West Woods of Ethie

It was one of those crazy late-spring days with a clear divide in the weather – everywhere north of the highland boundary fault was meant to get extreme precipitation, while Fife and Angus remained cool and dry. So we walked for a while in the West Woods of Ethie, admiring the lines and shapes of tall beech trees and subtle light and shade under the canopy.

Autumn at Glen Affric (1)

For about 13 years I have been of the opinion that it has not been a year without at least one trip to Glen Affric.

My favoured time is autumn, late October, to catch the trees in the Caledonian Forest reserve at their most colourful.

Arriving before sunrise, the light is all dull  and the scenery a moody shade of gloomy – the last vestiges of moon stars remaining in the cobalt blue sky.

One of my favourite scenes at Glen Affric – two ncie birch trees amongst purple and green heather.
Sadly this shot has been marred in recent years by the installation of a large wide path cutting right through the heather between bench and trees; this photo used to be easier to compose but now I’m too conscious of having to position the frame to avoid the path just below; it’s becoming too much of a trick-shot for my liking.


Slowly, over the course of an hour after the posted sunrise time, the sun will gradually rise behind Meall Dubh beyond Loch Beinn a Mheadhoinn, casting a beautiful light on the forest:

Having arrived so early, it is a delight to bask in the first proper warm sunlight of the day:

One of my favourite birches – always think it should be called “Dancer” for some reason – basking in the first warm rays of sunrise amongst the heather.

Along the Oak Walk

One of my favourite walks around the local area is the Oak Walk – running along the edge of a large field, it gets beautiful evening sunlight and has some characterful trees

One or two local folk have populated it with wooden sculptures, for amusement factor

And the surrounding paths are well populated with wild raspberries, brambles and even willowherb/fireherb looking pretty in the light.

Chilling with the trees

On the third day of my holiday last year, the weather took a turn for the worse and my chosen route for the day was closed until Spring, so I went for a walk around the Reelig Glen just outside Inverness.

To be more accurate, the first walk around the glen was favourably interrupted by a very friendly wee collie dog, so I did the whole route a second time with the camera…

It was beautifully relaxing, good for the soul. A place of shapes and light and more shapes and green and autumnal orange colour.

About half-way around the route, just round from crossing the bridge, is Dughall Mor – a Douglas Fir tree that at one time was the tallest in Britain. They do not put any signage by it, except for a very tiny mark on the bark, but I know which it is.

One of these trees used to be the tallest in Britain.
(I know which – they don’t advertise it for safety reasons, save for a very small mark.)

About six years ago, on my first visit to the glen, I also met a small dog and attendant human; the conversation has stuck in my mind, partly for the subject-matter but mostly because of its gentle and slightly surreal nature. A person who knows there’s nothing better to do than to sit on a bench watching the old dog play in the burn. At the time, I wrote about the encounter thus:

The Shadows of Importance

As I came nearer, crossed over a small bridge over a burn, I saw an elderly Westie playing, slowly investigating all around… with his also-eldery designated human sitting on this bench.
And we conversed.
About the important things.
Dogs, trees, and somewhere waaayy down the line, people.
We walked through the woods and he showed me a tree that once was tallest in Britain.
The world of bright city lights was gone, a garish cheapness for and of strangers, long forgotten, as though it never was.
And there was complete serenity.
Some days I’d post an admiration of the forest. Today you get the waypoint where Hamish played and Geoff sat.
Or maybe it’s still an admiration of the forest anyway…

Scene of an encounter

This time of making the circuit around the Reelig Glen, there was no sign of Geoff or Hamish – but I remembered them, and was grateful for all the dogs who love me.

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The light, when the clouds permitted, was glorious – illuminating the foliage beautifully.

In the Woods

The Black Woods of Rannoch are a particularly favourite stroll. One of the Caledonian Forest reserves (the only one I know in Perthshire), they boast many native and rare flora species – Scots Pine, birch, rowans, alder, willow and juniper and lichens and fungi – as well as being home to wild deer (as I discovered when a stag suddenly trundled right across the path barely 20yd in front of me).

Interaction with mankind is a different matter. There’s something about the flow and depth of river water in the weir that creeps me out, but the text on the last sign-post says:

The Black Wood of Rannoch Canals

Before you you can see a ditch cut through the heather. This dates from around 1800 and once formed part of a York Building Company scheme to remove timber from the Black Wood of Rannoch. In order to extract the logs they devised a system of canals (the ditch before you was the lowest of the three canals).

The scheme provided a great deal of work and employed most of the men and women of the district. Over four miles of canals had to be dug using picks and shovels. The trees then had to be felled before being floated along the canals and then down a chute to Loch Rannoch. The logs were tied together in rafts for the journy down the loch to Kinloch Rannoch, then sent singly down the Rivers Tummel and Tay to their final destination at Perth and Dundee.

If the project had been a success, the Black Wood of Rannoch would have ben completely destroyed. In the event, the plan to float the logs down the rivers did not work. The scheme was abandoned, and the wood saved.

Employment just does justify desecration. The woods are too special.

Corrie Fee

It seems like ages ago now – but back in April, a friend took me for a walk up Corrie Fee near Glen Clova. It was the first time I’ve been there, and didn’t know exactly what to expect; the first stretch through the forestry was pleasant (once the weather made its mind up what to fling at us), but when the view opened-out into a massive wide vista at the foot of a corrie, complete with glacial morraine hillocks, it was wonderful.

Inverawe Impressions (8/10)

Where we walked.

The old fellow was the first dog with whom I’d found an understanding. I remember it well – sitting in the back garden in the middle of one’s labours, he came around, sat beside me and basically said “look, it’s TLC behind the flappers, OK?”, and that was the moment of breakthrough. When he departed, I took the photo of Ben Cruachan beyond the trees in his honour; every time I’ve passed that spot since, I remember the ol’ dog – with much fondness.