RAMBLE REPORTS 2019
(click here for links to archive reports from previous years)
Loch an Eilein Ramble - Wednesday 28th
Having arrived early at the Rothiemurchus attended car park, Elspeth
spoke to the friendly staff to confirm that all parking fees
normally charged had been waived for today’s ramble, together with a
collection of maps and information leaflets. We were then directed
to a large car park away from the normal tourist traffic to park and
unload the scooters.
making full use of the Loch an Eilein visitor centre we gathered for
a short history talk by head ranger Matt Kirkwood. He explained how
things had changed during the Grants’ 450+ years of ownership. In
the past the main income was timber, cattle, hunting and fishing,
whereas today it is tourism. Matt finished by wishing us all an
Martin welcomed all 23 of us, making a special welcome to Juliet &
Hilary, long time members of H.D.R who had not been out with us for
Once on our way the wind started to get up and at one point my hat
blew off and thanks to Elspeth it was retrieved from a deer fence.
Over the years tourist numbers have increased around the loch, no
more so than when you approach the ruins of Alexander Stewart’s
castle about 100 yds from the loch shore. History has it that he
burnt and plundered Forres and Elgin because the Bishop at the time
took his wife’s side in a family matter.
It was evident while rambling that some of the mighty Scots Pines
had succumbed to the ravages of time, be it disease, wind or
the ramble route would circumnavigate the loch, but a weak bridge at
the end of the loch put a stop to scooter access, so at the halfway
point it was decided to stop for lunch. Time for Rosemary to produce
the raffle tickets for the ramble raffle. So far the weather was
being very kind, mind you more than one person noticed that the body
temperature was dropping while stationary. Incidentally close to our
chosen lunch area is Loch Gamhna and Thieves Road used by cattle
raiders for 100s of years. It was the practice of land owners to
leave a very small number of cattle tied up to trees for the taking,
hoping that the larger herds would be left untouched.
After lunch it was time to retrace our footsteps and back to the
parked vehicles. On the way, Martin’s dog Holly enjoyed a romp or
two in the water, to the surprise of the ducks. Weather wise the day
was just perfect with enough wind to keep away the beasties
encountered in wooded areas. It was a different story going home as
Aviemore was awash.
Abriachan Ramble - Thursday 8th August 2019
ramble started at the Abriachan Forest car park reached by a short
journey along a narrow steep road from the A82. Many members will
recall the talk in March this year from Suzanne Barr on the history
of the Forest Trust. It was an opportunity for us to meet again with
Suzanne as she kindly agreed to accompany us on our ramble around
the forest paths. Keeping us informed of the work being undertaken
to ensure the forest remains open for all to enjoy whilst
maintaining an income to ensure that in the future the Trust does
not have to rely on charitable funds to continue the ongoing work
within this very successful community owned woodland area.
weather forecast was promising rain and as our ramble progressed we
all appreciated the cool but at times sunny morning and no rain! As
we rambled we were given the opportunity to visit the replica Bronze
Age Roundhouse even allowing scooters to be inside and experience
the darkened world of our ancestors. We travelled further and
visited the bird hide, wild life pond and on to a mosaic with faces
on the trees for us to seek, find and marvel at the skill of using
wood so artistically.
explained how all constructions involved local groups both young and
old continuing the initiatives of the Trust to ensure all are
included in the development, conservation work and future facilities
of the trust. We met families enjoying the tree house and the fire
pit area where the smell of the wood smoke gave us all reminisces of
the warmth an open fire provides.
we rambled on visiting the latest addition of a poly tunnel and
crops including sweet corn and courgettes, Suzanne invited us into
the classroom and provided tea and coffee with biscuits for us to
enjoy with our lunch. After lunch with the weather still dry we
rambled again leaving Abriachan Forest appreciating the history,
wildlife and diversity of facilities for all from the cycle trails
to the all abilities trail we had learnt about and enjoyed during
Loch Fleet National Nature Reserve - Friday 19th July
National Nature Reserve is managed by Scottish Natural Heritage. It
is the most northerly estuary on Scotland’s east coast - a large
tidal basin with sand dunes, mudflats, coastal heath and pinewoods.
