Grand Tour, Week 1, Western Scotland, 6 - 12 May 2022

And so it began - after months of planning we set off from Norfolk on a Friday morning. 

The journey was uneventful and surprisingly quick bearing in mind the motorhome is a bit more sluggish than a car! We had 2 options for an overnight stop on the way north but easily made it to the furthest one near Moffat in the Scottish Southern Uplands. Our 'park 4 night' was a remote carpark in the hills out of the town at Earshaig. With time on our side we even managed afternoon tea in the town and a long walk at Earshaig. The area was alive with good birds - a total of 15 Crossbills, 2 singing Tree Pipits, numerous Willow Warblers, Siskin, Cuckoo and 5 Lesser Redpolls. Plants too were very entertaining with a surprise Thunberg's Barberry being the best plus Hairstail Cotton Grass, Bitter Vetch, Marsh Violet, Creeping Willow, Bilberry and Deergrass


We awoke to the sound of singing Tree Pipit and hit the road to continue on to the West Highlands. A stop beside Loch Lomond for morning coffee proved to be a good choice as I found a big clump of Tuberous Comfrey - one of my targets and a species that proved to be common in west Scotland. We continued north via the scenic Glencoe to our 2 night stop in Glen Nevis in time for a late afternoon walk in the valley. Hooded Crows now replaced Carrions and 3 Cuckoos, 2 House Martins and singing Siskins were around the campsite. The strange sight of naturalised Bleeding Heart was welcome with Great Woodrush, Glaucous Sedge, Deer Fern and Marsh Violet also seen. 

The following morning was sunny and warm - not ideal for our walk on Ben Nevis but we set off nonetheless! In the end we made it about 2/3 of the way up but it was tough, hot and a procession of people - not my idea of a nice walk! I did however find Highland Saxifrage and Alpine Lady's Mantle plus Lousewort, Heath Milkwort, Marsh Violet and masses of Opposite-leaved Golden Saxifrage. 6 Red Deer, Ashy Mining Bee, Woodland Dor Beetle and the beetle Ctenicera cupraa were also seen. Birds included 3 Cuckoos, 4 Ravens, Sparrowhawk and Wheatear. Despite achy legs we managed an evening walk at Neptune's Staircase canal locks and Inverlocky Castle near Fort William. I found Pink Purslane and Common Bistort at the castle - both nice bonuses.


The next day it was time to relocate south a little to Creagan on the shore of Loch Creran. It was an almost complete wash-out with heavy rain nearly all day. We made a quick wet visit to Castle Stalker en-route before checking in to our campsite. Eventually the weather cleared allowing us an evening walk by the loch and along the disused railway line there. Highlights were Grasshopper Warbler, Reed Warbler, Common Sandpiper plus 2 new plants - Smith's Pepperwort and Yellow Azalea which seems to have escaped and taken over the area! Also there were more Tuberous Comfrey, Sea Milkwort, Sea Arrowgrass, Blinks and Pignut of note.


With the forecast for the next day still not great we headed into Oban. It proved to be nicer than forecast though and with c12 Black Guillemots showing ridiculously close plus my first Swift of the year. Plants too included nice Kidney Saxifrage, Rock Cranesbill and Meadow Saxifrage. Later, a walk in Shian Wood was probably too early for Chequered Skipper but 3 more Cuckoos, Lesser Redpoll, Sedge Warbler plus Yellow Pimpernel and Heath Speedwell were seen.


The 11th May saw us head south again with 12 Lesser Redpolls bidding us farewell from Creagan. We had booked a tour at the Cruachan 'hollow mountain' Power Station that morning and it proved to be very interesting  Along our route I spotted something tht looked interesting on roadside walls at Inveraray so stopped to investigate. It proved to be the rather gorgeous Fairy Foxglove with the added bonus of False Salmonberry growing nearby. We had intended overnighting by Loch Lomond but a random picturesque carpark in Glen Croe had a sign that welcomed motorhomes so we opted to stay there instead. Walks in the area were full of Tree Pipits plus 2 Grey Wagtails, 4 Ravens, Bog Stitchwort, Heath Bedstraw, Bluebells and Pignut.


We gradually meandered south towards the ferry heading past the nightmare roads of Glasgow and down the Ayrshire coast. Stopping at the coastal village of Dunure to explore it's castle and coast was a nice break from driving. It also gave me Lesser Whitethroat, c4 Common Whitethroats, Grey Wagtail and interestingly - Carrion Crow now replacing Hoodies here. Some roadside Solomon's Seal was also a pleasing find. With the weather closing in again we moved a little further on deciding to stay the night on seafront grassland at Ballantrae. In an absolute hoolie I had an evening seawatch from the comfort of the van scoring with 50+ Gannet, 7 Shag, 1 Eider, 1 Great Northern Diver, 1 Red-throated Diver, 1 Shelduck, 6 Sandwich Terns, 1 Whimbrel, 1 Ringed Plover, 1 Razorbill and 2 Red-breasted Mergansers. The first time I've seawatched with a glass of wine!


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