Dawdling along the shores of Wester Ross

An afternoon to spare …

The sun with his hat on …

Captivating views to drool over …

The coastline of Wester Ross is an enchanting place to roam

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Sand Martins dart and swoop through the air …. a minutes rest to preen ….. then it’s up into the sky again

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Lapping waters, white sand, perfect serenity

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Over the rippling Minch lies the Misty Isle if you’re a norseman or maybe the Winged isle if you’re a Celt or a Roman

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Grassy cliffs surround and watch over the shore

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Today just wee lambs and sea pink venture onto the sands

 

Out on the rocks a conversation could be heard along the breeze ….

Angus : Do Ya ken what Dougal is up to?

Bruce : Och, he’s doing his Titanic routine again, he’s a few drams short of a full barrel that one!!

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The water may look warm & inviting …..!

 

Delicate steps are needed when strolling above the tide line at this time of year

On the hunt for driftwood and just 2 steps ahead a Plover’s nest with new born chick sits snuggly in the sand

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Mum a few feet away feigning injury to lure us away from the nest

 

A quick snap, we scurried away to let mum get back to her eggs & chick

 

All the colours of the rainbow beneath our toes

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Cliff sides scattered with wildflowers, grasses and ferns

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sea worn rocks – natures curvy chair to lounge on & wile away an afternoon watching the seabirds

 

Till the next dawdle ………

Greenstone Point ramble

The coastline of Opinan and Mellon Udrigle is a serene and tranquil place but on closer inspection there is a lot going on around this beautiful peninsula.

With crofting land bordering moorland there were Skylarks trilling through the skies, Wheatears searching out bugs and caterpillars in the heather, and a Thrush stand off.

Around each rocky outcrop along the coastline to Greenstone Point the views change and there is always something new to surprise you

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Mallards and Greylag geese were savouring the peace ….. until we arrived!

A lazy seal wasn’t overjoyed to see us either, a few minutes spent observing us then splash, he had quickly disappeared under the water

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The deep meets the wild blue yonder

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In several places along the narrow track are these incredibly fertile little spots, on closer viewing they turned out to be the local otters privy, maybe we should consider scooping up the spraints and taking then home to sprinkle on the veg beds, if this is what it does to the grass we could potentially submit some record breaking veggies to the local agricultural show!!

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Alongside a couple of the Otter spraints, were small holes in the ground, they were certainly too small for an Otter, possibly a rabbit has found his perfect burrow with a lush green lawn for a front garden.

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An ideal lookout spot

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…. with just a little bit of rock pooling

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An unfortunate caterpillar being introduced to a Wheatears beak.

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Resting on a small lochan we saw this little beauty, there are only 1,300 breeding pairs of Red Throated Divers in the UK, hopefully this one has a mate and breeds here.

Excuse the terrible photo’s we couldn’t get close enough and wanted to get a couple of shots in case we spooked him or her!

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This was a real treat to see this bird hopefully it will keep coming back.

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Spectacular views from the summit of Cul Mor

Cul Mor has got to be one of the best peaks in the area for outstanding views. It’s quite an unassuming looking hill from the A835 but hides grand views from the top. At 849m it is higher than it’s popular neighbours Stac Pollaidh at 612m and Suilven at 731m making it the perfect spot for viewing these iconic hills. According to Scottish Natural Heritage Cul Mor translated means ‘large hill of the cattle pen’.

This particular Corbett is a popular one. It’s very accessible and just an hours drive from the b&b. Parking for the start of the walk is just north of Knockan Crag so there are no long treks before you reach the base of the mountain unlike Suilven.IMG_6737

The start of this walk follows a solid, well made stalkers path for roughly 2.5kmIMG_6742

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Looking back over the moorland of the North West Highlands Geopark. Knockan Crag can been seen at the bend in the road. The fascinating spot where the long running Moine Thrust debate was resolvedIMG_6748

The small crofting community of Elphin with it’s lush fields and fabulous backdrop.IMG_6738

 

The iconic peak of Suilven emerges with the more gentle Canisp to the east IMG_6743

