Sorry, I know this holiday spam has been pretty huge but I took a LOT of photos. XD
As ever, the week seemed to have gone by far too soon and I really wanted to stay longer. Luckily the weather behaved beautifully for us, so our journey back down to Glasgow was a good one.
We called in at Salen to pick up some provisions for a picnic lunch later on.
As well as the patch of woodland above, there was a lovely little jetty looking over Loch Sunart, and a whole host of photographic opportunities.
With a couple of cakes in tow, we followed the road along the edge of Loch Sunart until we came across the Garbh Eilen Wildlife Hide.
As it was a sea-loch, the potential for marine wildlife like seals and otters was high, so we crept quietly along the raised wooden bridge-path to the hide.
There were a couple of guys in there when we arrived, busy setting up tripods and cameras with massive zoom lenses, so we were pretty sure there was something to see. Squinting against the sunlight we finally spotted them - Common Seals, draped lazily over the rocks on an island in the middle of the loch.
I use a macro lens with my DSLR so I couldn't zoom in, and even the standard lens Dad had on his camera wasn't of much use, but I wasn't giving up on getting a photo that easily. The hide had a few big heavy telescopes for people to look through and I had an idea of how to use them to my advantage.
By carefully holding my phone's camera up to the aperture in the telescope I could effectively use it like another lens! It wasn't perfect by any means, the telescope was really, really heavy and I kept having to almost 'chase' the image with my phone until it settled into place. I enlisted my mum to hold the scope steady for me and that helped significantly.
It wasn't ideal but I managed to get a bit of video too!
We stopped at Strontian in the hope of getting lunch by the loch, but the place we arrived at was really fancy and expensive and far from the simple 'soup and a sandwich' kind of lunch spot we'd hoped for so we moved on.
In the town of Strontian itself we stocked up on sandwiches and pork pies at the wee shop instead. The weather was glorious and we knew we'd manage to find somewhere scenic to stop further along the lochside eventually.
There was a lovely little pottery shop next door but it was closed sadly or we'd have gone in. This sign on the door made me laugh though!
It took nearly the entirety of Loch Sunart to find a place to stop for lunch but we finally found somewhere, right at the very eastern tip of it.
We couldn't have asked for a better afternoon.
Literally the end of the loch, haha.
We stayed there for a while, just soaking up the sunshine and taking photos. I took Max and Juno out for a shoot, as well as a couple of my Julips. Eventually though it was time to hit the road once more.
Our next stop was Loch Linnhe. We'd passed it en route up but this time round we'd be crossing it.
The Corran Ferry crossing is one of the shortest in Scotland I believe, taking only a couple of minutes to get across the loch, yet it saves about an hour's travel if you had to go around it!
I'd never been on a ferry before, well, not in a car anyway.
By the time we'd acclimatised to the movement of the waves it was all over and we were driving back up the slipway on the other side!
We made an unexpected stop at Ballachulish (wonderfully pronounced 'bahla-hoolish) as there was a massive tailback on the road and when we saw an ambulance pass we assumed the worst and pulled into the nearest car park until it passed. Mum disappeared into the visitor centre whilst Dad and I crossed the road to explore the now defunct Ballachulish Slate Quarry.
The scale of the quarried out cliffs was seriously impressive, and the way the slate glimmered in the afternoon sunlight was simply magical.
I always love seeing the way nature reclaims the human impact on the land and this place in particular was very striking. In another hundred years or so it'd be hard to tell it wasn't a naturally formed place.
I collected up a few fragments of broken slate to take as a souvenir, then it was back to the car as the traffic jam had finally passed.
Luckily for all involved, the accident that had held up so much traffic didn't look too serious, just in an awkward spot and when I checked the news later there were no reports of casualties so that was good to hear. I had a horrible feeling our holiday would be bookended by fatalities but thankfully not!
Much delicious cake was consumed once again at Glen Coe village before we passed through the valley itself.
A bird of prey landed on an aerial just outside the tea-room and at first we thought it might have been a Peregrine but we're pretty sure now it was just a Sparrowhawk. Still, an unexpected treat to see one so close, even if it wasn't sitting on the most naturalistic of perches!
Glen Coe was just as beautiful going down as it was heading up.
This time we stopped somewhere different and found a lovely stone 'beehive' cairn which just begged to be photographed. Further investigation revealed the site to have starred in the film 'Highlander' though apparently the filmmakers were told they couldn't move the cairn but did anyway so it isn't actually featured. XD
There was a car park just a minute's walk from it so the area was rather busy all things considered. It was certainly a good place to start a walk or hike from and we saw plenty of hillwalkers setting off with big heavy rucksacks and walking poles.
I would definitely recommend a trip though Glen Coe if you ever get the chance, it's stunningly beautiful and due to its controversial history has a really haunting quality to it's bleak and barren cliffs.
From there it was a relatively straight journey home, though we stopped at Loch Lomond to scoff the cakes we bought earlier...
...and had a brief look at the underground Hydroelectric power station on the banks of Loch Awe; Cruachan, which I remember visiting as a child on a school trip years ago!
I absolutely loved the Highlands and can't wait to go again. (though perhaps with slightly fairer weather next time?)
Sorry once again for the ridiculous quantity of photos! I know my holidays aren't really what people come to this blog for but I like to jot all my memories down so I don't forget them!