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More Highland and Island hopping- Spring 2023.


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I will outline this year’s trip but spare you too many birds although they did form a large part of the itinerary.


We like self-catering for its flexibility and privacy but as property handovers usually run Sat-Sat we need a couple of stops at the start and finish to let us travel mid week for ease. We live on an island that gets invaded by 70,000 Motorcyclists each Spring so try to match our outbound ferry for the start of the invasion as the boats going the ‘wrong way’ are sometimes cheaper.

Booking. We had based our itinerary on the availability of our favourite cottage on North Uist which books out very early. Indeed we booked this year as we left last year and then filled in the gaps later. We decided to visit Coll and then Barra in the Outer Hebrides on the way to North Uist for  a change of route and all was based on a start date of about 25th May. However a problem arrived when we went to book space on the IOM Ferry as the ‘cheap rate’ window had been slammed shut. Our budgeting was toast. However a bit of juggling and we got our fingers in a slight gap and jemmied it wider to let us out by going a few days earlier on Sunday 21st.  The saving was enough to almost pay for the extra week away. So a quick call to Sarah of Grobdale where we stayed last November and that was added to our trip. Better a week in Galloway than in the Packet’s pockets.

The plan outbound.HometoBarra.JPG.315cf29972be07e99d45624443c23901.JPG

Note the destination on Barra is shown as "Bay View Guest". Spoiler alert.. The owner inadvertently does us a huge favour two weeks before we are due to set out.

Ferry tickets all in hand for the island hopping and we were good to go.

We use our venerable “Red Alf” to get about. So much easier to load him up at home with our ‘stuff’ than mess with airports and Hire cars etc. We are now pre-warned about E5 fuel and reckoned we had it sussed. (95% correct.)


Sunday 21st May came with the promise of settled conditions after a damp spring so we had high hopes as we rose and faced a 45 minute drive from home to harbour and then had a 60 minute check in time for the 08.45 sailing. A further bonus was that Grobdale was much closer to Heysham that Oban would have been so a much easier drive time. And so it was to be. Maybe two hours driving from a 12.15 arrival in England. How would we kill time whilst waiting for ‘check in time’ at Grobdale? Two guesses! Grobdale is almost in Lauriston Forest home to Red Squirrels and many birds.

The day's drive as planned....



The map shows what Google suggested but we did not fancy going round by Belfast which is where that ‘grey route‘ would take us but the timings are typical ‘Google and make no allowance for TWO ferries at 18kts.

I did a full report on the Galloway coast last November so will spare you the repetition.

A few photos should do it. Nice to see Grobdale in fine weather as a change from last November.


The welcoming committee. Native Herdwick sheep.


Herdwick Lamb.


Sunny Grobdale. So different to November.




Bed linen follows.....1-DSCN4741.JPG.e505db87122cee72a97a8a948c3027a3.JPG

Our bedroom.


Kitchen area well equipped although the new fangled Dynamic Hob took some getting used to.


Lounge and stove for winter use.

We visited RSPB Mersehead, Ken Dee Marshes, Crook O Baldoon and the lovely Wigtown reserve operated by the local Wildfowlers Association.

Plenty to do in sunny Galloway. A week passes in no time at all.

Did I mention the birds? For those interested they are on my Big Year thread.

Back with Part two later.


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Very cute Hardwick lamb @Galana. Look forward to reading more of your Island sojourn 2023 when you have time.

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Part two. To Loch Awe and Oban.

I am not ‘big’ on ancient piles of stones and due to many visits I have seen most of the famous sights so I regret such photographs as I took rarely contain them. Even the odd ‘scenic landscape’ attempt tends to get photobombed with birds or other wildlife. I really don’t know how that happens but here is an example of what was to have been a nice shot of the Dumfriesshire hills.1-DSCN4834.JPG.c153346e6393b516afcb7f1aac57628d.JPG


Our week passed all too quickly and it was now time to drive further north for a few days to be close to our Ferry to the Western Isles. As this was scheduled for Wednesday we needed to pass a few days ‘up there’ and had chosen Loch Awe as it made an impression on us last year.

