The Persabus Hospitality Factor

There was a gathering of breakfast guests at the front door of the farmhouse this morning. The girls were queuing up waiting for the Happy Farmer to deliver their cereal. A flock of Hebridean sheep had taken advantage of the Happy Farmer leaving their field gate open as he loaded a silage bale onto the tractor. With the bull and cows at the top of the breakfast list today the girls escaped from the field and hopped and skipped their way happily into the front garden to munch on the fresh grass as they waited impatiently for the Happy Farmer. Once they spy the farmer with bucket in hand though there was a mass exodus to get back to their field in time for a tasty bite from the troughs.
It has been a wild and blustery time with Storm Dennis calling by. Last night the power supply to the island was cut as the gales raged. When I went to collect the Happy Farmer from his ‘Sunday paper session’ the assembled throng were all sat in the candlelight at the bar enjoying their pints.
With ferries cancelled our guests had to change travel plans at the last minute and book flights over instead, a hire car waiting for their arrival. It would have been a bumpy flight, but if the clouds allowed, the views of the wild and angry seas below would have been quite something. Stopping off for a roast dinner, by candlelight due to the power cut, in the Bowmore Hotel, Peter’s Sunday roasts are getting fantastic reviews, the guests arrived to Persabus in darkness. With no power the Happy Farmer met them with a handful of candles, torches and a dram to welcome them.
There is always a warm and hearty welcome awaiting at Persabus. Long before the farm diversified into offering accommodation alongside the pottery and jewellery workshops. Persabus has always enjoyed a steady stream of visitors. The Happy Farmer always has the kettle on. The network of farmers and local characters is an important part of island life, and the rule of thumb at Persabus is that no matter how busy you are, you should always make time to stop and offer a welcome to whoever arrives. From a kettle on the boil, to drams being poured. Troughs of soup, to big hearty meals, for a few or the many, the Persabus hospitality has always been about embracing the moment. Maybe that was what planted the idea nearly thirty years ago to embark on an epic building programme, a programme which would see the Happy Farmer renovate and build four properties, much of the work completed with his own bare hands. A building project which has allowed the Happy Farmer to extend the warm welcome on offer at Persabus not just to his friends and family, but to the whole world.
It began with Persabus Cottage. With its roof hanging off, a tree growing through the centre of it and just the huge thick old stone walls holding it together. A building which has stood on Persabus for over three hundred years. Once home to the Happy Farmer’s great uncles.
When I first arrived on the farm, the cottage lay derelict. When you stepped inside though and stood in the shelter of those old crumbling stone walls, the old kitchen, with the open fireplace, a swee still hanging over it, the most peaceful, homely atmosphere enveloped you. Beyond the rubble and chaos of lying empty and dilapidated for years, the cottage had a warmth that drew us excitedly into planning our renovations to make it a home once again.
Once plans had been drawn up, and the Happy Farmer had circumnavigated his way through all of the planning applications, with building warrants secured, the project got underway.
The site was cleared of the old lath and plaster, boulders, trees and rubble. Days spent with bare hands and a wheelbarrow. Scaffolding was erected. Walls picked and pointed, securing the old stones firmly in place. Old stone floors had to be picked and smashed, then re-laid and levelled with cement. The cement mixer became an important tool. The remains of the roof were cleared to make way for the new one, maintaining the old traditional slates. Inside walls were framed, gyproc ordered and plastered. It was a huge undertaking, but there was always a good hearty craic and in the early days lots of help from local builders.
Once finished Persabus Cottage provided a little oasis, which we moved into with our young family whilst the main farmhouse went through a similar renovation programme. We spent one very happy year there, and after our draughty old farmhouse, we had the added bliss of oil-fired central heating at the push of a button. The large cottage kitchen maintained its character as the Happy Farmer used old pitch pine beams to frame the ceiling, large Italian tiles on the floor and lots of pine incorporated into units and cupboards to allow for plenty of storage. Patio doors framed the quiet, sheltered garden, a big, old tree in the centre. It was the perfect playground for our two small toddlers and enclosed by a huge old drystone wall. A wall which has lasted the test of time having been built by Thomas Spalding around the same time he built the Round Church in Bowmore.
Our young family had hours of endless fun in that garden, building dens around the tree, and all the while I could keep a close eye on them from the comfort of the large, homely kitchen. The kitchen soon became our main living space. The Happy Farmer installed an oil fired Rayburn, which added a lovely cosiness on cold days. With its oven always on the Rayburn was ideal for leaving soup, a roast, or casserole simmering away in, whilst we enjoyed beach days. We bought a large pine table for the kitchen with lots of space for family and friends and entertaining. A settee beside the Rayburn, made the perfect spot to curl up on, whilst supper was cooking.
In the sitting room we enjoyed the comfort of roaring fires in the evenings, having kept the old original fireplace. With the addition of a study for escaping to write or draw in, a utility room for laundry and bikes, and the addition of a downstairs loo, Persabus Cottage was the perfect, lovely home for our young family.
When we vacated the cottage to move back into the farmhouse we began offering holiday lets in Persabus Cottage. Over the years we have been lucky to welcome so many guests, friends and family to our lovely cottage. It is a popular choice for families. The secure garden providing added space for young children to race around in, and of course there is always a welcome for a pet dog or two tagging along on the holiday too. Upstairs, with the main bedrooms offering the option of king size double beds or twin beds in each, it has become a popular choice for parties of whisky visitors, especially given our prime location for the north Islay distilleries. This in turn has led to the Happy Farmer offering the option of breakfasts for our cottage guests too, as sometimes, even though there is a large, fully equipped kitchen, sometimes, it is just good to enjoy being served one of the Happy Farmer’s huge cooked breakfasts.
At Persabus we invite you to come along and enjoy our farm hospitality.
Until next time…

