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Highlands and Islands tour. Miles and Miles of smiles.


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Zim Girl

Our trip to Scotland was from 5th June to 19th June.  First week on the Isle of Mull and second in the Cairngorms, Speyside.  I think in the UK, timing is everything and avoiding any of the school holidays is a must.  We didn't find any of the areas we visited particularly busy, apart from Loch Morlich on a Sunday, but that is to be expected!  We hardly saw any other people on most of our walks on both Mull and in the Cairngorms and on the day we walked from Rothiemurchus and up through Abernethy we didn't see a single other person all day until we got back close to Loch Morlich.  

So I am really just saying that avoiding lots of tourists in the 'honeypot' areas can be done, you just need to think about when you go.  

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On we go. So as you can see our journey started from home in Ramsey, Isle of Man, at an ungodly hour to catch check in time for the 08.30 boat (or “The Packet” as we call it) to Heysham in Lancas

Oops. My editing skills (sic) went awry and I forgot to mention Mulls other wildlife attraction. Mull is getting a good reputation as a place to watch European Otter Lutra lutra. They can be seen

I am not sure if this is a valid Safari but I have been asked several questions in my “Birding Big Year 2021” regarding my latest trip to West Scotland and the Hebrides so perhaps some background deta

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Soukous
21 minutes ago, Zim Girl said:

So I am really just saying that avoiding lots of tourists in the 'honeypot' areas can be done, you just need to think about when you go

 

Agreed, I just forgot to remember - if I ever knew - that Scottish schools break up for the summer 3 weeks before English ones. :wacko:

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Zim Girl

Just so you know, Scottish October half-term is two weeks from 11th to 22nd, English half-term is the week after that.  We have just booked 1st to 8th Oct in Dumfries and Galloway to avoid all of them!

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TonyQ

Good advice @Zim Girl.

We went to Scotland 30th May to 13th June and it was possible to avoid crowds.

We always look at Local Authority websites to find out about School Holidays in areas we are visiting. (so that we can avoid them :))

The holidays can also be different in different parts of the country (certainly within Englsnd) so worth checking more than one.

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Galana

I too am always mindful of local customs and holidays. Ever since I ended up in France without a bed as whilst UK had switched to a fixed Spring Bank Holiday France was still, and I believe still is, observing the religious Whit Weekend and the place was packed.  I remember a very dodgy two nights in the back streets of St.Malo to this day.:(

This years late trip in July was forced on me by Covid whereas I am normally off island to avoid the TT in May/June.

Sorted for next year already as I won't let that happen again.

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Kitsafari
On 7/29/2021 at 8:07 PM, NSY said:

Pine Martins on the rampage

We spend a good few weeks every year at a cottage in the highlands normally 6-12weeks. This year only 2 weeks so far

This year have unable to visit for 6months due to covid restrictions.

In normal times there are Pine Martins around and we see them occasionally & most mornings find signs of visit round a large pond in garden. Also quite often hear them squabbling outside in the night. Other quests report them feeding on wood store. Some quests say they favour jam butties others say eggs.

One our visit in April as lockdown eased we found Pine Martins had got into the downstairs bedroom and had fun. Ripped up the pillow cases, Chewed through duvet & cover. Ripped open bottom sheet & dug a hole in mattress. Then they used bed as a loo.  

Ripped up carpet by window they came in through & then did same by door to try & get into rest of house. Also scrapped wallpaper off wall by door.

As guest leave there are instructions to leave windows open to clear the air before cleaner comes in. Somehow the window had been left ajar after guest & cleaner left. The next guests had to cancel so window open for a week.  

 

they sound like tenacious honey badgers!

 

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Kitsafari

thanks so much @Galana for taking the time to provide such detailed information and guide to the northern parts of the UK! It sounds like a birding haven, apart from the human traffic. 

isle of mull sounds like a must-go-to place. when would you say is the best time to visit? 

 

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Galana
5 hours ago, Kitsafari said:

thanks so much @Galana

You are most welcome and thanks for the motivation to write it.

Mull is a must for lots of wildlife watchers and is really good year round. Personally I like the early Spring when the winter visitors have not yet left but breeding birds are getting on with it. There is often a lovely settled few weeks of fine weather April-June which coincides with longer days too.

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inyathi

Very glad to see you getting out and about and giving us another trip report to read, to my shame I’ve not visited this part of the world despite being in the UK and never seen a pine marten, you had fantastic views of them

 

One minor criticism, you can’t tell your sheep from your goats :lol:, the flock on their daily mission in your second post are Soay Sheep a primitive rare breed originally from Soay Island in St Kilda, it is one of the most similar breeds to the wild Mouflon, albeit they are much smaller than their ancestor, the name Soay is derived from the Old Norse for sheep, so they’ve certainly been around since Viking times, there are around 1,500 surviving in the UK now. General rule of thumb, sheep have tails that hang down, goats have tails that point up (at least when they are :)), I can forgive your mistake as they are interesting, but they're not wildlife. 