The Road to the Isles song starts off “By Loch Tummell and Loch Rannoch and Lochaber I will go!”

Well that fine if you are starting from Edinburgh on foot but not much help if driving up from “Queen of the South”.

Our route was as follows.GrobdaleAwe.JPG.0b536c304b80733b2aa76284aede62ea.JPG


Our Hotel was a 200 year old Drovers Lodge at Taycreggan on the banks of Loch Awe that is still in use but has received some modernisation without any loss of ambience.

Cue photos.1-DSCN5181.JPG.362e2d8ca96ae2e2ef8ac3a271766e2e.JPG1-DSCN5180.JPG.2e48dfb1aa80474ffc274b04447552e8.JPG1-DSCN5174.JPG.04545370a01cbdcb1e821aaf5ab0c11d.JPG1-DSCN5179.JPG.f9d9372543fcfd4159be284b540fc62d.JPG


The Hotel is actually at “North Port” with ‘South Port’ on the opposite shore as the two places used by an ancient ferry to enable the Drover’s herds to cross this 25 mile long body of water without  a long detour. Loch Awe is the longest loch in Scotland and the 3rd largest body of freshwater. It would have been a dangerous obstacle to livestock herds and their herders.LochAwe.JPG.eaf5153eb7409b7167107943f9338e45.JPG1-DSCN5182.JPG.809c066173d3a88a89ce520b62845551.JPG

We enjoyed three nights herewith some excellent cuisine and we toured around the area seekong wildlife and birds. Modest success with a brief sighting of a dog Otter hurrying home after a night out on the toot.1-DSCN5216.JPG.4cd456c4a4c867053cdb1527514e084f.JPG

Again I will spare non birders any boredom apart from this Snipe high up on a Telephone post.1-DSCN5160.JPG.c954d9c485cbe01bb78b53425e79ea67.JPG


From Taychreggan we overnighted in Oban, ‘Little Bay ‘ in Gaelic, to be ready for our early Ferry over to the Isle of Coll. Oban is a very busy town with a scenic harbour and our chosen resting place was the Dungallan Country House perched on a Headland close to the ferry terminal. Quietly converted from the prior summer residence of the Duke of Argyll it has nice grounds and what was good enough for a Duke is surely good enough for Lady Galana when she calls.1-DSCN5308.JPG.c4a7009c80bce3aea6b9679a2cce9087.JPG1-DSCN5312.JPG.97f88d4d8bd5e4d66ab1863656c9e4ee.JPG


Tomorrow we escape the bustle of the Scottish Mainland and sail to Coll.

Fast forward to 05.00 tomorrow.



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Part Three.

To the Isles at last.


An early rise to catch the Ferry over to Coll. We got to check in before they were actually open at 06.00 and for some reason only known to Calmac we needed a ‘new form’ to match their ‘new system.’ So all those bloomin boarding cards and receipts I had printed out at my expense on my printer had wasted a tree somewhere. The Swedish Doom Goblin would be very impressed if she knew. “Hello Calmac not everyone has a mobile phone, smart phone or other gizmo to show a barcode to your ‘reader’ at check in.”

Boarding on time with the usual skill that Calmac’s crew possess was trickier this time as the Ferry is bound for three islands, Coll, our stop, Tiree and then Barra. This meant that vehicles, including huge Freight Trucks, had to be loaded in the right order and into the right spaces so that they are ready to drive off without being blocked in by vehicles remaining aboard, or just as importantly did not block the access of others joining at the interim ports of call. It was all accomplished with great skill and no doubt a bit of “Highland Magic” from the Ferry Faeries.

And we set off on time.

We established ourselves at the front of the Observation deck in the hope of spotting dolphins and other wildlife in the flat calm seas as well as keeping a sharp lookout for Sea Eagles on the rocky islets.