As the stalkers path comes to an end there is a short period of the route that is pathless but eventually heads up through a boulder strewn area where there are clear cairns highlighting the way up.IMG_6755

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On reaching a plateau at the end of the first boulder section we took the opportunity to consider our route up. There is the option of heading up the north east ridge which again has more boulders to navigate or alternatively there is the path up the corrie between the two peaks. For us the grassy path won we just had to negotiate a short steep heather covered section after crossing the small stream.IMG_6761

After climbing the corrie a fantastic plateau is reached with spectacular views over the Coigachs, Inverpolly with is lochan studded landscape and the bright blue Minch with Skye and Harris and Lewis on the horizon.IMG_6786

The peculiar looking Stac Pollaidh translated means “the pinnacle of the pool river”, it’s a short climb easily accessed alongside the Achiltibuie roadIMG_6791

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Tearing ourselves away from the majestic views we headed for the summit and came across fantastic rock formations. The sandstone had clearly taken some punishment, which we assume was as a consequence of the high winds often found on the tops. Fortunately for us there was barely a breath of breeze (which is rare in these parts).  IMG_6848

Two very different rock formations near the summit IMG_6854

The spur of Sron GarbhIMG_6802

 

More weathered rocks overlooking Suilven. IMG_6870

Lochinver basking in the sunshine.IMG_6877

The view from the 849 metre trig point with Suliven highlighted in the spring sunshine. We could have spent several hours on the top of this corbett, it’s a fascinating hill full of a variety of landscapes with awe inspiring views.

All that was lacking was a nice cup of tea!IMG_6891

For the return journey we followed the route that we had taken in and got back to the car in record time as unbelievably we were pelted with hail stones for the last 1km, the beauty of a scottish day – glorious sunshine and layers of clothes being removed at the start of the day to hail showers, 4 degrees  and all the layers and more back on at the end of the day.

But as John Muir once said “The mountains are calling and i must go”

First Coast to Third Coast?!

On a visit to Gairloch recently we purchased a booklet which we have been meaning to buy for some time, there is a collection of these booklets all covering the local area detailing the history, the people and the landscape.

We purchased 2 booklets, the first being ‘Looking at Laide and the area upwards towards Mellon Udrigle and along to Gruinard’  and the second being ‘Around Aultbea from Drumchork to Slaggan’. IMG_6689During a rainy evenings perusal we discovered a little about the history of First Coast, Second Coast and Third Coast which we were completely unaware that a Third Coast had even existed.

So today being a beautiful March day, we headed out of Laide towards the 3 coasts to see for ourselves what we had read about in the booklet.

Just 10 minutes into the walk & we were easily distracted by the local seals sunning themselves

IMG_6568After 15 minutes admiring them lounging on the rocks itching a little scratch here and there it was time to get going.

The photo below shows First Coast with Second Coast on the brow of the hill. Is that all there is i hear you say!!

IMG_6587IMG_6682IMG_6596Well details from the 1841 Census describe First Coast as having 14 households and 77 inhabitants, Second Coast having 23 households and 100 inhabitants and Third coast having 5 households and 29 inhabitants. It’s hard to imagine how busy the area must have been nearly 200 years ago but there are a few reminders here and there, the odd ruined blackhouse with stone walls surrounding several of these ruins.

IMG_6591IMG_6598Reaching the bend in the road at the end of Second Coast we took the grassy path to the left just before the river

IMG_6601IMG_6603IMG_6602Third Coast is recorded as having a mill on both the first and second OS Maps, according to the 1841 Census the mill was in operation and from 1846 – 1901 the mill was operated by the Forbes family.  In J.H.Dixon’s book published in 1886 – Gairloch and Guide to Loch Maree – Dixon mentions the burn that ‘joins the sea in the bay below the village, sometimes called Mill Bay, because of the mill which formerly stood at the foot of the burn’, suggesting that the mill was no longer in use but the 1901 Census records a Kenneth Forbes as being the miller.

Halfway down the footpath the mill emergesIMG_6607Now all that remains are the ruined stone walls of the main building being the mill and a kiln room on the side.

On reaching the end of the track it took just a couple of minutes of scanning the river to realise it was pretty deep in places so there was nothing for it but to get the boots off & treat the toes to a little spa treatment.IMG_6610You may want to avert your eyes!

