Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Scots miscellany 3rd-10th August 2014




A family holiday for a week in the far northern Scottish counties of Sutherland and Caithness brought many pleasures. Here is a random pictorial selection of various highlights. It was good to be back.


We rented a cottage on the shores of the Kyle of Tongue in Sutherland. As a welcome the owners invited us to take a dram  from a selection of no less than fourteen bottles of single malt whiskies and completely free! To my delight Old Pulteney (front second left) was amongst them and quite right too, being the nearest distillery to our cottage
                                                                                                                                                                   











A visit to a well known tourist hot spot - Smoo Cave in Durness - on the extreme north coast of Sutherland provided the unexpected pleasure of close encounters with both Rock Doves and Dippers. Presumably because of the large number of tourists of many nationalities visiting the cave the birds have become habituated to the presence of humans most of whom seemed entirely oblivious to their presence. This gave me the opportunity to get close to what are often shy birds

                                                                                                                                                                  


This is the view from the road just above Kinlochbervie, a small fishing port in the far north of Sutherland. The house in the foreground is for sale and we were sorely tempted. The price was £135,000 and with a view that is quite beautiful. Imagine waking up to that. However this is summer. In winter it will be very different but still stunning and fresh fish is only two minutes away. I'm considering my options!
                                                                                                                                                                  


This Emperor Moth larvae was crossing one of the tracks at Dunnet Head on the north coast of Caithness. The first I have ever seen and certainly a very striking and handsome colour combination. Although looking very obvious on the grey stones of the path when we put it in the grass it blended in remarkably well
                                                                                                                                                                   



Sutherland is huge,wild and desolate with very few inhabitants outside of the small number of towns and villages. This cottage echoes the sadness of a land that was cleared quite brutally of its native inhabitants so that rich landowners could raise sheep and make a quick profit. Sound familiar? This year is the 200th anniversary of that shameful time known as 'The Highland Clearances' and is being marked by commemorative events around the north of Scotland.
                                                                                                                                                                   


The huge towering presence of Ben Hope some 927m/3041ft high and the most northerly Munro in Scotland dominated the landscape around our cottage. There is a rugged track leading to the top and our daughter climbed this up and down in four hours while we wandered around at the bottom hoping she would be alright. She was and we saw two magnificent Golden Eagles whilst waiting for her so all was well
                                                                                                                                                                  




After a hard day on the beach which incidentally was a mile long and completely deserted and swimming in the cold waters of the North Sea what better than a nice hot chocolate to warm you up afterwards. Check the size of this 'muvva'. Getting on for a pint of what seemed virtually liquid chocolate served up from a tiny chocolate factory at Durness. The topping is cream and toffee and is to die for. I nearly did!
                                                                                                                                                                




Whilst waiting for our daughter to climb Ben Hope we walked down the traffic free road winding through Strathmore just checking out anything that caught our interest. No extraneous noise of any sort just the occasional bird calling, the sound of wind in the bracken and a tumbling burn the colour of whisky chuckling over the stones. First up was a wee Frog and shortly after Mr Toad
                                                                                                                                                                  


Highland Darter male

Black Darter male
Walking further down the road we came upon a lily filled lochan with a rough track running alongside it. Along the track many dragonflies were taking advantage of the sun warmed stones including numerous Highland Darters, a first for me and Black Darters which I have only seen once before in The New Forest. Somehow with their black and yellow markings they seemed more suited to the wild strath and lonely lochan
                                                                                                                                                                   


We also found these small carniverous Long leaved Sundew plants eking out an existence on the bare stony bank beside the track. To my mind a very attractive plant and good to see so many of them
                                                                                                                                                                    

Sunset over the Kyle of Tongue













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