Up the Sound of Mull the ferry played a mixture of Hopscotch and Tag with the many yachts and occasional cross sound Ferries in our path but wildlife sightings were slow to come.1-DSCN5316.JPG.a754b01e15fe780cf69711b2a45415c8.JPG1-DSCN5318.JPG.103ba3dcd0f6a0cab2412683ffffbb0b.JPG1-DSCN5320.JPG.f70c94b646ca260558a0377d0eda06c0.JPG

I did take some photos of the pretty harbourside as we passed Tobermorey the ‘capital’ of Mull. After clearing Morven and Ardnamurchan, the most westerly point on the mainland of Great Britain at 6.2260 degrees west of Greenwich, we met more open sea and made our way over to the Isle of Coll where we arrived on time at 09.40 and disembarked smoothly, thus proving the Ferry faeries had done their usual good job.

Coll is a small island of 77 sq KM. on which live about 200 permanent residents scattered in various hamlets and farms. The ‘capital’ if such it can be called or at least the settlement where most of the economic activity takes place (and there ain’t much of that in this sleepy little place) is on the east coast in a sheltered bay where the ferry arrives.

Named Arinagour from the Gaellic Airigh nan Gobhar ( place of the Goats) there is the ‘Coll Hotel’,  the “Island Cafe”, a community store and fuel station, that seemed to be run by the same man that seemed to ‘man’ the reception desk in the Hotel, a school and a post office. There is a wonderful community Hall, An Cridhe, opened by The Princess Royal in 2012 which hosts a local craft market every Saturday that is well attended by locals and tourists alike.    A small distillery completes the picture although lovers of the Water of Life may be disappointed that the main product is Gin. We bought  a couple of samples (purely in the interest of research and furthering our knowledge base) but have yet to try it  Accommodation wise there is a Bunkhouse and a few B&Bs and Self Catering cottages and that is about it.Arinagour.JPG.03d8b70149e70502ce8260a5eb580eb2.JPG

We had booked a room in Tigh na Mara Guest House for the week which had an excellent outlook living up to its name. Greeted on arrival by the friendly owner, Paula, we soon settled in to our comfortable and airy room. We were invited to make ourselves at home as there were sitting out areas in the spacious garden1-DSCN5379.JPG.7ac4c62ffb5b75e9fb761f29a7d05840.JPG as well as a cosy lounge for guests use and an ample library for those rainy days that never came.

The island road system is fairly basic. More or less one road west that then splits at a T junction to go north or south.

 Our main attraction apart from the splendid scenery was the wildlife and the RSPB Reserve at TotRonald and its Corncrakes, where there is even a constructed observation platform complete with bench seat. Takes all the strain out of the search for the source of the omnipresent ‘Creck crek crek’.

It was here I met a young lady who was keen to see an Eagle. She had had lots of false hopes dashed when the bird morphed into a Buzzard and asked me if the advice she had received that ‘if you need to check, it is a Buzzard. When it is really an Eagle you will know instantly.” I agreed the perceived wisdom of that comment and just at that moment a large bird drifted into view. I can’t say it dropped out of a cloud as there were none. It just appeared, much like the Cheshire Cat. All ten feet of it. All I could say was ‘just like that one!’  It truly was remarkable timing.DSCN5496.JPG.a19e7a117c1ed97013cc31b40a576d5f.JPG

A fully grown White-tailed Sea Eagle. Turns out it was the young lady’s 70th Birthday the day before so what a present for her.

I did not like to say that ten minutes or so earlier I had nailed my calling Corncrake just up the track.1-DSCN5462.JPG.88e1cb06ff92a48b866de308e40c5c49.JPG

Our days on Coll were eventful and split between a little bit of birding and some useful exercise in exploring the Machair and dunes with their enticing views of splendid seascapes. Twice we watched pods of Common and Bottle-nosed Dolphins far out to sea but clearly visible on the calm surface. Sadly all my photos revealed, even supposing I got the timing right, were black blobs and splashes.1-DSCN5578.JPG.645b5a5e158f27faa39d8bb55361bc4e.JPG1-DSCN5579.JPG.9df203c7536378a30f2765e4dc281180.JPG

That is Mull in the background.


