West Coasting

13 June 2016
Ben Pentreath

We’ve just got back from a wonderful, happy few days North.

We called in on the way up with our friend Issy in the Scottish Borders.  Heaven.P1000692

June feels like May in Scotland.  Spring lasts a long time.  Just as Dorset is turning into that drowsy, dusty darker green of high summer, Scotland still feels fresh and bright and cow parsley overflows in the hedgerows.P1000694 P1000697

Issy and Piers were about to leave on holiday themselves so to get out of their hair we went exploring. Floors Castle has a beautiful walled garden.P1000706 P1000707 P1000724 P1000730

The greenhouses are heated and were growing nearly ripe grapes and peaches.P1000731 P1000736

No photography in the house but I adored this interior of the 19th or early 20th century porte-cochere in stone and limed oak. Serene.P1000739

In the afternoon we wandered around Jedburgh and the beautiful abbey, ruined since the reformation.P1000745 P1000751 P1000759

Jedburgh is the perfect small town.

Still with shops that are called ‘Radio & Gramophone’ with signs like this.P1000776

Dog walking in the evening. London thoughts slipping away.

We got up early on Friday morning and left to find the lanes that the day before had been bathed in warm sunshine were covered in thick fog.P1000786

But the mist slowly cleared and we had a fine drive across to Glasgow, and up to Helensburgh for a brief stop at Mackintosh’s Hill House.P1000795 P1000803 P1000808

Beautiful. And then on north, to darkening and dramatic skies.
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We stopped for a little while in beautiful Inveraray….P1000829 P1000838 P1000860

And day dreamed about buying a small cottage somewhere in Scotland, looking a bit like this I suppose:P1000878

As we arrived at the Mull of Kintyre, nearing our destination, it began raining. That is Scotland for you.P1000888

But as we arrived at Saddell and found our way to the little cottage we were staying in for three days, it cleared (which is also Scotland for you).  The place was beautiful. I’m sure many readers know it already, from the Landmark Trust, and doubtless many will have stayed and know what I mean by a little slice of heaven. P1000895 P1000919 Clouds rolled off the mountains across the water, on the Isle of Arran.
P1000927The next morning we visited Campbeltown, which like all port towns has fine bones but a nicely roughish exterior.


And then to Southend and Carskiey, dreamy.P1000967 P1000982

We returned to Saddell and took a little walk up the beach, discovering first the magical sculpture by Anthony Gormley that was one a group commissioned by the Landmark Trust to commemorate its 50th anniversary last year. We were slightly expecting it would have gone in May, but wonderful that it was still there. It’s a serene piece, beautifully positioned.P1000993 P1010001 P1010003

Saddell is all about texture, colours and patterns.P1010006 P1010010

The seal popped up while we played with Mavis on the beach…P1010016

Who spent much of her time running this way…P1010021

And that…P1010022

More patterns:P1010026 P1010027 P1010028

P1010065Wild fuchsia, P1010040 P1010041

and dark leafy dells.P1010044

The ancient castle is serene. You can also stay here with the Landmark Trust.P1010049

We walked up the drive to Saddell Abbey, P1010051

Now a fragmented ruin, with a graveyard in the ruins.P1010054 P1010061 P1010062 Foxglove time:
P1010064 Mavis is not entirely sure about the sea, still. This was as far as she was prepared to go.

And then we got home and found wood for the fire…P1010082

Charlie had been at work with the kitchen flowers:P1010085

Supper on our second evening…P1010089 P1010090

Everyone wanted a seat.P1010091

Gormley at a rising tide.P1010101 P1010111 P1010123

The Isle of Arran had the sun that evening:P1010136 P1010139 P1010150 P1010169

On Sunday we went wandering after breakfast.P1010177

Seals at Machrihanish.P1010183

but after a little while we came home and went rock pooling with Mavis.P1010201 P1010205 P1010208 P1010215 P1010216 P1010219

Our little cottage is the tiny white dot to the left of the white house.  The Castle in at the right.P1010223 P1010227 P1010228 P1010229

We clambered over the rocks, P1010230

and watched gannets diving for fish…P1010235

This is Saddell House, a fine classical house built in the 1780s, where you can also stay with the Trust. P1010245

The long lazy afternoon was spent writing postcards, eating lunch, taking the odd walk and sleeping in the sunshine.P1010248 P1010259 P1010275 P1010278 P1010279

And then it was our last evening. P1010305

The seal popped over to say goodbye.P1010311 And we watched great golden clouds rise over Arran.
P1010316 It was a long way to go but the drive home was easy, the miles unfolding as we travelled back through Scotland and down through Cumbria and south. Saddell is the smallest slice of heaven; no phones, no computer, no wifi, nothing – in a sense – to do. Charlie went for the longest sleep on Sunday afternoon, which is completely unheard of in Dorset, where there is always something to do in the garden. Bliss. And really, the perfect place to completely and utterly unwind.

