Some time on Islay, Scotland and the carpet van makes it to France.

The Dower House, Isle of Islay, Scotland
(a glimpse of the sun on my parents' garden)


After a very slow and somewhat arduous trip up to Swansea, Wales the week before, we were particularly relieved to make it up to Scotland in relatively good time without any major mishaps.


In between fixing rusty holes in the van, changing our oil (and spilling a whole tank full onto my parents’ drive) and generally trying to sort ourselves out a bit better before leaving the UK, we found a little time for the beach... 

Dan and my Dad try to work out what went wrong...
Dan and my Dad try to work out what went wrong...
The Dower House, Isle of Islay, Scotland
Dan (after a day of lifting rocks with my dad and a little rum)
Dan (after a day of lifting rocks with my dad and a little rum)
The Dower House, Isle of Islay, Scotland
Arch Duke Furdinand the Furred
Claggan Bay, Isle of Islay, Scotland
Claggan Bay
Singing Sands, Isle of Islay, Scotland
Singing Sands
Isle of Islay, Scotland
My mum!
My mum!




Making the most of the flat calm sea, we took out some of my parents hodge-podge collection of aged kayaks and canoes, gathered over several decades since they first met at Poole Harbour Canoe Club.


Finally next to the sea, there is none of the usual pre-paddle fuss and we had the luxury of deciding to go out only minutes before getting on the water. Plentiful seals and more elusive otters thrive on their little stretch of coastline and we often found ourselves surrounded by mothers teaching this Spring’s fat blobs how to swim and catch fish.

seal, the dower house, isle of islay, scotland
-credit Mary-Ann Featherstone (my mum!)
otter, Isle of Islay, Scotland
-credit Mary-Ann Featherstone
kayaking, Isle of Islay, Scotland
Dan & me -credit Mary-Ann Featherstone
kayaking, Isle of Islay, Scotland
Jenny & Emma


My cousins, the Kerrs, have recently bought the Post Office in Port Ellen, so after several years of neglecting them, I finally had a chance to catch and get to know the grown up version of the little girls in pink we used to spend holidays with. They aren’t so pink anymore, which does make them harder to spot amongst rocks, but we managed not to lose anyone despite the clambering. With Emma, another long-neglected cousin who is staying with my family for the summer, we explored Singing Sands and later climbed around several headlands East from Kintra in the South. 


the Oa, Isle of Islay, Scotland, Kintra
the Oa, Isle of Islay, Scotland


Avoiding the occasional dead sheep and abundant goat poo, hopped over the peaty waterfall, studied stratered rocks and wondered how the alien landscape had been formed. Mum taught everyone how to identify a few types of sea shell and we all squelched home as the rain set in for the afternoon.



Less nervous about the journey down towards Dover and trying to ignore the looming prospect of driving on the other side of the road once we reached France, we enjoyed swinging back through crevices of the Highlands.


Fintan Magee, street art, Glasgow
Work by Fintan Magee, Glasgow


Stopping for a night in Glasgow (to see our friends Andy and Meg) gave us a light first day’s driving before a more arduous stretch down to the Peak District the following morning. An inadvisable detour to Morecombe, almost certainly a navigator error on my part, meant we only just made it just before sunset, but I relished the leisurely second-gear stretches through one-track lanes, admiring the lumpy hills on either side. We slept that night with the twinkling lights of a distant Manchester peaking through a gap in our curtains and woke up irritably to the sound of a woman calling her dog, just about ready to hit the road again. 


Carpet van enjoys the Peak District.


After “horror” stories of the delays at Dover last weekend, with some people forced to spend a second night in their cars before beginning their Summer holidays, we set off that day with minor trepidation. Hours of motorway later, we sailed through the border checks and soon found ourselves heading far enough away from Calais to find a quite spot to sleep.



That was more than two weeks ago now, but I haven’t found time to write. We’ve been volunteering with L’Auberge and Help Refugees again and have decided to stay for some time. We are nervously waiting for the results of a court case which is likely to shut down the home-grown restaurants in the jungle, hoping whatever outcome is peaceful and already dealing with an increased need for food as some of them begin to close. I’ll let you know how it’s going as often as I have time to write.