Blue sea, white sand and a young companion to share it with.1-DSCN5713.JPG.b4555bd7cc4b31c90007e6de06600b18.JPG

Coll is truly worth a visit. Maybe not for a full week but well worth a few days. We did notch up a few birds such as Harriers, Red throated Divers, 1-DSCN5616.JPG.2935f1277a8ee2c6f6d5d9f3598d44e5.JPG

Warblers galore with my personal interest stimulated by some nesting Arctic Skuas. A species I had never got close to before. 1-DSCN5744.JPG.8ddf8a62f262db2414d11dbc98680dd3.JPG1-DSCN5745.JPG.cfab85a7aa9531845a07e5a87ca4c881.JPG1-DSCN5755.JPG.f47589e9515c13b54e2f666fa0ba9dbd.JPG

Photobombng my attempts at Landscapes.


The Machair in full bloom.

Our week has passed and now we await the next Ferry to take us to Barra, our furthest west for this trip.

Join me on the next part.

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Part 4.

We go west and enjoy Corncrakes with our Cornflakes.


Our week on Coll was up and it was time to move on west to the Island of Barra, the southernmost inhabited island in the Outer Hebrides. I have to be careful with my definitions here as there are other islands south of Barra and one, Vatersay, is inhabited but as it is now joined to Barra by a causeway I suppose it could be included with Barra which is where Calmac will off load us.


The sharp eyed may notice that our destination on the first ‘route map’ differs from the local chart shown here. Somehow ‘Bay View Guest House’ has morphed into “Angela’s B&B” and thereby hangs a tale. We had booked Bay view when first putting together our itinerary in July 2022 and all was confirmed. So imagine our shock and surprise when we received a mail on 16th May, five days before we were due to set off, saying ‘Due to a booking software problem they were no longer able to accommodate us’. Yikes. I will spare you the terse exchanges that followed but after a bit of scrambling around we got really lucky. So much so that it could be said that they did us a favour.

Speaking to our new Hostess “Angela” I mentioned my interest in birds and received the following response. “Och, we have Corncrakes on the Lawn here!” Now I habitually take such asides with the proverbial pinch of salt but we booked up anyway.


And so “Angela’s B&B” got on the map and ‘Bayview’ was consigned to the recycle bin.

So on Wednesday 7th June we bade a sincere farewell to Paula and her team and were down on the dock when “Hebrides” steamed in to load us (in the correct order once more) for the trip to Barra via Tiree. 1-DSCN5381.JPG.1c19e8c5bbbb5b75ad5689547e669f1d.JPGThe sea was once more calm but sightings were mainly parties of Auks. The seascapes were excellent with views of the Outer Hebrides forming the horizon for a good part of the journey.


We were pulling into Castlebay at 13.45 view good views of this small town protected by Kisimul Castle at the harbour entrance.1-DSCN5797.JPG.6faa955b73b821092476b922ff0fda7f.JPG


The loadmaster had done a good job too as we found when we went to get in our car and found us almost deserted.


We had a three mile drive to our new residence and this was when we realised what a favour had been done by having been ‘forced’ to  switch to 108 Borgh.1-DSCN5813.JPG.ae6c88cacb9f227edf916695b8faf2d2.JPGSea view from our window over fields where the Corncrakes called.


Nice rooms with virtually a private lounge and a very genial Hostess.


We had no big plan in mind as Barra is really small (8 miles by 5) with just a circular road with road north to both the Ferry station for the Uists and the world’s only airport where scheduled services are dictated by Tidetables and not Timetables as the planes land on the beach. A beautiful little island that could be better named “Barradise”. It is lodged in my memory as the place where I saw my ‘lifer’ Corncrake on my first visit here some years ago. But I had already got my Corncrake for this year so no need to try and find another of these elusive and enigmatic birds.   Is there?1-DSCN5906.JPG.b6b4c0be777bfd51e1f741a8bfbee11d.JPG


Our three days were spent just touring around this beautiful island punctuated by some walks in the continued good weather and ticking off few different birds as we went. There was talk of a Golden Oriole and even a Rosefinch amongst the local twitchers but I don’t go in for such things. As we were in a B&B we had to eat our evening meals in ‘town’ and enjoyed good food in both the eponymous CastleBay Hotel and the excellent Kisumul Cafe on the harbour where the dishes had a distinctly Asiatic influence.

