Ardtornish Day 15

Dawn saw me in a river trying to coax some detail out of a flat, grey sky with cloud so low it seemed you could almost touch it. Heavy and leaden, it was not long before the temperature rose to just above freezing and snow started to fall. I confess I’m not a great lover of capturing precipitation in any form, frozen or wet. It doesn’t suit my ‘style’. However, with it blowing around, I had no choice.

After breakfast, we mustered the ‘rufty-tufty’ extreme gear and with Allen looking decidedly unsure about the prospect, set off up into the high mountains to get some shots above the snow line. We parked up in Glen Tarbert in the foothills of Meall a Bhainaiche a peak that stands guard to a cauldron-like, high escarpment. From where we were, we could just see a stalker’s path clinging to the side of the slope leading into the ‘cauldron’ so, with our gear readied and snow whipping in, we set off. First thing was to cross a river and then we searched-out deer tracks to lead us up through the tree line and the steeper ground beyond.

We picked up the path and carried on up into the high glen, taking it gently so as not to overheat and start sweating. This can be really uncomfortable, especially when you stop and start to chill down. We eventually reached the point where the trail levelled off and we carried on into the glen with the wind smack in our face. This meant deer would not pick us up easily and so we got pretty close before a small herd saw us approaching. Charlie was getting over-excited and straining at his leash. Musky deer scent was thick in the chilled air and he was standing on his hind legs, looking around frantically and whining.

A little farther on I got the camera gear out and, once again, battling snow flurries, got some images of the high mountains. Allen had hardly said a word all morning and I knew he was a bit worried about going high. But as soon as I announced I was done and that we could ‘about turn’ he was a different man. He chatted away happily on the way down and remained animated for the rest of the afternoon, no doubt happy to still be alive!

The rest of the day was absolutely spectacular. For me, it was the Highlands at their very best! The Lake District looks nice in Summer but the magnificence of The Highlands is complemented by the stark winter colours and brooding atmosphere. The low cloud had lifted higher and thinned into long, drawn-out skeins that stretched across the sky from horizon to horizon. The light was smooth and even, and the wind had dropped leaving icing mountain lochs mirror calm and the sea lochs millpond calm.

Taking the fabulous looping coastal road that leads directly back to Ardtornish, we spent the afternoon driving along slowly and gaping in awed wonder at the breath-taking scenery. With every turn and crest, a superb array of spine-tingling views were laid out before us for our private appreciation for, other than farmers, we did not see another soul. Every mile or so, I had to stop and take a handful of shots. At one particular location that looked across Loch Linnhe to distant snowy mountains, I worked away with eyes brimming at the incredible scene I held in the viewfinder.

I had to take my time here as the atmospherics were changing minute-by-minute. Therefore it was nearing sundown when we reached the road that climbed back up from the coast to cross the mountains. Up here it was other-worldly. Low light levels and the rich colours in the sky and landscape blended together. I was hoping to get some snow and ice shots but nothing could have prepared me for what I saw just a few hundred yards off the road. Where the water levels had dropped - due to the ground freezing - the ice that had formed to covered the surface of Loch Uisge, had been left suspended by tufts of coarse marsh grass and marginal. Where it had no support it drooped, undulated, sagged and cracked, creating a truly ethereal landscape that I hope my images go some way in capturing. You can view the results of a fantastic winter’s day in The Highlands in my Highland Winter gallery in my Portfolio.

As for tomorrow, we’re off up to Crosben bothy where we are spending three nights high up in a remote glen. Therefore it will be Sunday before I can post my blog updates and new images. If the weather forecast is correct and we get a big snowfall, they should be pretty good so please come back and catch up.