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Thursday, 30th May. It would have been nearly three months since my trip to southern Africa, so a few weeks ago I fixed a short, four-night break in this small town in Morayshire, on the northern edge of the Cairngorms. In the event, just a few days after burying my lovely cat, Lulu, killed on a country lane near to where I live, this was not the best of times to leave poor Bella behind, not was I really in the right mood to explore this new, for me, part of Scotland. But all was booked – flight, hire car, hotel – so I left home, hoping my sadness and guilt would not intrude too much.

The weather forecast for the five days was not great, but the worst was meant to be as I arrived, gradually improving over the period. So it was pleasing that, when I picked up the car (I’d booked and paid for the tiniest car possible, and they gave me a 2019 Astra with just 1350 miles on the clock) at Inverness Airport around midday, it was not actually raining, though there was a bitter wind. The hotel – more later – had sent me a load of information, so I had already made my plans for the afternoon. While waiting for the car, I had bought a sandwich, and drove along the Moray Firth to Nairn, when I parked by the small harbour and ate my lunch, looking at the northern side of the Firth through the windscreen. In the distance is a red ship, at, I think, the neck of the Cromarty Firth. It didn’t move all the time I was there.

Well wrapped up against the biting wind, I wandered around for a few minutes.

This is a fishwife, who erstwhile played a very important role in the fishing community. The statue was erected as part of the Highland Year of Culture, 2007.
Oystercatcher, feathers somewhat ruffled in the wind
Jackdaws always glare, even when their feathers are not being ruffled.

It was pleasing to see this sign on the harbour wall, but why only swans?

In the information from the hotel was a tip that there was a public car park, giving access to the beach, at the end of a road through a campsite, which otherwise I would have assumed to be entirely private. I went over the dunes …

on to the nearly deserted beach, and enjoyed the natural decorations.†

I was wondering about the precise sizes of the oystercatcher and the black-headed gull …

… when a herring gull photo-bombed the picture and answered my question.

After a few minutes it started spitting, so, not wanting to get drenched, I set off to make my way back to the car. But it soon stopped, so I was able to take more pictures, of which this is one, looking back to Nairn.

It was now my intention to go to a place described as, ‘A beautifully scenic spot – the ruined Lochindorb Castle lies in the middle of Lochindorb, surrounded by heather-clad moorland and scattered woodland.’ Followed by a long list of birds which might be seen there and thereabouts. But well before I got there it was teeming with rain. I got out to take a couple of pictures on my way.

Approaching the loch I stopped to take this picture of the ruined castle.

And was delighted when a mother and six offspring ran across the road in front of my car. Fortunately I lunged for my camera. Had I not, but just driven on, one, then another, further offspring might well have been crushed. I managed to get this picture with all nine safely reunited.

Proving this was wonderful weather for ducks

I drove on, scarcely stopping anymore. There was no point with the rain lashing down. I just got this picture of the increasingly mountainous scenery.

I was pleased to arrive at the Grant Arms Hotel, in Grantown-on-Spey (pronounced ‘Granton’).

I had chosen it because it advertises itself as a wildlife hotel. It had already sent me a great deal of information, as I have said. As a guest you become a member of its ‘Bird Watching and Wildlife Club’. There is a library, masses more information about walks and suggested outings, and real live human experts on hand twice a day for tips and information, plus a few guided walks from the hotel, and evening talks about twice a week. They also have celebrity-led weeks from time to time.

The hotel itself is comfortable, traditional in furnishings, serving excellent food, and for me was very good value for money, as they charge per person not per room. I felt very well looked after.

Queen Victoria stayed there, incognito I read elsewhere.

Not incognito, and some time ago, another royal couple stayed there…

There was just one talk during my stay there, and it was that first evening. It was on Yellowstone National Park in the Fall. It was very interesting to make comparisons with my own stay there in the snow of February last year.