Another beautiful autumn day dawned so after completing some work in Inverness we drove back and parked at Dores beach which was almost full up with people enjoying a lunchtime meal in The Dores Inn. We thoroughly enjoyed walking along Dores beach on the pebbles and then turned right in to Torr Woods. We noticed alot of the overhanging branches and prickly bushes had been cut back and there is now a new secure gate leading in to the woods with a passing gate. Met one or two people with their very energetic dogs carrying branches of various sizes and passed the time of day but mostly we were on our own in very peaceful and colourful surroundings. There are a few small secluded beaches on this walk which lead down to the shoreline of Loch Ness so we stood and relaxed for a while admiring the wonderful panoramic views.
On the return journey we had previously noticed a newly made forest track leading down towards Loch Ness so we explored this further and sure enough it opened up onto a very rocky but picturesque shoreline. It is not possible to walk along the shoreline unless you want to get very wet so we followed a man and his dogs along a new lower forest footpath and came out at the end of the crescent shaped Dores beach. The weather was beautiful and we enjoyed an excellent walk in the November sunshine.
The mother roe deer and her fawn are frequent visitors to the grassy bank leading down to Loch Ness. After the rain of late the vegetation must be very succulent, certainly the youngster seems to be enjoying its taste of wet grass.
This week we have had a family of roe deer come to visit, a male with antlers and a female with their fawn which must have been between two to three months old.The roe deer are one of Britain's native species and are most widespread especially in Scotland.The family have been happily munching on the grass on the front bank and I did manage to take some photos earlier in the week. Yesterday evening they were further along the bank opposite the front door which I carefully opened camera at the ready. We've recently had a new glass panelled front door put in which is very quiet to open - no more squeaky hinges. Just as the mother was licking her fawn and the camera was poised for a cracking shot the phone rang and they all sped off freaked out by the noise....and it wasn't even an important call after all.
Driving back from Inverness we decided to go home the long wayround so we drove down the A9 to the Daviot turn and took the right hand single track road towards Fort Augustus. We were very surprised to see so much heather on the hills as it is usually blooming in mid to late September. It looked very colourful and the sheep adding another dimension to the scene. Several new passing places have been built along the road and this earth movement has woken up some of the wild flower seeds adding a beautiful splash of colour to the road side verges.
Sit back and watch the dolphins at Chanonry Point coming in on the rising tide. About 10 seconds into the film you'll see a fish,possibly a salmon, being flicked up out of the water by the dolphin before eating it. Our guests are going dolphin watching today so hopefully lots of action photos for them to take home as a memory.
We have recently discovered the secret of just when to be sure of seeing the pod of bottlenose dolphins at Chanonry Point opposite Fort George on the Black Isle. Although we have been many times before we rarely see them except for the odd fin rapidly disappearing under the water.
In a local news booklet a nature enthusiast wrote that the secret is to be at Chanonry Point about one and a half to two hours after low tide. This is the prime time when the smaller fish come in on the rising tide and naturally these are pursued by the hungry dolphins.
We had to chose a day when the low tide times and the weather were just right. Yesterday it was a bright day with a slight warm breeze and the low tide was at 9 am. We left home just after 9 and drove on the A9 over the Kessock Bridge and onto The Black Isle. Turned off right at Munlochy,although you can drive up further to the Tore roundabout and turned right,through the village of Avoch on into Fortrose. Drove on passing the Coop on the left and just opposite the Police Station we turned right down a narrow lane leading through the golf course and down to the car park at the coast - which was surprisingly almost full up at this early hour.This is about 33 miles from Aspenwood and a one hour journey. We sat at the picnic tables with our breakfast and then walked round to the beach where there must have been a crowd of nearly 100 people armed with cameras and binoculars waiting for the show. Sure enough the pod of dolphins were already coming in on the tide and gave a marvellous display lasting a couple of hours. Even saw a mother with her calf swimming side by side and staying very close together.
People on the special dolphin viewing boat were treated to a great display alongside.
An excellent visit and we are so fortunate to be able to see these magnificent creatures a short drive away. We now print out the tide times and leave them in the cottage in the information folder on the desk by the laptop. I am now working on the video which will be posted soon.....so watch this space.
Ray and I really enjoyed our 40th Wedding Anniversary on Sunday and the sun shone. It was a bit too windy to go down to the beach so we sat outside and toasted our health and talked about old times. It was just as well we were home as several of our neighbours suddenly drove up armed with cards and beautiful gifts and an impromptu party began. It was a lovely surprise as were all the cards and emails we received over the weekend....so a big THANK YOU to everybody. We were really thrilled and enjoyed sharing our day.
