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U3A Photo Group One - May 2019

by Hilary & Yvonne - 13:24 on 03 June 2019

It was at 7.15am on a warm, dry and calm morning that our group of 14 met at the pier in St Margaret’s Hope to set off on a 2-day trip along the Caithness and north Sutherland coast with an overnight stay in the Ben Loyal Hotel in Tongue. The crossing was perfect and we disembarked at Gills Bay in 4 cars, the plan being that each group would travel independently.  This worked out fine.

St John’s Pool was a popular stop and for those of us who had not been before it was amazing. Many species of birds were photographed from the hide – Terns, Gulls, Coots, Oyster Catchers to name but a few.  In a small Lochan near Scarfskerry we watched Swans leading their Cygnets slowly through the water and spotted a Heron and Kestrel flying overhead.  Another group saw Puffins up at Dunnet Head.  Further along the coast a Buzzard was sighted in the Melvich area.  Over the 2 days Tim reported seeing at least 40 different bird species including an Osprey.

The further west we went the more stunning was the scenery, calling for frequent ‘photo stops’. The unspoilt beauty of the landscapes and seascapes and clean stretches of golden sand will leave a lasting memory and will have been captured many times on camera.

Sandra had a picture in her mind of a special place visited some time ago which we went in search of.  With the spectacular Ben Loyal and Ben Hope mountains towering high in the distance to our left we turned right after the bridge crossing the Kyle of Tongue. Three miles along this road we came across the idyllic spot. The harbour at Talmine is well worth a detour from the main road. A haven of peace and tranquillity.  A picnic was enjoyed here and time for reflection in this picturesque bay with a scattering of houses on the hillside.

Another popular stop was at Lotte Glob’s croft by Loch Eriboll. Here you make your way through a vast area of rough ground discovering her many ceramics set under and around all the trees and bushes that she has planted and across bog and heather. Lotte, a Danish Ceramist, has been working on the north west coast of Sutherland for 50 years.  Her gallery and studio exhibit her years of work in a wide range of styles.  A very special place and a ‘must visit’.

By early evening we met up for drinks before enjoying a meal together and sharing our highlights of the day. 

True to the forecast it rained for a good part of the next day but this did not dampen spirits. After a hearty breakfast we took some time to share the photos of the trip to Burwick and Steve’s chosen theme of ‘Peace’.  There were a number of very good images of the interior of St Peter’s Church, notably the old church organ. The ‘Peace’ theme stimulated much discussion!  There were lots of peaceful pictures including peaceful people, peaceful babies and peaceful places. The one that caused the most comment was the man lying on a fence asleep waiting for his plane to land in Barra on the sand. How did he not fall off when he turned over? Maybe the plane arrived just in time!

Then it was off on the road again.  A popular venue in the morning turned out to be The Craft Village at Balnakeil. The Village is a small artistic community converted in the 1970s from a disused military camp to a creative community of artists and crafts people. Here a particular attraction was Cocoa Mountain where they serve delicious hot chocolate drinks and handmade chocolates.

By the time we headed back along the coast the rain had stopped.  Some of us ventured down into Smoo Cave and some visited the Strathnaver Museum in Bettyhill where the main theme is the tragic story of the Highland Clearances.  On our way back, from Barbara’s car, we simultaneously spotted a roe deer running across the road and a cuckoo flying overhead.  For the unfamiliar bird spotter this was a rare treat!

All too soon it was time to head for the boat. Our drivers did a sterling job on these  single track roads which we passengers much appreciated.  We now look forward to hearing the highlights from other groups and sharing photographs of our 2-day venture along the NC500.  A superb trip with superb folk – many thanks to you all!




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