Places Everyone

I do video now. Maybe.

Linda got me a wee action camera for Christmas and on my first crag trip with it I failed comprehensively and recorded a bunch of blurred silent film.
Luckily YouTube has plenty of throw away soundtrack you can stitch on so it doesn’t feel as awkward as it might.
So, here’s a minute of the Lang Craigs. It brings me joy, even in lo-fi lo-def lo-brow format.

I’ll do better next time. Maybe.

The Black Knight*

I’m thinking getting this phone one of my better 2020 experiences. I was coming back from a wee church heating callout and while the road was clear all the way when I turned into the village I was straight into a wall of fog, proper horror movie style.
I could see the sun fade in and out of thinner fog patches and it looked magic, dead atmospheric. I knew I wanted to take some photies.
But it was nearly tea time, it was baltic and I knew if I went home for a camera I’d put the kettle on and be sucked into the couch with it being particularly heavy centre of comfy gravity whose pull any orbiting object is too weak to resist.

I was dressed warm and bright, one is as important as the other. Where to go was the next puddle to jump. I’m always at the beach, I didn’t have the keys of the Wee Spark on me so I couldn’t get into the harbour so the derelict Scotts of Bowling shipyard was an obvious choice. I hadn’t been in there for months, so it was worth a wee explore anyway if I didn’t get any photies.

Ice and snow everywhere but a lot of footprints too once I’d slipped through the gap in the fence. Mostly left by neds I think, it’s an accessible but still out of the way place for ne’erdowells, but there’s folk come in for fishing too as there’s deep water by the piers and it’s still a decent venue for urban explorers although there’s less and less evidence of it’s previous life now, more birch trees than steel and concrete now.

It was lovely. The river had a blanket of fog although looking behind me a hint of blue sky and the outline of the hills could be seen. Some hibernating butterfly bushes sat like they were ready to pounce, their once violet tipped arms reaching out into the frosty atmosphere for my wallet and phone.

The skeleton of Frisky Wharf was fuzzy and indistinct, with no horizon and no southern shore the timbers just floated in the grey. The grey warmed though, the sun pressed through as it got lower and while the light felt warm in colour if not sensation, the shipyard faded to black under my feet.
It was eerie. And utterly joyful.

 

I clambered onto the slip over snow crusted trees and debris to get to the waters edge. The concrete block I had my eye on pulled me onwards and over the ankle breaking terrain like it was, well a summit. Or a pot of fresh coffee. Or an unexpected vintage Karrimor Ebay listing. Odd that, I think I just get excited at stuff. Nice to know that although I might be broken I’m not one dimensional.

It was magic, I loved watching the sun sink away like a torch on a frozen windscreen. The water was rippling but quiet, the only sounds were the occasional burble as a bird dipped or surfaced nearby.

I eventually headed to the west side as the sun faded, just in case something esle was happening. I’d seen the best of it though and I was striding back home with a phone full of shots and frozen fingers. Aye, the camera’s got proper buttons.

I love getting distracted. Weather is awesome.

*amusingly, it’s actually purple.

Dawn Patrol

But I haven’t even had a sip of my cuppa…
I’ll make you another one, come on!
Right, right…

Lockdown isn’t locked in, so we headed for frozen sands and the ebbing tide, hoping to catch the sun.

We had plenty company. The herons ignored us as long as they could, the ducks played races on the fast departing tide, grebes and I think moorhens put in guest appearances as we padded around on the solid sand waiting for the sun to crack the horizon.
It was gloriously cold, but we were well wrapped up and the smiles were warm.

Even when I kinda know what’s coming it still takes me by surprise, I laugh, giggle and grin like a maniac. How could this not be exciting, how could this not be a rush of sensation and emotion. Yes it’s just another day, but it’s like the Star Wars scrolling titles, it’s just an epic way of beginning it.

There was much photie taking, much wandering to look for better spots, but there was no where wrong to be standing, except at home probably, most likely staring at the kettle boiling or looking disapprovingly at the face squinting back at me in the bathroom mirror.
Aye, this was better.

It’s a quick show, like a US telly series on Netflix, with no adverts to pad it out to nearly half an hour it’s there and gone in a flash.
It stayed beautiful though, the horizon held onto its colours as the sun slipped up into its lazy winter southern loop towards the Cowal hills.

