Portraits of a cold climate

Approaching snowstorm

We took these photos in late March, in the mountains around Loch Tay.   I have chosen them for their colour, patterns and textures, and their overwhelming coldness.   Spring hasn't reached the uplands of Perthshire yet, but the landscape is still beautiful, even in the grip of ice.   (Click on any … [Read more...]

Skye’s ‘coral beach’

Claigan 11

Claigan Beach on Skye’s Vaternish peninsula is famous for its dazzling white sand... which is not sand at all, but a coralline deposit formed by a type of seaweed known as maërl. Unusually for a seaweed, maërl grows a hard outer skeleton by depositing lime in its cell walls, forming little … [Read more...]

Glen Lonan: ‘The Road of the Kings’

Glen Lonan (1)

If you’re travelling from the east of Scotland towards Oban, you’ll pass through the small village of Taynuilt before reaching Connel and then following the coastal road south. But if you have time, it’s worth taking a detour down a quiet glen that will transport you back to the era of Scotland’s … [Read more...]

Wildlife of the Caledonian forest

Crested tit Parus cristatus on dead branch Vastmanland Sweden

Following on from my feature on the Scots pine, I thought I'd take a look at five of the key wildlife species of the Caledonian forest.  My good friend, wildlife photographer Mike Read, has kindly allowed me to use some of his brilliant photos. Capercaillie    Tetrao urogallus There’s no mistaking … [Read more...]

Over the sea to…


I've been racking my brains to come up with a new quiz for you, and this one involves some travel by sea!   My questions are all focused on the beautiful islands that lie off Scotland's west coast. I realise that not all of my readers have a detailed knowledge of the geography or history of … [Read more...]

Iona: an island beyond words

Iona 6

This week I watched the last episode of Neil Oliver's excellent series 'The Sacred Wonders of Britain', and among the sites he chose to visit was the island of Iona. Iona is one of my very favourite places, and the atmosphere there is hard to describe.  'Tranquil' doesn't quite go far enough.   … [Read more...]

Killiecrankie: haunted by memories

Killiecrankie 6

A few miles to the north-west of Pitlochry is a beautiful glen known as the Pass of Killiecrankie.   Here, the River Garry flows through a steep-sided gorge, foaming and roaring between narrow straits and then broadening into a dark green ribbon fringed with woods of beech, birch, oak and hazel.In … [Read more...]

Dunkeld Cathedral: Scotland’s sacred heart

Dunkeld Cathedral

My first impression of Dunkeld's Cathedral of St Columba was on a cold day in late November, with the setting sun lengthening the shadows and frost already breathing its silent spell on the well-mown grass. Standing on the bank of the River Tay and surveying the Cathedral from the south, I … [Read more...]

Coming up in 2014…

Dunkeld Cathedral 28

A very Happy New Year to everyone! I'm looking forward to bringing you some new features on The Hazel Tree in 2014.   Among the first will be a visit to Dunkeld Cathedral (pictured above), but I have lots more ideas lined up, and plans for some visits to exciting places around Scotland that I just … [Read more...]

Light on the Lakes

Windermere, night-time by Chris Sansom (Nov 2013)

These photographs were taken by our son-in-law, Chris Sansom, when he and Verity spent a few days in the Lake District in early November. Chris was experimenting with long exposure, and I love the effects he has achieved with these images.   His daytime photos are of Derwent Water, while the … [Read more...]