic like us – wear actual proper hiking boots or wellies. I had normal boots on while Dave had trainers, so we (yes, two man effort) had to squeeze his size 9 feet into my size 6 wellies I’d left stashed in the boot of the car. Prepare yo’ feet, readers. Also, the car park opposite was a fiver to get in to so remember cash!

                                                               The Quiraing

The weather was at its worst when we went to see The Quiraing on the north of the island, so even though we couldn’t do the walk (which is a loop of around 7km), it still looked pretty epic with the low hanging mist and cloud. 

The site is widely compared to Lord of the Rings scenery, and when we visited it definitely had a touch of Mordor. I’d love to come back in Spring/Summer and do the full loop. We only did the first kilometre maybe, but even then I was blown away by it  (metaphorically as well as almost physically.) 

                                                                Portree

We made a little pit stop here on our way back from The Quiraing. We only wandered around the centre a bit but we ate by the fire at The Antlers Bar and Grill (haggis bon bons: the best) we wandered down the main street (mostly gift shops!) and got some cake at Cafe Arriba which is a cute little upstairs cafe overlooking the sea. 

                                                      Eilean Donan castle

OK, so it’s not technically on Skye but it’s close enough…

As far as castles go, Eilean Donan in my (I suspect very mainstream) opinion is the king of them. Standing above the water about a 15 minute drive from the Skye bridge, it was lit up as we passed in the darkness and the sight gave me instant goosebumps. 

The castle itself is closed in the low season but you can still walk around it. I will certainly be back one summer to go inside!  

                                                                       Mhor 84

‘Cos you can’t have a North-West road trip without stopping here! My absolute favourite little spot just off the A84. This time we visited “Store 84” (the shop right next to the restaurant) for the first time, and it was filled with some amazing things so definitely worth popping your head in. 

                                         And finally, where we stayed… 

As an Air Bnb stalwart, we of course stayed in a little Air Bnb cottage. It was in Lower Breakish, which is about 15 minute drive from the bridge. It was right on the sea front and the space was just so gorgeous and secluded.

If you want to be closer to the ‘action’ (which is somewhat limited during winter on Skye but you get my drift) this was quite a long drive from most places (45 minutes to Portree and over an hour to The Quiraing on the north of the island.)

From what I hear from others who have visited, Uig and Portree seem to be the most popular places to stay, as you’re slightly more central/nearer to the big attractions. Since there wasn’t much going on while we were there anyway (and it was also mad weather) we were more than happy to make dinners in our wee cottage, drink mulled wine and sit by the fire! 

Skye, I’ll see you again soon! 

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Social media is one the biggest, shiniest and sharpest double-edged swords of our generation. While this is not by any means news to any of us, I’ve recently found myself pondering what happens when one of the positives – giving people a voice – takes a negative turn?

Love it as I do, I have one very major issue with Instagram.

In traditional print, broadcast and radio news, stories have to pass a fundamental test before they should ever be released to the general public. Before a story gets to see the light of day, news-gatherers ask the simple question: “Why are we saying it?”. Normally, if it’s judged that enough people will care, the news story is issued.

Instagram, and indeed a lot of blogging, blurs that line. While we’re constantly releasing information to the big wide cyber world, how often does anyone actually stop to ask “why” before hitting ‘post’? Too many times I’ve found myself watching stories of someone’s birthday night out or staring at photos of a stranger’s average at-best lunch and think …but who cares?

I apply this same standard to myself and sometimes catch myself uploading things before thinking… who is this actually for? It’s one of my big problems with this platform, and social media in general. Why do we all think we’re celebrities – and more importantly, why are we relentlessly enabling each other to continue buying into this misguided belief?

Instagram is extremely effective for getting big issues out into the virtual stratosphere, and I’ve consumed a lot of important information through it – from mental health to climate change. Thanks to Stacey Dooley’s recent documentary on fast fashion and its impact on the planet, over the last few weeks I’ve watched Instagram blow up with posts about sustainable wardrobes, no-spend Novembers and more.

Now – I think that documentary was amazing. As a total ASOS fiend (though to be fair, also Depop/Ebay-er and occasional charity shop dweller), it really struck a chord with me in terms of how utterly thoughtless our actions have been to the planet we live on. The reason I listened to it with such interest and respected it in the way I did was because it was presented as facts, without arrogance or aggression.

I applaud the passionate people of this world. I am one of them. But I know from experience the passion I feel about certain things, for example feminism, climate change, and some of my political beliefs – has in the past caused me to speak in ways that have been less than effective. Telling people they are [insert disparaging comment here] for example, or called them [insert rude words]. It’s taken reflection on my part, and patient words from others (…Dave) to explain that people aren’t as willing to listen to your view point when you’re pointing a big fat finger of blame at them.

