Holiday reading

4 August 2019
Ben Pentreath

Yet again, a month has gone by.  My autumn resolution is to get writing weekly or fortnightly – there is something about the rhythm of the blog that needs the nuance of the week-by-week changes in life, that we all know are lost when the perspective is monthly. But of course, it’s been a strange time, and with so much time out of the office, and so much to catch up on, as well as living life itself and not just recording it… well, sometimes not everything can happen at once. As I am sure you know.

The weeks after Dad died were quiet; his funeral was very small, but perfect. I slowly eased my way back to work. I can’t remember a more beautiful July in Dorset. 

The church roof is nearly finished. The work has been done beautifully. When the scaffold is down, later this month, I’ll give a full report. 

We took a lot of early morning walks to avoid the heat of the day. This is early, early in the morning, but the sun is already fierce. 

A brilliant day’s sailing in beautiful Weymouth Bay with my brother and his family…. 

And then home at the end of a sparkling, brilliant day. Charlie’s pumpkins and marrows have taken over the meadow – it’s completely beautiful. 

S C O T T I S H   I N T E R L U D E

The following weekend, we’d had Bridie coming to stay in Dorset – but we’d decided we needed to check up on Bothy progress.  So instead we proceeded north, on the sleeper. Here we are in Glasgow after a good night’s sleep. Charlie had picked a huge bunch of sweet peas for our neighbour Mo. Amazingly they had survived the journey so far…

The open road beyond Loch Lomond – always a moment of joy. 

And, another moment of joy, rounding the bend and seeing my favourite small town in Scotland, Inveraray, with the funfair in town!

We stopped for a few bits and pieces, before getting on the road…

Bridie and Charlie inspecting the little tin shed that’s the village hall.

And then we arrived. Everything was looking…. great!!!

New roof on!! Windows in!!  Here is the bothy…

And here is the cottage. 

Here is the inside. We’ve gently restored the old Victorian pitch pine paneling; it’s been mended and washed, nothing more. We want the place to look as if it hasn’t been touched for ever.  We’ve re-wired and the builder lifted the strange ceramic floor tiles (I guess installed in the 60s or 70s?) that revealed old wooden boards underneath, in good condition. 

After our meeting with the builder we went for lunch and then a long and beautiful walk on the Taynish peninsula, dreamlike, ancient oak woods.

Magical, dreamy Taynish House. 

Back to Crinan, for the hotel and supper. A lovely night. Music in the bar and a bit too much to drink. We rolled in to bed and slept like logs. 

We had an early start the next morning. We were popping back to see the cottages before heading to Jura.  

I love the fuchsia hedge but it’s completely overgrown and leggy, and the fence is horrible. The next time we come (which is next week) it’ll all have gone… exciting…

Inside the bothy.  We are keeping it just like this for now. Watertight and repaired, but no more. The yellow windows GLOW!

We met Nicol the Jura boatman as planned and set off on a blustery trip…. This is the last known photograph of Bridie’s BRIDIE hat shortly before it blew off to a watery grave….

Nicol took us high up to get our bearings…

Then we went for a wonderful walk along the beach back to Craighouse.  The Paps of Jura were hidden in cloud…

It was a sparkling day. 

The beautiful Jura Manse.

Historical photography exhibition of the island in the little chapel.  Brilliant. We need to come back here…

And then after a fine lunch in the Jura Hotel, home…. We went for a walk along our peninsula, looking back to Jura and where we’d just been. 

Scotland is a dream, so exciting, and at last all taking shape. I’m not quite sure when we’ll be able to move in – September we are hoping. After everything so sad that’s happened this year, I will admit it’s pretty amazing to have something fresh and happy to look forward to.

After a few days in London, we were back in Dorset.  The garden is reaching that tipping point, balancing on the tautly-stretched wire suspended between summer and autumn….

That evening, it was our friend Monica’s birthday party down by the lake.  Dreamy. Mo had planned a tent and trestles and a delicious dinner, by candlelight. There was a bit of setting up to do but so worthwhile.

The following morning, the day was bright and breezy. Lunch at Bettiscombe – heaven. 

Back home to the westering sun. 


This week, rather an amazing night. We’d been asked to stay at Chatsworth for a night… the dream.  We arrived on Thursday evening, and had a wonderful tour of the garden as dusk gently fell. 

On the site of Paxton’s famous glasshouse:

Inside the extraordinary vegetable and cutting garden, grown by Charlie’s friend Becky Crowley and her amazing team. We’ll be back there tomorrow. 

The grotto – and a huge Gunnera, reflected in the water. 

And then this view.

