Erin and the children have been in Nova Scotia since last week, while I’m busy here in Oxford with several workshops and sundry matters that need attention before I leave in a few days. But last weekend I made a quick trip to Scotland to hike in the highlands, since I thought it would be well-nigh unforgivable if I hadn’t seen Scotland at all in three years of living on this island. This will be a rather large post, so click on the fold to see some pictures from the trip.
I started the trip by flying into Glasgow and taking the famous West Highland Line up to Fort William on the western shore. It claims to be one of the most scenic railway lines around and I was not disappointed. Unfortunately, the angle of the sun ensured a good deal of glare on my window, a problem greatly exacerbated by being surrounded by women wearing large white hats, so taking pictures was generally pointless. I did, however, get one decent shot of the moor near the Corrour station.
Other than the station house, it looks exactly like this in every direction. Corrour is reputedly the most remote railway station in the country, with the nearest road ten miles away. But it has direct service to London.
In Fort William I took a short walk along the River Lochy, where I took this photo of some bluebells with Ben Nevis — UK’s tallest mountain — in the background.
I don’t think I’ve ever seen as many wildflowers as I saw in Scotland. The woodlands were filled with bluebells and rhododendrons, the rivers were lined with fields of lupins and irises, and the hillsides were covered in broom.
I figured I needed at least one picture of a castle, so here’s Inverlochy Castle, a thirteenth-century castle that was the site of the first and second battles of Inverlochy (anybody need to brush up on their British history?):
After Fort William, I took the bus up along Loch Ness to Inverness and then down to the tiny village of Dulnain Bridge. After a bit of walking I arrived at Tigh na Sgiath (I don’t know how to pronounce that either), which I’m told used to be the home for tea tycoon Thomas Lipton when he was hunting grouse in August. Now it’s a beautiful bed and breakfast in as quiet a location as one could ever desire:
And, yes, you can get afternoon tea. For £14.50. I hear it’s good.
After a glorious night of sleep, I got up early and started walking. My goal was to walk from Dulnain Bridge through the villages of Broomhill and Nethy Bridge and through the Abernethy Forest to Loch Garten and then back to Nethy Bridge, all before nightfall or collapse, whichever would come first. In the first couple of hours of walking, I saw hundreds of these either rather handsome or rather sinister looking — I couldn’t make up my mind — slugs:
For a while I walked along the River Spey:
This is the view that greeted me when I woke up from a nap in a heath in the Abernethy Forest:
I’d walked enough miles by that point to deserve a rest and it turns out patches of moss in a heath make quite a comfortable bed. But most of this area was covered in pine forest:
Such pine forests used to cover 75% of Scotland; now they cover less than 1%. And here’s Loch Garten, looking in the direction I’m headed the following day:
In this picture, you can actually see the patches of snow where I’m headed:
Not all the way up Cairn Gorm yet, but far enough for a magnificent view over Loch Morlich:
And the view from the summit, looking over the neighbouring mountains:
It’s hard to see in the picture, but there is a valley between where I’m standing and the mountainside with snow on it.
The view from the summit was incredible, of course — Cairn Gorm is UK’s sixth-tallest — but the altitude had another benefit. It’s a completely different world up there, biologically speaking, and so, yes, I found another three species of birds to add to my life list: Dotterel, Ptarmigan, and Ringed Ouzel. I was happy.