We thought we’d have a wee bit more wandering and it turns out the smells from the workies socially distanced cafe were too much to resist.
Rolls on sausage and cuppas as the light warmed the rising haze with a golden sheen for the rest of the morning.

Work to be done though. Time to head back.

I never remember any long lies I’ve had, I never remember when I had another cuppas and sat looking my my phone before I left in a rush.

This though, I’ll remember. Getting your arse is to be recommended.

 

Waters of Mars

This feels like a lifetime away. We found ourselves in Arbroath with a little time on our hands and weather that was keeping everyone else in their cars on the seafront looking at the waves crashing over their windscreens from the restless North Sea.

The clifftop path was pretty exciting at times, wind and spray were constant and there was so much noise we had to shout at each other to be heard.
It was glorious.

The red rock, the leaden skies. Looking back from here and now, we might as well be on Mars.

Run Deep

Still just playing at home. But that’s okay.

Covid was started in mystery, spread by ignorance and now perpetuated by stupidity.
I’m not playing a part of that last phase and staying off of outdoor social media helps me keep my cool as dumb bastards gad about the countryside regardless because “we’ll be fine, and we don’t have the virus anyway”.
Aye, until they slip and mountain rescue comes out, the police come out, then people are out of place without choice and that’s when there’s unnecessary contact and the associated risk.
If you have kids at school or you’ve been to any shop in the last ten days you’re an infection risk and should just suck it up and stay home.
If folk had wore masks, washing their hands and not been arseholes nine months ago we wouldn’t be where we are now. Makes me mad.

Still, just playing at home isn’t too bad. West coast skies are the best, and it’s cold now, dark so early too.

It’s getting popular here, cameras and drones are here most nights when I had the place to myself a year ago. How did folk not know all this stuff was here already, that every setting sun was a potential breath taker? 2020, it’s changed so much.

I had to run down the waters edge waiting for the floating balls to line up just right. I was so pleased when I caught it and I did a wee Whoop. I got looks from the proper photographers. So many humourless bastards out there.

The mist never really formed properly, it stayed just a haze and the lighting was subtle. You don’t always need the fireworks though, I liked the quiet mystery of it, the softness and the calm.

I like this phone, the Xperia 5 II camera does okay in low light. It doesn’t bear up on laptop screen size, but blog size smooths it out just nice.

Aye, still just playing at home.

And Baby Makes Three

Perhaps not a classic sea of cloud vista, but the possibility of just that had me diverting to the crags on my way somewhere else.
I wasn’t disappointed at all, it was cool with bright blue skies and some of last week’s snow still lingering here and there.

It was frozen underfoot too and I had a well worn pair of old Keens on, now entirely gripless but very comfy. There was frequent unexpected, speedy and barely controlled lateral and horizontal movement throughout the journey.

I met a couple on the crag edge who had often wondered how to get up here having seen the silhouettes of the few stravaigers who take the high road to avoid the increasingly busy trails below.
When they asked about it, I tried to explain how to get down from various points in the direction they were heading and of the three options I would usually take myself, two were steep, frozen and a long roll to the bottom and the other one was about three miles extra walking. I think they went back the way they had came after I was out of sight.
Which was a long wait with that jumper I was wearing.

Met a crumbo* of runners doing a route I used to run on the early pages of this place, up The Slacks from Old Kilpatrick, round Loch Humphrey, down through the crags and along the cycle track to the start. Every version of this is 20km± and it’s a lot of fun, what a glorious day for it.

Then I sat in a frozen church hall for two hours waiting for an inspector. I think that’s what they call paying the piper.

*That’s the imperial measurement of a group of three runners.

A Tale of Two Donuts

I had taken some time out. A niggle in a tooth early in lockdown had turned into pulsating agony from the top of my head to my neck. I was advised to take painkillers until my emergency appointment, over two weeks later.
I was close to a bottle of whisky and pliers. I have never know the like of this, and I’ve been blown up and set on fire in my career.

Then suddenly five days before my appointment, the pain ebbed away overnight. Oh aye, we were heading out while the sun shone and I was smiling.

No looking at council borders, no counting five miles on the map, just turn a corner and we were there. A different goal in mind, for all the time we’ve been up here together, we’d never climbed Donut Hill.
Low winter afternoon sun, a chill wind and a joy in our steps. And a flask full of Kenco 3in1.

