To get to Inver Ness -- "inbhir" being the Gaelic word for "cove or creek at the mouth of a river", the spoken emphasis falls equally on the first and third syllables -- one must travel across the Firth of Forth, and then across the Highlands, a high, windy place. We sped across in a train, and every mile added northerness.
The "red bridge" was, for its time, an engineering marvel, the longest steel railroad bridge. In the wake of the Tey Bridge disaster, it was built to restore public trust in the invincibility of Scottish civil engineering. It's a powerful bridge, and feels safe as houses as we crossed.
Highland scenes along the railway.
After a fair hike, we retrieved our hired car and tried to make sense of Inver Ness's tangle of one way streets. After a few thrills, we found our way to our home-for-a-night, unloaded our goods, logged on for the first time in several days (our Edinburgh host being entirely uncooperative) and then headed into town across the Grieg Street pedestrian suspension bridge -- no town with a river should be without one!
heading across the Inver Ness
on the Grieg Street bridge
Following our second expedition to town from our B&B for dinner, we stayed up late watching the British version of Survivor. Looking outside at eleven o'clock (2300 over here) we noticed how light the north sky was, and were reminded how far north we are.
After the obligatory cooked breakfast, we headed south for the obligatory visit to Loch Ness.
Fortunately, we had checked in with our Inver Ness Servas host the night before, and she had suggested that we move along to another prettier area west of Loch Ness, a restoration area named Glen Affric. We were glad to leave the tourist hoardes and their immense busses and spend some time in the peace and quiet of this little known treasure.
Obligatory Loch Ness picture
The hydro-electric Loch in Glen Affric
Glen Affric is a large forested area recently brought under the control of the Forest Commission, who have worked hard to control the deer population and begin companionate plantings of native trees and abatement of exotic species planted wrongheadedly 25 years ago. It's a bit of a showcase for forest restoration.
Along the trail to Dog Falls
The "forest walks" have been carefully laid out to separate cars from people, and to maximize the enjoyment of the walks. The signage is almost too good. There was a sign that called attention to the fact that this was the richest known dragonfly habitat in the British Isle, and then detailed the various species of dragonflies found here.
Though young, the forest is rich, and there is an abundance of insects and birds that we haven't seen anywhere else along the way.
The Scottish National Flower
A bracken-covered slope
Inver Affric below Dog Falls
The payoff of the Dog Falls forest walk is, of course, a peek at Dog Falls, where the surprisingly powerful little Inver Affric (or what's left of it after taking out the hydro portion) plunges twenty feet -- far enough, the foresters are quick to note, to make it impossible for anadromous fish to make the jump, so any development above the falls is immune from salmon habitat concerns.
Glen Affric, with its thriving young forest, clear but peaty streams, and narrow roads had just as well be on a different planet from Loch Ness. Here we got a real glimpse of what the original land must have looked like. Everywhere else, we were assured, the land is being managed for profit, which includes monocropping exotic trees such as lodgepole, and overgrazing sheep and red deer, the latter for "sport" for rich hunters from Germany and Scandinavia to "hunt" -- if it's a hunt they want, why would they extirpate the wolves and encourage a forest-damaging overabundance of deer?
Dog Falls looking upstream
We rattled around on Black Island, an amazingly productive peninsula sticking out into the Moray Firth until it was time to appear at our Servas hosts' house. While rattling, we picked a couple of kilos of strawberries for tea, saw several redundant north sea oil rigs parked in a bay, and watched a litter of weasels, like pencils with legs, race across the remote road in front of our car.
I'm still digesting -- sorry for the pun -- our next day's visit to Findhorn, the highlight of which was our tour of their sewage treatment plant. When I get time, there will be a whole page dedicated to this important project; it's a John Todd "Living Machine". Incidentally, Chad wants the record to reflect, in no uncertain terms, that he did NOT go to Findhorn, but played a rousing round of golf at Inverness instead.
The Founders' original caravan and garden
I am only slightly disturbed by the idea of making a caravan park (a trailer park to you colonials) next door to an active military aerodrome into the nucleus for a New Age Centre. It still operates as a holiday caravan park, incidentally, but they are working to replace the decaying caravans with properly built small houses that would fit right into my local woods.
One of the latest entries in Findhorn's "Sustainable Housing" project
As one of our hosts observed, the 40-pound cabbages might owe as much to the excellent soil, clement microclimate, and abundant local horse manure as it does to the famous and much-touted "energy field". I didn't come as a doubter; I was impressed by the best natural food store this side of Corners of the Mouth in Mendocino; the Living Machine's simplicity and elegance knocked my socks off. But as a community ... well, it seems more like a business to me.
updated 22 July 2001 : 7:18 Caspar (Pacific) time
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