before dawn, from Saddell Castle’s windows.

Ailsa Craig with a low bank of cloud behind

orange mauve and pink as the sun begins to show

an orange eye

pink reflected on snowy beach and icy burn

until a ragged cloud edge blots out all but a shining pale dawn sliver.

across Kilbrannan Sound, Arran, covered in snow, and the pale blue sky of early morning reflected in limpid sea.

yesterday driving up from Glasgow in sunshine and freezing temperatures the snow was dazzling, trees all covered in hoar frost, and even here on this narrow peninsula with its damp Atlantic climate every tree was outlined in white, but this morning it’s just beginning to soften and melt.

a tower house, built in 1508, burnt down by Sussex during his Irish campaign in the 1580’s, civilised in the 1770’s, neo-gothicked in the 1890’s and renovated by Landmark Trust 1975-77.

Scotland, as the rest of the UK, has been in the grip of severe frosts for a week or two, and these stone walls are silvered with ice granules despite the melt.

all these pretty crenelated walls are from the Georgian phase when domestic buildings, cowsheds and stables were added.

Kintyre is full of stands of tall oak trees (sessile oak) and the woods surrounding Saddell have beech trees in addition, all covered in lichen and moss. parts of it remind me of Devon – the climate here is very wet and mild.

thick lichen on an alder tree in the little floodplain.

the burn is partially covered in ice, and from the bridge we saw an otter scuttle across the ice and into open water ….

then later out with the camera by myself on the bridge I heard cracking sounds on the seaward side, and an otter popped up in what might be an entrance to a holt in the bank. it (maybe she, not a big otter) stayed here for a minute or two, long enough to get a few photos.

here is my clue in the ice.

trees close to the shore frame more views of the point at the end of the bay, and Arran

rock pipits scavenge for insects on the shoreline, flying up at too close an approach with their “zeet” alarm calls

clear calm water at high tide

it has been tough for small birds for the last two weeks. we found a dead robin in the wood as we collected pine branches and cones for Christmas decorations. this one seems quite lively, no doubt looking for insects in the algae.