Croick in the Scottish Highlands

I think I have found cloud cuckoo land here in the UK: Geoff Moore explores

It lies at the very end of a narrow road where a steel gate halts any further progress north for any motorised vehicles. Proceed on foot, bike or horse only!

Clouds certainly abound, changing and creating shapes in the sky and the light fog rolling down the hillsides. 

But, it’s the Cuckoos that appear to rule on this audio stage. Other birds may be much larger but these parasitic creatures who travel up thousands of miles from Africa each Spring make their presence known for sure. We are staying at ‘The Manse’ in the tiny hamlet of Croick, if you can call it one? Three houses, a church and farm yard! The house came in a BOGOF with the nearby church. It was designed by the famous Scottish engineer, Thomas Telford, as part of the Parliamentary Churches scheme as a way of thanking the Scottish Highland regiment’s soldiers for their military contributions to the various Victorian war efforts of that time. The aim was to give distant Highland communities places to worship and a Manse for the priest to live in too.

Today this Manse at Croick, situated in classic Scottish Glen in Sutherland, is now a delightful holiday home for up to 8 people. Standing at the end of a holiday rainbow road, it’s a pot of gold in terms of location, location location, too. 

Step outside its neatly trimmed lawned garden and you are in wild and lonely Scotland in an almost instant time-warp. A winding whisky coloured river snakes through the steep sided glen, which is home to a variety of four types of wild deer. They share the grazing with the hardy sheep that are farmed on the Croick Estate. However, the sheep get a better deal with the lusher grass as the estate tries to keep them apart with the use of 6 foot high wire fences. Any lower and the deer leap over them with the grace of an Olympic high-jumper!

And there are graceful predators in the skies above. The largest is the Golden Eagle: its 2 metre wingspan often seen high above the pine canopy of firs looking for a four legged feast of pine marten, rabbit or red squirrel.

Next in the hierarchy would be the Osprey and Sea Eagle, both are resident in the Highlands and are growing in numbers. Kites and Buzzards are present too. 

Mostly active at night, Otters are a delight if you are lucky enough to spot one. However in late spring and summer nights are short as Croick is so far North. 

However, the bird song around the Manse and the estate is just magical. Even though I live in rural Dorset, I cannot remember hearing such sounds in and around my home at any time of year. From daybreak at around 4:30am it starts. Meadow pipits and cuckoos start up along with a myriad of other feathered friends for the rest of the day. 

The antics of the House Martins causes much noise as they are nest building under the eaves or swooping along the river catching insects in flight or collecting mud for those nests. But it’s the cuckoo that seems to rule the roost here at Croick. The calls from breeding birds seem to bounce off the valley and sometimes it’s hard to deduce where the bird actually is as it calls for its mate. 

I can recommend a stay at The Manse with its wide open Highland glen vistas and its fresh Scottish air to blow away any stresses as well as giving you the chance to absorb the glorious sounds of the countryside.

You have arrived in Cloud Cuckoo Land!

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Geoff Moore

Experienced travel writer, photographer, blogger & videographer

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