So some pals came to visit, and I wanted to show off at least some of the good stuff but it wasn't a hiking weekend, so back to the nature reserve.
I think they enjoyed it. Both are wildlife buffs and got excited by the profusion and proximity of both Gannets and Terns, who were on Olympic diving form. Andy also id'ed a solitary Guillemot for us having an identity crisis amongst a huge number of juvenile Eider and Cormorants, which will be forever known to me now as 'a sort of British penguin'. I always learn loads out with him, and always feel like a hair brained idiot in comparison.
I also feel like I'm getting to know it there now, so there's the chance of one or two keepers, maybe, in the future. But if I'm honest I'm not putting in enough hours to get what I want. I need to work harder.
It's still a great place, of course, regardless. We wandered down to Gullane bay and walked along the beach for a mile or two until we lost the last of the crowds for the day. The pitch wasn't judged ideal at first but we soon got used to it.
'something fishy' on Broughton Street cooked on tin foil over the wood stove, nibbly things and shortbread for afterwards. The sky cleared right on cue, as the forecast promised. Driftwood collected and the mother of all campfires made. Damn straight.
It was also the first outing for the MLD supermid. A veritable aircraft hanger of a shelter, easily enough room to sleep 2 on 1 side of the centre pole, which didn't even flinch in the strong sea breeze, stronger in the morning. I think I'm going to like this one, alot. Meanwhile new friends caught up, and felt like old ones, at least to me. The Athens of the North burned brightly across the Forth, and the moon turned the colour of blood orange as it slipped behind the Pentlands. I've been promising a night out here for a few months, and never quite made it, so it was great to have the excuse to show off these shores to a couple of self confessed beach camping fans.
On Nick's recommendation, I've been reading the superb 'At the Loch of the Green Corrie', and as a consequence we spent part of Friday hunting down James Hutton's tombstone only to find that part of Greyfriar's kirkyard locked - "Lord pity the arse that's clagged to a head that will hunt stones"! Saturday, we headed for Glen Finglass, an area cared for by the Woodland Trust. We were all pretty keen to see the regeneration taking place in the glen, and it was doable as a day trip.
We opted for the Meal circuit, a 15mile tracked round - a good shlep, but a fairly leisurely one in sun and showers that enabled us to get back to town just in time for more beer tasting come the eve.
Ben Ledi even poked it's head out the clouds once or twice. It's a good track for mountain biking and I'm increasingly thinking about bikes as well as boats to mix things up a little. All in good time, and budgets permitting.
It's interesting to note that the WT have chosen to build exclosures down rather than up: the grazing is being restricted to the lower slopes whilst trees and shrubs slowly repopulate the burns and dot the flanks of the hillsides higher up. Special breeds of cattle have been brought in, better suited to the hills and in smaller numbers. You can read more about the background and management plans here. In 20 years time it's going to be quite something.
Eventually you rejoin the loch path and head back towards the Brig O' Turk carpark. There is some less than sympathetic clear felling of forestry on the loch side, the bare hill highlighting just how much of the southern highlands is given over to commercial forestry. T spotted a beetle eating a day flying moth alive, and whilst we stopped to rubberneck the midges continued to feast on us. Summer up here is now super temperate and that means wet and warm... and that means many tiny hungry mouths!