The last blog was about 'new and old' which links in very well to this one. This coming Sunday - the 14th of August - we celebrate our Ruby Wedding Anniversary of 40 years together. We have been thinking of lots of ideas as to where and how to celebrate but we both agree that as we live in such a beautiful, comfortable setting we shall stay put and enjoy the special day here at "Coopers Castle". If the weather permits we shall start by having lunch on the beach with smoked salmon and champagne and then go gradually, but elegantly, downhill from then on. Found this old photo of us in our first flushes of married life when we were both young and in love....and still are - although maybe not quite so young! CHEERS EVERYONE.
Good news.....the new Tesco has opened on time and is extremely useful for us and for our guests staying at Aspenwood Cottage. It is the nearest big store, about 16 miles away from the cottage, and is situated at the end of the Dores Road at the first roundabout. Although it is not as big as the Tesco 24 hour store at the Inverness Retail Park on the outskirts of the city it is very handy for essential shopping as well as for petrol. On the way to this Tesco you will drive through the village of Dores, about 8 miles from the cottage. This village is situated at the eastern end of Loch Ness and has a long crescent beach and the much frequented Dores Inn - a popular restaurant for guests.
The latest news is that the lease holders have unveiled plans to build a major new tourist development in the adjacent car park. Although the historic Inn is in need of repair it will not be pulled down but possibly adapted for residential use. They have plans to construct a new restaurant, pub and a shop selling local meat, preserves and souvenirs as well as community essentials in a single storey stone building with archways at the front overlooking Loch Ness. The planning application is not expected to be lodged until later this year so do not worry - Dores Inn is still open for good food and drink. Between Dores Inn and the new Tesco you drive past the long winding entrance to Aldourie Castle on the left. The original building dates back to the 15th Century but there have been many alterations and additions over the years. It was purchased in 2004 by new owners and they have just completed a £10million restoration of the 57 room castle.It is now open for business as a destination for holidays,house parties and corporate functions and rents out at about £21,000 [+VAT] per week. Needless to say that Aspenwood Cottage is slightly cheaper.
We have been experiencing a glorious week at Loch Ness with high temperatures and beautiful blue sky days. After working flat out at Lower Birchwood - sanding and staining the window frames and sills - we have escaped and enjoyed a more relaxing time on the beach,sitting on the seats and watching life go by with something refreshing to cool us down ..... just great.
This has been a very good year for seeing the red squirrels up close. Guests can sit in the lounge of Aspenwood Cottage and look out of the large 9ft picture window to watch the red squirrels run from surrounding Farigaig Forest, along the platform fence to the various feeders opposite the window. Open the windows to get some good photos....if they are hungry they will not run away. We do leave extra food in the laundry shed out the back as the feeders will need topping up during the week with peanuts,sunflower hearts,peanut granules and suet balls. The squirrels do have to share this bounty of food with all the various birds and pheasants and they all seem to tolerate each other politely. The bird bath is used by all the creatures and is washed thoroughly every week to keep all the wildlife healthy. The 'Nut Fund' is going well so thanks to all guests who have contributed by taking home a bookmark. We also have regular visitors who come down to our feeders outside Lower Birchwood House and between the two properties I think we are keeping the species thriving.
Although the weather looked rather ominous we decided to take a journey round Loch Ness, something we had not done for some time. Driving over the mountains and down to Loch Tarff the clouds began to look quite angry.
This is the scene featured in the film 'Local Hero' where they had to stop the car for the night as it was too misty to see the road.
The rain was falling in Fort Augustus but that did not deter the tourists and it was very busy. Drove through Invermoriston and soon we could see our house opposite with Aspenwood Cottage nestling above it in Farigaig Forest. This photo shows just how easy it is to walk down to the Loch Ness beach below.
We soon passed Urquart Castle jutting out onto the loch and then drove through the bustling village of Drumnadrochit with the various Loch Ness Exhibition Centres with overflowing car parks. The rest of the journey along the loch shore and through Inverness was very pleasant and it was about a 70 mile trip from door to door. A good day out.
After a wet weekend the weather has now improved and it feels more like summer at last. It was a very unfortunate period for the Scottish Open Golf Championship held for the first time at Castle Stuart just outside Inverness as the play had to be delayed and even stopped due to thunderstorms. They were eventually able to finish the golf on Sunday and it was won by Luke Donald. Castle Stuart is holding this event for the next two years so fingers crossed for more positive climatic conditions in future years so the world over can appreciate the true beauty of the Scottish Highlands. Since the golf finished the weather has improved and we have been enjoying blue sky days and sitting outside watching wonderful sunsets in the evening with a wee dram.
