If you’re planning on holidaying to the West coast this Summer, then you might want to consider a day trip to Staffa and Lunga. Turus Mara are now running day trips throughout the Summer until October with an all-in-ticket that includes ferry passage from Oban to Craignure, on the Isle of Mull where you are then taken by minibus directly to Ulva Ferry. For those worried about sea-sickness, it’s only the last 10 minutes of a 50 minute journey as the boat enters more exposed waters that might be cause for concern and that’s only if you are below deck. But don’t worry, there is a toilet on board! Better still if you can, try and bag one of the sixteen seats on top deck even if it means elbowing some school children out of the way.
The awesome hexagonal ballast columns on Staffa greet you as you come into port (although the Captain of the Hoy Lass ferry assures us that there are in fact at most only seven sides to the columns). You are given an hour on Staffa which is just enough time to climb the steps to the top and eat your packed lunch with views of Iona Abbey and the Treshnish Isles, free of the worry of tick bites as Staffa has no deer or bracken for them to hide. This lack of bracken is sure to be a hit with Scottish wild flower enthusiasts or in fact any Highland inhabitant as they will tell you that the amount of bracken has grown significantly in recent years with the steady decline of grazing and crop planting. So don’t mention the ‘B’ word to any locals you might meet. After lunch, there is still have enough time to walk back down and precariously edge your way to hear your echo in Fingal’s Cave before taking the boat onwards to Lunga.
Lunga will tick your bird-watching boxes with a large population of puffins, guillemots and shags. However, for birds that have colonised an uninhabited island, the puffins seem rather sociable as you’re able to get within a few feet of their cliff-top nests. We were also lucky enough on the day to spot the fin of a basking shark in the bay and a couple of seals on the rocks on the way back to Ulva Ferry. Day-trippers to Mull are bussed back to Craignure just in time to catch the 7pm ferry back to Oban.
I thought life in the countryside would consist of being woken up by cockerels not cows. Our neighbouring farmer has moved them to the field next to our house and the closest thing I could describe their mooing sound to is like a foghorn. Or at least it seems that loud at 6 o’clock in the morning.
Around here they are allowed to roam across the roads so if the scenery isn’t enough to make you want to go at a slower pace, then let the Highland cows be reason enough to drive more cautiously. Our local farmer told us that some of the more romantic bulls have been known to trample down fences during mating season so we can see why they have chosen to give up on fencing them in.
The fact that their are two large, spiked horns coming out of their heads may seem intimidating yet they are generally timid animals so you needn’t worry if you want to get out of your car to take a passing photo. In fact they are more likely to be nervous of you and may gallop off if you get too close. One word of caution though, if you are out walking and approach a group of them, do go around them not through but around as some new mothers can be protective of their calves!
A cargo of 19 sea eagle chicks arrived at Edinburgh airport from Norway this weekend as part of a 30 year project to re-introduce them to Scotland.
The sea eagle plays a large part in bringing tourists to our part of Scotland, the West coast where there is now a healthy population, even though all sea eagles in the UK were raised in Fife on the East coast. Just remember if you spot one whilst driving and want to stop to get a better look, to pull into a parking area and not a passing place.
When we first moved here we had no knowledge of birds and would often look up at common buzzards assuming they were eagles. It was not until we actually saw an eagle that we realised the difference in size between the birds and what idiots we had been. You will definitely know when you see an eagle because quite simply, they are huge. No wonder then that the chicks are the size of your average Christmas turkey.
A number of operators are now running wildlife tours although sightings of the eagles can never be guaranteed. In fact, any sighting of the sea eagle can be reported to the RSPB on 01463 715000. In the mean time the RSPB website has an osprey ‘nest cam‘ complete with sound which has now made it to our ‘favourites’ links just for relaxing purposes!