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.

Where The River Goes

An old favourite seemed like a good bet when the weather was going to be unpredictable. I also had to get gear testing properly underway so me and Linda took two new Vango packs for a walk round the Glen Loin loop from Arrochar.

There was some sun, but the wind kept blowing clouds across it. The rain was not quite constant, but not really showers, not heavy bit not light. The upshot being I got wet then I got hot because I couldn’t be arsed continually messing with my clothes.
What I’m taking from this is that I’m going back to baselayer, 100 weight fleece and a shell. Sue me.

Everyone else we saw was going the other way, doing it anticlockwise. Done it both ways many times and I think I prefer our way, you get the mountains teased through the trees as you circle round A’Chrois.
Met some ladies who were very concerned about a dropped banana skin on the other side of the glen. They even gave me a bag to put it in should we find it on our way back to Arrochar. I had low optimism for this which given how the weather went, was well founded. I’ll go back one day.
Maybe.

It’s all about fleeting glimpses until you get to the weir where suddenly exposed the wind decided we were not going to have a relaxing lunch. No it said, your Jetboil is going to teeter and totter and you’re going to have to pack up and run for it. Yes, thanks for that.

It is wonderfully dramatic though, being deep in amongst the hills here. Steep and craggy, now dark and wet with a fresh dusting of snow, the littlest of tops with the biggest of wows.
The rain properly set it as the light faded. There’s a good few miles to put in from here and we were walking by torchlight by the time we left the Sloy Dam tarmac to head into the forest to get back to Arrochar.

And I’d missed the banana skin by this point.

The mood got a wee bit serious at times, it’s rough ground, especially in the dark and when you don’t know it. I knew where we were and how long we would take but when all you have is a little pool of light which is full of wet rocks it’s a little unnerving.
I’ve been doing this along time, but I’ve never forgotten those first times where I learned by my mistakes, and my wee victories. Hell, still learning by both methods.

Cold and tired we got there quicker than Linda expected, despite a few sideways and er, horizontal moments and all we wanted was hot food and dry socks.
It’s a magic wee walk, I say wee but it’s got plenty miles to stretch your legs.
Great views, interesting terrain and because of where you are you can be an honorary Macfarlane for the day. This magic affect will improve your appeal to the opposite, same or both sexes, increase the mpg in your vehicle, give you a remarkable ear for music and expand your appreciation of the full colour pallette.*

*Affect depth and duration will vary depending on exposure.

Roadside Assistance

Valentine’s Day would have been easy to dismiss for us, we’ve been there, seen it, done it, fought over the t shirt with our ex’s.
We’d discussed that it’s just a commercial opportunity, that love needs no cross on a calendar that you have to present product to your partner upon.
But the fact that we’re both just kids at heart and are full of the joys of life meant that it was kinda disappointing that we wouldn’t see each other at all from Thursday to Sunday at the earliest because of work.
So we made Thursday Valentine’s Day.
February 13th was also the 50th anniversary of the release of Black Sabbath’s first album, so it was a day to be celebrated on many levels.

With schedules rejigged, suitably colourful clothes picked out, it was perhaps unavoidably, and a definitely little wonderfully late when we left.

The clouds cleared as we passed Loch Lomond on our way north. There was blue above in increasing amounts.
The hills had snow, not too thick, but it was a fine sight. In Glen Falloch the snow cover thickened to a smooth blanket on the higher slopes.
The little flutter in my chest wasn’t just from the back to back coffees or the girl in the passenger seat, this was country I love at it’s most glorious.
I know what could lie ahead on this wondrous ribbon of northbound ashfalt, Linda doesn’t. I hoped it would be clear for her, I hoped it would be perfect, I hope I wouldn’t shriek like a little girl when I pulled up the hill over Loch Tulla.

Breakfast in the afternoon got in the way though. Ben Lui was in cloud which I took very personally, saying “Look! Look!” only works when there’s something dramatic to see.
But fueling up at Tyndrum soothed the disappointment. Macaroni cheese with ham in it. Baby Jebus.
Linda thought “We could just go up there…” looking at the snow covered lead mines across the glen. “I just want to play in the snow!”. Yes, yes.