The sea once reached almost as far inland as Rogart until 1816 when
Thomas Telford built the Mound Causeway which acts as a tidal
I was in awe
of our van drivers, Richard and Vic, as they efficiently manoeuvred
the vans into the limited parking area at Balblair woods.
We were fewer
in number than usual as some members had cancelled due to a poor
weather forecast for that day. There were three spare scooters!
However, in spite of the forecast it remained pleasantly warm and
dry and there were no midges.
trail from the car park is through the pine wood which was at its
summer best with a wide variety of vegetation. Fungi growth was
prolific and Elspeth drew our attention to a chocolate coloured
bolete mushroom with its spongy underside instead of gills. It is
apparently edible! Dainty creeping lady’s tresses and the rare
one-flowered wintergreen had popped up through the woodland floor
inviting us to admire and photograph them.
rose when an osprey was spotted flying above the trees and the nest
was pointed out not far away. We might have stayed there all day
had lunch at the hide not beckoned. We continued until the trees
gave way to the shore and revealed an attractive wooden structure
from which one can observe the mudflats in comfort.
It was low tide when we were there and nothing of interest was seen
in the immediate vicinity. Cormorants and ducks were spotted
through binoculars but no seals or otters.
After lunch we
continued along the trail expecting to get closer to the water’s
edge. We came to a house where gravel on the driveway made it
difficult for the scooters and they had to be pushed out onto a
grassy path beyond. However the path didn’t seem to bring us any
closer to the water and after a while we turned round and retraced
On the return
we again stopped to watch the osprey and observe the nest which
apparently has three chicks in it.
A big thank you to our leader,
Elspeth, and our fantastic van team, Graham, Ron, Richard and
Victor. A thoroughly enjoyable and interesting day was had by all.
Auchteraw, Fort Augustus - 1st July 2019
This much anticipated ramble in a beautiful part of the Great Glen
took us deep into Auchteraw Wood which is part of an extensive
forest between Glen Albyn (or The Great Glen) and Glen Moriston to
who spent much of his working life here with the Forestry
Commission, explained that this forest, around Fort Augustus, was
the first to be planted in 1919 providing additional employment for
local crofters and so was celebrating its 100th anniversary. He also
informed us that, since 1st April 2019, forestry had been fully
devolved to the Scottish Parliament and the Forestry Commission had
been incorporated into a new body - Forestry and Land Scotland.
The ramble followed a track through impressive stands of tall and
straight Scots Pine, Norway Spruce and European Larch till, in a
clearing, we could see a deep looking stretch of the River Oich and,
beyond it, the Caledonian Canal.
rejoining the tarred road to return to our start point we passed a
fine looking Log House, built by Canadian foresters in 1980 and
available for holiday rental.
Despite the poor forecast we only had one
shower and our lunch stop,
by a new micro
hydro scheme power house, was enjoyed in full
sunshine. Rosemary held her fundraising raffle and the goodies on
offer were won by a beaming Peggie.
On the final leg along the road we saw bonnie blooming bell heather
and other wild flowers which were attracting bees and butterflies;
Elspeth suddenly got very excited too when she spotted a
pancake-like fungus at least six inches across.
It had been another successful ramble through countryside new to
most of us and many vowed to return to explore further the river and
the Iron Age fort on Torr Dhuin which gives its name to this
peaceful part of the woodland.
Glenmore to the Green Loch - 11th June
Tuesday 11th June we set off from the Glenmore Visitor Centre to
ramble to the Green Loch. The plan was to ramble through beautiful
forest, admiring the wide views and the splendid trees, to eat our
lunch in the sunshine by the sparkling waters of the Lochan, and to
return, replete and contented. It didn’t quite work out that way.
