As a family we have just spent two weeks in Scotland enjoying the delights of the outdoors and mountain scenery in the North West Highlands. We camped at Glenbrittle, right by the Cuillin mountains and a lovely sandy cove on the Isle of Skye. Then we rented a farmhouse on the west coast of the mainland in an area called Torridon.
The campsite was a fabulous garden itself, full of wildflowers and long grasses, the cliff tops were crammed with wildflowers and there was fantastic vegetation on all of the lower slopes of the mountains. My son managed a number of 4/5 hours walks uphill. He learnt to identify deer track. He smelt bog myrtle, felt how soft cotton grass was and added sundew to his list of carnivorous plants. His shell, crab and rock collection was extensive. I came across geum rivale, Water Avens, for the first time and we all learnt to identify the different types of shells collected.
Our farmhouse was on the Coulin estate right in the middle of Torridon and next to the Beinn Eighe (pronounced ‘A’) Nature Reserve. The first national nature reserve to be set up in the country in the 1950s. This meant we have the luxury of walking in the estate from 3 miles in whereas other walkers had to start their walks from the entrance to the estate. One of our walks passed a mountain bothy. Bothys are maintained by a charity, the Mountain Bothies Association. They describe the use of a bothy as camping without a tent. The one in Torridon was called Easan Dorch (The Teahouse) and is unusual as it is a relatively recent bothy. Most I have passed and stayed in have been converted cottages or barns. This was very cute and actually looked similar to a children’s playhouse. It is very small but would be a great place for children to stay overnight. All bothies are also useful also a lunch stop on a rainy day or when you need to avoid the midges.
On the non-walking days we fitted in two visits to Scottish gardens. I was intrigued by Attadale Gardens in Strathcarron, Wester Ross as it had been voted Gardeners World Magazine readers 1st choice of Scottish garden and best day out for kids. The garden is hidden well from the road and is full of natural planting and bridges and small pathways some forming secret passages especially in the water garden. It has a fantastic giant sundial and is full of sculpture. The cheetah and chameleon were my son’s favourite. Mine was a piece of rock engraved with the words ‘Life is not a rehearsal’. They had a great display in the self service tea room with maps of the world showing where all the plants in the garden had come from.
The National Trust for Scotland’s garden at Inverewe is a must for a visit. Its highlight is the walled garden. It really is to die for as it is a walled garden with the most spectacular views. Go and see it just for this.
Back home and we find that the strawberries have ripened, the carrot seedlings planted close to the house have disappeared, and something has been eating our onions – I thought they would be slug proof.