The pull up from Tyndrum was too long, the sun was bright, the sky was clear, the hills were hidden but then we were there. I shrieked like a little girl far too many corners too early.
Glorious, just glorious.
Shining white against azure as far as we could see. It was late but the light was still clear, no warm filter yet, but it was close. We pushed on.

We stopped at the Black Mount, you know, the bit where everyone stops. Time to play in the snow.

The light was slipping, but I had to show Linda more. Back in the car, keep going. The Glencoe ski centre was full to overflowing, literally, cars all along the roadside. The police would be sorting it when we passed on the way back.
The sun shone up Glen Etive, low and yellow. It tracked us through the gaps all the way to Bidean where we pulled in to have a quick wander up the old road. It’s a nice wee walk this, overlooked in this grand neighbourhood. We shared laughs and photies as gold bled into the blue overhead.

One stop on the way home. It’s the eternal photie opportunity this spot.

We were tired when we got back, it was late and it was dark. The fridge was full with the dinner we’d planned and it was more bravado that enthusiasm that put the contents on the worktop and started heating the pan.
The smells fired the enthusiasm for real after a quick cooking rethink because the steaks (M&S meal deal, awesome btw) were too thick to cook and eat today without still being raw inside to some degree.
Sizzling, chopping, bubbling.
A perfect end.

I suppose highlighted days on the calendar are what you make of them. Turns out making them a whole different day works just fine.

Time Out

Doing a bit of admin and I found this post from ages back that I never published. It’s grey and stormy out there, so a few thoughts of a summer evening past will brighten my day.

Let’s go dad, let’s go.

That must have been about eight o’clock, so we had to shift. The sun was already well down and the last folk were trickling down the paths towards the Lang Craigs car park. Had the place to ourselves.

We used to hide the seedlings under this tree until it was time to plant them. I thought it would be a neds den by now, but it’s not. I am pleasantly surprised.

It got cold fast and we marched back down to the truck.

A short one tonight but we’ll be back. Oh what would we do if this place wasn’t so close?

One foot in the past, the other in the bath

Linda was on Groupon again and my journey from no life to fancy life continues. However, note to self: Photobucket shat the bed and was down for over a month, so you did this ages ago. Okay?

Couldn’t remember the name of the place at all, I knew it was Ardrishaig, but on the road we went from White Goose, Angry Swan, Startled Duck, Unlikely Albatross to reality, the Grey Gull. What a boring name.

However, there was a bath with lights on it in the bedroom. And Arran was soaking up the sunset from the window.

Okay.

Went a wee wander before dinner and it was freezing, ice on the ground, fingers in my gloves.

I’ve been here many times over the years, the first time was in the early 70s when we sailed through the Crinan Canal on the boat that was my home at the time.
The harbour is quieter now, some timber operations, a few shellfish boats and leisure craft and very cute wee lighthouse.

It’s nice though, money has been spend and there’s cafe and a visitor centre of sorts. I wonder of they get footfall? The mini Kelpies must attract some visitors, they look magic, just lacking the height of the grand Falkirk spectacle.

Crinan itself was the first port of call. Very grey, very quiet, very wintry. The water had kept its green hue which I’m glad about as I’d been predicting it and I’d have looked like a liar if had been standard blue or blue/grey mix. These things are important in a relationship, it’s all about trust and honesty, accuracy and reliability. One minute you describe a view inaccurately, the next you’re in a street fight defending against a broken bottle with the one you hold dearest.

Kilmartin Church feels like home. I spend so much time in cold deserted churches, I felt life I should be sitting on a pew with a cuppa wondering how much more pipe I should have ordered and whether the client will pay for it or a have a heart attack.

The church isn’t used but left open and empty, maintained to display the stones and it lives on trust. I was so glad to see no graffiti or shite left lying around.
Plenty of skulls and crossbones in the graveyard too. Awesome.

It was cold and raining but we took to the discovery trail after a fine lunch at the visitor centre and wander round the museum.
I think the weather brought the right atmosphere for visiting the stones, dark, quiet, cloaked. It was somber despite the signposts and well trimmed grass.

