I like Travelodges because you know what you are going to get - every room is pretty much the same and all the basics are covered to a good standard.
They even give you 30 minutes of free Wi-Fi now, which is enough to read email, post on Facebook and do a bit of surfing.
I had a cup of tea and a look at the map and then, after a quick shower, I was off on my travels. The route from Dunfermline to Inverness is very straightforward, M90 then A9 - that's all! My first stop was at the Loch of Lowes near Dunkeld where there are Ospreys nesting. It is only a short hop off the A9 and then back again so I thought it was worth a look.
When I got to the town of Dunkeld I was told by a dog walker that the centre didn't open until 10am and so I was far too early. There was also a £4 admission charge and because I was only going to have a quick look, I decided to drive around the outskirts of the loch rather than go inside. Although the loch is close to the road at times it's surrounded by trees which makes viewing difficult. So after a short while I decided to cut my losses and head for the day's main event - the Ospreys at Kincraig, a small hamlet at the north-western end of Loch Insh, where I agreed to meet up with MarkBee3.
The A9 is a great road through stunning scenery skirting the southern and western edge of the Cairngorms National Park, and every so often I just wanted to stop and take in the views. There were lots of places where birds might be found, especially along the river which winds its way through the glacial valley. However, I didn't stop and just continued on my journey in search of Ospreys.
When I arrived at the cemetery car park for Inch Parish Church, I could see MarkBee3's car was already there. I gave him a quick ring to tell him I'd arrived whilst looking for the Osprey perched on one of the bare tree tops. And there it was! I gathered my gear together in excitement and hurried off to meet Mark - this was going to be the closest I'd ever been to an Osprey.
After greeting each other and setting up our photographic equipment we watched the Osprey and chatted for a couple of hours, discussing the journey up and what a good view this was as well as moaning about the bad light. Mark had been up here the night before as he'd stayed in Kingussie which is just a few miles down the road and he'd already got some pretty good photos when the evening light was much better.
When I arrived the female Osprey was perched watching the nest and the male bird had flown off. I could just make out one chick occasionally raising its head and practicing flapping its wings above the edge of the nest. Mark thought there were two chicks, but I only ever saw one.
Soon we had the first view of the male bird returning to the nest with a headless fish. It seems the male often removes the fish's head before offering it to the female to feed the chicks and there is a lot of discussion about why he does this: some say it is the most nutritious part which he takes to feed himself as catching fish takes up a lot of energy. Others say that, like the tail, it is the least nutritious part so he is saving the best parts for the female and chick. A third view is that he does it to make sure the fish is dead before feeding it to the chick - take your pick!
Well the light wasn't great but I did get my best ever views of an Osprey and I doubt whether you can get legally any closer to a wild Osprey nest than this. All these photos were taken from a public area.
So that was my first look at the Ospreys here. The sky was rather grey and the light poor, but I knew I'd be back at least two more times so I wasn't unduly bothered at this point. Who could be when you've come so close to such a magnificent wild bird?
After filling up with fuel in Aviemore at an eye-watering £1.16 per litre, we set off up the A9 for the cottage south-west of Aviemore, arriving there in the late afternoon.