Trip report - west Scotland

29th October 2013
Dates: 24th to 28th October 2013

Destination: west Scotland



Purpose of trip:

This was a short 5 day 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.

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.

Getting there and getting around:

I travelled up to Glasgow by Virgin trains on 24th October 2013 and returned on 28th October 2013 having obtained an extremely good value advance return ticket for £50. 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 morning of 25th October 2013 to the afternoon of 28th October 2013 from Budget for £76.64 reduced by 11% Quidco cashback to £68.21.

On the night of 24th October 2013, I stayed at a Travelodge in Glasgow.

On the nights of 25th, 26th and 27th October 2013, I stayed at Heatherbank Guesthouse just outside Strontian. Heatherbank Guesthouse is situated in an ideal location for travelling around Ardnamurchan and Morvern and is highly recommended given the excellent standard and value for money of the accommodation provided.

This is a summary of my itinerary and route:

25th October 2013: Glasgow – Loch Lomond – Crianlarich – Tyndrum – Rannoch Moor – Glen Coe – Fort William – Kinlocheil – Corran ferry – Sallachan – Strontian – Polloch – Strontian

26th October 2013: Strontian – Garbh Eilean – Salen – Glenborrodale – Kilchoan – Ardnamurchan Point – Kilchoan – Salen – Strontian – Polloch – Strontian

27th October 2013: Strontian – Lochaline – Kingairloch – Strontian – Garbh Eilean – Salen – Glenborrodale – Kilchoan – Sanna – Kilchoan – Salen – Strontian – Polloch – Strontian

28th October 2013: Strontian – Garbh Eilean – Strontian – Corran – Glen Coe – Rannoch Moor – Tyndrum – Crianlarich – Loch Lomond – Glasgow

Weather:

There is one short word that describes the weather experienced .... wet!

The majority of each day was characterised by drizzle and heavy rain although there were also a few brief dry spells and even briefer sunny periods.

The weather experienced at Sanna was particularly noteworthy with very heavy rain and hail, very strong winds and a very rough sea, quite different from the experience some years ago on a very quiet day, bright sunshine and stunning sandy beaches and turquoise sea.

The weather unfortunately made photography a non-event but it did not unduly affect wildlife watching.

Highlights:

During my short trip, I was able to record 47 bird species (a reasonable total for such a short trip and given the weather and time of year) and 6 mammal species.

Trip list - west Scotland

With regard to birds, I was able to add Golden Eagle to my 2013 list, a species that I missed during my June 2013 trip to north Scotland.

The other noteable birds seen were White-tailed Eagle, Hen Harrier, Common Buzzard, Sparrowhawk, Kestrel, Raven, Hooded Crow, Great Northern Diver, Whooper Swan, Gannet, Kittiwake, Razorbill, Cormorant, Shag, Goosander, Red-breasted Merganser, Heron, Curlew, Oystercatcher, Dipper and large flocks of Fieldfare and Redwing.

With regard to mammals, the highlight was undoubtedly a sighting of a Scottish Wildcat between Heatherbank Guesthouse and Polloch. A minor road runs from Strontian over the hills and through forest to the small settlement of Polloch. Whilst driving very slowly along this narrow and remote road one night, I spotted movement ahead at the edge of the road. I moved slowly forward and in the bright beam of my torch I was able to see a very large brown/grey and black striped cat with a thick stubby club tail disappear off along a track away from the road and in to the forest. Momentarily it stopped and turned round to look towards me but then it continued to move off in to the darkness never to be seen again!

The Scottish Wildcat is critically endangered but Ardnamurchan is believed to be one of the remaining strongholds. More information on Scottish Wildcats can be found here ....

Scottish Wildcat Association

Highland Tiger

The other mammals seen on my trip were Otter (2 at Garbh Eilean and 1 at Camus Torsa), Red Deer, Atlantic Grey Seal, Common Seal and Feral Goat.

Unfortunately despite 3 separate evening drives in different locations, I did not see a Pine Marten although I have seen this mammal on a previous trip to Ardnamurchan and also in other parts of west and north Scotland.

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