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

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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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