Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Wind Surf

After spending the day anchored off Tobermory, the Wind Surf came up the Sound of Mull en route to Portree. Details of the ship are here.


This was last night's sunset - picture courtesy Kilchoan Early Bird

Ockle Wilderness

We walked upstream from Ockle yesterday, following the track above the burn until we had crossed the ford and then cutting up hill, southeastwards, into one of the largest areas of....

....wilderness on Ardnamurchan. It's open land with wide views, green with the coming of summer, a place where, in the many times we've walked it, we have never met another human, but home to....

....small herds of red deer hinds with their young.

The heath spotted orchids are everywhere along with tormentil, lousewort, cross-leaved heath and

....bell heather in full flower, often growing on the most exposed rocks, but what we hadn't expected to find, almost at the highest point, was....

....a lesser butterfly orchid. We searched to find more, putting up a red grouse in the process, but without success - which begs the question how this single flower managed to get here.

Just across the watershed is this lochan with its single island - another lochan un-named on the OS maps. Beyond it the land falls steeply away into....

....a wide glen through which the Allt Eas a Ghaidail, the burn of the Gael's waterfall, flows. At some point an attempt was made to drain the land on the other side of the burn. The straight ditches look as if they may have been part of Sir Alexander Murray's efforts to drain the local highlands in the 18th century.

The Allt Eas a Ghaidail is a beautiful, meandering burn which can be followed downstream along banks alive....

....with small frogs which escaped at our approach by making great jumps into the water.

It is also a great burn for dragon and damselflies. This golden ringed dragonfly allowed the closest of close-ups: when this picture was taken the lens must have been an inch from his ear.

Monday, 26 June 2017

New Shop Roof Finished

Many thanks to Richard O'Connor for sending this picture of the new box-profile roof on the shop with the comment, "Done!" Those working on the project have done extremely well, considering that they've had to contend with some heavy rain.

Thanks, too, to the Raptor who sends photographs of the cloud effects yesterday evening, this one looking across the Sound to Mull.

The Raptor writes, "I took these pictures on my 10pm walk with the dog and cat, this one of wonderful late evening sun burst to the west."

Camas nan Geall Otters

From Sue & Richard:
We were walking from Camas nan Geall towards Maclean’s Nose when we spotted an otter on some rocks in the water. We watched it for several minutes as it swam out, dived, caught its prey....

....and returned to feed, then had a good roll over on the seaweed-covered rocks before moving on.

We followed it, walking quickly along the coast whenever the otter dived, and remaining motionless as soon as it surfaced. We continued to the next headland where, in the next bay, there was a second otter. It seemed to be acting oddly, swimming quickly in to shore then moving rapidly in and out of the water and over the rocks.

Soon, the first otter arrived and it wasn’t long before they both surfaced, some distance apart, and gave each other a hard stare. After swimming around in a large circle they came in to the shore beneath us. With whistles and squeaks they warmly greeted each other, as if after a long separation. Then they began ‘romping’ around in the water and rocks at the shore’s edge.

This behaviour continued for some time before they swam off together and we eventually lost sight of them as they left the water and disappeared into the rocks further along the coast.

Many thanks to Sue & Richard for super pictures and story.

Sunday, 25 June 2017

Summer Weather 2

The minute the earlier post was written, the sky began to clear and we enjoyed some beautiful late afternoon sunshine, so we took a walk up the back of Ormsaigbeg, finishing on Maol Bhuidhe where we stood for some time enjoying this view.

Summer Weather

Sometimes, Ardnamurchan's weather just has to be endured.

Achateny Beach

We headed for Achateny beach on Friday morning but left the car near where the road forks for Branault and Swordle, and walked towards it along the western slope of the wide glen formed by the Achateny Water to where....

....there are the remains of the big fank built while Achateny was a sheep farm following the clearance of its clachan. In the trees in the middle distance are the two houses associated with the farm, both now Ardnamurchan Estate letting houses, and the agricultural buildings of Ardnamurchan Estate's farming business.

The clachan of Achateny stood on the opposite side of the Achateny Water from the farm buildings; its site is marked with the arrow. For a clachan it was on the large size with, in 1737, a population of 55 grouped in ten families.

These are the remains of one of the clachan's houses. The houses are small, typically 6m x 4.5m, but each was home to a family which was cleared. I don't know the date of Achateny's clearance but the OS map of 1856 shows only the farm buildings.

Achateny beach is a white sand beach, a wide beach when the tide is out, and almost always deserted - though we were surprised yesterday to find one person already walking its sands.

That the beach is wide and a mixture of rock outcrops and sand made it ideal for a fish trap, and this wall, now almost covered by the shifting sand, is part of it. The trap is described on the Heritage Ardnamurchan website here. I would love to know how old it is.

For much of our time on the beach we sat and absorbed the stillness, the wash of the waves and the cry of the oystercatchers. We also saw sandpipers, mergansers, several types of gull, grey herons and, sadly, a mink.

