Beaver Trust

Polly has recently become an Ambassador for the Beaver Trust. Here she gives a short introduction, with the help of an energetic little red squirrel.

Find out more at the Beaver Trust website.

Solan Goose Summer

Troup Head – Scotland’s only mainland gannet colony: a pungent aroma of guano fills the air as I walk closer to life on the edges and ledges amid the gentle songs of skylarks. If eulogies are a celebration tribute, then there is no better bird to sing them. Rising higher and higher into a racing sky of bruised clouds, a duet carries over dancing barley fields. Salt-crisped flowers and feathery grasses sway to the music. Skylark song is joyous yet mournful, and like the gannet at the opposite end of the avian spectrum, this tiny bird is vulnerable. And in decline.

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The Horizontal Oak

There’s a single oak high on the flank of Ben Hiant, overlooking the Sound of Mull. I have known this resilient tree since my early child­hood. It’s in a place I love very much. Massaged by the warmth of the Gulf Stream, battered by the wrath of the Atlantic and silhouetted by a thousand sunsets over the islands of Mull, Coll and Tiree, it is horizontal, its trunk fissured and colonised by tiny ferns. An oak sustains more life forms than any other native tree. Generally, we think of oaks as mighty: trees for building houses, boats or bastions; trees of grandiose parklands, their massive weighty boughs stretching to the heavens. The oaks of Scotland’s rainforest on the western sea­ board are different: diminutive, wind­sculpted. Many do not stay the course while others, like mine, grow strong and beautiful as they find succour between a rock and a hard place. Raven, hooded crow, buzzard and tawny owl frequently visit this tree. Sometimes it will be the little stonechat with his dapper black bonnet. And, from time to time, it is me, for its trunk, having withstood so much abuse, offers me support too, the horizontal oak, high on a hillside west of the sun.

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Photo of Mervyn Knox Browne

Dead Wood

When my close friend Mervyn Knox Browne of South Loch Tayside was nearing the end of his long life, on a visit, I asked him how he was doing. Incapacitated by the vagaries of old age, he replied, ‘I am useless, just deadwood.’ It upset me to hear this from a man who had left his mark inspiring dozens of people, young and old, and whose 95 years had made a successful difference. He was a revered community member as well as a good deal further afield, and he had achieved so much more than he realised.

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Image © Clare Mackie

A Write Highland Hoolie 2023!

Mallaig’s Book Festival at The West Highland Hotel, Mallaig
10th-12th November 2023

We are looking forward to another fabulous line-up of authors and musicians as well as great food and ambience for this year’s Hoolie.  In 2019 we were thrilled to expand our events into both the local primary and High Schools and to work once again with Fort William’s superb independent Highland Bookshop.  

More exciting, dedicated children’s events are planned for this year, as well as our wonderful Hoolie School of Music Sessions – this time Duncan Chisholm and Hamish Napier are returning much to the excitement of senior music students at Mallaig High School.  We firmly believe that helping forge a love of reading, is one of the best things we can do for the younger generation, and we feel it’s vital to encourage all aspects of the creative arts, especially traditional music too. As before, all the main events will take place in the comfort of the West Highland Hotel from where on fine days – and yes there are plenty, a fabulous panorama unfolds on Rum, Eigg, Muck, and the jagged outline of the Cuillins of Skye.

Our opening event this year is a real extravaganza – a unique blend of music and literature – Beyond the Swelkie – A Celebration of the Life and Work of George Mackay Brown with Duncan Chisholm, Hamish Napier and poet Jim Macintosh.  And then on Saturday night before dinner, dynamic duo, Ross Ainslie and Tim Edey are back for another of their jaw-dropping performances. So, we guarantee that our Hoolie will be a joyous weekend celebration of books, music, fine food, and great craic, for this is what sets us apart.

Don’t miss updates about our unique event: sign up for our newsletter on our website. A Write Highland Hoolie is the book festival with a difference. Tickets on sale by early summer.

Lawrence MacEwen Obituary

The death of Lawrence MacEwen of the tiny Hebridean island of Muck leaves a void as gaping as a crevasse. Muck has been in the MacEwen family since 1896. For the past 40 years, Lawrence and his wife Jenny and their family have kept this fertile island with its thriving livestock farm and ethos of self-sufficiency, afloat. As a result, Muck is held aloft as an example of a functioning remote rural community – progressive and innovative. ‘I believe in evolution, not revolution,’ Lawrence stated. His unique brand of benevolent paternalism was proof of its success.

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A Scurry of Squirrels – Conversation with Mark Stephen

For the launch of my latest book, A Scurry of Squirrels, we decided to do an interview featuring one of the squirrel kits in my care. Who better to interview me than my good friend Mark Stephen of Radio Scotland’s popular Out of Doors programme – also a fellow fan of the red squirrel. However, with a squirrel you never know what might happen next!

Cloudy’s Wallow

Red deer love to wallow, so we decided to make a wallowing place for our red deer calf Cloudy in our field but we didn’t expect such a wonderful instant reaction. As we dug and the wallow got bigger, her sheer delight and antics gave us the best antidote to #lockdown angst imaginable! If anyone doubts that animals experience joy – then watch this, it’s guaranteed to cheer you up! Polly’s Antidote to Gloom!

Photo of polly Pullar illustrating article rthe child in nature

The Child in Nature – an Endangered Species

This article first appeared in Scotland: the Big Picture.  Read the full article (with more images) here.

It’s January, the season when a fox’s hormones fuel the urge to breed. At night I lie in bed and hear their eerie yattering as they wander on their nocturnal forays, their soundtrack accompanied by tawny owls – they too are preparing for breeding. The wood is also thick with the aroma of red deer. My son Freddy and I are following a lattice of worn tracks made as the deer trek up and down in the gloaming, to the richer pickings in the fields below. Now that the bracken has died away, and before the new growth, it’s perfect for exploration. Continue reading “The Child in Nature – an Endangered Species”