Saturday, December 29, 2012

Happy Christmas!

We took this photo during a walk to the South End on Christmas Day, with the intention of posting it straight away along with our  Christmas Greetings.  Never mind, only a few days delay...!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Scotland 2012

It seems a little strange to be thinking about the summer, while the wind buffets the house and freezing rain lashes at the windows...nevertheless, now that winter is here, the time has come for the summer blog!
This year, we decided to go to Scotland...
Leaving the house, dogs and Piggy in the capable hands of Gwyn, we picked Ben up from his last exam, and started the drive up. We stopped at Mathrown of Mabbe near Dumphries and Galloway, and stayed at a wonderful converted outdoor centre...the complex of which included several bunkhouses, a tee-pee, a campsite and a huge yurt. And also a wood-fired hot-tub...great for getting away from the midgies in the evening.  We stayed there two nights, before carrying on with our journey.

Mathrown of Mabbe

 Cuaig Croft (Top right)

We spent our first week staying in a remote spot in Cuaig... 20 minutes drive from the village of Applecross, and just under an hour's drive from Torridon.
It was an idyllic location, with views of Rhona, and the isle of Skye in the distance. There was a small, hidden (and very cold) bay five minutes walk down from the house, where we were told Otters were frequently seen... paw-prints were as close as we got.

Traversing round the coast from Cuaig bay.

There were some interesting plants and mosses in the nearby heathland:
A Clam-thistle


Once we had settled in at Cuaig and explored some of the surrounding area, it was time to get up into the mountains...

View of Torridon.

Considering we were in Scotland..and considering the drenching the rest of the country was recieving at the time, we had amazing weather. The days we got up into the mountains were particularly dry and sunny, and we had a fantastic day traversing the ridge of Ben Alligin.

Beinn Dearg in the background.

On the way down we came across some Ptarmigan: a mother, with three peeping chicks, and then, to complete the special encounter, we spotted the very well camouflaged dad a little way off in the rocks.

Coming down from the ridge..

 Beautiful views across Loch Torridon to Beinn Damph.
The next day, we went for a few gentle walks near Applecross. Here visiting Ardban..

On my 18th birthday, we did the Liathach ridge... It was a stunning day, and we had breathtaking views.

We went for a few more shorter walks near Applecross...

Clear water with views of Rhona in the distance.

On the same day we also visited the walled-garden in Applecross: an oasis of colour...
Mum with the ferns

There were numerous bogs in the heathland around Cuaig, which were all dried-up and crisp. They were dotted with half-submerged ancient tree-roots...some of which were too irresistible to leave...
...much to dad's annoyance! 

After a lovely week in Cuaig, we said goodbye to our little croft, and drove further north..
Our next stop was a campsite at Old Shore Moor.
We stayed one night, and the next day walked down to Sandwood bay.

On the ferry to Orkney, passing the Old Man of Hoy.

The Orkneys were our next destination. We had a reasonable crossing, and arrived on mainland Orkney in the sunshine.

We stayed in Stromness...a beautiful fishing town with neat, narrow streets and a colourful quay.

Ben and I then headed off to Kirkwall where we caught a small plane to North Ronaldsay  (to be joined a couple of days later by mum and dad, who, in the meanwhile, explored mainland Orkney by bike, and then Hoy on foot)

On the plane to North Ron...

Coming in to land on North Ron. Looking down on the beach next to the Observatory.

Ben armed with his binoculars and camera, ready to squeeze every drop of birding out of the next few days.

We spent the next couple of days exploring the island...rock-hopping and walking around the coast. This was quite a hazardous occupation, as we had to be wary of fulmars, which lurked around each corner, threatening to throw up on anyone who got too close. We were also dived on by terns, and bombed by alarmingly close Bonxies!

North Ron Lighthouse.

One of our reasons for visiting North Ron was to see Rich.E, a previous observatory assistant here on Enlli.

Ben and Rich ringing gull and tern chicks.

The inhabitants of the island included some rather scratty looking sheep...who spent their time wandering back and forth along the rocks on the coast.

And so our time in Scotland drew to a close, and we drove through the night to catch the boat back home to Enlli the following day :)