So while I acknowledge that this new trend of preachy posts telling everyone to stop buying fast fashion come from a good place, for me they somewhat miss the mark and I find them unbearably smug and grating. Posting endless stories and Dostoevsky-length captions about how right you are and how wrong everyone else is, are not likely to achieve the desired effect.

After all, are you more likely to do something when a person shouts in your face, or when they explain why it matters to more people than simply you?

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Since I have a body temperature akin to a Cullen, I’m always a fan of summer and its various draws. Sitting outside sans jacket, for example. And the green card it gives you to day drink at any given, sunny opportunity.

But despite these delicious benefits (and my circulatory shortcomings), it’s the cold seasons that really have my heart. Autumn for me is filled with a very unique kind of excitement. The smell of it. The slight edge in the air. Crisp mornings. The sight of your breath. Rosy cheeks. The glorification of hot drinks. Steamed up windows. Log fires.

But among the plethora of reasons fuelling my lifelong love affair with Autumn, is, of course, the wardrobe opportunities.

Here’s what I wanna be wearing this Autumn…..

 

Coloured textured coat

Let’s face it, Zara hits the spot when it comes to most trends. But it’s well known that their coats run the show when it comes to A/W. And it looks like they have excelled themselves this season. This textured burgundy number is on my hit list come pay day…

 

 

New knits

Cards on the table, hoarding knitwear is one of my particular fortes. A strong suit, of sorts. Come to my flat and you’ll easily find piles of jumpers in drawers, piled up in wardrobe(s), on the floor, on me…. (though not in my oven, comme SATC’s Carrie, as that whole thing was, quite frankly, offensive.) Anyway, you get the jist. I just can’t get enough.

But obviously I still have to keep buying them, ‘cos #logic. I bought this little beauty from ASOS recently, and another very similar one in white.

 

 

Pointed black chelsea boots

 

I’d be fascinated to know the science behind the Black Boot obsession that seems to encompass women across the age spectrum. Similar to my fond feelings for knits, I must own about 7 pairs of black boots.  And I am constantly on the look-out for more. Currently I’m fantasising about the perfect pair of heeled Chelseas – and these cowgirl-esque beauties from & Other Stories are a big object of desire.

Oversized patterned scarf

I’m a sucker for a scarf. Always have been, always will be. I find them to be a great adult replacement for the security blanket of toddler-hood. You’ll know by this far down in the post I am a complete winter accessories hoarder so it’ll come as little surprise that I already own several suitcases worth of scarves. But I’d still like to get my paws on this My Accessories (via ASOS) number.

Vampy lipstick

Nothing says Autumn like a slick of dark lippy. MAC, Queen of lipsticks, have a gorgeous blue-based red called ‘Sin’. And quite frankly I need it in my life this A/W.

 

Beanie

Beanie there, done that… Still not satisfied. The ex ski-seasonnaire in me lives on in my favourite headwear of this time of year. I’ve taken to stealing the boy’s Carhartt hat, but will be investing in my own this Autumn to add to the collection.

Shaggy cardigan

This season I’ve got an unrestrained desire to channel my inner Big Bird. Shaggy cardigans have come a long way since gracing the back of Pat Butcher. Pair this & Other Stories number with an understated t-shirt, jeans and converse and you’ve got yourself the best Autumnal outfit for the least amount of effort. Ta-da!

 

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I’ve lived in this city for four years now, so am officially declaring myself a stalwart of Edinburgh culture – a large chunk of which is defined by the annual frenzy that descends on the capital come August. That’s right readers, Fringe season is almost upon us.

I absolutely love the festival. I love the way Edinburgh comes alive with weird and wonderful people, acts, shows and events for a whole 3 weeks.

Trying to get anywhere in a hurry during that time though? Nat so much.

With this in mind, I’ve put together a survival guide for any new Edinburghers experiencing their first Festival living in the city. Here are my 9 snippets of humble Fringe wisdom.

1. Do not take the bus anywhere.

Seriously. During the Fringe the population of Edinburgh doubles – as a result, some aspects of our travel infrastructure are affected. Basically, get on a bus in central Edinburgh in August and expect to be there for a loooong time. Pigeons overtake you (seen with my own eyes). My suggestion would be to walk and soak up the atmosphere. Granted, power walking isn’t likely to be effective with the amount of dawdlers around, but the bus is the same or worse, and you end up in a bad mood. Best avoided.

