The highlight of last month was undoubtedly our annual holiday. We started with a long weekend in Ullapool and visited the remote hamlet of Achiltibuie. This is one of my favourite places with stunning views over the Summer Isles and across to the Torridon hills. The weather was overcast and, at times, wet so while we couldn’t see the full vista the scene still packed a sense of atmosphere. A visit to the community centre revealed how resourceful the local residents are with art, crafts and music to attract tourists.
The next day we headed out on a boat trip to the Summer Isles and were fortunate to spend some time with a large pod of common dolphins. It was sheer delight to watch them breaching and circling around the boat (see image) and an unforgettable experience. I am more familiar with the bottle-nosed dolphins of the Moray Firth so it was exciting to spend time with their ‘cousins.’
We then spent a wet week in Kingussie but managed to visit the Highland Folk Museum on one of the drier days and I was surprised at how much I enjoyed it. The museum is based around period houses and buildings that have been carefully removed from their locations and faithfully reconstructed on site before being completely filled with the appropriate features of the particular time. However it was the blackhouse village consisting of a number of buildings that really amazed me. The location has been used by various film companies including the current Jacobean drama ‘Outlander.’ I found the interior of the blackhouse intriguing - dark, dingy and smoky as a peat fire smouldered. I managed to take a picture which I posted on Facebook and tried to imagine the stories told and songs sung around the central fire place.
A week in Ardnamurchan followed and the weather dried up. Staying in Portuairk, the views from the cottage across to Rum and Eigg were simply amazing - especially around sunset. We enjoyed walks across the white sands of Sanna bay and to an old, disused settlement along the coast. One cannot resist a visit to the Ardnamurchan lighthouse - the most westerly point on the British mainland - or a day trip to Tobermory on Mull for a walk and a spot of lunch. Although they are about, our time spent otter-watching went unrewarded but we did enjoy another encounter through our binoculars with common dolphins on our final night as they entered Sanna bay.
On our way home we stopped off at the Ardnamurchan Distillery in Glenborrodale. The distillery is a brand new enterprise that has only been operating for 2 years and it was interesting to hear the story around why they selected the location and how they managed to transport equipment along the single track roads. As whisky requires a minimum of 3 years in storage, there are no single malts currently available but a wee taste of some of the spirit still currently in store revealed a taste of what is to come.
We are currently putting our bees to bed for the winter but successfully removed a large number of frames of honey from the hives - many of which will be heather. It has been a really interesting year for us with several learning points and challenges. Happily we shall be departing 2017 with the same number of hives as we entered the year.
I’m also looking forward to giving a ‘Forthshore' talk to Bamburgh Bird Club on 13th October - just a great excuse to revisit the glorious Northumberland coast again!