Touring the Trossachs – Day Three.

The hottest day of the holiday dawned on the Wednesday, 1st September, and another long day was planned. Since we had 24 hour access to Loch Venachar, I was itching to make the most of this and planned a sunrise swim. We crawled sleepy eyed out of bed at 5.50am and watched as mist drifted down from the hills. The water was still and it looked like a peaceful sunrise was going to take place. So, I wriggled into a swimsuit and David snatched his cameras and we headed down towards the quiet loch. The air temperature was only 7° but the water felt warmer. It was a wonderful way to wake up!

After breakfast, David and I headed towards RSPB Inversnaid on the east shore of Loch Lomond. We passed Lochs Ard and Chon and I debated which one to swim in. As we passed Loch Arklet with it’s scenic views of the Arrochar Alps, I would have plumped for that one, but being unable to find adequate parking, I decided to leave that loch for another holiday. 😛 We left the car at Inversnaid Hotel car park and walked a part of the Highland Way through Atlantic Oak woodland. We didn’t see much wildlife, save for a lost, discarded fish, sign an osprey had been around!

At lunch time we found car parking for Loch Chon which I’d decided was going to be the swim of the day. The loch was very quiet and picturesque and researching afterwards, I discovered that this loch is fabled to have the worlds largest population of faeries! I think on this day, all were sheltering from the hot midday sun!

We set up camp at a shingle beach. The water was warm and deep, and it didn’t take much time to dry afterwards. In the shallows were tiny minows and darting along the water lilies were giant dragonflies (or were they faeries?). It was beautiful, and I could have stayed there all day, but David dislikes the heat, so we packed up our picnic and headed for the relative shade of Queen Elizabeth Forest Park.

We paid £3 for all day parking, though we were only there an hour. We had come to walk the white trail and to see Vestige or the Mirror Men by Rob Mulholland. These six figures of men and women made of polished stainless steel merge ethereal-like into the woodland around it. I was however, slightly underwhelmed, but we had fun lounging in hammocks and sitting on toadstools as we walked the trail.

Having done all we had planned to do that day, we arrived back at the cabin by 3pm, and found that we still had time to head down to the beach of Loch Venachar and enjoy a bit of sunbathing. David finally got his shoes and socks off and went for a paddle, while I succumbed to the water and had another swim.

In the evening, over dinner of an M&S curry, we watched the sun set before heading back out one final time for a night time swim. As I took to the water with doughnut (my tow float) lit up with a torch, bats swooped around the shore feasting on moths. The air was still and the darkness slowly crept in. I’d never had a night time swim before and it was eerie to wade into dark waters unknowing what was below or ahead of me. It was a magical moment.

Have you ever done a night time swim?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

Touring the Trossachs – Day One.

David and I have been back home for a week now after having had a wonderful week away to Scotland’s Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park. During the holiday, we had some wonderful weather, which makes me think that having to cancel the same holiday last October was a good thing, though at the time it didn’t feel such a positive. Thankfully we managed to book for the same place as was first planned and everything came together perfectly. This is what we got up to on day one of our Scotland 2021 holiday!

Loch Venechar

Our Monday morning began by finishing packing our suitcases and then loading up the car with all our supplies for the week ahead. We left Artie in the care of my mum and embarked on our four hour plus journey north. We hit the M6 at 10am, passing The Lake District before the long slog through the lowlands of Scotland. We stopped off for lunch at Gretna Green Services which was busy with holidaymakers. Our journey passed Glasgow and Stirling before we drew close to our destination for the next four nights, Callander and the shores of Loch Venachar.

We arrived at East Lodge, Cabin on the Loch at the scheduled 3pm. We let ourselves in and quickly orientated ourselves. The cabin has bi-folding doors which opens to a wonderful north-west view of Loch Venachar, and mountains Ben Venue and Ben Ledi. One of my wishes was to stay at a cabin overlooking water and mountains and finally, now I had.

After resting from the long journey, David and I headed towards the rocky, sandy beach for my first swim of the holiday! I’d packed 12 swim suits for this swim holiday, and Loch Venachar was to be my first swim of many that week!

Loch Venechar not only welcomed David and I holidaying in 2021, but was also visited in 1869 by Queen Victoria and her children. The loch is reported to be the home of an each-uisge or water horse (kelpie). Sometime in the 1800’s, fifteen children were playing near the loch and were enticed by the kelpie into the water to their deaths. There is a wood on the north side of the loch called The Wood of Woe. Sadly during my many swims in Loch Venachar, I did not spy the each-uisge, during sunrise, noon or night.

After my swim, we headed back to the cabin to relax. While I had a shower, David spent time photographing the visiting birds on the feeders before we settled down and had dinner, of M&S pizza and salad and watched the sunset.

An early night beckoned as we had three swim planned the next day!

Have you holidayed in the Trossachs?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

A Close Up With – Bottlenose Dolphins of Cromarty Firth

A while back I wrote about my face to face encounter with Red Pandas at Paradise Wildlife Park. It got me thinking of the many wildlife encounters I have had over the years. The first memory that popped into my head was the 2011 encounter with wild Bottlenose Dolphins in Cromarty Firth.

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Bottlenose Dolphins Cromarty, Scotland.

In 2011, David and I incorporated a Grand Tour of Scotland to our travels. We started in Stirling, then headed to Inverness before returning south to Edinburgh. While B&Bing on the Black Isle we booked an hour+ long tour with EcoVentures to see their local pod of Bottlenose Dolphins.

On the day I remembered we were kitted out in waterproofs. After a safety briefing we were escorted towards the RIB.

