Findhorn Foundation – Spiritual Eco Community

Forgive the radio silence for the last few days, but in coming to the east coast to avoid the worst of the rain hitting the west coast, we wound up at Findhorn, checked in and dropped out, so to speak.

Findhorn was established in the 60’s as a community for spiritually minded people. What started with a caravan on the edge of sand dunes has developed into a community of some 300 people, living consciously, striving for sustainability.

We took the tour on Monday and learn about the history and ethos, and enjoyed a lovely chat with our fellow tourees over coffee and cake afterwards. We say out a wet day on Tuesday, and then on Wednesday decided to do a Short Term guest experience. This means you can live as other members do, take part in a helping out with community chores such as cooking or tending the gardens, and be rewarded with two cooked meals shared with other community members. Unfortunately we couldn’t join the kitchen crew as we wanted to as there was a youth training workshop, but instead we got directed to the Homecare Nest. This meant cleaning duties!

Each work session begins with the team coming together to discuss the day and become ‘present’ for the task in hand. A short silent meditation and then off to work. We went off on different directions, met up again not long after for tea, then another short spell of work before lunch. Not exactly a hard day’s work. Lunch was shared with quite a crowd of other community members and a chance to chat with some of those at our table.

There is a wide range of ages and nationalities, many longer term guests on various training courses in the skills they make the community work, and it’s principles of Eco and sustainable living.

The afternoon to ourselves we went off for a walk along the beach before returning to the community centre for supper.

In the evening I went off to a lecture but Mel wasn’t interested so went back to the van. The talk, which I had to pay for, was by Gordon Buchanan who is a TV wildlife cameraman and presenter, who talked about his life’s work and more recent expeditions. Pretty entertaining and interesting, but I’m afraid I despise the style of TV he works in. Not his fault I’m sure, but I can’t stand what is science being dressed up as drama, all beat driven backing music and breathless voice overs trying to make it sound like some life threatening endeavour. As he illustrated it has its moments, but it’s nothing like the programmes portray. Bring back David Attenborough please!

What interested us most was the community of Eco-houses, a far cry from the early caravans and static homes that Findhorn started out with (and which largely remains but repurposed). Whilst we weren’t able to learn much about particular techniques, the mix of architecture makes your average housing estate look drab and lifeless (which it mostly is to be honest). Inspiring. Food for thought should we decide to go back into a house someday!

Time to move on, assuming we can avoid the weather. Into the Cairngorms to see the hills whilst trying to move back to the west coast. Wet weather forecast everywhere over the weekend though. Batten down the hatches!


The Falls of Kirkaig and the Hills of the Assynt

After yet more inspiring during along the coast roads we stopped for a walk to the Falls of Kirkaig, a couple of miles along a glen following the river upstream. The path was rough but manageable, and the falls worth the effort alone, but the cherry on the top was by a walking another few hundred yards and creating a small hill to give a breathtaking view of Suilven and other peaks of the Assynt.

The sun kindly dipped below a band of cloud to set fire to the landscape whilst Red Deer wandered nearby, Stags bellowing across the hillsides, and is doing a merry little jig at the beauty of it all.

Scotland is quickly becoming our top place for its scenery.

On the other hand, we’ve now lost the best of the weather, at least for the rest of the week, so we have spent today retreating to the east and will lurk around Inverness until the weather improves. At least it’s dry here, although a bit on the windy side!


The Waterfalls of Glas Bheinn

A damp start, but a cracking finish, one of the balmiest days so far. We headed out for a walk to Britain’s highest waterfall, Eas a ChĂșal Aluinn.

It has to be said, we failed, but had a lovely time. Given how fine the afternoon was turning out, we fancied a circular walk to return over Glas Bheinn, but realised that we were only making one mile per hour over rocky and boggy ground, even though the path was easy to follow. We crested the hill and got a good view across the valley to the falls, but decided given the daylight remaining it would be prudent to turn around and keep it short, rather than get stuck up a hill in the dark.