Due to a late cancellation there is now a week available this coming August.
The week of Saturday 6th August to Saturday 13th August 2011 is now available at the price of £980.
This amount will have to be paid in full due to the proximity of the booking.
This week can be booked via our booking system on this website and paid by Direct Bank Transfer or cheque. Alternatively please feel free to phone us [ 01456 486415 ] and we will do the booking for you and give you any more information if needed.
A wonderful chance to enjoy the magic of the Scottish Highlands and the'Aspenwood Experience'.
The new Tesco store on the Dores Road at Drumblair is very near completion and is due to open on Monday 18th July. We drove past it today and were amazed at the speed things have been progressing. This store and petrol station will be so handy for us and our guests as it now the nearest one to Aspenwood.
The weather was fine last week so we packed a picnic and drove to the coastal town of Nairn on the Moray Firth, a journey of about 38 miles and took one and a half hours at a leisurely pace. We drove just beyond the town and headed for Culbin Sands. This is a RSPB Nature Reserve owned by the Forestry Commission and contains a variety of habitats - a long stretch of sandy beach covered in shells,sand dunes,tidal sands, pools,salt marsh,mud flats and Culbin Forest. This area is ideal for different species of wading birds all year round and we saw a mixed collection on the sandy spits and several grey herons. After a peaceful walk across the marshland, through the dunes and along the long unspoilt and empty beach we drove back to the seaside town of Nairn and enjoyed a picnic on a bench looking out to sea. The weather was terrific and there were many brave swimmers in the water and a huge ocean cruise liner drifted by in the distance.
In the early evening we are often visited by a pair of young deer who kindly munch away at the grass on the front bank. They are not easily frightened by our presence...in fact they are quite curious and just stand and stare at us and then carry on munching. The juvenile great spotted woodpeckers are now allowed out on their own but are very easily spooked. A new hatch of siskins and chaffinches has fledged and will hop about innocently on the ground so we have to sometimes carefully walk round them. They seem to enjoy the bird bath and will splash about for ages ... just like any youngster.
Plenty of red squirrels chasing each other around the tree trunks and trying out all the food at the various feeding stations. Had three in the garden this morning and this one was quite surprised by the large blackbird which suddenly landed next to it on the bird table...which is meant for birds !
Worked hard at Aspenwood on Saturday with our new pressure washer - cleaning all the flagstones around the cottage and the steps....what a difference! They came up as good as new and we could now see the embossed pattern on the flagstones again. Also sprayed the feeding fence and made it alot cleaner for the birds and squirrels. Sat outside in the evening after supper and witnessed a most amazing sunset..our reward.
We have noticed that there are not so many pleasure boats out on Loch Ness this year, either hired cruisers or private yachts. The weather cannot be to blame as it has been quite pleasant generally so it must be a sign of the times.
We have also observed that The Ness Express has not been operating as fully as previous years [it is now in its third year]. Several of our guests have taken the exhilarating journey on this RIB from Fort Augustus to Urquhart Castle and back and enjoyed the experience immensely. We often give the driver and passengers a wave as they zoom in front of the house and sometimes we even get a wave back.
We enjoyed a day out last week at the Highland Wildlife Park at Kincraig near Aviemore, about a 50 mile trip from Aspenwood Cottage.
We especially [OK - mainly me] wanted to see the two new Scottish wildcat kittens born in late March. This is the third litter for the proud parents Hamish andSeasaidh.
The parents were naturally very protective and did everything our own tame cats do....fiercely mewing when we got too near their kittens, scratching on the tree trunks with their claws and even chasing birds that happened to come too near their open enclosure.The Scottish wildcat is one of our rarest native mammal species and there are less than 400 Scottish wildcats remaining in the wilds of the Highlands. The breeding of endangered species is a very important part of the ongoing programme for the park which is linked to Edinburgh Zoo especially for conservation purposes. A lot of building work was going on and there were many new large open enclosures, new wooden viewing platforms and wider pathways being built by the army who were in full smart uniformed force. We enjoyed a picnic at one of the many tables available. A good day out and lots of photo opportunities.
There were many other fascinating animals to see although the new polar bear 'Walker' was in hiding. He was selected to live in the Highland Wildlife Park from the Netherlands as his sister was giving birth again and they had to be separated. The original older resident polar bear at this park 'Mercedes' had to be put down for health reasons due to old age. A new female polar bear from Bulgaria is expected soon and the enclosure is now the biggest in the world..what an achievement.