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Winter Storms

With the winter storms raging the farmhouse kitchen has become a haven as drivers bringing supplies onto the island have been stranded overnight. The wild weather forcing cancellations on the ferries and ad hoc sailing times, as the crew have had to take any available opportunity of a break in the squalls to get supplies across the high seas.

As you can imagine, it has been bitterly cold, with dog walks involving a good pelting from balls of hail cascading from the skies, bad timing on my part.

The Happy Farmer has been in his element then. Once animals have been fed, and everything checked, the kettle is on. Old Hoot would refer to times such as these as ‘A day for the sawdust’. Hoot was part of the fixtures and fittings at Persabus when I first came to the farm. He worked alongside the Happy Farmer, helping him out with gathering the sheep, and cows, dosing and dipping and clipping, building fences and swinging gates.

In the evening, with the stranded assembled ‘gang’ around the kitchen table, a hearty big trough of shepherd’s pie came bubbling out of the Aga to feed one and all, that and a big bowl of the Happy Farmer’s winter soup. Good enough to ‘put hairs on your chest’ apparently. A knife and fork were all that was needed to chop through the huge hunks of vegetables. The winter months are a time for catching up, hunkering down and enjoying cosy fireside nights.

Even the horses have been enjoying the shelter of their stables.

Inside the cottages, fires have been lit, providing a toasty refuge at the end of the day.

The island may be windswept, but it is always beautiful.

Until next time…

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Islay Malt Whisky Across the Islands