Waking to this…

After breakfast, a tour of the building – intense, remarkable.

And then we spent the morning wandering more slowly in the garden – Paxton’s beautiful “Conservative Wall”…. dreamy…. 

Glasshouses full of grapes, deliciously sweet. 

Back to see Becky…

Charlie and Becky in deep flow… discussing dahlias..!

The whole garden is planted with nature at the forefront. 

Charlie having deep shed envy. 

Greenhouse porn, there is no other word for it. 

And these extraordinary hollyhocks, which are so beautiful – one of the most amazing sights of the whole garden, curiously.  None of us could quite say why….


It was a brilliant, brilliant day, as you can imagine. We left this gleaming palace and took the train from Chesterfield down to Exeter. We were going to our friend Flora Starkey’s party…. cross country trains were the perfect answer.

And then home. It’s been a quiet, quiet weekend for me – yesterday afternoon, Charlie went up to London to collect the dogs and today he’s catching up with a group of friends in London for one day only.  The house with only me and Henry in it feels crazily quiet and empty.  But I’ve pottered around and run a few errands and caught up with some work and had long sleeps, and – as you will have now realised, I’ve found time to write a blog. 

Last night, I put a post on Instagram saying how quiet and still it all felt at the Parsonage. Something about my words seem to strike a chord… It really is that month, now, August, where we wait, almost in denial, before tipping headlong into autumn. I like Autumn, a lot – it’s a time of year that suits my mind well. Strangely I find it to be a time of renewal, not of decay – I’m thinking more about spring bulbs than approaching winter. And this year, more than ever, I’m looking forward to that sense of renewal, of new times starting.

But just for now, I’m rather enjoying holding on to summer, for a final re-charge of the batteries before the nights draw in and the year hurtles to its close.

30 comments on this post

Charlotte Ksays:

One word only will suffice: GOLLY

Catherine Cullensays:

I am so enjoying reading the blog!

One thing that would interest me very much is how you keep these various residences. Do you have full time help? Periodic cleaners? How do you manage the cleaning of so (gloriously) many things?


Ben, it is thrilling to see your renovation of the cottage and bothy on the Argyll peninsula develop. We renovated a house you’ll pass by often on your way there, just before the head of Loch Fyne and the Oyster Bar and Restuarant. It was called Glaschoine and we gave it up when we moved to East Sussex because here gives us much of what Argyll afforded only for long weekends from London. Happily all that goodness is our lives. People often ask if we miss Glaschoine and I have readily answered no, simply because the nurturing benefits we experienced there are now our daily reality here. But there is something nudged by those broad sky vistas and sparkling water bays and woodlands that tugs at me. So it will be for you all I’m sure. It will be all the more remarkable on the wildest windy horizontal rainy night. With the fire on, nothing can feel more secure.

Helen Youngsays:

I read your blog from a garden in steamy Niagara. Off to the north of the UK next week for some refreshing air. I fancy your yellow bothy windows are reminiscent of Chatsworth’s gilded ones in a more humble way!

Gill Deansays:

Beautiful pictures. Eliot Hodgkin springs to mind. You must love trains & travelling from one end of the country to the other!


Feeling the duality of sublime happiness and aching sadness for things past reading your fantastic blog while listening to Ed Sheeran’s Castle on the Hill.


Ben, thank you for yet another beautiful post. Your texts and your photos are enchanting. Dreaming of an english summer from my office in Buenos Aires (winter here).

Darlene Chandlersays:

Thank you for the lovely blog and taking time to have some peace to do this blog. Your pictures of Scotland are wonderful and your place there is looking really amazing. I love the day at sea, your gardens and your friends gardens. The wonderful time at Chatsworth is amazing. I have seen it in pictures so often and did not know of their wonderful greenhouses and your friends wonderful garden. You have made my day with the many pictures.

Maria Sartorisays:

Dearest Ben, so sad when you don’t write for some time, but you had such difficult times lately that of course we understand.
My greatest affection goes to you and your family, and I sincerely hope you will never stop writing your blog, such a fabulous start of the day for us every time!!


Ben, you’ve outdone yourself photographically in this post. The woodland pictures are especially fueling my dreams. By the way, only because I’m the curious sort, you haven’y mentioned plumbing in the bothy. Is there any? (I hope so.)

C moyersays:

Love your pictures and your heartfelt prose…I always know ..when I see your blog. I am in for a emotional moment of memories of past trips to uk …mega thanks


My favourite detail at Chatsworth was the fresh gold gilding around all the great windows, in and out. What was it like staying there, watching the last of twilight glimmering around the edges of the windows. Wonderful, just to even think about it!