It’s scary muddy on the main, so many folk are coming up the crags now. Lockdown has brought people outdoors somewhat paradoxically.
I don’t know quite how to process that, folk should be out there seeing what I’ve spent my life being enriched by, but ffs, is basic stuff like not dropping litter or leaving shitty hankies by the track not something you learn in a city, do you have to be told not to down in the outdoors?

My eternal love/hate relationship with humanity has entered a critical phase of negotiation.

Wind stinging our cheeks the wee summit was an island of joy.
The views from here more than you paid for, the loch stretches north to the oh so familiar tops I increasingly long for.
But this grassy lump isn’t second best, it’s not just enough, it’s glorious. Smiles, cuppas and cake before a descent where arse touched mud on more that one occasion.
Aye, that path is ruined. So much dried red mud in the porch now.

Four days, still nearly pain free. I looked across the rover at the Hill of Stake, there was snow, quite even looking snow too.

Of course I was going.

The arrow points to adventure after all…

The sky was so blue, eyewateringly so in fact. But it wasn’t clear, snow clouds moved across the plateau and caught the wee tops and the ridges bring an atmosphere that takes the crags into another level.

I love it when it’s like this, it does feel wild, it’s instant accessible winter mountain fun and it’s round the corner. Rarely have I been so pleased to be trapped in West Dunbartonshire.

I never went to Donut again, I took a right onto the edge of the crags as it disappeared under the cloud again. Only the fence reminds you that you’re almost urban exploring.

A few conifers cling onto the crag edge. They’re a few feet inside the Woodland Trust border so they survived the onslaught of the Forestry Commission on the other side of the fence. Christmas tree, ooh Christmas tree.

I lingered, the pace was slow and the level of joy remained high. Linda should have been here I think, that would have book ended our week just nice.

I write this after the first dental work installment. There will be more to come on that.

But how so I know this wee corner of the world is for me? Because it smiles at me. And you.

 

 

Woodland Trustworthy

We’ve got a bit better at operating in a bubble of isolation, it means we can have worry and guilt free mini adventures.
Finding a parking space, that’s the trick.

The road was busy and populated by a mix of angry swervers and timid trundlers with very little inbetween. Lockdown has indeed seen the populace move as one into the outdoors. It’s a nightmare. I’m sure that petrol stations are pleased along with Sports Direct who are kitting the new army out.

Never been to Glen Finglas, not on foot any way. I’ve passed by countless times and never stopped but today it was our X on the map. We genuinely got the last parking space between Callander and Aberfoyle too. Never seen it like this.
I’m not being elitist or precious here (probably) but I do hope winter sees some hibernation before Scotland goes full on Lakes levels of constant busyness.

It is fantastic though with stunning surroundings and beautiful horizons. The colours were on the change and we got some light spilling across the glen to bring out the autumn glow.

The orangey marked track to the dam takes you up surprisingly high up. It’s a hill feeling here, not a woodland walk and there waterfall you come across is both well hidden by trees and too tall to see the bottom. So, no photies. Be back in the middle of winter I think.


I spend ten minutes waiting for the two coos to look up and when one finally did we had moved and I didn’t get the photie I was after. The grass right there must be super tasty.

What a scene though, all those trees, craggy wee Ben Venue. It’s just the Trossachs and it’s still epic.

The trail is easy and the miles passed quickly with banter and laughter. This was a real spirit raiser. And a decent wee work out, we were all feeling it when we got down to Brig o Turk for the last leg back to the car park.

Lockdown has made me soft. But, since this trip a couple of weeks ago I’ve been working on that with more miles round that crags that I’ve done in years and some indoor exercising. We’ll see if I can sustain it.

Folk just wander past this stuff, look down dammit.

The pigs had fun. They are of course lightweight pigs. One is 1000 fill down with a 15 denier windproof outer shell while the other is an experimental Primaloft Ubertronic pig which emanates heat after 10pm at night after storing it up all day. The tech comes from the energy recovery systems used on the brakes on Formula 1 cars and my over active scifi mind. And a love of bacon.

