A couple of weeks ago I was in the North of Scotland working at the Balvenie distillery, turning some quaichs at the launch of some very special whisky. Whilst there we took the time to visit some very special places.
On the way up we just had to drive through Glen Quaich. I’ve been turning quaichs for over ten years and only recently found out that there was a Glen Quaich. Seeing it on the map is one thing but what did it look like?
I was ill for a few days and sadly took no photos of our visit to Balvenie but afterwards there were treats in store. We had been told about a place called Reeling Glen near Inverness which is home to some of Europe’s tallest trees. It is very difficult to photograph really tall trees in any way that conveys the true scale. I had a go but failed.
My partner Julia is by the tree in the centre here to show the scale, not as broad as some big old trees but they just don’t taper and go on and on upwards. Most of the trees here were planted in the 1880s and they include the tallest larch in Britain at 157,5ft (48m), the tallest lime 150.11ft (46m), and the tallest Norway spruce at 154.2ft-high (47m) Then tallest of all is a Douglas Fir that is the tallest tree in Europe at 217.10ft (66.4m) All of this is tucked away in a narrow deep glen with a short woodland walk where local walk their dogs unaware of quite how special the trees around them are.
Next stop on the tree lovers tour was Glen Affric to see one of the largest remaining areas of Caledonian woodland. This woodland type with Scots pine, oak, birch, rowan, willow and alder once covered the highlands from coast to coast but most has been cleared to make way for grazing animals. Glen Affric is often described as the most beautiful in Scotland, it is remote and out of the way but sooooo worth the visit.
The billberries finished in Edale 6 weeks ago but there were masses of them here.
This is exactly what I picture when I think of Caledonian woodland. If you have never loved conifers then you need to see them mature in their natural habitat.
This place is home to golden eagles. I had never seen a wild one and spent all my time here scanning the sky. A pair can cover a range of up to 100 square miles.
I didn’t see an eagle in Glen Affric but on the way home passing through Glen Coe I spotted one coming in to land on a rock only 200m from the road. I stopped the van got out and crawled up behind a big rock from where I could watch it from just 100m away, a truly unforgettable experience. When it took off just a few wing beats took it across the glen at astonishing speed. It’s been too long since I was last up here, I will be back.