We saw seals and lots of birds, it was hard to miss them, and Corncrakes serenaded us as we went to bed and were still at it as we awoke with the Sun next morning. One breakfast we even enjoyed corncrakes with our cornflakes as Angela’s proud statement was proved all too correct as a corncrake strutted on the lawn as we ate. 1-DSCN5910.JPG.4fba1bd91b8d6b0f0f7d7e5996d5c00d.JPG

A wonderful three days which we hope to repeat some time. Great sunsets too.1-DSCN5888.JPG.d8504bd6b64900dd4cad5816a9583ae6.JPG

To be continued shortly.

Next we are back for a week in what could easily be the most comfortable birdhide in the world.

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a breakfast corncrake must be a wonderful think indeed- sounds like a lovely trip so far @Galana 

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On 6/30/2023 at 2:17 PM, Towlersonsafari said:

a breakfast corncrake must be a wonderful

Very true. Trying to book next year and will take my camera to breakfast. 'Corncrakes with Cornflakes' is  a tough act to beat but "Martens with Marmalade" has a certain style too.

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Part 5.

Up the Uists!


No, not a Hebridean battle cry but a simple description of the next part of our journey where we take a small Ferry from Barra over to the Isle of Eriskay and then by a causeway to South Uist where we keep north along the spinal road that completes a journey from Eriskay via South Uist, Benbecula, Grimsay, North Uist to Berneray.


And so having torn ourselves reluctantly from the lovely B&B and Angela we drove up to the Ferry station at Ardmhor for our booked transfer to Eriskay. (Google maps get it wrong as usual. Just as well I have Gladys with me and the Ferry Skipper knew the way.)

Having plenty of time, this is an island, we found the place deserted and waited on the loading area for check in time to arrive. Ten minutes to go and the place exploded. Two apparently ‘abandoned’ caravans disgorged what turned out to be officials wearing the dayglow Tabards with the CalMac logo rampant who then came down the growing line with some electronic gizmo to read the barcodes on our tickets. And whilst this was going on lots of cars arrived with squealing brakes and young children jumping out to join their friends. Much like the dangerous daily chaos that takes place during ‘school runs’ in the UK.

Moan warning. Check in closing times are not the suggested time for you to turn up. It is to enable staff to be able to process passengers in order that the plane or boat can leave on schedule. Ferries can carry up to 200 vehicles, large and small, and for them all to turn up at ETD minus one minute means the bloody boat will be late leaving. And daft parents screeching to a halt to disgorge their offspring going on a school trip amid manoeuvring vehicles is downright dangerous. Enough.

I parked myself in a quiet spot, rowdy kids permitting, to try and spot wildlife. Lady G preferred to remain in the car and read in peace on this short but scenic crossing.



1-DSCN6095.JPG.9f5907e216d7e256ebbb3a521f8cde7a.JPGI saw little apart from Barra’s airport at high tide.


We arrived on Eriskay and as we had a drive ahead we shunned the attraction of the local Inn named “The Politician” after the famous nearby wreck of the ship of that name that enlivened the social life on Eriskay when it struck the rocks on the way to America bearing a wartime cargo of Whisky.

The Inn has a small but interesting exhibition of artefacts relating to that time and is worth a visit.

The incident of course formed the background to Compton McKenzie’s book ‘Whisky Galore’ and the 1949 film of the same name.

We made good time on the drive north so made a diversion to the usual site of breeding Red-necked Phalaropes but nothing was happening. Odd? Try again later in the week. The extremely useful Bayhead Stores, situated at the head of a bay of course, was on our route and we used a small supply shopping stop to give ‘Alf’ his first drink of fuel since Coll. We are good to go another 400 miles.

