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.

 

Keeping Breakfast Down

With Holly at high school now our day starts at normal time, I’m ready for action at the same time as normal people. It also means I can be a skiving bastard much earlier in the day as well.
When I walked into the living room this morning and saw the fog and I knew what I was doing. Engineering kit went in a bag for later, hill gear went on.
I dropped the girl at the train and swung by my folks for a quick breakfast, filled a water bottle and made a dash for the crags.

The mist was thinner at the car park, light was forcing it’s way through in fuzzy spotlight beams around the trees and the pylons. I wanted to run for it but I was caught by the glistening spider webs that seems to be stringing every blade of grass on the hillside together into one shimmering blanket or wonder. And terror I dare say, the spiders at the centre of each web looked hungry. And there was a lot of them. A lot.

It was cool in the mist but got warmer as I climbed and breakfast was making it’s presence know too.
I had no need to hurry, it would be like this til lunchtime, I just wanted to be above the cloud.

I’ve done this countless time and it’s breaks a grin and girly laugh every time. I love it up here anyway, but some days shine a little brighter in my memory and my imagination.
This is happiness.

I went straight to the top and looked out, glorious. The higher tops, the real mountains are all far away but I don’t care, this is home, this is mine, this is pure magic.

I saw the Brocken Spectre follow me up, changing intensity and size with my height and the mist level all the way. It had the fogbow outer edge as well which seemed like it extended in an arc all the way to the Cowal peninsula, it was so distinct I felt I could step out onto it and walk on this ghost bridge high above the Firth of Clyde in the sunshine.

I sat and kept of sitting, I drank my cool Robinson’s lemon. Worry free just for a while, full of joy and wearing a smile under that manky old cap.

I eventually decided to wander the edge of the crags. It’s a lovely trail anyway, but the evolving view sells it even more today.

Ben Lomond was lying on it’s back under the clear blue skies, the trees have lost that angry summer green and the moon slips quietly across the sky, most likely wondering why the hell it’s here in the daytime. It’s used to shiftwork, but this isn’t right surely?

As the sun rose so did the fog, in tufts and waves it poured slowly up the glens and the gullies before finally running out of puff then breathing back in and fading into patches that would sit defiantly until I got back to the truck.

The little white dot on the ridge above is a pickup truck. The quarry track goes round the rim and I watched the big trucks driving round ferrying fresh stone downhill. What would that dashcam footage be like.

I stayed up there for hours. Wandering and watching, just letting time pass.

I came down the long way, checking on the cup marked stones (don’t ask, still not telling) and my gate repair. I was starvin’ too.
Back to my folks again.
“Oh, you want some lunch?”
Er, aye…
“How did you get on a work?”
Fine, just fine.

 

Nightflight

Haven’t been up the crags at night for a while. This was a definite attempt to catch the sun going down and we did okay, it was nice to watch the sunset play out and we sat on the highest bench for about 45 minutes with flasks and snacks until the last flames died into brown and deep blue.

It got cold then too, I had to put gloves on. I had to pull my hood up for a wee while too. I do like this.

We were prepared for the night time trails with headtorches fitted with fresh batteries. However Linda also decided to keep her prescription sunglasses on and by the time we noticed the Overtoun car park was far behind us.
So no glasses it was and this brought with it some arse to ground moments on the descent. But a wee rest on a bench to take in the lights and get distracted for a while and we were on the easy downhill.

Just feels like home.

NewCo Glencoe

There’s something quite wonderful about seeing favourite but familiar places for the first time all over again.

Linda had never been to Glen Coe which is obviously a travesty and something I had to fix as soon as we could get away.
A couple of Saturdays back we had the whole day and even with patchy weather forecast we got up early and hit the road north. Not in the truck though, the recent flat battery incident and the “smell of diesel” means the two of them are not yet friends. They will have to accept each other at some point, I don’t care how many tears there are.