IMG_6613Once through the icy shock of the water we spotted a rock on the edge of the stream which was fashioning the brightest green toupee

 

 

The sheltered little bay where the now derelict mill stands is a wonderful  spot overlooking Gruinard Bay, it’s the perfect place to stroll on a sunny day and imagine a busy hamlet of people bringing their crops to be ground and the miller housed under a thatch roof sweating over his millstones.

IMG_6620The millstones still remain but unfortunately they are no longer in position The corroded water wheel is still attached on the outside with the Lade being visible beneath.

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IMG_6642After spending some time wandering around the mill and admiring the view over the bay we climbed to slightly higher ground to see the view over towards Gruinard beach. Thankfully we had our binoculars with us as what we thought were horses turned out to be a small group of feral goats that had discovered a lush patch of grass.

IMG_6646Heading back towards the road we waded through the bracken and stumbled across Third Coast hidden beneath the heather, moss and mouse tunnels. Nature had very much taken hold of the smallest of the three settlements.

 

IMG_6654Returning to the road it was time for a detour, we hopped over the heather to stick our noses into a very small doorway that we have seen many times tucked into the hillside from the road

IMG_6667It turns out this was once the place where dynamite was stored at the time road building was taking place in the area.

 

A great little walk full of history just down the road from the b&b. We’ll certainly make this walk to a lovely a little bay a regular occurrence.

For anyone interested in purchasing the great booklets about Wester Ross they are available from The Gale Centre, Gairloch and The Heritage Museum also in Gairloch.

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Picnic time at Laide beach for a hungry Otter

After a couple of days of constant snow showers, things were calmer today so we were able to venture out and popped down to the beach.

The aim was to take a few snowy snaps of the mountains, so as the tide was fully out we hopped onto the rocks to get a little further out into the bay

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and what did we find …..

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this little chap (or chapess) was devouring a recent catch

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The local otters have been quite active in and around the bay of late, we were fortunate to have the camera with us on this occasion.

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Further along the beach the waterfall had frozen

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and the icicles were in abundance

 

Hopefully the local otters will continue to find food easily in this freezing weather and we’ll continue to get regular sightings over the coming months.

 

Blue skies and frozen lochans – A walk to Fionn Loch

A spectacular walk for a spectacular day. Fionn Loch which is known as The White Loch, is approximately 5 miles from Drumchork in Aultbea and the walk begins with a wonderful view over the village.

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The track is pretty much a level and wide track all the way to the loch but cattle are a regular feature for the first mile of this walk as their feeding stations are alongside the track. They have churned up the ground and in places it’s very wet and boggy so it is one to be done on either a frosty day or after a considerable dry spell.

Today was beautifully clear & frosty so the ground was very hard a perfect day for negotiating the boggy areas.

5 minutes into the walk we had the pleasure of meeting a fearsome looking bull  just 10 metres from the track & gate, we were undecided at first whether or not to continue but we decided we were close enough to the gate to make a run for it & climb over if needed, luckily we had caught him on a good day and he just glared at us as we scampered by.

Once past the cattle area the views open up and the scattering of lochans are a treat to walk alongside.

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The frosty start to the day meant the lochans had an ice sheet on their surface making the water completely still, not a ripple could be seen, no streams were nearby trickling water into the lochan, not a breath of wind was felt, there were no birds chirping, not a sound could be heard it was utterly serene.

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The photo above and below is Loch a’ Bhaid-Luachraich known as Goose Loch with Baosbheinn ‘The Wizards Mountain’ in the distance

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The frozen surface of the lochs looks like it is crying out to be skated on but happily we’re not daft enough to test the thickness of the ice.

 

The loch side track meanders through the moorland with the snow dusted Beinn Airigh Charr (on the right in the picture below) which translates as ‘The Rough Shieling Hill’ appears in the distance.

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The photo below is just the northern tip of the beautiful Fionn Loch. With the sun beating down onto the frozen surface and the mountains surrounding the loch it’s a really wonderful and remote spot to spend a peaceful afternoon.

