Scotlands Highlands 2020: Part Twenty
12 August 2020
This morning I left Moray. I didn’t bother revisiting the beach, but neither did I leave at the crack of dawn running away… I took my time, had breakfast, went for a short walk with River around the car park and then readied myself, leaving at 9.30. The relief I felt was surprisingly high, but I was a little more positive about my visit here. Moray will be on my list again, and next time, I would be better prepared. The drive in the bright sunshine was really pleasant and I took my time, enjoying the views, and rolling into my first location of the day, Carrbridge, a very comfortable hour later.
Carrbridge was on my list because it’s a nice bucket shot location with a really lovely and characterful old packhorse bridge. It was built in 1717, and is considered the oldest known stone bridge in the Highlands. It suffered severe damage in floods in 1839 but remained standing (just) when many others were washed away, and it now has barriers stopping people crossing because it’s not safe (not that it stops the determined!!) However, with a well positioned viewing point, and a perfect view from the modern bridge, it remains very photogenic from a number of positions. This is one visit I had really been looking forward to.
When I left Fred with River to come and photograph here, I crossed a small park, chatted to a lady with her dog, and noted that even at this time of day, Carrbridge wasn’t heaving with tourists. The village didn’t seem very big, with a few shops, and a couple of coffee shops, only one of which was open. Perhaps it was still early for some, or maybe the lockdowns had still kept many people home… Either way, it meant that I had the bridge all to myself. 😀 The sun was really harsh, and the water very, very calm, so the pictures I took can, very easily, be improved on at some other time. With the river cutting through some trees in the background, I wondered how this might look in Autumn, with a greater water flow… I bet it’ll be gorgeous at that time of year! I took some pictures from the view point…(well OK… I might have hopped the barrier and sat by the waters edge for a few shots) and some from the modern bridge. I felt the best shots came from here, as the view of the tumbling waters were lovely from this angle, but not quite so obvious from lower down. Both were lovely spots to take in this gorgeous structure however.
Looking at the height of the bridge, one wonders on the levels of the flood waters that damaged it back in 1839. They must have been quite horrific to the villagers here at the time! With my musings and photos done, I went to the only coffee shop open, and had a quiet coffee while River lapped at a bowl of water they gave her. I then peacefully returned to Fred, and drove onto my next destination. In all, this very gentle and casual visit took just 2 hours, and River was being a very good girl today, so my stress levels were returning to normal.
My next stop was Foyers falls. It rang a bell with me, and didn’t at the same time. I assumed this was because of the amount of research I had done for this trip. However, when I arrived, I recognised it instantly. I had visited here in 2012 with the children! At the same time, it confused me a little. The picture I was hoping to recreate was that of a bridge over a nice big fall (see header pic) I didn’t remember seeing a bridge here though… I parked up down the road as the car park was full, and walked back up to where the short but steep hike started. As I arrived back to the car park, I saw a stream of cars parked inconsiderately in the road letting their passengers out. They were clearly one big group, but the cars were struggling to park anywhere sensible, so basically just stopped in the road, blocking all the traffic behind them, as oncoming cars tried to navigate around the sudden influx of pedestrians. This is where tourism gets a bad name… behaviour like that. It wouldn’t have taken the drivers much effort to find a safe spot to park up a little further up or down the road like I did, or to have unloaded passengers in the car park before leaving to find somewhere else to park. I silently rolled my eyes and kept my thoughts to myself, as I started the walk down to the viewing point.
Down here the Falls looked very impressive, but there’s really only one good spot to take a photo. I took it of course, but definitely couldn’t see the bridge over the falls at the top. The original old photo I hoped to re create , taken (as I now now know) in the 1880’s by photographer George Washington Wilson, must have been taken somewhere else along here… so I decided to go on a hunt.
I hiked down as far as the lowest view point, just in case it was an optical illusion, and the bridge was lower down… nope… definitely not here. So I hiked back up and decided to try and follow the river along to see if there was an ‘upper falls’. When I think of it now, for a ‘non explorer’, this certainly was exploring wasn’t it?! (Woo – go me doing the thing!) I ended up walking a distance but finding nothing. The best I found was a bridge over a drop, but the water was little more than a dribble, and there didn’t seem any way to get down the sides, which were heavily overgrown, to get to the base of the dribble. Confused, I went back to the camper, dropped River and my camera bag inside, and decided to ask in the tourist shop to see if they knew the spot in the photo. After looking at it while, the older man did. Then he told me a brief history of this location, telling me all about the Hydro electric scheme that had taken water from the falls to supply electricity. It dropped the strength of the water to the falls, he told me… so the waters rarely ran that strong any more – which in turn meant the upper falls were really small, almost non existent sometimes. It turns out that the bridge I stood on WAS in fact, the bridge in the old photo, and the dribble… well that was the result of the electric board’s re routing. This actually made me feel really sad. Progression has a painful price sometimes, but at least they left enough to keep the lower falls looking magnificent. I did wonder though – how awesome must Foyers lower falls have looked at full strength?!
After my disappointment at the falls here, it seemed a little pointless to keep pursuing the hunt so I decided to leave here and travel to my next location.
This one was a little vague to me as I drove, but when I arrived at the rough spot on the B862 I spotted clear areas to park in a nice long layby, and a well worn path to the viewpoint. I parked up happily (in a large puddle!) and took River, and all my kit, for the hour and a half trek – it didn’t feel remotely like I walked for that length of time however, as it was a most enjoyable hike! This was the first vista sight I had actually visited, with my fitness level denying me the choice of high mountain hikes, and I was not at all disappointed… well, I was, but not with the view, which was absolutely gorgeous. Sadly the sun was glaring right in my face so all the photos I took had ugly sunspots all over them, and only one that I took with my mobile actually proved save able. This was a morning shot for sure I felt, so I planned to stay the night here, and re hike up for dawn. I imagined that the light coming from the other side would light up the mountains perfectly, which was more the view I hoped for. After I sat for a while taking the whole vista in, I ambled back to the camper, and at the roadside bumped into an older chap on a motorcycle. We stood and chatted for ages where he was so incredibly fascinating. He told me all about his worldwide travels on his motorbike, and how he had lived a free life for many years that way. He met his wife abroad and they continued travelling together for years before she departed this world, and he has now, only recently, settled in Scotland. He still yearned for the road however, and as we discussed my camper-life, I could see he had many fond memories of the freedom it brought.
After he left, I repositioned Fred for the night, and cooked myself some dinner. As I did, I spotted a number of wild deer wandering around the field near me. This felt so perfect here…