Tuesday 2 July 2019

Sand Martins and Sandpipers

Usually, on holiday, we try to build up our stamina (or perhaps reduce our lack of fitness) through the week(s), and sign off with a longish walk. This year, things didn't turn out quite that way. Our second full day, tucked away on a hillside above the Tay valley, was rather dreich, but Our Lass had a plan.

We like a plan!

During a visit to the afore-mentioned bookshop/teashop/bookshoh let's not start that again, we had purchased a small book of local walks. Over breakfast, Our Lass perused said tome, picked a route and then announced a further car-free day. Oh, the spontaneity!

"We can walk to a pub for lunch!" she exclaimed. Adding, "How about the Inn on the Tay?"

The Inn on the Tay is a very nice establishment, located as it is on the er... banks of the er... Tay. From the outside seating area, one can watch all sorts of outdoorsy folk kayaking through a slalom course set up over the river. It is exhausting just watching. We have frequented the Inn on the Tay quite a bit over the years, but never walked there.

"It's only 4 miles," my nearest and dearest encouraged, "Mostly beside the river."

It was several minutes before I had organised enough early morning brain cells to properly assimilate that information. Something was nagging away at the back of my mind... what was it?

Oh, yeah! The Inn on the Tay is in Grandtully, which is at least 4 miles from Aberfeldy, and on the other side of Aberfeldy to where we were staying. So, a bit of checking of the route and some mental arithmetic later, we arrive at the conclusion that, aye, it is 4 miles along the river bank, each way. Plus the three quarters of a mile from the centre of Aberfeldy to the start of the walk. And then the mile and a half into town from the cottage. Hang on a minute, that's twelve and a half miles! In the rain!

It was a very nice lunch, to be fair, and as we were without the car, we were allowed a beverage of choice. Just the one, let's not go mad, eh?

So, after a leisurely breakfast, we eventually pottered down the hill into Aberfeldy, pausing in the cafe of the Birks Cinema for a comfort break and a cuppa. We noted that the screening that evening was 'Scotch: The Golden Dram', a documentary about the history of making whisky. Half jokingly, I said we ought to go as there might be a free tasting (which Our Lass would benefit from, as I won't touch the stuff). Whilst paying for our tea and coffee, I spotted a flyer for the film, which did indeed mention that the local distillery would be dishing out drams of whisky.

The slightly damp walk alongside the Tay was interesting enough. Every half a mile or so, we could hear and occasionally see a Common Sandpiper, which I imagine were all separate birds rather than one that was stalking us. Just before the path joined the route of an old railway track, we even put up one of the sandpipers from under our feet. The rain continued to fall as we squelched towards Grandtully, but our spirits were raised as we approach the village and stopped to look at this building plot, where the work seemed to be on hold.

A pile of sand at the back of the site had been commandeered by a colony of Sand Martins, always a joy to see.

Following our lunch, the return trip was a bit slower. The rain had eased off and there was the merest hint of a bit of sunshine. This was enough to stir plenty of insects to life, which kept me busy.

A shield bug

A sawfly
Retracing our steps, we were astonished to put up a Common Sandpiper again. As it was pretty much exactly the same spot as the outward journey, we immediately halted and, without moving another inch, carefully looked into the grass on either side of the path.


The path was rather busy, even on such a wet day, with hikers, cyclists and dog walkers. How was the sandpiper hoping to incubate these eggs? Then we remembered a Springwatch programme from several years ago, when a sandpiper built its nest beside a railway line and left the eggs every time a train came along. Perhaps it's just something they do.

Once  back in Aberfeldy, we had time for another cuppa and a piece of cake at the Birks Cinema, before Our Lass's two wee freebie drams and then the main feature. It was rather a glorified advert for the whisky industry, but it was nicely told and contained some interesting characters. And the rain had stopped by the time we wandered back up the hill to the cottage.

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