Friday, 31 March 2017

Highland Council Elections

Nominations have closed for the 4th May Highland Council elections, and the candidates for Ward 21, Fort William and Ardnamurchan, are -

ALLAN Blair, Scottish National Party; 2 Glasdrum Grove, Fort William, PH33 6DE

BAXTER Andrew Phillip, Independent 12 Riverside Road, Kinlochleven, Argyll, PH50 4QH

ESCOTT Trevor Ernest, Scottish Liberal Democrats; 2 Muirfield Road, Inverness, IV2 4AY

MATHESON Joanne Elizabeth, Independent; The Square, Shielbridge, Acharacle, Argyll, PH36 4JZ

MCLEAN Niall, Scottish National Party; Druimandaraich, West Laroch, Ballachulish, PH49 4JQ

RAMON Ian, Scottish Conservative and Unionist; Caol Muile, Kilchoan, Acharacle, PH36 4LH

SEMPLE Sally, Scottish Labour Party; Drumbuie Cottage, Drimnin, Morvern, PA80 5XZ

Many thanks to Geoff Campbell for the information

A Song Thrush's Nest

We have a neat place at the end of the lean-to along the back of the house where we store our garden tools. Inevitably, it's been taken over by the younger generation as a convenient place to abandon their kit - like a surf board.

While we were away last weekend, with the back of the house now lacking a feline presence, a thrush moved in and began to build her nest....

....balancing it on top of a garden rake and against the top of the surf board.

Like so many birds' nests, it's beautifully constructed of leaves, grass and moss, with the interior a hard shell - presumably built of compacted mud - which rather resembles the inside of a coconut shell.

We fear that, since our return, we've disturbed our fellow resident. She's flown in and out of the nest a couple of times but appears to have given up and abandoned it.

Thursday, 30 March 2017

Low-Flying Transport 'Plane

Many thanks to Jacqui Wight who sent in this picture of a military transport 'plane which she took from Bay MacNeil this afternoon as it flew close to Ardnamurchan Point lighthouse.

The same 'plane passed over us a few moments later heading down the Sound of Mull.

It looks like a an Airbus A400M 'Atlas', probably taking part in the Joint Warrior exercise.

Community Action Plan

We are now in the middle of an exercise to capture the views of local residents, and regular and occasional visitors to West Ardnamurchan - anyone staying in the area from Camas Inas to Ardnamurchan lighthouse. The aim is to create an Action Plan for the future so the Development Company, Community Council and other local groups can attract new funding and plan developments which fit with the views and needs of residents and visitors to West Ardnamurchan.

We want to know what you like about the area and what ideas you may have for changes or future developments. Everyone is encouraged to participate.

Over the next ten days there will be a series of meetings to which everyone is invited. They will be informal, café style events – refreshments available – and will be led by James and Sian of An Roth Associates (part of Mull and Iona Community Trust) who recently helped us manage a consultation on the future of the Ferry Stores in Kilchoan.

The public meetings are on -
Wednesday 5th April 3pm to 5pm - Kilchoan Community Centre
Wednesday 5th April 7pm to 9pm - Kilchoan Community Centre
Thursday 6th April 7pm to 9pm - Ardnamurchan Natural History Visitor Centre
- and there's a session for local businesses and self-employed (inc. Farmers & Crofters) on Tuesday 11th April 7pm to 9pm - Kilchoan Community Centre café

In addition there is a CONFIDENTIAL SURVEY which can be completed online at or you can pick up a paper copy of the survey from Kilchoan Shop, Kilchoan Community Centre or the Natural History Visitor Centre. Completed paper copies of the survey can be returned in the sealed “post boxes” also provided at these locations.

This consultation exercise is being led by West Ardnamurchan Community Development Company and West Ardnamurchan Community Council, who received funding from the Big Lottery ‘Awards for All’.

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Kilchoan Croft Apartment

The top floor of this traditional croft house is available for rent as an apartment. Tigh an Uilt croft is located.... the centre of the Kilchoan community, within easy walking distance of the shop and other facilities but also of miles of moorland walking. The house is marked with a red arrow.

The apartment is marketed through Sykes Cottages - website here - but there's also a video about it here.