However, Linda soon solved it. No more wondering, no more digging, no more historical and archaeological arguing. We ave the meaning, we have the purpose, the new agers can take off the tiedye and reach for the hairbrush…
“Hmm, it’s just cock and balls isn’t it?”
Ah, er..
“And look done that end, you know what that is”
Mmmm… Let’s go and look at the other bit.

Carnasserie Castle Is brilliant, the walls are so high and so dark even on a bright day. Today it was just evil feeling inside the wet stonework. We loved it.

It was just such a good wee trip. Not so far from home, but full of laughs and a with a splash of adventure here and there.
There was even a lovely christmas tree in the hotel restaurant too. I just smiled the whole time.

2019, aye. I could do it all again.

Strapped in the electric chair

I’ve done a lot of tourist stuff this year and it’s been nice to slow down a bit after many years of driving these roads chasing sunsets from a summit.

It’s been good for my soul.

It’s taken me to new places too, or should I say to familiar places from different angles. Like this here, I’ve never been up the Glencoe charlift. Been round the back, over the top and up the side, but never been on this, what appears to be a park bench hanging from a washing line.
It was fun though and we’d picked a perfect day for it, especially since it was a last minute dash. Lunch at the cafe was magic and the air circled pleasantly round my legs on the way up as this was one of those rare shorts wearing days.

There was a downhill mountain biking meet on as well and if you know #911 below tell him and I’ll send him the photie.

There’s a nice wee trail from the top of the chairlift to the lovely little top of Creag Dubh and there can’t be many better spots available for so little effort, or £12.
We took a meander round the little lochan to explore then sat with some snacks and gazed into Glen Etive and across at the Buachaille.
I could have stayed there all day, the girls laughing, a wisp of a cooling breeze and the best wee country in the world all around me.

Linda did of course fall over on the way back, into some mud this time. It was a minor incident though and no harm came to anyone.

The chairlift gives you a little Ooh… moment or two on the way down, much more feeling of height going this way. Holly was rocking their chair in attempts to see all around here and I thought Linda was going to have seizure but we got there. After it stopped dead for a couple of minutes. That was really funny. Aye.

And of course, lightweight footwear was worn.

The Trossachs Incident

Callander is pretty local but it’s nice to be places when you wake up, it’s like camping on Ben Lomond or the Arrochar Alps, logistically pointless but in reality: awesome.

Also Linda got us a voucher for a night in The Highland Guest House in the heart of the village, or is it a town now? Took a leisurely wander up and booked in.
What a lovely wee place. Warm and clean, hot drinks machine 24hrs and friendly banter. We also were handed two glasses of Prosecco and asked to come back down for afternoon tea whenever we were ready. We were ready.

It was a spire of sammidges and cakes, a crescendo of snacks, a comet of taste and when the owners misses came back and saw when what he’d given us the shock and surprise was evident, I think we’d got the whole week’s allowance on one table. Magic.

It was getting dark and the rain was battering down, so we decided to go for a walk. Callander was deserted and rather pleasant to stoat about.
The river was over it’s banks and the car parks were shallow seas where geese and ducks were fannying about oblivious to us and the car whose panic faced driver obviously thought they were trapped and doomed to drown. Misses, the exit was behind you.

We went back out later to the Tasty Fry chippy, long a destination of joy for me and it still doesn’t disappoint. Chips and a can of ginger in the rain as we wandered the main street raising an occasional eyebrow at the shop window displays and happy just being.

The morning brought a little brightness and and breaking mist around Ben Ledi from the window which I know would have been glorious to be amongst with a little height, but so was that breakfast. Cooked fast, served with a smile and joy to taste.

Nice morning chat over breakast too with a couple from down south who were touring and then we were off to somewhere Linda fancied and I’d never been despite hundreds of visits here, Bracklinn Falls.

Oh, via the bakery. Supplies were wisely secured.

It’s just beautiful. The last of the mist was clearing, it would have been full on Hammer Horror in the trees earlier, but enough lingered to make the light break past the branches in soft shafts as the leaves glowed a little golden as the summer green evaporated with the mist.

