Post date: Tuesday 2nd January 2018
Everytime we drive over the bridge to The Isle of Syke and pass the sign for the Gavin Maxwell Museum we say to ourselves, "we really must visit this place sometime". We both remember as children watching the Ring of Bright Water and being deeply moved by Gavin's story of his love of otters and life in The Highlands. So one sunny day in June 2017 we headed out from Mallaig over the seas to Skye to visit the museum and get a better insight into the life of Gavin Maxwell.
The Museum is situation on the wee Island of Eilean Bàn, midway between the mainland and the Isle of Skye, and is open Monday to Friday during the summer season for pre-booked tours. Gavin Maxwell, bought the cottages on Eilean Bàn in 1963, though only moved into them in 1968 after fire tragically destroyed his cottage at... more
Post date: Thursday 23rd November 2017
Earlier this year we headed out on The Jacobite steam train from Fort William to Mallaig. Often described as one of the most scenic railway journeys in the world, our journey on this historic steam train did not disappoint.
The steam train journey along the West Highland Railway is very popular so we made sure that we booked early in the year to secure two first class seats on our chosen date in mid June. Over the peak summer months there are two return journeys each day, departing at 10:15 and 14:30 from Fort William. The journey to Mallaig takes two hours and ten minutes including a 20 minute stop at the historic Glenfinnan station. We had an hour and 45 minutes to explore the small fishing port of Mallaig before embarking on our return journey to Fort William.
We caught the 10:15 train... more
Post date: Tuesday 4th April 2017
As you might of gathered by now, we're big fans of bumblebees, dragonflies, butterflies, moths, slow worms, frogs, red squirrels, wildcats and just about everything else you might find in the Highlands, even horse flies if they are golden and do not bite us; biodiversity is the spice of life after all...
Ever keen to learn more about wildlife in the Highlands, we headed up North earlier this week to Inverness to attend The 2017 Highland Biodiversity Conference. It was our first visit to Great Glen House, the headquarters of SNH (Scottish Natural Heritage) and the start of a delightful day.
After coffee and a warm welcome we learnt something about the history of The Highland Biodiversity Action Plan, recognising the importance of local action. Katy from The Bumblebee Conservation Trust... more
Post date: Saturday 31st December 2016
Whilst there is plenty of wildlife around Mingarry Lodges, we decided to head out on the road during 2016 to explore slightly further afield in search of some new wildlife sightings. We have chosen twelve highlights, all of which can be encountered on day trips from Mingarry Lodges or on a multi-base holiday in The Highlands.
One of our favourite new wildlife sighting for 2016 was that of seeing Black Grouse on a lek on the outskirts of Fort William in early May. Heading out in the wee small hours we arrived just as dawn broke over the lek. It was not long before several males appeared strutting their stuff to produce a spectacular display that lasted for well over an hour. The distinctive call of the cuckoo and the trills of grasshopper warblers all added to an evocative and unique... more
Post date: Wednesday 15th June 2016
Many of our guests take a day trip to The Isle of Mull or combine their holiday at Mingarry Lodges with an additional week on Mull taking advantage of the regular ferry service to the island. Mull has deservedly acquired a reputation as a great wildlife destination, especially for raptors and otters. The Island is also home to many smaller wildlife treasures including the slender scotch burnet moth which is endemic to Mull and Ulva, though was formerly recorded from Lochaline and Drimnin on the Scottish mainland. Having recently seen the transparent burnet on The Ardnamurchan Peninsula we were keen to learn more about the slender scotch burnet and its habitat. Another good excuse for a day trip to Mull...