Joint Warrior 171

The biennial Joint Warrior exercise, this being number 171, has started and continues until April 6th. Thirty ships from thirteen nations are involved, including Estonia's EML Wambola, a Lindorman Class support ship, which was pictured today by Sue Cheadle anchored off Sanna.

This morning, ten NATO ships were visible on MarineTraffic. com, strung out between Ardnamurchan Point and the south coast of Skye, but we've not seen any yet passing through the Sound of Mull.

Many thanks to Sue for the photo.

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

North Coast Sunset

This superb picture comes from Ritchie Dinnes, to whom many thanks. Ritchie took it at Kilmory yesterday evening, identifies the islands along the horizon as, "Berneray, Mingalay & I think Pabbay," and adds, "I have never seen them as clear as we did yesterday."

Later in the evening there was a red aurora alert but it coincided with the arrival of what must have been the only cloud cover all day.

March Heatwave Continues

The local piglets are sweltering in the March heat and the humans have been complaining that it's too hot to do any work....

....but the sun has at last brought out the first violet along the Ormsaigbeg verges and....

....we've had the pleasure of our first sighting of a peacock, one which was much more co-operative than the Raptor's when it came to having its picture taken. Unlike the bees and flies, it didn't seem interested in the heather, preferring the first aubretia flowers.

Weekend Sunsets

Kilchoan Early Bird's pictures give a good idea of the spectacular sunsets which were visible from Ardnamurchan Point....

....over this weekend in a run of fine weather which is still continuing.

Many thanks to Kilchoan Early Bird for the pictures.

Cyclist Injured

A cyclist was seriously injured on Saturday morning while coming down this hill on the west side of the Basin, not far from Camas nan Geall - full report here.

Monday, 27 March 2017


Exciting things always seem to happen when one is away - like it's been a beautifully fine weekend, with the temperature soaring almost to 20C, and the Raptor has managed to see the first butterfly of 2017, a peacock which he had great difficulty in picturing.

On our way back along the peninsula we found the Hebridean Princess anchored in warm evening sunlight in Glenmore Bay against the backdrop of Ben Hiant. Her crew was busy ferrying her passengers ashore so they could....

....visit both the Ardnamurchan Distillery and the Glenmore Natural History Centre - though quite a few of them seemed to be concentrating their efforts on taking pictures of Highland cows.

As we came along the banks of Loch Mudle, where the year is still so young that few of the trees are showing any signs of coming in to leaf, we saw....

....a sea eagle wheeling high above its waters. It's the second time we've seen one in this area recently, which may add weight to the suggestion that a pair is nesting somewhere in the forestry on the loch's east bank.

The other side of Ben Hiant was in bright sunshine, this picture taken from near the big cattle sheds at Caim, with a small herd of red deer just visible in the lower ground at centre of the picture.

We arrived home to find the creel boat Atlantia, UL62, off Port na Clachan below our house, the Tobermory ferry, now the Loch Tarbert, on her way across the Sound, and....

....a very angry robin scolding us from the rowan by our gate, wanting to know why he hadn't been fed for the last three days.

Many thanks to the Raptor for his picture.

Sunday, 26 March 2017

Deer in Silhouette

We feel very privileged that, when we take our walks across it, we share the wild landscape of western Ardnamurchan with these magnificent beasts. However, the red deer stags won't look quite so handsome as March progresses into April as this is the time when, with their testosterone levels falling, their antlers are shed.

This atmospheric picture of hinds against a leaden sky is courtesy Kilchoan Early Bird.

At this time of year the hinds are largely in groups separate from the stags. In a couple of months' time they'll be giving birth to a single calf after their eight-month gestation.

Saturday, 25 March 2017

Ben Hiant's Southwest Shoulder - 2

The well-trodden route up Ben Hiant is from the B8007 a mile or so west of Camas nan Geall, but it doesn't offer the spectacular views found by approaching the ben from the west side.  The whole of the southern coast of the peninsula becomes more and more visible as one climbs....

....into increasingly open, grassy and rolling downland. On our walk on Wednesday - see earlier post here - we weren't aiming for the summit but, at 528m, it was an easy 150 metres above us. Instead, we were looking to cross the southwestern shoulder of the ben so....

....we could look eastwards, up Loch Sunart.

In the centre of this picture is the beautiful bay of Camas nan Geall, and below us a bowl of almost forgotten land which is visited by few.

