It’s been a while since I’ve posted some travel images, eh? Get ready!
My nice DSLR camera broke recently, so I’ve been stuck with using my phone camera. Hopefuly you still enjoy this visual journey!
This past week, my friend was visiting from Germany and since I knew he was a huge fan of waterfalls, I decided that we would spend the week waterfall hunting.
By now I consider myself a waterfall aficionado, so I pulled out my map and made a plan.
On Wednesday we took a bus to Inverness to rent a car, and then headed out for an afternoon adventure to the west coast.
Ardessie Falls, at Loch Broom
Wolfy and I had been to Ardessie Falls a couple of times, so I knew it well. I’ve always felt that it easily rivaled the famous Fairy Pools of Skye in beauty and spledour, so of course this had to be our first hike. Best of all, no crowds! The only other beings we saw on our hike were two rambunctious goats.
When we arrived we were greeted with lots of ominous clouds, but the rain held off! This is one of those trails that almost doesn’t exist. You basically just stumble your way up the muddy fields and rocks for as long as your energy lasts. The trail could potentially go on for miles, and you could even ascend Sail Mhor (767m high) in the distance if you had the energy.
However we stuck with a liesurely pace and enjoyed the falls along the way.
White rapids and waterfalls pour down between jagged cliffs into beautiful crystal clear pools of water. Every single time I climb up and find another pool of water I want to dive in! However even in the heat of summer, the water is freezing cold.
Some of the waterfalls are massive, carving away the beautiful red stone, creating smooth chutes and bowls.
Thankfully my friend was totally fine with taking mini painting breaks. I was so incredibly inspired by the colors and textures.
My weapons of choice were watercolor, ink, pencil, and palette knife. I wanted to capture the jagged, geometric shapes of the rocks and the wild flowing water rushing past.
5 minute sketch at lower Ardessie Falls
We continued up, collecting more and more mud on our trousers, and getting thirsty with the effort.
We kept going, farther than I had ever climbed before, drawn towards a curious gorge in the distance.
When we finally ascended to it, we discovered paradise!
At this point we decided to take a little rest and have a snack while we absorbed the beauty. It may not look like it, but the drop down to the water was a good 40-50 feet (~15m). So we happily rested on our perch and gazed down while I painted.
After that we were knackered, so we decided to head down. We made it out just as the sun set, and had a lovely drive home in the changing light.
It was an incredible way to start our adventure!
Steall Falls at Ben Nevis
The next day, we were out the door by 9am and headed south, driving along Loch Ness and Loch Lochy with a bright blue sky above.
After 2 hours on the road, we parked and stretched our legs, and for the first time in 8 months I put on sunscreen! It was refreshing to feel the heat of the sun after such a long winter hibernation.
The trail to Steall Falls winds through the beautiful Nevis Gorge, with Ben Nevis towering above. We could not have asked for better weather!
One of the most magical things about Steall Falls is what I call the “reveal.” As you walk along the gorge, the view of the falls is obstructed by the gorge walls for at least half of the hike. But finally, you take another step into the sun, with the river rushing by to your right, and the cliff wall hugging your left side, and there she is, glistening in the distance.
I stopped for a quick sketch (shadow study) of the beautiful Steall Falls as it came into view in the distance.
One of the “fun” parts of this hike is this old wire bridge that crosses the river. You need to cross the river in order to sit at the base of the waterfall, otherwise you have to enjoy it from a distance.
Oh, and by “fun” I mean terrifying.
However, I had crossed it before, so this time I thought why not? I tried to cross over, but was paralyzed with fear about 5 steps in. Something illogical happens when I face my fear of heights. It’s like a physical reaction I can’t shake. But since my friend had already crossed, I found a shallow part of the river, took my shoes off and waded through the FREEZING cold water to the other side. (with instant regret)
(FYI - On the way back, I said screw that, I’d rather die on the rope bridge)
I dried my feet and we found a lovely little spot at the base of the falls.
After a little painting-picnic and exploring the base of the falls, we packed up for our trip back. I had another hike planned closer to home so we needed to get back on the road.
To our suprise, there was a wedding ceremony near the bridge (I was so impressed that they climbed all the way up in their wedding attire...I’m sure they had boots but still!). A bunch of guys in kilts and some fancy dresses and hats made an interesting site in this rugged terrain.
We decided to wait a little while for them to finish before we crossed the bridge (since it was directly behind them). So I sat down for another painting and soaked up some more sunshine.
I had a lot of fun painting so loosely and I realized that it’s so much more enjoyable to just let the freedom of expression pour out instead of trying to follow rules or capture the landscape in a way I think people expect.
Before I forget, later in the week I ended up painting this for my friend as a souvenir to take home (with my helper of course)
Plodda Falls in Glen Affric
After we reached our car, we hopped back on the road and headed north, towards one of my all-time favorites: Plodda Falls. This caledonian forest boasts some of the largest trees in Scotland and Plodda Falls is no less impressive. I’ve been here several times and it is always a joy.
I think we were both knackered by this point, because I didn’t have energy to paint, and we soaked up the whole thing as we walked slowly through the pines, remarking on how fresh and peaceful it was.
Achness Falls (Cassley Falls) in Sutherland
On Saturday my husband had the day off, and it was my friend’s last day here, so we decided to take a drive north to this trail I had on my waterfall wish-list. We were not disappointed! It was a lovely woodland hike to this beautiful waterfall, locally known as Cassley Falls.
A tree in a tree?
Throughout the week, we also did a couple easier forest hikes, because FOREST LOVE!
I have so many more photos that I can use as reference, and writing this blog post has helped me relive this week of inspiration.
Time to get my butt back into the studio! I have so many projects going on at once, but this was exactly the mini break I needed to refuel.