Find out why it is easy to fall in love with Carry Farm

Ask anyone that knows Carry Farm what makes it so special and they will all say something different.  But there is a common thread tying everyone together, and that is it has a special place in their hearts. Less than 2 hours driving from the central belt, through spectacular scenery, Carry Farm is a million miles away from the pressures and stresses of the daily grind.  Argyll's Secret Coast is uniquely accessible with the 'wow' factor.  Here are 6 ways to ensure you fall head over heels for Carry Farm.

1. Our lodges sit a stones throw from the shore.  You do not need to go far to enjoy your stay.  Contrary to common opinion, our water is not as cold as you think and averages 15 - 20 degrees during the summer months.  The bay at Carry Farm is ideally placed for a swim.  The shallow, sandy bottom, protected by the natural curvature of the shoreline, provides the perfect pool.  And if you time it really well on a sunny day, with the tide slowly creeping in over the warm sands, it is idyllic........the ultimate infinity pool without the crowds!

2. If swimming is not for you, you can still take to the water with Tighnabruaich Sailing School.  During the summer months, they provide tuition for youths on a wide selection of dinghies in the bay in front of the lodges.  Private tuition is available at weekend if you fancy taking the helm, no previous experience is required.  Alternatively, if you are looking for a more sedate way to enjoy the water, join Donald on his converted fishing boat Morag for a tour of the Kyles of Bute.  If you have never taken to the sea before, Argyll's Secret Coast is the ideal place to start with wildlife and scenery that will take your breath away.

3. Perhaps you are more of a land based person, in which case, do not fear, there is plenty to do!  Walking in the ancient oak woods at Glenan Bay , one of the few remaining native oak woodlands in the area, is a real treat. Glenan Wood has a rare population of night jars. See if you can hear their distinctive call in the twilight. Listen out for woodwarblers and cuckoos too.  In May, enjoy the carpet of bluebells coating the forest floor.

4. Ostel Bay is a stunning, sandy beach which can only be reached by a 15 minute walk with spectacular views across to Arran and unique west coast machair.  The bay is very shallow and when the tide is out there is plenty of space for dog walking, sand castle building or exploring.  Hidden from the main road, only those that know about it can get there, and as a result, it is the jewel in the crown on Argyll's Secret Coast.

5. Our single track roads with spectacular views are ideal for the keen cyclist.  Whether you are looking for a 3 mile, flat cycle to the local shop or a challenging cycle over the Bealach - we have it all.  Carry Farm is perfect for younger children to play on their bikes.  The path down to the shore and track around the farm is perfectly safe and enclosed from the road.

6. Carry Farm is home to The Dairy Gallery which sells textiles made by Fiona from the Hebridean sheep on the farm, and stunning ceramics by Karen McPhail.  Take away a reminder of your stay with an organically tanned sheepskin reared at Carry Farm and tanned locally in Argyll, or  perhaps a cushion or some yarn for your own project.  In fact, if you are a maker, you will be inspired by your stay to take up your pencils or needles and get working!

And if all of the above has not made you fall in love with the area, perhaps when you meet Barney the donkey down by the shore, he will tug at your heart strings and ensure Carry Farm has a special place in your heart forever.  After all, a donkey is for life and not just for Christmas!

Aurora Borealis - How to see it in Scotland.

Last night, Carry Farm was treated to an incredible light show courtesy of the Aurora Borealis AND some shooting stars.  Did you know that  you do not have to leave the UK to see the phenomenon?  No need to look out your passport, book flights and queue in airports.  Head to Argyll's Secret Coast, less than 2 hours from Glasgow, book your stay here and look up!  

Why is it green?

The natural light show is caused by collisions between electrically charged particles released from the sun that enter the earth’s atmosphere at the magnetic poles.  Like last night,  the most common colour display is green. It may be common, but does not disappoint!   The variations in colour are due to the type of gas particles that are colliding. Green, is produced by oxygen molecules located about 60 miles above the earth. The rarer red auroras are produced by high-altitude oxygen, at heights of up to 200 miles. The auroras can appear in many forms, from small patches of light that appear out of nowhere to streamers, arcs, rippling curtains or shooting rays that light up the sky with an incredible glow.

