Thursday, 27 October 2011

Auchengill and its monuments to the past

Although the Caithness coast line has little in the way of sea lochs to explore, it certainly has lots of interesting nooks and crannies breaking up the vertical cliff line, like this one at Auchengill, Nybster.

There are three stone monuments at this site, one which commemorates Sir Frances Trees Barry who excavated the near by Broch ( A stone age castle) Another is believed to commemorate the highland clearances and the third ? Well it is anyone’s guess what it commemorates.

A path leads down to a hidden cove with an abandoned pier, and ruined fisherman’ cottage built from Caithness Slabs. Round the corner in another sheltered cove is a lovely sandy beach and like most of Scotland’s coast, the water is crystal clear but very cold.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Dounreay and Thurso

Dounreay nuclear power station first went into service in the late 1950’s but was taken off line in 1994. During its hey days it employed around 3500 people many who still work there decommissioning the reactors and processing plant.

For me, it was always cast a dark shadow over our landscape, however I do wish there was a better alternative than the many wind turbines that now grow on every hillside like some contagious rash.

A necessary evil though, or I would not have the power to post on my blog.

The biggest wee toon in the far north is Thurso. There is not a lot to it but I can recommend the fish and chip shop not too far from the tourist information cantre. I have spent many a happy evening wandering beside the river then onto the harbour, eating my supper and throwing the remains to the local fish and chip gulls.

Surfers enjoy the waves ouside the harbour and the European championships have been held here. The waves rolling in from the Pentland Firth have been compared with those of Hawaii.... except Thurso has the record for having the coldest water to host the surfing championships.

I have witnessed some spectacular sunsets from the harbour while looking towards the old castle.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Caithness and its famous slabs

Many of our city centres now have pedestrian walkways which are paved in an expensive stone surface called Caithness Slabs. The slabs are renowned for their durability and riven appearance in a grey or black with brown hues colouring that is exclusive to the Caithness stone.

Not surprisingly, it comes from Caithness which is covered in the stuff. It is cheap as chips in the area and has been used for anything from building house walls and slate roofs, to making field walls and road side kerbs.

Here are some photographs of the slabs in their natural state around the Dunnet Bay - Castleton Area. It is easy see why they are used and made, by splitting into thin sections then cutting to slab shapes.

Monday, 24 October 2011

Dunnet Bay and its golden sands

In the shelter of Dunnet Head lies the two mile stretch of golden sands of Dunnet Bay. Backed by sand dunes, it is a bird life haven , with oyster catchers, eider ducks, great northern divers, curlew and ringed plovers to name a few.
It is also a popular place for surfers when the winds are out the north west. The vast expanse of the beach means that you certainly won’t feel its over crowded, even on a nice summers day.

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Dunnethead Lighthouse and foggy memories

Perhaps it may surprise some, but John O Groats is not the most northerly point of mainland Scotland. Dunnethead and its lighthouse is 2.35 miles further north than John O Groats and it is the most northerly point.

I went to photograph the lighthouse several times at sunsetbut as is very common in the area, the north sea haar engulfed it long before the sun started to fade. However a little perseverance soon paid off and I got the following shots.

I confess that Im sorry the fog horns no longer sound along our coasts on foggy nights. I remember listening to the low tones and finding the noise as comforting as the rain of the window pain, when I was tucked up warm in bed on a cold dark winters night. The sound is only a distant memory now.

Friday, 21 October 2011

John O Groats

There is not much to tonights post but there is a reason for that.. there is not much to John O Groats. It consists of not much more than a large car park, a sign that reads John O groats where a photographer will charge an arm and a leg for a photo of you standing beside it, a run down hotel, a hamburger van and the last house museum and shop.