Islay malt whisky is what initially draws a lot of the visitors to our island home. Over the years the distilleries have flourished, and have risen from moth balled buildings, as production has been re-introduced, then increased, encompassing new warehouses and visitor centres, restaurants and shops. New distilleries have been built, a whole range of new malts introduced, as the island’s whisky market has grown.
My journey into whisky has not been through the drink, but through an appreciation of what Islay malt whisky embodies. To me the character of a dram goes deeper than the amber nectar hitting the palate. The character of the whisky captures the island, the peated landscape, encompassing a wild rugged coastline, with huge waves from the Atlantic crashing across the shores, shaping the rocks and inlets, creating raised beaches, over millions of years.
The malt whisky goes far deeper than the landscape. It is rooted in the character of the people who have lived and worked on these shores for generations. The strong, close knit community. A community that has thrived on fishing, farming and distilling.
As the Islay malt whisky hits the tongue, the flavours emanate across the palate, spreading, like the island’s mist. Glasses are raised as people come together. The whisky celebrates a union of people, lifestyle and landscape, captured in a bottle. Across the world Islay malt whisky is never far away.
Islay has become a place of connections. A tiny island welcoming people from across the globe. A couple of weeks ago the Happy Farmer and I hopped on a plane and headed for the shores of Hong Kong island. It was a long haul, but an amazing trip. One that captured all that Islay malt whisky embodies as we enjoyed fabulous hospitality, reconnecting with people who are passionate about Islay and malt whisky.
When a bus pulled up at my pottery studio last summer, with  a lovely group of people from Hong Kong, little did I know that, in just a few short months, I would be in Hong Kong, sat in the Bankers Club, sharing an Islay dram with them. Whisky tasting at its very best. Panoramic views across Hong Kong harbour, along with a collection of the finest aged malts. Whisky so smooth, it melted on the tongue, filling the palate with a bouquet of flavours. Shared over the most delicious dim sum, with friendship and laughter that will last a lifetime. One tiny island to another. Each bottle handled with love and respect, each sip tantalisingly smooth and warm. Islay whisky is so much more than a drink. It not only encompasses the peaty character of the landscape, it encapsulates a caring community filled with characters, companionship and a warm hearty welcome. From Islay whisky to Hong Kong living.
Hong Kong is indeed a very beautiful island. In sharp contrast to Islay it has a huge population, skyscrapers blend into the greenery of the hills beyond. Junk boats and ferries line the harbour. The friendliness of the people will be a lasting memory.
In the skyscrapers of Kowloon, we spent an evening at the c4mel bar. Jack and Iris visit Islay each year, and in their lovely apartment have their own private bar where they host friends and family. An evening of laughter, amazing food (thank you Iris) and great whiskies all served with a huge hearty welcome from Jack. An evening to remember and we are already looking forward to their return visit to Islay this summer.
Next up came an evening of fine dining, tasting the most delicious Chinese dishes, in a bustling restaurant in Causeway Bay. The couple, whose car the Happy Farmer had duly rescued from the ditches of Persabus a few weeks earlier, just happened to be from Hong Kong. With their local knowledge the dishes were an absolute feast of flavours. A sharp contrast to the menus of water snake’s head soup and pork belly from our own dabble with the local restaurants. Back to their apartment, with yet more panoramic views of the harbour, and drams were poured, as friendship was toasted. A lasting connection of food, whisky, travels, community, love and laughter. Friendship at its very best.
Happy Valley is home to one of the world’s most famous horse racing venues. Overlooking this spectacular racecourse is the magnificent home of the Hong Kong Football club, a private members’ sports and social club. It was here that we were treated to an amazing afternoon’s hospitality, enjoying a world buffet, from lovely guests who stayed with us in the late summer. The venue itself took my breath away, marble clad, floor to ceiling. Apparently, the racecourse needed to purchase land from the Hong Kong Football club a few years back and presented them with an open cheque book, which led to this spectacular building, with amazing facilities, being built. For us though, the highlight was about connecting with these lovely people again, getting to spend time and share stories, creating lasting memories and friendships.
Our visit was all about catching up with family and friends, immersing ourselves in the sights and culture of this remarkable island, but what we appreciated most was being taken into the heart of this community, the friendship, warmth and hospitality will remain with us.
The whisky connection is a strong one. For the Happy Farmer it is rooted in the heart of his island culture. Very few people will have visited Persabus without enjoying one of the Happy Farmer’s drams. We are already looking forward to creating more connections and welcoming our friends back home to Persabus.
Until next time…

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The Dance of the Hairy Haggis

The haggis hunting season is upon us again and our elusive, furry friends have been spotted scampering across the hills at Persabus. At first glance you could be forgiven for thinking you were looking at a clump of hillocky grass, but as dusk draws near, if you sit for a while, with the necessary dram in hand, you may well be treated to the ‘dance of the hairy haggis’. Watching as those Persabus haggis jump, skip and frolic their way across the peaty bog land of the north of Islay.

Haggis are strange creatures indeed. They spend a lot of the year in hibernation, snuggled deeply in their cosy burrows, but with the island being quieter and the promise of a sneaky slurp of the angels’ share, they are out to play. Don’t be fooled my friend when you next happen to be on a distillery tour and they speak of the ‘angels’ share’, and the depleted supply of whisky in the casks. Those haggis have a lot to answer for. It was becoming such a problem, that rumour has it, a contingency meeting of the north Islay Distilleries was called. To tackle the issue hairy haggis are apparently now provided with a sneaky free nip of the amber nectar, hopefully making sure at least some of the whisky maturing in the barrels remains for the visiting tourists.

