Friday, 23 September 2016

Wild camping week on Ardnamurchan

A week of wild camping on the Ardnamurchan peninsular in Scotland a few weeks back was exhilarating and physically challenging in equal measure. I went up there with my good mate Robin Mars; no campervan this time, so it was an interesting exercise getting all the required gear in the back of a Nissan Almera ... my concession to comfort, a double duvet, didn't help of course but hey my back is pushing 60!

Who doesn't like Scotland? Well, without getting political, there's plenty that don't care too much about the wee midges and then there's the unpredictable weather, but when you can wake up to this sort of thing of a morning its worth putting up with both.

The Ardnamurchan peninsular lies just to the north of the Isle of Mull, just as rugged and scenic, but just that little bit more remote and thus a good choice for a trip up to Scotland in the height of the holiday season! In terms of good birds I have to say it was pretty pants with not a sniff of Golden or Sea eagle, no Hen Harriers, Crossbills or anything like that, no Otters either but it mattered not because we had a campfire, good food and music every night and spectacular scenery to tramp around in every day. So here's my Scottish wild camping week in pics ...

The Falls of Falloch, nr Loch Lomand

Loch Sunart, 21/08/16
The bothy at Loch Sunart
At 31k in length, Loch Sunart is the longest sea loch in the Highland district. There was a conveniently situated bothy right on the edge which we made full use of as a camping base, especially after a wet weather day.

Any chance to dry out a pair or 2 of favoured walking socks!

 At Strontian, the main village around Sunart we walked around an ancient stretch of woodland called Ariundle. The wood is a remnant of ancient oakwood that once spanned the Atlantic coasts of Europe from Norway to Portugal and due to the unique climatic conditions of the area it is actually classed as a temperate rain forest.

Ariundle forest, Strontian, 22/08/16
Old Man's Beard, Ariundle, 22/08/16
 Lichens, mosses and ferns in absolute proliferation but hardly any birds ,,, a flock of Lesser Redpolls being the only notable record!

Plenty of Argus butterflies though, in fact we saw many of these with several Mountain Ringlets throughout the trip.

Scottish Argus, Ariundle, 22/08/16

Scabious, Ariundle, 22/08/16

 Here's a bird we expected to see a lot of but in the end only recorded a handful. A misty backdrop to this Stonechat on the banks of Loch Linhe
Stonechat, Loch Linhe, 21/08/16
Camping spot nr Loch Shiel
Around Loch Shiel we were a bit naughty and camped out on forestry commission land but it was such an isolated and picturesque spot it was a no brainer with the light closing in.

Migrating Swallows and resident Raven, Sparrowhawk & Buzzard here but all the watching of the skies for eagles was in vain.

Fantastic camping location though ...  this was our view after making camp!
Loch Shiel, 22/08/16
 We headed up to the north of the peninsular for the last leg of our short trip up here and ended up around Kilmory Bay with stunning views across the sound of Arisaig of the isles of Eigg, Rum and Muck.
Kilmory Bay, 24/08/16

Eigg from Kilmory Bay, 24/08/16
Painted Lady, Acheteny nr Kilmory, 24/08/16

It was yet another stunning place to camp and we were blessed with the best weather of the trip with warm sunshine and clear skies. A Campfire on the beach and even a decent bird record in the shape of a couple of juvenile Whinchats was marred only by a small accident - I managed to give myself a bloody eye and nose whilst gathering wood for the fire and everything was blurred for 24hrs after that!

Rocky headland around Kilmory, 24/08/16

Camping spot, Kilmory

Whinchat (juv), Kilmory, 24/08/16
I wasn't the only person taking photographs .. Rob's pretty handy behind the lens too. These are all his pics, all taken on the Ardnamurchan peninsular and with the added bonus of some of them featuring my good self!

Much better Argus than mine!

That'll be me doing my James Bond impersonation!

Best wild camping spot ever!

Like I say, not the abundance of wildlife we expected, I guess we finally managed to get most of the common species - Grey Wagtail, Hooded Crow, Rock Pipit, Coal Tit, Shag, Eider, a handful of Willow Warblers & Blackcaps, lots of Meadow Pipits of course but very few raptors (not a single Kestrel!) and maybe even more surprising not a single Dipper! Birding isn't the be all and end all for me on these trips though and my week of wild camping with all its challenges will live long in the memory.