Tag Archives: scottish landscape

New Year in Balquhidder

Above, Balquhidder at twilight, photo by Adam

I’ll be posting more soon on two up-coming exhibitions for February and April this year, but in the meantime …

This year my partner Adam and I wanted a quiet new year so we booked ourselves into the Retreat Hut on Loch Voil near Balquhidder. We arrived just before dark, having driven along the four-mile rough track, and were greeted by the son of the owner who walked us to our hut, through what appeared to be an ancient stone circle. ‘Oooh, amazing’ I enthused, ‘how old is it?’. ‘Well the stones themselves are very old’ he laughed. ‘Ah, eccentric Victorians then?’. ‘Well, us in fact’ he replied!

They looked convincing though. ‘It’s on a leyline’ he assured us. Leylines are considered arbitrary by the sceptics – lines drawn between ancient sacred sites that just happen to line up (some people have lined up Tescos across the UK as evidence it’s all very random and part of our very human tendency to seek patterns!) Others say that stone circles are sited on areas of special energy evidenced by the fact that dousing rods start to spin as you walk through the centre. I haven’t tried this myself and have no idea what causes this, but electro magnetic energy is suggested, or ‘magnetic field anomolies’.

Our hut was freezing when we arrived, it being a December evening in a Highland valley, so I got a nice blaze going in the wood-burning stove and soon the place felt like a sauna, which in fact was its original purpose –  it was built by a German artist friend of the family.

Many people enjoy creating a steaming sauna in the hut, followed by a dip in the icy lake, I’m not one of them, so instead we heated up a stew of bacon, passata, potatoes, char-grilled peppers and smoky paprika I’d made up earlier (inspired by one of the nicest soups I’ve ever enjoyed in freezing weather on a trip to Berlin some years ago). There are few things more satisfying than a wood fire and warming dinner while you enjoy views of the snow outside!

The next day we wandered along the loch up a track to enjoy the views of the opposite side (we were on the south of the loch, always the more mysterious side since the north side gets the sunlight and tends to be more inhabited).

The village of Balquhhider is on the north shore of Loch Voil, famous as Rob Roy’s alleged burial place. There’s also the wonderful Monachyle Mor Hotel – an old farmhouse dating back to the 1700’s, now owned by chef Tom Lewis, who is a whirlwind of creativity as evidenced by the fantastic art collection, wonderfully eclectic decor and  tiny house building projects dotted around outside the hotel. We’ve gone there for lunch a few times and he’ll sometimes come over have a friendly chat while you eat.

Later that evening when it was dark, we watched from the other side of the loch as a steady stream of cars made their way along the valley to the Monachyle Mor Hotel for the new year firework display. It was one of the most beautiful I’ve ever experienced with the loch and snowy mountains lighting up in green, gold and pink and the krrrRRR-BOOOOMS!! echoing along the valley.

It all sounds idyllic, and for a few days it is, but very soon you start to miss the ease of city-living. A hut becomes rapidly cold unless you constantly feed the hungry stove (there was a big log-pile outside but we had to chop up logs for smaller pieces to get the stove started in the morning). The loo was a walk away over snow and mud, and of course it’s small so you must be super-organised if you don’t want to descend into muddy chaos. That’s the beauty of a simple stay in a small country cabin though, you feel more connected to nature, you benefit from the fresh air and it all restores the soul, but you go back home appreciating the luxuries you’re used to. Though sadly of course those come at a higher price these days, but I won’t get into the political mess of the UK just now!

Some of my ancestors lived around Balquhidder and nearby Loch Venachar – Andrew Strang married Catherine Fergusson from Balquhidder in 1750 and they lived in a farmhouse on Loch Venachar. Catherine Strang married Duncan Fergusson from Balquhidder in the early 1800s and they lived on his family farm near Balquhidder. I can’t imagine how hard their lives were. Lots of children, laundry without electricity, snowed-in every winter, no local shops or a drive into Callander for supplies, no freezers – they were considerably tougher than this generation. They too must have loved the beauty of this place though. Many of them would eventually settle further south for work, mining near Kirkaldy, then engineering in Edinburgh.

I discovered that the other side of the family, the Kerrs, were also country people who moved to Glasgow in the 1800s for work, and the Sutherlands, who’d lived in Orkney since who knows when since records are scarce pre 1600s. It seems a shame they had to leave rural life, but it’s an indication of how tough rural life was, especially in parts of Scotland affected by conditions post-Culloden and the Highland Clearances. One family moved back to the country – after my great great grandfather Robert Kerr died, his wife and children moved to Pertshire where they survived by making fishing tackle – beautiful artificial flies. It can’t have brought much money in though.

