Wildlife and wild swimming in Scotland

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We had a couple of days where we could explore a bit in the Highlands of Scotland, before our house sit actually began so we took the opportunity to explore a bit further afield than our base since we don’t like to go too far away when in charge of pets (even if the owners say it’s ok!)

The weather in Scotland was absolutely stunning, gorgeous sunshine and still days.  Not what you expect huh?

So the first day, which happened to be our 100th day of travelling – woot! – we headed to visit the dolphins at Rosemarkie.  We’d seen them there before and it’s probably the best spot in the UK for seeing dolphins without having to take an expensive boat trip.

We timed our arrival for about an hour before high tide (could have been after – I always forget) and it worked really well, we saw loads jumping and swimming around.  Always feels pretty special!

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Photo taken from the shore with a camera phone – not the best but shows how close they come!

The day after was even more full of wildlife.  Ospreys to be exact!  Ospreys have been breeding in Scotland for some time now and they are such magical birds.  We also get them in England, but I’ve never been lucky enough to see one.  Scotland seemed the best place to try, but every time I’d been to Scotland it was Autumn and after the birds had migrated.  Since the timing was right this time I really wanted to see if we could get to the reserve and spot one.

The reserve we went to was the RSPB Loch Garten reserve.  It’s situated in the Cairngorm region and by some lovely lochs (more on those later).  The actual reserve is very small, with a visitor centre and viewing area.  It’s all really well set up, lots of binoculars and scopes to look through and plenty of volunteers on hand to ask questions to.

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Watching osprey antics!

We’d arrived at a pretty exciting time.  There had been two osprey chicks and one of them had fledged the nest a few days earlier.  There was still one chick in the nest and the adults were around as well.  We managed to get some great views of both the chick and the adults.  The chick was trying his hardest to get ready to fledge too with lots of flapping of wings and lifting himself out of the nest only to come back down.  There was quite an atmosphere in there as we were all willing the little guy to be brave and set out in to the big world.

It was probably only about 15 minutes after we’d arrived, but we eventually DID manage to witness the osprey chick fledge!  After lots of false starts and thinking about it he set off and had a proper fly away from the safety of his home he’d known all his life.  We were all cheering and feeling so privileged to have witnessed such a special event!

We spent a further bit of time learning about ospreys at the centre before heading back to the car.  it was a VERY hot day.  We’d seen some people who had pulled up with a camper van by the loch, a van not too unlike Gloria, and we were slightly jealous we hadn’t got our van.  The family had gone swimming in the loch and we wanted to do that too.  I suggested we had a bit of a paddle to see how it was, I didn’t have spare clothes for a proper swim, but it was one thing I *really* wanted to do in my life.
(We’d got this book before we left and it reignited my desire to do lots of wild swimming – click to see it on Amazon.  They also have versions for many other countries!)

The water was so warm, I couldn’t believe it.  I looked up and saw Scottish hills all around and we were in this perfect temperature loch!  We all had fun paddling and James and I decided to fetch the car nearer to our spot so we could hang out there a bit longer.  James and Marcus got really brave and did some proper swimming in the loch since they could swim in their underwear without too much hassle, not so for Alex and I!  We just paddled, but had a fantastic time doing so.  At one point I saw a huge fish just by my foot but it swam off before I could show the others.

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Wishing we’d brought a change of clothes!!

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The boys enjoying wild swimming in Loch Garten

It was the perfect end to a perfect day.  James still cites his wild swimming adventures as the best day on the entire trip.  It certainly was wonderful to watch the smiles grow from such simple pleasures.

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Kirsty Bartholomew

Kirsty has been getting lost around the world for over 30 years and writing about it for 10 of those. She loves to explore the UK and Europe and has a particular penchant for historical sites.

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