The fairies were pleased, their wee village remained safe for another day.
The big footsteps almost always hurry past them while they hide behind their curtains, wishing the big folk would go away.
Sometimes though the footsteps stop and a giant shape bends down to peer into their little homes. They stay very still, they’ll never be seen, the big folk don’t believe anymore, there’s no magic in that busy, noisy world. The big face will leave in a minute.
Ha, the big face softly chuckled and a smile ringed with sliver bristles beamed over at the little houses.
Wait… Can, can he see us… ?

A new Xperiance

Three years I had my phone. Not a scratch on it, sure the battery didn’t have the stamina of its youth, but it worked fine, just fine.
The case though, that was getting past it’s best. The flip front leather kind works for me now, it’s an extra layer of protection and It means I don’t bother with a screen protector and you can stand it up sideways on itself for watching YouTube and whatnot.
However, the little leather clasp was well worn and hanging off so I had to repair it, again. It’s been done before, “why bother” I have been asked, just get a new one.  Because I can fix things is why, makes me citizen or an activist or just a functional human being or something, not just a bloody consumer. However, it doesn’t make me actually clever.
I took the phone out of the case and dropped it onto my tiled hearth, smashing the screen. Some tiny shards of which ended up in my thumb for over a week until I dug them out with a nicely chunky sewing needle.
So I’m not claiming any moral or social high ground with my propensity for making repairs, I can be just as handless and the next guy.

I sellotaped the screen up and resigned myself to a new phone, a new screen was £50. Nah, I’m good.
I hate Apple, they have popularized the concept of in built and instant obsolescence and have become the thing they set out to undermine. The Big Big Brand.
So it was always going to be another Sony. Plain phones for old folk. Except their recent phones didn’t have a headphone jack socket. What the hell man.
However, timing is everything. Their newest Xperia 1 had the jack reinstated due to customer feedback but it’s just too big and I hovered over the Order Now button just long enough to hear about the Xperia 5 II coming out in a couple of weeks.
Jack socket, apparently good camera, not too big, not full of unnecessary bloatware and dead end apps and not an iPhone. Sold.

Now I liked a lot right away, I managed to get a case to arrive on the same day so it’s never even been in the open air. I barely charge it too, oh I love these early days of limitless power.
Then there’s the camera. Jeezo.

I’d messed with it but hadn’t really taken any proper photies with it that I’d use on here. Three lenses, quick shooting or fully manual Sony Alpha modes and by Jimmy’s Sacred Stillsons it’s now the best camera I own.
I’ve just compared the phone and camera photies and I’m a melancholy mixture of impressed and sad. How do things evolve so fast?
It’s going to be nice to have this in my pocket, it’s going to be fun. These photies of my home from home are all from the phone.

I need a new camera now though. Aw, dammit.

Southside

I look every day. It’s not too far really and if I could fly or swim I could get there pretty fast. But it’s not that easy.
But actually it is that easy, you just just have to get off your arse. So we did.

It’s close enough to feel at home but’s far enough to feel like a rucksack with supplies in it is justified. Mind you, visiting the garden is all the justification I ever need for snacking preparedness, so pieces, flask and mixed chocolate peanuts and raisins were packed.
A quick spin over the Erskine Bridge got us to the start where we got distracted by some banter with a friendly dog walker.
I’m a born sunset chaser, but unfortunately I’m also a compulsive chatterer and that fun mix of styles has had me horsing on towards a view or a horizon way too many times for my heart or knees.
Luckily the dope smoking aresholes watching their weans trying to fall off the “play” equipment in Boden Boo were easier to walk past.

We marched on as the light slipped, the low sun soon broken by the trees and a little coolness crept into the air. Perfect walking weather, even on this wee jaunt.
The tide was well out making the Clyde look like just a narrow sliver of water cutting us off from the comforts of home on the far bank. No big ships passing with the water level this low, so we got to smile at a pair of kayakers heading upriver in the evening light. Bet it was lovely out there.

Not often I get a photie of my living room window from the outside on here, which one is it now…

The sand was firm, the air was still and and the river was quiet as we reached the point we’d looked at the night before from home.
The sun was gone but the colours it had left were deep and warm and glorious.
The banks had grown instantly black as the light left them and light flashed clear and bright against their depths from as far as Greenock.

The Bell Memorial pointed grand and silent from glories past to an empty sky, the jetties lie abandoned and the castle has long since retired. The shipyard has crumbled and sunk, broken concrete and splintered wood that are only a storm or two away from being flotsam and jetsam, the last ship has long since sailed.

