Stags And Crags

My first morning as a married man started by me burning the croissants that Hannah had brought. Using an Aga takes a bit of practice it turns out. But after people had found food I hadn’t turned to charcoal, we head off to the coffee bothy again. Kevin and Sonya had kindly offered to show us their Highland coos.

Anna was already there ready to go when they rolled up in their landrovers (everyone cool up here has one, don’t you know). We were very surprised when Kevin pulled out and presented us with a full set of stags antlers. It’s an incredible gift and will go pride of place on our mantle piece – just as soon as I can work out how to mount them.

We were saddened to hear that between now and our last visit, Odin the bull had to be put to sleep. He has twisted his ankle badly and when you weigh 2.5 tonnes, that’s enough to stop you from moving and functioning completely. It was very sad as he was a beautiful beast. Kevin and Sonya were very upset about it as they love their animals and are very proud of the care they give them.

But they were ploughing ahead with their plans to create prize winning cattle. We saw their newest addition in a stand getting groomed, ready for showing over the next few months. And just behind that was a small pen with some orphaned lambs. Once Casey had seen this, she was besotted. Picking up a little lamb, she cuddled it for nearly the whole time we were there. Mike better watch out she doesn’t adopt one! Its testament to their care, that all the animals are very friendly and gentle and happy to see us. But they were a little worried about Buddy, as he was super excited to see sheep this close up.

Next we head up to the fields to feed the deer. Again, Kevin pulled off the road and trundled over the grass in the shadow of Dun da Lamh before stopping and yelling for them. He got a big bag of feed over his shoulder and walked around in a semicircle pouring it out on the floor. After a hesitant start, they all came over and tucked in, no more than 10m from us.

Kevin explained that all the stags had lost their antlers recently and were now growing new ones. All their heads were covered with lumpy growths covered in soft velvet. At this point they are very delicate and so when there is a disagreement between them, they normally just size each other up, rather than fight. That comes later after they have fully grown and shed the velvet. We don’t know which one, but in the heard was the stag that dropped the antlers we were gifted.

Thanking Kevin and Sonya again for the tour and all their hard work yesterday, we set off for Pattack Falls. This was just down the road and a nice short visit of a great big waterfall. Here buddy decided to have a poop but without any bins, we had to hang it off the ball hitch of the landrover. It just swung around till we found somewhere to dispose of it!

Our main stop of the day was Creag Meagaidh National Nature Reserve to walk up to the loch. It was only 5km so we bashed it out in just over an hour. It was a great walk that started steep but then levelled out for the majority of the distance. It curved around the contours of the hills into a dish where the loch sat surrounded on all sides by steep rocks and heather slopes. Buddy was having a great time bounding over the tussocks all over the place. He always came back but we basically spent the whole walk shouting at him.

Once at the loch we had a wee nip of rum in toast to the wedding day going perfectly to plan. Perhaps this is why a couple of people were emboldened to head further up the path. There was an obvious route up to the saddle between the hills. I don’t think anyone other than me knew how slow, steep and rocky it would be, but they wanted to try.

About half way up people started to flag. But by this point I was ahead and relatively close to the saddle. I had estimated it would take about half an hour to get up there and I was bang on, for my pace. Nathan and Casey had seen some unmelted snow and took off up towards the base of the crag looking for it. But just before he got there, Nathan’s fear of heights kicked in and he realised just how steep the ground was and how high up they were. He ended up clinging onto the grass while Casey stood there calmly, singing the lord of the rings soundtrack, saying “comon mr frodo, we’re nearly there..”

By this point I was within pissing distance of the saddle, so I wanted to see what was there. Buddy had abandoned Casey and come after Mike and then after me looking for the front of the group. I was nervous he would take off and I’d not be able to catch him, so kept feeding him treats and he stayed close. Over the top was indeed a beautiful wide view across heathery plains. It wasn’t the summit, but it was a view and now we knew it only took about 3 hours to get here, we can come back and get to the top without too much drama. Even still, the walk down was now a slow one for me and mike, being the furthest up the rocky climb, and our knees both knackered. 

We got back to the car and found out it was 7pm, so it had been a long day. I’d got food planned and mostly bought but we needed a few more bits so everyone piled into Aimi’s car while Mike and I headed off to the Co-op to get a few more things. Supplies secure, we told the girls we were on the way back to the house and to start prepping the food. I got a call shortly later and found out I’d already used yesterday the chicken I meant for this meal. So just as we arrived in Dalwhinnie, we had to turn around and go back and get more Chicken. Mike was starving by this point so he was not best pleased, but the fagitas we made were worth it in the end.