There are two ferry routes to Mull nearby, one from Kilchoan on The... more
Post date: Thursday 21st April 2016
The Isle of Rum is a popular day trip with guests at Mingarry Lodges. Not only a great wildlife destination but also an island with an interesting history and geology. With the recent reduction in ferry fares there is no better time to visit (a return passenger crossing from Mallaig costs just £8.30). Mallaig is around a 50 minute drive from Mingarry Lodges and the Cal Mac ferries head out to The Small Isles daily. The ferry sails to different Islands at different times each day so it is best to pick the right day for Rum in order to maximise time ashore. On Wednesdays the ferry leaves Mallaig at 10:15 arriving at Rum at 11:35. You have some four hours to explore the Island before catching the return ferry which departs at 16:20.
Check in at Mallaig closes 15 minutes before the... more
Post date: Sunday 3rd April 2016
Guests occasionally ask us whether we get crested tits in Mingarry. Unfortunately not, though they were rumoured to have been seen some years ago by the Church in Acharacle and we always keep a look out for them when walking in the pine plantations in High Mingarry.
Crested tits in Scotland are confined to the Caledonian pine forests and are reported in Lochaber in the pine woodlands at Glengarry. Needless to say we always look out for them when walking in the Glengarry woods, but have yet to see one there. These attractive wee birds can be seen all year round in the Highlands, though they are easiest to spot in between autumn and spring when they come to ground for water or cached food. They also readily come to feeders.
We had heard that Loch Garten was a good spot to see them so we... more
Post date: Sunday 10th January 2016
As the days lengthen our thoughts turn to Spring and Summer and the walks to some of our favourite beaches in Ardnamurchan, Moidart and Morar.
The beach at Dorlin is the closest to Mingarry Lodges and is well known as the site of Castle Tioram, the 13th Century stronghold of The Clanranalds. At high tide the castle is cut off by the sea, but at low tide the beach is a great place for beachcombing and getting some great perspectives on this iconic ruined castle.
Ardtoe is a ten minutes drive away and is a popular beach with visitors and locals alike. There is a small car park at the end of the road with an honest box.
Another popular beach is the beach at Samalaman, just passed Glenuig on the small road out towards Smirisary. At low tide you can walk out to Samalaman Island and... more
Post date: Tuesday 17th November 2015
We've driven over Rannoch Moor between Glencoe and Tyndrum so many times. Always a spectacular drive but sometimes daunting in the winter months with the snow, winds and rain. Such a special place and no better gateway to the Highlands - a region that we love and have made our home. We are usually rushing off to Glasgow and beyond in the early hours or travelling home in the dark on the A82 so do not always get a chance to appreciate the full splendour of these magnificent mountains and moors. Photographic diversions to Glen Etive, stop offs at Loch Ba and trips up the ski lift have occasionally extended our journey and caused us to arrive a little later than expected, but hey, better late than never and what delights we have experienced.
Yesterday travelling back from Glasgow we... more
Post date: Saturday 25th July 2015
Earlier this month we headed off on a boat trip to see the puffins on The Treshnish Isles. This is a wonderful day trip from Mingarry Lodges and one we have done before, and no doubt will do again and again, such is the alure of the puffins and the other amazing wildlife on Lunga.
The boat for the Treshnish Isles leaves Kilchoan (a 45 minute drive away from Mingarry Lodges) at 10:30, so no need to set the alarm for this amazing day trip. The modern and comfortable boat makes good time up along the coast of Ardnamurchan and Mull and there are plenty of opportunities to look out for wildlife enroute. Bottle nose dolphins are commonly seen though, unfortunately, not on the day we went (that's a good excuse to go again). We were, however, treated to a flyby from a pair of white-tailed... more
Post date: Thursday 16th July 2015
Early July is a great time for botanising and wildlife spotting and we have been taking advantage of some spare time this week to visit some of our favourite sites. On Tuesday we ventured out to Ardnamurchan Point, the most westerly point on mainland Britain, and spotted the nationally scarce transparent burnet moth and caterpillars of the rare belted beauty moth. A good day doing mothing...