 

 

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Galana
4 hours ago, inyathi said:

to my shame I’ve not visited this part of the world despite being in the UK and never seen a pine marten,

It's high time to put both those omissions right. The first is quite easy and the second is not particularly difficult with lots of B&Bs and S/C boasting of their presence. Jon at Glen Loy Lodge has them banging on the windows of the conservatory if he is late putting out their dinner.

1214541107_1-1-Scotland20171844.JPG.704d7f53b9725d5e17b04ff1e1046f78.JPG

 

Yes, of course they were Soay. I usually go by the eyes and horns and forgot about the other end.:lol:

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Galana

Finally...and adding encouragement to @inyathiI have put these up on You Tube.

I was not going to as they are noting special but  I had two Trail Cameras running and my 'new' one from RSPB could take one still followed by a 10 sec video which I thought to test. It did OK and my fault was I failed to realise the 'target' area among the timbers that somebody had put in place. So the camera alignment was not the best.

Anyway I have strung all the clips into two 8 minute runs which can serve to give an idea of the amount of activity that went on over 5 days and nights as well the need to set up any camera to get the best views.

Here they are anyway.

 

 

 
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Soukous
On 7/31/2021 at 4:04 PM, inyathi said:

General rule of thumb, sheep have tails that hang down, goats have tails that point up

 

That's the rule I have always gone by - it works everywhere I've been

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Galana
1 hour ago, Soukous said:

That's the rule I have always gone by - it works everywhere I've been

Ah. If it runs away it's 'probably' a sheep. If it stands or approaches it is likely to be a goat.

But if its head goes down and it comes at you with intent it's one of our native Loaghtans and I am not sticking around to look for where its tail is pointing.:(

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Dave Williams
2 hours ago, Galana said:

Ah. If it runs away it's 'probably' a sheep. If it stands or approaches it is likely to be a goat.

But if its head goes down and it comes at you with intent it's one of our native Loaghtans and I am not sticking around to look for where its tail is pointing.:(

 

I had to chase 19 wild goats out of the garden a few weeks ago...fortunately they were not aggressive towards me but were banging heads together with each other with alarming results. I'm amazed they haven't all got brain damage!

Llandudno Goat.jpg

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Soukous
46 minutes ago, Dave Williams said:

I'm amazed they haven't all got brain damage!

 

how do you know they haven't? B)

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Dave Williams
1 hour ago, Soukous said:

 

how do you know they haven't? B)

 

You have a point Martin, I have to admit I have never seen one on Mastermind or University Challenge, not even The Generation Game come to think of it  where they only invited people to act the goat.

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Galana
3 hours ago, Dave Williams said:

I have to admit I have never seen one on Mastermind or University Challenge,

But they do get to meet interesting people.

1912117642_images(2).jpg.42ff50b4a8dcab05e66ab93ae960daea.jpg

And all on two ciggies a day. Raised on the Great Orme too.

Your garden raider enjoys Royal Patronage.

 

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Dave Williams
2 hours ago, Galana said:

. Raised on the Great Orme too.

Your garden raider enjoys Royal Patronage.

 

Not a lot of people know that!

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Treepol

@Galana thanks for this TR and the excellent accommodation and birding tips. Our 2020 trip to Scotland was cancelled, however hopefully we will get there in the next 2-3 years, looking forward to the otters, pine martens and black divers.

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Soukous
2 hours ago, Treepol said:

Our 2020 trip to Scotland was cancelled, however hopefully we will get there in the next 2-3 years,

 

The backlog is growing ;)

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Galana
12 hours ago, Treepol said:

Our 2020 trip to Scotland was cancelled, however hopefully we will get there in the next 2-3 years,

Shame about that. Pleased that I was able to entice you to keep the faith and get there whenever the world situation improves.

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Treepol

@Galanaand @Soukousthe spirit is willing, the vaccine rollout is slow!

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shazdwn

@Dave Williamsthat is a good looking goat though

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ExtraordinaryAlex
On 7/28/2021 at 8:49 PM, Galana said:

On another matter does anybody know anything about Kinloch Hourn?

@GalanaI know a bit- I've spent a bit of time there- lovely spot for hiking, garnets in the river, picking mussells and finding tiny seed pearls etc. It feels very remote- roughly an hour down a single track from the main road with just a handful of houses at the top of loch and I think 2-3 only accessible by boat down the loch, so you want to bring everything in with you. I'd personally go for a week rather than just a short visit so that you can really maximise the time there. Definitely not on the tourist track! 

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ExtraordinaryAlex
On 7/20/2021 at 11:53 PM, Galana said:

Would that be with Zoe? Years since we stayed with her.

 

I've understated slightly- there is the Jura Hotel, otherwise people do hire the big house at Ardlussa for the week, and you can hire Barn Hill, where George Orwell washed up for a while, but you need to be VERY self sufficient for that. A few people on the island will do airbnb now, it's really thriving. But again, a lovely off the beaten track option and definitely no problem with getting stuck behind massive motorhomes like the NC500!

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