Friday 31 May 2019

Scotland, Spring 2019, Day 7

Sadly another wet day today so we decided to visit Inveraray Castle.  The castle was splendid.  There is an excellent view of on the approach to the village and the inside lives up to expectations.  It was a bit of quick whizz around the excellent gardens in the rain which was a shame.

Thursday 30 May 2019

Scotland, Spring 2019. Day 6

A thoroughly wet day with heavy rain all day.  We had a very lazy morning before launching to drive down the far side of Loch Fyne to Otter Ferry and the Oystercatcher bar and restaurant.  We turned off the main road back to Loch Lomond onto ever smaller roads along the side of the loch.  We kept meeting lots of groups of wet and bedraggled cyclists and found even more at the pub.  We discovered that they were taking part in a two day charity ride from Arran to Aberdeen.  We really felt for them, but fortunately the forecast was somewhat better for the 'morrow.  Just before arriving at the pub we stopped to watch a flotilla of male eiders.

Lunch at the Oystercatcher made the best of a dismal day for weather.  We all opted for Cullen Skink or smoked haddock chowder and excellent it was.  We took an alternative route home and called that the day.

Wednesday 29 May 2019

Scotland, Spring 2019. Day 5

A long day today so we were up and breakfasted early.  I wanted to drive up to Seil Island on the west coast and we had promised Thomas that we would go to Oban bike helmet shopping.  Although it was not the promising day of weather as we set off, the sky rapidly cleared the further north and west we went and we had a magnificent day.  The weather was very local, however as the Munro Baggers on the Arrochar Alps had a very wet day.

Our journey took us once more to Lochgilphead, this time turning north along the Crinan Canal, rather than South towards the Mull of Kyntyre.  Seeing a sign advertising a coastal view point we called in at Askneish Bay where found an attractive hotel and bistro.  What a pity we were somewhat pushed for time and it wasn't lunch time.  We also discovered some excellent gardens that we separately became lost in.  Slightly more formal that Ben More, they were still magnificent with ferns, azaleas and rhododendrons.

Continuing north, it wasn't long before we were crossing over to Seil Island over the narrow strip of 'sea' separating it from the mainland via the very hump-backed Clachan Bridge, known affectionately as The Bridge Over the Atlantic.  Crossing the island we parked up at the superb viewpoint of Port a'Mhuilinn where we had lunch in the warm spring sun looking across a sparkling sea dotted with islands ranging in size from Lunga, Scarba and Jura to the tiny Garvellachs.  The rocks were dotted with beautiful delicate sea pinks which made excellent foregrounds for photographs.

Lunch over we continued the short distance to Easedale which we enjoyed pottering around and photographing.  The views to the impressively steep cliffs of Mull were fabulous.

All too soon it was time to continue to Oban to complete our errands.  The owner of the bike shop alerted me to the fact that there were black guillemots nesting in the harbour wall.  This was too much to resist so, while Heather pottered round the shops I wandered round to try my luck photographically.  Mt information was correct and my only regret was that I hadn't driven round with the big 500 lens - ah well!!

I did get some images with the 200, however, and I found a very cooperative hooded crow foraging on the tideline.

All too soon, having secured a bike helmet for 'the boy' it was time to continue our journey.  We drove east from Oban, along the north shore of Loch Awe, stopping briefly in increasingly overcast weather to photograph the magnificent Kilchurn Castle.  We had our eyes open for the ospreys that breed along here and caught a brief glimpse of one as we walked don the the loch side.  It didn't seem long then before we arrived back at Inveraray in increasingly deteriorating conditions; we had certainly had the best of the weather.

Tuesday 28 May 2019

Scotland, Spring 2019. Day 4.

A rest day today.  A relaxed start to see the Munro bagging team depart.  A few regrets there.  Even last year I would have been with them - although there are lots of contours very close together so maybe having an easy day was the better option.
Heather and I pottered into Inveraray where I had a doctor's appointment for an INR test.  Fortunately it has gone up!!  Only a week to go now before cardioversion - fingers crossed.  Following this we explored the town and I enjoyed looking at and photographing The Vital Spark.  A semi derelict old Clyde Puffer, this old lady is awaiting restoration and was the inspiration for Neil Munro's novels based on its exploits: The Tales of Para Handy.  These books also formed the basis of both a 1960s and 1990s television series.  Munro was actually born in Inveraray.  Coffee and scone followed before our return to Stonshira House.

While the remainder of the party went off for an excursion I remained behind to play at being a bird photographer again.  I had a very pleasant time down on the loch side, now at low tide.  I was delighted with my shots of a heron dealing with a large fish and enjoyed watching goosanders, common sandpipers and oystercatchers.  Sand Martin's were skimming the water surface over the mouth of the small river that flows into the loch here.  I also managed to pick up a tick which I fortunately found before it bit and dug in; later in the week I discovered on that had bitten and dug in!!

At 5.45 I feel a preprandial beer coming on!!

Monday 27 May 2019

Scotland, Spring 2019. Day 3

Today was a day of rhododendrons and azaleas.  Everywhere they are in their prime with colours ranging from purple  to deep red, rich orange and yellow.  Although we saw them all over the best displays were at The Edinburgh botanic garden at Ben More.

We drove down Loch Fyne stopping off briefly at Lochgilphead for maps and then Ardrishaig to explore the end of the Crinan canal which provides a short cut for boats from Loch Fyne to the sea to save a long voyage around the Mull of Kintyre.  It was quite surreal, though to be driving inland and suddenly see an ocean going yacht gliding by.  We enjoyed watching another yacht negotiating the first of the initial flight of locks and the views from the harbour down Loch Fyne to the sea and the Isle of Arran were superb.

We continued our journey to the attractive harbour side village of Tarbert where we were just in time to catch the ferry over the loch to Portavadie.  From here we continued to the tiny village of Tighnabruaich which features in the much loved Para Handy Tales.  On the ferry we enjoyed excellent views of dolphins as well as eider ducks and black guillemot.

After a sandwich lunch it was time to move on to the magnificent Ben More gardens.  Set on steep hillsides were specimen trees, rhododendrons and azaleas.  Ferns are a speciality both in the gardens generally and in the cool fern house.  There were Japanese, Himalayan and Peruvian sections to the gardens.  A visit to be recommended.
The drive home took us along the opposite shore of Loch Fyne where we stopped briefly to investigate the Loch Fyne Oyster bar.  On our return to base it was, of course, beer o'clock.