2. Be organised (but not too organised.)

It’s easy to be complacent when you live here, but there are too many good shows I’ve missed from thinking I’ll get round to booking it – cue, the festival ends and I’ve seen nothing. The half price hut, normally located outside the Scottish National Gallery, is a good compromise for last minute Larrys, and the app is worth downloading to keep track of it all too. But the festival is also all about spontaneity too, so don’t go too hard on the old organised fun.

3. Have at least one big night out.

The festival license means places stay open at least two hours longer than usual (so 5am in some cases), and a lot more cool venues are available to check out, so make the most of it!

4. Be prepared to queue. Everywhere.

That’s all I’ve got to say about that one really. Maybe don’t turn up to a show with minutes to spare?

5. Take an umbrella.

Even if it starts off sunny, remember: we are in Scotland. And there isn’t anything much more miserable than standing in said queues in the pouring rain. It happened to me circa 2007 and I’m not sure I’ve ever fully recovered.

6. And a hoodie.

You spend a lot of time outdoors during the festival and while it’s summer, again, we are in Scotland and once that sun goes down, the temperature takes a nose dive. So take something warm if you know you’re going to be sitting in one of the festival’s many outdoor areas!

7. Cash up.

Although a lot of the shows are free, it’s courtesy to leave a fiver in their tips collection at the end. Also some food and drink stalls don’t take card – and you cannot festival without beer and street food. Catching ubers can also be pretty extortionate (and slow – see point 1), so in case you need to grab an old-school cab, best to have a non-plastic form of payment on you.

8. Do NOT get over-excited when you see a celebrity.

After one too many drinks in the Gilded Balloon, I came face to face with a well-known comedian. And, er, told him who he was. He looked at me scathingly, muttered “fir fuck sake” and turned his back on me. Three years later, I still cringe every time I think of this. Stay cool out there, people.

9. Explore outside the city.

If it all gets too much, remember Edinburgh ain’t the only Fringe in town. North Berwick hosts Fringe By the Sea every year, which has music, food and drink, can be a welcome break from the assault of the Royal Mile. It’s a really arty community there and has a pretty chilled out vibe for days when you still wanna soak up some culture but cba with being in the city.

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Birthdays in your late twenties are kind of weird. While I still enjoy them, I feel like every year brings with it an added pressure to be doing more with your life: this year’s not-so-gentle reminder to achieve. This feeling is, I accept, a result of bowing down to certain outdated social pressures whose threads, though increasingly fragile, remain intact. Like big, unwelcome cobwebs.

When are you going to do all those things you thought you would ten years ago, they whisper.

Who cares you have all those things we said you should have – a stable job, a boyfriend, a mortgage? You still haven’t cartwheeled across a beach in Costa Rica, or volunteered at a husky farm in Finland, they say.

You haven’t learned to surf (and what’s further, surf while the sun sets on an empty beach in Paraguay?). You haven’t walked the Brooklyn Bridge and you haven’t gone to live in Paris for a year like your 16 your old self said she would.

And what does life even MEAN, these cobwebs say, if you haven’t done everything you wanted?

And then there’s the loudest whisper. Quiet, but insistant.

“Life is passing you by.”

You’re not getting any younger, you’re reminded. If you still want kids in a few years you better get a shift on… Time waits for no-one, and you still haven’t done it all…

So in light of my recent 28th birthday on this big old planet, here are as many lessons I’ve learned so far along this winding, beautiful, pain in the arse, breathtaking, gorgeous, painful, exhilarating road of life. When I’m experiencing that Great Millennial Affliction of not being “enough”, or “having it all”, I offer myself the following advice:

