Scotlands Highlands 2020: Part Sixteen
7 August 2020
I was very tired today, waking up at 3am after a real struggle to even get to sleep. I think I must have had about an hour and a half maximum and have no idea why this happened! I laid there for a while, then gave up and decided to just try for a dawn shot of the Mermaid of the North instead. The Mermaid was already on my list for today, with a drive that was just half hour from here, so I decided to simply get dressed and make my way over now. There was no point in just laying here I guess… and you never know, the cloud over my head might move away.
There were plenty of spots on the beach front to park up nearby, so in the silent pre dawn light, I quietly got myself ready and left with River to find out where exactly the mermaid might sit. This one had fascinated me from the beginning. It doesn’t seem to be a greatly photographed sculpture from what I can tell, and the few images I found before I went, were mostly simple tourists shots, or a fake one with a giant sun behind. There were so few photographers pictures from here in fact, that I was a little thrown by the apparent lack of interest. How did I find it then you may wonder…? Erm… well… I just looked on google maps in the rough area and spotted their camera logo with ‘tourist spot’ labelled next to it… so its not exactly a big secret!!! This sculpture was created in 2007 by Steve Hayward, and is 10′ high. She is apparently positioned in such a way that at high tide part of her sits beneath the water. (sounded perfect!!!) Sadly for me, the pre dawn light revealed that the water was nowhere near her, so a hoped for shot of waves crashing around her or a gorgeous fine art, minimalist shot were not going to happen today. Still, I was here, and happy to work with whatever was thrown at me… and boy, did I get some incredible luck with what was!! After I spotted a few nice positions, I waited in my favourite and watched in complete awe as the big dark cloud above me gradually began to catch the morning light and continued to get redder and redder until the whole sky was on fire. It was still just 4.40 in the morning, there wasn’t a soul here on the beach, and this was way more than I had dreamed of… This was just stunning!!! I was blown away by my luck being here this morning and was SO glad I had bothered!!! I was also lucky to have the sun rise just over the water, and not behind the trees, which it so easily could have done. Today was starting off in the best possible way for sure.
Once the red skies had subsided and I had exhausted the sunrise, I turned to see what The Mermaid looked like with the early morning sunlight shining on it. I was amazed and even more delighted to see an entirely different shot, where the she appeared to be looking at a perfectly positioned moon. This wasn’t a photo I had seen from here at all, so I happily snapped this angle too. I really loved how it looked, almost as much as the sunrise shots. I waited for while longer, because I wanted to see what she might look like completely silhouetted with the sun fully behind her, and as I did, the tide continued on its way out. I definitely wasn’t going to see any water around her tail, that much was for sure! It was now nearly 6 and I spotted the first visitors to the beach walking their dog. The two ladies were from Moray, and we chatted for a while as I waited for the sun to get into position. (header pic) They were lovely, and quite entertaining as we chatted about my plans to visit Moray in the next few days (chiefly to see a particular location I had hungered to see for well over over a year!) “It’s not More-ayy” the older lady gently informed me “..its Murry. Like the mint. Murry” (you have to hear that with a Scottish accent – its delightful!!) I stood corrected… in the nicest way possible! Lol. This morning was most definitely a complete joy. I now look forward to a return to get my high tide shots!!
I finished here around 6.30am, went back to the camper, and found myself finally able to sleep for a good couple of hours. I woke again at 9 as the seafront gradually came to life with the hustle and bustle of the day, had breakfast, and moved on. For the rest of the day I aimed to keep things fairly gentle, due to the lack of sleep.
My next spot was to be Rogie falls, and many of the shots I had seen of these falls were clearly from higher up, probably a purpose built bridge or viewing area. Although these shots were nice, I really hoped it was possible to find a spot lower down, closer to the water – so my aim was to try and see. I parked up in the car park, and went on the really lovely hike around some woodland. When I got to the falls, I found the other pictures had been taken from a suspension bridge. Now my last experience of one of these was at the very terrifying Corrieshalloch Gorge, and although not as high or as long… this bridge still wobbled a lot when I walked over it! I got about halfway, realised that there wouldn’t be much of a shot from the other side anyway, and came back to the safety of the mainland. I took one tester photo from the bridge, but found that the other tourists walking across wobbled it too much. Getting one using a tripod and long exposure (to get milky water) was clearly going to be pretty much impossible right now. I didn’t worry much, because when I looked downstream I could see there was a nice bit of flat rock by the water… now… if only I could get to THAT spot. I went back to the main trail, following it in the vague direction of the rocky outcrop, and part way round spotted a bit of the fence that had some tracks and a very lightly worn footpath beyond it. Hmmnn… I wonder…?? No one was around, so I quickly climbed over, and followed it into the undergrowth, and then found myself clambering down until I was at the exact spot I hoped for. (Yay!! Go explorer me!) The view from here was WAY better to take photos from, in my opinion (apart from the grim sky flattening all the colours) So, here all on my own, I quietly set up and took my time taking photos, watching River paddle in the gently lapping water.