By then it was time to check in at our favourite cottage, ‘Lochside’, which is surely the most comfortable Wildlife Hide in Britain if not Europe. Maybe not as fancy & plush as say ‘Treetops’ but it does a great job in a low key manner. Everything needed for bodily comfort inside four walls and wildlife activity outside. Bed, Sofa, Solid fuel stove, CH radiators, Kitchen, Laundry and necessary offices. A raised deck outside with table and chairs where I have watched Otters in the Loch and Golden Eagles snatch rabbits on the hill. There is a photograph of Corncrake in the car park but I have yet to see one.

Of course the main event for me on North Uist are the Short-eared Owls and Divers (all three species are here) but we are happy with everything we find. So our first ‘bird drive’ was up the hill behind but after a two hour watch we saw not a single Owl. We got worried. This was a first.


Next morning we set out early and happily immediately started seeing the oddly shaped fence posts by the road side which on closer inspection morphed into an Owl watching for prey or just sitting looking wise or surprised at us looking at them. Approached slowly they will often sit on the post looking right back at you looking at them.


More owl photos on BY forum. Altogether we saw about ten Owls that day so all was well.

As a result of a recommendation by @TonyQ we had booked a trip on Lady Ann for our next excursion with hopes of Dolphins, Otters, Divers and Sea Eagles. A good trip of two hours but sadly no Dolphins or Otters but a brilliant view of a local Sea Eagle and a not bad one of a Golden Eagle too as well as some Divers. Definitely a worthwhile day out despite a look back at the Phalarope site drew another blank apart from a fly over by one. So they were thereabouts but not in their usual place.1-DSCN6174.JPG.52c967ea0d9fab702355c25236121e88.JPG1-DSCN6182.JPG.8d6de013c6b87662ea5c463f834f85f9.JPG1-DSCN6211.JPG.252cd90e69ea11c8ba1323bb99009d6e.JPG

Our stay of seven days was quite productive and included a precocious ‘son of Bambi’ in somebody’s “garden” a nice encounter with a Red-throated Diver in some lilies and some delightful scenery.

1-DSCN6350.JPG.dd41ce90a7cfb6f3c0043c51181cf44a.JPG1-DSCN6352.JPG.effa75931f40a592d9d689ea126c12f0.JPG1-DSCN6522.JPG.c8890830c95dd4d7e9729c0c33fd1b40.JPG1-DSCN6562.JPG.fa11dc0c5d34b646ca88572f36c23e4b.JPG1-DSCN6516.JPG.89c3efa288d3884b011cb75f681d1895.JPGTaking the landscape shots it seems the wildlife were hell bent on getting in on the act and we got photobombed several times as the following few shots show clearly. Even a sitting Eagle got in on the act within clear view of my chair at Lochside.1-DSCN6610.JPG.8046c9978b445a394186fb5b1d39f40a.JPG1-DSCN6627.JPG.f070ace2c8788807c8f386537419cc2e.JPG1-DSCN6589.JPG.1bf8bfb6f98d1027e095382d404b9927.JPG

Some scenes without the wildlife...


I wonder what they sell in here?

1-DSCN6677.JPG.21b234e7bde963ff1eed1c4e3470e9d3.JPGAnd so our week was up and it was time to rise early for the 07.30 Ferry from Lochmaddy to Uig on the start of our trip back home.   Sunrise at Lochside on our last morning. Did I say we had to rise early?

We love North Uist we always back away slowly to keep her in sight.


Our last few days will continue shortly after a natural break.



Edited by Galana
added text.
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next year i hope you will eat Herring with Harriers and omelettes with owls  @Galana

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3 hours ago, Towlersonsafari said:

Herring with Harriers and omelettes with owls 

Now you have started something! 'errings wiv 'arriers? Dinner with Divers. Tofu with Ptarmigan. Fine but what with the Phalaropes? Phrench toast?

Stay tuned for eggs with my ellies' and soup with the Sunbirds next month.:)

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Way to go with the corncrakes and glad you spared us pictures of your cornflakes.

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9 hours ago, Atravelynn said:

glad you spared us pictures of your cornflakes.