  1. You’re here. And as long as you’re here, you’re still in the game.
  2. What you have done, you’ve done for a reason. It was your priority at the time, and it’ll stand you in good stead for whatever choices you make down the line.
  3. What’s for you won’t go by you. You want something enough and you’ll make it happen.
  4. No-one else is you. You are your USP. Use it.
  5. Never compare yourself to others. They don’t have what you do – not the other way round.
  6. Choose your friends wisely. Good ones are surprisingly hard to find, but you’ll know them by the way they bring you up, not pull you down.
  7. On that same token, distance yourself from toxic people. If they’re all about the drama and less about the substance, they’re never gonna be there for you when you need it – factoid.
  8. Be kind to others. You don’t always know what people are going through.
  9. Life is about compromise. Nobody Has It All. Including you. Choose the things that are the most important, and the rest will fall into place.
  10. Nobody else is having an easy ride while you’re struggling. Everyone’s facing some kind of battle – try not to be a martyr.
  11. It’s OK not to be OK. Seek help when you need it. Silence is a killer and taboo is outdated.
  12. Mistakes happen. Learn from them and do not beat yourself up.
  13. Question things. If you don’t agree – say so. You matter.
  14. Let people in.
  15. (But make sure they’re the right people.)
  16. ‘What if’ are two words that will kill you. Unleash your inner ABBA and take a chance on life.
  17. Get a kitten.
  18. You can’t appreciate travel without somewhere to come home to.
  19. Be the ‘yes gal’ as often as is responsible. It’ll lead you on many adventures. If not, it’ll give you stories.
  20. Don’t ever care what people think of you. It’s not about them.
  21. Don’t dwell on what you haven’t yet done. Celebrate the things you have (and there are plenty.)
  22. Practice patience. It can get you to all sorts of places.
  23. Don’t run away with the idea of something. It almost never lives up to the reality. Living in a world of unreachable ideas is the key to heartbreak. Keep your mind open and keep it real.
  24. It’s OK to be a dreamer but don’t distance yourself from reality, or the people who are right in front of you.
  25. Listening to classic road trip playlists can lift your mood massively.
  26. Knowledge is power – soak that shit up and you’ll be so much more prepared to take life on.
  27. Just like how you make mistakes, so do other people. Forgive.
  28. This is one I’m still working on but believing in yourself is paramount to living a fuller life. (Enter R. Kelly, stage left.)
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Despite visiting this wonderful city already aged 18, my memories of it have become somewhat hazy over the years. So when my friend chose Madrid as the setting for her hen do, I was excited to get to explore it again and refresh my memories of a decade earlier.

So even though we were only in the city for one full day, I thought I’d do a little blog post on the highlights of our gals mini break – which both my head and stomach muscles are still recovering from.

Sipping sangria in a sunny square

This was about as much on point as my alliteration efforts. Honestly, I know it’s said often but sometimes the small, simple things really are just the best. Exploring and doing that walking thing is fine and everything but really, sometimes you just cannot beat cold sangria, awesome friends – old and new! – sunshine and people watching in the beautiful Plaza Mayor square.

Traditional tapas

It’s surprisingly difficult sometimes to secure that dreamy recipe of good food, good company and good surroundings. But our second night in Madrid impressively nailed all three. We feasted on tapas delights which included (from what I remember) battered and fried courgette, chorizo of an actual butter-like consistency (don’t ask me the name), ham croquettes, Spanish tortilla, calamari and many many many other dishes.

Despite neither party’s ability to speak the other’s language, the waiters were absolutely hilarious. The manager provided us with fizz and a variety of liqueurs on the house before conducting an impromptu lock-in until after midnight when we moved onto our next venue (see below!).

If you’re ever in Madrid and want great food, friendly staff, authentic Spanish surroundings and – importantly – very reasonable priced and tasty Shiraz, would highly recommend El Anciano Rey de los Vinos.

Rooftop terrace bar

Being from Scotland, rooftop terrace bars will never lose their novelty. Being able to drink outside at night and not shiver your tatas off? Yes please. We headed to El Viajero and drunk gin, talked nonsense, made videos for my friend’s fiance to drunkenly express our gratitude to him for buying us the first round of drinks and generally had an absolutely excellent time. 10/10, would recommend.

The converted convent

…i.e., our accommodation. Some people hold the view that Air Bnbs/city break accommodation in general isn’t that important but I am v. snobby when it comes to my Air Bnb choices. So you can imagine how relieved/impressed I was that the maid of honour absolutely nailed it with the accom. We stayed in a beautiful two-storey converted convent which was modernised but with traditional features (think sparkly white kitchen ft. original exposed brickwork and heavy ceiling beams.)

And finally… all the cheese.

Ok so this isn’t a PARTICULAR anomaly for me but I do feel that the quality of the Madrid manchego was bloody amazing – to the point that the various blocks of cheese we bought at the local mercado served 8 of us for pre-dinner snacks, after-club munchies and breakfast both days. And there was some left over when we left. Because everyone knows if you’re abroad, “clean eating” can actually gtf.

So even though we arrived Friday evening and left Sunday morning, I felt like even this brief re-encounter with this beautiful city, its beautiful food and all the beautiful girls I was with made it one of the best weekends I’ve had in a ridiculously long time. Gracias, Madrid!

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There have been a few choices I’ve made in my life which, in retrospect, weren’t my wisest. Dying my hair black in secondary school was a big one. Taking a pair of heels with me the first time I went backpacking aged 18 was another (yes, they sat at the bottom of my bag for 4 weeks and no, I did not wear them once.) Going out for “a few” the night before a 5am flight also ranks up there in the Poor Judgement category, among many, many other bad life decisions which aren’t *quite* as suitable for public consumption.

