Mr BOTRA and I have visited Scotland at Easter most years since 1981 [apologies if I’ve told you this before but it does tell you something about me]. I love going to Scotland and having been so often I am used to the variable Easter weather and the need to pack for every season. On previous trips we have had both heavy snow and warm sunshine [shorts and t-shirts needed] and every weather in between. This year’s holiday was no exception.
We used to go to Scotland for a week but now we are retired [yippee] we can go for longer. An early stopover was the lovely Sunnyside Campsite in Arisaig; we scrambled over the rocky bay in evening sunshine watching an orange sun go down behind the islands of Rum and Eigg. Only a few days later we reached the top of Fionn Bheinn [933 metres high] in low cloud and snow and getting no outstanding view for our efforts. This was particularly annoying because walking up the mountain we had been mostly in sunshine and had needed sunglasses to deal with the glare from the snow. It took a long time to get out of the cloud on the descent but once we had visibility again we relaxed throwing snowballs down the steep slope. We moved across to the Black Isle and on a dull cloudy day decided on an easy walk up Cnoc Fyrish a small hill [just 453 metres high] with a folly above Alness. As we climbed up the paths it started to rain and even on this small hill the rain became snow as we got higher. At the summit [again no view] we were in a winter wonderland and we played in the deep snow and built a snow robot that waved at us as we left the hilltop. A few more days later we were in shirt sleeves as we walked over the Corrieyairack Pass. Next a cold snap rolled in and we were wrapped in every layer we owned and still felt the sharp chilly wind as we looked around the impressive Linlithgow Palace on our way south.
We had perfect weather for a stunning short walk from Blair Atholl in to Glen Tilt. From the car park we followed attractive paths through woodland, stopping to watch agile red squirrels high above our heads. We emerged at a view point with a panoramic view along the glen. It was so peaceful and sunny here we kicked off our shoes and practiced our tai chi forms on the soft grass and in the fresh air before walking back down to the village with its splendid white turreted castle.
This year [as a birthday gift for our son] we booked a wildlife guide for a four-hour wildlife watching trip for us and son and daughter-in-law to give us a better chance of confidently spotting golden eagles. We spent a morning with John from Highland Nature based at Nethybridge and we experienced dramatically changing weather in the four hours we were out. John proved to be an excellent guide who took us to Strathdearn along the river Findhorn and revealed all manner of wildlife to us. As we set off it started to snow heavily and there was little visibility as we watched red squirrels scampering up and down the pine trees. We stopped to see golden plover and other waders by the river before continuing to the head of the valley. Stopping in the car to watch some sikka deer on the hillside we were entertained by a large horse in the field next to the road that was desperate for some attention. We wound down the windows to get a better look at the sikka deer and the large working horse insisted on putting its head through the window, blocking our view! We also spotted red deer on the hillsides and a group of feral goats sheltering in woodland. The mistle thrush I managed to catch a photograph of [above] was singing on a fence post as we drove down the single-track road. At the head of the valley John spotted a mountain hare on the hillside and we watched it through the scope quietly nibbling the surrounding grass that was showing through the snow. The snow shower eventually moved on and the valley was transformed by blue skies and sunshine in to a magnificent landscape blanketed in snow, bright in the sunlight. We saw a couple of golden eagles [helped by the younger and alert eyes of our daughter-in-law] making their way over the mountains, as well as a red kite, a goshawk and a peregrine falcon. On the river we watched a dipper marking its territory with song and the common gulls that nest here wheeled overhead. It was a fascinating and wonderful morning and I learnt so much from someone that is regularly out watching the local wildlife.