Highland Hermit Brought to Book

Our popular book Highland Hermit is now available in paperback form. It sold well in Kindle format but following a number of requests we have now published the title in traditional book form. It is available from Amazon priced at £4.99 plus shipping.

The book can also be ordered from CreateSpace by clicking here.

On the same topic, Ghosts of Barlinnie is also available in paperback form, again priced at £4.99 plus shipping, from Amazon and CreateSpace.

The content of both titles is exactly the same as the Kindle versions although all images are reproduced in black and white.

Glen Doll Wild Camping

Glen Doll has long been bereft of a campsite. There used to be one adjacent to the car park but, thanks to some rather rowdy campers and a few too many boozy parties, it closed down (quite a number of years ago now). However, in a bid to fill the void left by its departure, the local ranger service has designated three short stay wild camping sites. They are located in Glendoll Forest adjacent to Jock’s Road (NO 252766), in a former quarry above Acharn (NO 280764) and by the River South Esk south of Moulzie (NO 285768). With no road access, all require a walk in.

Hill Tracks

Making tracks

What a difference a decade makes. Today, I hiked up the Firmounth Road from Tarfside in Glen Esk en route to the summit of Hill of Cat. I did a similar walk in 2002 and, as I set out from the car park, I had happy memories of walking the old road all those years ago.

However, above the renovated lodge at Shinfur, I quickly discovered that over recent years the original hill track – a long established right of way linking Tarfside in Angus with Dinnet in Deeside – has been replaced by a much more robust estate road, one of many on the Millden Estate constructed to service numerous lines of grouse butts.

Grouse butt building

It wasn’t particularly pleasant underfoot, but did make short work of the ascent to the top of Tampie where, as part of the estate’s ongoing drive to upgrade its grouse moors, a line of butts was in the process of being rebuilt.

The ‘upgraded’ Firmounth Road lifted me up and over Tampie and as I progressed towards the next peak, Gannoch, it became apparent that the redevelopment was not yet complete. Ahead of me, at the end of the newest section of track, sat a mechanical excavator – poised to carve up even more of the original route.

It is a great pity that the old Firmounth has been bulldozed out in such a fashion. Gone is a wonderful old hill track. In its original state, it was an integral part of the landscape. Weathered and overgrown, the heathery highway lay hidden amongst the hills. Now, sadly, it is an all too obvious scar of grit and gravel.

For more on the Firmounth Road, visit Heritage Paths.

Caught in a Trap

Stoat in a fen trap

As a follow up to an earlier post (scroll down to find it!) about animal traps in the Scottish countryside, I came across three traps containing dead animals on my wanderings in the Angus hills today.

The first contained a freshly snared stoat, killed as it scampered through a fen trap slung over a stream close to the Firmounth/Fungle Road in Glen Esk, on the Millden Estate. It is one of the few occasions I have spotted a stoat in the great outdoors – just a pity it was in such circumstances.

Rat in a trap

The second was a rat, again captured in a fen trap, this one positioned over the Burn of Cat, across the valley.

The use of these fen traps is legal as a means of controlling vermin, including both rats and stoats.

The third trapped creature was a very dead (skeletal in fact) bird lying in the base of what appeared to be a disused Larsen trap, again located close to the Burn of Cat.

Bird skeleton in Larsen trap

For more on animal and bird traps used in the countryside, visit Onekind’s excellent walkers’ guide.

Update Another day on the hills and another grim find in a fen trap, this time a stoat caught in a stream gully between Dog Hillock and Hill of Glansie.

 

Trapped stoat

West Highland Way Round

Delighted to announce the publication of my latest title for Kindle and Kindle apps – West Highland Way Round.

The ebook describes a 99km circular walking trail through the Scottish Highlands, starting and finishing in Glen Nevis, near the UK’s outdoor capital, Fort William.

The route follows the existing West Highland Way between Fort William, Kinlochleven and King’s House before heading east to join the ancient Road to the Isles at Rannoch Station. From there it heads north to Corrour Station before roaming through wild, uninhabited glens. Read more…

Animal and Bird Traps in our Countryside

During a recent hike in the Scottish Borders, I came across bird traps containing two crows. It is the first time I have found such a thing, although they are apparently quite common in this part of the country.

As a walker, I wasn’t quite sure what to do. At the time I was uncertain about the legality of the traps. Should I intervene and free the stricken crows or leave well alone? The birds were clearly in a state of distress. It is a dilemma other walkers have doubtless faced.

A little research revealed that such trapping is perfectly legal, provided the traps follow certain requirements (although there seems to be a very fine line between what is legal and what is illegal).

Traps are placed by keepers to catch birds like crows that may prey on the eggs of ground-nesting game birds such as grouse. That, however, raises the question of whether one species of bird should be persecuted for the sake of another, clearly more profitable one.

The traps I found were a Larsen trap (legal) sitting adjacent to a Snapper trap (illegal). The Larsen trap is placed with a live decoy bird in it (food and water should be provided). The idea is that this decoy bird will attract others to the site.

The Snapper trap, which had snared a crow, is a rather more basic affair, a small cage that snaps shut when a bird enters. By law only carrion crows, rooks or magpies can legally be used as decoys in Larsen traps in Scotland and the traps must be checked on a daily basis.

A variety of other types of trap and snare can be legally used in the Scottish countryside. The animal welfare organisation OneKind produces a useful guide for walkers.

If you find a trap in the countryside and are unsure whether or not it is legal, contact OneKind or Against Corvid Traps. They have a useful link on their website where you can report traps. Provide as much info as possible including details of the location (with a GPS/OS grid reference), the type of trap, whether there are birds in it and if there is a decoy bird, does it have food and water? You can also attach a photo.

If you find a bird of prey in a trap contact the RSPB and police immediately.