Thursday, 13 November 2014

Glamaig. Red Cuillin. Skye Trip.

This is the final third day from our Skye trip a couple of months ago when my camera bit the dust and I had to borrow a spare camera from Alex. A view looking across at Ben Tianavaig which looks like a great little hill with the Storr summit behind. It was a fairly hazy day but dry with light winds.
The route Alex picked for his ascent up Glamaig, just above the sliggy campsite was from the road not far past the Sconser House Hotel and the ferry pier for Raasay. A very faint path led up through thick heather to the start of the scree runs which cover the slopes of this mountain. Although a fast way up it was pretty brutal and unrelenting although it looked all right from the bottom looking up. It was so steep in a few places through numerous small bands of rock I was considering descending by another line but eventually we reached a level shelf and could take time to recover.
Even from the Loch Sligachan side it looked steep and unrelenting, peering down.
The Head of Loch Sligachan.

Great if slightly misty views started to open up by the halfway stage.
Dun Caan and Raasay from Glamaig.
Looking towards the Red Cuillin and Bla Bheinn behind that.
Alex on the ridge.
The summit ridge of Glamaig, the best bit of the day.

Heading for the summit. A nice panoramic ridge walk.
On the way back down we knew the forecast was for another day of reasonably good weather on Skye. "Do you fancy staying up and doing Ben Tianavaig tomorrow? Alex asked.
"I'll do it if you want to stay up here but my legs are telling me otherwise. I replied honestly. The descent was twice as bad as the route up which really hammered our toes, legs and creaking knees.
"How about just going home then? He inquired.
" Best news all day. How do you feel.?
"Knackered. The hills seem much higher than in the past. How did we manage to do this stuff every day for a week then hit the pub every night years ago on holiday.
"Is that not a line from a Roxy song? We were young and keen then."
" I'm still keen." He replied. "Just sore and broken.... temporarily."
So we did.... go home that is.

The Roxy song by another old guy who is still soldiering on manfully despite the years. Mind you if we had Aussie multi instrumentalist Jorja Chalmers with us on Skye we would probably have managed Ben Tianavaig no problem. Sax or no sax....
Ah, to be young again.........great song.

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Peebles. Border Beauty Captured. Bothy X weekend.

                                                  ALL PHOTOS CLICK FULL SCREEN

"Like leaves changing colour then falling from trees over a span of autumn days, you only see the ones in front of you that make the most impression; either in vibrancy of colour, special mood you were in, or the magical place in which they fell. Taken as a whole they blur together and this often holds true for memory. Our club over the years had many trips together, some good, some indifferent, some bad. The ones in this book are selected highlights, that for one reason or another, stand out vividly and neither time nor old age will erase them from my soul. " Extract from The Borderers. A.

                                                          Two views taken in Peebles.

An invitation to go to a very special bothy in a beautiful area was not one to be turned down. So it was that a group of us, led by custodian Mike and his friend Paul, agreed to visit what is easily my favourite part of the Scottish Borders. The wide lands between Dalself then the river gorge to Lanark... The Pentlands down through Black Barony... Cairn Table... Tinto... Peebles down to Melrose- take in some of the finest rolling landscapes in Britain but it is often not that easy to capture this area's unique and varied charm. The light, the shifting air, and the shadows over the mountains continually change and sometimes it's pure luck if you capture it properly. This time I hope I have done the landscape here justice.
When it came to writing a full chapter about it in a book- describing a border October and walking into a bothy in full autumn colours  it was a challenge I really enjoyed to see if I could project vivid pictures from my own memory into someone's else's imagination. This time the photographs will have to take the place of descriptive writing however.
Scenery near Peebles. John Buchan Way.
On the way down to bothy X on the Saturday morning Alex had his usual hill tick planned. Even he admitted this might be a boring one for me to tag along so he offered to drop me off near Peebles instead where I could walk a section of the John Buchan Way from The Glack and the Black Dwarf's Cottage then over Cademuir Hill and round to Manor Sware where I could pick up the riverside path along the River Tweed back into Peebles. This walk, although modest, has magnificent views and you are following in the footsteps of Richard Hanney, Buchan's most recognised spy story to the general public. "The 39 Steps" Much of the book is set in the landscape Buchan was very familiar with and he spent many childhood holidays in Broughton, another lovely village. OS Land Ranger maps. Sheet 72 and 73.
The John Buchan Way was created in 2003 and is a modest example of its genre as it can be done in a day and it is only 13 miles long from Peebles to Broughton. Although short it does pack in some magnificent scenery throughout its length. It is no coincidence that the border chapter to the secret bothy in my own book is chapter 13 as I have packed it full to the gunnels with oblique references to well known art, famous novels, music, and loads of other stuff that people will never get, even if they bother to read it. There's a reason it took two long years to write :o)
This is an area I have loved since my first visit here in my teens and it is one of the few places which seems to remain timeless, although this is obviously not the case. Fisherman on the River Tweed, above.
The view from Cademuir Hill. Horses and cyclists. It is also one of the great areas for landscape cycling although many seem content these days, even in good weather, to hide themselves away in the twisting stygian depths of Glentress Forest. I've cycled there once. Nice meals in the cafĂ©. Found the actual "cycling" along hairpin fixed trails with zero views of the surroundings very puzzling. An ambulance arrived while we were there to take someone who had missed a steep turn and crashed into a tree to hospital. Similar to the graded runs you get in downhill skiing. Different strokes for different folks.
I prefer to see around me and admire the wide open views when I take to the bike. Glen Tress is like an outdoor gym to me and I just don't see the point of it although it always seems to pack them in as it's fashionable at the moment to cycle deep within forestry plantations. Rain or shine. Glad they have found a use for them at last. Given the number of crashes I have had on smooth wide tarmac I would need full body armour just to reach the finish line in one peice. Cyclists going over Cademuir hill.
A view looking down in the other direction.
The stunning beauty of the borders landscape in these next photographs. I doubt I will take better ones than these of this area.
Love the soft pastel colours and the way the hills recede one after another into a distant milky haze.
A special area. My favourite photo of the pack. The pick of the litter.
The walk along the River Tweed is also scenic and just round this bend the outline of Neidpath Castle dominates the valley.
Peebles was soon reached again after a memorable few hours and Alex arrived from his hill a short time later.
The walk into the bothy, which isn't too far away, was also one of enjoyment. This is a private one run by the BBA for youth and community groups and shall remain nameless. There's far too much information already on bothy locations on the net and this information never goes away. If you know where it is keep it to yourself :o) Hush hush., need to know basis protocol involved.
Inside the bothy. Joining us were Radek and Gordon, who had cycled in all the way from Edinburgh, John, nearest fire, and Scott, another keen cyclist. Gavin, Mike, Paul and Alex are also present, just not in this picture. I'm surprised Scott didn't cycle there and back from Glasgow as 100 miles in an outing is small beans to him these days :o) Check out that fluffy white carpet. A different class of bothy experience altogether.
Getting ready to leave the bothy the next day.
Secret procedure for locking up that is so undercover the participant has to remain blindfolded while securing the door in case he accidently sees the code.
What we got up to on the Sunday is also covered under the official secrets act and cannot be divulged either. Many thanks to Mike for a great and unusual weekend.
         The River Tweed. Scottish Borders. The number 13 is significant here in other ways.