Still, a rewarding day out, and some fabulous views, especially of Quinag.


Tarbet to Scourie

Another day, another walk. After a drive around a tiny, winding road following the coast, we arrived at Tarbet, from which you can, in the summer, get a boat across the bay to Handa Island, a bird sanctuary.

We opted for the walk over the headland to Scourie, despite the warning sign advising of its poorly way marked and challenging nature. We decided we were up to it.

Hard work though. Whilst the route was well worn and easy to follow you could see how easily you could get disorientated if the weather closed in. Only 6 miles but Mel has been nursing a bad back the last few days so we’ve been keeping the walks moderate.


Sandwood Bay, Cape Wrath

Moving around to the west side of the Cape Wrath peninsula, we drove out to the charming bay at Droman, and then set off on a walk to Sandwood Bay, one of Scotland’s most secluded beaches.

We took the less travelled route on the way out, which ended up with about a mile of heather thrashing and bog hopping to join back up with the main path, but the walk all the better for it.

The views on the way we’re just lovely, and the beach itself pure white golden sands.

Back at the can and wildcamping by Dromen Pier for the night, we were treated to a lovely sunset to round off the day.


Durness and Faraid Head

A slightly wetter than desired start, but it soon have way to a calm and pleasant day. The morning started with a brief, damp visit to Ceannabeinne Beach, a lovely cove with golden sands. Followed by the contrasting Smoo Cave, a deep, narrow cove terminating by a deep cave, part carved by the sea, and part by an underground river.

The afternoon was bright and warmer than the morning, and allowed for a very agreeable stroll around the Faraid peninsula including clambering up and down the sand dunes, a very delightful stroll along Balnakeil Beach, followed by a spectacular Mocha (hot chocolate and espresso) courtesy of the obliging Mountain Mocha cafe at the Balnakeil Craft Village, who stayed open just for us.

The military use Cape Wrath, the most North Western tip of the UK as a live firing range, and they’ve spent the last two days shelling it. There’s been a couple of navy ships about 10 miles off shore loving various sizes bombs into the area around Loch Inshore, plus bombers circling around for sorties and bombing runs. Most of the explosions have been hidden by the ridge on the other side of Balnakeil Bay, apart from the occasional waft of smoke. But they seem to be getting through a fair amount of ordnance.


The Kyle of Tongue

Less of your lip.

A splendid 12 mile walk around the estuary that forms the Kyle of Tongue. Passing showers that we mostly avoided. After walking up the hill to Castle Varrich, we romped across the heather clad hills to avoid walking on the road. A successful bit of roaming at last.

As we turned the corner at the end of the Kyle, we met a passing ornithologist, who pointed us to a pair of Golden Eagles up ahead, and we were lucky enough to be able to watch them for a while.

A very enjoyable day, rounded off by a pleasant drive across the headland and around Loch Eriboll to Durness, followed by a pub meal in the Smoo Hotel and overnight in their carpark. Even a wee dram into the bargain.


Inverness to Tongue via Lairg and Altnaharra

This morning I had to spend time doing some work. I know, on a Sunday! But I needed to get something sent off whilst I still had good internet access, so whilst Mel toured the shops of Inverness, I took advantage of some coffee, cake and wifi. Job done, on more than one account.

Our mission was then to get as far north as possible, so we drove cross country, passing Lairg, the Bonar Bridge and Altnaharra before arriving in Tongue. I can tell you, the views were spectacular in the late afternoon and evening sun. Passing showers added to the drama, and at one point, a stunning double rainbow.

We found a fabulous wild camping spot on the edge of the estuary, so hopefully the morning view should be a cracker. As it turns out, we even have good mobile broadband coverage here!

Hoping for a good day tomorrow, forecast is promising for the week ahead, so time to get some good walks in. New walking trousers and rucksack to put to the test!

Travelling Through Life