Avoid light pollution.

You need to avoid light pollution, it will ruin any Aurora show.  Carry Farm is ideally placed.  From our dark skies, the Aurora Borealis, shooting stars, the Milky Way and the International Space Station can be starkly visible on a cloudless evening. Look at our photo gallery and find us on the map and you will see why we are dark!  Despite being less than 2 hours from Glasgow, we are beautifully remote.  

Head North to Argyll.

The further away from the north pole you are, generally the lower on the horizon the aurora will be. This explains why in the stunning photo above taken by Shane Wasik of Basking Shark Scotland from our beach, the glow is low on the horizon.  Of course if there are clouds, then forget all the above! But all it takes is a clearing and all can be revealed. 

Researchers have also discovered that auroral activity is cyclic, peaking roughly every 11 years. The next solar max is around 2024, but looks like we will not have to wait until then!  The Aurora Borealis has been seen regularly at Carry Farm, most frequently in November, so we are delighted with last nights show in September. Check our availability for November to have a chance to see the Aurora Borealis without the hassle of leaving the UK.

The Dawn of the North.

We love a light show!  However in medieval times, the auroral displays were seen as a messenger of an imminent war or famine. They were named in 1619 by Galileo after Aurora, the Roman goddess of the dawn and the Greek name for the north wind, Boreas.  The translation "dawn of the north" is definitely a more apt description of the actual event than the impending doom of the medieval period.

Find the time to escape the lights of civilisation this winter, book a stay in one of our architect designed lodges by the shores of the Kyles of Bute,  and spend an evenings  studying the night sky above Carry Farm.  You might just be rewarded with an unforgettable show!

Ceramics

Cowal Open Studios starts this Friday and gives visitors the opportunity to visit artists and makers in their studios.  Karen McPhail spends her summers in Tighnabruaich and her work can be seen at The Dairy Gallery at Carry Farm this weekend. 

Karen makes her high fired earthenware from her studio in Renfrewshire.  Her designs are inspired by collages she collects in sketchbooks and transfers to leather hard clay using a technique of paper resist and slip, coloured with natural oxides. Each piece is hand made and fired twice in an electric kiln.  

Karen studied ceramics at Glasgow School of Art and now shows her work in galleries from Orkney and Shetland to Cornwall.  Every item is unique, however it is the processes involved in working in ceramics in the studio that Karen enjoys, with the final satisfaction of each finished piece finding a function in the home.

Carry Farm's Wildflowers

If you are a keen Botanist, professional or otherwise, Carry Farm needs your expertise! Carry Farm has an abundance of wildflowers and with your help, we would like to record as many of them as possible.  Below is the beginning of a list that we would like to add to as often as possible.  We believe there are around 100 species of wildflowers on the coastal small holding, and we need your help identifying them.  

Our circular walk along the shore and around the heath are ideally located for spotting wildflowers.  Bring your camera and binoculars, and perhaps a notebook, and enjoy a sunny afternoon exploring our shoreline and woods.  And if you are lucky, the otters may make an appearance as they frolic on the shore or visit our pond! Don't forget to let us know of any wildflowers you see not on the list below.

Bluebell

Buttercup

Common Spotted Orchid

Cotton Grass

Cow Parsnip

Daffodil

Daisy

Dandelion

Foxglove

Honeysuckle

Ivy Leaved Toadflax

Lady's Smock

Marsh Marigold

Primrose

Red Campion

Snowdrop

Thistles

Thrift

Wood Sorrel

Yellow Iris

 

We love wool - find out why!

We are in the middle of The Campaign For Wool's 7th Wool Week 2016, and there is no better time to appreciate the amazing quality of this natural product.   It was officially inaugurated in October 2010, in recognition of the plight sheep farmers were facing around the world in the face of plummeting wool prices.  Wool is a precious natural, renewable and biodegradable resource that offers many technical and ecological benefits and The Campaign For Wool sought to convene experts from across the agricultural, wool textile and retail sectors to reverse the trend towards petro-chemical fibres.

