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


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19th March – a walk in Glen Shee

Glen Shee (Colin) 38Colin’s birthday couldn’t go past without a sighting of white hares – or that’s what he hoped – so we had a little drive up to Glen Shee, where there are plenty.

Mountain hares change their coat to a pure white in winter, and around March or April they begin to shed it and turn brown again ready for summer.

We drove to the car park by the Cairnwell ski centre, and set off up the side of the opposite hill, which – from looking at the map – is called Meall Odhar.   We didn’t get anywhere near the summit, nor would we have tried, because it was still very snowy up there and we don’t have the right gear for that.  But we quickly got up very high, making the cars on the road seem like toys, and within minutes we’d seen the first of several hares.

Glen Shee (Colin) 122The red grouse, which are now in lovely breeding plumage, were in fine voice, cackling at us from close range and then whirring away across the glen on stiff wings.   Then Colin noticed a herd of red deer stags way below us, most with very handsome antlers.   They all stood still and stared up at us for about five minutes, obviously feeling quite exposed, and then decided to brave it out and galloped away, merging into the brown hillside as if by magic.

Red Grouse, cock, Glen Shee 2Glen Shee (Colin) 164Colin’s other speciality (when he gets chance!) is photographing low-flying aircraft, and so he was armed and ready when not one but two Apache helicopters hove into sight.   Apache helicopters are eye-popping when they are coming towards you at close range, and I was torn between taking photos of Colin, and taking cover (there was nowhere to hide, so I opted for the first).   Colin says I am allowed to post these pics, but if the Ministry of Defence gets in touch I shall have to take them down!

Glen Shee (jo) 19Glen Shee (Colin) 23I told you it was eye-popping…

Glen Shee (Colin) 15People were still skiing on the Cairnwell, even though the snow is now receding rapidly.   The stones and the lichens up there are remarkable.   Now and then we came across the bleached stump of an old tree, probably a Scots pine.

Glen Shee (jo) 10Glen Shee (Colin) 81

Glen Shee (Colin) 55Glen Shee (Colin) 23 (1)

Glen Shee (Colin) 165Glen Shee (Colin) 67Glen Shee (Colin) 77Glen Shee (Colin) 142Colin had a good laugh at my method of descent, but who got a wet bum in the end?  Your guess.

Grouse tracks

Grouse tracks

Glen Shee (Colin) 98Photos copyright © Colin & Jo Woolf


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15th March – a day in Knapdale (part 2)

Continuing my story about our travels on Friday 13th March…

Having wandered around Keills Bay to our hearts’ content, we decided to head back up the peninsula to Tayvallich and then turn around on ourselves and go down another of Knapdale’s long arms – or should it be fingers?   This one was more familiar to us, hugging the long shore of Loch Sween, leading past Achnamara and Castle Sween and culminating at the beautiful Kilmory Bay.   As no-through-roads go, this one has to be one of the most picturesque in the whole of Scotland!

Looking across the water to where we had come from… with some rather fat and lazy seals on the rocks (far right)

Loch Sween and seals

Seals (1)

Seals (2)Loch Sween (4)

Kilmory… the chapel, a path to the beach, and a lonely post box.

Kilmory Chapel

Signs at KilmoryKilmory postboxWhen we last visited Kilmory Bay, it was almost midsummer and the weather, the sand and the sea conjured a kind of paradise that I still remember with disbelief.   This time, the storms of the night before had wrought a different kind of magic, and there was a thick layer of seaweed left high and dry on the beach, with big stones thrown up above the high water line and chunks eaten out of the grassy turf.   A fast-flowing stream had carved a miniature canyon through the sand.

Kilmory (5)Kintyre & Keills (Jo) 325Kilmory (6)Kilmory (1)Kilmory (2)
Kilmory (3)

Rocks at KilmoryKilmory (4)We walked back through the field, as the track down to the beach had turned into a little river, and a very sheepy-muddy one at that.

Kilmory (7) Kilmory (8)Loch Sween (3)On the drive back, I got some nice long-distance shots of Castle Sween – picturesque on any day – possibly my favourite castle of all time.

Castle Sween (2)

Castle Sween (1)

If Scotland has a ‘remotest phone box’ competition, this one is surely in for a prize!

Phone boxThe afternoon was wearing on by this time, and we were driving back towards Lochgilphead when I noticed the slanting sunlight picking up some ridge and furrow markings in a field.   Not the best photo, snapped through the car window as we were going along, but it does show the parallel lines, traces of medieval cultivation (or perhaps later, even until the 1800s).

Ridge and furrowNot a bad end to the day – plus, I have got an intriguing ‘new’ site (or rather a very old one) to investigate, close to Tayvallich.   Is it a stone circle?  An enclosure?   I wandered all over it, and I’m still not sure.   Here’s a glimpse… I’ll write something on The Hazel Tree, when I’ve found out!

Tayvallich stonesPart one of our day out, in case you missed it, is here.

Photos copyright © Colin & Jo Woolf

Footnote:  I had originally named this post and its predecessor ‘A Day in Kintyre’, but as one reader has rightly pointed out, Kintyre does not strictly begin until further down this peninsula, and the region that we were exploring was actually Knapdale.  I have therefore amended the titles of the posts accordingly.

Posted in History, archaeology & geology, Outdoors, Photography, Wildlife & nature | Tagged , , , , , , , | 16 Comments