13th June – Dunadd and Taynish woods

On Thursday the cold and windy weather was predicted, in Scotland at least, to blossom out into a hot summer.   We pondered this unusual phenomenon for about five seconds before packing the cameras, a picnic lunch and some sun lotion and heading over into Argyll.

Lix Toll - mountainsThere was still quite a bit of snow on the hills.  Our route took us up to Crianlarich and Dalmally, then down towards Inveraray.   There was a slight hold-up caused by roadworks, and then the traffic lights were overruled by a herd of Highland cattle making leisurely progress towards new pastures, babies and all.

Highland cows on road

No one really minds about having to wait for Highland cows, and the scent of bluebells wafting in through the car windows was pure heaven.

Bluebells by roadsideOnce at Inveraray we made a quick stop and I wandered around taking photos of the cross, the bridge and the two ships that are permanently docked there.  One of them is for sale.    It was built in Dublin in 1911.   Anyone fancy an adventure?

Inveraray Bridge (2)Inveraray CrossInveraray shipsInveraray Ships (3)Our first destination was Dunadd, an ancient hill fort in the south of Kilmartin Glen.   I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve driven past Dunadd, casting longing glances at it through the side window, so the chance to climb up there at last was just so exciting.

Dunadd (1)Between about 500 and 900 AD, Dunadd was the place where the kings of Dalriada were inaugurated.  It overlooks the Moine Mhor or ‘great moss’, through which the River Add winds its way slowly towards the sea.   On the summit of the hill is a stone carved with a footprint, where a new ruler would stand for the ceremony.

River Add, DunaddDunadd (48)Dunadd (46) Dunadd (47)

The footprint rock

The footprint rock (just above centre) with a basin carved into another rock, in the foreground

The Crinan Canal made a lovely place to have lunch, and then we wended our way down towards Taynish woods, just south of Tayvallich.

Dating back at least 7,000 years, Taynish is one of Britain’s oldest surviving oak woods.  The wildlife here is astounding – hundreds of dragonflies and damselflies were darting around over the loch, and the birdsong was never-ending.  We identified wood warblers, garden warblers, robins, blackcap, thrushes, blackbirds… and the oak leaves were just coming out, providing a gold backdrop to the deep blue sky.

Crinan Canal June 2015Taynish woods (1)Taynish lochanTaynish woods (3)Oak leaves, Taynish

Bluebells, campion and stitchwort

Bluebells, campion and stitchwort

Taynish 18

Loch Sween

Loch Sween

Taynish and Loch Sween

Gean or wild cherry

Gean or wild cherry

A fantastic day out, and the sunshine was good for the soul.  I’ll tell you more about Dunadd and Taynish woods on The Hazel Tree very soon!

Photos copyright © Jo Woolf

Posted in Wildlife & nature | 16 Comments

20th April – Loch Sunart and Ardnamurchan

Ardnamurchan (3)Ardnamurchan is a part of western Scotland that we’ve hardly explored at all;  in fact, until yesterday I would have been pretty vague about pointing it out on a map.

But as we boarded the Corran ferry for the five-minute crossing of Loch Linnhe, that was all about to change.

Beautiful spring sunshine had brought out the primroses, celandines and violets in the hedgerows, while the larches were just bursting forth in fresh tresses of green.   Willow warblers were singing everywhere, and beside the single-track road Loch Sunart glimmered like a mirror, with barely a ripple disturbing the surface.

We didn’t really have a plan, unless you call “Let’s head west and see how far we get” a sensible kind of plan.  And we certainly did get quite a long way west – about as far west as you can go on the British mainland, in fact.   After about an hour of poodling we reached Sanna, where a short walk from a grassy car park brings you to one of Britain’s most divine beaches – on a fine day, that is.

Sanna faces west, out to the Atlantic, with nothing except sea between here and America.  White-tipped waves were rolling slowly in but the tide was on the ebb, and the sand that it left behind was baking quickly in the hot sun.   And it really was hot.  We almost needed sun lotion.   Almost.

Ardnamurchan has an extraordinary landscape, like nowhere we’ve been before, and the almost complete absence of trees hints at what lies in store in the winter.   But yesterday we were lucky – it was one of those gentle days when the lochs and the sea take on the deepest shade of blue and the breeze feels like the breath of angels.  When this happens in Scotland, it’s special.  From a high point above Sanna, the islands of Eigg and Rum and the distant peaks of the Cuillins on Skye just seemed to be floating somewhere between heaven and Earth.

And yes, I did also find some fascinating historical – or prehistoric – sites.   More for my to-do list on The Hazel Tree!  I can’t wait to tell you about them.

Ardnamurchan (1)Ardnamurchan (2)Ardnamurchan (12)Ardnamurchan (10)Ardnamurchan (13)Ardnamurchan (4)Ardnamurchan (22)Ardnamurchan (5)Ardnamurchan (14)Ardnamurchan (16)Ardnamurchan (18)Ardnamurchan (19)Photos copyright © Colin & Jo Woolf

Posted in Wildlife & nature | 18 Comments

20th March – solar eclipse

At about 9.30 this morning we were seeing this:

Eclipse (2)The solar eclipse here was about 97% total, and we had great views through partial cloud cover.   The birds started singing as if it were dusk, and a small flock of starlings started to wheel around, like they do at nightfall.   It also went very cold and still – it was extremely strange, and made us feel rather weird.

Eclipse (3)The best view of an eclipse I’ve ever had.  Amazing.

These pics are Colin’s – he did a pretty good job!

Eclipse 4Eclipse 4Eclipse 7Eclipse compositePhotos copyright © Colin Woolf


Posted in Astronomy, Photography | Tagged , , | 27 Comments