On Wednesday we headed off to the white sands passed Smirisary. This is a popular walk and, although often a little boggy, is one of our favourites. We usually time the walk to arrive at the fabulous beach just before low tide and especially enjoy the walk in July and August when the machair grassland behind the beach is alive with wildlife. Yesterday was good dragonfly weather and we spotted both... more
Post date: Monday 6th July 2015
June and July are great months for butterfly watching and dragonfly stalking, and this year is no exception even after a slow start with the cool spring. The West Highlands is home to the chequered skipper butterfly and a great place to see fritillaries and localised dragonflies such as the white faced darter, northern emeralnd and azure hawker. Over the past couple of weeks we have been on the prowl... looking out for our local heros. Many of our guests share our passion for nature and it has been a pleasure to share sightings and photo opportunities with fellow enthusiasts.
We are fortunate to have several good stalking sites nearby and we make an effort to visit them regularly to see what is new and what is on the wing. Over the past few days we have spotted small heath... more
Post date: Sunday 21st June 2015
One of the many joys of a holiday at Mingarry Lodges is the opportunity for close encounters with birds and other wildlife. A variety of woodland birds, including, siskins, redpolls, finches and tits, frequent the feeders around the Lodges providing an opportunity to observe these birds up close. As we are always keen to enhance the wildlife experience for our guests, we have set up nest boxes with bird cameras and live feeds to the Lodges over the past couple of years. The cameras are set up to be viewed on the televisions providing a gripping alternative to terrestrial TV. This has been a real hit with guests staying between April and June when the birds are roosting, nest building and raising young. We often find ourselves looking forward to change over day just to catch up on the... more
Post date: Friday 22nd May 2015
Mingarry Lodges are situated in the former grounds of Our Lady of The Angels Catholic Church, being separated off when The Church sold off The Old Chapel House and grounds in the late 1980s. The Church and Chapel House both date from the 1860s, having been commissioned by James Robert Hope Scott and built by the architect Goldie. The church was built in an eminent position using a handsome grey granite found locally and used to be a remarkable feature in the landscape for miles around.
The local woodland has clearly encroached over recent years as the church is now hidden amongst the birks and dreaded rhododendrons. At least it was, until the recent work of the church volunteers which has revealed the splendour of Our Lady of The Angels and brought light once again to a little corner... more
Post date: Wednesday 29th April 2015
This week has been a little chilly with the polar plume bringing a brief taste of winter back to Moidart. Snow on the top of Ben Resipole, chilly nights and occasional snow flurries. Not a great time to be a newly emerged butterfly or bee, unless that is you're lucky enough to be buzzing around Mingarry Lodges.
We found one little bee stranding in a waste paper basket on Tuesday evening looking a little sorry for itself. Luckily we keep a supply of honey especially for such needy bees so we put a spot in a pot along with some plant cover and gave the bee a helping hand over night. We would normally leave the patient in a shed or greenhouse to recouperate in its own time, though as it was such a cold evening we kept it in the house overnight.
This gave us a good opportunity... more
Post date: Sunday 26th April 2015
Last May we found the wings of an emperor moth under a bat roost in one of our out buildings. Just the wings remained, untouched and in perfect condition. The bat, possibly a brown long-eared bat from the number of moth wings under the roost, must have had quite a feast on the large female emperor moth.
Female emperor moths are easily distinguished from the males by the colour of the hind wings, the female having grey ones and the male bright orange ones. The females fly at night, making them juicy targets for bats, whilst the males fly in the daytime seeking out the females from the pheromones produced from a gland at the base of the thorax; the pheromones can be detected from over a mile away.
Last Sunday, on a fine Spring day we were exploring the seashore and dunes at Camusdarach... more
Post date: Sunday 12th April 2015
Google have recently announced that they are making changes to their indexing system encouraging mobile friendly sites. As we're naturally very friendly at Mingarry Lodges we thought it an opportune time to update our website and make it mobile friendly, responsive, adaptive, buzz-word compliant and hopefully a little more useful.
