Three Lochs Forest Drive

We enjoy exploring the areas close to where we live by Loch Lomond. We have our favourite areas we like to go, packing our bags and heading off to relax by the water with Buster. We escape along the banks of the Loch Lomond looking for quiet beaches that few know about, with enough trees so we can put our hammocks up. 

As well as Loch Lomond, we also really enjoy heading out to Aberfoyle. Only a short twenty minute car journey away, there's beautiful forest and tranquil lochs. We especially like visiting the Three Lochs Forest Drive. On the circular dirt-track route, we stop every so often to explore the quite coves of the three different lochs. We find sitting by the water's edge under the trees so relaxing. Buster enjoys exploring too, playing in the water and relaxing amongst the trees.

In the near future we are looking forward to packing our tent, putting the canoe on the roof of the car and heading off to the Three Lochs Forest Drive. We can't wait to find a remote spot to camp and then get out on the water with the canoe and explore the area more, but this time from a different angle. Aberfoyle is now becoming one of our favourite areas to escape to, and we look forward to spending time there when the evenings are lighter and warmer. 

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The Hidden Waterfall

I’ve been to Skye once before and seen all the “tourist” hot-spots, including the famous Kilt Rock waterfall. The waterfall is visited by many, and when I went a few years ago, I remember coach-loads of people photographing it in amazement. I, however was not so blown away by it. The amount of people lingering around, and the railings on the cliff edge, made the experience feel too safe and not wild enough. So, when John told me about this waterfall that was hidden away off the beaten track, I hoped it was more impressive than Kilt Rock. 

Driving along the coast past the Old Man of Storr and towards the hidden waterfall, the light was beautiful, hitting the mountains, and lighting up the cliffs. In the distance you could see the rain rolling over the main land. Parking up we hoped we would be lucky and not get caught in any rain! We put on our rain jackets, grabbed our cameras and jumped out the car. I really wasn’t sure what to expect, but John warned me that I had to be careful not to fall, as to get to the waterfall we would have to do a bit of scrambling down some steep slopes. No safety barriers here - this made me happy! 

 Sunlight sifting though clouds, with The Old Man of Storr to the back 

Sunlight sifting though clouds, with The Old Man of Storr to the back 

After a short walk along a dirt track, we had to jump over some large water pipes. This was the first hurdle! I remember feeling a bit weak and as always, hungry. We had already been up since 6am, seen the Fairy Pools AND walked to Coral beach. So, with not very much elegance, I flung my body over the water pipes and we continued on our walk. 

As we came down the first hill, I spotted the first signs of a waterfall. This waterfall was large and as I approached it, the wind blew water towards me. John called me back to him, telling me that this wasn’t the one we had come to see. This waterfall was already more exciting than Kilt Rock, so I couldn’t wait to see the larger one. He pointed towards the edge of a cliff and then to the side of it, showing me where we were going to walk down. As we approached the cliff, the land formed a steep and narrow gorge. This is what we had to go down! “Do you think it’s safe enough?”, John asked as we peered down the gorge. Taking it easy, and pretending to be a little mountain goat, I began the descent, with John following. 

Reaching the end of the narrow gorge, I could hear a great roar of water and I could see the large waterfall cascading over the edge of the cliff. It was beautiful and powerful, and also quite frightening. The mountainside we were now standing on was a great slope that led down to the bottom of the waterfall. I now knew why I had to be careful not to fall. 

The way the waterfall had formed meant you could stand behind it. The view of the falls against the sea was one that I will never forget. It was a special and magical moment. Never have I felt so tiny and powerless. Once we had finished taking photos from behind the waterfall we walked along the steep slope so we could view it from the front. As we were doing so I noticed people at the very bottom of the river, trying to get closer to the waterfall. It was pretty cool that we were the only ones who were this close. Watching it from this angle was mesmerising, as I found myself getting lost watching the water drop from the lip of the cliff to the rocks at the bottom. 

 Walking behind the waterfall 

Walking behind the waterfall 

 Standing underneath the powerful falls

Standing underneath the powerful falls

After some time watching the beautiful falls, and after me being told off for being too close to the water, we decided to head back to the car. We scrambled back up the steep gorge leaving the waterfall behind us. Walking back to the car it was hard to believe that the most beautiful sight I had seen on the Isle of Skye was hidden awayfrom people so well. For me that’s what made it more special. There were no railings, car parks, coaches, or masses of people. It was just us; small and insignificant in comparison to this large waterfall that had helped mould the coast’s landscape. If I go back to Skye, this would be my first place to go back to in a heartbeat!

Holly x

 A seat with a view! 

A seat with a view! 

 Scrambling up the hillside

Scrambling up the hillside

Sled Dogs

On our last trip to the Cairngorms we noticed a sign for sled dogs, and both being massive animal lovers we knew we had to check it out! So this time when we stopped in the Cairngorms for the night we made sure to visit. 

