13th October – Loch Leven Castle

Loch Leven Castle (Jo) 24It’s all happening at the moment – we’re in the middle of our annual mailing, which means stuffing about 3,000 newsletters into envelopes.   We’ll be done soon!   Which means that, if you’re on our mailing list, you should get our newsletter dropping through your letterbox this week or early next.

But yesterday, because the weather was so beautiful and the autumn colours are starting to show, we abandoned it all temporarily and took ourselves off to Loch Leven.

Loch Leven Castle (Colin) 179On a small wooded island in the loch is the castle where Mary, Queen of Scots was imprisoned in 1567, while her baby son, James, was proclaimed king;   she escaped, disguised as a servant, in 1568.   But there’s a lot more to it than that, and I will tell you the whole story on The Hazel Tree just as soon as time allows!

Loch Leven Castle (Jo) 15Historic Scotland operates daily boat trips to Loch Leven Castle from April until the end of October, so we were just in time to get there before the end of the season.   And we couldn’t have picked a more beautiful morning, with mist rising towards a pale blue sky, and ribbons of mute swans gliding across the silky water.

Loch Leven Castle (Jo) 11I’m just going to share some photos for now, but I promise to tell you more soon.  This is one of the most atmospheric places I’ve visited in a long time.

Photos copyright © Colin & Jo Woolf

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11th September – Glen Coe, Glen Etive and Ballachulish

Glen Coe 21On Sunday we had a jaunt over towards the west, to Ballachulish and Appin, and our route took us through the wonderful scenery of Glen Coe.

We were last over that way in May this year, but the fresh greens are now tinged with gold and bronze.   The tourist traffic was out in force, with many cars and several coaches crammed into the few lay-bys along the Glen itself.

Glen Coe 11

Glen Coe leads eventually to Loch Linnhe which is a wide sea loch, and here we found a small pebbly beach to idle away a blissful hour.   It was warm in the sun, and the gentle waves seemed to be coming straight across from the blue hills of Morvern.

Ballachulish beach 73

Ballachulish beach 29On the way back, we decided to take a detour down Glen Etive, an offshoot of Glen Coe, which neither Colin nor I had ever been down before.   The road is a dead end, following the glen with its pretty waterfalls and woodlands for about 15 miles before culminating at the head of Loch Etive.

Glen Etive - Stob DeargIf the scenery of Glen Etive looks familiar, that could be because it was used in the filming of the latest Bond movie, ‘Skyfall';   it’s the location of Bond’s ancestral home, to which he and M flee from danger in his impractical but undeniably gorgeous Aston Martin.

I was looking through our photos and trying to work out where they took the iconic photo of Daniel Craig and Judi Dench posing against the backdrop of brooding hills, but I can’t quite work it out.   Anyhow, Colin invented his own movie, called ‘Bogfall’, when he leaped over a roadside ditch to photograph some moss.   The ground, as you may have guessed, welcomed him with ample squishiness and he spent the rest of the day with a very wet and very black leg.  I was photographing something else at the time, or else I would have got it on video.   Those waterproof trousers are higher up his list now!

Once again, we arrived back home with some lovely photos.   I wonder why on Earth we’ve never been down Glen Etive before!    It must be one of the most beautiful glens in Scotland.   We are truly lucky to have such spectacular landscapes within easy reach.

Waterfall, Glen Etive 20Waterfall, Glen Etive 32Grave Etive and Orchy - Jo 232Grave Etive and Orchy - Jo 205Grave Etive and Orchy - Jo 249

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5th September – Bracklinn Falls, in the rain

When Verity was here last week, we made several trips out to take advantage of the good weather.   But Thursday morning was wet, and the forecast didn’t promise any change.  Where could we go?

We decided to take a look at the Bracklinn Falls, near Callander.   Colin and I had never been there, but if there’s a good time for looking at waterfalls it’s got to be after heavy rain!

In the outskirts of Callander, you turn off onto a narrow road that heads up into the forestry.   There’s a car park, and you have to walk the last mile or so to the falls.

Bracklin Falls - Jo 6Heavy showers were coming over, and the trees were dripping;   colours of moss and bark were intense, and droplets trembled on bracken fronds and grasses.   The woodlands were dark but not unwelcoming.

Bracklin Falls - Colin 1

Bracklin Falls - Colin 141Bracklin Falls - Jo 16Colin spent a while photographing flowers and fungi, and there was certainly a huge variety, all gleaming with moisture from the rain.   A party of people passed us on the way there, and they also passed us on their way back, before we had even reached the falls!    Meanwhile Colin had got two very wet knees and was remembering just why he needs a good pair of waterproof trousers.

Occasionally the clouds parted to reveal a glimpse of blue sky, but it was soon swallowed up by the next shower.   As we neared the falls we could hear a continuous roar, and we realised that they were going to be spectacular.

The path runs alongside the river for a while, allowing you dizzying views of the water.  A bit further on, a beautifully designed bridge spans the falls, and you can stand and be mesmerised by the sight.   The water was peat-coloured, and frothing like boiling syrup.

Bracklinn 1

Bracklin Falls - Verity 9

Bracklin Falls - Jo 102

That's a white trainer down there on the rock, just to give an idea of scale!

That’s a white trainer down there on the rock, just to give an idea of scale!

I’ve discovered that photographing waterfalls isn’t as easy as it sounds, partly because it’s quite difficult to give a sense of scale.   Although we took loads of pics I also took some videos, and I’m going to post those here, too.   Apart from anything else, they convey the noise!

Bracklin Falls - Jo 101

Bracklin Falls - Colin 41

Back at the car, we got out our little camping gas stove and enjoyed a cup of tea in the gloriously wet woodlands.   Tea always tastes better outdoors!

Photos copyright © Colin & Jo Woolf and Verity Sansom

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