adventure

A Winter’s Escape

In the dark month of January, the chance to have a little break and be surrounded by forests came at the perfect time.

Nestled in a secluded and sheltered area of the Cairngorms lies the homely and inspiring accommodation of the Dell of Abernethy just a stone’s throw away from Nethy Bridge. This was the ideal location for us to be based to explore not only the area around the accommodation which is full of surprises but the wider area of the Glenmore Forest Park too.

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Our accommodation for the few days we spent there was the beautifully renovated property of West Dell. Dell of Abernethy has 5 properties which offer the perfect escape for romantic getaways, family holidays, retreats and events. West Dell, East Dell, Little Dell, South Dell and Dell Lodge all have a unique feel and are original in their character and presence. It is the perfect location to get out and about or simply unwind, slow down, connect to nature and sit by the fire. There is no other properties nearby so it sits within a shelter of the trees with inspiring views as far as the eye can see.

 

The property has been renovated to a very high standard: retaining all of the unique features from the beginning with a cosy eclectic twist. The grounds around the cottage beckon you to have a wander and admire the wood carvings, the sculptures and the lanterns that dot around the trees (I loved this feature) it really brightened the place up in the evening.

 

We arrived late on the Saturday afternoon after a long and snowy drive from the Outer Hebrides. It was already getting dark and we were excited to just settle into the cottage, sit by the fire and unwind. It was also an added bonus when we were met with homemade brownies! The place beckons you to simply relax and be mindful of the surroundings around you, we tend not to give ourselves much time to read, think or simply do nothing but enjoy the moment in where you are so it was refreshing having no obligations, nothing we really had to do but enjoy the cottage.

West cosy

We embarked early from Dell on the Sunday morning to make the most of the bright winters sun (a welcome in the depths of winter) and made our way for the Glenmore Forest Park. We parked up behind Glenmore Lodge and took off for the walk that would take us up past Lochan Uaine, (The Green Lochan) Ryvoan Bothy and then up and over Mealla a’ Bhuachaille standing proud with incredible views over the Cairngorm Mountain Range and further North.

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I have to say there is so much to do in this area around Nethy Bridge, Boat of Garten, Aviemore and Glenmore. As we only had a couple of days to spend in the area, instead of being overwhelmed at the abundance of walks to do, we picked the one that would cover a large area and spent time really getting to know that place, hence the reason we chose this one. We passed the unique vibrant waters of the Green Lochan and popped our heads into Ryvoan Bothy, (this is on my list for the summer) and then headed straight up the steep but impressive path which goes straight to the summit of Meall a’ Buachaille. We were very lucky with the weather, the light doesn’t last very long at this time of the year in Scotland so we were eager to make the most of the sun as it shone on us towards the ascent of the mountain. The climb itself is relatively easy (13 miles return loop) and is paved most of the way with rocks and a stony staircase all the way to the cairn at the summit.

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We left feeling impressed with the area and more of a knowledge of the panoramic vistas that the mountain climb offered us. It was then onto the infamous Aviemore Mountain Café after exhausting most of our energy on the climb, also cake is always deserved after a hike right? The café offers up a hearty lunch with a unique menu, brilliant coffee and even more delicious cake, a warm welcome after being in the cold for the better part of the day. We then took a spin around the Glenmore Forest Park stopping at our favourite Loch Morlich for views over to the snowy dramatic mountains. By this time it was dark and there was only one thing to do and that was to spend the evening in the warm and lively Old Bridge Inn situated just outside of Aviemore. This was recommended to us by the brilliant team at Dell of Abernethy and it definitely didn’t disappoint! The Old Bridge inn served us hearty delicious food, it has a fine range of malts and local ales, hosts some varied music nights and has such a vibrant atmosphere!

 

On Monday morning we left early once again to head over to Inshriach where I had booked us onto a Nordic Woodcraft Course with Wooden Tom. The location itself is incredible, Tom Banks who calls himself Wooden Tom has a base where he has built a shelter/ cabin and workshop area in the middle of the forest on the Inshriach Farm Grounds. We spent the day with him learning about various techniques on how to carve from wood, the difference in working with certain wood, carving spoons and having a wonderful time learning a new skill which we will definitely be incorporating into life back on North Uist, (that is if we can find enough trees!) If you would like to book onto a workshop with wooden tom and learn a new skill which is completely environmentally friendly and highly recommended please head on over to the website. Courses are for solo learners or groups.

 

We spent the rest of our break enjoying our peaceful cottage at Dell of Abernethy and giving ourselves some time to relax and just enjoy the environment and atmosphere of the place. The Dell not only offers unique accommodation but is also available as a wedding venue and runs retreats and events  throughout the year!