The falls are stunning and the bridge sits perfectly among the jumble of rocks and riot of branches. It makes it feel secret and intimate even with the vertigo inducting edges softened by the trees.

Really hard to get a photie too. Be back in the snow I think.

There’s an extended loop you can do upstream but we had not the rucksack of supplies so we wandered back through the sunshine and headed west for cuppas.
The lochs were still as the sky quietly clouded over again and we found ourselves heading to Loch Katrine for lunch with a vague plan of doing the forest drive which we have repeatedly failed to do.

It was gorgeous though so we thought we’d take a wee wander along the lochside to take in the colours, the air, the lack of midges. We spotted a wee track that looked like it cut a corner through the woodland and it was just magic, warm colours, soft underfoot and very quiet. If only we’d had a tent.

But with no tent we had to find the way out and the intermittent track led to a short steep slope onto the road. I skipped down and turned to take Linda’s hand or even say just go that way, it’s fine…
Linda looked at me for a second then threw herself sideways, flipped over and then rolled down into the ditch beside me. Screaming like she was going to burst her lungs.

I wasn’t entirely sure what to do and neither were the nearby family. I told them we’d be fine although I didn’t necessarily believe it.
She did eventually get up but refused all attempts of giving help up to and including the valiant but likely heart attack inducting coal bag carry back to base.
We stumbled along with tensions and pain levels rising until another family insisted on helping. This time Linda did let me carry her a bit but her wee legs were just slipping off and I think it just made her pain worse so the attempt was abandoned.

The bloke of the family had stayed with us and the mum and daughter had gone for help which soon arrived in the shape on the wee golf cart they use around the jetty.
Linda got a ride back and I ran for it. Bless the kind folk we met that day.

I got her into the car and off we went. All we had to do now was choose a hospital.

The Vale of Leven minor injuries unit was nearest and that’s where we went, mud, blood, tears and all. the Vale has a patchy reputation and deservedly so, but here they did good.
Linda was Xrayed which meant passing through reception there and back with some embarrassment and amusement and after about 90 minutes of treatment appears around the corner with the walking stick I’d seen going the other way in it’s plastic bag. We looked at each other and just burst out laughing.

She stood there trying to stay upright with the support boot velcroed on up to her knee as she leaned on the walking stick and this time there were just tears of laughter. Medication is a wonderful thing.

Torn ligaments, it was bad and I still don’t know how she did it, what she was trying to do and how it was possible to do so many bad gymnastic moves in such a short descent.
I suppose it’s all because the water wasn’t there to break her fall this time. I’ll need to watch that.

And that is why we postponed Skye.

Skye with Linda

After 13 years of this place I think it was time for a literal post title.

Timing is everything. We should have been here two weeks ago but after the “Trossachs Incident” with the torn ligaments, the tears and snotters, the hilarious walking stick and velcro and metal boot etc we had to reschedule.

We were lucky and got the last slot we could use the voucher. Aye, Linda is a voucher ninja. We eat and now sleep for nearly free quite a lot and this was a belter, £79 dinner, bed and breakfast a night instead of £280. Yes please.

However, timing being everything and karma also being a bitch, we missed the northern lights which were splashed across the horizon the previous night.

What the hell man.

The weather had looked ropey. Ferry plans were cancelled and I think the road to Mallaig deserves more time than we had anyway. So a familiar road it was to be.
But, fresh snow brought out the grins and the giggles.

There’s something about that first light dusting that inspires and terrifies. The height is stretched upwards and every gully seems deeper cut, every boulder gains weight, every ridge sharpens it’s crest.  It brings me such joy.

Mostly car bound joy of course, this was to be a tourist trek only, the big blue ankle made sure of that. So, Glen Coe cafe it was.

Soup and a roll of bacon. Angles sang, birds chirped, a hedgehog smiled at me from the garden and the spider spinning its web in a corner in the conservatory winked four of its eyes. We were hungry you see, it was early when we left. Imagine that.

The road was a joy. Linda had never seen much of this and I must have been on the verge of being knocked unconscious from Spean Bridge to Shiel Bridge as I fired interesting stories and facts at her every time I saw a peak or loch that sparked a memory. Bless her for grinning and bearing it.