Juicy haggis served on a platter, alongside ‘neaps and tatties,’ are the order of the day at this time of year, as islanders celebrate Burn’s night. To gather the haggis, hunts are held across the island, under a closely guarded veil of secrecy. Haggis hunting is like no other kind of hunt. If you are lucky enough those cheeky haggis will sometimes, with a squeal and a leap, simply pop into your pocket. I’ve heard they have a penchant for Islay tweed. Placement of items in the pocket is the next important step to capturing the elusive haggis. A couple of polo mints, loose in the bottom of the pocket, may well do the trick, that and a large sheepskin glove. The haggis are known to like their home comforts and after a feed on the mints, a sheepskin glove provides the perfect cosy nest for pocket hopping haggis.

The Happy Farmer unfortunately has never been lucky at capturing haggis in this way. His jackets pockets come with a public health warning. They are filled with sweets, but soggy ones at that, together with old nails, lambing gloves and baler twine. Unfortunately, they are never going to attract a happy haggis.

So, my friends, with those handy tips, I will leave you to ponder your next haggis hunting adventure to Persabus, where you will be met with a warm welcome, a hearty sense of good humour and maybe a large dram as you toast Scotland’s bard, Rabbie Burns.

Slainte

Until next time…

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The Happy Farmer goes incognito

Early January and the morning skies have been filled with vivid oranges, peaches and purples, as the sun has risen in all its splendour, providing the perfect backdrop to enjoy some gorgeous winter walks. I haven’t quite managed to peel the Happy Farmer away from the farm to join us on the jaunts but whilst he has been busy on feeding rounds, I have been enjoying hearty walks. The perfect tonic after the heady celebrations of an island Hogmanay.

Decorations have all been neatly packed and stored away for another year. So, as I made my way through the fields on the morning run, with dogs in tow, we were suddenly alerted to movement among the pine trees. Almost hidden from view, under a huge camouflage jacket, was a ‘lesser spotted’ Happy Farmer. Just maybe he was looking to get a bit of peace from the ‘ditching’ cars on our new ‘Hebridean motorway’, which leads, in a twisty, windy, single-track way, to the island’s distilleries. Hidden from sight, it wasn’t just the dogs barking that blew his cover, but the bellowing and roaring of the bull and cows coming from the neighbouring field and the loud bleating of the sheep as they rounded themselves up, all peering over the fence, looking on at the Happy Farmer in dismay. It seems everyone was wanting the Happy Farmer’s attention. I usually spy the tractor making its way across the fields with cows, bull and sheep in tow. A Happy Farmer at this time of year is a welcome sight for all the animals. Even Muffin and Hansel, our horses, can be seen with their noses hanging over the garden fence waiting to see what treats are going to be coming their way from the farmhouse kitchen. Anyhow, he was spotted, cover blown, busy planting the Persabus Christmas tree back into the ground, carefully securing it with a stake, to allow it to settle in once again, and continue growing, following its brief Christmas holiday in the farmhouse.

My hearty jaunts then have taken me over ‘the bridge’ to the Mull of Oa as youngest and I enjoyed rambling along the pathway to the American monument. A wild and blustery day, and the frothy sea spray was being blown from the crashing waves below right up and over the dramatic cliffs that surround this rugged and stunningly beautiful coastline. The monument providing quite a backdrop as the sun began to set across the Atlantic.

Out beyond  Bunnahabhain we were among otters and deer. The silhouette of a lone stag could be seen on the skyline, grazing away. Peated waterfalls were bubbling down the hillside with the sun lighting up the purple and golden hues of a Jura landscape, across the white capped Sound.

The Lochs in Dunlossit woods provided crystal clear reflections of the skies above as we made our way along the track and through the drive, dogs in tow, as the sunset through the trees and dusk began to fall.

In January, if the weather is kind, the range and depth of colour and light is both dramatic and beautiful. As the island quietens down nature comes out to play in all its glory.

Winter breaks on Islay can be just the tonic after the busy festivities.

At Persabus we offer a variety of accommodation, whether you are wanting to stay in our farmhouse bed and breakfast suite, where you can enjoy a dram in our whisky lounge and comfortable super king-size double beds in either of the two ensuite bedrooms. Or, cosy up in one of our self-catering cottages beside the fireside, and enjoy all the homely comforts on offer. Persabus Cottage was the original farmhouse at Persabus and offers traditon and comfort, whilst the Millhouse has a more modern finish and was renovated from the old steadings that once housed the mill that threshed the corn on the farm. For hardy campers there is the opportunity to pitch your tent in the beautiful surroundings at Persabus, just a short distance from the North Islay Distilleries. Best of all, a good hearty breakfast from the Happy Farmer is on offer with all these options.