Actually poetic licence. It was Granola and Yoghurt but that just did not cut it for the effect.;)

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Time to finish this off.


The final part.

Will it be Martens with Marmalade or Marmite?


Dawn found us packing our car and making ready to set off on our penultimate leg of  just under 200 miles to Argyll and the small village of Kilmartin and our B&B ‘Dunchraigaig’ that we had so enjoyed last year.Kilmartin.JPG.dc084a96fc18915426f329bb5e5ed8c6.JPG

We had a dry trip to Lochmaddy for the Ferry and the day looked set fair for the short 90 minute crossing to Uig on the Isle of Skye. Despite being one of the first to check in we did not get to drive aboard until almost the all the other waiting vehicles had been loaded. I never fuss about this as we are all going to the same place at the same time and, anyway, last on can have benefits. Trust the loaders.

We left on time and I secured ‘my’ seat in the observation lounge on Deck 5 where the flat seas had me on ‘red alert’ for Dolphins and I did see a small group of Common Porpoise but nothing bigger. Lots of seabirds and the occasional seal.1-DSCN6685.JPG.3daed33a24d244c27c18ca6d20efe6ef.JPG

Common (Harbour) Porpoise are not very active swimmers so barely break the surface when breathing which makes getting any photos at all rather 'testing'. There are five here.

Nicely on time we arrived in Uig and were not surprised to find we were 2nd off the boat after the huge truck on our right had moved.1-DSCN6695.JPG.744af6a524d5ebfc025db370f3c3c9a4.JPG

After following him down the pier he pulled over and we had a clear road ahead to take us swiftly over the 50 miles of Skye to famous Bridge over the Kyle of Lochalsh. The road was good and we made excellent time in relatively light traffic. Our regular stop by Loch Cluanie was busy with ‘weekend traffic’ (It was Saturday) but as we pulled in and scanned around I could see the Black-throated Divers at some distance. I did get better views of the male before he was disturbed enough to fly off. I must try to avoid week ends another time as I have seen these birds quite close to the shore at times. Moving on we decided to skip the detour into Glen Garry where I have had good success with nesting Divers and Scoters in previous years.  Despite the Loch looking very promising from the viewpoint on the crest of the hill I found the prospect of the fish farm off putting.  Soon we had dropped down into the Great Glen at Invergarry and were approaching Fort William with views to Ben Nevis. We had planned a lunch stop around Oban but the town was so thick with traffic and people that we were just glad to get through without too much delay and hit clear roads once again. The whole drive was through excellent scenery and despite the odd traffic snarl up we were enjoying it. We stopped for a snack in a small cafe/restaurant overlooking Castle Stalker that has excellent views.

And so to Kilmartin and our B&B where Lyn was waiting to welcome us. We had three nights here and had planned a couple of tours exploring the surroundings. The first to seek out the Beavers of Knapdale was a fail so we fell back to the Nature reserves around Bellanoch closer to home. I discovered and recommend a hide for birdwatchers overlooking the tidal river flats just down from the canal bridge which was quite rewarding even in high summer and must be wonderful in winter and spring.

Our other excursion was to explore the banks of nearby Loch Awe but we found the lack of places to actually get a view or even park up made it almost impossible to stop. Our B&B is noted for the visitors to the bird table day and night and bang on schedule as I dressed next morning one of the local Pine Martens was seen to be on the feeder finishing off last evenings food.1-DSCN6777.JPG.cca0436d3861a8776fbf4b512e84714a.JPG

The food is placed in a wooden box with a lift up lid to keep the birds off and the martens and squirrels lift the lid with their head and help themselves to the contents. Only one young male came whilst we were there as the resident female was nursing three very young kits and only came at night. 1-DSCN6782.JPG.0515850401eb584858102cd5b8594ba5.JPG1-DSCN6795.JPG.d4097cf6027a3360fd6109a1174df3ad.JPG1-DSCN6806.JPG.52bc9168e08420553cff287bff6d643d.JPG

The Great spotted Woodpeckers were still feeding this year’s fledgling and it was fun to watch this take place at close range. (We can watch all the activity from the Dining room windows.)1-DSCN6760.JPG.0d2e4329dee54d63ce89f231b7c2288e.JPG


The Red Squirrels are not at all fazed by the Pine Martens but do maintain a watchful distance.



