Hiking in the Highlands

During our Scotland vacation Pam and I spent some time in the Highlands. It was sunny and green. We had long days (sunrise around 4:30 am and sunset around 11:00 pm). On the drive from Edinburgh we stopped and admired the hills.

An HDR photo from the Highlands.

An HDR photo from the Highlands.

The first night we stayed in Fort Augustus at a lovely B&B. We were right at the end of Loch Ness, which made me happy. The next morning we went out hiking. The trail wound through the forest at the base of the hill. The forest was a mix of conifers and hardwoods; many of the hardwoods were planted in rows for harvesting.

The Highlands lowlands forest.

The Highlands lowlands forest.

The trails we hiked were a combination of logging roads, narrow paths, and open ground. Each was a fun experience. Some of the conifer-rich areas smelled like Christmas.

The logging road in the conifer forest.

The logging road in the conifer forest.

In some of the dappled shade there were brilliant rhododendrons.

A rhododendron under the trees.

A rhododendron under the trees.

The forest had many ferns beside the winding trails. I was in the back of the line, taking pictures.

The winding trail under the evergreens.

The winding trail under the evergreens.

Many of the tall conifers were arrow straight.

Looking up to see the sky through the trees.

Looking up to see the sky through the trees.

We found a little opening in the forest that afforded us our first sweeping view of Loch Ness. So cool. The Scotch broom was a brilliant yellow (you’ll see more of these).

A Loch Ness panorama from the trail.

A Loch Ness panorama from the trail.

We posed with Loch Ness.

We posed with Loch Ness.

At the upper bounds of the forest the bracken ferns were impressive.

Bracken ferns by the forest.

Bracken ferns by the forest.

As the terrain switched from forest to high elevation peat bog the ferns played a prominent role. We picked our way through the maze. Matt served as a scout, looking for good footing in the bog. Much of it felt slightly spongy but solid. Occasionally a foot would be swallowed up–I was thankful that I re-waterproofed my boots before this trip.

Hiking through the bog (ferns).

Hiking through the bog (ferns).

The mosses were very cool.

Mosses in the peat bog.

Mosses in the peat bog.

We decided to hike toward the highest point we could see on the hill, hoping for a view of the valley.

Our fearless leader scouting for a path across the bog.

Our fearless leader scouting for a path across the bog.

Our hiking to the peak led us through a logged area. Old parts of trees littered the ground. The harshness and bleakness of the tree remains contrasted with the green carpet and blue sky. It was beautiful.

Bog hiking through fields with evidence of logging.

Bog hiking through fields with evidence of logging.

There were thistles in the bog, fitting for Scotland.

A thistle and butterflies in the bog.

A thistle and butterflies in the bog.

From the peak the view of Fort Augustus and Loch Ness were spectacular. We tarried to admire them.

Loch Ness and Fort Augustus viewed from the top of the ridge.

Loch Ness and Fort Augustus viewed from the top of the ridge.

On the way out of the bog I saw a tree and a foxglove side by side. It reminded me of the Fox and the Hound. They’re the best of friends. Right now the foxglove towers over the tree, but those days are numbered.

The Fox and the Hound II.

The Fox and the Hound II.

The trail continued to delight us as we lost elevation. Scotch brooms became common. They were vibrant, even brighter than forsythia. Stunning. The trail took us right through the yellow sea.

The trail through the Scotch broom.

The trail through the Scotch broom.

Highlands Hiking 6 sf

Highlands Hiking 7 sf

Highlands Hiking 8 sf

A posed hiking picture.

A posed hiking picture.

We saw a blind worm by the trail (also called a slow worm). However, it is not a worm at all–it is a lizard!

Highlands Blind Worm sfWhen we got back to Fort Augustus we feasted on strawberries. Later that night we celebrated Lauren’s birthday at The Boathouse restaurant on Loch Ness. I had haggis for the second time.

The next day we drove to Inverness, then to Drummond Castle, and on to Aberfeldy.

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