The colours were glorious through the waves of icy rain, the views came and went but the smiles stayed as the miles passed and I was in the mountains that I love so much.
My time at Trail Mag saw me here a lot, I wrote routes for most of the Kintail, Cluanie and Affric hills I think, easy after 20 years of frequent visits.
That familiarity hasn’t lessened their pull on me.
Oh to be back, to breathe the air, to fill my soul and let my heart fly to the summits.

And then you make the mistake of going to Eilean Donan vistor centre.

What an arsehole of a place. The sign to ask for hot drinks at the food counter is above your head on the ceiling it turns out and is completely invisible if you wear glasses unless you have superhero peripheral vision. The torn faced wummin at the till was very disappointed in us and sent us back to where one poor boy struggled on his own doing everything while five staff stood and watched from the till. Five.
The gift shop lady was nice.
But, the car park attendant stood by his guard box glowering at us and everyone else from a cloud of cigarette smoke. Just past him two other operatives merrily shouted at each other with delightful C and F bombs as families, kids and other visitors wandered around.

Totally unprofessional conduct throughout (other than nice gift shop lady) and I’m embarrassed that this is what’s representing my country to visitors.
Horrendous.
I once upset Visit Scotland with my slogan “Welcome to Scotland, Bring a Packed Lunch”. It’s as relevant as ever.

Bastards.

Skye at last though. Linda loved the bridge and we have to go back and walk it, you know, once she can walk again.

In total contrast to our previous stop the staff at The Dunollie Hotel were uniformly helpful and friendly. The place is clean and a bit bland but we got a sea view so I don’t care about any of that.

No time to rest though, we were straight back out and heading… Where do you want to go?
Don’t Know.
Okay.

The sun was going down and I had visions of a glorious sunset over Bla Bheinn so we headed west.
Ah, no. It was lovely though if bitterly cold.
It wasn’t too far to Elgol, we’d keep going, see what we could see.

It is undeniably picturesque here and even in the softening grey murk the Cuillin projects a wicked outline.

Linda’s mobility for the day had been used up in the soft grass at Torrin so I skipped down to the bouldery beach as the sky darkened and waves crashed onto the shore.
Quite beautiful.

The honeycomb crag contrasts so much with the beach of fat pebbles and the rock outcrops that break the waves. It’s like the place was designed to be explored and photographed.
Indeed, snappers had gathered in numbers for their evening feed, but today there were only morsels and many went home hungry.

I mean, look at the poor sod below.

I felt a mix of joy and guilt, poor Linda. At least I got photies. And a pebble. And big bit a seaweed. Which she wasn’t frightened of. Dammit.

Bla Bheinn was now bleakly and darkly atmospheric as we rushed back for dinner in the fading light. Starvin.

Dinner had the added amusement of a coach party having arrived and milling around the hotel bewildered and in slow motion. They looked at us with sad, lifeless eyes, “Are they one of us… ?” Must have a been a long journey.

The food was great, much to my surprise I have to say. The dining room is bland and soulless though, it’s like they went for low maintenance rather than interesting or even cozy.
But what do I know, I went to the 24hr CoOp for snacks for the movie so maybe I’m not the best judge.

We were woken by fishermen rattling around shellfish cages and setting off on the high tide. Really rather pleasant.

It’s stunning regardless of how many calendars or mugs it’s printed on. And today where the weather churned out one season after another, including another dump of snow during the night, just made it better.

The roadside views are still inspiring and the chilling rain was falling so hard at times we were glad to be near the motor most of the time.
Lunch in Portree was very fine indeed and the hills were dark and mysterious as we spun through them. This is actually Skye as I’ve usually seen it, blue skies and views have always been the exception and that’s fine, it works perfectly.

We made the most of it all, rolled over many miles and seen a lot that we want to go back to and we even squeezed in a cuppa in Plockton on the way south.

A great wee trip. I guess if Linda had been mobile we’d have been on a hill or a track somewhere the whole time so it kinda worked out and we’ve come home stoked for more.

I need these refuelling trips and Linda amplifies that, so much is new for her and I’m seeing it all as new again because of that. I love it. More thanks.