Determined to make our Hebridean fleeces a viable product at Carry Farm, initially, we had to ensure we had the quantity for a commercial batch to be processed.  This involved storing fleeces shorn each year in the hay shed (perhaps of course it should be renamed the wool shed), until we had around 200 fleeces or approx 200Kg.

The first cog in the wheel of a finished yarn is scouring.  Our Hebridean fleeces were taken to Haworth to be professional cleaned on a large scale and prepared for spinning by combing the fleece ensuring that all the fibres run parallel to each other.  The ‘bats’ of fleece were then sent to New Lanark, a historic mill on the banks of the River Clyde.  Originally, a cotton mill, it survived from 1785 to 1968 and in its time had been among the largest factories in the world, employing nearly 2,500 people.  

Our Hebridean wool was produced using very traditional methods on a 19th century spinning mule, powered by renewable energy from New Lanarks hydro-electricity production.  And for keen enthusiasts, you can visit the main mill floor where the rattle and noise of a 392 spindle, 120ft long, 19th century spinning mule, making 4 passes every minute should not be missed!

At the end of the process, we came home with 100 cones of our distinctive Hebridean yarn.  

So why bother when we can produce synthetic yarn?  Since the Stone Age, wool has been appreciated as one of the most effective forms of all-weather protection known to man.  Technology has come on a fair bit since then, however science is yet to produce a fibre which matches wool’s unique properties.  

As long as there is grass to graze on, every sheep will produce a new fleece annually, making wool a renewable fibre source.  At the end of its useful life, wool can be returned to the soil, where it decomposes, releasing valuable nutrients into the ground.  In comparison, synthetics are slow to degrade.

Wool is a natural insulator and is extremely breathable.  It also has the ability to constantly react to changes in body temperature, maintaining comfort in both cold and warm weather.  A wool vest can make all the difference to your temperature control.

Garments made from wool have the ability to stretch with the wearer, but also to return to their natural shape, making them resistant to sagging. Wool therefore maintains its appearance in the long run, adding value to the product as well as lifespan.

Wool is far more efficient than other textiles at absorbing sweat and releasing it into the air, before bacteria has a chance to develop.  It is not known to cause allergies and has a naturally high level of UV protection - much higher than most synthetics and cotton.

So now you know!  Next time you are thinking of a new purchase - think wool!  Carry Farm has 50 gram balls of Hebridean wool for sale, or if you are thinking of a bigger project, the 1 Kg cones are a cheaper option.  Born and raised on our coastal smallholding, our happy sheep help to produce ethical products!

The Dairy Gallery at Carry Farm has functional textiles made at the Farm from our Hebridean fleece and is open every day for visitors to enjoy.  And of course, you are always welcome to visit the flock of Hebrideans down by the shore.

Hebridean Meat

In 2007 we introduced two Hebridean ewes, Cally and Molly, to Carry Farm, primarily to help cut the grass!  Hebridean are indigenous to the west coast of Scotland and were once a common sight, originally kept as much for their milk and fine fleeces as well as their meat. The Hebridean was our first choice, a small, hardy primitive breed that are ideal for the management of delicate ecosystems and thrive on vegetation with poor energy values. 

From a slow start, there are now around 50 ewes at Carry Farm, helping us maintain the coastal small holding. Every year, they grow a dark fleece that is shorn and sent to be spun into yarn, and a small number are chosen for meat.  The animals are not killed until they are at least 18 months old as they are a slower growing breed allowing the meat's flavour to fully mature in a way we now rarely see, producing a high quality, lean meat. 

The sheep are born, reared and grazed on our coastal small holding and lead a very happy and content life. Given a name at birth, some will even come when called for grooming, a sheep's life does not get much better!

If you have not yet tried Hebridean meat, then now is the time to try. The meat is totally unique and is undoubtedly the most succulent, tender lamb available, it is a world away from mass produced supermarket lamb with a rich dark hue, succulent tender texture, and a gamey – utterly delicious long forgotten flavour.  And if that is not enough to entice you to trying Hebridean meat, it is also very lean with significantly lower cholesterol than most lamb, yet another important health advantages over modern commercial breeds of sheep.