I feel grateful for my ancestors and the hard lives they lived, none were landed or well-off, as far as I know. I said a little prayer for them before we left Loch Voil on New Year’s Day.

Then, just as a reminder of what it means to be snowed in, we discovered our car was barely capable of driving up the four mile track on our way out. The owner of the hut came out to help and we were given an advanced driving lesson in snowy conditions. He went ahead of us all the way to create tyre tracks, which was another occassion for gratitude!

Several times we had to reverse back down a hill, taking care not to slide off down the steep valley sides into the trees, to create enough volition to get up the hill. It was pretty hairy and took more than an hour, but as with all the little hardships, it felt wonderful afterwards –  to be back on tarmac. A French family who’d followed behind us (they’d stayed in another little hut further up the loch) stopped their car when we reached the road and there were relieved new year handshakes all round! Then we celebrated with haddock and chips in a little hotel in Callander.

Wishing everyone a Happy New Year! May all your hardships be small, surmountable, or non-existent in 2023!

'Through Kintail'. Oil on 14x11" wood. Rose Strang 2020

A Subtle Touch

'Ardban. Shimmering Sea'. Oil on 14x11" wood. Rose Strang 2020

‘Ardban. Shimmering Sea’. Oil on 14×11″ wood. Rose Strang 2020

My latest paintings series of Ardban and Kintail are now on exhibition at the Limetree Gallery, Bristol. The exhibition launches from the 31st of October but you can reserve paintings now or make enquiries at the gallery on the link below which shows the full catalogue of works by myself, Anna King and Mhairi McGregor…

A Subtle Touch – Exhibition at the Limetree Gallery, Bristol

The series follows a journey through the Highland Glen of Kintail, then the peace and tranquility of Ardban in Applecross. All the works are oil on wood and sizes vary from 14 by 11 inches to 33 by 23 inches. The link above has all details of prices, sizes and contacts at the gallery.

I’m honoured to be showing alongside two artists whose work I admire, and as always it’s an absolute pleasure to show at the Limetree Gallery, Bristol. My only regret is that I can’t travel down to the launch, with Covid restrictions making that a bit unpredictable. I can’t complain though, it’s been a pleasure to paint and I’m lucky to be able to keep working on creative projects!

Wishing everyone the very best of health and happiness!

'Aberlady Dunes'. Mixed media on 30x30 inch wood panel. Rose Strang April 2020. (Private Commission, NFS).

Art Commissions

Above, Aberlady Dunes. Mixed media on 30×30 inch wood panel. Rose Strang April 2020. (Private Commission).

Lockdown has been a good time to focus on private commissions. I’ve found it grounding and uplifting to focus on painting, and I think most people find art uplifting – a solace in strange and anxious times.

I accept most landscape commissions, even if it’s from a photo of someone’s favourite landscape, as long as I’ve been there and experienced that particular light, I’m able to paint it. I don’t aim for photo-realism. I deliberately keep brushwork as loose and expressive as possible and paint quickly for the sense of energy I’d feel if I was in situ. Painting En plein air is ideal of course, but with experience you can bring that same energy to painting in the studio.

The first commission this year – Aberlady Dunes – (above) was commissioned by a friend of the family who liked one of my previous smaller paintings of Aberlady. He’d lived on Lindisfarne some years ago and loved the sense of space  -stretching to the horizon across the marram grass to the sea and sand beyond.

North Berwick, Summer was commissioned by a doctor who lives in England who’d seen Aberlady Dunes and wondered if I could capture a stretch of his favourite coast near North Berwick, but on a smaller scale. I chose a spot that’s very familiar to me, just past the headland south of the town. It has many happy associations since I’ve been going there with family and friends since childhood, so it was a pleasure to paint.

'North Berwick, Summer'. Mixed media on 18x18" wood panel. Rose Strang 2020. (NFS, Private Commission).

‘North Berwick, Summer’. Mixed media on 18×18″ wood panel. Rose Strang 2020. (Private Commission).










The most recent – Sunrise, Ruby Bay, Fife  captures sunrise on Ruby Bay on the east coast of Scotland. It’s very large and I decided to experiment with acrylics and oils together with this one. I think I’m onto something as it came together in a very atmospheric way in the end. You can read more about painting it Here

'Sunrise, Ruby Bay. Fife. Acrylic and oil on 36x36" wood panel. Rose Strang 2020. (private commission)

‘Sunrise, Ruby Bay. Fife. Acrylic and oil on 36×36″ wood panel. Rose Strang 2020. (private commission)










To me, the difference in light between the east and west coast of Scotland is very clear – especially at dawn or sunrise. This painting below shows dawn on the west coast – far more diffused, since the sun, rising from the east, doesn’t touch the sea till later – you see the sun’s warmth more in the under-lit clouds.