So, with me driving the “hot hatch” erratically and often sideways (power steering is for the weak and I can’t get used to it) it was with some relief we stopped to try TJ’s, the new diner at Tyndrum.
It feels very new, a little uncertain, a little unprepared but the pancakes and bacon with syrup were magic. I hope it has a future, Tynrum is the go-to A82 stopover place these days and more competition in the village is a good thing, the regulars have gotten complacent and expensive.

I stopped at all the tourist spots, the low cloud made it all look dramatic and it was grins all the way. I haven’t been on my own for a wee while and it was good to breath the air, feel the rain on my face and find a parking spot really close to the door of the now rather swanky Glencoe Visitor Centre.
As well as having a very welcome customer hat drying area in the shop the whole place has been transformed since my last visit. The exhibits were interesting and the film was very good although the sound mix is not good, they need to turn the music down when the narrator is talking.

We took a wander around the waymarked trails which I’d never done in my life. Lovely wee walk and it takes you just high enough and away from the road that you get new views of the hills. Even in the swirling cloud and rain, it was lovely. And no midges. Alright.

It was still really early so we headed north for lunch in Ft Bill. It was pissing down which felt very normal for the familiar grey high street.
Had pizza in the Nevisport cafe for the first time in my life which was rather nice. Got the windae seat and watched the local neds filing through the underpass on their way to McDonalds on the other side of the roundabout with their hoods up and heads down. Ah, feels good to be back.

Old Inverlochy Castle is a much overlooked local place of interest. Sill raining so we had just a quick run around and two of the towers are closed for works which is a shame.
With half the day still to play with I had a think about what else to do. Aonach Mor stuck in cloud, so no Where Eagles Dare reenactment on the gondola, no proper rain gear so no Glen Nevis. We’d drive for a bit and see what popped up.

Ended up at the Eas Chia-aig waterfall at the end of Loch Arkaig. Nice wee drive in the roller skate, as I will now call the hot hatch and as ever, the killer midges were waiting in the car park. In all my travels in this wee country I have never know midges like the ones here. Every trip here I have been grievously assaulted.

It is lovely though. Even if the horrendous desolation through the glen from the hydro scheme still lurks unrepaired just beyond the trees above the falls.
The moss along the Mille Dorcha is as long and hairy as ever but forestry work has burst holes through the old stone wall killing some of the growth and also letting light into the area for the first time in many years. I wonder if this will see the demise of the mighty moss?

From here it was a meander down the road, no hurry and it wasn’t without yet more distractions.

One of which was the Falls of Falloch as we got close to home. The rain really brought out the best in the waterworks.

We don’t get a lot of days to go and out and play, but we do fill them up when we get there.

Pipe Dream

Hmm, did I find an ancestor on our travels this day?

We wanted to get out and up into some cool air but energy levels were a bit low. I’d promised the top of the Sloy pipes long ago, it felt like a good fit for an easy day.

Any slower and we’d have been in reverse. We stopped and had Lunch #1 while Holly fired some photies onto Instagram. A medium to which I too have finally posted a photie. I don’t feel my life has improved for that but it’s early days.

We can’t help ourselves. We spent way too much time trying to make a shot the rear cover of our album. I think it looks like an 80s rap album, Holly says that’s fine because the 80s are cool again? I don’t know, we’ll see what happens.

Talking of that I put the first three Public Enemy albums on my phone. I keep getting caught out when I’m driving around with the playlist set to Songs: random.

I keep expecting them to fence this area off but I suppose it doesn’t see much footfall.

What I would give to get inside those tunnels and maintence doors. A lifetime of going through doors marked Authorised Access Only only makes it worse, I’ve paid my dues, let me in dammit.

It’s a fine second lunch spot at the road end a bit above the pipe buildings. Properly good views. Passed through here a few times on my way up Vorlich, which is great way to go, you will never see another soul.

The road’s a wee bit alpine feeling and folk go “Where the hell is that?” when you show them a photie.

The girl did well as always, legs stretched a wee bit and we did find some cool air.

A wee bit of colour too on the way too, it is Macfarlane country after all.

