Firth View

Craighead

Cromarty

Highland

IV11 8XY

 

Telephone: 07865916210

           or: 07411711292

Email: firthviewbandb@gmail.com

© 2018 by Firth View B&B 

  • Carolinebiscoe

Here at Firth View, we have recently made a new friend, Angus Mackie, through his Facebook post asking for help to raise awareness of his Black Isle-based photography business - Scotland 360°.


Intrigued, I dug a bit deeper and contacted Angus to see if we could help, not perhaps by stocking flyers or business cards, as our guests are generally here for only a few nights and would not have time to arrange a workshop, but by including a link to his website from ours which might inspire folk to become interested in Angus's activities and book before they arrive on the Black Isle.


Angus is a man of many talents; he is a mountain and sea kayak leader, member of the mountain rescue team, he runs photography tuition workshops and tours, and is a 360° panoramic photographer. A conversation ensued and after a convivial meeting, Angus proposed an idea which would hopefully enhance both our business opportunities and help him with his latest project - to create a virtual tour of The Black Isle from the air!


Using his expertise with drone photography, Angus began by taking some wonderful aerial shots of our home and garden from about 80 feet above Firth View. He then started work on the magic - hundreds of photographs taken in all directions, at all angles, which once processed, provides a 360° panorama with Firth View as the centre point.


Angus has now added hotspots to this panorama which enables the viewer to link to other points of interest and to move around the Black Isle as if they were an eagle, surveying the wonderful landscape and coast. Some hotspots link to websites or more information about the point of interest, some to photographs taken at the site - inside and out.


To view the Tour so far click on the link and find out more about Firth View, hit the hotspots and lose yourself over the stunning landscape of the Black Isle.

https://www.scotland360.co.uk/Virtual_Tours/Black_Isle/VTour/Black_isle_Firth_View_index.html 


However this is just the start of the project - Angus has plans to develop the Virtual tour further to link with other providers on the Black Isle and to use the technology to provide enhanced experiences for other organisations.




  • Carolinebiscoe

A breath of mountain air

During a lull in bookings last week we took the opportunity to get out onto the hills with our cameras in the hope of seeing mountain hares. This time of year they are not easy to spot, as unlike the brown hare often seen in open fields in spring, mountain hares change their colour according to the season. Their snow white pelage which gives them camouflage protection from their main predators, golden eagles, during the winter, begins to moult and by April they are developing their summer grey/brown fur. This makes it easier for them to hide among the heathers and grasses of the hillside. A late snowfall earlier in the week had also left patches of white across the slopes which left us continually wondering "Is that a hare? No just a patch of snow beneath a rock!"

We stumbled on over the ridges, knee-deep in snow, continually on the look out for a pair of black-tipped ears or the glimpse of a hare out for a graze on the grassy patches bare of snow. But they seemed to be hiding well and remained elusive despite us seeing all the signs that they were around, footprints in the snow and pellets among the heather.



Mountain Hare - Lepus timidus

The image above was taken in January 2017 when the snowfall was quite light. However the hardy little hares will snuggle down in their forms and wait it out through the most horrendous blizzards, often being completely covered in snow. After a rest they will yawn and stretch their long legs before moving out to find more grass and heather shoots. Mountain hares are larger than rabbits but smaller than the brown hare with shorter ears but still with black tips. Hares do not make burrows, but instead find refuge in small depressions or "forms" in the peaty hillside usually sheltered from the wind by a rock or a peaty bank. Here they will rest and digest their grassy diet, passing pellets which they then eat again to get the most nutrients from this meagre fare.


A yawn and a stretch

Hares vary in the amount of change in their fur and when they moult. In March 2017 we went to the same spot and found a beautiful male hare who seemed very anxious to make himself look his best for our cameras. There was little snow at this time but his fur was still the purest white. We watched him groom himself from top to toe and after about 30 minutes he sat up in this pose as if to say "Make sure you take my good side!"


Back to our hare hunt...After a good hour and a sit and a piece of cake, Jim eventually spotted a very grey hare sitting in his form with his face to the weak spring sunshine. We managed to approach to within about 30 feet and although he was aware of us with his huge eyes which give almost all-round vision and his sensitive ears picking up our conversation, he was happy to sit for a while. Some hares are very patient and accommodating to the local wildlife photographers and as long as you are calm and they can see where you are coming from they are content to carry on their business of digestion and stretching. Others are not so …. We spotted 2 or three other hares who were off like a shot, zigzagging across the snow at the sight of us.


Sunbathing

Mountain Hare April 2019

It is amazing that we are able to share this beautiful location with these hardy creatures which are native to the Scottish Highlands and which are sadly persecuted by certain landowners in order to "protect" their grouse moors. Hares live on average about 3 - 4 years and a female can raise up to 4 litters of 1-3 leverets each year. Many of these fall prey to golden eagles and stoats and sadly to the shotgun. However the hares on this particular estate are protected so we should be able to visit them again soon.


So - a bad hare day? Not at all! The weather was beautiful, sunshine and blue skies and there was no wind. We even found some feral goats to keep us company on our trudge up the hill! All in all a very good day indeed!