left the visitor centre in a light drizzle and trundled along paths
with rather frustrating cross-cut drains. Oddly (there must be some
sort of technical reason) all the drains ran diagonally rather than
straight across the path; not much of a problem for us, but they
looked absolutely lethal for all the cyclists we encountered. Drop a
front wheel into one of those and you’d be catapulted into the
passed the Reindeer Centre, but apart from piles of antlers awaiting
conversion into no doubt expensive souvenirs there was no evidence
of the animals. Past Glenmore Lodge, a big outdoor sports and
activity centre, we began to emerge into more open country, with
views through the trees to moorland and distant mountains. The
drizzle stepped up a notch into light rain, and a chill little
breeze joined in. Midsummer in the Highlands! But at least it kept
the midges away – they were all sheltering somewhere, probably
peering out at us and thinking we were mad. Holly, Martin’s Golden
Retriever, decided she wasn’t wet enough and took to splashing
through various streams.
were some spectacular trees, including Scots Pines, as this is a
region of ancient pine and birch forest, and in front of us loomed
An Sidhean (The Fairies’ Hill), standing guard over the Green Loch.
By the time we arrived at the Green Loch (and the water really is -
guess what - deep green!) the rain was pattering down steadily and
the breeze was stiffer and colder than ever. As were we all! It was
a pity, really, as this is a beautiful spot and would have been just
glorious in the sunshine! We clustered under the trees to eat, and
Holly dashed madly from person to person trying to persuade us that
Martin never fed her and she was on the point of starving to death.
didn’t linger over our lunch, and set off back to the Visitor
Centre. Elspeth ordered us all “hoods down and big smiles” for the
camera! Just outside the Visitor Centre is a
memorial to Norwegian resistance fighters who were based here during
the Second World War, training in the forest and on the shores of
Loch Morlich before returning secretly to Norway and carrying out
daring raids against the Nazi forces. There were fresh flowers and
Norwegian flags at the memorial.
We retreated to the cafe
for hot drinks and eats, and Sandra was volunteered to tour the
members and sell raffle tickets - we raised £28, which was good!
Even with the
less-than-ideal weather it was a lovely ramble, and many thanks to
Victor for organising us, and dashing round madly with ramps to get
us across the more intimidating cross-drains. If only he’d organised
more sunshine and less rain.
Plodda ramble - 22nd May 2019
To get to the starting point for our ramble we drove along one
track, winding roads and eventually arrived at Plodda Falls car
Before we set off Martin told us some of the history of the area
when it was a private estate. Years ago wealthy and titled people
from the south of England often came up to the estate to shoot deer.
On one such occasion the owner offered the 20,000 acre estate for
sale for £60,000. This offer was immediately snapped up by one
visitor. A verbal agreement was made and hands were shaken. Although
overnight the owner (in a more sober mood) realised his error, the
visitor Lord Tweedsmouth made him keep to his promise, and
consequently developed and managed the estate for many years
After Martin’s talk we set off on our ramble from the car park. The
track was good, mostly downhill, with very tall Douglas Fir trees
all around. The height of those trees was emphasised when we came
across one that had fallen down. Apparently it was one of the tall
Douglas Fir trees from this forest that was selected to form the
mast of Scott’s ship the Endeavour. As well as the tall trees there
were rowan saplings and even a holly, the seeds of which had
obviously been brought in by birds.
We eventually went down quite steeply to the River Plodda to a
lovely spot to eat our sandwiches, whilst being entertained by three
dogs in our party, splashing around in the river and retrieving
things thrown for them. After this we retraced our steps, mostly
uphill back to the car park.
Martin was right - it didn’t rain! A very enjoyable time was had by
all, including the dogs!
Alan & Kath
Newtonmore Folk Museum Thursday 2nd May
As a newly recruited member of the Highland Disabled Ramblers, I was
asked by Elspeth (Secretary) to write an account of our latest
Please excuse my verbal ramblings, it has been a while since I've
had to do anything like this and the trip to Newtonmore's Highland
Folk Museum is only my second outing with the club. Anyway, I was
really looking forward to the day out. I had visited the museum
previously with my daughter and grandchildren and I'd loved every
minute. Ever since, I have spread the word amongst my friends and
have recommended it as a unique and fascinating place to visit
within easy reach of Inverness.
