Scotlands Highlands 2020: Part Fifteen
6 August 2020
I didn’t know it in the morning as I awoke, but today was going to be a bumper day of energy, beautiful sights and renewed enthusiasm.
It started off cloudy, but was dry, and held a bit of promise in the air. I took my time getting sorted and as I did, I saw the skies clearing, and then spotted patches of sunlight begin to dance across the landscape. It looked stunning… and these patches of light gradually increased in duration until eventually, I found myself jumping out of the camper, camera in hand, to capture the view properly. I was so glad I did, because the shots were incredibly pretty and totally varied depending on where the light was dancing.
I managed to get several photographs of the viewpoint before a tour guide stopped by with a mini bus full of excited Japanese girls. I heard him tell them that Queen Victoria had visited here, that it was used in an advert and had been in several films, so was a very popular spot for tourists. I can’t say I would disagree, and today was a particularly pretty demonstration on how it can look here. They snapped loads of photos, petted River and photographed themselves with her too, before they all moved on. I eventually left too, revisited Loch Maree quickly to try and capture some shots that I had wanted, although I didn’t feel they were especially good, and then headed off to find more of my Ross and Cromarty locations.
First stop was Loch Clair. There was a nice easy hike along the side of the Loch, and after I found a good parking spot River and I headed out for the first long walk I’d had in days. By now the temperature had increased, and the day was proving to be a glorious sunny one. It was one that my spirits desperately needed, but not one that was quite so good for photography, as the strong sun simply washed a lot of the shots out or left me with harsh shadows. Regardless of the photo opportunities, the hike was really peaceful and enjoyable, and I was just so happy to be able to soak up the calm gentle beauty here. I walked by the side of Loch Clair, and then the path continued on to go alongside Loch Coulin. A two in one hike, bonus!! This loch had a different character to it, and was filled with plants. It wasn’t quite as clean a sight as I had hoped for, but it was really pretty nonetheless. I found myself a small rocky outcrop and sat with River for a while, and took a shot from there. I wondered if the greenery would be in the water over the winter/early spring. This one would definitely be worth coming back to to check, as it would be really nice if it was possible to get a reflection in the water of the white house with the stunning Beinn Eighe behind it. There’s no bridge here for a better angle, so it might not be possible, but a return trip would answer that question I guess…
The walk (or the boots I was using today) had began to hurt my feet giving me a blister, so I had to turn back from here rather than investigate the route further. I love it when you go back on yourself on a route though, you see everything differently, and by the time I got back to Loch Clair, I spotted a small boat house with some perfectly still water in front of it. I have been dreaming of a shot with a glass like reflection, and though this wasn’t the ‘mountain in the water’ shot I dreamed of, it looked really nice. (header pic) Loch Clair itself would also have had the shot I hoped for, but the light breeze kept sending random patches of ripples across different sections of the water, so I couldn’t get it all in one on this visit. Another time right?!
I hobbled back to the camper when I was done, and stripped everything off my feet. Luckily I have a good supply of blister plasters, so I put one on, some nice soft socks, and popped my super comfy sketchers trainers on to ease the foot a little. Next it was cup of tea time, and then I looked at my list for a nearby location that wouldn’t involve me walking for miles. On the map, I spotted Blackwater falls, so decided that this would be my next stop. I had forgotten what these looked like, so I drove in the direction without knowing exactly what I was looking for and was really surprised to find it right on the side of the road. This meant that it would be very easy on my foot, as the walk was minimal.
It was so beautiful here! The car park was quite spacious, and free so I was able to just park up and come out for a walk first without the weight of a camera bag. What a treat met my eyes when I got to the falls!!
Here was a fall that was quite open and accessible. There was a purpose built platform, a bridge, and all down the side were rocky flat outcrops so you can get right down to the water. Spots to take photos here were plentiful, and with the sunlight now easing a little behind blobs of cloud, I found myself like a child in a candy shop stopping every few feet to take photos from a slightly different perspective. My favourite spot by far was along a huge slab of rock where the water formed two amazing whorls in the water. They changed constantly, spinning and undulating, growing and shrinking in both size and character, non stop. With the sun popping in and out over the scene I found my self chilling here for an age just watching the pattern, and happily snapping to get a bunch of constantly changing views.
When I eventually finished here, my foot felt considerably better, it was still only 4.30, and I wondered if I might be able to catch a nice sunset somewhere. Once again I consulted my map and decided to head for Fyrish monument. This had intrigued me massively, because it looked different, and had a lovely history/myth about it. In 1783, The highland clearances were underway, and the local land owner Sir Hector Munro felt some pity for the poor and starving villagers who had been moved off the land for sheep farming. When they refused his charity, he commissioned them to build this Folly instead. It was a representation of the Gates of Negapatam, in Madras, India which Munro had, as a General for the British army, successfully seized from the Dutch in 1781. As the villagers toiled in their work, the myth has it that Munro would roll the boulders back down the hill, so that they would have to do double the work to bring them back up again… therefore earning double the pay.
What I hadn’t read about, was the walk to get there.
When I arrived I found that the car park was a good 2 miles earlier than the sat nav was telling me, so I parked in this spot. Then I read on the board that the walk to the monument was 2 miles. 2 hours to go, I am sure I can make this, I thought. Chatting to a man coming down, this was the only car park, so no idea what Google maps had marked up..! 2 Miles was OK I thought, I had a blister plaster on by now, and different footwear, so I headed off into the woods with River… to hike 2 miles completely uphill – with all my kit on my back(!) Maybe the gradient was really hard, maybe it was because this was a second big hike in one day, maybe it was the weight I was carrying or maybe there WAS a second car park closer, but no matter what, I found this walk extremely hard work. Halfway up, I paused by a small pond, and River, herself very hot by this climb, immediately ran for it for her now obligatory swim. I couldn’t stop her getting in, but I had to call her out quickly, as it was thick with a green black algae. When I got her back, I had a hilarious looking half black, half white dog. Chuckling at the sight, I snapped a quick photo and sent it to the children, but to avoid the temptation of River getting back in, I no choice but to push on. When I finally got to the top, my angst at the walk melted away because the view was gorgeous and the monument bathed in a lovely evening light. I got my camera out and immediately started taking pictures. Within 6 and a half minutes the sun disappeared, but I had just about managed to take 5 good shots from 2 positions… this was the last, and my favourite.
When I looked skywards, a huge black cloud had blotted the sun out to my total disappointment. I waited a while, then had a wander around the top of the hill, which was pretty flat and had little else to look at other than the view behind the monument. River on the other hand, found herself another puddle, and full of bold enthusiasm, didn’t just step in, she full on jumped – and disappeared completely (!!!!) A pair of girls who had just arrived, had been watching and burst into laughter at the dog, but it took several (frantic and endless for me!!) seconds for her to resurface, bobbing up and looking completely shocked. She frantically paddled to the edge, and couldn’t get a footing out, so I quickly grabbed her collar and gave a quick hoick so she could get her paws on the ground again. My heart was pounding, but she just shook herself down, gave the pool a disdainful look and happily wandered off to explore a different area. I waited 45 minutes until the sun set, but the cloud didn’t move. There wasn’t a single breeze to get it moving. The sun set behind me which didn’t alight any of the cloud either, to my disappointment, but I felt that perhaps a sunrise silhouette shot might look much nicer, especially if the sky was on fire. The way I felt right now however, there was no way I was gonna attempt this hike again anytime soon!
Full of sadness, River and I took another full hour to get all the way back down again and at 10.15, it was far too late to cook, so we both had something to drink, and settled into bed instead, totally exhausted.
…only… I couldn’t sleep…