From Sunrise to Sunset, the perfect winters day in Laide, Wester Ross.

Sometimes you get the perfect winter day. Snow on the hill tops. Wall to wall clear blue skies with great visibility. Cold & crisp with not a breath of breeze.

On such a day you could do worse than visit the trig point that overlooks Laide & Aultbea. At just 293 meters Beinn Dearg Bad Chailleach is only a hillock but it does command superb 360 degree views. All of the local hills are on show & on a clear day the peaks of Skye, Harris & Sutherland can all be taken in.

It’s a walk that’s probably best undertaken when either there has been a hard frost or following a very dry spell. For certain sections bog snorkeling would be the order of the day in normal ground conditions.

The trig point takes a couple of hours to reach from Laide & on a good day it’s easy to spend an hour or two at the top admiring the views.

Whilst we weren’t lucky enough to see much wildlife on our walk this time, we did see clear evidence of the tracks of mountain hare, deer & grouse in the snow. Right beside the trig point there were mountain hare droppings & the fur pellet from what looks to have been from an eagle. The trig point would be a great vantage point for an eagle, but not so good for the hare!!

We chose to head out early so that we could watch the suns movement around the bay through sunrise to sunset

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The sun rising above An Teallach with silhouettes of Beinn Ghobhlach & The Coigachs.

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The heather moorland behind Laide. You might just be able to make out the bright dot to the right (it was exceptionally bright to the naked eye, not so much in the photo). Planet or satellite?

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Views to the North with the sun beginning to shine on the very tips of the peaks. The Coigachs, Quinag & Foinaven prominent. The tops of Suilven & Stac Pollaidh can be seen (Stac Pollaidh only just). Foinaven is close to Kinlochbervie,  90 miles or so to the North of Laide.

img_0382A closer look  at Quinag with Foinaven to the left & the top of the iconic Suilven to the right.

Trudging over the moorland we came across several peat overhangs with some sharp looking teeth!! Brrrrrr!

 

A couple of hours in and the old timer needs to prop himself up on the trig point.

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Looking South. The trig point was doing a fine job of obscuring the winter sun. Here we found the fur pellet where something had chosen the trig to perch and dispose of it’s fur ball.

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Loch Fada in the foreground, with Beinn Airigh Charr , A Mhaighdean  & Ruadh Stac Mor in the distance.

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The view over Aultbea. Whilst it’s difficult to see from this image, beneath the cloud line the hills of Harris were visible to the naked eye.

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The Calmac ferry leaving Ullapool and on it’s way to Stornoway.

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A lovely view of Laide, perched on the shores of Gruinard Bay

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An Teallach & Sail Mhor looking splendid in the midday sunshine.

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The slopes of An Teallach. It would have been a challenging day on the very high tops today!

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Sail Mhor. The last time we were on Sail Mhor the Ptarmigan were vocalising because of the overhead threat of a golden eagle.

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Beinn Ghoblach, the forked mountain. It might only be just over 600 meters in height but looking over Scoraig it does impress as it towers over Little Loch Broom.

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The impressive slopes of Quinag. In the snow quite a daunting looking prospect from every angle.

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Loch a Bhaid-luachraich. A mirror lock in the still conditions. The snowy hills on the Isle of Skye poking above the heather clad hills of Wester Ross.

After spending some considerable time by the trig point admiring every view through the camera and the binoculars and tracking the varied animal prints in the snow we tore ourselves away and walked home.

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By late afternoon the sun began it’s descent over Laide, pink light glowing over the snowy caps with the moon perfectly positioned between the Coigachs and Beinn Ghoblach. A little bit later with the sun set, the moon was shimmering on the still, pond like sea.

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The Oystercatchers on Laide beach getting themselves settled in for an early evening snooze. Usually quite skittish they were unconcerned by the visitor busy taking photos as the sun set.

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The last of the daylight, the sun disappears and for just a few more minutes leaves a beautiful glow in the sky over An Teallach, Sail Mhor, Beinn Ghoblach & The Coigachs. The perfect end to the perfect winters day in Wester Ross.