I used to smile when I passed a hand painted sign post on the road to its neighbouring village of Gills. It read "A Gill is better than a Groat any day". I presume it was good humoured rivalry between the ferrys that depart from both villages.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Duncansby Head and its Sea Stacks

I’m afraid to say that since my holiday to Arisaig, the weekend weather has been that poor, I have not had any new boating adventures. I was also due to finish work last weekend but I was asked if I could assist by working to the end of the month so I agreed. What is another two weeks in a remaining life time of leisure :-D

To keep my blog going until I get back in the boat, I intend posting some of my favourite photos from around Scotland in the hope you will continue to look in

Where better to start than right at the very top of mainland Scotland. A sunrise stroll from Duncansby Head Lighthouse to the Sea Stacks of Duncansby. The lighthouse is on the north east tip of the mainland not far from John o Groats.

Its a short walk of about a two miles round trip but it is worth it, especially on a cold clear crisp morning. Then its back to the hotel for coffee and breakfast... enjoy.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Glen Affric and its mystical misty islands

I smiled to myself at this scene deep in Glen Affric. The ancient white weather beaten tree trunk stands on a small knoll beside Loch Beinn a Mheadhoin in a circle of younger silver birches. I thought it looked like some aged prophet surrounded by its followers, or a mystical circle with the tree wizard reaching for the sky. Anyone else notice this sight before ? I can only imagine the birch trees were planted intentionally in the circle.

However it was the mystical misty islands in the centre of the loch that really caught my attention.

They inspired this surrealistic painting.

Glen Affric is a magical place to visit if the atmosphere is right.

Monday, 17 October 2011

Glen Affric in Autumn

Its Autumn ....

The leaves are falling down,
Yellow, red, orange and brown.

What better place in Scotland to see the autumn than Glen Affric ?

Not much else to say today... except enjoy my photos :-D

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Loch Nevis and the end of my holiday

Apologies for the lack of updates this past week but I was away from home and didn’t have computer access.

So here, without further ado is the final chapter to my holiday at Arisaig :-D

The Western Isles boat was now heading for Tarbet in Loch Nevis. I saw a couple of eagles circling high above the hills on the eastern side of the loch. A herd of stags were silhouetted against the skyline and pods of porpoise broke the sea surface. It really is an unspoiled wilderness, with the exception of one or two huge homes built on the shoreline.

Near the narrows of Kylesknoydart are a couple of smaller cottages dwarfed by the huge hillsides surrounding the loch.

We then approached Tarbet which is nestled in the hills at the northern end of the portage path that crosses over to Loch Morar on the other side of the hills.

Tarbet is a sheltered bay and a couple of boats were moored here. A smaller boat met the Western Isles and brought a couple of passengers aboard. There are only six inhabitants in the village ..well .. that was at the last count.

Sir Cameron Mackintosh, the composer and multi millionaire has built this house near Tarbet. Its rumoured he fell out with the local crofters who don’t make life easy for him. It has been rumoured they burned his boat and set fire to the house during his ten years in Loch Nevis.

Leaving Tarbet, the Western Isles then headed for the inner Loch Nevis, but first it had to pass through the narrows at Kylesknoydart. The pointed peak of Sgurr na Ciche and rounded top of Garbh Chioch Mhor dwarf the scenery around the loch.

The tide flowed like a river through the narrows but it was no problem for the Western Isles.

We passed the hamlet of Kylesmorar which is now made into holiday homes and can be rented for a holiday away from it all. Its only accessible by boat.

The boat finally stopped and turned at Seal Island, deep in the heart of the inner loch. Around a dozen large seals rested on the rocks. The views around the surrounding mountains was stunning.

Heading back to Tarbet and Mallaig, I couldn’t help notice a huge whale. It was beached at the outbound centre and it is in fact a boat. It is the only whale boat in the world and it has crossed the Atlantic. Think I will stick with conventional boats though.

Heading back to Mallaig, the wind started to rise and I watched a sixteen foot fishing boat battle into the waves and send spray high in the air. I was glad I took the commercial boat as my twelve foot boat would have struggled back.

Still ... it was a lovely way to end my holiday in Arisaig.. and I hope you enjoyed following it.