We sipped and munched, taking it all in. So much new to see, maybe I should say so much old to see anew.
Aye, another cuppa.

It was dark when we left towards the ribbon of lights that showed us where the bridge would be when we got there. The moon forcing its’ way through the clouds between us.
The return in darkness was much louder though, the birds called and sang, chirped and cawed. Some splashed unseen, wings beat to us closer that they would have dared in daylight.

But the lights weren’t far enough away, the park was soon there again and with it voices, ones with words instead of feathers this time.
But that’s okay, the moon was waiting too, reflecting proudly in the now rising tide.

 

Don’t Look Back in Amber

Chronology isn’t something that’s going to be applied to much on here for the moment. I’ve taken so many photies this year and named the folders so badly I’ve just reordered everything in order of date and I’m working backwards through that mess trying to remember what the hell we were doing in the photies.
It’s a little chaotic, but rather fun. Despite the zombie apocalypse, there have been many good days.

It felt weird being in the crags the first few times back. The Woodland Trust shut up shop for lockdown so we were just going for fun but you can never quite shake the feeling that something was different. People you meet being a little more hesitant, or even more scary, having no concept of social distancing at all. These dumb bastards are why we’re in the second wave.

But the higher you get the clearer the view and your mind becomes. The worries are less, not something I’ve really had before I think.
I’ve always scoffed and folk who go to the hills to find themselves, or indeed lose themselves. I don’t really get it,I’ve always been right here, just where I know I am, good and bad. I’m just going out to play.
But these summer and autumn walks definitely diluted the sense of horror from the news and continuing tension of daily life in the new normal. Now I think being out there has always had that effect, I just didn’t feel it so acutely.

So maybe I do need the hills after all. Nice. I foresee using that as an excuse in the future.

It’s getting cold after sundown now. I’m carrying gloves again, been wearing too. Had properly cold fingers a couple of times last week.
Been rearranging the cupboards too, shirts are folded and away, down jackets are puffed up and accessible.

I’m looking at winter with optimism. My fitness is in the toilet and I really hurt my old back injury crawling under a far too tight for an old fat bloke church floor a couple of weeks back, but I am really looking forward to the winter skies, frost under foot, ice axe in hand maybe?
Still got autumn to enjoy, despite the fattened up restrictions which have postponed out Kintail cabin trip from next week to next year.

Hey, I’ve got to go, I need it now.

 

Testing Photobucket

I’ve hosted my photies on Photobucket since Day #1 on this place and it’s many management changes in recent times has made life very difficult for users, not even mentioning the continuous bugs and downtime.
How do I move so many years, so many thousands of photies to a more reliable host?

However, let’s see if this is visible and I might get some stuff up.

I’d Forgotten

I’d forgotten how big the sky was. With height it grows, the horizons slips away from you and my sharply focused perimeter of the past few months was suddenly replaced by something distant and hazy.
So familiar though, I still know this skyline better than the windowsill I’ve peered over at unreachable scenery for three months or more.
But still it feels fresh, it’s makes my heart sing, my sleeping soul stirs and my feet find new ways to old views.

 

Linda is seeing a new part of the hills tonight and her face shines as warm as the soon setting sun while she smiles brighter and wider than I do.
The air was getting cold, but the sun slipped into view as it found a gap in the clouds beyond the Luss Hills so we didn’t really feel it.
It shone golden searchlights over the landscape picking out slopes and ridges, lighting up the flighty cottontails and the long grass with bowed, seed-laden heads before it sank into a glowing hearth, edging the beautifully torn clouds in orange before leaving us for it’s quick subterranean summer journey east.

The sounds of the birds and the whispering wind-teased moorland growth, the smells of the the blossoms and the unnoticed green below, the hilltop breeze on our faces and that sky above.
So full of colour, full of movement, full of life and full of joy. Damn I’d forgotten how big it was.

 

Of wet and of wildness?

It rained from the moment we left home and barely let up. We actually thought of postponing the trip but it’s not too far away and it was a present and well, what the hell, we’ve got waterproofs.

I’ve been in Oban countless times, mostly work related or just passing through and grabbing food so it was interesting to just be here.
It’s kind of Dumbarton by the sea, although Dumbarton is also kind of by the sea, Oban is actually hanging over the water, so it wins the “by the sea” contest by a good margin.

