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Days 9 and 10 - From the Cairngorms to Inverness

Birds and the Black Isle

semi-overcast 15 °C
View A maiden holiday in Scotland on SteveJD's travel map.

We were a bit undecided as to where to go today, so headed up to Findhorn on the coast to the north of us. This is a very pleasant small fishing port and harbour. It was on the breezy side (where by the sea is it not?!) but we had an enjoyable stroll through the dunes to the coast and round by the side of the harbour. Apart from the pleasure of the coastline, we spotted Linnets and Judith found a stone surrounded by snail shells - clearly an anvil stone used by a thrush. We then spotted a lovely Song Thrush. We had arrived at high tide so there was a limit to where we could walk. We had heard mention of the Findhorn Valley (aka Valley of the Raptors), so decided we would try that.

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To my surprise, not being sure where the valley was, our satnav took us west to Inverness and then down the A9 to Tomantin where we turned off, negotiated some roadworks and found ourselves in a lovely wide valley with a river winding slowly through and with mountains rearing up at the sides. Given a day of good thermals, I can see how raptors would enjoy this. A short way into the valley, while still among a few scattered houses, we saw our first Red Squirrel - it ran across the road and disappeared over a wall. Judith only saw its tail! No chance for a photo but at last we had seen one. We have seen them before in Northumberland and, in my youth, much closer to home in the south. The valley was fascinating to drive through but the recommended car park at the end of the 9 miles stretch was in one of the bleakest and least wildlife-friendly areas of the whole valley! We stayed for a while but then headed back and about 4 miles down the track joined other vehicles in a gravelled area by a bridge. One of the chaps said there was a Grey Goshawk but, although I had glimpsed a bird high in the sky as I parked, I really couldn't say that I had seen this. I did however see a Grey Wagtail on the rocks and then a Dipper which turned out to be nesting under the bridge. As the day was mainly overcast with showers, it was not ideal for photography and the valley is much more impressive than our photos suggest.

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As a finale to a pretty good day, we spotted a sign to Lochindorb where there was another castle, looking more like a blockhouse!, on an island in a loch. When we got to the turn off, there was a notice on the side saying "Road Closed" but we decided to press on and were rewarded with a meandering drive through some lovely heather moorland along the edge of the loch. Along the way, we spotted quite a few different waterbirds but none close enough for good photography in the fading light. Generally, things are beginning to look brighter.

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Before this trip, we had never heard of a Slavonian Grebe and thus far had only mid-distance views. However, we were assured that Loch Ruthven was the stronghold in Scotland, so of course we set off in that direction. Once again, we set off along the Findhorn Valley but part way along, we took the Road to Farr, a very logical name since it took us to Farr! As we drove into the valley, before turning off, we spotted a Red-legged Partridge which is an unusual sight for us.

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The drive was very enjoyable taking us into high heather clad moors, very dramatic scenery.

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At one place we stopped and were lucky to spot a Snow Bunting but it did not stay for a portrait unlike, in Farr, a melanistic cock Pheasant. We had seen a partly melanistic hen Pheasant at Insh Marshes but this chap was very handsome.

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We finally reached Loch Ruthven and were told that there were two male Slavonian Grebes doing a "grass dance" but they were beyond the reach of our binoculars! It was an attractive but non-productive setting, although as we were leaving we watched an Osprey at the end of the lake, swooping then diving down and grabbing a fish.

Our next stop was Culloden, the site of the battle in 1746 in which the Jacobites under Bonnie Prince Charlie were finally defeated. It is a very bleak place and for those who have watched "Outlander" it is a pretty accurate portrayal. When we got there it was very windy and dull so we did not explore the site, so took a photo and carried on.

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Our main reason for visiting Inverness was to explore Black Isle, just across the water, not really an island as it is connected by a narrow strip of land. During WW2, Judith's mother, Dorothy, who was serving with the WRNS, was posted there in 1943 as part of a large team carrying out secret work on the preparations for D-Day the following year. She had spoken of her time there fondly so we felt that we had to check it out. It is delightful! Dorothy had sent a folding postcard to her father so we had some places to check out. One of the pictures was of Rosemarkie taken from the beach, with an X marking the Marine Hotel which is where she was based. I got a fairly close approximation.

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Inverness had been another accommodation change. Not long before we left, the B & B that we had booked contacted to say that they had to cancel our booking as they had a date for building works which would affect our room! At this notice, the best we could do was the Holiday Inn which was OK but not what we had planned.

Posted by SteveJD 15:47 Archived in Scotland Tagged scotland loch island culloden inverness findhorn rosemarkie dipper river_valley black_isle

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