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Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Braeriach walk & St Andrews paddle

This Scottish summer has been the worst for decades and a penicillin-resistance chest infection for the best part of July did not help. However, at the beginning of August things were looking up and on the 7th of August Roger and I walked in to the Corrour bothy reaching it around midnight. I had my Tarp tent plus winter sleeping bag and slept outside whilst Roger and Mike spent the night inside. Grey skies, 10 degrees or so but no rain on the morning of the 8th and after a month of inactivity I was keen...
 We walked up the Devil's Point where Glasgow Jimmy took a photo of us...
 ... walked over Cairntoul and Angel's peak to cross the young Tay near its source...
 ... to reach the summit of Braeriach. 
 Down into the Lairig Ghru where we first considered doing both Ben Macdiu and Carn a Mhaim but as poor weather was forecast we only did the latter.  
 We parted as Roger and Mike stayed another night in the Corrour whereas I left for Aberdeen. So good to spend again a day in the hills under big skies even if no summer was in sight. 

After a holiday in the sun another sea kayak weekend in Arisaig at the end of August was cancelled because of strong Westerly winds and poor weather. However, the other side of Scotland looked fine and so we went just a few miles South to St. Andrews to meet at the East Sands car park.
 Being out at sea in the sun is bliss...
 ... especially this summer. We paddled to Kingsbarns for a break on the beach. Paul and I also fished and caught mackerels and Pollack. 
 Here we are approaching St. Andrews marked by the ruin of the cathedral...
 ... and here we are landing...
 ... and here's the catch of the day. Most got 1-2 mackerels and Paul took the rest. 
We have grilled our Mackerel fillets covered in full-grain mustard together young potatoes and a green salad with lemon dressing. Was it good? Guess...

Monday, 29 June 2015


On Friday the 26.6.2015 David, Gordon, Lucy, Robby, Ana and myself met on a campsite near Port Appin to paddle around the isle of Lismore for the following two days. Lismore is flanked by the mainland, the Morvern peninsula and the isle of Mull. Here we have our first break on Lismore near the pier of Achnacroish.
 We explored some smaller isles to the East...
 .. and then carried on...
 ... to reach the Lismore lighthouse at the South end. A channel separates Lismore from the wee isle with the lighthouse. During spring tides the flow in this channel can be very high. Whilst there was a strong tidal flow it was manageable for us as there were neap tides.
 Whilst exploring the lighthouse the Clansman, our Calmac ferry from the previous weekend, passed presumably on its way to Barra.
 We paddled 25 km and camped near the ruin of the castle and started a driftwood beach fire...
 ...burning all evening. The trick is to have these fires below the high tide line so that its traces are gone after a flood.
 Here is the ruin of the castle...
 ... and here is our landing spot with the Morvern peninsula on the other side of the water.
 Here we launch the kayaks in the morning...
 ... paddling the West side of the island in a strong tail wind...
 ... to reach another castle ruin...
 ... with some horses.
 The tail win pushed us on without generating difficult-to-manage waves. It rained occasionally but overall during the paddling the weather was fine to us even though it rained hard at night.
 We then crossed back from Lismore to our starting point, port Appin, with a strong side wind and some tidal flow. All manageable by ferry gliding.
 Here we land after 25 km on day 1 and 15 km on day 2.

