Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Islands on the Firth of Forth

After the rush of the Sisters trip it was back to living in the delight that is Scotland and making the most of it.

I booked a couple of boat trips on the Forth, the first to visit Inchcolm and its Abbey, sailing from South Queensferry.

On the way to the island one of the river buoys was fully occupied with Grey Seals:

The early morning cloud burned off all at once late morning, leaving the historic abbey bathed in sunshine:

Exploring around the island takes you into the habitat of the gull colony, most of whom were busy raising and indeed protecting chicks.  Gulls get very protective in fact, this one dive-bombed my head a number of times before i saw the chick it was guarding:

Elsewhere on a rocky shoreline a pair of Oystercatchers mooched at high tide:

An Eider Duck cruised past followed by a couple of young ducklings:

After we left the island the boat then motored around the Forth crossings, from old:

To new:

A couple of weeks later it was time to try the May Isle again, this time i hoped we'd both make land and see lots of nesting sea birds.   It was indeed third time lucky.  Lucky for me but not for the Arctic Tern colony, the harsh and late winter had disturbed their breeding, only one nest of the usual 150 was active, most of the birds are just idling on the shoreline in the small harbour:

The odd one takes off to feed or drink:

Some parts of the island are quite quiet really considering there's roughly 150 people and 200,000 birds on or about the island on busy days:

Even without the nesting sea-birds it's worth a visit i reckon:

There's Guillemots:


The stars of the show however are the Puffins:

At this time of year a lot of them are to-ing and fro-ing from their burrows bringing food for the pufflings therein:

The odd one stops for a breather before heading out to sea again:

Some of them even have time for a chatter:

It's a lovely place to visit and i'm delighted i finally managed to enjoy it the way I had hoped.  I even managed a few pictures of the birds in flight, which was what i really wanted to achieve:


Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Sisters Trip - Ariundle Wood NNR to Fort William, Nevis and Glencoe

Already the holiday was nearing an end, time had flown by but there was still a few wee things to see and do.  First a drive from Morar down to Ariundle NNR, again taking in the scenery on the way:

This particularly pleasant spot is Acharacle, can you see the Red-breasted Merganser on the river?

Ariundle was an absolute delight we saw Chequered Skipper (a 100% hit rate of target species for Jenny), and loads of dragonflies including this Four-spotted Darter:

It's a lovely setting:

And with lots of interesting wildlife to catch the eye of the passer-by:

 From Ariundle we drove North to Fort William, stopping to catch the car ferry that is part of the A861, and then to our hotel overlooking Neptune's Staircase.

The following morning it was Ben Nevis o'clock for the three nutters, sorry i mean willing volunteers.  The visitor centre was closed til 9am though so Helen and I had to surrender our only water to make sure the three climbing Sisters had sufficient supplies, we dropped them and then headed to the Glen Nevis gorge car park for our own walk, into woodland at first:

This soon becomes a narrow gorge which unexpectedly then suddenly opens out into a huge glacial valley, worn down now by the Water of Nevis:

We stopped under Steall falls to admire the view, though i suspect in snow-melt it will be an even more spectacular sight: 

We waded the stream, carefully, as the water was freezing and the rocks slippery:

And got about as far as we felt we could safely go without water, roughly 2.5 to 3 miles in, before turning around:

From the car park we drove up to Spean Bridge as i've wanted to see the Commando Memorial there for some time:

And then had a well deserved cuppa.  Meanwhile....

When we got the call to collect the walkers we did so, dropping them off at the hotel before Helen dragged us back out for another walk.  This time along the Great Glen Way down to Corpach and the lock that accesses the two sea lochs, all the while with a clear Ben Nevis in sight:

We all achieved something that day, some more than others, but smiles all round at dinner and the odd sore foot no doubt too.

Our last day together involved mostly driving home,

However we did build in a short walk, a 'leg loosener' at the entrance to Glencoe, Ballachulish to be precise and the Brecklet path above the former quarry with views of Loch Leven:

The path winds on through plantation forest:

Growing up, around and through abandoned homes and farms from a long abandoned settlement:

From there it was time for the jaw-dropping drive through Glencoe and home for a last dinner together before people started heading off to their various homes.

Scotland had delivered, despite Mull, it's beautiful, vast and poetic a landscape and country and we've barely scratched the surface of it... 

Sisters Trip - Plan B

Rather shell-shocked from our retreat from Mull we had a slower start to the day than anticipated but still made it up to Glenfinglas to walk around the woodland and enjoy 'peak bluebell':

We also made a reservation for Monday night in Pitlochry and had a plan to catch-up with the original tour thereafter.

We've hesitated to visit Pitlochry before, now we know we'll go again.   On arrival we headed for the car park for Ben-y-Vrackie, which we proceeded to ascend together.   There's a lochlan around halfway up distance wise, and it was reflecting one of the few clouds on another cracking day:

The same lochlan from nearer the summit:

We all reached the top of this hill, albeit Helen and i last to do so.  It was worth it, only from the top can you see the Cairngorms to the North:

That night we dined in town and i was chuffed to bits to hear the approach and then passage of a drum and pipe band and even happier they were playing my favourite, The Green Hills of Tyrol:

Things were back on track.  Tuesday morning we drove to Arisaig, just short of our stop in Morar, taking in some of the landscape on the way:

Arisaig is the home of the so called 'silver sands' and another scorcher of a day proved the name to be spot on:

Eigg and Rhum can be seen from the beaches:

We dropped Alison, Jenny and Kate off for a four-mile walk to our hotel while we explored Arisaig proper, Loch Morar and the coastline further North.

This house has a good view:

And this is Morar beach at low tide:

This is the same beach at high tide with a setting sun:

Stunning.   Though by now midge season was well and truly getting under way.   Time to beat a hasty retreat to the bar!