Walking and biking in Glen Affric National Nature Reserve, near Shenval B&B Walking and biking in Glen Affric National Nature Reserve, near Shenval B&B Walking and biking in Glen Affric National Nature Reserve, near Shenval B&B

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What is there to be done around our environmentally friendly Shenval organic B&B, near Loch Ness and Glen Affric in the Scottish Highlands? This green tourism destination has lots to offer to the nature and wildlife lover: birdwatching, hillwalking and rambling or mountain biking. A quick look at our 2012 diary tells you more…

January is ideal for birdwatching on the shores of the Moray Firth. Just  under one hour's drive from Shenval B&B the mudflats of Munlochy Bay (below), on the Black Isle, just north of Inverness attract thousands of overwintering birds from the arctic circle and all kinds of waders: greylag geese, whooper swans, barnacle geese, wigeons, oyster catchers, redshanks, turnstones, curlews…      

          Munlochy Bay near Shenval B&B, Black Isle

In February, in Inverness, the ice-covered inner Moray Firth, below, looks truly Nordic. But with the lengthening daylight lower hills become more accessible. Draped as they are in swirling mists, modest hills like Stac Pollaidh, in Wester Ross, take an eerie and unusual dimension. Stac Pollaidh, Wester Ross, Shenval B&B day trip

          Frozen Moray Firth shores, Inverness, near Shenval B&B

Red kite near Shenval B&B, Highlands In Marchred kites exploit strengthening thermals to seek out their prey as they soar above the Black Isle. The Black Isle is also known as a haven for otters. We have seen them there but never managed to catch them on camera. Our consolation: just capturing their well-trodden path from sea to  holt. Otter trail, Black Isle, Highlands


As the days lengthen and the weather gets warmer,  hillwalking is on the cards and we can go further into the hills as the snow is starting to slowly retreat towards the summits. The ascent of Ben Wyvis (1046m) reveals the Highlands of Easter Ross. Well done Scottish Natural Heritage for their erosion-checking path building!
Ben Wyvis views near Shenval B&B, Highlands
Quinag, two hours drive from Shenval B&B Another sunny day was synonymous with yet more enjoyable hillwalking as we ventured to the West Coast and climbed the rocky slopes of Quinag (808m) for the umpteenth time. Well done the John Muir Trust for some of their very sensitive footpath maintenance work!

In April, a short 20mns drive from Shenval B&B to Strathfarrar was all we needed to take our friends Chris and Jean to the foot of Beinn a'Bha'ach Ard (862m) which we duly climbed in full sunshine. A mountain hare scampered away as we approached the first snow patches while the horizon was opening up in all directions.


With Ben Nevis in full winter splendour to the south,  our panoramic views gradually extended west  to the hills of Glen Affric, then on to the distant Cuillin hills of the Isle of Skye, the Torridon hills, the Fannich range, Beinn Dearg, north to Ben Wyvis, and east to the Moray Firth, Inverness and distant Ben Rinnes in Moray. Visibility extending to 60 miles. Wow!


As our truly panoramic lunch was getting buffeted by strengthening icy winds we were urged on to a lesser summit before coming back down to warmer surroundings. Elated faces all round: a shared and savoured experience. Hillwalking as we like it! To be repeated, no doubt!

Glen Affric hills from Beinn a'Bha'ach'  Ard, near Shenval B&B

50 miles distant Ben Nevis, from near Shenval B&B

Beinn a'Bha'ach Ard heights, Strathfarrar by Shenval B&B

Rested TGO Challenge walkers at Shenval B&B

Eiders at Forvie sands, Scotland

May brought us the overnight visit of two TGO Challenge participants on their way from the West Coast to the North Sea. Every year we have the pleasure of welcoming some of the 300 Challengers who cross the Highlands from coast to coast over two weeks. Hardy and friendly lot these rambling Challengers!


New birdwatching horizons for us near Aberdeen, at Forvie National Nature Reserve where we can marvel at the sand dunes system fringed by frantic activities on the seabird front. Forvie is home to the most important British eider breeding site, with up to 1500 pairs. Much fewer in numbers,  Arctic, Sandwich, common and little terns have also made Forvie one of their favourite breeding sites.


June saw us take a two-day break to the north shores of Sutherland where we climbed iconic Ben Loyal. Despite its modest height of only 764m, Ben Loyal is a stunning viewpoint with distant vistas stretching from Orkney to North Rona. A stopover in Durness for some birdwatching gave us the opportunity to observe the antics of puffins nesting on the cliffs of Faraid Head.

     Rocky summit of Ben Loyal, Sutherland            Breeding puffins in Durness, Sutherland

Very busy times for us in July and August when we are almost under house arrest thanks to our numerous visitors who explore the country on our behalf. Magic moments for us and other Shenval B&B guests in July when illusionist Olivier Klinkenberg who hails from Belgium stopped in our place between two performances and treated us to some of his tricks. We are still under his spell months later…              OK Magics visit to Shenval B&B
Abriachan, above Loch Ness near Shenval B&B A mere 20mns drive from Shenval B&B, Abriachan Forest Trust, above Loch Ness, is a favoured place with families. The play park's climbing walls attract adventurous children, while parents discover the surrounding moorland and woodland which boast a lochside bird hide –where slavonian grebes have been seen-, a reconstructed Iron Age hut, a shieling and an ‘illicit’ whisky still. With numerous interpretation boards along the way, this is walking with a difference over the few miles of footpaths created by the local community. A welcome detour from busier Loch Ness.

September sees club mosses about to spread their spores from their unusual reproductive stems. Once giants in distant geological times, club mosses are now just crawling near the ground, barely visible in the heather. In the hills around Shenval B&B, rutting stags start to bellow, night and day. High above, very vocal V shaped flights of greylag geese flying in from Iceland are a sure sign that summer is nearly over.
Moorland club moss near Shenval B&B, Highlands of Scotland
October in the Highlands is associated with stunning woodland autumn colours while the stag rutting season runs on for another fortnight. Stags roaring always attract puzzled, sometimes anxious curiosity from some of our visitors who have never experienced this before. Meanwhile, at our bird table, birds not migrating to warmer climes are busy building their fat reserves for the looming winter. Some hilltops have had their first covering of snow. Roaring stag near Shenval B&B,  Scottish Highlands, © Daniel Dhal
November shakes off the remaining leaves, bringing mists, bolder frosts, shorter days and longer fireside evenings. December starts with a bang on its  first day: first snow in Shenval and temperatures dropping below freezing night and day. A short walk from our doorstep gives panoramic views to the snow covered hills of Glen Affric. Shenval B&B’s wood pellet stove swings into more definite working mode. Isn’t it cosy indoors?
Glen Affric hills near Shenval B&B, Highlands
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