Monday, 22 June 2015

Cycling the Outer Hebrides

Ana and I always wanted to cycle the Outer Hebrides. Finally this year we chose a week, got train tickets with bike reservations from Broughty Ferry to Garve and from Oban to Dundee (not easy to book). Here is Ana cycling the road from Garve to Ullapool on day 1...
 ... and here she is approaching loch Broom.
 In Stornoway we stayed in Heb hostel, had a great night with live music in a Pub joined by Tuesday (her real name) from Australia who had a bike from the Friday bike company. The next morning we cycled out of  Stornoway over the great moor of Northern Lewis to reach Barabhas on the Western side. It was the Sabbath, the day when everything is closed in the protestant Northern part of these isles. Here is Ana under a wide Northern sky. 
 These islands are made for cycling (but not the weather) and so we saw many cyclists. 
 After a lunch stop in Barabhas I continued to the butt of Lewis in the north. Just before the butt a beautiful beach for a brief break to cook some Korean noodles. 
 The pace is slower than elsewhere and shops are sparse and closed on the Sabbath.
 I joined Ana in the Gearrannan Backhouse village where one of the houses had been converted into a beautiful hostel which we shared with one other couple and Craig Cameron, a Glaswegian who cycles the Hebrides every year.  
 Craig immediately sprinted up the hill for the Atlantic sunset and took amon other a photo of us. 
 We went down too early as the sky developed further into a beautiful red. 
 After a windy day the forecast was for less wind and only a few showers. We continued to see the standing stones at Calanish some miles down the road together with members of bus parties and folk that were touring the isles by car and motorbike. One of the best stone circles around in a beautiful location. 
 We used the relatively good weather to cycle all the way to loch Seaforth which separates Lewis and Harris. In Harris the mountains start.
 Here some sheep at the bottom of the big climb over to Tarbert. It goes up to 300 m so nothing Alpine but a challenge with a heavy loaded bike.
 We descended yo Tarbet. Here is Ana with the mountains behind. 
 The next day was the worst weather day of the trip. Winds up to 30 mph and frequent and often heavy rain again with a climb at the beginning. The going was tough and slow. Here is Ana in the fog higher up.
 Afterwards the descent to some beautiful golden beaches on the North-Western side of Harris. Here a photo of the beach at Seilebost...
 ... and here a photo of the beach near Sgarasta Mhor with a green of the local golf course. 
 We battled on to Leverburgh where the ferry times had changed to our advantage and stocked up on food in the local shop. 
 Here is Ana on the ferry to North Uist. 
 In stormy weather we cycled over the slipway to Berneray and to the hostel right by the water. We managed to get some of the last beds with wet clothing hanging everywhere but had a great night cooking and chatting with all the other folks. 
 The next morning was windy but dry and here is Ana going back over the slipway to Northern Uist. Note the 'crossing otter' sign. 
 After a hard, very slow cycle into the strong Western wind the skies turned to blue to showcase the beautiful beaches of Northern Uist. 
 We did not followed the coast but instead chose a shortcut over the hills to join the coastal road again near the beaches on the Western side. 
 Here some locals. 
 We stopped at the Hebridean smokehouse for smoked scallops and again battled the wind...
 ... to reach Benbecula and the Nunton House hostel which is a great place to stay if a little more expensive than others. We had a good dinner with smoked scallops as a starter.
 On Uist the Hebrides are changing from mainly protestant in the North to catholic in the South. The lonely Madonna on the wayside is evidence for that. 
 We also stopped at an ancient chapel and graveyard in Tobha Mor.
 The main road is well inland but the whole coastline is lined by beaches and the meadows are covered by flowers. Here a close up of some flowers with a beach and the Atlantic blurred behind.
 We also stopped at the Kildonan Museum (good coffee) further down the road and then reached the campsite near Ludag on the Southern part of South Uist. Great campsite and we met a mother and daughter that we had met twice previously further North. This is typical for these isles because people that travel in the same direction tend to meet each other. 
 The next morning we crossed the slipway to Eriskay to take the ferry to Barra. 
 Barra is unique as it has an airport where the runway is the local beach. When we arrived everyone was expecting 'the new plane' plus a B celebrity. Here the plane just after landing. 
 We explored the Northern bit of Barra and then cycled down the Western coastline. Here is Ana near one of the beaches.
 We finally reached Castlebay and stayed a night in the hostel. On the second day we sea kayaked in the morning (£35 for 3 h, ask in the hostel) and then pitched our tent on the Eastern shoreline of the bay. The skies turned to blue for a great shot of our tent and the castle. 
 Whilst Castlebay is the ferryport and end of the route for most cyclists we continued out of Castlebay...
 ... up a steep climb...
 ... to approach Vatersay, the last cycle-able island on the road. 
 Finally some Caribean-like seas...
 ... and beautiful colours. 
 Here is my bike with just two instead of the normal five bags. 
 Vatersay has again beautiful beaches.
 It rained overnight but it was not too windy and so we had a good night in the tent before boarding the ferry back to Oban in the morning. Here we pass Lismore whilst another Calmac ferry enters the sound of Mull. 
 Here are Ana and myself on the car deck of the 'Clansman' which was our ferry. 
A great trip and one to repeat but hopefully in better weather as this was apparently the worst summer since 1945 so far.