I’ve been meaning to write about Strathglass for a couple of years now, but have never got around to it. This post therefore merges three separate visits to the same location, marked by the little red dot in the middle of my map, above. So you’ll encounter a strange mixture of photographs from spring and autumn. Each time, we stayed in the same log cabin poised above the valley of the River Glass.
The area around the cabin has fairly frequent visitors:
There’s a large rear deck, with a view northeast along the length of the strath:
Autumn is the time to see red deer calves still in their spotted natal coats:
And the bird feeders attract interesting visitors, too. This one’s a great spotted woodpecker (the chaffinch in the background is clearly waiting his turn):
Though some, like this goldfinch, prefer to cater for themselves:
When not lounging around watching the wildlife, we wander the nearby glens.
Glen Affric is wild in its upper part, with the Allt Beithe hostel sited a good nine miles from the public road system. But the lower reaches are pleasantly domesticated, with car parks and way-marked trails. It’s a lovely spot in autumn:
(The craggy point in the distance above the line of the river is Sgurr na Lapaich, I believe.)
Our other favoured glen is Strathfarrar. Unusually in Scotland, access to this glen is protected by a locked gate—only 25 cars are allowed into the glen on any given day, and it’s closed to vehicular traffic (except, of course, for residents and estate workers) for a day and a half a week. The Boon Companion and I generally turn up on a Tuesday, when the glen is closed for the full day. We park in the little car park just short of the gate, and amble up the road beside the river for as far as the spirit moves us, largely untroubled by traffic.
In the morning, the warm tarmac tempts out the local reptiles. We’ve encountered basking common lizards here, and also this:
It’s a slow worm. Despite the name, not a worm; despite appearances, not a snake—it’s a legless lizard. Unfortunately, it departed too quickly for me to hunker down and check its eyes, which (unlike a true snake) it blinks regularly.
And, hanging around the car-park, checking out the visitors, there’s Susie the goat:
Occasionally we head east out of Cannich, but stop short of the Nessie-themed horrors of Drumnadrochit. We drive up to park near the neolithic chambered cairn at Corrimony and then walk farther up the River Enrick, though the route to Corrimony Falls seems curiously elusive.
In the spring, the lambs of Corrimony seem curiously trusting. This one came running across the field to take a look at us:
In the other direction, we head through Beauly and Muir of Ord (pausing at the Bad Girl Bakery) and into the curiously named Black Isle, which isn’t an island at all. At Fortrose, we weave our way along minor roads clogged with camper vans and out on to Chanonry Point (a name I’ll come back to), where there’s a madly busy car park at the end of a remote and apparently undistinguished promontory.
On the shoreline, when the tide is right, there’s a crowd of people staring out to sea, going “Ooooh,” and sometimes “Aaaah.”
That’s Fort George on the far shore, built by the Hanoverian army to control the narrows here at the entrance to the Moray Firth. On the rising tide, shoals of fish pass through this choke-point, and they’re pursued by a pod of bottlenose dolphins, which is what everyone’s here to see.
Back to that name Chanonry, which is the Scots equivalent of English canonry—a place where canons live. The canons involved are those belonging to the thirteenth century diocese of Ross, who seem to have had an establishment in Fortrose, dating from before the building of Fortrose Cathedral.
Back down the road a way, in Beauly, the religious theme continues with Beauly Priory:
This monastery is the reason a town in Scotland has ended up with a French name—Beauly comes from beau lieu, “beautiful place”. And before the Reformation, the priory housed members of the French Valliscaulian order.
Back at base, I was sitting reading one evening when I glanced up to see a pine marten scampering across the decking outside. So next time we arrived prepared—strawberry jam, sultanas, and a motion-activated camera:
But the poor marten was not without competition:
Who knew that red deer like strawberry jam?