On our annual trip to the Scottish highlands to spend a week climbing mountains, the sun was shining at Kiltarlity, near Beauly when we all arrived at our accommodation.
Wonderful lush countryside all around, a wee bit like the Borders, but then Ben Wyvis is spotted in the distance with still quite a covering of snow in its corries and this is the end of May.
On our first morning, we were off to climb Sgurr Fhuar Thuill, a munro at the north west end of Glen Strathfarrar. To gain access to this glen, permission is obtained from the gatekeeper with strict instructions to be back out of the glen by 7pm - the pressure was on - we had no wish to be locked overnight in the glen! On the long twisty track to the start of the walk we passed hundreds of red deer and as we stepped out of the vehicles we heard our first cuckoo call of the season - there were actually two sitting on the fence just a few yards away.
The low level walkers set off further into the glen to the Hydro Dam and we set off up the hill beside a pretty burn with little waterfalls. We heard bleating coming from way down below us in the steep sided dean and on inspection it was a family of wild goats - billy, nanny and two kids.
As we climbed higher, then stopped for a well earned break next to a lochan, a common lizard popped out in front of us and quickly disappeared into the long heather. The summit was in sight now as we passed a couple of ptarmigan, the male looking resplendent in summer colours with his red wattles. A snow bank needed to be crossed with care before reaching the summit cairn.
What stunning clear views from our lunch break at the top - Torridon hills, Fisherfield Forest and Glen Affric munros. No time to hang around too long though as we had a deadline to beat the gate, an hour car journey home and an evening meal to make for eleven hungry walkers.
Back at the cars in good time having had a great walk in grand weather we met up with the low level folks whose walk had not been without drama, having encountered a bridge which didn’t exist and wading knee-deep over the wide River Strathfarrar!
On the way home we noticed a little sign by the roadside near the gate-keepers house, warning walkers to take care and not disturb the oystercatcher on her gravelly nest beside the track.
Happily, we were well ahead of our deadline and even had time to have cups of tea on the sunny lawn on our return before preparing the evening meal.
To be continued