Last week saw Emma ditch traditional hopes of a tropical summer holiday and set off on the train to the Scottish Highlands instead! The holiday was organised by Naturetrek, who specialise in wildlife holidays in destinations ranging from the Galapagos and Borneo to Kenya and Greenland. However, the base for the week's explorations was the Ardnamurchan Peninsula, the most westerly point of the mainland British Isles and widely considered an area of unspoilt natural beauty in a remote area of Scotland.
The focus of the week was wildlife exploration; including boat trips, night-time safaris, woodland expeditions to look for pine martens and deer, and coastline tours of the sweeping scenery. With no internet and no phone signal, the holiday was a unique experience to escape the city and enjoy the remoteness of the peninsular and its variety of wildlife.
Pre-breakfast walks and drives offered impressive and close views of stags and bird life, while nighttime was spent either keeping watch for pine martens, or heading out on Ardnamurchan with the head stalker observing deer, foxes and owls, although the elusive Scottish Wildcat was nowhere to be seen...
Day four saw Emma explore the Cairns of Coll, a group of tiny islets in the Sea of the Hebrides where plenty of seals can be spotted on the surface of the waters, alongside more dramatic coastline views and a good dose of Scottish sea air. Graceful Arctic terns, crystal clear turquoise waters and close views of a white-tailed eagle were certainly highlights of the trip. Human settlement in this area of Scotland is limited to a tiny number of small villages, cut off from the day-to-day realities that come with modern life, so the opportunity to appreciate this kind of secluded wilderness was an unforgettable one.
While the rest of the country basked in an August heatwave, the weather in the Highlands remained distinctly less summery. In typical Scottish style, rain showers were a frequent occurrence, although mild temperatures and sunny spells (not to mention the stunning views) made the wildlife treks and early morning starts that little bit easier.
A wildlife checklist was filled out each day by the group, detailing the names of the animals and birds that had been spotted during the tour. White-tailed eagles, black guillemots, sky larks, willow warblers, harbour porpoises, red foxes and even a basking shark were amongst the seventy different species of (uniquely named) wildlife spotted during the week. The biggest reward for all the early mornings and patient watching came in the form of three otters, who swam, played and fished near the shore for almost an hour while the group looked on and tried to get a decent picture!
A week of beautiful nature and rare birds and animals will no doubt act as inspiration when it comes to future collections and drawings, and a holiday of total seclusion and adventure provided the perfect escape ahead of a busy upcoming fashion season in September...