Photos done, I just chilled here and as I did, I heard a splash. I looked at the spot of the sound, but there was nothing obvious… then I heard another – and a short while later, a third! What on earth was making these splashes??!! I couldn’t see anything that might have fallen in… Confused, I let my eyes adjust to a broad vision, not focussing on anything in particular, but seeing a wide view, when there was another… and I spotted it!! It was a fish!! Over the next hour, I spotted this several times (but heard many more). I was beside myself when I realised I was watching Salmon swimming back upstream!! At the car park, I had read they swim back upstream here to spawn, and that a special salmon ladder has even been built to help make this section a little easier for them. I didn’t get to see that bit as I forgot to look, but will definitely have a better explore when I venture back this way. I was overjoyed at seeing these today though, since I always thought the Salmon season was more September time. If I were to be here in a few weeks, I imagine I may even have been able to photograph them jumping up the waterfall… now there’s a dream shot right?!! Judging by these guys today, you gotta be really, REALLY fast to capture a shot like that… I barely even saw them they were that quick! I sat here engrossed in my fish spotting, when I was joined by an older lady, and as we chatted her husband arrived with a picnic. Now this was a delightful place to sit and just ponder the world I felt. As I had taken all the shots I wanted, I decided to leave them to their peace, their lunch and the fish attempting to complete the hardest part of their life cycles. Now I know about this place, I will try again next time I am passed.
There was pretty much only one other location on my list for Ross and Cromarty for this trip, the Fairy Glen, Rosemarkie. I had debated trying Chanonry Point to go dolphin spotting – a location right here that is hugely popular, and reaps high chances of spotting these beautiful creatures in the wild – but reports of large crowds warned me off a bit and I didn’t particularly fancy jostling for views, and most certainly wouldn’t feel comfortable trying to take photos in front of lots of people. I also found it very difficult to find nearby free parking, and had been told that the only parking closer were a few spots that filled very quickly at the point itself. So, with all these factors, I had to leave this in the end. Instead, as I parked up in the tiny car park at the start of the Fairy Glen hike, I just took things easy. This car park would clearly get full quickly I imagined, but it was edging towards tea time by now, so the largest bulk of the tourists had gone home, and I was able to get Fred in without too much issue. The timing for this was very fortuitous I think!
The hike seemed to start right on the roadside, so I had to keep River on a tight leash, until (after a false start – I had to go back to pick up the phone I left in the van) I found an alternative route that just bypassed the road altogether. This walk, like may woodland waterfall walks, was incredibly peaceful. I took my time soaking the atmosphere in, and met a few people still here. This was an easy hike, and not very long, so it suited my needs for today in being so gentle. As I approached the falls, they looked exactly like the photos I had seen and there was no issue grabbing easy, straightforward shots. I eventually waded across the river that was flowing away to my right, and stood on a small bank there. As was my habit now, I was wearing knee high hiking wellies, and these proved worth their weight as the water flowed nearly 3/4 of the way up them… but it wasn’t dangerous water and the crossing was still pretty easy. No one else was over here however (I guess it was too deep for the average visitor in trainers) so I was able to take my photos in peace. The only people here now, were the occasional tourists who seemed to pop by, take a quick snap and leave again just as fast. As I sat here, enjoying the view and the relaxing atmosphere, I watched some of them – and it felt a little sad to note how some people just seem to come to a location, snap the view and leave just as fast. I get confused why they don’t take the time to just soak the feel of the place they have taken so much effort to visit. It felt to me like they were missing out on the biggest pleasure of their journey. It seems that these days too many have forgotten that life isn’t a just picture…
Pictures and relax finally ended with me leaving and heading over to my next destination. Before I was to start Moray however, I aimed to reset Fred, and realised that as it was after 5, the company I hoped to use were likely closed. Instead a found a quiet spot tucked away nearby, and I stopped for the night. I chilled, cooked a tasty meal, and turned in early. Sleep came easily, and was a marked contrast to the one last night – although I would never crib about it now I had benefited from the outcome.