From a bothy to Chatsworth – that’s some journey! As ever, so beautiful and informative, all of it. And well worth the wait. Best wishes, Nicola

Diane Keanesays:

Those Scottish skies are amazing! Most glorious clouds ever. After reading & viewing this post, I feel like I’ve been on holiday. Thank you as always for sharing!

Southern Galsays:

you are so considerate of your readers – no apologies required as you have had a rather rough time.

as other commenters noted, i too reread your posts many times. the drought was worth it for such a newsy post full of gorgeous images. i drink in each image …

i had saved your post to read this morning – it was a hot humid and upsetting weekend with yet more mass shootings (i despair of this country) yet this morning dawned clear and cool, enough for a light jacket on my front porch, where the breezes from the Hudson River helped blow away the horrors of the weekend…

and your post helped …transporting me to the England of which I dream – reading it amongst my wee container garden on the porch assauged the sadness and lifted my spirits.

as i sit in my windowless office thru this workweek, i will revisit the post often today and thru the week.. seeking comfort and joy in nature’s beauty.


I have read your blog for a long time but am moved for the first time to comment. I have recently lost my husband too soon and he was also ex RN and briefly served with your late father. Your beautiful pictures of the West Country and Scotland both areas I know well have been especially important to me in the last few months. Thank you


Oh so beautiful, thoughtful and quieting. I just can’t get enough.
Your parents must have been so proud of you.
Thank you.


Socked in the woods on the edge of Lake Michigan. I love the beauty and weather here, but so delighted to wake up to Inspiration and a month of pictorial and descriptive delights. It is one of my favorite morning coffee moments and I do return to it over weeks for a refresh. The dream like quality is a perfect respite. It has been a horrible weekend over here, so the timeless feel of your meanderings is a good reminder that there is still much beauty in place, family, and friendships.
PS: Crowdfunding for a new hat for Bridie?

Sent from my iPad

Andrew Lagesays:

I’m a Chatsworth fan but had no idea they had such a large and wild summer garden! Grassy parterres are lovely but the that gardens exuberance was thrilling to see.


Ben, yours is the only design-related blog I subscribe to, and have for years. It’s such an inspiration, not just for the gardens and houses, but for how your life is designed to find and enjoy people and gatherings and also solitude and thinking. With reverence. And irreverence at times. Thanks for sharing your interesting and rich life and work.

David Sanderssays:

Gosh, the bothy and cottage are coming along so well, Ben. And the surrounding landscapes and villages look quite stunning; strangely reminiscent of where I live – Banks Peninsula, NZ. Loved the photo of the upturned tree, which had just enough roots left in the ground to begin regrowing – true grit. A sort of heroic parable – triumph over adversity.


Thank you for taking me to places I’ve never been on your beautiful blog.


Ben –
So many gorgeous photographs to enjoy, and thank you for that, but I do appreciate your words even more. Thank you.

carolyn morgansays:

The long, thoughtful generosity of (esp.) this blog weaves a midsummer fabric of all the ‘senseless beauty’ available for those QUIET enough to receive it. Reflecting takes a certain kind of slowing, and with the insane pace of the current state-of-the-world – “slowing” is a salvation.

I envision your being able to spot your bothy from the air, bc of its red roof, if perchance a plane ride cruises overhead. But surely yours and Charlie’s dreams (away in Dorset or London) will “fly over” countless times – from afar, enriching your days.

Elizabeth Barrsays:

Bothy envy. It’s a thing!
Thanks for your posts. They are always such a treat.

Love your posts, garden & architecture and look forward to reading them.


Enjoyed reading your latest post Ben. You’ve picked a beautiful spot for your cottage and bothy ; ) I love Argyllshire. Wishing you many happy times there. And hopefully some dry weather! Very best, Lesley


Dear Ben,
thank you so much for sharing your time with us, time flies and it happens a lot in four weeks ……
Your photos and the garden are amazing as always and your Cottages are very beautiful and take shape, it`s wonderful to see the progress !
I follow you on Instagram and so I´m always up to date 🙂
This morning here at 6.00am the sky is darker than last week, autumn is coming soon and I like this time too. But now we all enjoy the summer until this time and I wish you a wonderful week Ben !
Have a lovely time, with all best wishes,
Yours Birgit from Germany 🙂

Jennifer Phillippssays:

Always look forward to an update on how things are going for you and after the traumas of the year it is good to know have lots to look forward to….not least Scotland….. The pictures are always lovely to see, the colours, the architecture and the stories…roll on autumn for you and spring for us in NZ!


Thank you. Beautiful blog as always. Much needed after a ghastly weekend.

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