We checked into the Columba Hotel after nabbing the last parking space, this wee bit of good timing decided we were staying in town too, it was that or cooncil rates parking all night.
There was much joy inside the old hotel building, the old lift with the folding doors was still active. Oh what fun watching the ancient hand painted floor numbers pass by as you slowly rattle up the Victorian brick lift shaft.
Yes, we used the lift an unnecessary numbers of times.

The cloud broke for a bit as we wandered the ghost town that is an Oban winter evening. It was very pretty if very cold and the water was dark and choppy.
A couple of ferries came and went, but passengers were few.
The shops around the harbour are diverse but closing for the day, we’d have a better look in the morning and bring back a bunch of tourist tat. Magic fun.

Dinner was in a little bistro on the ground floor, accessible internally from the hotel but kind of a separate in atmosphere and we had mixed results with the food. It don’t think they could be arsed on a quiet night like this, Linda had a plate of sauce and I had stuff in my sauce. She didn’t want to swap, I think it was the sauce. All of it.

We had a bottle and glasses left for us in the room and McCaigs Towers lights twinkling through the raindrops running down the window. Early night.

It was howling in the morning, wind and constant rain. So we went to the beach after the shops.

I can’t remember even being at Ganavan Bay before but it’s definitely worth a detour to see the ugly expensive houses next to the carpark and wonder what will happen when all the homes are either second homes or are filled with wealthy retirees and the young folk are all in Glasgow. Whose serving you for minimum wage in the supermarket now eh?

It’s a lovely bay though, beautiful sand and rocks with wild water pushing in from the west. Could hardly walk straight in it the wind was so strong.

And no swings for Linda. So sad, so sad.

We were wringing back at the motor, any plans for exploring were cancelled without debate and we drove. The plan was Glen Coe, swing back the long way. But we only got as far as the Castle Stalker cafe to dry out and refuel. Nice wee place, was here with Holly a couple of years back.
It was battering down now and the thoughts were getting back down the road so we doubled back, windscreen wipers on fast mode.

Every burn and river we saw was white and churning, every gully high on a hill was now a waterfall. That was fast.
We shot past the Cruachan visitor centre and with a brief exchange decided to spin round and go back for a wee look.

I have over the years decried Scotland’s approach to visitors, I have often found that the indigenous people I deal with in tourist situations just can’t be arsed, but on my travels with Linda, I’m finding more positives. Today especially.

We went in and looked around, the lassie approached and said hello and asked if we had booked a tour. We hadn’t, we just dropped in. She looked in the book and they were full but for one space which I thought would be great for Linda, I’d been years ago and but she’d never seen inside the mountain.
No go, we play as a team or not at all, so the lassie pointed out other stuff and sent us into the building for a look and a cuppa.

It’s actually really interesting in the centre and we worked out way round actually reading the display before heading to the cafe. Then a voice “Ah, you’re still here, do you want to go on the tour?”.
There had a been a family no show and rather than take the next folk from the queue at the door, she’d come to find us.
I found that very thoughtful and I’m ashamed to say I was surprised too given my years of experience on the receiving end of Scottish tourist service.

We were delighted and were soon on the transit minibus going into the heart of Cruachan. It was magic, we really enjoyed it, the guides were friendly and ready to banter too.
Tourism done right from start to finish.

The weather had worsened since we stopped. Loch Awe had risen so high that Kilchurn Castle was very much an island again and the waters of the River Orchy  lapped at the roadside all the way past Dalmally until the rise up towards Strone Hill. It was bloody scary, we never even stopped for one photie.
Over the pass the Rover Lochy had enveloped both the land and the railway. Never seen it this high.

We had to stop at the falls of Falloch, we knew what it would be like and the roads here were fine.
Never seen it like this, a boiling pot fed by a thundering torrent in a cloud of steam. It was deafening loud and our faces were wet from the spray.

We were glad to be home safe, it was exciting, but a little scary at times.

I’d swap it for lockdown any time.

The Railway Children

It seems like a lifetime ago now.

We headed north on the A9 with a mission, a mission and a gift. The gift was a night in The Boat Country Inn in boat of Garten and the mission was to go and enjoy it.
We left early so there was no rush with time to stop and play on the way. First stop was Dunkeld to meet Gus and Rach for lunch at The Scottish Deli.
Can’t remember the last time I was in Dunkeld and the deli itself was lovely, half Victorian kitchen and half big city lunch stop. Great food, great banter.
They went off to the hills with their bikes, we headed north.

