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………