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If you would like to book in for a stay at this wonderful place (which I can highly recommend) please follow this link: Dell of Abernethy and pick one of these cottages to escape to, I know I’ll be going back as soon as I can! Thanks again to the lovely team of Wendy, Polly and Ross for hosting us in your beautiful corner of the Country and providing us with many spot on recommendations of places to eat, places to see and walks to venture on in the area! We had such a lovely stay slowing down and connecting to nature, thanks again for reminding us what is important!

To follow along on social media head on over to their social media pages: Instagram and Facebook.

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My North Coast 500 adventure!

Last month me and my lovely friend Sam set off on the renowned North Coast 500 Route which covers the whole North East Coast from Inverness, right along the Northern mainland of Scotland and back down the West Coast to join back up in Inverness. I’ve explored an extensive amount of these areas of Scotland before but never had the opportunity of being able to cover the whole route at once.

We gave ourselves 10 days so we could really explore as much of the areas as possible and so it didn’t mean we had to rush around and miss some hidden gems! The experience was made even better because my friend Sam has recently just purchased an incredible motorhome which we were able to park up in and wild camp throughout our venture, an added bonus to an already exciting trip! In this blog post I’ll be sharing with you our itinerary for our trip; the places we went to but won’t go into too much detail as this post would then read like a book! I can honestly say I’ve never seen so much and stopped at so many incredible places in the space of such a short time! It’s gave me an entirely new appreciation for my truly wonderful home country and I was left after the trip feeling completely overwhelmed at the history, the culture and the rich geology we have in abundance in Scotland. It’s also provided me so much inspiration for my photography and art work for the future.

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Setting off!

We started the trip in the best way possible; driving all the way through the Cairngorms instead of taking the quicker but a lot less scenic option of the A9! We were starting the Route 500 and instead of going West which most people do we decided to go up the East Coast First. The first stops of the journey on the East part of the route were in Tain, Dunrobin Castle, a visit to the incredible Timespan in Helmsdale, Berriedale, Northlands Glass in Lybster, Camster Cairns, Hill O Many Stanes and then parked up for the night at the very top of the Whaligo Steps!

IMG_9664Camster Cairns 

The following morning we explored the spectacular Whaligo Steps, this is an area that is quite hard to find but so worth it! I was recommended it by many people and it met all of my expectations and more! The way the steps that were built by hardworking fisherman fall into the sea to be surrounded by the immense cliffs is spectacular. It was then onto Wick to meet a representative from North Coast 500 who gave us some tips on things to see off the beaten path, a visit to the Wick Heritage Centre, Caithness Broch Centre in Auchengill, Freswich to see the ruins of the Bucholie Castle (another must see off the trail.) Afterwards we spent the rest of this day up in John O Groats looking out over to the sights of Orkney, exploring the beauty of Sannich Bay, Duncansby Stacks, a cliff walk along Dunnet Head (the mainlands most northerly point) and spent the evening parked up on the water overlooking Dunnet Bay!

12Whaligo Steps 

IMG_9731Ruins at Freswich 

IMG_9773Geology at Bucholie Castle 

The following day we embarked along the North Coast from John O groats towards Thurso, we spent a good while in Caithness Horizons, a five star museum with so much information and knowledge of the area. It was then along to Melvich, Strathy Point, Bettyhill and it’s spectacular beaches including the wonder of Farr Bay. The rest of the day was spent exploring Tongue in the far North and the Kyle of Tongue beach, Loch Hope and Loch Eribol with it’s breathtaking mountains framing the area. We realised on this day how quickly and dramatically the landscapes change in Scotland, as soon as you are past Bettyhill the landscape starts to become significantly rockier and wilder, the mountains start to rise up towards Loch Eribol where you are truly immersed in their power compared to the more flatter yet spectacular cliff area of the the north eastern part. We made a quick visit to the Lotte Glob Artist Studio which sits right on Loch Eribol. Lotte is one of my favourite artists and if you are interested in geology, ceramics, beautiful paintings and an incredible location I would recommend a visit here highly! Her studio and home is an art work in itself! We parked up for the night right on the shore of Loch Eribol watching the mist drift low over the mountains.

IMG_9867Loch Eribol and the wonderful Island home. 

IMG_9898View from Lotte Glob’s Studio, Loch Eribol

The next day we made our way straight for Durness to visit the wonder of Smoo Cave. We were given a tour of the caves to explore the impressive waterfall and geology that is so bountiful there. This had to be one of my favourite places on the whole journey! It was then onto some of the untouched beaches around Durness, Balnakeil Craft Village including a quick pit stop in Cocoa Mountain (we had to) and then a long walk along the sandy bay at Keodale which completely takes your breath away as soon as you embark around the corner after Durness. South of this route we stopped constantly to get out, walk and just marvel at the landscape at the start of the North West Geo Park area. There were many many long winding roads through mountains, rocky outposts, otherworldly places through wild landscapes that overwhelmed us in their power. After stopping numerous times throughout this part of the route (it was my favourite part of the road trip) we parked up at Kylesku bridge to make dinner and watch Loch More Kinloch and the incredible mountains that dominate the land in this part of Scotland.We then made for the infamous B869 single track road that winds and sweeps up and over all manners of landscape watching deer and being careful not to break down along the way! Last up for the day was hiking up the hills on this route looking out to the Western Isles and parking up in the middle of this wild remote landscape near Drumbeg.

