Stag Cottage Ardnamurchan; a little piece of Heaven on Earth

After an unhappy series of personal events in the first few months of 2017, a long planned and much postponed visit to Scotland was just what we needed to get away from it all and recharge our batteries. Stag Cottage, tucked away beneath soaring pine trees at the end of Loch Doilet, proved to be exactly the right place.
Our trips to Scotland have invariably been wet and dismal, weatherwise, and as we set off sure enough down came the rain! Stopping for lunch at Inverbeg on Loch Lomond, we wondered if we would be in for a full week of wet weather, as we had on our previous trip, to Skye. As we headed towards the ferry at Corran, for the short crossing to Ardgour, the skies began to clear and the sun peeked out at last.
On reaching the village of Strontian, the route to Stag Cottage then climbs steeply upwards on a winding unclassified road, by the side of which Red Deer graze unconcernedly.
Reaching the top of the hill there is an equally steep downward descent towards the Glenhurich Estate. A sudden breathtaking glimpse of Loch Doilet appeared before us.
Finally, we had arrived. 
Within an hour of our arrival we saw our first Pine Marten, albeit briefly, scurrying along by the perimeter of the garden. The local Siskins seemed very pleased with the peanuts we put out for them.
After quickly unpacking, we had a stroll beside Loch Doilet towards Polloch. Peace, quiet, birdsong. Peace, peace and more peace. A single car passed us, other than that we saw only nature. 
 Stag Cottage is tucked away below the tall pines on the right of the photo.
 Returning to the cottage we were delighted to see a Pine Marten feeding on the peanuts we had left out earlier. The cottage looked very welcoming in the pink light of sunset.

As darkness fell, we set up our Trailcam to see if we could capture footage of any night time visitors. As you can see it was a busy night!

The following day dawned bright and sunny and word must have spread about the replenished supply of peanuts, jam and sandwiches on offer on the picnic bench in the garden!
This Pine Marten was our most frequent visitor. We could identify different individuals by the unique markings on their chests.
This one was a little more shy and hid at the edge of the garden, waiting for the first one to bring the picnic! 

The Pine Martens had a definite preference for jam, however I only put it out once as when I saw how this one demolished the whole lot in one go, I thought it seemed all the sugar in jam might not be a good idea for a wild animal. Probably peanut butter sandwiches are not the best thing either? There were no crumbs left though, that's all I can say about that!      
Honestly, I could have spent the entire week just watching these gorgeous little fellas. The nearby oak woods were calling however. More of that in my next blog post. 
Thanks for visiting; I hope you've enjoyed the photos.

More about Stag Cottage and booking options  here...


One For Sorrow at North Walney Nature Reserve

An interesting and unique art installation has appeared at North Walney Nature Reserve. 'One for Sorrow' is described by its creators, Art Gene, as a "non-civic war memorial".
During WWII, Walney Airfield was a designated Air Gunnery School and over five thousand airmen were trained there. It remained in use after the end of the war, as air-gunners were retained for post-war Bomber Command. 
The numbers 1-7, engraved with lines from the traditional nursery rhyme associated with Magpies, have been affixed above the remains of the building which once housed machinery used to raise and lower targets.

 Adjacent to the number one is a plaque bearing a touching message.
Around the other side of the wall a different style of artwork is on display.
A little further along the path, the entrance to the nature reserve has a new gate on which, from a distance, it looks as if a flock of birds has alighted. Closer inspection reveals it to be more work from Art Gene. Cast iron birds painted in army camouflage continue the military theme and a second plaque completes the tribute.
I really liked the sentiment behind this art installation. I do wish the numbers were clearly visible from the path though, rather than having to scramble up on top of the banking to get a proper look at them. Maybe that's the point; perhaps they're meant to be hidden, as the gunners were. I'm not overly keen on the birds either, but I guess that's the nature of "art"; everyone has different taste.

More information about the history of Walney Airfield here and also here. 
More information about Art Gene here.

Thanks for visiting my blog. I hope you've enjoyed the photos. 


How Tun Wood

How Tun Wood, perched above a former quarry, was planted by local residents to mark the Millenium. The wood is planted with native species such as Oak, Ash, Alder and Hazel, amongst others. 
 Despite the ever present cold wind blowing off the Irish Sea, the trees are sturdy and straight. How Tun Woods is developing into a beautiful mature broad leaved woodland.
 Daffodils and Crocus carpet the floor beneath the trees.

 Some of last year's Crab Apples remain on the tree, even as this year's buds are forming.
 A circular stone dias has been placed in an open grassy area, giving views out over the Irish Sea to the west and northwards towards the Lake District.
Velvety brown Pussy Willows, shiny yellow Celandines and pink tinged Black Poplar catkins bring a welcome splash of colour and a promise of new life.
 A mossy nest from last year is revealed amongst the bare branches of a shrub. I wonder what type of bird raised its chicks in it?
A stepped path descends adjacent to the wall of the local cemetery, emerging in a grassy area popular with dog walkers. This whole area was formerly a sandstone quarry. It is thought that Cistercian monks built nearby Furness Abbey with stone from here. In later years sandstone quarried here was used in the construction of many important local buildings.

When I was a child the area was used as the local rubbish tip. We would spend hours rummaging around in there, which might sound strange to some! We made our own entertainment "in those days", let's just say. You would never know a rubbish tip had existed on the spot now though.
 The quarry is now a haven for wildlife including Green and Great Spotted Woodpeckers, Kestrels, Sparrowhawks and Foxes. Several species of pine have been planted at the base of the quarry and birdsong fills the air as you walk along the path which ascends once more to How Tun Wood.
On a clear day the Isle of Man is visible, however on this occasion there was a slight mist out to sea. The former slagbank, now a reclaimed grassy area, overlooks Walney Airfield and the Irish Sea, with its army of wind turbines.

 Thanks for visiting my blog. I hope you've enjoyed the photos!

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