 

Blue, sweets and no tears

You know all the telly adds asking you to sign up for being bombarded with vouchers? I always saw them as personal detail hovering schemes.
This still may be true, but Linda is fully vouchertronic and we’ve got some rather nice deals in return for our retail souls.

A sail around Lock Katrine on the Sir Walter Scott and afternoon tea in the cafe for two jam jars and  bundle of old newspapers was too good an opportunity to miss and the weather came along for free.

Got there early and had a wander with an ice cream. Saw the new pods they’ve got for camping by the loch and they look really nice, wonder if there’s a voucher for those?
Chatted to a fella staying in the camper van slot. He had his wee dug in hos bike basket. Poor wee bugger was smaller than Klaus.

Watched the boat come in, it was mobbed with pensioners in regulation shades of beige. It gracefully cruised in and swung gently onto the pier, ready for the next sailing. That was us, get a move on misses…

Wasn’t as busy for us although the bow and stern seats were instantly taken up by particularly aggressive and fast moving pensioners who then sat there guarding their spots for the entire sail. I’m not so far from that age now, I wonder what I’ll be like. Not in beige, that’s for sure.

We took a big lazy loop around the loch and it was glorious. A cool breeze on the move while the sun beat down and the banter from the crew came thick and fast over the tannoy. It was funny as hell, they were having as much fun as we were.

You’re on the water for an hour but it’s over too fast. Familiar mountains seen from unfamiliar angles, less trodden hills and woodland line the lochside and I could have stayed on there all day. I mean, they have cuppas and everything.

I hadn’t been on the boat for years, definitely recommended. Height of summer with a full boat though? Might be a different experience.

I think the cafe had been caught out but the midweek busyness, they were mobbed and harassed.
Worth the wait though, we had old school sammidges, pastries and tray bakes on the wee three tiered plate thing that I’m too lazy to google the real name of.
We sat in the sun, ate and grinned.

The longer days and the good weather mean more time to explore and we just couldn’t drive past the forest park above Aberfoyle.
Super quiet in there today, more ice cream and wandering. It was quiet enough to watch a red squirrel fannying around from the hide where usually the screaming weans keep them away.

The light in the trees was gorgeous. Always loved it here.
Although popular and accessible it somehow keeps a little wildness about it.

I say “best day” quite a lot and mean it every time, and this was a best day. I hope to have more best days.

50? Easy.

 

Out of Range

Having just filled in an official survey about my (six years!) of volunteering for the Woodland Trust Scotland at the Lang Craigs the wording of the questions and my own answers had me thinking about what it has all meant to me and all about what me and my small band of fellow rangers do in the Lang Craigs.
Now I say ranger, but the Trust want to call us wardens and I take extreme exception to that for a number of reasons, but Wikipedia can go first:

Exhibit A:
Ranger most often refers to:
Park ranger or forest ranger, a person charged with protecting and preserving protected parklands.

Exhibit B:
A warden is a person who has been entrusted with the oversight of something important to the community, such as a college, church, prison, wild game or firefighting.

As a ranger the folks I meet and chat with (which is everyone, it’s me remember) see us as odd outdoor types who live in the hills somehow, foraging for food etc.
As a warden we’re apparently the folk telling you to get your dog on a lead and trying to knock mountain bikers off their saddles.
This is how people see us, I’ve asked.

So, here’s day in the life of a ranger or two.

The Lang Craigs is a big site, there’s much more to it than the area immediately above Overtoun that’s most frequented and there’s a lot to do. There’s also scope for using the tasks we have for other ends.
When I was grinding through equipment grouptests running the same long cross country deer fence route gave me benchmarks to judge like for like performance, something you just don’t get using different kit in different places.
Today was another example, two youngsters from a local Boy’s Brigade troop needed community volunteering experience and we love extra pairs of hands and eyes.

I’d helped build some bat roosting boxes and the first task of the day was checking some of them for occupancy, something that my buddy and fellow ranger Jo has the proper tickets for and I constantly rib her for, I don’t care, Bat Girl jokes just never get old okay. She even has the tattoos.