IMG_9958Smoo Cave Waterfall 

IMG_9989The middle of the otherworldly Geo Park Landscape 

The following day we woke up in the middle of the mountains off a single track remote road; that has to be the best feeling! We followed the route around to Drumbeg, Clashnessie and then a turn off towards Point of Stoer Lighthouse where we hiked for a while around the cliff area which looks out to Harris and Lewis. There is even the ‘remotest toilet in mainland Britain’ located here! It was then onto Clachtoll and a visit to one of the most inspiring beaches in Scotland; Achmelvich Bay; we are incredibly lucky to have places like this so unspoilt and breathtaking! Afterwards we headed towards Loch Assynt shrouded by dominating mountains once again to the ruins of Ardvreck Castle looking out to the misty mountains of Assynt and catching sight of Suilven for the first time when we were travelling through Elphin. It was then a big hike up Knockan Crag learning about the impressive geology which is so important and rich in the area.This area in particular was one of the most memorable for me because of the sheer drama and atmosphere of the landscape; I’ll always remember that feeling of standing atop Knockan Crag looking out to the wilderness in the Geo Park area and the mountains of Stac Pollaidh and Suilven. We then passed through Ullapool and continued onward to the incredible road of the A832 passing ruined crofts, deep valleys and more wilderness parking up for the night on the road to Badrallach, a quiet wild secluded spot with many deer around us!

IMG_0051Point of Stoer cliff walk 

IMG_0076Loch Assynt from Knockan Crag 

IMG_0083Geology at Knockan Crag

IMG_0101Abandoned croft on the A832 from Ullapool

We woke up the following day to sun cast over the Little Loch Broom and the surrounding mountains. On the road again we stopped off at Gruinard Bay with its enormous sandy bay and bright turquoise waters, Loch Ewe and down towards Gairloch. In Gairloch we visited Hillbillies Bookshop; a brilliant cafe and bookshop full of impressive mountain reads and a cosy atmosphere looking out to sea. We then drove down through the wild wonderful roads along Loch Maree and onto the mountain road towards Torridon; another part of the journey that consisted of us stopping every few minutes and walking about/ staring at the otherworldly landscapes. The road is tiny compared to the vast and dominating mountains that surround it, another favourite! The last of the day was spent surrounding Upper Loch Torridon, hiking up the hills to see the wilderness around us and spending the night in the quaint little village of Shieldaig with it’s free community campsite!

IMG_0167Gruinard Bay 

IMG_0179Mountain road towards Torridon 

IMG_0199Parked up in just another epic spot! 

Our last day of the route 500 was spent walking around the quiet village of Shieldaig, taking the windy spectacular coastal road towards Applecross with it’s epic views out to Skye, heather clad lands and misty moors. Again, this was another part of our journey that we had to stop and simply stare out at the views in front of us. We spent a while in the magnificently located Applecross and then onto the sublime ‘Bealach Na Ba’. Nothing will prepare you for the views you will encounter either driving up the Bealach Na Ba or down it, either way you will find yourself gobsmacked with it’s beauty, it’s rugged charm and it’s height of course! We stopped as much as we could to drink in the views and feel the impressive atmosphere that is so unique there. It was then onto Loch Carron, the mountain road through Glen Carron, Strathspeffer and back down towards Inverness where we started!

13IMG_0270IMG_0277All three from the ‘Bealach Na Ba’ 

Phewwww, that is the journey covered! I really hope you have enjoyed reading this huge blog post and I hope I’ve covered the route well. I also encourage you all to just get out and explore Scotland, there is so much to see in this breathtaking Country!

Now I’ve taken so many photos and it was very difficult for me to sit down and select the photographs for this blog but I’ve shared my favourites from the masses I took on the trip. If you would like to see more of my images from the route, I have the high res files up on my website and social media: twitter & instagram. Also if you would like to get more tips about what to see and do on the route, head on over to their website at North Coast 500.

As always, thanks so much for reading my blog and I hope this inspires you to get out and explore Scotland or it’s helped you in the planning of your North Coast 500 trip! There’s SO much to see in our wee Country!

 

Next trip

Heading here this coming weekend.

The Isle of Skye, my favourite place in the whole of Scotland. Have visited and explored a few times before but if anyone has any more suggestions and some off the beaten track adventures, let me know, would love to make the most of it.

Full blog on what I get up to coming next week when I return.

Also I’ll be living in a Wig Wam with http://www.wigwamholidays.com/Glasnakille_Wigwams how cool is that?

 

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