What’s New

Highland Games – a Scottish Highlight!

Every summer throughout Scotland there are a host of Highland Games to visit! Highland Games are iconically Scottish. They are amazing events to celebrate and bear witness to the fabled skill, strength and endurance of the Highlander. Wherever the Games are held, each has its own local character and traditions.

This is a cracking day out for the family. There are lots of track and field games that everyone can sign up for and enter.  But the main event is the traditional Heavy athletic events like the caber toss, shot put and hammer throw when serious athletes compete to be champion.  What a spectacle to watch the bravest warriors. There are always Highland dance competitions, bagpipes and lots of family activities.  The Games are a spectacle like no other. Some of the events take place against amazing scenic Scottish backdrops too.

Highland dancers with athletes running around the track

Pipers and drummers

Our favourite event is the caber toss which has come to symbolise the Highland Games.  The Games wouldn’t be complete without it! A full-length log of Scottish pine can range between 16-22 feet, and the weight can vary from 100-180 pounds. It is stood upright and lifted by the competitor using both hands under the bottom of the caber. They then rest it against their body, before running forward and tossing the caber into the air. The aim is that it turns end over end in the air before hitting the ground. Contrary to popular belief, the caber toss is not about distance – it’s all about the position and how it lands. Picture a clock face, and place the caber thrower at 6 o’clock. The aim is to have enough strength and control to make the caber land at 12 o’clock exactly. And the closer the better!

Caber tossing

This year, we visited the Games at Drumnadrochit right next to Loch Ness. Just a 20 minutes drive. There were some fairground rides, local craft and art stalls, and food tents. We had such fun watching the Heavy events, the Highland Dancing competition and the piping bands.  It only cost £15 entry for a family of 4.

Glen Urquhart Games, Drumnadrochit

Other Games in easy driving distance of Pinewood include Strathconon, Tain, Inverness Forres, Dornoch, Strathpeffer, and Nairn, to name a few.

To see a list of events, check out the SHGA (Scottish Highland Games Association) website or Visit Scotland.

Small green efforts make all the difference

Just a short blog post to say our new composting bins have arrived – yay! We have two – one in the enclosed garden for my compost from the veg gardens and the house; and one by the Steading for our guests to use. All veg and fruit waste can be composted, coffee grounds and tea bags, old bread, leftover pasta, pizza crusts, and even egg shells.

The new composting bin for the Steading

Guests also have a small kitchen compost bin inside the Steading which they can put their waste into first, before taking outside. We are excited to have implemented one more small measure towards reducing the waste at Pinewood.  And who knows – in a few month’s time, we may have our own compost to put on the veg gardens too!

Another small Green Tourism addition is our new Nature Diary. This helps our guests capture their wildlife experiences and sightings, both near and away from the Steading. So far there have been a few entries and even some pictures drawn!

Nature Diary

Our new Nature Diary

It really is good fun to see what the guests have seen and where – and this may help future guests see the wildlife too.  From dolphins to red squirrels. Hooded crows to house sparrows. Greater spotted woodpeckers to robins. Highland cows and sheep of course! Golden eagles to whales! Pheasants, jackdaws and oyster catchers. Hares, deer and swallows.  All these little measures are all big actions in support of our Green Policy.

Lots of entries in the Nature Diary

Inverness Botanic Gardens: stunning array of plants and flowers

Well, I had never been to the Botanic Gardens in Inverness before and after seeing some of their posts on Facebook, I decided it was time to visit. It’s just a 20 minutes drive or so, over by the large sports centre and swimming pool (maybe combine a visit?) It’s always open 7 days a week from 10am to 5pm and is free entry! Although they do ask for a donation.

The main sign at the Inverness Botanic Gardens

The Gardens were opened back in 1993 by Prince Edward. They describe it as an “oasis of calm and beauty within walking distance of the bustling city centre” and it really is that.

We chose to go on one of the hottest days of the year, and it was glorious walking around the different gardens. I was really hoping to get some inspiration and ideas for our garden at Pinewood, and I did just that! We stopped many times and sat a while in the chairs and benches they have scattered all round, taking in the sights and smells of the wonderful flowers. With the good weather we’ve been having, the gardens were an explosion of colour with so many different plants to see. There are some large greenhouses which ranged from the tropical rainforests to the arid desert. In the Tropical House, there’s a waterfall which cascades into a pond filled with Koi carp. There are some spectacular bird of paradise plants in here, and many weird and interesting ones which we didn’t know! But everything has little labels and signs up, so you can see what you’re looking at. We loved the Cactus House, with its amazing variety of cacti of all shapes and sizes.

The plants in the Tropical House

One of the best things about the Gardens is the way it just meanders around. You find something new at every corner.  Secret gardens, breathtaking meadows, bug hotels (yes, bug hotels!), wooden sculptures tucked away, and walled areas. And my favourite: a very large vegetable garden – the Project Garden. This is where people with learning disabilities can learn to grown an amazing array of vegetables and learn about wildlife.

Vegetable garden at Inverness Botanic Gardens

Wonderful variety of flowers in the meadow

The Bug Hotel

And another highlight is that one of the greenhouses contains plants for sale. We walked away with 4 great new plants for the enclosed garden. There’s also a Cobbs Café too and you can sit outside with your hot drink and cake and enjoy the garden.

The Gardens were such a wonderful find – I wish we had been before, but we will be back!