Trip report - west Scotland

14th September 2014
Dates: 6th to 13th September 2014

Destination: west Scotland



Purpose of trip:

This was a week long trip to western Scotland, specifically the Ardnamurchan peninsula, a long, narrow peninsula along the north shore of Loch Sunart which includes the most westerly tip of the UK mainland, and Morvern, the area between Loch Sunart and the sound of Mull. In addition, it was an excellent base for day trips by ferry to the islands of Mull and Skye.

The purpose of my trip was to hopefully see White-tailed Eagle, Golden Eagle, Otter, Pine Marten, Scottish Wildcat and much more.

In addition, weather permitting, I hoped to be able to take some photos of landscapes.

Primary target areas:

The primary target areas for wildlife watching and/or landscape photography were the Ardnamurchan peninsula and Morvern plus the islands of Mull and Skye.

Getting there and getting around:

I travelled up to Glasgow by Virgin Trains on 6th September 2014 and returned on 13th September 2014 having obtained an extremely good value advance return ticket for £42. As usual, I booked my return ticket via redspottedhanky.com and by using Tesco clubcard vouchers on this website, my ticket cost me nothing .... a bargain!

In Glasgow, I hired a car from the afternoon of 6th September 2014 to the afternoon of 13th September 2014 from Europcar for £119 reduced by 15.75% cashback to £100.

The islands of Mull and Skye were reached by Caledonian MacBrayne ferries from Kilchoan to Tobermory and from Mallaig to Armdale respectively.



My base for the week was Portuairk, a crofting township at the western end of the Ardnamurchan peninsula overlooking Sanna Bay and the islands of Skye, Rhum, Eigg and Muck and the most westerly settlement on the UK mainland.

Accommodation for 7 nights was ”The Bungalow”, a particularly imaginative title!

Apart from being a base for daily trips, the location of the accommodation also provided an opportunity for wildlife watching with daily views of variable numbers of Gannets and Shags plus additional sightings of Kittiwakes, a single Manx Shearwater, several Common Seals and most excitingly a single (or possibly 2) Minke Whale.

This is a summary of my itinerary and route:

6th September 2014: Glasgow – Loch Lomond – Crianlarich – Tyndrum – Rannoch Moor – Glen Coe – Fort William – Corran ferry – Strontian – Salen – Kilchoan – Portuairk

7th September 2014: Portuairk – Salen – Strontian – Lochaline – Kingairloch – Strontian – Salen – Kilchoan – Portuairk

8th September 2014: Portuairk – Kilchoan – ferry to Tobermory (Mull) – Dervaig – Calgary – Loch na Keal – Loch Scridain – Loch Don – Craignure – Tobermory – ferry to Kilchoan (Ardnamurchan) – Portuairk

9th September 2014: Portuairk – Ardnamurchan Point – Sanna – Portuairk – Salen - Strontian – Polloch – Strontian – Salen – Kilchoan – Portuairk

10th September 2014: Portuairk – Salen – Acharacle – Lochailort – Fort William – Kinlocheil – Strontian – Salen – Kilchoan – Sanna – Portuairk

11th September 2014: Portuairk – Salen – Acharacle – Lochailort – Mallaig – ferry to Armadale (Skye) - Sleat peninsula (Tarskavaig loop road) – Broadford - Strathaird peninsula (route to Elgol) – Broadford – Sligachan – Carbost – Sligachan – Broadford – Armadale – ferry to Mallaig – Lochailort – Acharacle – Salen – Kilchoan – Portuairk – Salen – Kilchoan – Portuairk

12th September 2014: Portuairk – Salen – Acharacle – Lochailort – Moidart – Acharacle – Salen – Kilchoan

13th September 2014: Portuairk – Kilchoan – Salen – Strontian – Corran ferry – Glen Coe – Rannoch Moor – Tyndrum – Crianlarich – Loch Lomond – Glasgow

Weather:

In stark contrast to my trip to the Ardnamurchan peninsula in October 2013, the majority of each day was characterised by warm but hazy sunshine, very light winds and only very brief periods of drizzle.

Highlights:

During my trip, I was able to record 71 bird species (understandably less than my June 2014 total of 105 species given the departure of summer migrants), 12 mammal species and 1 amphibian species.

Trip list - west Scotland

With regard to birds, I was able to add White-tailed Eagle (4 on Mull, including 3 together off Gribun) and Golden Eagle (2 on Mull and 1 on the Ardnamurchan peninsula) to my 2014 list, having missed both species during my June 2014 trip to north and west Scotland.

The other notable birds seen were Great Northern Diver, Red-throated Diver, Slavonian Grebe, Fulmar, Manx Shearwater, Gannet, Shag, Heron, Eider, Goosander, Red-breasted Merganser, Hen Harrier, Common Buzzard, Peregrine, Kestrel, Oystercatcher, Ringed Plover, Dunlin, Bar-tailed Godwit, Curlew, Common Redshank, Greenshank, Kittiwake, Sandwich Tern, Guillemot, Razorbill, Black Guillemot, Rock Dove, Stonechat, Hooded Crow, Raven, Twite, Yellowhammer, Reed Bunting.

With regard to mammals, the highlights were a single (or possibly 2) Minke Whale off Portuairk and between 5 and 10 Common Dolphins from the Mallaig to Armadale ferry crossing.

The other mammals seen on my trip were Otter (2 off Camus nan Geall near Kilchoan on the Ardnamurchan peninsula and 1 off the north shore of Loch na Keal on Mull), Red Deer, Fallow Deer, Roe Deer, Common Seal, Field Vole, Rabbit and Feral Goat. Unfortunately despite 3 separate evening drives, I did not see a Pine Marten or a Scottish Wildcat following my successful sightings of both during my October 2013 trip to the same area but several presumed Natterer’s Bats and/or Brown Long-eared Bats and Common Pipistrelles were caught in the car headlights.

A single amphibian was seen: a Common Frog which hopped out to settle in the centre of the road and which had to be gently coaxed to complete it’s journey to the other side!

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