At long last I managed to fit in a weekend in Scotland to visit my son who is currently working in Edinburgh. After a slightly delayed but enjoyable Flybe flight from London City it started with a tram ride into the city with a couple of pints at a Haymarket pub. Saturday morning saw us enjoying a superb breakfast at Down The Hatch at the Port Edgar Marina next to the Forth Bridges.
From here we headed north to Perth and then up the A9 to the distillery at Dalwinnie which is apparently the highest and coldest village in Britain. First a short walk by Loch Ericht where the first birds (other than from the car) of the trip were seen. These included Oystercatcher, Common Sandpiper and breeding Dunlin. This was followed by a tour of the Dalwinnie Distillery. From here we headed off to Loch Garten where just Siskin was of note. Alas there were no Ospreys visible on the nest. We then set off for our hotel, the Duke of Gorden at Kingussie which was very pleasant although we were well to the lower end of the demographic. After a nice meal and a couple of beers we had a reasonably early night in preparation for the challenge that was to come on Sunday. We were up early and headed over to the local Co-op before breakfast. Then it was off into the mountains for our hike to the summit of Ben Macdui which at 4295 feet is the second highest mountain in the UK. Starting from the ski-centre gave us a slightly shorter ascent but the conditions were challenging to say the least with a combination of high winds, deep snow underfoot, heavy snow falling and poor visibility all making it, at least for me extremely hard work. On the bird front a small flock of Snow buntings in the car park got things off to a good start, brief sightings of a Red Grouse along with Raven and Wheatear were all that was seen on the lower slopes. Just over half-way up I got what was my probably hardest earned lifer with a sighting of three Ptarmigan. At one point, due to the conditions we had seriously considered turning back but we met up with three other walkers and buoyed by a dramatic improvement in visibility struck off again for the summit, which after around three and a half gruelling hours we finally reached. With forty plus mile per hour winds and a chill factor of around minus twelve it wasn’t long before were heading back down. At times we were all at least knee deep in the snow.
Two more Ptarmigan were seen during the descent. Back at the ski-centre great views were had off the Snow Buntings as they fed on crumbs outside of the cafe.