We look forward to offering you a warm welcome at Persabus soon.

Until next time…

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The Happy Farmer’s Ditching Escapades

The Happy Farmer’s services have been in demand over the festive season, and not just his fantastic turkey roasting service. With Persabus now situated as the gateway to the north Islay Distilleries, there has been a lot of ‘ditching’ going on recently, compliments of cars misbehaving. In their enthusiasm to access the Distilleries, they can often be seen veering ever so slightly off course. This in turn lands their drivers and passengers in a tipsy, sometimes vertically challenged situation, wedged firmly in a ditch. Hire cars seem to be the main culprits. There is always a sigh of relief when it is a mainland hire car and not one of the local Islay car hires.
On the plus side the Happy Farmer is getting to meet some really lovely people from all corners of the world and thankfully although his tractor might be creeping up in years, she can still pull a motor or two out of a ditch.
The farmhouse has been busy with passing revellers. ‘First footing’ is the order of the day across the island at this time of year. Following Hogmanay, it is a part of the island tradition to call by friends and family, with a small offering of food or a dram. It is an incredibly sociable time of the year, when post partying, following the firework displays, and the ceilidhs in the village halls and houses, ‘visiting’ continues into the New Year. It was really appreciated then when families called by the pottery today to collect their pieces from the kiln and arrived laden with home-made black bun and bottles of wine.
In the run up to Christmas the farmhouse kitchen was filled with Christmas Angels when the Handsome Farmer called by to collect his turkey delivery from Archie Bread. Coffees were poured and halos were shining brightly as even the farmers were too busy to stop for long.
We celebrated the festivities, enjoying all of the usual traditions, alongside windswept beach walks on the beautiful island shores and meanders along the woodland paths, before settling in and enjoying nights at the fireside. It has been a lovely family time. A time to recharge and refresh as we move happily into the new decade.
Wishing you and yours a very happy new year from all of us at Persabus.
Until next time…

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‘Tis the Season

It has reached that heady time of year again as Christmas comes hurtling around the corner, firing on all cylinders.
The younger clan get the job of designing the Persabus Christmas card each year. A journey our friends have followed over the past twenty years from the innocent and beautiful child art of giraffes hanging over the crib in a scene from the nativity when eldest was in P1. Artwork which has morphed, from capturing all the farm animals in Christmas scenes, into fine art depicting livestock and treasured pets. There are youngest’s cartoon images of life on the farm, always promising ‘to be continued’, which have now grown into designer pieces ready for the catwalk, depicting her journey into the world of fashion and beyond.
Every year the Ileach office has overseen the printing in what is always a last-minute request. Those designs are returned to us captured on cards to send out across the world. I am always in a rush to meet the final posting day, no time for sherry and mince pies, as we get caught up in the Christmas madness.
The Happy Farmer has the Christmas tree in pride of place. Another beauty selected from his small plantation of pine trees. The scent emanates throughout the home as the whole place is glittering with fairy lights and candles. Pine branches and greenery wait to be hung around the fireplaces and throughout the kitchen. Dried rosehips are threaded on wire to make decorations , the Happy Farmer’s clootie dumping is simmering away on the Aga, and with a huge roaring fire, it is beginning to look a lot like Christmas at Persabus and beyond.
Over the past few weekends the island has been in danger of sinking, and not just in whisky, or because of the wild and stormy weather. There has been a mass exodus of people heading over to Glasgow first for the Vatersay Boys Christmas Ceilidh and then for a magical concert by Skipinnish, with maybe just a bit of snatched time for the city lights and Christmas shopping.
The Happy Farmer whisked me away to the Skipinnish concert and what a fabulous performance. A weekend of Christmas dinners and gatherings followed, as we caught up with family and friends on the mainland to celebrate. I am now in the race to get to the finishing line. To get the last of the pottery orders boxed and posted, the final workshop treasures handed out and those presents wrapped, our own decorations finished, the baking done….and then, relax …it’s time to enjoy all the trimmings of an Islay Christmas.
At this point can we offer you and yours a very merry Christmas from all of us at Persabus. To all the new friends we have met this past year, and our old treasured friends who have helped us to make wonderful memories as we enjoy the ride. We will be raising a hearty glass to you all during the festivities and look forward to offering you a warm Persabus welcome soon.
Slainte.
Until next time…