David and I sat near the back of the RIB which didn’t detract from the experience. The RIB coursed into Cromarty Firth and then followed the headland where there were nesting birds. Within 30 minutes of the trip we came close to a pod of Bottlenose Dolphins. Though we didn’t see any Harbour Porpoises or Pilot Whales on our trip, the Bottlenose Dolphins more than stole the show. They followed the RIB as it coursed through the water. It is a memory I shall cherish all my life.

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Bottlenose Dolphins

Afterwards, back on land, poor David succumbed to seasickness, but the memory of seeing these wonderful creatures in their habitat more than overcame the discomfort. The below video shows some of the best moments we experienced.

Have you experienced dolphins close at hand?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

The Year that was 2014!

Operation Kelpie, with a Few Dolphins, Two Bridges and an Abbey thrown in for Good Measure…

… are what made our weekend away to Scotland 2014 memorable!

With having no internet connection in the three B&B/hotels we stayed in I am having to update when back at home. Over the three nights/four days we saw a lot of sights, drove for 17 hours and ranked up a total of over 800 miles! There are a lot of pictures to go through, and I mean a lot!!!

In this post I will try and cover all the highlights with a selection of pictures I have not shared on my Facebook page. I hope you enjoy reading as much as we enjoyed visiting some wonderful sights in the East of Scotland.

Our holiday started on the Thursday when David and I drove up to Falkirk from Liverpool. The four hour journey went without a hitch and the weather stayed dry, if not cloudy once crossed the boarder.We had lunch at the Helix with the Kelpies in the distance. We had a tour booked for 2.30pm!

Our tour guide was Andy and he was informative if not flamboyant! He really entertained David and I and the other six people on the tour! The tour was £5 each and lasted one hour which I thought was value for money! The tour explained the history behind the development of Helix and the Kelpies and then went on to explain about the past, of the areas industrial roots and the canals. The tour ended inside the base of one of the Kelpies, Duke I think it was. After the tour we spent another hour walking around and taking pictures from different angles. The sun broke through the clouds and we got some great pictures!

 

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After four we drove to our B&B in Stirling, West Plean. It was our third time of staying there and the welcome is always friendly.

West Plean B&B

West Plean B&B

We dinned at the River House, and afterwards we decided to go back to the Kelpies to see them lit up at night. It took over an hour for the sun to set but we got some fantastic pictures of the Kelpies lit up with red lights. To me they looked demonic!

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The Friday dawned with mist over Stirling. We shared a lovely friendly breakfast with a French couple from Paris and a German couple from Berlin. As Moira the proprietor of West Plean said, it was an international breakfast table!

After breakfast David and I left for Aberdeen. We came across cloud and more cloud before it turned to sharp piercing rain. We stopped for lunch at Dunnottar Castle and we’re going to visit, but we had good views of the mist shrouded castle from the headland so we snapped a few pictures and then went on our way!

Dunnottar Castle

Dunnottar Castle

We arrived in a rain soaked Aberdeen after 1.30pm and quickly went in search of Marischal College where the 50 dolphins of the Wild Dolphins art exhibition where housed before auction. They were displayed in an open courtyard and David and I were not protected from the ‘dreich’ weather!

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After 4pm we checked into our second base for the night, the Hilton, Treetops Hotel. It was a four star hotel but we were in a three star room! The other downside was that we were staying next to a ‘bride to be’ and she and her friends kept us up during the night with their antics!

The only positive of the stay was the restaurant. After nursing a migraine and not having brought any medication (the only thing I did not have) we went for dinner. After ordering the salmon, we were then entertained while waiting by a magician called Garry and his pet rabbit Basil! It was amusing and highly different! David had a smile on his face all evening!

Garry the Magician with Basil

Garry the Magician with Basil

Saturday dawned much brighter with the sun shining, my headache and sickness lifted. We did not pay for the £10 each for breakfast, we decided to just have a coffee and head off to Edinburgh. We were planning on visiting Highland Wildlife Park but the satnav said a three hour drive awaited us and then another 2.5 hours to Queensferry, so we opted to visit my favourite city instead. We stayed in Edinburgh for lunch and walked around Calton Hill, Holyrood Park and the Royal Mile. It was nice visiting old haunts.

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After 3pm we set off to our last base for the holiday.

Hawes Inn

Hawes Inn

We checked into the Hawes Inn, a pub on the river front. It was a three star and the room we were in was testament to that. We were in an outhouse, and in the basement as that, hence no internet signal! It was not the best B&B we have stayed in, but it was liveable! We were not there much of the time anyway!

After check in, we decided to mingle with the locals who were there for a food and drink festival. We took pictures of the two bridges and looked for restaurants. In the end we had a delightful curry at an Indian called the Queen’s Spice. At the end of the meal I was gifted a red rose, a nice touch!

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On leaving the restaurant and after I took a tumble, (silly high heeled shoes!) we rushed back to the hotel and then out again to see the sunset over the Firth. (Don’t worry I did not break any bones, just had a scraped knee.)

The Forth Bridge

The Forth Bridge

Later on that evening we headed back out (again) to see the bridges lit up with lights.

The Forth Bridges

The Forth Bridges

The Sunday saw us getting up at 8am for a continental breakfast. We left Queensferry on our journey south. I with a tear in my eye said a farewell to Edinburgh and Arthur’s Seat as we saw it fading into the distance as we dove along the A7! We headed to Melrose Abbey for two hours of strolling around ruins. It was a pleasant, peaceful day!

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We got back to Liverpool after 4pm on Sunday, tired but satisfied that we had had a nice, diverse time.

I hope you have enjoyed my recital of our little weekend and inspired you to visit Scotland?! I will try and make a video of the highlights and post on here.

Christine x