/ Scotland2016

Thursday - all the way from Slavonia

It's overcast, drizzly and not too warm. Still we do need to housekeep today. First thing on the agenda, after breakfast that is, is washing. It's piled up again so Liz sets off to sort that out whilst I laze around and do nothing wash up the breakfast things. By the time the washing has tumble dried, we've both showered and have readied the van for today's adventure.

One of the leaflets Liz got from the Tourist Info yesterday has several drives and there's a nice local 40-50 mile one that takes in a few sites. It starts at Culloden but since we've already done that we can adjust the route. And adjust it we do, firstly to take in a knitting shop where Liz scores some more wool to keep her habit satiated for another few days. But not the needles she needs, but she reckons she can still get her fix. Then past one of those Tesco Extra based out of town excrescences I so railed against yesterday. This one also hosts Aldi (see later) and Hobbycraft, another pusher of needles to addicts, but again, alas, not what Liz needs. Still we stock up on some grocery items and refuel. The shopping stop was actually planned for the end of the day but good to get it out of the way.

Next stop Loch Ruthven with an RSBP reserve, Needless to see this is in the middle of nowhere with single track roads being the only access (i.e. like most of Scotland). This one had an even scarier bit where the last mile was down a single track road with only about 3 passing places for the entire mile. Interesting terrain, my geology is poor but the rock sparkles. It looks like tiny bits of mica embedded in the rock. It could be galena I suppose but my money is on mica. All big boulders but one small stone found its way into my pocket for analysis at home. Of course if it had large galena crystals I could try for a radio. A wonderful tangle of lichen encrusted trees lined the walk round the loch to the RSBP hide.

Stunning. There's already 3 people in the hide, a surprise since this is a reasonably remote location but then again Slavonian Grebes are quite rare and this loch is one of a very few breeding places in the UK, all of which are here in the highlands. A few dabchicks but no Slavonians, until after 5 minutes a pair emerge from close to the reeds. If you are unfamiliar with grebes they are frustrating birds that only surface for the period of time marginally less then it takes to train binoculars on them and then they dive and swim immense distances underwater so there is no way you can locate them using binoculars, so you put the bins down, scan the water and eventually find the birds again, pick up the binoculars just in time for the next dive. Repeat several times. Now the Slavonians are a long way out making absolute recognition harder but the tufted crest gives them away. Another first for us! After about 15 minutes they get bored of the pick-up, put-down binoculars game and the loch appears totally bereft of birds except for the single dabchick still playing the binoculars game for anyone interested, and just being a common dabchick, no-one is.

Leaving the hide we pause and meet up with one of the other 3 watchers, she was playing a different game, using a long lensed camera. She tells it the game she was hoping to play was trying to catch the regularly visiting osprey in pursuit of fish. We return to the van with much sadness, an osprey fishing would have been well cool. Still the sandwiches were good, the local smoked sea trout being excellent. Half way through the repast Liz quietly wonders "What's that big bird", knowing the answer. Yep, there's an osprey over the loch, not diving after fish but circling around looking for the best hunting spots. Well cool! And it's not too far away to see clearly with the bins either. Excellent.

Next stop the Falls of Foyers, a well-known waterfall close to the banks of Loch Ness. It's also a Red Squirrel hotspot and after the Osprey we fancy our chances. Sadly not. The falls are impressive. Not a huge volume of water but quite some drop which there was no way I could capture.

Despite the falls being quite some drop they were still quite some descent from road level so after we hauled ourselves back up we treated ourselves to an ice cream - the weather having warmed up nicely. Then a drive back, the first 10 miles follow the bank of Loch Ness. 10 miles and that's only the northern tip - it really is a HUGE body of water. We plan to drive its entire length along the opposite bank tomorrow.

Now, the van has 6 bottles of single malt and a bottle of gin. Despite some of them having been in ort possession for 3 weeks now they are all still unopened! Indeed apart from tastes at distilleries we haven't had a single dram in the weeks we've been up here. Remember I mentioned Aldi earlier, well it turns out their cheap Highland Black whisky won the gold medal against whiskies of significantly more cost per bottle than £12.99 and the blend is getting excellent reviews across the web. So whilst in Aldi we pick up a bottle, the plan being to broach that and leave the expensive malts until we get home.

And we do, and our nice tasting/nosing glasses get used at last, and it was good, surprisingly good. But all things in moderation, let's resist temptation for a second tot and go to bed after posting this. The hour is late after all.