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Islay Beach Time

One of Islay’s treasures is its spectacular coastline. The rugged cliffs, where dramatic waterfalls froth and bubble to the seas below. The colourful pebbles worn smooth by the tidal currents. The natural arches and caves in rock faces and then the vast expanses of sand and dunes where seals lull happily on banks and rocks. Otters, herons, oyster catchers, gulls and wild goats roam the shoreline, as fishing boats, tugboats, ferries and yachts bob about in the seas beyond.
The beautiful coastline is a constant source of inspiration, flowing through my designs in the pottery. From the deep blues and turquoises of the Lucy Sea Breeze range. Port Ban inspired by a refreshing dip in Lochindaal on a spring day, the rocks glittering with the pinks of sea thrift and the reds of the anemones, waiting for the tide to wash over them once again. The wild purples and greens of the seas in the Winter Sound range from the heart of a storm. The Ocean Swirls range capturing the sheer force and energy of white horses riding huge waves across the Sound. My favourite Corryvreckan range where tidal currents meet off the north tip of the neighbouring Isle of Jura. The new Alice’s Killinallan range. A beautiful wild expanse of coastline along the shores of Loch Gruinart, where boggy ground and dunes lead down to golden sands and shallow waters, where oysters are farmed and the seals breed.
Sheena’s Islay Beach Time is the latest range from Persabus Pottery. This new range is a tribute to Sheena and her big birthday, which we celebrated at the weekend. Sheena is a bundle of positive and creative energy, with an infectious smile. She is a fantastic singer, performing across the island over the years, and many times at the Islay Jazz Festival, a keen quilter and sewer, but most of all she is a good friend. The weekend celebrations involved lots of parties, gatherings and fizz, and the all-important birthday beach trip. Sheena always heads to the beach in December with her family to celebrate her birthday. Laden with flasks of hot soup and coffee to warm the heart, as the weather can often be blustery and cold. Barbeques are at the ready, and a picnic basket of goodies. Sheena’s Islay Beach Time is about capturing those special memories onto pottery to bring the island’s beaches home. I hope you get to enjoy some Islay beach time soon.
Until next time…

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Time for Play

It has been a week of falling soundly asleep beneath twinkling stars as the milky way shone brightly across the night skies. In the mornings waking up to the pinks, violets and oranges of a rising sun beaming down across the Sound of Islay.

The farmhouse has been treated to a much-needed overhaul. Having spent time and money renovating the old steadings, and then building a new bed and breakfast wing into what was once the old stables, the windows in the main house, where we live, have gradually deteriorated. They were never ideal. Leaks would appear when stormy weather brought torrential rain, and latterly, when those bitter cold south easterly gales blew up the Sound, they would blow straight through those windows and right across our bedroom. Whilst our guests were enjoying being toasty cosy in the farmhouse bed and breakfast suite, a hot water bottle and bobble hat were necessary attire at bedtime in wild weather at this end of the house. When the storms struck, I was reminded of my camping days in the wilds of Scotland, as bitter cold draughts crept through the broken seals and we were more than a little exposed to the elements.

All of that changed last week. We were hugely appreciative and thoroughly spoilt then when the fabulous ‘A’ team arrived. After a day of hard work, those old windows were history. Replaced with crystal clear gleaming new ones. Curtains have yet to be rehung at the windows, and a spot of decorating is on the cards. We have been treated to beautiful night skies, and then watching as dawn breaks across the Sound. A trail of bright lights making their way over the hills in the distance, as the Isle of Jura awakens once more, and the small single file of cars head down to Feolin to catch the early ferry across to Islay. The colourful frosty mornings, watching pheasants feeding in the fields, and eagles swooping overhead.

It has been a social week. The Happy Farmer has been visiting his cask at Bruichladdich Distillery with his ‘gang’. They headed off like naughty schoolboys and after a morning of ‘serious business’ in the distillery, followed by lunch at Port Charlotte, they collapsed around a roaring fire at Persabus for a late afternoon of ‘sampling’ and ‘nosing’. Dinner followed in Bowmore and then Hughie’s taxi home. It has been about inhaling the peaty gorgeousness of an Islay winter. A time for catching up and reconnecting with friends, relaxing and enjoying. The seasons quieten and the whole community gathers closer to enjoy the cheer of an Islay winter as Christmas preparations get underway. When the holiday makers are away the locals get to play!

