Crofting Life


‘Where are you going?’ I was asked as I packed my bags.

‘Timbuktu’, I replied.

‘You’re not going to Africa’, the oldest retorted.

Ahh, you are correct, but I’m going to the Highland’s local equivalent. And possibly better than Timbuktu (although I can’t say for sure as I’ve never been to the real Timbuktu).

See, anytime they ask where I am or where I’m going, I say Timbuktu. Times such as, when I’m taking a load of laundry to the washing machine, when I’m heading outside to hang laundry, or when I carrying clean laundry upstairs to be folded. It is at those times I hear the call:

‘Muummmm, where are you?’

No tannoy is needed for my boys to put out a missing person’s call, to ask all to join in a search party, for voices to be raised to see if the person’s whereabouts can be pinpointed. They are by no means part of a mountain search and rescue team, although the laundry always seems like a mountain and maybe one day I will succumb to the shear heights and become crag fast with it and need help, but not sure the Scottish Mountain Rescue team would be fully trained for that kind of rescue (the type of rescue where you hear: ‘Joe, you start folding towels on the west side, Sarah and I will take on the deep crevasses of the sheets from the south. Sam, you take on the landslip of socks over on the north face while everyone else spread out across the general laundry slope and pick your way carefully over the tops; be suspect for anything that doesn’t smell of Ylang-ylang and Lily). My boys are just getting a bit of work experience really at the basic search and rescue aspect; the type they could put on their CVs – ‘From the age of three, we led countless endeavours to rescue Mum when she disappeared for more than five minutes’. On a positive note, they are good at finding me. However, they are also good at following. Not in the way a dog does scent training and is always scent following long after the person has past that way, but in the ‘never take your eye off the ball mentality’. Their philosophy is it is always better to stick together.

Now, their scent following/search and rescue missions are not all the time, they are less so when the Crofter is home. But while he is gone, I do find the book ‘Five minutes peace’ is a very realistic book, save the fact that it pertains to talking elephants. But the fact that Mrs Large tries to get five minutes peace but is unsuccessful; that my friend, is the realistic part. And with that, I thought I would change the book from a simple children’s book, to a self help book and take up the challenge. So within hours of the Crofter arriving back from work, I had booked two nights away at a local hotel. I was finally going to Timbuktu!

I took enough ‘holidaying’ things to last a week; optimism at its peak as I was only going to be away for two nights. The books (three), the magazines (two), the writing equipment (two notebooks and a laptop), the cross-stitch (that hasn’t been touched for years), the mountain bike, and the walking boots all went. The ability to get outside and enjoy the fresh air is not something new. But the ability to go for a walk without having to carry 13kg for part of it, the cycling without having a trailer attached, the ability to sit for long enough to a actually thread a needle. That can make the world of difference. The space for the mind to feel free…that is, until you round a corner and find 20 cows munching on silage and you wonder where the next cattle grid is in case you need to run as one of them gives you ‘the look’ that you are well familiar with. But the time to have space and have place of refuge were I don’t need to cook, clean, wash up, or be the responsible one.

Was my trip successful? Well, if that means having a good night sleep and doing things I enjoy, then yes. Was I ready to go back and face the cows? No. I could have stayed for longer. But hey, a couple of nights escape has been well worth it. Probably much over due (the good night sleep meant I only needed a small coffee rather than my usual pint size mug). The food was lovely, more so when the only meal prep you had to do was to start eyeing up the menu at about 3pm in regard to what you might want to order.

So, I can highly recommend to anyone: take a break, stay local, support independent businesses, and go have an explore down that wee track that you have always wondered about (just watch out for the cows that may be round the corner…). Go local, go rural and find your Timbuktu.

NB, For those wondering where my Timbuktu was, it is the quirky and fabulous Whitebridge Hotel (who are on Facebook, Instagram and the Internet so go check out some of the décor for a wee taster). I can recommend several walks (and one to avoid if your not fond of cows), the lounge seat next to the fire, and a favourite spot at the bar.

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