This is a close-up of Camas nan Geall with, beyond it, the headland of Ardslignish. On the far side of the loch is the island of Oronsay and the entrance to Loch Teacuis, with the hills of Morvern beyond.

Looking south, the hill to the left is Stellachan Dubha, a twin-peaked feature visible from Kilchoan, and the headland on the other side of the loch is....

....Auliston Point on Morvern. The two bens along the horizon are Beinn Tallaidh to the left and Mull's highest point, Ben More to the right.

Many thanks to Sue and Richard for their company on the walk.

Friday, 24 March 2017

Pupils' Visit to St Comghan's Church

Many thanks to Kilchoan Primary School teacher Alison Munro for letting the Diary publish one of the photos she took during the recent visit of the school children to St Comghan's church - see post here. In it, a rather ancient enthusiast is trying to explain the excitement he finds in a stone wall, albeit an even more ancient 12th century wall, with mixed results.

The children were a credit to their school, polite, interested and, mostly, attentive. Alison says they enjoyed the afternoon and are now writing about what they learnt. I too had to do some writing. As a result of the day I was asked to make a few comments because I am now one of the school's 'partners'. I feel very honoured.

Thursday, 23 March 2017

A Busy Garden

We were a bit weary this morning after yesterday's long walk so spent the morning in the front garden weeding in the bright sunshine - and taking a few minutes off every now and again to snap the insects which were enjoying the flowers around us.

The aubretia is coming in to flower and is popular with the honey bees from the neighbouring Ardnamurchan Campsite as is....

....the flowering currant.

However, most of the bees are in the heather, along with two common lizards. Not that they are hunting the bees - one almost landed on this lizard's nose, and he brushed it off hurriedly - they're after....

....the various types of fly.

Someone needs to tell the lizards that the flies aren't that keen on the heather, that there are far more of them on the vibernum, not only the more common bluebottle type but also....

....some more exotic fly species.

While most of the bees are honey bees, we're also seeing many more bumblebees, like this one which was enjoying the berberis, one of the shrubs that's much less popular with the honey bees. This is one of our favourite shrubs as it does very well in our maritime climate, and puts on a spectacular show of vibrant colour in the early spring.

Look closely at the bumblebee. It seems very early in the year, but he's already ....

....heavily infested with mites.

It doesn't look very pleasant but the good news is that they're not feeding on the bee itself. Having wintered in the bee's nest, feeding on wax, pollen and other debris, at this time of year they're hitching a lift on their host. In due course they'll drop off onto one of the flowers the bee visits, and then grab hold of the next passing bee.

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Ben Hiant's Southwest Shoulder - 1

Yesterday we enjoyed snow, hail, sleet and everything in between. Today dawned as it intended to continue, perfect conditions in which to climb into the hills to the southwest of Ben Hiant.

We walked down to the mouth of the Choiremhuilinn burn, crossed it by the footbridge, and then climbed up onto the grassy area in the centre of this picture, the site of the clachan of Choirehmuilinn, cleared in 1828. The snowy summit of Ben Hiant is visible and, slightly to its right, the notch which was our objective for the day.

With the air so clear, the higher we climbed the more superb the views became. This is the first time in some weeks that we've had a day like this, so it was wonderful to be high in the hills to enjoy it.

In this picture, we looked across Mingary Castle towards the hill called Maol Buidhe and the steep cliffs of Sron Bheag at the far end of Ormsaigbeg. The low outline of the island of Coll lies along the horizon.

The Ben Hiant ridge ends steeply, falling away into the sea just by....

....the Maclean's Nose fish farm, visible at bottom right of this picture. This view looks down the Sound of Mull, with Tobermory Bay on Mull at right, the entrance to Loch Sunart at left and, in the distance, the snowy peaks of Beinn Tallaidh (towards the left) and Ben More (towrds the right).

Throughout the walk we were watched by herds of red deer. This one was made up almost entirely of stags, most of which still had their antlers, though we found one antler which had already been shed.

As we climbed, the patches of snow became more extensive and deeper. Lying snow isn't a common commodity here, and this patch was up to 6" deep in places, exactly the sort of place.... expects to find common lizards. We saw four in all, and they had obviously emerged from their winter hibernation to find a sheltered spot in which to bask in the sun but, when disturbed, tried to dash away across the snow - where they suffered sudden and rather catastrophic drops in temperature.