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On the return journey we were treated to a soaring Golden Eagle circling over the moorland just above Aultbea and being harassed by a brave Buzzard.

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Just 4 days later the blue skies departed and Siberia sent this our way ….

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Laide wood – A winter wonderland.

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Exploring the coastline around Gruinard Bay

The bright blue skies of an early February day drew us out to the shoreline

Red sands, sparkling waters, waders & eagles await

The beaches along the coastline of Gruinard Bay are some of the best in Wester Ross. Mungasdale has a wonderful red tinged sandy beach surrounding by  crofters fields, moorland and sand dunes where what look to be Kerry Hill sheep happily munch away at the grass.

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The exposed rock of Cam Dearg an Droma were where we wanted to head to see the view over Gruinard Island and the bay

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The view from our house is of the west facing side of Gruinard Island and is mostly cliffs and caves, the waves hammer into those cliffs and rocks but seeing the east side of the island from Mungasdale beach it appears to have a gentler side, with evidence of lazy beds and clusters of trees along the shore it feels completely different. There are a couple of ruined buildings but the only inhabitants of the island now are the birds. At the very peak of the island is a large boulder and whilst exploring the island through our binoculars we spotted a White Tailed Sea Eagle perched on this boulder admiring the view. We had heard that a Sea Eagle was nesting on the island so to see one perched there keeping watch over his or her island was fantastic

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Working our way along the headland and up the hill the eroded hillside provides a quirky peep of the distant Summer Isles

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The view over Little Loch Broom to the settlement of Scoraig is very tranquill with Beinn Ghobhlach ‘the forked mountain’ nestled between Little Loch Broom and Loch Broom.

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Sail Mhor ‘The Big Hill’ with the An Teallach ridge circling behind, An Teallach means ‘The Forge’ and there are 2 peaks, Bidein a Ghlas Thuill meaning ‘The peak of the grey hollow’ and Sgurr Fiona meaning ‘The fair peak’.

The snow on the tops has been a little lighter of late, that will most likely change by this weekend

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Looking down over the crofters fields and Mungasdale beach

The glass like water looks like it could be an ice rink………..if only.

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Creeping down over the moorland, this snoozy stag was oblivious to our fairy steps luckily there was barely any wind to give us away (not that we had an unpleasant aroma about us!!)

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Another ruined building with a superb view over the bay & the island

Just the heather making itself at home now

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This stag was immersed in champing as much of the lush grass as he could manage. The sheep are exceptionally generous in sharing their field with the deer and the Brent geese, or maybe they’re just wise enough to steer clear of the beastie with sharp antlers.

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As the water retreats the rock pools have their chance to shine and flaunt their own underwater rainbow

 

Throughout our time at Mungasdale the Sea Eagle hadn’t left ‘his’ boulder on the island. At least 3 very patient hours.

As the sun begins to wane the sand takes on a deeper hue. A captivating spot for a picnic

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The following day we wanted to reach a secluded beach Camus a Chruthaich, that we have seen through our binoculars but haven’t yet managed to wander barefoot on.

The secluded spot is along the same stretch of coastline as Gruinard beach but is hidden around an outcrop and is inaccessible from the sands at Gruinard. So the only option for us was to head overland.

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We never knew Heather could grow so large!

It was a tough fight through to say the least. The hillside was fairly steep and the heather dense and waist high in places. Lots of pauses were needed, for view admiring purposes of course!!!

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We survived the battle although the heather did seem determined in preventing our mission.

Once we were over the hill and had dropped down the hillside we joined a footpath which we believe links the beach to Gruinard House.

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A small, quiet little bay, the perfect place to wile away the hours

 

Is there anything more satisfying than walking on pristine untouched sand.

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Gruinard Island viewed from the south has another entirely different aspect

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Reluctantly tearing ourselves away from Camus a Chruthaich beach we climbed Torr Mor and took a few minutes to admire the view.

Gruinard Bay glistening under the sunshine

 

A few deep breaths before we begin the fight through the shrubs & trees to reach the path at the foot of the hill.

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2 wonderful days in the sun by the sea and just a few minutes from home. Wester Ross you have outdone yourself again.