Thanks Featherstones for having us and sorry about the chaos...


Write a comment

Comments: 20
  • #1

    Prue (Thursday, 11 August 2016 23:56)

    Katie and Dan, glad you have the van back in order, we've been there done that except our van never came back from the brink...

  • #2

    Duke Stewart (Friday, 12 August 2016 21:52)

    This looks like an awesome time, Katie. You really have the most interesting adventures, and I think this one is right up there. I'm hopeful that the restaurants win the court case and look forward to hearing about it either way. Thanks again for the inspiration.

  • #3

    Katie Featherstone (Friday, 19 August 2016 14:04)

    Thanks guys, we did win Duke. Some good news for once!

  • #4

    Steve short (Friday, 19 August 2016 23:13)

    Beautiful photos Katie -just had the same experience as you on Islay -catching up with cousins and their offspring's who I havent really seen for years and the rest of the very diverse family we are part of -stay safe x

  • #5

    Katie Featherstone (Monday, 22 August 2016 20:00)

    Aw, thanks Steve! Hope to see you soon too. :)

  • #6

    Cathy (Friday, 16 December 2016 17:26)

    Love that layered rock!! Great adventure with both street art and nature- I love them both!!

  • #7

    Katie Featherstone (Friday, 16 December 2016 18:01)

    Thanks Cathy. :)

  • #8

    Pete (Monday, 16 January 2017 09:52)

    Looks like a memorable day out. I can feel the fresh air from here! Those photos are atmospheric. Many thanks for sharing your adventures.

  • #9

    refractivesight (Tuesday, 17 January 2017 15:36)

    Good thing you got to fix your van and no one got hurt. I love the seal I think he wanted to help you guys! Thanks for sharing your adventures, the photos doesn't do justice for the fun you all enjoyed! :)

  • #10

    neha (Wednesday, 18 January 2017 14:40)

    You had such a perfect day with your family. I particularly love the part where you get to row a boat..on that still water..kind of my dream :)

  • #11

    Katie Featherstone (Wednesday, 18 January 2017 15:21)

    I hope you do one day too!

  • #12

    Rhiannon (Sunday, 22 January 2017 11:56)

    What a beautiful place to spend the day with family! I can't quite tell if that's an otter or seal in the photo (my animal-spotting skills are next-to none!) but either way it's super cute, kudos to your mam for snapping it!

  • #13

    Katie Featherstone (Sunday, 22 January 2017 12:08)

    There are both a seal and small otter in the distance, so you're right either way. I think you're talking about the seal though. ;)

  • #14

    Michelle d (Sunday, 22 January 2017 14:45)

    It's interesting to see that you drove to Scotland. When I lived in the south west of England (a bit near Wales) so many of the brits I met couldn't even imagine heading to the northern part of England because it was so far by car! It always blew my mind bc three hours by car was nothing in the states!

  • #15

    Sarah (Monday, 23 January 2017 00:06)

    Sounds like a rough start, but looked like a much better ending! Your photos are beautiful! Scotland is on my short list in the next few years!

  • #16

    Katie Featherstone (Monday, 23 January 2017 00:58)

    Haha, I know what you mean Michelle. I have kind of been persuaded into it by my family living there.

    I hope you make it up there Sarah!

  • #17

    Nathan (Monday, 23 January 2017 04:46)

    That's so great you made it after a rough start! I would have loved to have seen the sea otter. I love sea life. Also- that street art is insane!

  • #18

    Aubrie (Monday, 23 January 2017 08:37)

    This makes me miss Scotland so much! You captured some really great pictures!

  • #19

    Amanda Tran (Monday, 23 January 2017 10:59)

    Wow, this place looks awesome and very peaceful. Can't wait to travel to Scotland, thanks for sharing!

  • #20

    Katie Featherstone (Monday, 23 January 2017 11:55)

    Thanks guys :)

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