Monday, 16 April 2012

Three days in the Scottish Highlands - Loch Ossian youth hostel

looking down on Loch Ossian youth hostel

Recently I spent three nights in the Scottish Youth Hostel Association's Loch Ossian hostel. It's an eco-hostel with its own wind turbine. It has reed-bed-filtration toilets and no showers. Access is by train to Corrour Station then a one-mile walk to the hostel. You have to bring all the food you need and remove all the rubbish you create. There's no mobile phone signal unless you're on Vodaphone. 

If you think all this sounds too basic, think again. Waking on the shore of a beautiful loch amid vast moorland and mountains is worth any minor discomfort and inconvenience.

Corrour station
A day trip is possible by leaving Glasgow Queen Street at 8:21 am to have seven hours walking from Corrour before catching the 6:25 pm train home. Check ScotRail's website for the latest timetables.

Even better is to stay at the hostel and explore the area in greater depth. At the end of three days there with my friends Kittie ( and Paul we still had a lot of ground not covered. I'll write about our walks in a few separate postings rather than in one very lengthy piece.

To start, a little about bird life around the hostel:  

As well as hordes of chaffinches and a few coal tits on the hostel peanut feeders were two siskins - delicate fork-tailed birds of the finch family. One a black-capped male, the other a dappled green-grey female.

Kittie & Paul above Loch Ossian, pencil & watercolour in sketchbook, 14.5x41cm

Canada goose sketch, pen on paper, 14.5x20.5cm
The low echoing honking of Canada geese sounded regularly outside the hostel. Probably they were nesting on the little pined islets. 

Sometimes as a goose swam it would stretch its neck forward and back, forward and back, low on the water. Either a courtship act or a threatening gesture to rival birds.

Canada goose, Loch Ossian

Canada goose sketches, pen on paper, 14.5x20.5cm

Canada goose, Loch Ossian

Meadow pipits accompanied us on our walks always. Moorland is their territory. From rock or heather perches they perform their song flight - they fly swiftly upwards before gliding back to earth in a parachuting motion with tail stiffened upwards and triangle wings.

Another regular sighting was the hooded crow - a close relation of the carrion crow. They're seldom seen in West Lothian where I live so I always love to be in their habitat. Contrasting light grey waistcoat body and black head and wings puts me in mind of mediaeval soldiers wearing tabard and helmet.

Grey herons are amazing to watch, it seems incredible that such a large bird can stay aloft. Here by the hostel they glide silently towards the islets on downcurved wings, rearing up at the last moment to leggily land in the tops of Scots Pines where a clattering racket immediately starts up. When they take flight again they make strangled cries - people hearing this sound in the skies at night used to think witches were passing overhead. 

from Loch Ossian hostel, a heron about to land, pencil & pen &watercolour in sketchbook, 14x20.5cm

1 comment:

  1. Excellent work Leo. You are simply fantastic!