The Flow Country

The Flow Country is an incredibly rare wildlife habitat, found in just a few places in the world. It’s location in the very far north of Scotland means it doesn’t get too many visitors and today I believe we had the entire vast space all to ourselves.

The Forsinard Flows has barely changed in 6000 years according to those in the know. The layer sof dark peat below the mosses one sees on the surface contain a detailed 8000 year archive of plant remains, preserved pollen and ash from volcanic eruptions from Iceland.

Peatlands are fragile habitats yet the peaty black lochan water is studded with tiny flowers, buzzing insect life and moths, whilst the still water reflects the big sky overhead.

Most stunning of all in autumn is the rich seasonal red and golden hues of the sphagnum moss in contrast with burnished yellows and browns of heathers and grasses.

The colourful carpet of bog mosses is the powerhouse of a living bog. They act as a sponge and can hold eight times their own weight in water.

I am so pleased we made a special effort to get to Forsinard today. You should visit too, but there’s no desperate rush as it’ll be a goodly while yet I reckon.

A dash to Orcadia for a story

Next week I’m off to the Orkney Storytelling Festival. It has been organised by an islander friend of mine, the Stromness Dragon of Island Blogging fame.

Logo for the OSF

On announcing to The Sainted Marion yesterday that I’d decided to definitely drive up she elected to come too!  So we’re making a real trip of it, although we’ll only be aware from home for a total of six days.

Besides seeing the Stromness Dragon again (its been far too long!) and attending various festival events, its an opportunity to get reacquainted with Orkney. We last visited in June 2009 en route for Shetland and had just under 48 hours there so this time we’re really pushing the boat out and getting close to 60 hours!

En route there we’re going to cross off a couple of places I’ve wanted to visit for quite some time. Firstly the Strathnaver Trail in Sutherland, the scene of the worst of the infamous 18th & 19th century Highland Clearances, and then (not a million miles further on) the RSPB’s Forsinard Flows reserve on the edge of Caithness’s Flow Country. I’ve visited the Flow Country before but it’ll be a first for Marion, and I’ve wanted her to see if for as long as I’ve known her.  At this time of year it should be really quite special –  the rut is in full swing, and with the landscape in full swing autumnal colour extravaganza I’m sure we’ll both get some great pictures.  Then we’ll head for Thurso to catch the Stromness ferry.

On the return leg we’ll stop off in Golspie on the southern Sutherland coast to visit Dunrobin Castle, seat of the Dukes of Sutherland.  For as many years as I’ve been visiting Scotland (and that’s about 30 now) I’ve never yet managed to visit Dunrobin during its opening season, but next weekend we’ll be putting that right – finally.

And then it’ll be the long slog home ….

Achiltibuie bound

In twenty minutes’ time (3am), Marion will awaken and our summer adventure will begin!

This morning we are setting off on a 739 mile drive north to Achiltibuie in Wester Ross.

We’ll be deviating from the usual route to visit Galloway Forest Park and the Burrell Collection in Glasgow.

We’ll be rendezvousing at the Burrell with my cousin Stephen Landon who has come over from New York to holiday with us. I’m really looking forward to showing him around Wester Ross and Sutherland – he’s not been north of Edinburgh before today.

During our week overlooking the Summer Isles we will visit Lochinver, Kylesku, Kinlochbervie, Durness, Ullapool, Gairloch and Applecross.

We’ll be popping in to see John & Caroline Wales at Tigh Ruaraidh. Stephen specifically wants to see it’s location.

At the moment the weather isn’t looking promising up there but we don’t mind much. Just one sunny day is not too much to ask though!