Scotlands Highlands 2020: Part Thirteen
3 and 4 August 2020
Today was an interesting one. It started off really well, then bottomed out. Not entirely sure why, but all the landscapes seemed ‘flat’ and nothing caught my eye. Either I had ‘landscaped out’, or the grey skies really have left everything looking dull and lifeless.
The first stop, Ardessie falls, were gorgeous however. I initially thought they were just twin falls at the top of a big hill, then last night, I realised there was a big one down near the road too. Once I started the hike I discovered there were even more! All were beautiful, (though not all were photogenic) and some were inaccessible from the side I walked up. The hike was a bit tricker than any I had done so far. The ground was very boggy underfoot, and there were points that I had to either make small climbs, or re-route myself so that River could get up. At one point the ledge gave way under my feet too, so I had to be careful for both our safety on this one. I continued to make my way up though, and was in awe of the sight of the falls as I passed each segment. I think I was also fortunate with my timing at this location, as the water level was just about right to wade across a fast moving bit at the top. I found myself on a large open, flat, and rocky section that allowed for a really great angle to view and shoot the top section of the falls. Every photo I took looked a bit flat though, due to the poor light and although the sun did try to flicker out on occasion, it was extremely fleeting. I didn’t think I had captured it at all until I rechecked my photos months later at home – where on closer re examination, I discovered a beam of light HAD fallen on the waterfall very briefly while my shutter was open, in one single shot only. I cant say I remember it, and its not in the photos before or after, so I feel it was a very lucky capture! At the time I must have scooted through the photos on the camera, and missed this one, or I stopped looking assuming they were all the same.
As I was photographing this awesome sight, the cloud started building and building and part of me waited to be totally drenched – I was too exposed to be able to avoid it, so I just carried on while I could. If nothing else I hoped, to capture a moody shot as the clouds were really full and dark. Rather miraculously however, the cloud then decided to blissfully sail over me without so much as a drop being dumped on me. This was very, VERY lucky considering how dark it got…!!!
If I ever do this one again (I think it would be even more beautiful to the other side with blue skies and the small peak behind them) I will go up one side, cross the falls at the top if I am able to again, and see if its possible to come down the other side…well at least to the halfway point where there are a set of falls that I couldn’t quite see, and a big stone ledge giving better access to another one I tried to unsuccessfully photograph from this side. Another mistake I made in hindsight, was not sticking to the river on my way down. I followed the trail back to the road instead and I seem to have missed a really pretty set of falls somewhere (that I have subsequently seen online)… very excited for next time!!!
Once finished here, I didn’t fancy another waterfall, so I left a planned stop at the pretty falls of Eas Dubh a’Ghlinne Ghairbh, for another time, and instead headed over to Gruinard bay. To my disappointment, there was pretty much only one viewpoint – having said that it looked stunning, so I took the shot anyway! This is certainly one for the bucket shot collection. I suspect being down on the actual beach might have given me a variety of nice pictures, but up here the view across to the mountains gave the shot a lovely Mediterranean feel, with the water being a beautiful shade of turquoise today. I climbed a little further up the steep hill right by the car parking spot, but the view didn’t benefit too much more, so I didn’t push myself to climb all the way. Something in me today really wasn’t feeling it, despite the sun trying to pop out from time to time. This did help the view here massively too and when the sun hit the beach it really came alive in an even more beautiful way, so I stopped long enough to shoot this and to give myself a nice cuppa before I headed off further. Despite this pause however, I could feel my mood mysteriously dropping.
After this I simply followed the route around the A832/NC500. Everything lacked character to me now… the ocean, the Lochs… All had grey coloured water, covered by wind driven ripples, so nice reflection shots were out of the question. No good dramatic angles leaped out at me either, so I just continued round until I spotted the beach at Gairloch and parked up at the viewpoint here. I got out with River, took in the view across to Skye, and snapped a shot on my phone. It all felt so uninspiring… but I needed a break from the driving so decided that I would just take River out for a stroll instead, without me having to carry a heavy backpack. This turned out to be a very enjoyable few hours. I suspect that was because I had taken the pressure off myself at last, and was just focussing on giving a bit of me time to my dog. We hiked down the hill, found the entrance to the beach (just through another car park that I could have moved to) and had an hour or so just walking by the waters edge which was gently lapping into the bay. River rather strangely didn’t seem too keen on the water, and I found throughout this trip that although she was very willing to jump into a river or lake, the sea was a bit more of a concern for her. Either she didn’t like the salt water, or she was worried about the moving water lapping in and out around her feet. I didn’t understand it, and to this day, I am confused! Afterwards, I hoped to find somewhere to eat, a take away suited me perfectly right now… but found nothing open in the area I walked, so I simply decided that I would continue on until we reached Loch Maree, ignoring the Victoria Falls on route. I still wasn’t feeling another waterfall yet, despite my love for them…
Once at Loch Maree, I was greeted by the same lifeless sight as I had seen all day, and although I did try and capture the well known Lone tree here, I wasn’t particularly happy with the shot. It still felt flat, although in comparison to another shot I managed a few days later, I much prefer this composition. Parking to get this shot isn’t without its problems, as there’s no lay by or even verge near here. I did find a small area I could pull into just on the bend however, so used this spot while I went to investigate the tree. Parking here was tricky to spot initially, and I drove up and down the road a few times before I spotted it nestled in a little copse of trees. It then immediately crosses a little bridge to a single car parking spot, which is a hard right after the bridge. It’s all very tight (as I found when I tried to get Fred out afterwards!!) and if there’s another vehicle here – you probably have to forget it!
After this shot was taken, I decided that as the hours had become an aimless wander, I should perhaps just stop here, and give myself a breather. I backtracked up the A832 for a few minutes, looked for and found a nice spot to stay for the night and decided I should just have a recharge. If Ross is largely Lochs and mountains, this might be a short one unless there is a change in the weather… or my mood…
Today it was drizzling, raining, midgeful and I was tired, so I stopped completely for the whole day. I did nothing but play on my phone, eat Caithness Cookies (OMG those were SOOO tasty!!!), clean up, wash clothes, jump out for a bit with River to run around the car park, and just chill. It was the most amazing day! The midges especially were quite interesting to watch. When it rained heavily, they all disappeared for a bit, then a little while after the down pour had finished they slowly started building up again, despite rain still falling. I did try stepping out for a bit to take a photo of another tree that had been separated from the background by the mist and drizzle, but it was a terrible shot. I had obviously been fried by all the visits I had been doing, because I couldn’t think my way through the shot. I was good to myself though and didn’t beat myself up over it. I was sad that it hadn’t worked out, because for a few minutes it was totally beautiful. I may have missed the moment, but hey, it was worth noting in the back of my head should another similar opportunity crop up another time.