‘Dawn, Ardtoe’. Mixed media on 14×11″ wood panel. Rose Strang, 2019. £495









If you like the look of these paintings and are interested in commissioning me, you can contact me at rose.strang@gmail.com

I’ll be happy to discuss price with you (the painting price varies according to size of course) and what mood or atmosphere you’re looking for. Below are a few more of my paintings showing a myriad of moods and atmosphere! …



Sunart and Ardnamurchan

Sanna Bay, Ardnamurchan. Rose Strang 2019

Words and photos can’t do justice to the beauty of Ardnamurchan and Sunart. What an utterly inspiring experience it was.

Hopefully my upcoming paintings will capture something of how it feels to stand on the beach of Sanna. The light there makes you feel you’ve entered a different dimension, or as though you’re seeing beyond normal perceptions – everything opens up, including your self.

Which sounds as though I was on some sort of druggy trip, and it is a sort of high, but it’s more hyper-reality, almost raw in a way. It was an emotional experience, which is often how it feels when you’re in these places. It’s strange to return to Edinburgh – nice to be back home and what’s familiar, but it feels several steps removed from Sanna and Ariundel forest, so I must keep it alive in my mind and imagination for the paintings I’ll be working on, because nice as these photos are they don’t get what it’s like to be there.

Sanna Bay, Ardnamurchan. Rose Strang 2019

Sanna Bay, Ardnamurchan. Rose Strang 2019

Sanna Bay, Ardnamurchan. Rose Strang 2019





















I took hundreds of photos, made various sketches and I’ll create a couple of edited videos as well as paintings I think. Also my friend Donald (who was an excellent companion throughout the trip), will hopefully be recording a guitar response to the videos once they’re made. Donald felt similarly moved by the experience; as he described it  –

‘the ocean, that was the most cosmic for me, looking beyond the sky, then inside the forest, walking the leaf-strewn path, then the wild and windy moors and glens from a speeding metal box’.

Absolutely. Something I’ve always really loved about these journeys is the contrast between the road-trip/car-time – chatting and playing music, the sound of the engine and the feel of impetus – then when you leave that small human-made world of your ‘speeding metal box’ and stand still on a beach of epic proportions looking out to the Atlantic – the almost shock of silence and space.

Also, Sanna is I think the most beautiful beach of the west coast and islands of Scotland I’ve seen. It felt sad to leave and I found myself walking backwards for several minutes as we headed back to the car. It was getting towards evening and it’s a long drive across the wildest parts of the Ardnamurchan peninsula on single-track roads …

We also stopped that day at Castle Tioram, which has to be one of the world’s most beautiful settings for a castle. This is my third visit there, and each time I learn more about the area, the centuries of history and its golden age before Culloden and the Highland clearances. (I wrote about this in a previous post, link Here).

Castle Tioram, Sunart. Rose Strang 2019

Castle Tioram, Sunart. Rose Strang 2019














In that blog post I also talked about Ariundle oakwood in Sunart (which is before you head out west on the proper peninsula of Ardnamurchan). Suaineart ghorm an daraich – Green Sunart of the Oaks.

We visited Ariundle the next day and it was such a contrasting experience to the epic feel of Sanna. Such a gentle feeling amidst all those multi-hued mossy hillocks, flowing streams and lichen-covered oaks. (I made sure to pick up a pile of oak twigs for my niece, who wants to frame a couple of oak-leaves she was given at the hobbit-land place she visited in New Zealand!).

Ariundle – it is quite a Tolkien-esque sounding name don’t you think? It means shieling (or ‘settlement’) in the fair meadow. It’s heartening to see how much conservation work is going on there to preserve it – Ariundle is a remnant of the ancient oakwoods that once stretched from Portugal to Norway along the Atlantic coast – hence why it’s described as Atlantic oakwood.

Ariundle Oakwood, Sunart. Rose Strang 2019

Ariundle Oakwood, Sunart. Rose Strang 2019

Ariundle Oakwood, Sunart. Rose Strang 2019

Ariundle Oakwood, Sunart. Rose Strang 2019























I discovered a new hobby on the return to Edinburgh – sketching the surrounding landscape from the car, it makes you quickly focus on the obvious points, shapes and lines – here they are (scenes from Corran ferry, Glencoe, Rannoch Moor and Balquhidder) …

Road sketches. Rose Strang 2019

Road sketches. Rose Strang 2019

Road sketches. Rose Strang 2019

Road sketches. Rose Strang 2019

Road sketches. Rose Strang 2019

Road sketches. Rose Strang 2019








































I always like to visit Balquhidder before returning to Edinburgh, as it’s the last part of the Highlands before the relative flatness of Lothian – it eases the shock of re-entering the city I suppose!