There’s no such thing as a single task though, I’d already spotted a path creeping sideways because a wooden post was missing and a gate padlock was sticking. I’d already replaced it a few weeks ago, welding a new one onto a chain and it’s away again. On the list.

The sun and fresh snow made the walking up to the very top of the site pleasant indeed. It was cool, but just right for moving and even having lunch by the gate were here to work with didn’t need an extra layer.
The sun was starting to win anyway, the snow was disappearing as we watched and it was raising water levels everywhere, quite impressively so in the burns and on the ground it made progress boggier.

Ben Lomond was looking grand, folks were having a fine time, I saw facebook that night.
The new metal signs fitted, the gate tested both ways to make sure if swung shut and locked itself we decided to follow the fence down towards Maryland.
I walk the deer fence to check for gaps, damage, animal tunnels but it is easy to tune out and miss stuff, there’s around six miles of it, so extra eyes do help at times.

The fence is vital, the deer that get in could undo our work quickly by killing off the young trees, so preventing that rather than having to get the stalker in is the best option.
The enemies of the fence are the weather, regular decay of the wooden posts and more annoyingly local ne’er-do-wells cutting the wire to let the deer in so they can chase them with lurchers in a contained space.
Nothing is ever simple or straightforward.

We did find some breakages, luckily not too bad so the fence tension and integrity wasn’t compromised and it was the boys that saw it first, those extra eyes.
I was too bust route finding, we were coming up to a water crossing.
I usually carry zip ties and wire for these occasions so I can do some sort of repair, most times you see me up here my rucksack has more tools and spares parts in it than snacks.

Repair and maintain all you want, nature will always win, the tree that has eaten the original fence below will testify to that.

Water is friend and enemy. Every water crossing the fence makes is a gap that deer can get in and the free swinging wooden water gates that fill the gap between fence and burn need watching.
Even small burns have very mobile beds and it’s surprising how big the boulders are that move down hill when the water rises and can jam in the gates holding them open for critters to get through.
I saw two gates today that need some attention but the water was too fast and deep to get in at it. I’m up here on my own most of the time and I know the score, safety first.

There’s a lot of standing water too, and most of it has frog spawn. A lot looks healthy which is good, the early temperature rise would have messd with the frogs heads and there was lot I saw that was too early.

Saw a newt too, a fast wee bugger, never even got the camera near it. Lot’s of life in the water, always worth sitting quite for a while, see what’s moving.
That goes for the trees as well now I think about it, the bird life we see around them is ever richer and varied. On the way up a kestrel settled close to the path, sitting on a young tree sunning itself seemingly oblivious to us and the red face grinning bloke with the huge telephoto lens pointed right at it from just 20 feet away. It only swooped away when its audience got bigger and boisterous.

It’s a lovey spot here, quiet and the views are magic, the Luss hills just a hop and a skip away. There’s a rough trail to here but no proper path, the gate here must be one of the least used on the site, but it’s still gets checked. Lots to find beyond here, ruins, ancient cairns and cistes, the Kilpatricks are so overlooked and yet you can explore or lose yourself up here as satisfyingly as anywhere further north.

The sun brought out some of the locals. A big meaty bugger was this, I’m sure he’ll turn into something graceful and pretty before he gets eaten.

I was just looking around me now as the team checked on the endless collection of bat boxes in the woodland. Standing around I became aware of the colours and patterns in the water and on the trees. It was all rather striking and I felt like I’d never noticed it before. maybe it was the perfect light to see it, maybe the furry trees brought it out, maybe I just had the time see it properly today.
It just shows you, there’s always something new. Big or small it doesn’t matter, the joy is the same.

I loved the sci-fi roots of the partly keeled over tree. They wondered what the hell I was doing lying on my belly with my head underground.

Nearby the Starfish Bunker made for a fun wee diversion, although the water went over the top of everyone’s boots. Deep in there today.
From front line WW2 defences to crumbling hillside curio, it’s worth a visit.
The flat top made a great snack stop spot as the cloud moved in a little. I could see some slightly tired faces and a long way to go if we stuck to the original plan.

