Friday 7 July 2023

Rewilding and a wonky old castle

 Friday 7 July 2023

Nido's parked up in the car park at Torrieston forest. This is one of many 'Stay the Night' park-ups offered by Forestry and Land Scotland.  The concept has been trialled over a few years and we've used them before when visiting Scotland.  The rules are simple, you can only stay between 6pm and 10am at a flat rate cost of £7; outside of that you need to pay the normal day parking rates.  All of the parking areas have a maximum number of vans that can stay over, in this case it's two and we're the only one here at the moment, although a number of people in cars are parking up to walk in the forest. It's a great idea and one that England and Wales could benefit from if they wanted to encourage vans to park in the right places and earn some money.

Yesterday morning we visited the Dundreggan Rewilding Centre, near Glenmoriston, only about 15 minutes' drive from last night's park up and 8 miles south of Loch Ness. This is an area that's being rewilded in partnership with Trees for Life since 2008, recovering from centuries of damage caused by sheep, goats and deer. By allowing the forest to regenerate naturally, they have expanded important fragments of Scotland's Caledonian forest, providing a habitat for over 4,000 species of plants and animals, including golden eagles, wild boar and black grouse. There's plenty of parking with a visitor centre and café.  The walks are free, with a choice of routes depending on your interest and mobility.  We spent about 3 hours wandering around the routes. But be aware, some of them are challenging and strenuous. We loved the variety and diversity of flora and fauna. In particular, the mature birch and oak trees, dripping in lichen similar to the trees in South Carolina, USA were amazing, as well as the growing areas of juniper and heather.  It's free to walk around and definitely worth a visit. We hope they create rewilding corridors all over Scotland. Wales (and England) has a lot to learn from you.

After our adventures amongst the flora we'd just returned to the van before the heavens opened, so sat in smug comfort with a cup of tea and some Scottish shortbread. Our journey north took us on the A82 along the western side of Loch monsters were spotted!  It's a stunning place but over commercialised in areas, so we carried on north.  Reaching Inverness, we stopped at Tesco to refuel with food and diesel, before carrying on east through Nairn to our stop over at a small CAMC CL at Druim Heath, a few miles down the road. This CL is one of just a few remaining that is basic but lovely.  It's in a small grass field next to the owner's home - bins, a fresh water tap and a black waste dump...and all for just £8 per night.  I hope these types of basic CLs will continued to be available, but fear they will disappear as the corporate greed of CAMC takes over.  We set up camp as the rain started, so the awning was wound out and we sat underneath with a hot cup of tea.  Dinner was eaten under its shelter too, before we packed up and moved into the warmth of the van.

It rained in the night but the morning brought markedly higher temperatures and it seems the warmth will increase over the next couple of days.  The Thetford fridge saga continues, with it showing an intermittent error code which suggests the PCB needs replacing - £180 plus fitting costs!  I'm sure this fridge was a Friday afternoon job.  When bought and being fitted only six years ago, the door was found to be warped and a replacement had to be ordered. Since then the heater element and the gas burner have been replaced and now it seems the computer board is on the blink!  I dropped an email to CMS in Conwy to see if I can book it in to be diagnosed and repaired before we head to France next month.  Paul from CMS was only working on it last month to replace the burner.  This fridge is like 'Trigger's Broom' - nearly every part replaced!

We spent the day at Roseisle Country Park, parking up amongst the pines.  The forest runs for miles along a lovely sandy beach that overlooks the coast NE of Inverness as it runs up towards John o'Groats.  It was really warm, as was the sea and we had a good walk before returning to the van to chill out and eat.  On the way to Torrieston we stopped off to visit Duffus Castle, much of which is slipping down the bank it was built on - there's an owner who didn't listen to his builder!  A quick history lesson:

The castle is situated on the Laich of Moray, a fertile plain that was once the swampy foreshore of Spynie Loch. This was originally a more defensive position than it appears today, long after the loch was drained. 

The motte is a huge man-made mound, with steep sides and a wide ditch separating it from the bailey. The whole site is enclosed by a water-filled ditch, which is more a mark of its boundary than it is a serious defensive measure. 

Duffus Castle was built by a Flemish man named Freskin, who came to Scotland in the first half of the 1100s. After an uprising by the ‘men of Moray’ against David I in 1130, the king sent Freskin north as a representative of royal authority. 

He was given the estate of Duffus, and here he built an earthwork-and-timber castle. Freskin’s son William adopted the title of ‘de Moravia’ – of Moray. By 1200, the family had become the most influential noble family in northern Scotland, giving rise to the earls of Sutherland and Clan Murray. 

In about 1270, the castle passed to Sir Reginald Cheyne the Elder, Lord of Inverugie. He probably built the square stone keep on top of the motte, and the curtain wall encircling the bailey. In 1305, the invading King Edward I of England gave him a grant of 200 oaks from the royal forests of Darnaway and Longmorn, which were probably used for the castle’s floors and roofs. 

By 1350, the castle had passed to a younger son of the Earl of Sutherland through marriage. It may have been then that the keep was abandoned, possibly because it was beginning to slip down the mound, and a new residence established at the north of the bailey. 

Viscount Dundee, leader of the first Jacobite Rising, dined in the castle as a guest of James, Lord Duffus in 1689, prior to his victory against King William II’s government forces at Killiecrankie. Soon after, Lord Duffus moved to the nearby Duffus House. The castle quickly fell into decay. 

History lesson over!

On arrival at Torrieston, I paid using the RingGo app, so no need to carry half a hundred weight of pound coins.  We walked one of the trails on the other side of the road - about a mile long through lovely deciduous forest.  We didn't see another soul, although Salty did his best to find any red squirrels - unsuccessfully.  We're now enjoying the peace with a view over forest, fields and inquisitive cows.  Tea has been drunk, biscuits have been eaten.  It's still very warm and humid, so all doors and skylights are open.  The alarm's set for 0700 so we can be up and walk the other trail before we have to leave here by 1000.

Dundreggan Rewilding Centre and Cafe

A very peaceful CL

Roseisle Country Park

After walking away from the area around the parking we had the beach to ourselves

Duffus Castle

Photobombed by Salty!

The view from the castle loo!

Torrieston car park

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