Our second annual (if you ignore 2020 and ’21) Scarecrow Festival kicked off today. And while we’re enjoying typical Argyll summer weather as I type (it’s pouring), this morning the sun shone for its launch.
There was music and a classic car parade
Unsurprisingly there are a number of scarecrows with a maritime theme
And with an active wild swimmers group a number of mermaids
But we’ve also had a visit from Mary Poppins, or as she’s known around here Mhairi Popsox
And some very inventive in jokes
And inspired by last time around’s favourite. There are a number which are actually scary crows
We’re due a fun filled week, rain or shine.
So staying with us or elsewhere, or just visiting for the day you’ll have a great time.
Once upon a time in the land we now call Gwynedd*, a young lad called Lleu Llaw Gyffes** was born. Now for a variety of reasons he became cursed. For starters his mother wasn’t best pleased about the manner of his birth – a long story and she had a point. Secondly, as all too often happens, on account of a bitter rivalry between siblings. And thirdly, well curses were generally quite popular. In fact he was subject to a number of them, and a couple of protective spells. The upshot of all this being that Lleu couldn’t marry any human wife. But on the plus side, killing him would be a complex process involving paradoxes, contortions, and highly specific weapons. Oh, and a goat.
After his birth and the various curses little is written about Lleu for the next few years. Presumably he spent his childhood and adolescence setting the foundations for a lifetime of feuds, and getting into scrapes. Some possibly involving the more life threatening types of animals. Here his protective spells would have come into their own, most of his foes having difficulty figuring out the paradoxes, let alone finding time to spend a year forging a sword when everyone else was at Mass. Not to mention sourcing the goat. Eventually his thoughts might have turned to love, romance and marriage. Or at least a judicious match securing the future prosperity and expansion of his kingdom. And that’s where the problem arose, because as you will remember he was forbidden from marrying a human wife.***
Luckily for Lleu his older male relatives, who to be perfectly frank were responsible for the whole curse’n’spell mess in the first place, had wide ranging magical skills, and so a bride was found for him. Or rather made. Blodeuwedd was her name and she was conjured from flowers, specifically oak leaves, broom and meadowsweet. Now about this marriage, not much is recorded in the old tales, but it didn’t have the best foundation. It seems to me that a cold, dark, stone castle would be no place for a woman made of flowers to thrive.
What the old tales do tell, whether told around firesides or written in books, is that Blodeuwedd betrayed her husband and conspired with one Gronw Pedr to murder him. ‘Oh yes’, you might ask, ‘and how were they going to manage that? Wasn’t Lleu’s life protected?’ And ‘well, you might reply’, (if you are given to talking to yourself), ‘perhaps she used her flowery, feminine wiles to inveigle the secret out of him.’ Because folk do tend to try and blame the woman. And indeed somehow Gronw did manage to capture Lleu in a net, at dusk, while he was standing with one foot on a cauldron and the other on the goat and still keeping a cool enough head to lob a spear at him. Not any old spear mind you, but one which had been forged sinfully during the hours of Mass.
Picture it now, the spear is flying through the air towards Lleu. So at this point things are not looking too good for him… But before it makes contact, Lleu transforms into an eagle and soars away. Nothing is mentioned about the cauldron, net and goat, but if the goat had any sense it would have put quite a bit of distance between itself and the cauldron.
Now, I don’t know whether Lleu had form in the old eagle transformation stakes, whether it was something he’d been practising up at the castle or if his uncles had a part in this as well. And if you ask me, the paradoxes weren’t properly satisfied either, but maybe I’m being picky. But… the upshot of it all is that he survived to be nursed back to health by his uncles Math and Gwydion, who were the ones responsible for Blodeuwedd, and truth be told, for the whole sorry mess. They had caused the rift between Lleu and his mother in the first place. But that’s another story and not a very savoury one.
And Blodeuwedd, what became of her? She was turned into an owl and cursed to spend her days shunned by the other birds.
Let’s have a little think about that…
What exactly did she do? One minute she was happily growing in the forest and the next she was turned into a human and married off to someone she’d never met before. Now I’ll admit, even flesh and blood women had no agency back then and were likely to suffer the same fate, but shouldn’t we feel sorry for her? She’d lived in a bright, scented world, where she could enjoy the cool tang of the earth after rain, and then was plonked into a castle which was all mineral and metal, and perfumed with death.
