This morning the kids thought it was hilarious passing the bags out the window to Dad as we were packing up. It was then breakfast in the conservatory where Lachlan was unsure if his inside or outside voice applied.
We had ambitious plans for the day. Grandpa DAVE ordered The Scotsman to ensure he was up for the challenge.
Today the highland scenery was more as we had imagined, no shortage of rocky mountains, twists, bends and animals.
After a tragic zero puffin sightings yesterday, we doubled down and went all in on The Quest for the Elusive Holy Golden Puffin. This meant a short drive down the jagged west coast to Tarbet where we waited for our ferry in a beautiful cove. We had half an hour for Explorerer Lachlan to wander.
After the kids investigated the area we life jacketed up and the speed ferry arrived.
As we set off we were all smiles. However as we left the cove, Lachlan was not loving it, the water was calm, but poor Lachlan was not fairing too well.
Eloise, the big caring sister did an exceptional job at looking after Lachlan, repeatedly asking him if he was okay and distracting him with Big Sister tickles, this cheered Lachlan up until we landed on Handa Island.
Handa Island or simply Handa is an island off the west coast of Sutherland, Scotland. It is 309 hectares (760 acres) and 123 metres (404 ft) at its highest point. The island is of national importance for its birdlife and maritime vegetation, and is a Scottish Wildlife Trust nature reserve, a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), and a Special Protection Area (SPA). Handa also forms part of the North-West Sutherland national scenic area, one of 40 such areas in Scotland. A small ferry sails to Handa from Tarbet on the mainland and boat trips operate to it from Fanagmore. The island receives five thousand visitors per annum.
We then made the scenic walk to the other side of Handa Island which was surprisingly warm.
Handa Island is extremely popular for bird enthusiasts with its diverse seabird population. We had not walked far by the time we saw our first sea birds. However, there was one bird we were determined to spot, the Elusive Holy Golden Puffin.
Eloise set the pace on the initial climb, by the time we were at the top, Lachlan had downed two pouches. Pouches were an effective tactic to prevent Lachlan from scaring away the Elusive Holy Golden Puffin.
The two pouches did not last long and Lachlan found another way to entertain himself.
Eloise had done a ripper job and made it the whole way across the island, she will be carrying us soon. There were incredible cliffs, these cliffs had no barriers so we kept Lachlan in the hiking carrier at the expense of Dad’s grey hairs.
We had come a long way by car and ferry and then hiked across Handa Island which led us to Puffin Viewpoint. The puffin enthusiasts whipped out their binoculars for a closer look at the seabirds nesting on the cliff face. Again, there were plenty of large seagulls and dud birds, worryingly the puffins were not jumping out at us.
C’mon, we were at Puffin Viewpoint, how were there no puffins? Not to mention the Elusive Holy Golden Puffin. Puffins are a common sight in certain areas of Scotland from May to July, this should be puffin frenzy time. Perhaps we just needed a Super Mum look.
False advertising, there were no puffins at Puffin Viewpoint. It was quite sad, we moved on to the next cliff face viewing area. As we approached we could see hundreds of seabirds, they were waddling around, they had white bellies and black backs, but they were the damn dud birds again.
The scenery was lovely and the walk had been nice, perhaps that is what we were going to take from Handa Island.
All of a sudden, when all hope seemed lost and the boys were throwing a tantrum, up stepped Eloise… “PUFFFFIIINNNSSSS!” We tried to snap a few picks using a mobile and binocular combination to varying levels of success. They do actually exist.
Puffins are any of three species of small alcids (auks) in the bird genus Fratercula. These are pelagic seabirds that feed primarily by diving in the water. They breed in large colonies on coastal cliffs or offshore islands, nesting in crevices among rocks or in burrows in the soil. Two species, the tufted puffin and horned puffin, are found in the North Pacific Ocean, while the Atlantic puffin is found in the North Atlantic Ocean. All puffin species have predominantly black or black and white plumage, a stocky build, and large beaks that get brightly colored during the breeding season. They shed the colorful outer parts of their bills after the breeding season, leaving a smaller and duller beak. Their short wings are adapted for swimming with a flying technique underwater. In the air, they beat their wings rapidly (up to 400 times per minute) in swift flight, often flying low over the ocean’s surface.
The Quest for the Elusive Holy Golden Puffin had been a raging success and morale was at an all-time high. Time flies when you are having fun, it was well past lunchtime, we had to get back to the mainland.
As we approached the speed ferry we noticed lots of thistles. We got excited as we thought these were Scottish thistles, which are the “floral emblem of Scotland”. However, upon reflection, we are not convinced, perhaps a close sister thistle.
Mmm, not sure about that, not really a plant person to be honest, might need a Glaswegian to verify that one please. I am more of a puffin man.
Still riding the high of spotting a puffin and thinking we had spotted a Scottish Thistle in the same day we dashed back to the speed ferry.
Lachlan realised we had to catch the speed ferry back and was not happy. Super Mum swiftly told him it was actually a dino boat and miraculously that changed everything. Lachlan was actually running for the boat, keen to ride the dino boat. He was chuckling the whole way back, perhaps he thought Nali was the dino.
By the time we arrived, the jetty had almost completely disappeared, Eloise was confused about how we were going to get off the boat.
Nali who is always dangerous in a souvenir shop snapped up a puffin for Eloise and Lachlan to remember a fun family day as we completed the mighty Quest for the Elusive Holy Golden Puffin.
It was almost 14:00 by the time we were back at the car, we hit it up a food van on the way. However, Nali lucked out with the last lobster roll. By this point, both the kids were fast asleep. Looks like Lachlan was missing lunch time again.
We were between small Highland towns and unsure where we could find more lunch. The only thing that seemed open was the Geopark, Rock Stop.
It would have been the perfect place for Uncle Kochy, however, we did not have any phone signal to dial him in.
There was a cool interactive sand pit that projected live contours line producing a topographic map.
Super Mum got behind the wheel for the day’s final hour into Acheninver, weaving amongst the sheep before we arrived at our new pods.
These pods were smaller than the luxury glamping pods in Caithness but there was a lovely view of the beach.
Eloise and Lachlan rushed in to check out our new pod.
Lachlan then ventured over to Nali and Grandpa DAVE’s pod for a cuppa.
Liam and Grandpa DAVE dashed off to get dinner while the kids played in the creek with Super Mum and Nali.
The kids get excited by the pod, Lachlan was literally bouncing off the pod’s walls. He was in a cheeky mood and hopped into Eloise’s bed. Eloise tried to put him to sleep but the attack missed.