Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Day 15 - Rogie Falls and Inverewe Garden

Brekky at 8:30. We’re not in a rush today thank goodness. We’ll just take our time and see what we see.  Hubby ordered his preferred items for a full Scottish breakfast this morning. His brekky looked OK, but nothing particularly out of the ordinary. I pre-ordered porridge which wasn’t presalted so that I had the option. I suspect this batch must have been made with water because it was crying out for salt, so I added some. Not as delicious as made with milk at the Tufted Duck.  Also at brekky today, I tried Walker’s oatcakes with butter. Well they’re good enough for the Queen and they’re made in Speyside so now’s a good time to try them… tasty. Added a little strawberry preserve… OK, better with just butter though.
Hubby pays while I tidy the car which has been getting a bit unruly. All set we give navigational instructions to Billy and we’re off. We’re driving over some ground we’ve covered before on our way this time to Rogie Falls. We’re not the only ones with this idea and there’s a half dozen or so cars in the car park. We sus out which way we’re supposed to go, people seem to be arriving back from both directions. I figure the Forestry Commission must have reasons for recommending a particular direction so we follow the clockwise option. It’s a lovely walk. Especially so, I imagine, for people like us who haven’t seen this sort of mixed woodland before.  I’m oohing and aahing as we descend towards the water and the rush of the falls that fill the forest with their clatter. Some people are coming up the path heading back. “Much going on down there?” I enquire. A man responds with a sullen northern English accented “Not really.” His friend more cheerfully tells me “We saw a few jump” as they pass by and we each continue along. Oh well, if we see some fish that’s a bonus. I’m really enjoying the walk and the pretty rock garden that nature has composed. We don't really need the fish to justify this stop.
Just a teaser...
Down at the falls there’s some lovely stone walled viewing places and a suspension bridge that we can use to look over the river. The falls themselves flow with what looks like Coca Cola as the dark water plunges and froths down the rocks into a dark pool under the bridge. Our first priority is capturing the beautiful scene then we move onto the bridge and start our salmon vigil. I look downstream and see a fish jump. Hubby’s looking upstream and a few minutes later he also sees a fish jump. Maybe it’s the same fish? We concentrate on upstream and in due course a fish leaps again. All goes quiet and we decide to move on. Hubby is pressing ahead. He crosses the bridge and heads uphill. This brings us past the upper part of the man-made fish race that helps the salmon when the water is low… or anytime I guess. It’s incredible that they can make their way up the main falls at any time.  We continue up the hill. I am delayed by a new species of bee. I photograph the little rascal and hopefully we’ll be able to figure out what he is using the bee chart we photographed at Pitmedden Garden.
Hubby’s gone ahead of me and I catch him up as he gets to a road that this track joins to. Which way he says. I check the photograph I took of the map back at the carpark. Not this way. The track we’re supposed to be on is on the other side of the suspension bridge. Back we go. At least it is all downhill. We spend some more time watching the salmon, Hubby from the bridge and me from the side where I can see under the bridge. Most of the leaping seems to be going on under the bridge and I see about another 6 leaps in the time I stand there, which is not very long. Maybe 10 minutes. Most fish seem of modest size but one of them was much bigger. It’s not like watching a David Attenborough documentary where apparently massive hook-jawed beasts leap and wriggle in slow motion up the torrents. That would be the Olympic Sport equivalent of salmon watching. This is just your moderate local school games where every competitor gets a certificate for participation.
We pull ourselves away, me conscious of the time and noticing that Hubby has gone to sit down. We sus out the track and make our way back to the carpark. This second half of the track is less even than the first part, so if a level surface is needed it would be wise to backtrack. Hubby manages OK and we reach the facilities hut with relief.
Part of the beautiful glass artwork in the covered hut at the end of our Rogie Falls walk
We set out on the longest drive we’ve done this trip so far. We’re heading to Inverewe Garden the long way on the A832 via Little Loch Broom. The weather is holding at the moment and it’s generally overcast but dry.
It’s a pretty business-like drive in the main with only a few actual stops. The road meanders though the glens between green and rocky hills. Up past a large dam wall where the wit of the local inn almost tempts us to stop for some lunch of their dam fine food.