Actually, despite the malice behind her transformation, Blodeuwedd was happier as an owl than she’d ever been as a human. Lleu was pretty dull, he’d only wanted a wife to produce an heir and continue his line. So that they could go on fighting their neighbours, stealing land and horses, and generally causing mayhem. As an owl, far from being shunned, Blodeuwedd reigned over the darkness, gliding on soundless wings. Enjoying the night scented flowers which reminded her of home. Ok, she wasn’t a particularly benign figure to mice, voles and the smaller types of birds, but were you really expecting happy ever after for everyone? And Math and Gwydion, who orchestrated all her transformations may have been pretty useful with spells, but their knowledge of bird hierarchy was flawed. Far from being shunned, Blodeuwedd was a sovereign of the birds and definitely a queen of the night.
Gronw? I’m afraid he got killed by a spear, which passed straight through a rock before piercing him. No eagle or other large bird transformations for him. Which was pretty par for the course in being a blood thirsty, kingdom-hungry young warrior back then.
Lleu? His story doesn’t tell, but I like to think of him in his cold, dark castle watching the graceful creature flying outside with a certain degree of regret.
*Gwynedd is the north easterly county of mainland Wales, including the pointy bit, the Lleyn peninsular. It’s topographically pointy too, Snowdon is there. **if you think that’s a mouthful the English translation is ‘the fair haired one with the skilful hand. ***this is not the time for goat jokes.
Our scarecrow will feature Blodeuwedd mid-transformation, part flowers, part owl. And don’t worry, no swans (or owls) were harmed in the gathering of said feathers, they were foraged last Autumn by my niece.
If you liked this story I have more here, on the stories page.
NEW – EV Chargepoint We now have an electric vehicle chargepoint for guests. It’s the untethered type, so you need to use your own cable, and has a maximum output of 7KW. Just let us know when booking that you want to charge your EV.
We’ll charge at cost (~30p per KwH at time of posting)
We were on our travels recently and found the charge points at Inveraray and Moffat good places for a stop over. We haven’t checked out the more local options but there are eight in and around Oban, check out Charge Place Scotland for details.
Back in 2019 Seil enjoyed its first ever Scarecrow Festival, the island was invaded by around a hundred of the straw creatures.
We had a naughty dog causing havoc with the breakfast sausages
But the winning entry showed the crows fighting back
The festival kicked off on a drizzly start with umbrellas protecting Juliet Cadzow (Balamory’s Edie McCredie) when she cut the ribbon across the bridge, but as the week progressed, the sun began to shine and temperatures soared. A pop up cafe ran every day in the hall.
You could pose as a scarecrow
Or enjoy a heritage walk, a potluck lunch, yoga, a scarecrow themed quiz and lots of other activities. Thankfully there were no Midsomer style murders.
The week culminated in a Highland Fair, with fun stalls, a dog show, and someone put in an appearance as a living scarecrow
Then we danced the night away with a ceilidh in the hall afterwards.
So it’ll be great to welcome them back again and see what our creative community comes up with this time around.
The festival will run 23rd – 30th July 2022
I’ve already had my thinking hat on, and am planning one to celebrate Scotland’s Year of Stories 2022 and my Welsh heritage.
Way back in 2020 when we were first emerging from lockdown, and looking forward to welcoming guests again ‘Good to Go’ became the watchword. We signed up to the scheme and were pleased to display the logo. Now after two more years of living with Covid restrictions and adapting our service the scheme has ended.
This year we’re going to open both rooms again, so you may meet other guests during your stay. But don’t worry, we are dedicated to keeping our guests safe while offering them a warm and welcoming experience. Some of the changes we introduced will stay but we are gradually reintroducing books and soft furnishings to our rooms. And of course we’ll be keeping everything clean for you.
Looking forward to welcoming our first guests of the season next month. Here’s to new friends and old.
Too busy in fact to write any posts. And a longer one this year, we opened in May and finally closed our doors last week. Don’t worry, not permanently, we plan on being open for business in Spring 2022. Keep an eye on this space.
