16 Dec A road trip to Duncansby Head, Caithness

Roiling sea around the Duncansby Stacks, looking out across the lively Pentland Firth
Wide open fields and scattered settlements in Caithness, reminiscent of Orkney
Orkney is just across the Pentland Firth – here are Stroma (its lighthouse just visible) and more faintly Hoy to the left and Mainland to the right
Cold sea, an old raven, and the noonday sun close to the horizon

18 Dec The shore at Golspie Links Nature Reserve

Sea still frisky, and the salt spray misty. Facing Golspie Bay to north
Makeshift compass of crab shells and beer cans. Opposite this bay is the controversial proposed site for Coul Links Golf Course, opposed by environmental charities

19 Dec on the hill above Helmsdale, looking southwest

Helmsdale, once a busy fishing village, is at the mouth of one of the
loveliest fishing rivers,
Here the coastal railway route turns inland towards Forsinard peatland reserve (RSPB) and then the far north

20 Dec The Kilbraur path towards Carroll Rock

Carroll Rock from afar
The Carroll Rock skirting part of Loch Brora: framed from the road near Doll footbridge
lichen mosses and ferns near Carroll Rock
Lichen, mosses and ferns near Carroll Rock

21 Dec Solstice sun above the mists, from Migdale

The mists have gathered over the Kyle of Sutherland, which is an inland
extension of the Dornoch Firth. Widespread frost today!

22 Strath Kildonnan, catchment of Helmsdale River

There have been signs of human settlement in this valley for thousands of years

24 From Brora south of the Harbour, across Moray Firth

Northwards towards “our beach” (Front Beach, where we saw an otter swimming parallel to the shore, close to us, on Boxing Day at sunset) and the Ord of Caithness on the far skyline.
The three tiny “islands” on the left-hand (eastern) horizon are hill tops inland of the Moray coast, across the water, and only visible on the clearest days – like this Christmas Eve
At centre stage – near midwinter and near midday – a cormorant drying its wings.
On the horizon to its right, the lighthouse at Tarbet Ness, near Portmahomack.
Looking back southwards towards the Cairngorms. The whiteon the horizon is mist rather than snow, although we did see small amounts of snow in shaded places on the Cairngorms when we returned south on 27 December. And a little on the ski slopes at Aviemore resort.

25 Dec Christmas walk up Glen Loth

Plaque marking death of last wolf in 1700
Alas, no noble wolves since 1700 . Plaque on A9 near Glen Loth “celebrates” this fact
Loth Burn, powering hydroelectric scheme
The ent-like birch of Glen Loth
Subtleties of winter colour at the bridge over Glen Loth