We do stop properly at a parking area on Little Loch Broom where the tide is at a low ebb, exposing the brightly coloured seaweed, toned precisely to complement a little stone cottage....
 ...and again at a wide sweep of sandy bayside at Little Gruinard Beach.  There’s lots of cars parked and a coach with it’s luggage bays open repacking what appears to be a very elaborate beach picnic set up. Folding tables, crates of beer, heavens knows what other paraphernalia they carted out onto the sand. They all look pretty cheerful so they've obviously enjoyed it despite the iffy weather for picnicing. The sign says this is a good place for marine wildlife. Seals and other creatures are to be found. I do the sensible thing and retrieve my binoculars and scan the beach. No sign of much today as far as I can see. Just a dead, um, perhaps Mackerel fillet, on a post.
 We move along and just enjoy the scenery until we reach Inverewe Garden.
It’s two o’clock by now so high on our list of desirable activities is to check out the restaurant, all proceeds go to support the work done here by the National Trust For Scotland.  We decide to share a serve of roast vegetables and pasta bake which comes with accompanying vegetables and potato. The café is virtually deserted by now and we can take our pick of tables. It’s not a hard choice. I take the table by the window next to the bird feeder.  The pasta is good. Better with a bit of salt added. We gobble up while we watch a couple of birds around the feeder and head in to see the garden.
Inverewe Garden is a temperate garden. There are plants in the collection from all over the world, many of them things that do well in Sydney, where we are from, so before coming I was wondering how much of interest there would be. The Snow Gums have a sign on them for people to sniff the air and smell the eucalyptus. We do, but I can’t smell much eucalyptus today. I don’t remember snow gums as the most fragrant of our eucalypts but I guess beggars can’t be choosers. There’s a lot of tree trimming work in progress and a fire down on the rocks seems to be dealing with the refuse and producing copious quantities of smoke in the process. Luckily the breeze is taking it away from the gardens. 
Hubby suggests we just walk to the furthest point and make our way back. I’m a bit dubious about the wisdom of that given his foot but decide to just cooperate. Seeing a man emerge from a gap between the hedging I take his spot and find a wonderful overhead view of the walled garden.
Next I’m keen to see the NZ Christmas bush in full bloom, promised by the man who issued our tickets. We follow the directions given and find the bush no problem. Flowering has all but finished. This is on the one hand disappointing. I'd have liked to see a Southern Rata blooming without being eaten by feral possums, but on the other hand reaffirming because I was surprised it would be in full bloom at this time of the season. I’d have thought it a bit late. Correct apparently. 
At the far end of the lawn on a ragged yellow flower, we find another bee. It's a fairly cooperative bee and I photograph him from every angle I can so we can be sure we have all the diagnostic features to identify it.
Immediately above is a beautiful clematis in bloom. 
We walk out to the high point which has views down Loch Ewe, well, it kind of does. I suspect that Osgood Mackenzie might have had the trees and bushes that are now obscuring the views trimmed or removed. The view is not that great, spoiled as we are from our drive and recent holiday experiences.  We rest a little while at the lookout, Hubby sitting on the bench seat provided. "Turn around slowly" he says calmly. We have a visitor.
Osgood Mackenzie was an interesting character. I read 100 Years In The Highlands in preparation for this visit. His childhood memoirs and those of his father and uncle are fascinating. Unfortunately Osgood’s memoir rather deteriorates into a long listing of the pointless slaughter of thousands upon thousands of game birds from various highland estates. It’s astounding the number of birds that they shot (and still shoot) in a day. Osgood records the demise of literally thousands of brace in a day. Then the gobsmacking obtuseness to read on as he bemoans that where once there was an abundance of game, now there is none. You reckon? Seriously. It’s quite depressing as it goes on. He never seems to have gained any insight on the subject.
Anyway, as we explore the beautiful garden that Osgood created and his heir expanded I think of the vast sum all the stonewalling and other infrastructure must have cost. We’re heading now to the jetty, pausing for thought at the little sign for the Kid's Trail, or as Hubby instantly named it "The Pied Piper Trail". It appears to lead nowhere but over a cliff. 
A steep way ahead prompts us to go an alternative route to save Hubby's foot, past the lily pond and past a giant Gunnera with its enormous leaves. It’s taller than Hubby and he helpfully provides scale for our comparison. We make our way down beyond to the Jetty. Nothing much to be seen there.
We go in search of the herons reputed to be nesting near the jetty but we don’t find those either. Hubby is getting footsore and I think we have the general gist of the gardens now. As we walk back I read the map brochure provided and conclude that their advice for a short visit makes a lot of sense. Time over I’d just do that: Check out the walled garden; enjoy the views from the lawn in front of the house and a few short add ons. We make our way back up over a hill and down the other side.  Scotland anywhere seems to be a great place to improve your fitness. It’s stairs and steep slopes up and down all the time. Luckily we don’t mind the activity but it is tiring. The gardens themselves are open until 9pm but we won’t be needing that. We check out the gift shop and come close to supplementing our music supply but in the end get too frustrated with the listening arrangement and I give up in disgust.
We have saved the best part of the drive to last and head to Loch Torridon via Loch Maree stopping here and there along the way to enjoy the views. Some of the parking areas have the overgrown lookout problem and there’s one that was pretty funny as it leads us down off a high viewpoint down to the water’s edge through twists and turns. BBC 2 radio is playing The Beatles v Elvis top 50 and we’re enjoying the countdown as we wander on a magical mystery tour from the parking area sign down a little lane beyond someone's home, round a corner, past a derelict shack. We're laughing by the time we get to the actual parking area. It seems more than usually appropriate to have Ringo talking about Yellow Submarine as we go along this afternoon!
There’s not much opportunity for error in our route and we have no trouble finding the Torridon Inn. We are blooded as we have our first real engagement in the midge war as they discover that I have brought them one of the world’s tastiest humans to feast on. We retreat defeated to our room. It’s nigh on 6pm or thereabouts. We’ve said 6.30 for dinner. We just want it over with so we can chill out.
Dinner tonight is at the on-site restaurant. We skip starters and go straight to the main course. Hubby: Venison sausages with chick pea and bean cassoulet. Moi: Char-grilled Tamworth Pork Chop with mustard mash, seasonal vegetables and apple sauce.  Extra sides of creamy mash and onion rings. Dessert. Hubby: Raspberry and Strawberry Cheesecake served with raspberry Sorbet and berry coulis. Moi: Rhubarb and Apple crumble served with vanilla ice cream.  The dessert tipped it in my favour and I took the crown, although it was a cheat's crumble with the topping sprinkled on afterwards rather than fruit and crumble all cooked together. The cheesecake wasn’t very nice and was easily outdone by the accompanying raspberry sorbet which was pretty special and full of raspberry flavour. 

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