 

 

 

 

Coastal winter ramble from Laide

In the last week the snow has almost completely receded from the high tops. The light & visibility has been at it’s absolute best & it’s been rather mild for the time of year. Just a short ramble from the house along the single track road to Mellon Udrigle is a fantastic wee viewpoint. An Teallach & the hills in the Fisherfield Forest will often be visible and on the clearest of days the distant hills surrounding Kinlochbervie & Torridon can also be seen,  the silhoutte’s of  the Isle of Harris, Isle of Lewis &  the Uists  with The Shiants are  also visible if you are lucky enough to have a haze free day.

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It’s not always necessary to climb a big hill to find a fine view & nothing more is truer than Meall nam Meallan. At just 147 metres it really is just a hillock but standing by the cairn with a 360 degree panorama it really is a great view that, at just 25 minutes or so from the road to Mellon Udrigle, is very accessible.

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The view towards Gruinard Bay with Sail Mhor (767m) , An Teallach (1062m) Beinn Dearg Bheag (820m) & Beinn Dearg Mor (910m) prominent.IMG_9934

Across the water & heading North. The Coigach (743m) hills are most prominent in the foreground. The very tops of Stac Pollaidh (612m) & Cul Mor (849m) can just be seen behind the Coigachs. Further in the distance the iconic shape of Suliven (731m) & the magnificent Quinag (808m).IMG_9935

On the clearest of days the hills to the far North can be seen.  Suliven & Quinag are the most clearly visible with Foinaven (914m) faintly in the distance. Foinaven is near Kinlochbervie, some 70 miles or so as the crow flies.IMG_9951

 

From the viewpoint looking south with the small lush settlement of Achgarve & Udrigle in the foreground and Laide in the distance. The hills of Beinn Airigh Charr (792m), Baosbheinn (875m), Beinn an Eoin (855m) & the Torridon hills are all in the distance.IMG_9925

Below, the rugged peaks of the Torridon mountainsIMG_9944

This is a really pleasant short walk to a nearby trig point where the far reaching views over Wester Ross are spectacular. If you are just passing through travelling along the North Coast 500 or are spending some time in the area (which is highly recommended) then this is an ideal trundle to stretch the legs and admire the views.

 

 

 

Loch Ewe & Loch Gairloch by the setting sun.

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The feeling that a magical sunset brings is one of lifes joys.

That moment of being surrounded by nature and watching the beautiful landscape around you slowly change can be incredibly moving.

The sense that the setting sun has on the surrounding peaks of Beinn Airigh Charr and the Torridon mountains steadily transforms from rough, gnarly ridges to soft & gentle hillsides inviting all to stroll up their heathery slopes.

The Pines of Inverewe Gardens reach up to absorb the last warming rays.

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A stag panics and races away from us, we’ve spoilt his evening taking in setting sun.

The distant moon hovers between the deepening blue and the warming orange glow.

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Loch Ewe shimmering and glass like under the crystal clear sky.

In a hidden cove snorting seals lounge on their smooth rock beds watching a passing Slavonian Grebe

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Another day of uninterrupted blue overhead.

A day for leaving prints in the sand, for strolling along the waters edge, for gazing over the white crests into the far distance and for basking in the suns heat in mid November.

The Outer Hebrides teeters on a rainbow horizon.

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Melvaig and it’s beach enjoy superb views over the shimmering water. The Misty Isle and the Torridon hills a silhouette in the haze of the setting sun.

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Loch Gairloch shimmers in the fading light, the water taking on the warm pinks, purples and yellows of the evening sky. The twinkling lights of Gairloch drifting up the hillside.

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Memorable days to treasure.