On the day of our visit we walked up a long dirt road passing through old pine forrest. We had been told it would be a short fifteen minute walk, but we were so excited about meeting the dogs it felt like twice that! By the time we arrived, we were both sweaty and hot, but happy we could hear the sound of dogs barking. We couldn't help notice how cool the place looked, with its wooded cabins and native american woodwork. We loved the feel of this place. It felt like we could easily have been transported to a home in Alaska!

 The view from the cottage as the rain set in

The view from the cottage as the rain set in

 One of the cabins on the property used as a mueseum

One of the cabins on the property used as a mueseum

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 Thought this tree looked cool

Thought this tree looked cool

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We were greeted by Fiona in front of the gate to the dog's yard. We could hear the dogs barking excitedly and we couldn't wait to get in to see them. Peering through the first gate, we spotted our first sled dogs waiting patiently to meet us.

Before we could go inside, Fiona spoke a little about herself and her husband's history with the dogs. It was fascinating hearing how she had spent the last twenty-five years working with the sled dogs and her family racing them. However, after telling us the brief history, she finally let us go and meet the dogs as she could tell we anxious to go inside the dog's yard. 

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We could see that the dogs were excited to see new arrivals and were desperate for our attention as we were led into the dog yard behind the stone cottage. We spent time with each dog, playing with them, and learning a little bit about each one and their unique characters. We were so happy to see how friendly and gentle the dogs were, lying on their backs so we could scratch there tummies and behind their ears. As we walked around we realised we were attracted to different dogs. Some were cheeky, and would put their paws up on your chest and playfully pull at your jacket to get your attention. Others were happy with just a clap. 

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 We shared a moment...

We shared a moment...

 Loved up

Loved up

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 Some of the dogs had amazing blue eyes

Some of the dogs had amazing blue eyes

After we spent some time with the dogs in the first yard we made our way through to where the equipment used for sledding was kept. Fiona talked for a while on the uses for all of the items and told stories of her family's history in racing. We also heard of her journey through the years with the dogs and how she has got to where she is today. She showed us how the dogs are given their place in the team and the board they used to do it. We loved listening to her stories; it seemed she had lived a pretty cool life! After Fiona had finished talking she let us through to the back yard where there were even more dogs.  We loved it, spending time with dogs and taking pictures. That's two of our favourite things right there!

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 Sled workshop

Sled workshop

 Fiona speaking about the sled and the equipment used

Fiona speaking about the sled and the equipment used

 The cables used to pull the sleds

The cables used to pull the sleds

 The boards used to place the dogs

The boards used to place the dogs

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 Lucky poking his head through to say hi

Lucky poking his head through to say hi

 What you say?... Biscuits?

What you say?... Biscuits?

 This is Grizzly, he's from Canada.. he's also just had an op on his ear

This is Grizzly, he's from Canada.. he's also just had an op on his ear

 Number Five... Thats right, her name was Number Five

Number Five... Thats right, her name was Number Five

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 Fiona talking in the museum

Fiona talking in the museum

 Grizzle

Grizzle

 Lucky

Lucky

We were in our element, and after two and a half hours of being there, we were so sad to leave. At first sight of snow we'll be back for a sled ride!

John & Holly 

Reindeer of the Cairngorms

We spent the last few days in the Cairngorms, exploring the mountains surrounded by reindeer.

Dave, the reindeer guide, led us on a short walk up the mountainside to see the famous reindeer that call the Cairngorms home. Walking across a small wooden walkway we looked down to the amazing views of the vast forests below. As Dave called the herd of 30 plus reindeer, they began to follow him, with his bag of food. As they moved a clicking sound could be heard, later finding out that this is the noise of the reindeers' tendons. During blizzard conditions, they use this clicking sound to keep together as a herd. 

 This is Dave our reindeer guide.

This is Dave our reindeer guide.

 Dave feeding the herd.

Dave feeding the herd.

 The view back over the forests.

The view back over the forests.

Standing amongst the herd of these powerful-looking animals with their impressive antlers, we were amazed at how gentle and accepting they were of our presence. Walking among us, while they fed, we admired the texture of their antlers, and the size and shape of their hooves. 

 The furry texture of the antlers.

The furry texture of the antlers.

 A reindeer's large hoof.

A reindeer's large hoof.

We sat for a while on the mountainside admiring the reindeer as they fed beside us. As they finished feeding, one by one, they drifted away from us, further up the mountain and out of site, blending into the landscape. Once the reindeer left, we made our way back down the mountain path towards the forest, admiring the colours of the beautiful small flowers alongside the path.  

 Grazing reindeer.

Grazing reindeer.

 Top dog.

Top dog.

 A beautiful brown reindeer.

A beautiful brown reindeer.

