Monday, January 25, 2010

The Garrique Cottage on Rabbie Burn's Day

Accompanied by the enchanting voice of Jean Redpath

Looking forward to the Bluest Bluebells in the Beech Woods

....but for now the snow still decorates the ground and the locals recommend wrapping up warm and snug!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Winter Visitors and Local Attractions

The Winter Thrush or Redwing enjoys the feast of frozen berries. A visitor from Siberia he arrives in flocks that can be seen in the bushes and hedgerows all around the farm.

Another winter visitor is the Whooper Swan a beautiful bird that also arrives in flocks from Siberia. One of the great joys of coming across these snowy white birds is hearing the plaintive whooping cry that gives them their name.

One of the most beautiful moments in any day is that last red glow that so briefly lights the sky before the darkness of evening sets in. Be sure to catch your share of these moments. They are always worth while.

The city of Stirling illuminates the historic castle that was the venue for great joy and horrendous drama in days gone by. Now it houses some historic treasures for visitors and historians alike.

It's vantage point on a volcanic crag gives the visitor marvellous views in all directions and it was because of this that it played such a major defensive role during more troubled times. Now, it is both attractive and daunting in its stance.

Another Whooper Swan dabbles in the clear crystal waters of the River Earn that moves around the base of Stirling castle.

Another welcome visitor enjoying the freedom and sanctuary that Stirling offers.

A cheeky Red Squirrel enjoys a fresh snack in the nearby woodlands.

A small herd of young red Deer stags stop to watch you approach before disappearing over the next hill. The red deer can be found on the higher hills in Scotland and are often seen even on the lower slopes of the mountains.

The young 'bachelor' males spend most of the year in groups away from the hinds. They all come together for the annual 'Rut' in late autumn, when you can hear the males 'roaring' at each other trying to stake their claim.

This is a more mature stag and probably the dominant male in the area. The Monarch of the Glen that iconic painting by Landseer can oftimes be re-enacted on the Scottish hills and it never fails to thrill and excite visitors lucky enough to see it.

Remember, bring along a good set of binoculars. In that way you will be able to see the deer from a long way off and you are less likely to disturb them or frighten them away.

The Mandarin duck is still considered to be a rare sight in Scotland but it is becoming a more frequent visitor to our shores every year.

There is plenty of debate on whether they are truly wild specimens or whether they are escapees from bird gardens or sanctuaries.

Either way they are very attractive and very welcome and I, for one, never tire of seeing their beautiful plumage.

Bonnie Loch Katrine a favourite of the great Scottish writer Sir Walter Scott and a loch of seductive beauty.

Visitors are encouraged to take the short boat ride up the length of the loch or to walk along the waters edge, sometimes walking on the shore and sometimes through the trees.

If there is poetry in your heart, Loch Katrine will bring it out.

The near derelict Linlithgow Palace was the last resting place for Mary Queen of Scots before she travelled south to meet her fate.

It is partly surrounded by a small loch called the Peel, a home for water birds and ducks of all sorts.

It is my favourite location to watch the Great Crested Grebe perform their ritual dance in the Spring. A wonderful site and a privilege to be able to watch and enjoy.

The greatest fisher of them all the stately Heron moves with infinite patience through the fast flowing waters. A delight to watch at any time.

Going West or East of Stirling you will find a multitude of lovely sandy beaches to choose from and even if you cannot spend too much time sunbathing in your bikini, the family will enjoy the freshest of fresh air and opportunities for a bit of light exercise and fun.

Your dog may even find he enjoys a change of diet from his normal wind fallen sticks in the park.

The solitary mountain Hare is ever present on the hills and here, he is in his summer clothes. In winter their fur turns a snowy white to allow them to scamper around the hills relatively unseen by predators.

Just a short trip from Stirling you can visit the atmospheric Glencoe, home of the infamous massacre of the MacDonald's by the Campbells. It's a spectacular glen and well worth taking a day out to visit.

At the back of the Garrique cottage lies extensive woodlands, the Gargunnock Heights and the distant hills beyond.

The Fox roams freely in these forests and hills and is often seen near the cottage but don't expect the farmer to be so happy to see him.

The fox has a bad reputation for hunting the farmer's chickens.

They say that a man's best friend is his dog. Well, equally a dog's best friend should be her owner.

This old dog loves being out in the hills. She has spent her whole life working with the sheep that graze there but she is older now and sometimes she gets a bit sore and tired.

So, she appreciates a little lift back to the warm cottage and a good rest. Fortunately, her owner is a good man and is always happy to oblige her.

This may not be the fashion in Paris or London at this time but you will be thankful for a good pair of boots and a thick pair of socks.

The knee-highs are a big advantage when walking through the heather stalks, which will snag and tug at any trouser cuffs left flapping around your ankles.

This is a beautiful view of Ben Nevis looking across Loch Linnhe. Ben Nevis is the highest mountain on the UK mainland and as such attracts a lot of visitors.

People who want to walk, run and climb on it. It can be quite busy in summer and quieter in late autumn going into winter.

Please remember that the weather in the higher mountains can change quickly, so always listen and take advice from the local information providers. They can help you with up to date reports on the hiking conditions and the best routes to take , etc.

Ben Lomond is not as dramatic as Ben Nevis but it is an excellent walk and provides wonderful views of Loch Lomond from the summit.

Loch Lomond and the Trossachs are easily reached from Stirling and the loch is a tremendous location for family activities of all kinds.

After dark you are more like to hear this beautiful Barn Owl than you are to see him, but remember that he does not 'Twit Twoo!' he screeches.

The soft wing feathers grow in such a way that even when the wing is beating it makes no sound.

So, if you are out walking in the lanes around the cottage and you suddenly see a flash of white go past, then that will be the Barn Owl. If you are quiet and patient you may even hear him screech at you.

There are a number of Tawny Owls in the area of the farm and they can be heard 'Twit Twoo'ing in the night. Both the Barn Owl and the Tawny Owl will be hunting mice and voles in the fields.

On a warm summer evening it is always worth walking in the woods behind the cottage to try and hear or see the owls at work.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Pictures around the Garrique Cottage

The View across the Ancient Dry Stane Dyke towards the North West and Ben Ledi

The View along the Ancient Dry Stane Dyke towards the farm and Stirling beyond

The beautiful mossy green walls around the cottage. These mossy bowers are a favourite hunting place for the local Wren and their family ...

.......but then they are Troglodytes but very appealing ones!