Going Green!

No, that’s not the garden or the landscape going green – we’re still covered in snow! This is Pinewood Steading being acknowledged by Green Tourism with a Silver Award. This demonstrates our commitment and efforts to building a green and sustainable business. Green Tourism is the largest and most established sustainable certification programme in the world. We went through a thorough process to get certified. Green Tourism exists to help tourism businesses ensure their long-term viability, both environmentally and economically. And to help holiday makers make clear ethical, sustainable and responsible decisions about where to holiday or visit. And this is just the start of our journey! We’ve been implementing lots of new ideas to help us, and our guests, help Pinewood Steading to be eco-friendly. We are very passionate about helping the environment we live in. Everything from minimising waste, to being efficient, and respecting our environment. Check out our new page for our green credentials.  Here’s to going for Gold!

Emma, the rescue dog, showcasing our Silver Award from Green Tourism

New Wood Burning Stove for Cosy Nights

There’s no getting cold during our Highland winters now! We have underfloor heating throughout the Steading which is great, especially on your feet. But we decided we needed something special for those particularly cold nights. So we got a fantastic wood burning stove installed! The wonderful team from Great Glen Stoves came and worked their magic.  We are really pleased with it and hope you like the end result. We will provide a starter pack of firelighters, kindling and wood. Guests can purchase more at cost price ensuring they have easy access to the wood they need.  The stove is also kept in good order if the right wood is used. Nothing better than to come in after a day out in the hills, or visiting castles, then settling down in front of a warm fire – and perhaps with a dram or two?!

Wood burning stove

New wood burning stove

Winter Walking on the Trails at Abriachan

I posted a few months ago about the wonderful walks at Reelig Glen and Abriachan. Well, yesterday I took the dogs to Abriachan in the snow and we did one of the many loops. We took just over 2 hours to do it, pausing for the odd photograph. There was snow on the ground, bright blue skies, not a cloud in sight. There are amazing views from start to finish but the half way point gives a breath taking panorama. We can see Strathfarrar, the Mullardoch Munros and Glen Affric.

Panoramic view

Taking in Strathfarrar, Mullardoch Munros and Glen Affric

Sadly at this point, the battery in my iPhone ran out and I couldn’t take any pictures! So this morning, we hurried back while the sun was out to try and capture the beauty of this wonderful place in the sun. We drove further down the track this time, so did a shorter loop in about 45 minutes. Here are some of the photos I took today – not such a bright sky but still looking wonderful.

Jimmy and the dogs at Abriachan

Jimmy and the dogs Emma and Mina striding out on the path at Abriachan

Abriachan is definitely worth a visit – there are a host of different walks of varying lengths and difficulty. The main car park itself has picnic tables, toilets, a workshop that holds art and woodland craft sessions, a children’s play area, peace path, Loch Laird to take in bird watching and some wonderful wooden creations and sculptures.

Emma and Mina out at Abriachan

Emma and Mina out at Abriachan

Abriachan trails covered with snow

Abriachan trails covered with snow

Stargazers benefit from Dark Sky Status

We are pretty remote here at Pinewood Steading with very few neighbours and no near villages, or towns. So we have pretty much dark skies.  You can often find us out in the garden looking at the stars and Milky Way. And on special occasions, looking at the Northern Lights!

Milky Way

Dark sky Milky Way

So, we were especially pleased to hear that the nearby Abriachan Forest Trust has gained Dark Sky Discovery Status!  The award was made on 23rd November 2017 by the Royal Observatory in Edinburgh. The Trust was granted ‘Milky Way class’ Dark Sky Discovery status. This certification puts Abriachan on the map as an excellent place for stargazers to go. Abriachan benefits from its remote location and altitude.  Only the sites with very clear views of the Milky Way galaxy receive the Award. So, whether you’re gazing on them from our garden, or taking the 10 minute car jaunt across to Abriachan, we are sure you won’t be disappointed!

To add, if you are really keen on catching the wonderful sights of the Northern Lights, check out this super blog Can you see the Northern Lights in Scotland? from Holiday Scottish Highlands & Islands.

It’s a winter wonderland!

We love this time of year – it’s like a Winter Wonderland! Well, we’ve had snow early this year; the first came in early November and as I write this, it’s been snowing for days.  It’s supposed to last for at least another week and then well into December and beyond.  I am sure it’s going to be a white Christmas!  It almost always snows in January, and particularly February. Many of our guests want to book for when it’s snowing and of course, we can’t forecast that. But I think if you visit this winter, you will have a high chance!  Here are a few of our recent snow pictures. Enjoy!

Larch in winter

Snowman with Emma

Pinewood Steading and snowing

Snowy morning sunrise

Red Squirrels in the Garden!

We’ve started to see a few more red squirrels in the garden recently.  But they’ve been hard to capture on camera.  Jimmy saw one at the bottom of the garden, running along the low wall.  Then he zipped up into one of the trees.  But luckily today I caught one out of the corner of my eye at the top of the drive! He stopped to look at me in the branches of the tree…

Red squirrel in tree

Red squirrel in tree

And then he seemed to pose! He must be busy collecting moss, grass, lichen for his nest – called a drey. I hope he stays warms for winter!

Red squirrel sitting in a tree

Red squirrel posting for a photo!

The Best Place to Spot Dolphins

Last weekend I took two Pinewood Steading guests to experience the delights of a nearby beach – Rosemarkie Beach on the Black Isle. And also Chanonry Point, which is (officially) one of the best places in the world to spot Bottlenose dolphins.

A poster showing information about the dolphins

We drove via Beauly and the Muir of Ord over to the Black Isle and arrived at the car park at Chanonry Point in less than 30 minutes. Even the drive across the Isle, through Avoch and Fortrose is lovely.