 The herd retreating into the mountains.

The herd retreating into the mountains.

 Heather alongside the trail down the mountain.

Heather alongside the trail down the mountain.

John and Holly x

Glencoe

 

The first place I ever went camping was at Glencoe, in a small campsite called The Red Squirrel, nestled among woodland, alongside a crystal-clear river surrounded by mountains. At the time, this was just a camping trip,  a chance to get away for a few days to the Scottish Highlands with friends. I was unaware that this trip would change the way I saw the world, my plans for the future, and ultimately myself.

 

The first thing that struck me was the giant mountain, Buachaille Etive Mor, as you approach Glencoe. Never having ventured far from home before, seeing something of this size and scale was truly a first for me. As we drove through the glen more mountains and vast glens surrounded us. Stopping to take pictures every few minutes, we spoke about how we had never seen anything like this before, feeling as though we had traveled to another planet. The more I looked, the more amazing things I saw; herds of deer, waterfalls running down the sides of mountains, the beautiful colours of the plants, and small, delicate flowers.

 

After taking pictures and enjoying the views, we made our way to the campsite. On arrival we found a perfect spot beside a large tree to pitch our tent. From it, we had a view of the river running in parallel with the campsite. I remember my excitement when I found we had our own fire pit beside our pitch. After all, what’s camping without the campfire? Taking longer than anticipated, we finished putting up our tent, and set out chairs around the fire to relax. I recall sitting in the quiet thinking how peaceful it was, the only sounds being mild chatter of the few other campers, a man playing his acoustic guitar to his family a few meters away, the sound of birds in the trees, and the river running next to us. Barely speaking, we stared into the fire in a trance-like state. As it slowly got darker and cooler, we headed for the warmth of our sleeping bags.

 

The next day I woke filled with excitement for what the day had in store for us. We sat again beside the fire and ate some breakfast before setting off on a walk to a nearby forest. On our way there, we were stopped in our tracks by a large stag, standing tall at the forest edge. We admired him for a few minutes until he disappeared gracefully into the trees and out of sight.

 

We continued on to the forest stopping beside a small body of water to have a drink and rest. Looking at the views that surrounded us, I remember thinking to myself that this could be the set of an adventure movie as I sat surrounded by mountains and dense forest as far as I could see. We spent the day exploring more of the forest, until lastly making our way up a mountainside to gain a better view of the valley below. As we reached our view point we sat down to rest, taking in the views of the mountains and forest. It was easily the best view I had ever seen. I was filled with a great sense of peace and calm as I looked at the mountains, with herds of deer dotted here and there, the small lochs and a winding valley disappearing into the distance, all while the sun sat low in the sky, bathing everything in a warm golden light. After some time we headed back down the mountain and made our way back to camp to prepare dinner and relax beside the fire once again. 

 

After a walk back through the forest and down a road winding through the hills alongside the river, we arrived back at our campsite, tired and hungry. We set upon building another fire as it had began to get dark. Cooking hotdogs on the stove, we chatted about the amazing day we had, and how lucky we were to live in a country with views and scenery like the ones we had experienced. The other people in the campsite were also laughing and joking around their own fires. Again, the nearby man played his guitar, this time not to his family, just to himself, under a tree, lost in his own music. We sat again staring into the fire late into the night. As the site grew quieter, people headed into their tents for bed, the fires dying out along with the sound of the man’s guitar. Lying in my sleeping bag that night I thought to myself how much I didn't want to leave for home the next day, and how I wanted to stay and explore a few days longer at least. There was so much more I wanted to see and do here. 

 

We woke the next day and began to get ready to leave, taking our time to have breakfast. I was sad we were leaving, but happy having had such an amazing trip. After we had packed the car and began to drive home we had already started planning our next adventure. The feeling I had been left with was one of curiosity and wonder for what else was out there in the world, like this or better. I knew from then on I wanted to, and had to, find out.

                                                                                                                                  

After this first trip to Glencoe, and my first real experience of the outdoors, I have found myself spending most of my time there. I explore other places too - the Highlands of Scotland or even to a nearby forest - all the time with my camera taking pictures of the beautiful things I see in order to share them with others. Glencoe was the perfect place for me to gain experience with my camera, and to this day some of my favourite photos are from this first trip, simply because of the nostalgic memories and feelings of joy and excitement I have of them. For me, a good picture transports you to the time it was taken, and evokes memories and feelings - good or bad. 

 

Since my first time at Glencoe, my whole outlook on life has changed drastically. I find myself looking at life in a different way, in appreciation of the little things all around me. I find spending time surrounded by nature can be greatly therapeutic, a great way to destress and clear my head. Over the years my love for the outdoors has only grown. I find myself planning my future around my love of the outdoor lifestyle, and my passion for photography. I hope to make more memories surrounded by something that makes me feel most at home, nature. 

 

John