We were lucky, it was a lovely summer here on Seil. I don’t think I’m wearing my rose tinted specs. My standard is how often we can dry the washing outdoors. And if memory serves me correctly, the answer was ‘often’ the occasional highland rinse* not withstanding! In fact there were a few times everything dried far too quickly and they were almost beyond ironing!
Like last year we’ve had to adapt our welcome, COVID hasn’t left us yet, but we’ve got used to mask wearing, twice weekly lateral flow tests, and having just the one ‘bubble’ of guests at a time. Fingers crossed that by next year we’ll be a little more back to ‘normal’.
Today we had a lovely walk in Kilninver, enjoying the Autumn colours.
Looking forward to meeting more of you next year. Stay safe.
Caroline, George, and Bramble xxx
*highland rinse – the phenomena of leaving out your washing when it’s only a ‘light’ shower! Real aficionados play this to the limits, it has to stop sometime.
Back in January I wrote a post called “Looking forward, looking back”, it was a look back at our time here, and a taste of the season we were looking forward to.
Little did I know.
It’s nearly the end of the year.
Spring was sunny but we had it all to ourselves.
Our summer was much better than we could have expected. We had to make changes, but were rewarded with lovely guests once again. And we managed some family time and personal celebrations before restrictions tightened in the autumn. And then this month our community managed to deliver some Christmas sparkle for local children, with a walk through Cinderella performance.
Tomorrow we’ll celebrate alone, raising our glasses to toast a new year. And looking forward to opening our doors to guests once again.
Stay safe, stay well, and have a happy new year when it comes.
I managed to miss Scottish Food and Drink Fortnight in September. Probably too busy serving it to guests, and eating it on birthdays! So I though I could showcase just some of our lovely local foods here.
First of all, the things we serve at breakfast time. Our eggs and meat products are all from local farms.
Sausages and bacon come from the WeePig and Taste of Argyll and also our very near neighbours at Auchnasaul. If you’ve been served beef sausages they’ve come from there. My home cured bacon was made using pork from the Wee Pig Company.
When we’re not in lockdown we have a good choice of food at our local pubs, the Tigh an Truish which is almost next door, or the Oyster Bar at Ellenabeich. And both have adapted amazingly to the changing conditions over the past few months and are currently offering takeaway options outside the restricted opening hours.
Peas on sourdough, and plaice and chips at the Tigh an Truish.
Did you see the sourdough? That’s made by Holly at Solace Bakery. I think I’ve written elsewhere about the pizzas which did so much to cheer up our lockdown. Well since then the range has been expanded to include delicious breads, pastries, and cakes. Including the cake I was treated to for my birthday.
And it’s not just food, the coffee we serve (and drink ourselves) is roasted here on the island by Hinba Coffee. You can also enjoy it at their shop in Oban.
Autumn is most definitely here, the leaves have changed colour (and started to fall) and the storms have arrived. At the moment we’re probably at the peak of colour before we tip into the faded palette of winter.
My walk reminded me of one back in the spring, also a damp day. Then the colours were beginning to develop.
Opposite sides of the seasonal spectrum.
This year more than most spring brought signs of hope; infection rates fell and we were able to meet our friends again.
Summer, well it wasn’t normal but it was freer, and we were able to welcome guests.
Now we have the prospect of winter, and a retreat back to our homes*. We’ve adapted, there’s no guising** for the children this year but windows and gardens have been filled with pumpkins and spooks for a hallowe’en treasure hunt ***.
As the nights and our lives draw in, I’m getting the sparkly lights out early to brighten up the dark evenings.
Christmas won’t be a big family gathering, whatever the governments decide. There won’t be carols at the pub, nor our panto in January. But I’m just hoping that winter won’t be too long and dark, and I’ll be watching the spring flowers in the rain in 2021, planning the season for our guests.
Stay safe. Stay well. Hope to meet you soon.
*As I was writing this Argyll and Bute was put into tier two restrictions, which means we can meet friends outdoors or in cafes, but not at home.
** dressing up and visiting houses
***Parents take their children around the island spotting the pumpkins, the children earn a treat for each they spot