If you would like to find out more about these fascinating animals and their mountain lives look out for a beautiful book written by our good friend and photography mentor Andy Howard "The Secret Life of the Mountain Hare" . Andy has developed a very special relationship with the mountain hares of the Cairngorm National Park over several years as a wildlife photographer and guide and tells their story with his fantastic images.

https://www.andyhoward.co.uk/the-secret-life-of-the-mountain-hare




  • Carolinebiscoe

Scotland is famous for its castles and the area around the Black Isle is no exception. There are castles of all types within a reasonable driving distance of Firth View, from stone ruins over-looking the Lochs and Firths to fairy-tale piles fit for a king and everything in between. Here are just a few of the wonderful buildings which spark imagination of times gone by with some of our images from our own visits.


REDCASTLE

On the shores of the Beauly Firth, Redcastle lives up to its name with its walls of local red sandstone. The present building looks out over the waters from its position on a rise above the Beauly Firth and dates from 1641awhen it was under control of the Clan Mackenzie. However there was a castle constructed on the site as early as the 1100's. After remodelling over the centuries, Redcastle was requisitioned by the army during WW II and finally vacated in the 1950's. It is now a ruin, protected as a listed building and due to its precarious state can only be viewed from its grounds although there is a pleasant circular walk from the village along the shores of the Beauly Firth.

Redcastle

URQUHART CASTLE

On the north Shore of Loch Ness stands Urquhart Castle which is open to the public by Historic Scotland. The castle stands on a small promontory giving it an ideal defensive location with views up and down the Loch. It dates from the 13th - 16th Centuries with various owners including the Kings of Scotland after the Wars of Scottish Independence in the 14thC, and subsequently gifted to Clan Grant, but was partially destroyed in 1692 to prevent its use by the Jacobite forces of Bonnie Prince Charlie. The visitor centre provides an interesting presentation of the history of the castle and a café offers refreshments.


Urquhart Castle

DUNROBIN CASTLE

Dunrobin is perhaps at the other end of the scale as far as architecture and luxury are concerned. It is the most northerly of Scotland's great houses being the seat of the Earl of Sutherland and the Clan Sutherland. Situated on the Sutherland coast just north of Golspie it is a little further away from Firth View but the drive is interesting and passes through Dornoch and past several distilleries. The Castle's origins lie in the Middle Ages but most of the present-day buildings and the beautiful gardens were added in the 1800s in the Scottish Baronial style with many French influences. The castle has over 180 rooms, some of which are open to the public along with the gardens and a museum of hunting trophies and archaeological finds collected by the Earl and Countess of Sutherland in the Victorian era. A daily falconry display in the gardens by the estate's falconer introduces the public to some beautiful birds of prey.


Dunrobin Castle

CAWDOR CASTLE

Cawdor is in Morayshire on the far side of the Moray Firth south of the A96 between Inverness and Nairn. It dates from the 14th C and was built as a private fortress by the Thanes of Cawdor and remains the home of the Campbells of Cawdor, furnished in a very comfortable homely style for the Dowager Countess of Cawdor who resides in the castle during the winter months. It is open to the public together with its wonderful gardens, a 9 hole golf course and nature walks through the woodland. There is a Cawdor connection with William Shakespeare's Scottish Play, Macbeth, although with no small amount of poetic licence.


Cawdor Castle

EILEAN DONAN CASTLE

Perhaps the most iconic "biscuit tin" image of a Scottish castle is that of Eilean Donan which although originated in the 13th Century owes its present appearance to the endeavours of Lt Colonel John Macrae Gilstrap who rebuilt it from a ruin in the traditional style in the 1920s. In 1719 the castle was used as a garrison for 46 Spanish soldiers who were stationed there in support of the Jacobites with a magazine of barrels of gunpowder awaiting supplies of weapons and canon from Spain. The English government discovered this and sent ships to the surrounding sea lochs and when their bombardment failed the Captain sent his men over the walls to ignite the gunpowder and reduce the castle to rubble. 200 years later the castle and its island were bought by Macrae Gilstrap who spent the next 20 years building a home around the plans of the original castle which was completed in 1932.



Eilean Donan Castle

FORT GEORGE

Another legacy of the Battle of Culloden, Bonnie Prince Charlie and his Jacobite rebellion are the three forts which were built by George II to supress the ambitions of the Jacobites to reinstate the Stuarts to the Throne of Scotland, England and Wales. Fort William, Fort Augustus and Fort George were constructed as garrisons for George's troops along the line of the Great Glen to keep the Clans in order and prevent incursion by James Stuarts supporters.

Fort George, which is located on the far side of the Moray Firth, is the finest example of Georgian military engineering and architecture in the UK, designed to evade capture and provide heavy defences both to the land and the sea. Visitors to the Fort today are able to wander around the fascinating buildings, ramparts and military edifices inside its massive walls thanks to Historic Scotland who protect and maintain many of the buildings. They share the space with current soldiers of the Black Watch, 3rd Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland who are stationed at Fort George.