We took a slow and steady bimble up to the point, before making our way up the mile long beach into Rosemarkie. We were planning to stop off at the Rosemarkie Beach Café.

A beach shot showing Rosemarkie

This is a community run project and here we managed to get ourselves some cake and hot drinks.  After sitting for a while and enjoying the view, we made our way back down to Chanonry Point. We were lucky enough to spot a seal on the way back! The wind was still quite strong and was making lovely patterns across the sand.

A view of the sand being blow across the beach by the wind

They say one hour after low tide is the best time to spot dolphins at the Point. Low tide on that day was 3pm, and we arrived at the Point just before 4pm.  A small crowd was beginning to gather.  After about 10 minutes, we weren’t disappointed, we saw our first two dolphins, who even leapt out of the water! We only saw a few more over the course of the hour we were there for, but saw more seals too.

The weather was blowy, the sea was very choppy and we did get a wee bit cold, so we made our way back to the car with windswept smiles on our faces.

Landscape photo of Rosemarkie Beach

 

Where’s Nessie?? Cruising On Loch Ness

My husband, Jimmy, and I recently took ourselves to Fort Augustus (an hour’s drive away) and decided to jump on one of the Loch Ness cruises.  There are two main companies you can go with (basically from opposite end of the Lochs).  So, we jumped on ‘Cruise Loch Ness’ for a one hour trip.  Booked in advance, we saved a bit of money; otherwise on bought on the day, a ticket costs £14.50 per adult.

A poster advertising the different cruises and prices

For those that don’t know, Loch Ness is a very large, deep, freshwater loch, near Inverness (and only 5 miles from Pinewood Steading.)  It’s approximately 36km (23 miles) long, and has a maximum depth of 226metres.  It’s 1 mile wide! Did you know, it never freezes? And it contains more water than all the lakes and rivers in England and Wales combined.

A view of Loch Ness from the boat

Aboard the Legend of Loch Ness

Loch Ness is basically a fault line, that splits the north of Scotland down the middle! It was further sculptured by Ice Age glaciers, hence having very steep sides. So, you can imagine how something like the Loch Ness Monster can be hiding…

Many explorations in history have tried to find Nessie – and there have been very many unidentified and unexplained sonar contacts, not to mention countless fake sightings. Our cruise boat had some sonar equipment so we could keep an eye on anything lurking under the water.

A blue sonar image of the depths of Loch Ness

Sonar image

And the cruise host had an amazing sense of humour, was very knowledgeable, and full of fun facts and figures, making it a very entertaining and informative trip.  We basically sailed up the loch to Invermoriston, turned around and came back. ‘Cruise Loch Ness’ also do evening sailings and trips on fast ribs.  If you’re ever in Fort Augustus, it’s worth jumping abroad! Oh – and we saw Nessie!

Picture of the Loch Ness monster

 

Visit some Highland Games!

This time of year, there are lots of Highland Games taking place. Over the summer (from May to September), you have the chance to visit over 80, taking place on islands and in towns, villages and cities across Scotland.

It’s the place best to see a combination of international athletes, local communities and visitors coming together in a super family-friendly day out!

For the Games, you will see traditional heavy athletic events like the caber toss and the hammer throw.

An athlete throwing the hammer

The hammer throw

There’ll also be track and field events for local participants, Highland dance competitions and bagpipes and marching bands!

A marching band dressed in red tartan with bagpipes

Marching bands

There are usually food and craft tents too.  And if you want to see local Clans wearing their kilts, these events are the place to visit!

We recently went to the Games in Inverness; one of the biggest in the Highlands.  There were over 10,000 spectators in Bught Park which saw the Games kick off with an exhibition Shinty match. Shinty is like field hockey, but much more brutal! One of the highlights was when spectators got invited to take part in the Mass Highland Fling – traditional Highland Dancing.

For us, we loved watching the athletes take part in the fiercely contested Games, and it was one of the most thrilling climaxes in years!  Three athletes were battling for the Championship, but ultimately Daniel Carlin emerged the victor by a single point.  The day ended on a super high as Aarons Monks of Australia stepped forward to become only the 9th man in the modern era to complete the daunting 252lb Stonemasons Stone over the Bar Challenge. This is basically picking up a super heavy stone ball and throwing it over a high bar!!

Despite the rain, we all had a great time and already look forward to next year’s Games on Saturday 21st July in Inverness.  Why not plan to go along and stay at the Steading! Or if you want to visit some Games sooner, check out Nairn on the 19th August or Glenurquhart, near Loch Ness on 26th August.

An athlete tossing the caber, a very long heavy piece of wood

Tossing the caber

Visiting Glen Affric and Walking to Dog Falls

We’re lucky to be able to share wonderful photographs taken by a recent guest when they went to Glen Affric.  They took a walk around Dog Falls, which is a beautiful forest stroll through ancient Caledonian Pines. This type of forest is considered to be one of the few truly natural landscapes in the UK.

A view of the green Caledonian pines at Glen Affric

Dog Falls itself is a dramatic waterfall in a rocky gorge.  If you do an extended walk here, you can find a wonderful small lochen (Coire Loch). This is a great spot to find rare dragonflies. Climbing back up to the main path there are excellent views.

The paths are all well marked and laid out, with three options to take. Combining all three makes a great circular walk. The river itself (River Affric) is wide and very pretty, bordered by pinewoods.

Fast flowing river, tumbling over rocks

You’ve got a good chance on these walks of spotting roe deer. You may even see pine martens (which you can also find in the garden at Pinewood!)  If you’re a bird watcher, watch out for the rare crossbill and rarely seen capercaillie.