Saturday, 24 June 2017


One of the useful features on the MarineTraffic app is the one that shows the forecast route for some, if not all ships. I used it this morning to see if the Vestvind, which is designed to carry large wind turbine parts, would be passing down the Sound of Mull.

As can be seen, she was, but she planned to take a short cut, which might have been quite exciting for people staying at Achateny and Fascadale, and for everyone in Kilchoan which was the point at which she would have re-launched herself.

Perhaps someone on the bridge noticed the error - this doesn't always happen - and corrected the waypoints or, as seems a little more likely, there was a glitch on the app. Anyway, in due course, she appeared off the Point of Ardnamurchan - this picture from Kilchoan Early Bird - and, in due course....

....turned into the Sound. She seen here being passed by the French cruise ship Soleal.

The Vestvind is on her way from Denmark to Belfast yet she chose to pass through the more confined waters of the Minches to the north of us, and then down the Sound of Mull, rather than to the west of the Inner Hebrides. There's more about her here.

Many thanks to Kilchoan Early Bird for the picture,
and to SJC for alerting me when she came into the Sound.

Friday, 23 June 2017


The cuckoos have been very active again this year, calling from the woodland along the top of the crofts and also from the open hillside above - but they're difficult birds to photograph.

However, this one stayed put while it was stalked, even though....

....it also had a small bird - at bottom right - scolding it.

We're fortunate that we still have cuckoos.  Their numbers have dropped drastically in the last 25 years for reasons which aren't understood.

Ardnamurchan's Isolated Farmsteads

Before the farming settlements of Ardnamurchan were reorganised - in some cases, cleared - in the years between 1828  and 1854, most people lived in small, self regulating nucleated settlements called clachans. Achnaha, pictured, is one of the few inhabited settlements today which, although it was reorganised into a crofting township, retains the layout of those old clachans.

Typically, each clachan was home to six to eight families, perhaps thirty people in all, but a few chose to live outside the settlement. The white arrow....

....indicates an area which was within Achnaha's common grazings but which was cleared for arable farming. The people who lived there built themselves a house and outbuildings.

On Tuesday 27th, the Ardnamurchan History & Heritage Association is holding its first AGM, in the Learning Centre at 7.00pm. This will be followed by a talk and discussion about Ardnamurchan's isolated farmsteads. Everyone is very welcome to come along.

Thursday, 22 June 2017

A Woodland Walk

Just past the sharp bend at the bottom of the hill beyond Sonachan Hotel and the Community Garden, a path, signposted as a woodland walk, leaves the road and heads southwards. The woodland doesn't last long, which is just as well as I don't enjoy walking without views, so one is soon....

....into more open scenery. The long ridge in the distance is Beinn nan Ord, but in crossing the marshy area to the right....

....we came across the season's first sundews, both the common or round-leaved sundew and....

....one of the sundews with much longer leaves, either Drosera anglica or D. intermedia.

Beyond the marshy area the land rises to a series of small, rocky ridges from which there are views southeastwards, to Beinn na Seilg....

....southwestwards, across the woodland which on the OS map is called Garbh-dhail and the meandering Allt Garbh-dhail to the long ridge of Beinn nan Ord, and....

....northwestwards, towards Beinn Bhuidhe. We could have walked in any direction - this is one of the great wildernesses of Ardnamurchan - but we followed this ridge, which rose and fell until....

....as the sun came out, we reached Achosnich. We sat on a rock here and admired yet more views, this one looking across the township to Eigg, Rum and Muck and....

....this one, looking back to Sonachan Hotel and to Ben Hiant in the distance.

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Glenborrodale Accident

Many thanks to Geoffrey Campbell for this photo of the accident which occurred late yesterday afternoon on the Glenborrodale side of Dale Cottage.

Geoffrey reports, "The ambulance was heading to Kilchoan to attend an emergency and met a car on the bridge. Fortunately no one was injured but the Mini was shunted backwards through the bridge wall and the ambulance ended up balanced on the other wall in an 'Italian Job' pose.

"Emergency services soon attended including two fire engines, another ambulance and the police; only the coastguard was missing. All was put right with assistance from the Loch Shiel Garage and Ardnamurchan Estate."

With the road blocked for over two hours, the NHS switched rapidly to Plan B - a medivac helicopter appearing over Kilchoan soon afterwards to deal with the original emergency.

West Ardnamurchan in the Press

Sanna's beaches have been awarded Best Scenic Beach by the Times/Sunday Times in an article on Sunday - here.

Meanwhile, the BBC has reported - here - that our Community Council's call to have the speed limits reduced in Kilchoan is shortly to be considered by Highland Council elected members on the Lochaber Committee. It's also hoped that some anomalies will be corrected - like the open speed limit up the Ormsaigbeg road.

The changes are needed in response to an increase in traffic brought about by the changes to ferry fares under the Road Equivalent Tariff scheme. However, of as much, if not more concern is the state of our roads. This picture, of the potholes in Pier Road, one of the areas which is suffering from the increase in traffic, shows Important Resident Henry the cat inspecting the road surface.