Eas Mòr: Chasing Waterfalls in Scotland
Monday, 10 September 2018 10:02
A few months back we treated ourselves, after years of camping and caravanning, to a motorhome. Affectionately known as The Big Van (as opposed to René, who is The Wee Van) our 1992 Fiat Ducato Knaus motorhome is as old as my son, but is a big comfy and reliable bus for our adventures. For this, our first proper break this year, we chose to go Chasing Waterfalls - against all the advice!
Our adventure started on the Cowal Peninsula, after an unplanned ferry trip from Gourock to Dunoon. We’d planned to visit a fall on the Dunoon side of the peninsula, but were camping on the Otter’s Ferry side, at Glendaruel.
Quite unexpectedly we came across our first waterfall of the trip whilst walking the dog. On the old road behind the campside is the Home Farm estate and part of that includes a woodland walk including a series of waterfalls. It was raining on and off that evening, so it was lovely to discover something beautiful tucked away in the hills!
The falls were an easy walk and not far from the road.
The following morning, a beautiful late summer’s day - warm and bright with sunshine - we travelled back across to the Dunoon side of the peninsula. There we visited Puck’s Glen, a Victorian made walk alongside the stream Eas Mòr. At times the walk was reasonably strenuous, but the views were etherial. I was in my element, surrounded by trees and following the tumbling waters.
From Argyll we worked our way up to Oban. We camped near to the beach and I was intrigued by a species of seaweed and collected some that had broken free of its roots. Although I hadn’t taken very much in the way of art materials, I was able to experiment with the seaweed, using it like a parchment paper.
We had planned to see the Falls of Lora at Connel Bridge, but the right tides weren’t expected until the end of out week. We saw whirlpools as we crossed the bridge, but little else and didn’t stop. Instead we made our way up to Ullapool in the Highlands. Not having planned this particular stopover we contented ourselves with a tour of the harbour (Grant) and one of the art galleries (Julie).
One exhibition we both enjoyed was the ‘Memorial' exhibition of Ullapool artist Peter White at An Tala Solais Gallery.
The exhibition was deeply moving, containing images of and on behalf of people who had passed away; some naturally, others during times of war.
From Ullapool we travelled even further north to Durness - just about as far north as you can go on the mainland! We camped overlooking the famous and award winning Durness Beach on the Sango Sands campsite. The weather was again glorious - we were very lucky to be getting such gorgeous weather in September!
We planned to stay for two nights at Durness, so I had time to get the watercolours out! Our first night was spent just gazing at the view and we were treated to a delicate sunset which I struggled to capture in time.
The following morning was again glorious and we walked in the morning up to Smoo Caves to see the waterfalls there. Our route took us up out of the village and gave us this view. Again, I tried to capture it in watercolours, although I was using my sketchbook and not watercolour paper.
Smoo Caves were quite tricky to get to, with a near vertical descent with some rather large steps, but well worth the trip! Sadly recent rainfall had meant that the boat trip into the third cave had been cancelled, but the two that we did get into were magnificent!
Whilst at Durness we also visited the gallery of photographer Kevin Arrowsmith and also the Balnakeil Craft Village. Kevin’s views of the countryside around his Highland home were stunning and he was happy to chat about the ups and downs of gallery ownership! The craft village was home to quite a few artists and crafters and is definitely also worth a visit. I’m afraid that I didn’t get to visit each or meet everyone, but there’s only so much a patient artist’s husband can endure (and I knew that the limit had been reached!)
We left Durness in misty rain, which was appropriate - it would have been harder leaving it in sunshine - and began our longest journey, from Durness to the Black Isle.
Throughout our journeys between stops I’d been fascinated by the magical colours of the heather and the autumnal ferns - to the point that I kept making Grant slow the van down so that I could photograph them. I’m not sure that the pictures do justice to the colours, but I need to encorporate those into a future painting!
The journey across to Thurso was twisty for a motorhome, with mostly single track roads and a lot of traffic - especially cyclists. This was the longest part of the journey, by far! As we drove I captured flashes of images which I hope to use in collages. I can’t wait to open these up on my desktop and see the real potential of them!
We called in at Shin Falls on the way down country, which were inland of Lairg. Although I couldn’t get down to the river I was able to capture shots of the salmon leaping, which was fantastic. I purposely left my “Big Camera” behind, so most of the photographs here were captured on my iPhone or my Fuji Finepix.
We carried on down to the Black Isle, for an overnight stop at Rosemarkie. The following morning we headed for the Fairy Glen, another managed woodland walk which starts at Rosemarkie shore and heads inland, past a real fairy village.
Our next stopover proved difficult as, unbeknown to us, the Highland Games were happening in Pitlochry and every campsite for miles around was fully booked! As for the Black Sprout Falls, well we couldn’t get near for a low bridge and a distinct lack of car parking space. Eventually, after a lot of driving around, we found space at Killin.
I’m a huge believer in karma and the fact that we’d struggled to find room at any inns along the way was reversed when I discovered that there was a waterfall at Killin, just a mile’s walk from the campsite! The Falls of Dochart are a succession of gentle falls over rocks, so longer than they are tall. I was amazed to see negative Trip Advisor comments because people didn’t class them as waterfalls (apparently if it doesn’t look like Niagara, it’s not a waterfall!) One reviewer said it and the village wasn’t worth a detour, but I think that they are very, very wrong!
Our holiday was a huge success, a combination of adventure and relaxation - perfect for us! I’ve come away with a head full of ideas and inspiration and a folder full of images which I can use in all manner of ways. I really can’t wait to get started!