The winter sun was low but bright, we just couldn’t see it. A few flakes of snow would drift towards the windscreen but there was always blue sky ahead.

House of Bruar is a faceless tourist trap that could be anywhere in Scotland, but given that it’s exploded outwards into it’s surroundings it must be doing very well.
The restaurant is also amazing.
We’d went into Blair Atholl for fuel and of course we now needed cuppas after those difficulties.
There were no difficulties and we didn’t really need a cuppa but what the hell. And there was cake, dear god, the cake.

It was still bright, still early enough, so we thought we’d take a wander up to the falls behind the tartan metropolis. An easy track, beautiful surroundings and the sun just out of reach the whole time.
Like the rest of the trip, my camera was elsewhere, I’ve got so used to using my phone now. And wearing Converse in the hills. And it’s fine.

It’s worth an hour of your time this wee loop, there’s big drops, gnarly trees and snatches of views across the wide strath below. The bridges and falls are very fine and it slows the pace a little.
I really enjoy these little side quests, for so many years it was all about the hills, now I’m just loving being out there, wherever that is.

The Boat Inn is a lovely place. Even out of season the room was warm and clean, everything stocked for us on arrival.
Downstairs had a few locals eating and at the bar and a sprinkling of guests for dinner too.
Dinner is where it all went wrong. It was gorgeous, the food, by the open fire. But we’d already snacked way too much, but we couldn’t leave it, it was too good.

A romantic retreat is not lying flat on your back all night holding your belly going O0000hhhhhh……..
Lesson learned? Unlikely.
But the morning was bright, the hills were white across the roof of the station and we had exploring to do. We’d just start it slowly.
After breakfast. A light breakfast.

Aviemore was briefly visited for supplies. It’s getting ever more newtownesque. I suppose it has to as it grows, but it’s such a characterless place anyway and it’s not improving with time.
Better but feeling like it’s turning to the Lake District for how to present itself to the world was Glenmore. Within minutes though, it’s Scots Pine, blue sky and snow fringed tops.
I don’t come here enough.

The walk to An Lochan Uaine is glorious. Clear, colourful, cool and bright. It was smiles all the way and a fair few others on foot or saddles felt the same.

The water was indeed green, choppy too as a wind flowed freely down the Ryvoan Pass. We found shelter at the far end and warmed up with a cuppa as the sun sparkled on the wee waves breaking on the rocky banks.

It’s a pace you could just sit, empty your head and fill your heart and soul.

We pushed on up the pass and by the bothy. The views down to Strath Nethy were inviting but inconvenient, we’d be far from the motor with along walk back round in the dark before the drive home.
Another day maybe. We say that a lot, our wish list grows ever longer. Lockdown is not helping it.

I used to say that “we’re all just dressing up to go out and play” and it’s never been truer. We just fanny about out here, there’s such a joy to just being out.

The joy was strained a little for Linda when we took the alternative track at the lochan which climbs steeply up the lower slopes of Meall a’ Buachaille.
It is steep and rough and if the awesome pines didn’t line it all the way it would actually feel pretty exposed in places, plus Linda was convinced that my “It levels out soon…” was just a big fat lie.

It does level out around 430m and all was forgiven. It’s a stunning wee trail this, the trees are beautiful and the occasional views are wee wow moments.

The last of lunch was taken on the most random on benches. You just walk out of the trees and there’s the forest road and a bench.
A combination of relief, joy and disappointment really.

Ruthven Barracks on the way home was a must. The warm, low light, the winter horizon and the chill wind brought it great atmosphere.

Such an odd place on its wee island.

We had snow on the road south, a hidden sunset and very tired cuppas at a garage on the A9.

A mad dash in many ways, but that’s kinda what we do. So much time lost, so much to catch up on, new memories to make and life to live.

It’s waiting for us all again. Not long, , I’ll keep myself that.

Naked Sunday

The Rest and Be Thankful was closed. Again. This time a burn lower down had swept a bunch of hillside and trees across the road and the old road was open to keep folk from doing the 17,000 miles detour through Tyndrum.
I watched it for a few days, they were having trouble clearing it. I wondered if it would still be closed at the weekend.

