A 100 km2 nature reserve set amid the wild and desolate peat bog known as “The Flow Country”.
Distance from Mey House: 43 Miles
Google maps link: http://goo.gl/maps/XMY3N
I must admit that the thought of visiting ‘Europe’s largest peat bog’ hadn’t really inspired me, after all, what could possibly be of any interest? Having now been, I am somewhat ashamed that both my prejudice and ignorance had kept me from one of the regions truly wild landscapes. The Flow Country is vast, over 4000 square kilometres straddling the counties of Caithness and Sutherland which, for the most part, is fairly inaccessible to all but the well informed and experienced hill walker.
I visited on an early May afternoon and was blessed with a sunny windless day that made for an ideal outing to witness the spectacular terrain that is pock marked with pools of still water reflecting both the blue sky and distant mountains. I parked my car at the railway station in Forsinard and had a quick nose around the unmanned visitor centre that is housed in the old station buildings. I am sure it would have held my attention for longer if the day had been a cold windy one but the warm sunshine beckoned so I headed off to walk the Dubh Lochan trail.
The trail was a mile long pathway of flagstones that weaved its way through the bog, exposing me to the sound of birdsong, the buzz of insects and scurrying of creatures; it took me a while to realise that to get the most from the walk, I should sit quietly at one of the many seats along the route and let the wildlife go about its business.
I was fortunate enough to have the place to myself which allowed undisturbed observation of the wilderness but my lack of knowledge regarding what I could hear, see and smell left me frustrated. My research told me that I could expect to see deer, mountain hares and all manner of invertebrates, lizards and insects upon the land, that the air would be filled with a plethora of birdlife (from Golden Plovers to Golden Eagles) and that the rivers would overflow with otters and Atlantic Salmon but to be honest, I saw so much that I could not identify that I just observed it for what it was rather than attempting to ‘eye spy’.
The landscape was a little monotone in early spring but I should imagine that come the summer, the heather would bloom to carpet the area with a thousand shades of purple though the spectacle may be overshadowed by the midges that plague the area on warm summer days. On balance, I think I had the best of it.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW: The unfriendly welcome you will witness from the residents of Forsinard is directed toward the RSPB who are attempting to impose a visitor centre and observatory on the secluded community.
GREAT FOR: The highlight was a pair of nesting Ospreys circling effortlessly on the warm updraft; magical!
RECOMMENDATION: From May to August join one of the weekly guided walks led by an RSPB ranger, check RSPB Forsinard Flows or their Facebook page for details