 

Coire Mhic Fhearchair- Possibly Scotlands best Corrie- Part 2

We are lucky enough to have two of what many regard as the best corries in the country in Wester ross. Earlier in the year we paid a visit to Toll an Lochan, which sits beneath the imposing An Teallach range. On this occasion we paid a visit to Coire Mhic Fheachair, which sits at the base of Beinn Eighe’s impressive triple buttress. Beinn Eighe is Britains oldest nature reserve. It was set up in 1951 & the reserve covers an impressive 48 square kilometers.

We visited Coire Mhic Fheachair earlier in the year only to be driven away from the corrie by a combination of driving winds & snowfall. This time shorts & t-shirts were the order of the day.

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The route starts from the car park beside the A896, just west of the bridge over the Allt a Choire Dhuibh Mhoir. The walk from the car park to the corrie follows a fine stalkers path & whilst the walk is just shy of 9 miles, climbing to an ascent of 540 meters the going is good for the majority of the walk.

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As you traverse the foot of Sail Mhor, which is the westernmost of Beinn Eighe’s peaks, you get fine views of Liatach.  Liatach is one of Scotlands finest mountains with it’s summits considered as some of the most challenging. Certainly it’s not a hill for the faint hearted.

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The far reaching views of the hills of the Flowerdale Forest are outstanding. Baosbheinn & Beinn an Eoin are both clearly visible as is Beinn a Chearcall. Gairloch can also be seen as you climb around the foot of Sail Mhor.

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The corrie sits above a waterfall which would be quite a sight when in spate or frozen. For us we were just in the midst of a very dry spell so the waterfall wasn’t flowing quite as hard. Although it wasn’t difficult to imagine how it might be on another day. As you climb beside the waterfall the triple buttress comes into view & you know that the corrie is just around the corner.

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Loch Coire Mhic Fhearchair. At 540 meters & surrounded by the triple buttress it’s an impressive sight.

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Whilst it was shorts & t-shirt weather, just a wee reminder of what greeted us the last time that we were here. Despite it being the middle of summer a small patch of snow was still lying in the gully.

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Unfortunately there is a tragic story attached to Beinn Eighe & Coire Mhic Fhearchair. In 1951 a Lancaster bomber returning from the Faroe Isles crashed just 15 feet from the summit of Beinn Eighe. It was travelling in terrible weather conditions in early March. Sadly all 8 on board lost their lives & wreckage can still be found scattered beside the corrie. As a consequence of the difficulties encountered with the rescue the modern RAF mountain rescue teams were established.

As the walks a linear one its back the way we came, down hill all the way to the car park. The views however continue to captivate.

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Coire Mhic Fhearchair truly is an outstanding corrie, however for us Toll an Lochain just shades it as our number one corrie in Scotland.

 

 

 

 

A superb day at Handa Island

Handa Island is an amazing Scottish wildlife Trust reserve off the west coast of Sutherland, in summer it’s home to nearly 200,000 seabirds. It is owned by the Scourie Estate but managed by Scottish Wildlife Trust.

The passenger ferry departs the mainland at Tarbet for the 10 minute trip to the island, where you arrive into a beautiful white sandy bay and are greeted by a couple of volunteer rangers to talk you through the ins & outs of the reserve.

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The wee visitor centre has lots of information about the birds nesting on the island and the history of the settlement that was inhabited up until 1847

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We were lucky enough to spend the whole day watching Great Skuas (Bonxies), Arctic Skuas, Razorbills, Guillemots, Kittiwakes, Fulmars and the charismatic Puffin

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Evidence of the settlement can be seen alongside the path to Puffin Bay along with the remains of lazy beds. A beautiful place to live on a summers day but no doubt very harsh through the winter months.

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The Arctic Skua gliding above our heads, this is the smaller cousin of the bonxie but it’s faster and much more aerodynamic.

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The Bonxie !!! (apparently a Shetland word for ‘dumpy, untidy women!)

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Puffin Bay

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One of the smaller sea stacks, home to thousands of seabirds

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Guillemots, Razorbills, Kittiwakes, Fulmars, and gulls all nesting on the ledges of Handa’s cliffs

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What a bird, the wee puffin

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This Fulmar headed towards us gliding in the wind……

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He was either busy riding the thermals or ….