Get up, get ready, the road is still shut!
Come on, it’s nearly lunchtime.
Oh dear god, any shoes will do…

Finally got on the road, not too far to go. Swinging past the foot of the Cobbler the traffic was light and moving well, the depressing sign of an open road ahead.
But, oh joy, the Argyle economic disaster was still active, the traffic was queuing onto the bypass road onto the old road.
We only had a couple of minutes to wait for the southbound convoy to pass before it was our turn to head uphill. Never been here in my life.

Holly did her best with my phone as I just grinned the whole way up.
Turns out they opened the road around half an hour later so the timing was good, but I don’t think girls quite understood my glee at this much coveted micro adventure.

I shall treasure it always.

Now free with an open road we kept on going as the rain gave up having realised that Argyle and Bute Council had got their finger out and cleared the road so it was wasting energy and accumulated water.

We had dark but clearing skies by the time we reached Inveraray. Lunch was lovely but so expensive, I’m still getting used to how much things cost when you have a social life again.

The current wearer of the Vital Spark name was looking a little sad and a shame that the pier has been fenced of for so long. It’s a tourist town, fix the bloody thing.

Loch Awe is just over the hill and although getting late I hoped it might looking all picturesque.

It did indeed with Kilchurn Castle looking very fine across the loch from the south. We took a wander down to the water’s edge for a wee shifty. There was a flock of photographers all standing somewhere they could see something interesting that I couldn’t and a few fishermen not catching stuff in the loch that none of us could see.

Amongst all this confusion Linda couldn’t see that the ground was very slippery and went straight on her arse. This of course brought the usual mix of laughter and delayed assistance before we carefully made our way back to the motor.
There it was considered that because Linda was soaked to the skin and covered in mud, she would change into spares for work that were in the boot.
So while Holly held a towel up to conceal the nudieness, Linda got to changing while I wandered up the layby shaking my head and chuckling. That’s when the minibus arrived and a dozen Asia Pacific tourists disembarked with loud chat and big smiles at the lovely scenery around us.
This distracted Holly who wandered away with the towel leaving Linda rather bare in the layby. Frantic hand waving and shrieking got Holly back near enough in the right place but the damage was done, welcome to Scotland indeed.

We were still laughing when we got home.

Sloyed Alive

I’d told Linda about the Sloy Dam many times, she’s seen plenty photies and of course I’d played the Macfarlane home turf angle too, I don’t think that really sells it to anyone, but what the hell.

It’s accessible, it’s easy and it takes you right into the mountains so fast you don’t notice it because you spend the whole time looking around you.
It’s full of human infrastructure but it softens with every footstep and the dam looks like it grew out of the rock now that weather and time has worn some laughter lines into it.

It was bright but a little cool. Blue skies but patches of thick clouds, white trimmed but grey in the middle.
The sun still brought the hillsides out in glorious green and the locals ignored us as they snacked in the summer evening light.

I always gaze up these slopes, so much scope for exploring. I know the ridges and summits here so well, the corries have seen me pass through many times but so much is still untrodden.
That makes me feel a little melancholy. At 51 I feel like I’ve started again with a new life and I’m sure have the energy to do it all, mostly. But just not enough time left.

It’s behind you? I think we’d felt a few spits of rain by now, nothing needing jackets, but definitely a sign the day had a change on the way. Still glorious to be out though.

I can remember it still, we hadn’t been together that long really and we just hit the ground running, taking every chance that came up to do stuff. Haven’t stopped either.

Wee poser, full of attitude too. Young folk are so used to media now aren’t they.

The sun did go, the temperature dropped and the drops from above were a little more frequent.
But that’s what jackets are for. Nothing there to slow us down at all.

No Linda, you don’t have to go back down that way.
We had snacks on the dam, pretty sure I had the stove on too. It’s unlikely I didn’t.
A wee wander across and a run through the tunnel on the way back as it got colder, wetter and windier.

It was a Friday evening. A wee while ago now but it feels like ten minutes. This has been the fastest year of my life.

Blogging was supposed to be a reminder for me and I’ve been so busy doing I’ve let the remembering be forgotten.
I’ll fix that while we’re stuck in, and while we’re apart.

It’s something isn’t it.

This was magic wee day.