Good evening! Yes, I'm writing this at 9:30pm on Sunday in order to meet my weekly deadline.
This coming week is going to be SUPER busy, as it's my last work-week before my wedding vacation! I'll be entertaining a couple visitors and getting married between Feb 11-19, so I have to be very diligent to keep up with my target of posting once a week!
Let me start by saying, today's hike was INCREDIBLE.
We ventured to the Glen Affric National Nature Reserve, and specifically explored the Plodda Falls trails.
I'm sure by now you can tell I'm sort of a waterfall fanatic, and this particular falls had been on my Scotland bucket list for a long time! You'll see why below...
We left our home a little late in the day (about 11am), and with an hour drive ahead of us, I was slightly worried about the light. We had blue skies and sunshine, but I knew from experience that can change VERY quickly!
I reminded myself that I've hiked in plenty of rain and snow (see last post), and still end up enjoying it! So I settled in for a beautiful drive.
Glen Afric is often considered a "gem" of the highlands, and many locals refer to it as Scotland's "best glen." I heard about it because it is one of the most ancient forests in the UK - an original Caledonian Forest. Why is that noteworthy? Because it refers to the ancient old growth forest that started here over 10,000 years ago. There are many Scots Pines here that are direct descendants of those ancient trees, which are ecologically unique to the Scottish Highlands.
We chose Plodda Falls trails for today's adventure, however there are thousands of acres to explore and we will be making several trips in the future!
The falls themselves are a massive 151 feet (46 metres) high. There is a viewing platform directly above the lip of the falls, which gives a dizzying view down into the gorge below. I was literally speechless as I stood there.
There are a few trail options, which are various loops throughout the forest. If you are feeling brave, there are ways to get directly beneath the falls (off the trail) however, do so at your own risk.
Because of the all the moisture in the air, the trails below the falls are incredibly lush. Every trunk, limb, and rock is dripping with moss and lichen. Even in winter, you can see how vibrant and full of life it is! It reminded me a lot of Reelig Glen (which I have featured on my blog before).
The thundering falls create relentless waves of mist below, so as we made our way to the base and I chose a spot to paint, I realized it was going to be a rather uncomfortable paint session. Nay bother, I am OK with being uncomfortable, when it means I get to experience beauty and awe of this magnitude! Sometimes being uncomfortable gives us a new perspective.
After pausing to take in the power of the falls, and acclimate to the cool mist, I found a wee seat on the rocks, and dove into painting.
Every time I turned my sketchbook slightly towards the falls, a fresh layer of mist fell onto the paper. Since I was painting with gouache, it left an interesting "spray" pattern on the paint.
It wasn't drying, so I had to hold the sketchbook open while we continued back onto the trail (it took about 45 minutes to dry completely!).
It was hovering around 2°C, cold enough to have me zipping my jacket, wearing gloves and hat, and constantly sniffling (ugh). However, back within the protection of the trees, there was a renewed sense of warmth and comfort.
As you wander the trails through the old forest, you feel as though you are walking among giants. There is a deep sense of self-awareness, and I actually found myself feeling tiny and insignificant as I walked past the huge trunks (which is a good thing). Let's face it. We aren't as important as we think we are. I like being humbled by these ancient beings.
As the sun started disappearing behind the tree-covered hills, we continued down the path until we found a place to take a break. I wanted to paint the forest, and we had packed some snacks, so we settled for a natural "chair" made of an old stump. The pines were towering above us, and I sunk into a deep sense of peace as I brushed paint over the canvas.
It was pretty chilly at this point, so we only stayed for about 20 minutes. I spent about 10 minutes painting, and the rest of the time I just sat in silence, absorbing the calming sound of birds chirping, creaking pines, and the faint sound of water in the distance.
However, we suddenly realized the sun was about to set, so we continued on!
At the end of the day, we found ourselves overwhelmed by how beautiful and epic this place was. There was so much variety - from the countless waterfalls, gentle meandering streams, vivid moss, ancient trees, and winding trails. This forest has catapulted to the top of my favorite list, and we will DEFINITELY be returning here many times!
Side note: The road from Tomich to the Plodda Falls car park is about 3.5 miles of dirt track full of potholes. When we finished our hike and returned to the car, we discovered our tire was flat. Luckily, Wolfy knew how to handle it, and we were on our way about 10 minutes later.