It is ideal as a roasted joint or made into casseroles and tagines.  Try this warm shredded lamb salad with mint and pomegranate, it is delicious and a current favourite at Carry Farm.  We will share more recipes that we have tried and loved, so keep en eye on our website.

There are a couple of half lambs available now to purchase for £48, all pieces are individually vac packed for freshness and flavour.  Please contact us if you would like to reserve your lamb.

Please remember - our lambs are reared ethically and purchasing your lamb from Carry Farm enables us to continue rearing Hebridean sheep for conservation grazing and helps to ensure the survival of traditional breeds. 

Spring Tide Beachcombing

The new moon last week was extra-close to earth and has accentuated the spring tides that we saw this weekend, giving rise to a perigean spring tide. High spring tides climb up especially high, and on the same day low tides plunge especially low.  This of course means that beachcombing along the low water mark becomes even more interesting, as animals and plants not normally visible from the shore, are exposed at low water. 

Large common starfishes were in abundance over the weekend on the sandy shallows, their bright orange legs standing out against the sand.  There are plenty of species of seaweed to be found on the shore at Carry Farm like the bladderwrack, eggwrack, kelp and red seaweeds, a coral like pink seaweed. Underwater, the red seaweed, along with the pink rock lichen, looks magical, and can only be seen on the Carry shore on a very low tide. 

If you look extra hard,  you will find well disguised and hiding underneath the seaweed at the rocky point,  Clabby Doos, an extra large horse mussel that can live for 25 years and colonise just below low water. Large queenie scallops were also spotted, along with the more common razor clam,  abundant on sandy shores. 

Next time there is a low tide, make sure you find time to put on your wellies and beachcomb along the low water mark where sea urchins, crabs, sea anemones and starfish are plentiful. Spring tides occur every two weeks so there are plenty of opportunities to enjoy the magical underwater world on our doorstep.  

Auchtachoan

The following poem was written to commemorate the flitting of the last person to leave Auchtachoan – a small settlement in the hills behind Carry Farm which can be reached from a woodland path at the end of Carry Woods running up the side of the burn.  Make sure you find time to explore the ruins in May when the bluebells are out and the walk up the hill at the side of the gorge is a stunning carpet of flowers. The ‘flitting’ from Auchtachoan took place around 100 years ago, relatively recently despite the state of the ruins, and is described brilliantly in this poem.

 

The Queen’s flitting from Auchtachoan

The little croft of Auchtachoan sits snugly in the hills

Quite beautiful in summer time but bleak in winter chills

The house is damp and draughty and the roof lets in the rain

Which hurts Queen Nelly sorely for she gets rheumatic pains.

 

She has a talk with second son, the mighty Kaiser King

Who says they’ll get another home, and move out in the spring.

So to Millhouse first Lairdy’s sent on his good old trusty bike

Where he finds an empty cottage, with toilet behind a dyke.

 

He cycles back to his mother Queen , and says the rent is low.

So there and then she makes up her mind to have a party before they go.

Prince Donald known as Bullover asked all their friends to come

At 2 o’clock the very next day as a send off for his Mum.

 

Gracie Whyte the Princess had prepared some rabbit stew

To feed the crowd when they arrived washed down with Barley Brew.

They came along from the Camp and Point and some too from the Ferry,

From Glenachoul and Kildavaig, just to make the party merry.

 

They brought the Queen so many gifts to celebrate the flitting

Some home made wine, some potted heads and lots of lovely knitting.

Nelly thanked them for the gifts and for their kindly wishes.

And when the guests had all gone home made Kaiser wash the dishes.

 

Next day the Queen told all her brood, we don’t want to tarry

See Jimmy Fletcher from the farm, get a horse and cart from Carry.

Then they travelled past Blair’s Ferry and up across the Moss

To reach the house that Lairdy found a few yards from the Cross.

 

The Millhouse folk, now Nelly’s here, know her as Mrs Whyte

But that is during daytime and never late at night

For when they are sitting round the fire and in the house alone

She’s know as she has always been

THE QUEEN OF AUCHTACHOAN.

 

Auchtachoan is spelt Achadachoun on modern OS maps, Achaldachoun or Achadlakennon on older maps and variations on Achetychuin on old charters etc.