Christmas lights have been switched on in Bowmore and were celebrated with a fantastic street party. A Christmas fayre, there were highland dancers, and then the magical arrival of Santa as he made it over to our island shores. Christmas markets are on, dinner dances, parties and pantomimes.

At the weekend we were treated to a fabulous night at Iain’s Seafood Kitchen as family and friends celebrated a MacLellan 60th and 21st birthday in true Islay style as the community partied the night away. Canopies were served alongside a feast of fish pie, casserole, curry and chilli. I think the Happy Farmer managed to sample them all. Spectacular fireworks lit up the night sky, waking pyjama clad party animals from their slumbers, as they too arrived to join in the fun. Even Floss the sheepdog was at the door. A huge candle lit lobster birthday cake and another Bruichladdich whisky bottle cake were the icing on the evening.

At the pottery we have been busy with after school and evening workshops. There have been Christmas shopping nights in C.Hannett’s Jewellery workshop and in the pottery showroom, with coffee and mince pies being served up. Charlotte and I have had a field day with those fairy lights. The Happy Farmer has contributed bundles of pine cuttings and holly, as candles have been lit and it is all beginning to look very festive at Persabus, especially with all the beautiful twinkling jewellery delights on offer in Charlotte’s workshop. I feel a Christmas shopping trip coming on for the Happy Farmer. At least he will only have to venture across the single track road.

Until next time…

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Strike a Pose

It’s been a busy week for photo shoots on the farm. Quite by accident in conversation with a couple of customers in the pottery and I find those Highland ladies have been striking a pose for the lens of a passing camera again. With the small single-track road meandering through the farm on its way to Ardnahoe and Bunnahabhain Distilleries those ladies are becoming something of a tourist feature in the area. They can be seen modelling away on a regular basis, with a quick flick of their horns, their windswept wiry thick curls, and huge eyes shaded with long thick lashes, they make for quite a picture, attracting admiring glances from all walks of life the world over.
Not wanting to miss out, the other animals on the farm have been queuing to get in on the act too. Muffin was spied posing away all weekend at the edge of the garden. A milky grin on his face, from the grey hairs framing those lips, he is always happy to be in front of the camera, and knows that a camera is often accompanied by goodies from the farmhouse kitchen of fresh peelings, together with a pat or a rub from his favourite lady. Muffin, our cheeky pony, arrived when eldest was just seven years old. He is now 33 and has been a member of the clan at Persabus for nearly twenty years and eldest loves him to bits, travelling home frequently to get her ‘horse fix’. He arrived on the farm as an ILPH rescue pony and it was love at first sight when eldest clapped eyes on him. He came complete with saddle and bridle but from very early on it became blatantly clear that he had absolutely no intention of ever being ridden. Muffin’s answer to a rider on his back would be to trot along smartly, fixed grin on face, and then without warning, a flick of his hind quarters, a sharp buck of the back legs, and the rider would be flung unceremoniously into the air and onto the ground, as Muffin made a quick bolt for it. Even the Happy Farmer has somersaulted off Muffin’s back. Muffin you see had the most terrible sweet itch in the early days and who knows what awful treatment he had endured before coming to live at Persabus. Eldest wouldn’t have dreamed of forcing the issue, she was far more interested in the happiness and contentment of her horse companions. Instead as a youngster she spent most evenings and weekends grooming him, patiently chatting away to him and playing alongside him whilst she saved her riding skills for Rosie, her Highland pony and latterly Hansel. These horses are also keen to model around the farm and can often be seen posing away on the hill just beside the cottages, being sure to attract admiring glances from guests staying in our farm accommodation.
Not to be left out the sheep are always happy to be photographed too At lambing time there is often an enclosure on the farm with a pet lamb or two bleating away looking for a bottle of milk and a fuss. Just now, with’ tupping season’ upon us, the sheep barely move when I make tracks though the field, minus the dogs of course, that would be just a little unsettling for the flock. The tups happily ‘nose’ their way around the field choosing which of the ladies is ‘available’. The sheep laze, happily chewing the cud. In the neighbouring field Markus the bull is munching on a bale of silage dropped in by tractor earlier in the morning. Those animals happily pose away daily for my passing camera.
Back at the farmhouse the dogs can be found, lazing on the patio, whilst the cats make their own cosy nests in various corners of the home, sprawled out across chairs and sofas, tucked up on rugs and throws.
There’s no shortage of pets at Persabus and then of course we also have the Happy Farmer….
Until next time…

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