Living on the South Coast of England as we do makes a trip to Scotland a long journey. In fact this time we clocked 1558 miles up to and back and of course running around while there. But every time we go not matter what the weather we find it worthwhile and come home refreshed but looking forward to the next Visit
We break the journey twice on the way up and one on the way down, I say that this is because it is all down hill on the home! I doubt that is the case if you were walking.
This year the travel lodges in this case 'Days Inn' were busy, not just by human tourists but visiting and local birds of the feathered variety who have constructed their own accommodation on and in the grounds of the hotel.
In the case the House Matins, who had a well constructed nest made of mud which was obviously collected earlier in the year when there was plenty of water and no doubt mud around, just hanging from the eves of the building and full of young birds already to leave the nest, in fact they were coming and going the whole time we were there.
And in the bush just below our room a nest of four young thrushes, all hungry and waiting for something to eat, there is definitely no space left in this accommodation for more guests, albeit the nest had air conditioning whereas our room did not. Nor I suspect did they suffer the problem highlighted below.
Now I do not want to detract from the fact that we had a wonderful week with fantastic weather, but if you are using these overnight stops to break your journey, 'Days Inn' or Travel lodge' and are parking your car overnight in the allotted area, keep your booking details until well after your Holiday.
In our case this year despite the cars registration details being recorded when booking into the accommodation, we received two parking fines for parking in the Motorway service station area for more that the two hours max stay period allowed, we being advised of this by letter in one case 3 weeks after returning home.
In both cases because we still had the paperwork we were able to quickly get the fines cancelled /stopped by phoning the accommodation at which we stayed, but without all the details it would have cost us £200. So be warned. Ironically when the details in previous years were recoded manually we had no problems.
Now the booking in process is computerised we have problems, I think it is called progress! I call it a rip off, or try on. Either way we will make our feeling felt next time we use the facilities.
On our way to Aviemore which is the location of our accommodation we pass by Sterling with its Castle sitting high up on the hill,
This has in recent years been the home to Scottish army regiments, and has recently had an one building either built of cleaned which makes it stick out like a sore thumb looking quite new, unlike the rest of the weather beaten stone buildings.
As can be seen in the foreground of this picture, no green glass but scorched brown, due to the excessively hot weather in July, when reaching Gretna green back south of Sterling the cars thermometer registered 34c outside temperature, 30c (centigrade), while running on the motorway so no wonder the grass was scorched, quite unusual for Scotland but with sun and warmth quite a different place to when it is wet and cold as is so often the case. Thank goodness we had air conditioning in the Mercedes A class which made for a very comfortable ride.
A short distance away is Wallace's Monument which has stood for over 140 years. Visitors can visit to see the exhibition and climb to the top to see the views but be warned you need to be fit to tackle this one on a hot day.
To see the best of Scotland you need to get off the main roads, when we left Sterling we went out to the West to Callender which although is always quite busy is well worth a visit. Plenty of shops for the shopaholic and views for the camera. then onward to the North where there are many beautiful sites to see.
This one for instance which on a sunny day is well worth a photograph, captured for all time and to look at on rainy days or to share with others as I'm doing on this site.
Scotland wouldn't be Scotland without its highland cattle, these two males displaying fantastic sets of horns.
and the lower two complete with historic stone circle.
While the cattle above eat what's available now the farmers are busy cutting hay to feed them during the winter months which although at present seem along way off will soon be upon us, the days are shorter and the nights longer making it important to have a reserve of food available for the animals and humans alike.
The winter of 2012/13 was very severe and a lot of animals were lost due to excessively heavy falls of snow, so being prepared is essential and time well spent during the warmer months.
Take your Camera to Scotland and you will plenty of things to photograph, butterflies in the South of England have decreased over recent years and yet in Scotland there were plenty, although a bit more difficult to photograph they being very active due to the warmth of the sun.
This is what is believed to be a 'Ringlet' which feed on the Rough tail Dog's grass and other grasses.
This one is apply names the 'Scotch Argus' or 'Northern Brown' this one also feed on meadow grass.
Those of you who have visited my Scotland pages before will know that we never visit Scotland during the season when Ospreys come from Africa to the United kingdom to breed without paying them a visit. On this occasion several visits as the young birds had fledged but were still coming back to the nest for food which the parent birds provide.
We were so lucky to not just see these birds in flight but to see one young bird dive attempting to catch fish, then taking several seconds to get himself back out of the water, the fish in this case if there was one, survived.
These birds are very large but place their nests in locations which are difficult to locate and photograph, the distance being outside of the average camera lens.
Having just invested in a camera with a better zoom lens I look forward to showing you better photographs next year 2014. In this case there were two young birds.
In this photo both young were in flight , one in the distance to the right and one flying across the loch. Far better viewed with the naked eye. The female has a wingspan of approx 5'7"( five feet 7 inches) 154-170cm, the male be slightly smaller so if they are in the area apart from their very distinct call, they are easy to spot, more difficult however when the are perched as their colour blends into the background of the trees.
The Scottish thistle depicted on some many visitor gifts and posters beautiful in its own right but defended with very sharp prickles.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Nature making sure that it lives on next your and the year after waiting for a breeze to scatter to seed all of which is equipped with a parachute to ensure they are well scattered being easily carried on then wind.
Although not all the heather (Ericaceae)was out on our arrival the hills and mountains had got a slightly purple hue about them this was mainly down to the Bell heather and the 'Cross leaved heath' (the pale pink flowers)which were in full bloom . However after a further four days of really hot weather the more common heather (Culluna Vulgaris) was well into bud and in some cases in bloom .
Brilliant blues sky make for blue lochs an reflections that would otherwise be lost. We loved the Canadian Rockies with the magnificent views, but Scotland has so much to offer and is much closer to home.
I mentioned earlier on this page that to see Scotland at its best you need to get off the beaten track, having left the main Aviemore to Inverness road A9, like last year ventured up and across the moors, the roads are very good but you do need to drive with care as there are many young birds about at this time of year and most of is single vehicle width with passing places. In this case this was one of a flock of up to twenty grouse, which crossed the road in front of the car. The white stick material is where the heater has been burned off allowing the new grass to come through.
Although I suspect in this case the fire was caused by controlled burning, Fire at this time of year and with the hot weather conditions in Scotland would quickly devastate the country side, items such as empty bottle can start fires as well as the irresponsibly disposed of cigarette butt, so if touring please act responsibly and take you litter home. You never see a female pig leaving her litter behind so why should we? (Litter name given to the young of a female pig)
You will not find this delightful cottage on the main road, only by venturing off the main roads will you find such beautifully maintained properties along with the magnificent gardens, the occupier having been more than happy for us to capture her hard work on film .
Because of the unusually hot weather fishing and walking was out of the question, although we did manage to get one session in on one of the days but this was compensated by being able to pick-nick in some of the finest spots, in this case looking up towards the Cairngorm Mountain Range.
Many areas in Scotland are set aside for the growing of pine trees, which like all crops at some point is harvested, this at the time has a devastating visual effect on the landscape.
However within a short period of time nature takes over and seeds which have laid dormant for years germinate and what you see here is the effect. In this case masses of foxgloves in not just purple but various pinks and white, all helping to make the landscape more acceptable to the human eye.
True to form the heather is coming into bloom, no doubt welcomed by the bee keepers who place their bee hives on the moors so that the bees can produce honey from the pollen collected., this year they should do well.
I hope you enjoyed looking through these photographs, certainly I got great enjoyment taking them and cannot wait to get back to take some more.