Barney the donkey

Barney the donkey keeps the sheep company, as well as enjoying eating the abundant rashes and tussock grass on the heathland. He is very sociable and is always delighted with some attention, especially if it involves a carrot.  Barney has a beautiful cart and enjoys pulling it around the point along the shoreline with two happy customers on board.

Hebridean wool

The Hebrideans are sheared annually and their fleece is sent to New Lanark Heritage Mill to be spun into yarn which Fiona makes into textiles at Carry Farm. The yarn is a beautiful textural black, flecked with grey, and provides the ideal yarn to make functional textiles for the home, and is available at The Dairy at Carry Farm.

Hebridean meat

Selected animals provide delicious Hebridean meat available to buy at Carry Farm. It is very different from mass produced, fatty, commercial lamb, and is famous for its dark colour, tender texture and uniquely 'gamey' flavour.  The meat has been shown to be relatively lean with a significantly lower cholesterol level than most commercial lamb.

Inverarary

inverarary castle

inverarary castle

Inverarary is very pretty conservation town around an hours drive from Carry Farm.  Inverary Castle is the ancestral home of the Duke of Argyll, Chief of the Clan Campbell and his fairytale castle is well worth a visit. Inside, you can view the lavish State Dining Room, the tapestries and the stunning Armoury Hall with its walls adorned with muskets, pole-arms and axes and the surrounding estate also offers some lovely walks.

Inveraray Jail is also in the town and is one of Scotland’s top visitor attractions. It has one of the finest and best-preserved Jail and Courtroom complexes in the world. Explore this unique collection of historic buildings, brought to life by real characters from the Jail’s past. Step back in time and find out what life was like for the men, women and children – some as young as seven – who were tried and locked up here all those years ago.

The Inveraray Bell Tower is just a stone’s throw from the jail. Climb the 176 steps to the top of the tower for stunning views over Inveraray and Loch Fyne to the Arrochar Alps beyond. 

The famous Loch Fyne Oyster restaurant and shop is ten minutes out of Inverarary on your way back to Carry Farm and is a must for seafood lovers. 

 

The Dairy Gallery

From Easter to end of October, Carry Farm has a small gallery craft shop ‘The Dairy’ open most days with facilities for helping yourself to fairtrade tea/coffee etc.

The Dairy is home to textiles made by Fiona from her Hebridean sheep farmed at Carry Farm and functional decorative ceramics by Karen McPhail.

The Hebridean is a small, native, hardy breed that can cope with extremes of weather and poor quality vegetation. Hence, introducing Hebridean sheep onto Carry Farm holding was the obvious choice to help manage areas of rough grazing.

The naturally black fleece, annually sheared from the Hebrideans is spun in the Borders at New Lanark Heritage Mill, on an original 19th century spinning mule. The finished yarn has a textural quality from the combination of the rich dark black and the flecks of grey natural in the older sheep.

It is with this yarn that Fiona designs and knits sustainable and functional textiles, with an enviable provenance, in her studio at Carry Farm.

A limited selection of Carry Farm’s Hebridean sheepskins organically tanned locally in Argyll are also available.

Karen makes functional and decorative earthenware ceramics for the the home. Coloured slip decoration, printed decals and glaze are applied in layers to create a playful, collage like quality. Each piece is fired up to three times to 1080 degrees centigrade in an electric kiln.

If you would like to visit The Dairy and it is not open, please do come to reception and ask, we are very happy to open up. 

Cowal Open Studios 22nd - 25th September 2017

22nd - 25th September 2017

Tighnabruaich is a hot spot for artists and makers,  and Carry Farm is a great place to stay whilst you tour around the peninsula visiting Cowal Open Studios. The farm's Textile and Ceramic studio is on the door step and many more are less than a ten minute drive from the farm.

The professional artists – painters, potters, sculptors, furniture makers, jewellers, textile artists and photographers, who work on the Cowal peninsula in the midst of the beautiful Argyll countryside, open their doors to visitors on these four days (and on other times by appointment). From Cairndow to Dunoon and Toward, from Strachur to Tighnabruaich and many beautiful places in between, come and see what lies behind the closed doors and beyond the garden gates.