Scotlands Highlands 2020: Part Twenty Two
14 August 2020
I awoke in the morning to mist, but readied myself anyway and headed off to find the spot to photograph this morning. I found a nice picnic area just at the top of Loch Beinn a’ Mheadhoin, and spotted through the trees, what appeared to be, a glass like, still water. I parked up quickly, grabbed my kit and ran to the waters edge full of such excitement that I was like a small child! I have wanted a water like this for SOOOO long!!! This view was stunning, and incredibly peaceful. The trees to the other side of the loch were hazy due to the lifting mist, but the trees nearer were now clear. Everything looked perfect. This wasn’t the snowy tipped mountain reflection I always dreamed of – but oh my wasn’t this pretty! I had the tripod in my hand already, and set it up quickly whilst being tickled in the face as I did… ah… yes… here were our friends coming to check out their breakfast… I tried. I tried really hard… but within seconds of stopping moving, and trying to set the camera up, I was swamped. The midges were on my face, in my ears, up my nose, and one in my eye, and it just got a bit too much… no amount of flailing would dissuade them, and eventually I ran away… I kept coming back, and doing the next bit of the camera set up, and finally managed a couple of photos before I remembered that a few days back, I had purchased a midge head net. I ran back to the camper, and picked it up clearing my head area completely of the biteys before throwing it on… and… there it was… a moment of total bliss this morning…
I tried to continue, but then struggled to manually focus through the netting so had to keep lifting it. (guess which daft idjit forgot there’s such a thing as AUTOFOCUS – duh!!!) This of course let the biteys in. And so the battle continued for an hour like this. Eventually a breeze began to flutter across the surface of the loch, and the glass reflection was no longer there, so I packed up and left, with around 10 photos for my mornings efforts.. I caught it though, and an really pleased to have this as a reminder of how peaceful it actually was at the start…
Once safe in the camper I decided to leave Glen Affric for another (midge free) time. I left and looked at touring round some of the other Loch Ness sites, before heading out further west. My first stop was Fort Augustus, and I wont lie, its not quite for me. It didn’t help having a really unpleasant experience at the Monster Fish and Chip shop as I drove through on my very first day. Less said about that the better, but needless to say I wont ever visit that chip shop again, and I think that, sadly, it tainted this whole town for me. I did stop off for about an hour despite my negativity about the place, but although the view of the Caledonian Canal locks might have been nice on another occasion, today, with a now harsh sunlight and no water pouring gracefully over them, the view was severely lacking. I left and moved on completely uninspired, but pleased I had at least taken a look.
I started the drive towards Invergarry castle, but 10 minutes into it realised I was both hungry and thirsty, so pulled over at a spot where I noticed people having a picnic. As I enjoyed a quick snack, I saw I was in a central point (island area?) over the Caledonian Canal, but not yet over the river Oich. It was really pretty here with lovely open views of Loch Oich. Next to me was an older bridge built in 1854 spanning just the river section (now only for foot traffic) It was built after floods swept the old stone bridge away some 5 years earlier. I didn’t explore too much, but grabbed a picture on my phone to mark in my diary for reference. I think in a less harsh light this might be a really nice spot. I noted it for the future, and took a quick walk across, just to have done it. A nicer photographic position might have been from the opposing side, down on the bank, because as I continued my drive, it actually looked really nice seeing the whole span in one.
I moved on to find Invergarry castle. I didn’t really know much about this one, but had randomly saved a picture of an old painting showing it from the waters edge. When I arrived at where google maps told me it was, I found myself pulling into a drive of what looked like a big country mansion. This left me feeling a little odd, and like I was trespassing, but the castle is near the entrance, so I don’t think this was a problem. When I saw the castle, I realised this visit might be another bust. I couldn’t find a way down to the waters edge, not that there would have been much of a view I suspect, as all the back between the castle and the water was heavily overgrown. The castle ruins only had a bit of a square tower left, and what was here was surrounded by trees and bushes on 3 sides, so it was very hard to get an interesting view sadly. Instead I grabbed one shot on my phone as best as I could, and had to leave here. There wasn’t much else I could do, as there were no information boards, and no other viewpoints. My stop had barely been a 10 minute one… I was quite sad.
So, What now? It was only 2.50, and with so much of today failing me, I had to look at my map for another location to try! I had Loch Morar on there, but it was a bit of a distance away. I considered it further however – maybe an evening shoot, an overnight and a dawn shot of, hopefully, another still loch…? (yes, I know – in the beautiful full sun of today I totally forgot that the midges would also be there!) It seemed like a good idea, and the few photos I had seen showed a pretty and tranquil loch, so I decided that I would simply enjoy a nice casual drive, and try this one. At 3pm I left Invergarry castle and headed off, following the sat nav along the A82 and then the A830. An hour and a quarter later and I pulled over in a long layby to visit the loo. Another car had pulled over here and the driver was snapping some photos of the view. We were high up overlooking Loch Eilt here, and the view had a small island smack in the middle of some trees. It looked nice from the van, but I continued the drive, as I had no idea how much further I had to go.
I followed the road round until I came to Mallaig, and here the road seemed to just stop. Confused I pulled over and re checked the route, and to my disappointment, I had completely misread the instructions… from here it seemed I was supposed to take a ferry round a head point to Tarbet! I was gutted – there didn’t appear to be a road around the loch at all! I had just driven for 2 and a half hours for nothing! I allowed a few minutes for the disappointment to set in, then realised that I had actually fully enjoyed the stress free drive itself, so didn’t punish myself any further. Instead I briefly checked the map again to be sure I hadn’t misunderstood, and simply considered my next options. The day was glorious, the views gorgeous, and the pace of the drive had been super chilled and relaxed, would I enjoy it as much as I retraced all the route back? Of course I would, and on the way, I vowed to snap my own photo of the spot I had stopped at.
When I arrived back there, I decided this might make a nicer view at some other time. For now, the sun only hit the hills behind so it was putting the main focal point into shadow, making an image that was lacking in any real interest to me right now. (I should have jumped out earlier!) A phone photo was fine for now though, and again, this was going to be a record for a later addition to the map. It felt like today was very much a recce day so far!
It was nearly 6pm, so I wanted somewhere else to view, and hopefully stop the night. The closest to me here, was one I had planned to spend a day at anyway. Glenfinnan. So off I went, hoping that getting there early wouldn’t be a problem…