Just as on my first outing with HDR, the whole trip was so well
organised and researched in advance. We arrived at approximately
10.45am and the scooters were ready and waiting with, of course, our
trusty helpers making sure we were all au fait with the workings and
seating of our scooters. Amazingly, there is no entrance
fee at the Highland Folk Museum but any donations are gratefully
received. My helper (my good friend Linda) and I set off immediately
for the 17th century Blackhouses Village which is at one end of the
80 acre site. This village is unique and can be seen nowhere else in
the British Isles. Elsewhere on site, there are over 30 buildings to
be visited, including a 1920's Schoolhouse (with teacher!), Old
Sweetie Shop, Café, Gift Shop, and a huge array of objects of
After our patrol through this amazing place (taking in the beautiful
scenery and breath-taking views of the Cairngorms), we headed for
our picnic lunch in the building Am Fasgadh. Am Fasgadh houses the
museum's main collection of over 12,000 artefacts, which can be
viewed by the public on prearranged tours.
Our visit ended all too soon with everyone having had a fabulous
time. My warmest thanks to all those who contributed to a hugely
successful day; the organisers, van drivers, helpers, and scooter
riders. Not forgetting Anne and Ettta who persuaded me to join the
group. The camaraderie amongst members at HDR is wonderful and if
anyone reading this feels that they would like to learn more,
details are on the website.
Thank you again for another great experience!
Drumnadrochit ramble & AGM 13th April 2019
We all arrived at the central car park in Drum on a lovely cool
sunny morning. Notable absentees were our chairman Martin and other
stalwart Peggie. Both had just had minor health scares with no
apparent serious consequences, but had decided to relax at their
respective homes. We all wish them a full and speedy recovery.
In Martin’s absence, our van team manager Graham stepped into the
breach and led a very pleasant ramble above Drum. We trundled past
houses, next to fields and into woods with some amazing huge
conifers. In some places the going was rather rough but our trusty
scooters and helpful volunteers ensured everyone negotiated safely.
At various points Graham gave us interesting background on the
history of the old Balmacaan estate which we were passing through.
Back at the car park, we all drove to the Church of Scotland Hall
where we could eat our picnics. We were welcomed to the hall by
ladies of the church, Maureen and Ann, who served us with teas,
coffees and cakes. We are grateful to them for stepping in at short
notice, as the usual ladies on duty were both unwell. Instead of
home baking, the cakes were procured from Cobbs bakery in Drum. A
collection was made by the members in aid of one of the church’s
charities, Kids of Kolkata.
Then to the AGM.
In Martin’s absence, Elspeth presided at the meeting. Martin’s
chairman’s report was read out by Graham, Rosemary’s Treasurer’s
report read by Elspeth and Suzana’s membership secretary’s report by
herself ! The management committee were ‘allowed’ to continue, with
Ron, our new scooter manager, elected to join them.
Diana M. and Janet S. thanked the committee for all their hard work
in keeping HDR functioning, allowing members to enjoy their scooter
rambling in the outdoors.
Detailed minutes and financial statement are available to members by
request to the committee.
Talk on Abriachan Forest Trust - 22nd March 2019
We were pleased to welcome Suzanne Barr to tell us about the history
and the current management and activities taking place at Abriachan
Forest above Loch Ness. In 1991 the Trust was set up as a charity
when the community of Abriachan bought the forest area from the
Forestry Commission. The forest consisted mainly of lodgepole pine
and spruce which were not profitable for the FC.
The Trust began to manage the forest by gradually removing some of
the poorer trees to open up the area and make it more attractive to
visitors. The Trust continues to manage the forest by selective
felling and replanting with native trees.
They obtained an agreement to allow public access to all of the
area. Over the years they have improved and put in new paths as
well as two log cabins and a composting toilet. There is a
children’s play area and tree house as well as reconstructions of a
Bronze Age roundhouse and a shieling. There are now cycle trails and
an all abilities trail.
As well as visiting school groups and the public, the Trust run
initiatives to encourage those with special needs of many kinds to
take part in conservation work and activities. They provide unique
opportunities for those not catered for by mainstream education, and
in return, their woodworking, art work and other products are seen
by all visitors along the trails. The Trust can continue its
progammes only by constant fundraising and seeking volunteers to
augment the staff to help with the conservation and education work.