We will be making changes over the next few weeks as Andrew gets round to implementing some of his ideas, the first of which is this updated blogsite... We hope to keep you up to date with life at Mingarry Lodges over the changing seasons as well as the latest wildlife encounters and news from Mingarry, Moidart and Ardnamurchan.
In the short term you may notice that the pages on our online booking system look a little different to our new website. We hope... more
Post date: Thursday 7th August 2014
It's not every morning that you look up from the breakfast table to see a bat hanging from the dining room wall, but hey this is Mingarry, deep in the wilds of Moidart. We're not really sure how the pipistrelle bat found it's way into the dining room but was a delight to see over our cornflakes.
It's also not every afternoon that you look up from the ironing to see a toad hopping about on the living room carpet. The stories of Donald of Clanranald immediately came to mind. Donald was famously haunted by a huge black toad which followed and taunted him whereever he went even when the toad was locked in the dungeons of Castle Tioram. One interesting account of that strange affair is given in Scotland's Book of Romance, though it is also recounted in Rev Charles MacDonald's famous book;... more
Post date: Thursday 15th August 2013
2013 has been a good year for butterflies in Mingarry. There are 29 species of butterflies found in the Highlands, out of the 59 or so species that occur in the UK. So far this year we have seen 10 species on site at Mingarry Lodges where we are managing our verges and grounds for the wildflowers that butterflies love. Mingarry Lodges is bordered by diverse oak and Caledonian pine woodland as well as grassland, moor and moss making it a great place to see butterflies, moths and other wildlife.
The highlight of the year has undoubtedly been the Chequered Skipper, a butterfly with a somewhat restricted distribution and a fondness for the purple moor grass of Lochaber and North Argyll. We have been treated to shimmering blues, vibrant eyes and over fifty shades of pure delight.
Post date: Wednesday 7th August 2013
This Spring we saw the usual influx of siskins to our bird feeders in Mingarry. They seem particulary keen on nyger seed, sunflower hearts and peanuts and brighten up any day with their bright yellow/green plumage. Siskins are small finches, with distinct forked tails and small narrow bills. The males are brighter in colour than the females with black caps and bright yellow feathers. They have a sweet little trill and are often heard twittering high in the trees.
We have always wondered where the birds on our feeders come from. This Spring we noticed that a number of the birds were sporting jewellery, in the form of bird identification rings. We had an opportunity to examine one of the rings closely when one unfortunate siskin passed away. We noted the number and submitted... more
Post date: Thursday 27th June 2013
The chequered skipper butterfly has it's UK stronghold around Lochaber and North Argyll, being extinct from England and Wales and absent in other parts of Scotland. We had recently been on one of the Spring Butterfly events held by Friends of Nevis and The Highland branch of The Butterfly Conservation Society and were fascinated to learn about this bonnie little butterfly and it's love for purple moor grass, bugle and bluebells.
Butterfly Conservation has recently produced a model predicting the occurrence of the chequered skipper on the West Coast in various 1km grid squares. One such grid square is located near Dalilea at NM6972. In fact, the Dalilea grid square is the 10th most likely grid square in their model predicted to support chequered skipper. Accordingly, one fine day, we... more
Post date: Monday 26th November 2012
Are there wildcats in Mingarry?
Earlier this week we attended an excellent Lochaber Natural History Society talk by Adrian Davis on Scottish Wildcats and the Wildcat Haven project. Adrian started by talking about the natural history of the Scottish Wildcat and highlighted the dramatic decline in numbers since Victorian times. He then went on to describe the recent work on The Wildcat Haven project in The Ardnamurchan area.
The major threats to the Scottish wildcat include
Hybridisation with domestic and feral cats
The Scottish wildcat is in imminent danger of becoming extinct in the wild with current numbers of wildcats estimated to be between 35 and 400.
The Wildcat Haven projects aims to determine the size of the wildcat population in Scotland and... more