Plan B would be much more fun. And quicker of course.

Never has a tree fallen so serendipitously. I tested it, I threw my pack over so I kinda had too and it was fine, well grounded and jammed in tight.
The spikes made the traverse a little tricky, by no cardigans were snagged and the primroses on the climb back out of the glen calmed everyone back down.

The burn as seen is why the water gate had to be left for another day. Standing in the middle of that pulling at boulders, aye, good luck with that.

A last rest stop by the Scots pines of Black Wood and views to the Arrochar Alps before getting back onto the well trodden tracks to our final tasks of the day, a couple more bat boxes and some dog poop warning signs on the gates.
We can’t catch the dicks that leave their poop bags at their arses or hanging from trees and hit them with a big stick so we’ll threaten them with a fine instead. It’s something I suppose, but you can’t fix stupid so I don’t know if it’ll have any effect.

We were on the hill for six and a half hours, not a bad day out especially for the youngsters and although were doing work and stopping here and there it shows you the scale of the place and the possibilities there are for getting out there and really exploring, even just within the Lang Craigs fence line.

I had a great day. I love this place dearly and I love what I do here, on my own or for the Trust.
I’m not an hardcore eco warrior or a tree hugger, I got into this because I wanted to make sure they weren’t going to ruin my hills but my motivations have definitely evolved over time.
The Woodland Trust seem to be doing the right thing most of the time and because of that the recent purchase of Ben Shieldaig brings me joy.

Volunteering is what you make it. Your motivations for doing it are important, if you get your reasons right it’s rewarding, fun and you get the occasion free lunch. If you’re looking for something more you’re in the wrong place.

Although these sites and their regeneration cost big money, there is no money in having them, no profit in preserving our landscape.  What we do is important, it keeps the Woodland Trust and many more bodies running but more importantly by extension it helps keep the bastards from building wind turbines and digging hydro schemes into our scenery.

So when you see someone threatening the hills and forests with development and think “Someone should do something…” we are doing sonething. Come and help.

Munro #256

Been a lot of talk online and in the regular media about this being the 100th anniversary of Hugh Munro’s death and I’d just like to say: Good lad, thanks for the list that got us all started.
If it would have been today he was doing his list he’d have been a YouTuber and I’d have thought he was a dick, so I’m glad it happened the way it did.

I’d also like to make it official on this auspicious day, Beinn Narnain is my favourite Munro.
It’s a wee rugged hill that in turns over the years has welcomed me and fought me, has brought me joy and tears and has more memories of good times and friends hidden in it’s rocky flanks than any other hill I’ll ever climb.
I love it dearly and I will always return there until I can’t.

It’s maybe an odd photie choice, it gives nothing away and that’s very fitting. You have to go there, get up close, get off the path and find it for yourself.
That’s what Munro did and that’s why his list shouldn’t be a means to an end, something to tick. It should be a catalyst, an inspiration to explore.

Power Hour

I knew the golden hour was from five til six and also that the likelyhood of the same display as Monday night was remote, but it was calm, clear and bright so we met up at Overtoun about quarter to five and made a run for the skyline anyway.

A bit hazy but the low light was warm although getting ever lower and cooler. We got some height at just the right time after breaking sweat on the climb to Black Wood and back into clear air. Perfect timing.

The sun hit a bank of cloud out to sea and the temperature dropped sharply. But the stove was on and hot cuppas were imminent as we sat in the long grass and listened to birdsong in the scots pines nearby.

One tight stand of pines kept on drawing my eye, I expected an elephant to come charging at me at any second, it looked like a little splat of Africa on the hillside in this warm sunlight.
This is why I don’t get bored, always something new to see. Or imagine.

Although evidence suggests otherwise, it’s still winter so it got dark quick. Dumbarton were playing at home and the stadium sitting under Dumbarton Castle looked just like the big ship from Close Encounters. Haven’t seen that in years, I wonder if it’s aged well. Netflix…

Home by headtorch. Living by the river is brilliant, especially when there’s hills right beside it.