The Silence of Glen Affric

2 December 2021Rebecca Bradley

Glen Affric has been on the top of the adventure list for a while now, but I’ve always put it off because it is too long a journey to do in only a day from where I live. But it had been a long time since I stayed in a hotel. Nearly two years!

Hotels have become a strange place because of the pandemic. There were so many questions and fears. Would our trip get cancelled like it did the year before? Would I feel safe being in a hotel with other people? So many questions, but there is no point living in fear. I missed staying in a hotel. I missed not having to worry about driving all the way back home in the dark! I also missed a warm cup of tea and the usual hotel telly shows that I would never watch at home (Ghost Adventures was the show of choice this time).

But as October arrived and brought with it the sight of leaves changing colour, and the earlier and much colder dark nights, I just wanted to stay in a hotel up north to enjoy one of my favourite months. Turns out my fiancé really wanted to escape for a few nights to a hotel too. We decided we’d use Inverness as our base, then we’d drive around to all the sights we’d like to see for a week. Glen Affric was the first stop.

Glen Affric is everything I thought it would be. It’s described as having ‘native pinewoods, glistening lochs and haunting moorland’. That and it’s a 40-minute drive from Inverness, so it’s near a city, but far enough so you don’t get the city lights, traffic and noise.

The glen is surrounded by mountains and silence. The perfect escape from noisy work life and an even noisier year.

Getting out my trusty map, I saw that there were four main places to see at Glen Affric. They are Plodda Falls, Dog Falls, River Affric, and you could stop off at Loch Beinn a’ Mheadhain (translates to the loch of the middle hill).

I wanted to see Plodda Falls first because I’d been looking it up online and fell in love. The falls are described as a hidden treasure and one of Scotland’s most beautiful waterfalls (I’d say it is the most beautiful). As I climbed my way through the trees, you could hear thundering water just beyond. Then I stepped onto the viewing platform and I was taken back by what I was seeing. Surrounded by towering trees in gorgeous autumnal colours and the water crashing just under your feet as it then drops 46 metres down. It looks like something you would see in a film or a game, the kind of place I’d dreamed of wanting to see when I was a kid and obsessed with Lord of the Rings and Skyrim (still am!)

I can’t quite put into words what I was feeling, but what I can say is I didn’t want to leave. I just wanted to stay there. Whenever I’m working at home, I always play ambience sounds and make sure the video has a background showing a forest. Plodda Falls felt like an ambience video but I was part of it.

Moving away from the viewing platform, I found an even more secret place to see the Falls. Hidden between two trees is a small area to climb into and look up at the water. You’re as close to Plodda Falls as you could be, even getting soaked by the splashes from the water.

Out of everything in Glen Affric, Plodda Falls takes the title as being the most spectacular.

As our time in Plodda Falls came to an end, the weather started to shift and the rain started to come in, but there were still places to see. The next stop was the River Affric.

The journey over from Plodda Falls was nearly half an hour away. The drive along the way was pleasant, passing small rivers, towering trees and seeing walkers near Dog Falls.

The River Affric was lovely, but there were quite a lot of people here. I wasn’t sure if it was off-peak or not, but with the number of people here, it did make things slightly more awkward. I’m not one for busy places. But not surprising, as soon as it started to rain most people started to leave.

There are two walking paths here, one that takes you up to a viewpoint (pictured below) and one that takes you around the River Affric. A sign here promised that you would see wildlife including birds of prey, crested tits and that you would hear stags roaring through the glen.

Unfortunately, I didn’t see or hear any of these wonderful creatures. In fact, I saw barely any wildlife in Glen Affric.

Even the forest walk I went on didn’t have any birdsong to make us smile as we walked. I believe I saw a mistle thrush perched on top of a tree. The clouds were getting dark as the rain was getting heavier so it was hard to identify the bird. Then there was a much larger bird, looking like a bird of prey, that scampered out the trees chirping. Again, I wasn’t able to identify it as it never stayed around long enough. But when I returned to the hotel and checked out bird calls on YouTube, I believed the bird that I saw and heard was a Hen Harrier. Something I have never seen before. I was sad that I wasn’t able to get a photo but I’m glad there was a different bird to see than what I’m normally used to!

I had hoped to see more wildlife, but Glen Affric is wonderful. Its vast woodlands and silent moorlands pull you in and you can imagine yourself deciding to spend the rest of your life here.

I do hope to return one day when there are fewer people about, and hopefully, with there being fewer people it means the wildlife that calls this place home are able to feel calm and relaxed enough to move around.

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