We arrived back in London, sad to hear the news of Orlando, which racks up as another atrocity in a world which I still contend is far more full of love and happiness, honour and decency than it is with hate.


23 comments on this post


Such beautiful pictures…Scotland looks magical. Thank you for sharing your journey.

connie kennedysays:

Oh! Ben! I’m a Scot who lives in Queensland! Need I say more about these gorgeous photographs. I love how you both make things so special. That takes effort that brings its own rewards.


Being in Nature and setting a table on the beach is food for the soul!


Also, is the tablecloth featured in this post the same tablecloth from the last post? I must know where you got it!


After an absolutely horrible week here in the US, the post was like a balm for violence weary souls. Thank you, Ben, for the beauty!

It doesn’t get more romantic than your supper on the beach by the looks of it!
I love all the textures of the seaweed which are so beautiful in their own way.
Hope you got to try some cheddar too whilst you were up in the Mull of Kintyre, I’ve got an excellent piece on the go at the moment.


Hauntingly beautiful. Best, Nicola


Such a comforting post…thank you, Ben.


Supper on the beach, how magical!


Thank you for another spirit filled post. I am just in love with Mavis. My sweet English setter, Mae is the love of my life. If I had a few acres I’d find a black Lab to rescue into our family, too.


Such a lovely post and some of your finest photography ever! The portrait of Mavis on the rocks is absolutely regal. Thank you for fueling my dreams.

Bindy Barclaysays:

That was like aesthetic meditation! Read on a dull June morning in rural Canterbury, NZ. Astounded at the relaxing effect.

A lovely post, Ben. We are all sad here about Orlando. Nowhere is safe from hatred and madness. Although if there is such a place, it appears from your post that Scotland might be it. I love the final photo of the Gormley piece, with the grass and mountains, rocks and sea. Talk about spirit of place! The photo of Mavis on the rocks made me smile, she look so fearless and intrepid. The explorer in her element (even if she is shy of the sea.) And the wild fuchsia!! It looks like it should be in a tropical jungle. Beautiful. Thanks as always to you and Charlie for sharing your lives with us so we can gather some of your happiness too.


Pierre B.says:

Thank you for such a comforting post. Great photos as ever.

What a marvellous blog post. What lovely photos, you really capture the essence and peace of your short break in beautiful Scotland. Thank you for sharing.


I’m 50% Scottish so this beautiful post moved me to tears. Thank you, Ben; and thank you too for your wise and true words about love and generosity. I’ve chipped in a bit to the fund for the Orlando survivors which has raised nearly $3 million in a single day from thousands of people. Here’s the link:

Please delete if you think this is inappropriate, Ben.


What a wonderful weekend away. I just loved all the photos ESP the one with the grass between the rocks and the tiny pink flowers scattered throughout. I so look forward each week to your blog and an excuse to dream about another trip to the UK.

Bren Boardmansays:

Every time I read your posts, I think to myself ‘Wherever they go, happiness gathers with them’. You truly are a couple who embrace life like an armful of country garden flowers. Thank you for sharing your moments so generously. I love Scotland too, an being a Northumbrian living in Warwickshire, miss it very much.

Michael Purdiesays:

Well said about love, happiness, honour and decency Ben. I couldn’t agree more despite these appalling things happening. Your blog never fails to delight and refresh me. Good to see you, Charlie and Mavis are well and happy.

A friend (and former colleague in Hong Kong) owns or used to own the Spread Eagle in Jedburgh. The Roxburghe’s hame is awfy grand, and a bit surplus to requirements, even if you are a duke, but they only use a very small part these days. The Borders are enchanting, the West a bit too bleak for me, but a delightful change for you from your hectic life in the South. That’s quite a drive, but made easier if you share it. My husband doesn’t, so these safaris are a little more tiring, and a little less frequent. Clearly I shall have to engage a chauffeur.

Thank you for reminding us about the love and happiness part. It’s sometimes hard to see. But I had already thought I’d died and gone to heaven reading this post. Mull of Kintyre…isn’t there a song about that?

David Sanderssays:

The little corrugated iron, seaside cottage looks very Kiwi; absolute bliss – everything.

Iain Lindsaysays:

Ben, you make me a little wistful. Your photograph of the two houses at the head of Loch Fyne shows our Scottish home Glaschoine on the left. We sold it after 13 years in March during which we renovated it from a very sorry state indeed and both it and it’s garden became a place of sanctuary from London and a splendid home for guests at many jolly and spirited weekends. East Sussex has so much to offer instead, where we now are, but the charms of a Scottish loch side retreat are well embraced. Glad you had the isolation from WiFi and all things weird about our violent world. You need it; it can fortify.

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