Honeysuckle in bloom is always a welcome sight of June.


1-DSCN6963.JPG.fb400b5a7f7b40cb7b6dc361749843d5.JPGThe standing stones of Dunchraigaig. The area around Kilmartin is famous for the many Standing Stones and 'cup and ring' carvings of prehistoric times.


This is not a Watercolour but a photograph of Poppies growing up the side of our B&B that I quite liked. If I could paint I would have liked to produce something like this.



After our restful stay we said our goodbyes and thanks and set off for the 257 mile drive down to Heysham for our Ferry home. At first through the lovely Argyll scenery along Loch Fynne to Inverary and then up and over ‘Rest and be thankful’ to the ‘bonny bonny banks of Loch Lomond’ where we once more picked up the well used A82 to Erskine Bridge over the river Clyde and passed Glasgow before swinging south on M74 to the English border where the MWay morphs into the infamous M6. We took a planned short detour to the Cumbrian Wildlife Trust’s Foulshaw Moss Reserve and its breeding Ospreys who have three chicks this year. My main target was a Water Rail that unusually has taken to visiting one of the bird feeders thus giving good views of a normally difficult to see bird. But it failed to appear. However I did get a new tick in the form of Lesser Redpoll using the feeders so all was not lost.

All that now remained was to find a nice place for an evening meal whilst passing the time before checking in for our Ferry home to the Isle of Man. We had a booked Cabin for the late sailing so got some sleep before being woken as the boat arrived in Douglas harbour on time. A short drive of 16 miles and we were home once more at the end of a superb trip to the Hebrides in exceptional weather. We can’t wait to go back so I have started the booking process for 2024 already.

But before then I must think about packing for Africa in August.

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@Galanathanks so much for taking the time to post about your annual Hebridean sojourn. This was an excellent read as always and I am just a little envious of your home on IOM that allows you to do this wonderful journey so regularly!

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Always a pleasure to return to the Hebrides alongside you and Mrs Galana. sorry you didn't get the beavers or the divers, but that window was a good spot for some mammal watching. Thanks for taking the trouble to do the report - it's always fun to read it. 

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Thanks to you both for following to the end.

17 hours ago, Treepol said:

I am just a little envious of your home on IOM that allows you to do this wonderful journey so regularly!

We love living here as it combines small island life with easy access for our escapes. The Ferry is not subsidised so costs cannot be compare with CalMac in Scotland. Our new Ferry 'Manxman' is currently undergoing crew familiarisation training and should enter service any day now. To Heysham takes 31/2 hours and we also have fast craft 'Mannanan' which gets to Liverpool in 2 and a bit I think. Heysham has a rail link into the West Coast mainline so London and Glasgow are easily reached the same day.

Our airport has services to most UK provincial airports. Manchester is a 50 mins hop and serves as a good hub for long haul flights all over the world.  I can, and do, make East Africa easily.


16 hours ago, Kitsafari said:

that window was a good spot for some mammal watching.

It was. Much better than TV. The Martens will tolerate the window being open for clear photos but the woodpeckers won't.

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Nice trip Fred, thanks for sharing those sightings and landscapes and the inevitable BL;).

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28 minutes ago, pedro maia said:

and the inevitable BL;).

Glad you liked them.

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Dave Williams

You are a lucky man Fred! Any report to the Scottish islands is envy inducing! Not exactly the cup of tea Claire is after, but for me perfect. Still I get my week on the Isle of May every year so I can't complain!


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On 7/17/2023 at 11:31 AM, Dave Williams said:

Not exactly the cup of tea Claire is after,

Well this year the lady could have sun lounged almost 24/7 as it barely went below the horizon. I don't recall seeing anywhere with a pool though.:D

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Thank you for a great report on your Scotland trip.

A great collection of birds and mammals, and helpful practical details.

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