Taking Stock: Cullen Bay Beach Walk by daintydora

It's always good to 'Take Stock' of where you are (in life; with yourself), and the start of a new year feels particularly apt. This is the first year I haven't written lengthy lists of plans, ideas, dare I say it - resolutions. I'm OK with that. Instead I've spent the first days of 2017 just thinking, being, breathing.

Taking Stock: Cullen Bay Beach, Scotland

Turning things over in my mind and taking my time before rushing into anything too deep and meaningful; catching up on reading and creative work with minimal digital distraction. It felt good. Hibernation could be my 'thing'.

A walk along the beach at Cullen Bay in the North of Scotland was a beautiful, wild way to welcome in the year, the sea restless with energy and alive with mystery.

Taking Stock: Cullen Bay Beach, ScotlandTaking Stock: Cullen Bay Beach, Scotland

For this 'Taking Stock' I've picked 12 verbs from the usual list (one for each month), to reflect on. This is me, right now:

Making: Cullen Skink. I had to really, having so recently visited Cullen and tasting the award-winning version, circa 2015. Drinking: Red Berry Suki Tea. It's a deep rich red jewel in a cup. Reading: The Outrun, by Amy Liptrot. It's wild and beautiful and it makes me want to visit Orkney (again), and some of the tiny islands off it, especially Papay. Looking: forward to our family holiday in Florida, starting next week. The Everglades. The Keys. Hemingway's house. Watching: The OA - highly unusual and gripping. GIRLS, Nashville... Smelling: peppermint and eucalyptus oils in my bath. The perfect (indulgent) winter-morning ritual.

Loving: that people are loving THE WORD, my fledgling fortnightly newsletter. Thank you to everyone who's contacted me to let me know how much they're enjoying it, and who've shared, tweeted and encouraged me - your support means everything.

Noticing: sunsets like never before. They creep up early in winter and feel like the most beautiful of the year. Listening: to Angel Olsen. Over and over. Especially this and this and this and this. (Which brings me to my new favourite thing to say when I forget what I'm trying to say: "the thing with the thing with the thing. You know the thing?" No, no-one else does either... Thinking: about rainbows and phrases and new words and word associations. Rainbow-physics. Never-night. Svengali. Leitmotif. Gesamtkunstwerk. Opening: new books and journals that I received over Christmas. Italian leather with lush, cream pages from my husband; a coveted Mucha scrapbook from my Mum. Feeling: optimistic and curious about 2017 and all it promises.

Taking Stock: Cullen Bay Beach, Scotland

I asked friends and family about their 'resolutions', and was surprised when mostly they told me of things they're not going to do, something they 'need' to stop or cut out of their life.

I know that's often the way, but instead I'd like to focus on the all the amazing things I am going to do, plan to do, will do, and perhaps some happy surprises that 2017 will have in store. It just feels better to think like that, doesn't it?

Taking Stock: Cullen Bay Beach, Scotland

Isle of Arran: A Photo Diary by daintydora

I feel I could qualify for a job with Visit Scotland by proxy as I never tire of capturing the beauty of the Scottish landscape around me; urban and rural, land and sea. On a trip to Arran last week - commencing on the hottest day of the year - I snap, snap, snapped away with my phone and camera, maximising the photo-gold that I was able to capture. Upon checking my memory card, I discovered I'd taken 437 photographs in 5 days.

Isle of Arran, Scotland - Photo Diary, July 2015Isle of Arran, Scotland - Photo Diary, July 2015

My favourite photographs were taken from the ferry between Ardrossan and Arran, outwards in sunshine and homewards in the rain. Then the misty hillside of Holy Isle in all weather fronts, and an abundance of deep pink foxgloves which seemed to be the official floral of the island.

Isle of Arran, Scotland - Photo Diary, July 2015 Isle of Arran, Scotland - Photo Diary, July 2015 Isle of Arran, Scotland - Photo Diary, July 2015

Taking in the lush and scenic views, I reflected again on the loss of Game of Thrones being filmed in Scotland.

It would have been tourism gold; almost completely negating the frequency of year-round rain (I promise I don't actually work for Visit Scotland!), but then the flood of tourists would have spoilt the wild and deserted views that I was so eager to photograph. Maybe.

But just imagine the wildlings lurking round the foothills of Goatfell? I know!

Isle of Arran, Scotland - Photo Diary, July 2015 Isle of Arran, Scotland - Photo Diary, July 2015 Isle of Arran, Scotland - Photo Diary, July 2015

Or a wedding at Westeros, aka the 'secret garden' at Auchrannie Spa resort? I felt calm just glancing at this tranquil pond with its connotations of mystery and overheard secrets (plots, murderous plots...)

Isle of Arran, Scotland - Photo Diary, July 2015

We drove half way round Arran through Lamlash and Whiting Bay and Blackwaterfoot and Corrie. Even the names sound relatively exotic.

Brodick Castle and the surrounding gardens were worth the visit, especially the trek to the Bavarian Summerhouse, with its ceiling and walls decorated in pine cones, all collected from the surrounding trees and intact since being built (on the ceiling at least). How amazing is that? An eco-outbuilding ahead of its time.

There was an Ice House too, but all its charm was hidden deep down inside.

Pine cone ceiling in the Bavarian Summerhouse, Brodick Castle, ArranBavarian Summerhouse, Brodick Castle, Arran

I feel lucky to live somewhere so beautiful and so varied in its seasons and landscapes, amidst the mountains and the scenery and the colours and the clouds and the wide open spaces. And so close to the Isle of Arran.

It rained as we left but I wasn't sad. I know I'll go back.

Isle of Arran, Scotland - Photo Diary, July 2015Isle of Arran, Scotland - Photo Diary, July 2015Isle of Arran, Scotland - Photo Diary, July 2015

As we pulled back into the harbour at Ardrossan, past the little look-out lighthouse, I revelled in the sensation of rain and wind in my face and the salty air and the mist and haze and atmospheric drama of it all.

Isle of Arran, Scotland - Photo Diary, July 2015

And I've got another 422 photographs to remember it all by...