A Travellerspoint blog

Days 12 and 13

Inverness to Onich

semi-overcast 14 °C
View A maiden holiday in Scotland on SteveJD's travel map.

We returned to the Black Isle but this time headed along the north coast where we stopped at RSPB Udale. This is just a layby with a hide next to it! However, the bird watching was excellent and helped by the presence of a chap who knew the birds in the area better than we did. We had good sightings of Red-breasted Mergansers as well as numerous other waterfowl, including a pair of Mute Swans defending their territory.

View from hide at RSPB Udale to offshore rigs near Cromarty

View from hide at RSPB Udale to offshore rigs near Cromarty

Red-breasted Merganser

Red-breasted Merganser

Intruder being chased off

Intruder being chased off

Splashdown after seeing off the intruder

Splashdown after seeing off the intruder

We couldn't linger long so soon set off along the road towards Cromarty but we had hardly started when we spotted some birds close to the road and these turned out to be Eiders - another first for us.

What a handsome bird, a male Eider

What a handsome bird, a male Eider

We continued round the island, heading back to Rosemarkie. We stopped just outside as we spotted a sign to Fairy Glen - you have to investigate don't you?! It is on the edge of the town and is a lovely wooded glen with bluebells flanking a pretty stream. We had an appointment so couldn't stay long so didn't get to the waterfalls where, at this time of year and maintaining a tradition, school children plant Spring flowers under the waterfall. This keeps the fairies happy and in turn they ensure that the water is clean. Both parties must be doing a good job as the stream was crystal clear and sparkling.

Steve walking by the stream

Steve walking by the stream

Judith on the boardwalk

Judith on the boardwalk

View along the sparkling stream

View along the sparkling stream

Our appointment was at the Groam House Museum (appointments needed as it is small and we were still having to wear masks in enclosed spaces). After a quick look at what was Marine Hotel (where Judith's mother was billeted) and is now a block of flats called Marine House, we made our way to the nearby museum (everything is nearby in Rosemarkie!). This had has a great collection of Pictish art, in particular a large cross stone which had subsequently been used as a paving slab in a church. As a result, the cross side was quite worn but the decorative side is well-preserved. I mentioned Picts when we visited Aberlemno but didn't say who they were. I don't know! All I know is that they inhabited the north of what is now Scotland, apparently had no written records but left some beautifully carved stones. They are believed to be the "painted warriors" the Romans mentioned. They could have been tattooed but also used woad to dye their skin blue. They appear to have been absorbed into the various peoples who subsequently settled Scotland. I am reading up and trying to find more about the early people of Scotland as I have found this all so interesting. Anyway, history lesson over.

The decorative side of the Pictish Cross stone

The decorative side of the Pictish Cross stone

The worn side with cross still deeply carved

The worn side with cross still deeply carved

View of Rosemarkie from Chanonry Point

View of Rosemarkie from Chanonry Point

On a whim, we decided to drive further west into the mountains and headed for Aultguish Inn - an arbitrary choice pin-pricked from the map! Some way along the road, we stopped at Rogie Falls where we had a pleasant walk (in some parts a clamber!) through beautiful woodland to the falls. We had intended to cross the suspension bridge and walk back the other side but, as you will see from the photos, the bridge is in need of repair and we were barred from that route.

The suspension bridge from beside the falls

The suspension bridge from beside the falls

Rogie Falls

Rogie Falls

We continued on to the inn, which is in the middle of nowhere cowering under a huge dam which holds back Loch Glascarnoch. We didn't need a meal and they had no snacks, so we satisfied ourselves with coffee before starting our return journey.

Aultguish Inn

Aultguish Inn

Looking over the car park to the dam wall

Looking over the car park to the dam wall

We had been told that there were Red Squirrels all over the car park at Contin forestry area. We drove in and Judith caught a glimpse of one climbing a tree but it rapidly ran round to the back of the tree and that was our last sighting of a Red Squirrel in Scotland!

The following day we left Inverness and headed south, driving along the "slow" road on the eastern shores of Loch Ness. With no sign of Nessie, we stopped at Change Point (so named as this was a point where travellers would stop to change their horses) where we had views up and down the loch and could just make out Castle Urquhart on the opposite side.

View across Loch Ness

View across Loch Ness

Jet Set was with us again

Jet Set was with us again

A selfie by Loch Ness

A selfie by Loch Ness

A view down the loch, no sign of Nessie

A view down the loch, no sign of Nessie

Shortly after this, near Foyers,, we stopped at one of the best tearooms we have ever been to, The Camerons Tea Shop - if you are ever in the area, give it a try, great food and drink in a lovely setting.

Camerons Tea Shop

Camerons Tea Shop

We drove inland and up to a viewpoint giving views along The Great Glen. It was quite "breezy" so we did not dwell long!

20220515_120958_Judith.jpgViews along The Great Glen

Views along The Great Glen

Just after passing Fort Augustus, at the southern end of Loch Ness, we stopped at the Bridge of Oich which crosses the Caledonian Canal. The old cantilever bridge is still maintained but only in use for foot traffic, it is an engineering masterpiece.

The cantilever bridge from the "modern" bridge

The cantilever bridge from the "modern" bridge

Barge on the Caledonian Canal

Barge on the Caledonian Canal

Judith on the cantilever bridge

Judith on the cantilever bridge

The snapper snapped

The snapper snapped

The "modern" bridge from the cantilever bridge

The "modern" bridge from the cantilever bridge

Our route took us on down past Lochs Oich and Lochy (really!) then took us away inland where we stopped at Spean Bridge to look at the majestic Commando memorial (unfortunately fenced in!) and the even more majestic mountain range which included Ben Nevis as a backdrop.

20220515_P1230288.jpgBack and front views of the memorial

Back and front views of the memorial

Ben Nevis and her sisters

Ben Nevis and her sisters

Not being climbers, we had hoped to take the cable car up to see Ben Nevis from a high point but unfortunately that day it was closed due to high wind so we continued to Glenfinnan. Just before the small village, we stopped at a viewing point where we climbed some awkward steps to get a distant view of the famous viaduct (featured in Harry Potter films) to the north and, to the south, a beautiful view over the Bonnie Prince Charlie monument to Loch Shiel. We had thought about a trip on the Jacobite steam train which runs from Fort William to Mallaig, crossing the viaduct en route, but by the time we checked, the earliest booking was August!

The Glenfinnan Viaduct

The Glenfinnan Viaduct

Loch Shiel and the Bonnie Prince Charlie monument

Loch Shiel and the Bonnie Prince Charlie monument

We drove along to the village where we walked up to the station and enjoyed much needed cake and drinks in one of the old railway carriages.

View westwards from Glenfinnan Station

View westwards from Glenfinnan Station

Finally, we found our B & B at Onich, part of a cottage on a small farm owned by a lovely couple, Gary and Mhairi. Our bedroom was small but comfortable and the newly built bathroom was very spacious and one of the best fitted bathrooms we have used on our stay. The cottage looks out over the farmyard, across Loch Linnhe to the mountains beyond.

View from our bedroom window

View from our bedroom window

Our next booking was for Stirling but when we (re-)checked the details and contacted the owner, we found that parking was not to be guaranteed and if we were not lucky we would be carting luggage quite a long way. We cancelled this hotel and booked an AirBnB on a farm at Gartocharn on the south east side of Loch Lomond and only an hour from Stirling.

Posted by SteveJD 12:14 Archived in Scotland Tagged birds scotland lochs glenfinnan black_isle

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