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Issue 19 - Wild nature at its best

Scotland Magazine Issue 19
March 2005


This article is 13 years old and some information provided may be time sensitive. Please check all details of events, tours, opening times and other information before travelling or making arrangements.

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Wild nature at its best

Glen Affric in the Highlands is an outdoor enthusiast's delight. Our not so outdoorey Editor Dominic Roskrow went for a look

About 60 seconds. That’s how long it took us to realise that we’d made a terrible mistake.

All the clues were there: the children were rolling down the mud bank in front of us laughing manically as their clothes turned from smart light blue to dark, dirty, muddy brown. I was free-skating just behind them and heading towards a large tree. And my wife was standing on one leg, umbrella arm outstretched, in an undignified attempt to stay balanced. She failed.

Then our guide, now well ahead on the treelined pathway, turned and without even the trace of amusement – I was watching carefully for it – said: “in the olden days women from the English gentry wouldn’t have had to do this. They’d have been carried down.”

What a let down for our national pride! We weren’t dressed for it, simple as that: but I’m a sucker for a good waterfall, and in Glen Affric there are a couple of crackers. So when we were offered the chance to see Plodda Falls in all its glory, well… And a bit of rain wasn’t going to put me off – in deed, all the more water to fall, I thought.

But there’s rain and there’s rain, and this sort had turned muddy forest paths in to living and moving downwardly mobile masses. Going down is undignified and messy. Coming back up… well let’s just say that Plodda Falls had a lot of live up to. And it did.

To be fair, a sense of perspective is needed here. On a fine summer’s day the trip down to the waterfalls would be a breeze, given that even in such inclement circumstances are three year old coped pretty well.

And I could have stayed all day at the bottom, gazing up at the silver motorway of water, feeling the power and vibrancy of the spray, immersed in the sounds and smells of the forest .

It’s quite probable that you don’t know Glen Affric; and if you don’t you’re not alone. One suspects though, that those who have discovered it return time and time again. Even on a very wet winter Sunday when no other living creature is venturing out, it’s still a wonderful and stunning slice of natural Scotland. You find it by driving up from Glasgow to Fort William, turning off towards Loch Ness and then turning left.

It is one of three glens – Cannich and Strathfarrar are the others – which form a region of outstanding natural beauty that is certainly under-rated. This is untamed country, a mass of lochs, rivers and munros ideal for lovers of the great outdoors.

There are walks to suit all levels of ability, some wonderful bird watching points – and plenty of sporting opportunities.

But they tell us that the best of all is the opportunity to spot wildlife. I say ‘they tell us’ because no sensible red squirrel was venturing anywhere the day we visited it. But on clearer days several species of birds of prey can be spotted, the Scottish crossbill lives here, and otters, blue hares, pine martins and the red deer are all natives.

Local businesses in the area are working together to make the region as tourist friendly as possible, and with the area placed so close to so many of Scotland’s other attractions - Skye and the North West coast are easy distances away for instance - it’s an ideal base to explore from. We’ll definitely be going back.

But with wellies and anoraks next time.