Fast forward to now, and the team began to assemble. Second Born left behind a snowy Bedfordshire and flew northwards; Our Lass and I hopped on a ferry from a wet and windy Orkney; and we settled into a well-equipped AirBnB residence whilst we waited for First Born to arrive.
But a city break does not have to mean a wildlife-less zone.
Our accommodation was a short distance from several likely spots, so first up was Merkinch Local Nature Reserve at South Kessock. Tucked between the mouth of the River Ness and the north end of the Caledonian Canal, and pressed up against a sea wall of the Beauly Firth, is a reserve of many habitats: rocky shore, mudflat, brackish lagoon, reed bed, wet woodland, freshwater lochan.
It was the first day of our holiday, so we weren't up very early. In fact, this is as close as I came to witnessing the rising sun, a big red dot painted on the turntable bridge taking the Inverness-Wick railway across the Caledonian Canal.
We ambled along the canal bank in the company of a brisk westerly breeze, the northern horizon framed by the snowy peak of Ben Wyvis.
Here's Second Born and the Kessock Bridge. Whilst I was taking this photo, Our Lass was busy spotting an Otter, which was hunting out in the firth.
|A panoramic of the Beauly Firth, from Sea Lock Cottage to the Kessock Bridge|
|A Little Grebe|
|The signal box at Clachnaharry|
|Remains of the Loch Ness Monster or a boat skeleton?|
After lunch in the Castle Tavern, we visited the Castle viewpoint for a 360 degree panorama of the area.
|River Ness, Beauly Firth, Ben Wyvis|
|Chanonry Point and Fort George|
|A female Goosander|