HDR has a visit planned to Abriachan on 8th August this
year, so we look forward to enjoying a ramble through this unique
Peggie’s Quiz - Thursday 21st February 2019
We gathered as usual in Inshes Church for a soup and sandwich lunch
followed by Peggie’s famous quiz. This is always the highlight of
the winter indoor programme. It was even more special this year
because we were able to welcome Peggy back after a hospital stay and
period of recuperation. Peggie somehow managed this time away from
HDR to ensure the quiz was not disrupted in any way! We divided
into several teams decided by no more than where we sat for lunch so
the size of team varied from 3 to 5 – all fair and square there
then. There were several rounds and each team could pick one round
to play the team joker card for a chance to earn double points. A
definite advantage for the quiz is to have good hearing because then
you are likely to hear the correct answer as a stage whisper from
several tables at once. It was good fun and we enjoyed trying to
make the brain cells and memory work even if they were not always
willing. So thank you Peggie for a great afternoon’s entertainment.
Following the quiz Janet spoke about her job providing support
services for the visually impaired. She covers the whole of
Highland and is based in the Eye Clinic in Raigmore Hospital. Janet
told us about the services and support she is able to offer and how
to contact her.
As we welcomed Peggie back we also had to say goodbye to Nigel who
is moving away from Highland. Nigel has been a mainstay of the Van
Team who all work hard to ensure the scooters are where they need to
be at the beginning and end of our rambles. So thank you Nigel for
all your hard work and friendship over the last few years and we
wish you all success in the future.
Talk on ETHIOPIA - 24th January 2019
24th January we had the first of our winter meetings, and
Elspeth gave us a talk and slide show covering her trip to Ethiopia
in 2008. This is a country packed full of spectacular landscapes,
fascinating wildlife and warm and welcoming people.
visited as part of a small-group tour, about 15 people, with local
guides. The tour began in the capital, Addis Ababa, a vibrant and
bustling city, a curious mix of modern development and donkey carts.
From Addis the group went north to Lake Tana, Ethiopia’s largest
lake and the source of the Blue Nile. Lake Tana has a lot of
islands, many with monasteries on them (over 60% of the population
are Christian, mostly Ethiopian Orthodox.). A fisherman was paddling
his papyrus boat, as his ancestors must have done for thousands of
years. After that they visited a beautiful cataract on the Blue Nile
itself, and walked down to its base. In the ancient city of Gondar
they saw the walled fortress and palace compound, once the seat of
Ethiopian emperors, with the immense 17th-century castle of Emperor
destination was the Simien Mountains, a wild and rugged area close
to the Eritrean border. This was bandit country, and armed guards
were much in evidence, as well as Gelada Baboons, with their
distinctive red “bleeding heart” chest patch. The baboons live in
very large groups, and seem to enjoy posing for photographs!
On to Aksum,
once the capital of the Aksumite Kingdom, and known for its
obelisks, or stelae; they range from standing stones reminiscent of
Callanish or Brodgar to huge and elaborately-carved obelisks. The
24-metre Obelisk of Axum was looted by Italy and shipped to Rome in
1937, finally being returned in 2005. The New Cathedral of St. Mary
of Zion stands next to the old one, and was built in the 1950s. The
small chapel known as the Chapel of the Tablet was built at the same
time, and is believed to house the Ark of the Covenant, brought from
Jerusalem by the son of Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, whose Palace
is here. Admittance to the chapel is closed to all but its guardian
monk – even the Patriarch of the Orthodox Church isn’t allowed in!
are the breathtaking rock-hewn churches. These are carved into the
solid bedrock, their roofs level with the surrounding ground, each
with a deep “trench” carved down and the church, carefully hollowed
out, standing in the centre. They are world-famous, and rightly so,
an extraordinary feat. There are 11 churches in all, and the Church
of St George is generally considered the finest.
A final stop
in Harar, a Muslim area with an ancient walled city packed with
narrow alleyways and market stalls. Finally visiting an animal
market where cattle and camels were traded, before heading back to
All in all it
was a fascinating glimpse of a little-known country, and I think I
wasn’t the only one wondering where my passport was by the time we
returned to a chilly Inverness afternoon! Thank you, Elspeth.