Sunday, March 27, 2016

Botanics, a canal, a castle, and no sign of the Loch Ness monster.

A glorious spring day here in the Highlands and perfect weather to  have a fun day out.  Our first stop was the Inverness Botanic Gardens, which whilst small are still beautiful.  They've been in the local paper lately because a cat has adopted them and is living there - today he must have found a nice warm place to sleep as we saw no evidence of him.

Here's a selection of photos to show you how lovely the plants in the tropical house are.

The plant below is a coffee plant, with a couple of coffee beans on the branch.

Taking an arty shot through the waterfall.

A beautiful pitcher plant.

The cactus house was my favourite as I have several cacti but none are anywhere as big as these beasts. They're prickly and weird looking but also lovely and calming to look at, or is that just me.

There were big mirrors in several areas and we took the opportunity to get a photo that didn't include just our heads.

Below is the tree of tranquillity which is metal and the leaves have names on them - it is in memory of babies that have died.  Such a simple but thoughtful symbol to represent such tragic losses.  As Ken pointed out, probably the saddest thing about the tree is all the branches that are currently empty and waiting for leaves.

A pretty little Robin that kept stopping for a chat.

A great thing about the gardens is that dotted throughout them are lots of homes for our native fauna. Below is an insect house, and there was also lots of bird boxes, bee boxes, and hedgehog hotels.

Lovely silver birch.

After the botanic gardens we walked up to the Caledonian  canal to go for a wander - the whole canal is actually 60 miles long but we just did a little bit today.  The below shot is of the River Ness from the canal bank - they run side by side.

As you can see by the pictures below it was a really nice day and what you can't see is that there were loads of people out being very active - dog walkers, runners, other walkers, and cyclists.  We even saw a few tandem cycles. Ken said that if we had a tandem he would have to have mirrors that showed him if I was bothering to pedal or not - whatever is he implying?

Me with my walking poles.

We then went for a drive down to Loch Ness, stopping to look over Urquhart Castle which you can go into, but as it was getting late we thought it would be better to come back another day.  It must have been very imposing when it was intact, jutting out into Loch Ness.

Looking out over Loch Ness and no we didn't see any sign of Nessie.  I heard on a recent TV show that Loch Ness is so large it could fit the water from all the rivers and lakes in England and Wales - that's very, very big!!

That's it for today, so until next time stay safe, be happy, and say hello to the next animal you meet.

Pamela & Ken

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Puffins and snow in the Cairngorms National Park

Good Friday and a chance to spend some quality time together by exploring more of this wonderful country, so we jumped in pugsley (our car) and headed for the hills.  We sort of had a starting point to head for but then we just went where pugsley felt like taking us.

Our first stop was Grantown-on-Spey, which as the name suggest is situated on the river Spey.  It's a lovely town with lots of really interesting little shops.  When we parked, the dog below kept trying to get his nose through the fence to have a chat with us - he was very cute, though not as cute as a 9 week old Springer Spaniel puppy that we met and had to pat.  No matter what we'll always have a large part of our hearts devoted to these gorgeous dogs.

Nice looking church.

One of the shops we went into was called Elephants in the Pantry and we loved it.  I loved the elephants dotted around the shop in different forms including these great chalkboards.  A lot of the food is organic and also ethically sourced, which is always good to see.

By now it was time for a lunch break and we discovered this cafe/restaurant, the Wee Puffin.  There are puffins all around the cafe and there are several puffin themed meals on the menu.  They also have a fat puffin challenge that people can take on, a bit like man vs food, but so far they only have one person on the successful board, and many people on the failed board.  If you win you get the below t-shirt and your meal for free - I don't think either of us could do it but my beloved thought that maybe my brothers might be able to.

For lunch I had the Puffin Balls (see below) and before any of you panic about cruelty to puffins, they are actually balls of haggis - no puffins were harmed in the making of this dish.  Ken fell off the sugar wagon and had waffles with bacon and maple syrup!!

Beautiful display of spring flowers outside the florist shop.

Lonely looking kangaroo on the shelf in a charity shop.

Driving through the Cairngorms National Park is breathtaking - the scenery is so stark but beautiful at the same time, and interesting fact for you is that this is the biggest national park in the UK.  It's going to be even more stunning when the heather is all in bloom.  As you look into the distance you can see that there is still snow on the mountains, and we were heading towards some of it.

Pugsley looking very shiny in the sun.

Lone chimney that we passed - I liked that someone had painted the Scottish flag on th stones.

Another great view showing what a gorgeous day we had for our drive - don't be fooled though, the nearer we got to the snow the colder it became.

The next town we stopped in was Tomintoul which is the highest village in the Cairngorms.

We stopped off at a scenic spot which has a walk to an old manganese mine - you might be able to see the building in the distance of the valley shot.

We finally made it to some of the snow - the remnants under the ski lifts, where not long ago people were showing off their skiing skills.

I got Ken to pose with one of the roadside markers to show you how high the snow can get up here in the mountains - I think he's getting a bit familiar with that pole.

More snow remains in a patchwork across the hills.

As we drove along we came upon what looked like a group of standing stones from a distance, but when we got closer we discovered they were a group of seats with this lovely poem carved into the one stone:

Take a moment to behold,
as still skies or storms unfold,
in sun, rain, sleet or snow,
warm your soul before you go.

The holes in the rock all give different views around the surrounding countryside, including highlighting things of interest.

My beloved hiding in one of the seats - apart from the metal being a bit cold, they were very cosy and blocked out the wind really well.

View from the seats.

Lovely old bridge we noticed from the road.

Okay, I tried again, I was really going to have a whole post without any sign of a graveyard, but then as we were heading home we spotted this graveyard in a very remote spot and we just had to stop and explore.  Here's a few shots to show you some of the great looking headstones.

We loved this tree because as my beloved said, it looks like it's clinging onto the earth by it's fingertips.  Very windswept but still hanging in there. Below the tree is a picture of the roots to show how incredibly resilient nature really is.

We hope you've enjoyed this visit to the Cairngorms National park in beautiful Scotland.

On a slightly different note, during April I'll be taking part in the A to Z blog challenge, which means a post everyday of April except the Sundays, corresponding to each letter of the alphabet - wish me luck, as some letters will be easy to fit to a blog post, but others I think might tax my brain.

Until next time, be good, stay safe, and remember to be kind to yourself.

Pamela and Ken