I was away with the National Trust again this weekend. This time, all 4 of the Scottish conservation groups were together on one project. We went to Mar Lodge, 77000 acres of the Cairngorm National Park that the National Trust for Scotland have owned since 1995. The current hunting lodge was built in 1895 for Queen Victoria's grand-daughter Princess Louise and her husband the Duke of Fife, hosting summer and autumn hunting parties for 25 guests, catered for by 50 staff. It is thought that Mar Lodge has played host to more members of the Royal family than any other private home. Now you can rent an apartment and enjoy your own weekend in this vast estate.
We were staying in the base camp - part of the converted stable block and whilst basic it was luxury compared to our usual National Trust accommodation i.e. village hall floors. This one had beds and showers!
I was in one work party. Our task was to remove an old fence from the Allanaquoich Flats - a large grazing area. We removed fence clips with fencing pliers and hammers, we pulled up old fence posts and we wound metres and metres of fence wire into piles. The weather was mixed - we watched wave after wave of rain wash down the valley, drying nicely in the sun in between.
Saturday evening there was a BBQ and we got to eat in the Ballroom - not for the vegetarians amongst us - decorated with 2345 deer skulls!
Sunday we took a walk around the beautiful Linn of Dee (River Dee) - forest paths leading into the open moorland so typical of Scottish upland countryside. We saw herds of red deer and one of Scotland's most loved mammals - a red squirrel.
Sorry for the blurry squirrel picture - taken at 12 times zoom up a tree!