But despite these fairly regular lapses, I’ve made a few conscious decisions which I’ll never regret. Here are a five of the most important ones I’ve made in the past few years.

Chasing travel

After graduating from university, I wasn’t interested in chasing any kind of ‘career’ job. I wanted to work for the sole purpose of earning money so I could go away. And yes, clearing tables and pulling pints while friends and fellow classmates were migrating to the big cities in the pursuit of degree justification was sometimes tough – but I am so, so glad that I stuck to my guns. It was all part of a bigger plan I had for myself.

I lived at home and saved for months before going off on two consecutive ski seasons in Europe and travelling South America. It sounds like a cliche but there’s nothing like throwing yourself out of your comfort zone, meeting different people and being exposed to environments at complete odds to your own to shape your outlook.

Although I’m in less of a flexible position now to travel for as long periods at a time, I try to make up for this by exploring new places as often as possible. I would love next year though to move abroad somewhere for a year or so.

Signing up for my Masters degree

During my last few months of uni, I had such a crappy time that I vowed I’d never take another academic exam again. Which of course is easy to say fresh out of graduation but alas, two years later and no relevant-to-degree job offers in sight, I realised if I ever wanted to earn a decent salary and use my skills at the same time, I’d have to face that return to uni fear.

Despite the fact it set me back all of my savings at the time, and I’ll be paying the debt off for another few years (possibly even decades…), it was a decision that had a hugely positive impact on my life. Yes, I was poor as hell for about 2 years, stressed out much of the time and exhausted from working various jobs to pay my way – but I made some brilliant pals, had some hilarious (er, and educational) experiences – and of course it got me my current job in writing, which was always the end goal.

Saying ‘yes’

I would probably call myself a confident introvert. This means that although I’m outgoing and confident, I really relish time on my own or I feel drained. This meant that a lot of the time when I was younger, I avoided certain social situations because I’d rather hang out in my comfort zone, doing ‘me’ things and ignoring the outside world when I wanted to.

But, like going to the gym, I realised that actually, the thought of the thing is not as bad as the thing itself. In fact, the thing itself can sometimes be really good fun. I think I made excuses for why I couldn’t do things too much of the time, instead of just going for it and taking part in experiences and opportunities that may never come my way again.

As a blogger, I’m invited to loads of different, exciting new things and this has become something I look forward to and embrace rather than finding excuses for. #Whoknew?

Conforming to my inner ‘adult’

The concept of having a steady job, paying a mortgage, maintaining a relationship and still somehow enjoying life used to baffle me. It all sounded so suffocating and restricting – and to be totally honest, occasionally I still feel like that.

But I’ve now come to see that for me, the pros far outweigh the cons. In some ways, having all the things I once thought would suffocate me in fact gives me more freedom than ever. My job gives me a regular salary, which allows me to plan my future better than I ever could before. Owning a house means I can do whatever the hell I want with it, creating an environment that I love (hello neon signs), and being in a relationship with the right person allows me the added confidence of not only accepting myself, but having someone else celebrate exactly who I am too.

And yes, ‘adulting’ can sometimes be shit – I still occasionally crave those heady uni days of random day drinking, slothing in pyjamas dissecting the night before, drinking jagerbombs mid week and living on money you didn’t *really* have.

But nothing beats that feeling of having control of your life, supporting yourself and laying your own path.

Flicking my comfort zone the finger (oo-er)

Three years ago, I applied for an internship in Turin, Italy, working in the Communications department of an EU agency. I applied not really thinking I’d get it, and about 10 days later I’d rented my room in Edinburgh out, said bye to my (at the time) new-ish boyfriend and gone to live in a country where I knew nobody, was living with strangers and didn’t speak the language.

Was it intimidating? Yes. Did I sometimes want to cry? Frequently. Was it worth it? Absolutely.

To be honest, I found the first half of my time there really really tough. I was struggling a lot with low mood and felt completely isolated. I missed my friends and boyfriend at home and felt stressed out by the uni course I was also juggling. Writing a dissertation and studying for exams while working full time is no joke let me tell you – and I was a childless, effectively single woman with no social life at this point so big cheers to the parents out there who somehow manage this!

Anyway, I got through it, and those 3 months remain some of the most important in my life. They showed me the power of determination, motivation, inner strength, independence and the life-affirming rewards you get from stepping completely out of your comfort zone and proving to yourself you can and you will.

 

As far as I’m concerned, making bad decisions is a vital component in being able to recognise the good ones. As long as you’re trying stuff out you’re nailing it. So get going and decide what that future of yours is gonna hold…

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