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….. he really didn’t want his photo taken.

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A Razorbill whizzing by us as we were sprawled on our tummies, camera poised

 

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The beautiful and fascinating Razorbill

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We were patiently waiting for this Razorbill to open his beak & expose his yellow mouth but he wasn’t playing ball.

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Awwwwww

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There are many beautiful summer wildflowers to be seen on the island

along with the odd Pippit chick.

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Further along the boardwalk we were startled by a rabbit hurtling out from underneath the timber slats, obviously trying to cool down in the shade,  he was far too quick for us get a snap though

Oh and it also seemed the boardwalk was a good spot for the local lizards to sunbath.

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A Bonxie biding his time

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Another pristine white sandy bay

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An Arctic Skua, also known as Parasitic Jaegar, Parasitic because it often chases and forces other birds to drop food in flight and Jaegar which is derived from the German word for Hunter

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Back to the bay to await the boat, quite happy to mill around on the stunning beach,  we weren’t in any rush.

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As Arnie would say ‘We’ll be back’! ………. every week if it were possible.

 

 

Loch Toll an Lochain – Possibly Scotland’s best Corrie – Part 1

We’ve heard great reports about Loch Toll an Lochain, a magical place surrounded by the spectacular rugged peaks of An Teallach. With clear waters, wee sandy beaches and the curving slopes of this impressive mountain surrounding the corrie, Loch Toll an Lochain has been on our agenda for a while.

After such a long spell of dry weather it was our best chance of doing the walk without sinking up to our knees in peat bogs. We began our walk just a short way from the Badrallach turning on the A832.

After briefly fighting through dense rhododendron bushes the walk initially follows close to the south side of the Coir’ a Ghiubhsachain river.

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It’s a beautiful walk alongside the Coir’a Ghiubhsachain river. Several water falls are passed & what looks to be the remnants of an old wooden water mill. When the river is in spate you can see why it might be heavy going under foot but if you strike it lucky after a dry spell the ground is very easy going.

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The peaks of Sail Liath, Stob Cadha Gobhlach, Corrag Bhuide and Sgurr Fiona coming into view

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The path is faint in parts but with an OS Map handy & thanks to some carefully placed cairns it’s straight forward enough to follow.

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The views looking back down to Dundonnell.

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The really damp areas are a haven for dragonflies & other water dwellers. Unfortunately the dragonflies were reluctant to pose for photos but after a bit of trying we managed to encourage one to hang around on a rock for long enough to take a snap. Might have cost a fortune without a digital camera!!

 

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It’s just around the corner he says. It won’t be long now until we reach the corrie……………………

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At last the majestic Loch Toll an Lochan is reached. Sitting proudly beneath the ridge of An Teallach. An Teallach is seen by some as Britains most dramatic and challenging Munro, with 10 summits over 3,000ft along it’s ridge.

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The rough walkway across the corrie with fine views of Stob Cadha Gobhlach, a munro at 960 meters.

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The famous (or infamous dependant on your head for heights) Lord Berkeleys Seat & the Bad Step form part of the An Teallach ridge. The ridge is a grade 3 scramble & whilst we were at the corrie we could see plenty of walkers enjoying a day out on the tops. Lord Berkeleys seat gains its name from the legend that Lord Berkeley would often sit up there smoking a pipe whilst dangling his legs over the edge of a 500 meter sheer drop. We felt queasy watching the brave leg danglers!!!

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Unfortunately it’s not uncommon to see the rescue team in the area & today was no exception. The Dundonnell Mountain Rescue Team cover the area & the volunteers do a fantastic job in helping those in distress.

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A little piece of history. Part of the old Caledonian Forest, trapped & preserved in the Peat.

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Heading back down stream & away from the corrie you get impressive views of an escarpment together with the distant hills of the Fannichs.

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Loch Toll an Lochain is certainly an amazing Corrie, we shall see how Loch Coire Mhic Fhearchair compares …….to be continued………