You head off the motorway after Edinchip on a little bypass, then you see the Mhor84 cafe, which serves excellent coffee and nice cakes, but if there’s time it’s nice to drive under the bridge and towards the village of Balquhidder then along the beautiful shores of Loch Voil. It’s always fairly quiet as the road ends after a few miles at the end of the loch – after that it would be a lo-o-ng and arduous walk over the mountains west to the coast again, if you wanted to keep going.

After a mile or so along the loch, you get to Monachyle Mhor Hotel, where you can stop for a drink by the open fire if it’s cold, or if it’s warm sit outside admiring oak trees, shimmering loch and mountain valleys. The hotel interior is lovely (if a bit ‘Farrow and Ball’ – you know – tasteful chalky paint finishes in deep colours or neutrals!) also they have an impressive art collection – it’s kind of perfect, as hotels go, I’ve yet to find out how much it costs to actually stay there.




















Today I’ve been gessoe-ing up my wood panels. I’ll make a little road-trip video, then it’ll be on with the paintings, and a fuller video with paintings and music, wish me luck! In a few days I’ll post the first video, and also some info about an upcoming three-person exhibition at the Resipole Gallery in Sunart, which I’m looking forward to. I’m not forgetting that these paintings are part of my planets series. March is related to Mars – war, heroism and sacrifice, also early spring – Mars Silvanus –  new leaves – and the corresponding Narnian book, Prince Caspian. More on that too in later posts …

Today’s paintings

P1010463 P1010453 P1010466I acquired a few smaller canvases this weekend so decided to experiment today.

The painting on wood is on top of a painting of Moffat from last year which I didn’t like so ended up using as a pallete (why waste all those interesting colours I thought) so I’ve just enhanced it.

I’m quite happy with the mood of the larger square work – a sort of ‘gloaming’ or half light. They could all do with a bit more definition though so I’ll work on them tomorrow.

I can see various ideas emerging from the painting in the middle so will have a think..

Cockenzie Power Station Limited edition print series

'Cockenzie Power Station, 26th September 2015'. Mixed media on 17x11" wood panel

‘Cockenzie Power Station, 26th September 2015’. Mixed media on 17×11″ wood panel

As mentioned a few weeks ago, limited edition prints of Cockenzie Power Station, 26th September 2015 will be available at the Peter Potter Gallery in Haddington.

They’re in a limited edition of 25 Giclee prints at 17×11 inches (signed, dated, numbered and titled by hand)

These are now on display in the gallery which is near Lungate Bridge, Haddington at number 10, the Sands. There’s a lovely cafe in the gallery with views of the bridge. The current exhibition by Alan Knox explores ‘the debatable land’ and the history of the Borders country.

50 Paintings in 50 Days


Starting on the 10th April and ending on Saturday the 29th of May I’ll be creating a small painting of Eigg Island every day…

50 paintings in 50 days!

Some will be impressionistic, some more abstract. They’ll each be 5×5 inches (£45 each) and proceeds from the paintings will go towards a two year project which celebrates the landscape and community of Eigg.

To be included on the mailing list, simply email me at rose.strang@gmail.com with the title: ‘Small Eigg Paintings’ and each day I’ll email you the painting of the day.

You’re not obliged to buy, but I think it’ll be fun to view a new painting each day. If you do decide to buy I’ll post the painting out to you within a week.


The two year Eigg project will celebrate the beautiful landscape of Eigg, its creative culture and community.

It begins with a trip to Eigg starting this Saturday the 5th of April, when I’ll be staying in a bothy with this beautiful and inspiring view of the mountains of Rum Island…


Part of the aim of this project is to tell the story of the Island of Eigg; From the struggle of the island’s inhabitants throughout Scotland’s changing history (and its near decimation as a community in past decades) to a celebration of its landscape and recent inspirational success as a community-bought island, which relies solely on renewable sources of fuel.

It ‘s a real inspiration in terms of caring for the environment

The resulting exhibitions for 2014 and 2015 in Edinburgh include Gallery Ten, The Whitespace Gallery and The Scottish Storytelling Centre where I’ll be exhibiting a range of paintings. The second and third exhibitions will include live performance with related art and archival images of Eigg, past and present.