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Land Ahoy! Boat and Book Adventures. Largs to Millport to Arran.

A trip from a couple of weeks ago saw an invitation from my friends, John and wife Gail and teenage daughter Morven, who asked if I would like to go on a geocaching trip with them, touring around the Firth of Clyde and its Islands. As a cracking October day was forecast and I like a wide variety of outdoor pursuits I was keen to go. The launch point was from the marina at Largs, which has a public slipway, not far from the pencil, seen above.
Two Kayaks and the RIB (rigid inflatable Boat) near the launch slipway. I usually stand up to my thighs in the sea at this point if conditions are choppy to help steady the boat.
The Captain barks out instructions to the crew. " Have my bone, new collar, and best sailing jacket laid out. I may go ashore on the islands at some point."
Once on the water " The smartest dug in the trade" kept his eyes peeled for danger.
A family group of harbour porpoise ( I think) which at 3 to 7 feet long (2 metres), are usually smaller than the 6 to 12 foot long dolphins that also frequent these waters and occasionally attack them. Porpoise are shy and not as numerous as dolphins world wide. They don't tend to live much longer than a decade swimming in the wild.
As we went further out to sea and into the Firth the black peaks of Arran broke through swirling clouds, looking very King Kong island like under a shifting curtain of mist and fog.
A passing warship added to the slightly surreal setting. A stunning photograph.
We circumnavigated Great Cumbrae then headed for Little Cumbrae, which remains private and not on any passenger ferry route. It is largely uninhabited except for a small community on the west coastline, centred around the lighthouse at Craig Nabbin, seen here and a house near Castle Island on the other side. There have been plans in the past to turn it into a corporate outdoor retreat, a spiritual centre, and peace zone similar to Holy Isle off Arran but I don't know how far these ideas have progressed yet.
How many Cormorants ( or shags) can you cram on an island?
Yachts off Garroch Head on Bute.
"The Lion" Rock on Great Cumbrae, near Millport. It was probably named from passing boats as it is only when viewed from the sea  that it resembles a lion. You have to use a bit of imagination though.
 A short stop over in Millport Harbour was now on the cards, and, being a Sunday there were a few families out enjoying an autumnal sunny afternoon.
The Captain got drunk in the local grog shop, peed all over the main street without any apparent shame or concern, then had to be carried back aboard in disgrace after snaffling down half a bag of chips that had been left unattended on a bench for a moment by an unlucky child. Don't let the sad look fool you. He's a bad wee rascal at heart! A sailing breed with a long pedigree of life spent abroad ships down through the centuries.
Mind you, having a few drinks and a big feed on a trip "doon the watter" has been a tradition on the Clyde for over 100 years now.
Sailing School sets off.
Large ship At Hunterson/ Southannan Sands Pier.
 A great day out and thank again to John, Gail and Morven for inviting me along.
Just by lucky coincidence my new pictorial guide book is all about the River Clyde and the Firth of Clyde. It is a mixture of brief history items, some nostalgia, contains information and details to over 80 walks and cycle rides, for both beginners and experienced veterans, and is fully illustrated with 146 colour photographs taken over a 40 year period along the Clyde. It should be of interest to most folk that live or have lived at some point in Glasgow or along the banks of the Firth as it covers many lesser known walks from the Upper Clyde at Lanark to the Firth and its many and varied islands before ending at Ballantrae, near Girvan. The walks and cycle rides described inside are from a couple of hours easy flat exercise around the urban town and city districts to full day adventures in remote locations.
My life long love affair with this incredible area, the largest enclosed estuary in the British isles and the most diverse, should be obvious from these pages. 
I've kept this photo deliberately small sized here. Apart from being a practical guidebook to many lesser known walks and cycle routes in this area it is also a pictorial journey down the River Clyde from it's source to the sea where it meets the North Channel between the Mull of Galloway and Corsewall Point near Ballantrae, the last walks in this book along the beautiful and little known Stinchar Valley.
  (colour photos are only available on some kindle reading devices) It should be a good gift for the Christmas market as it is much cheaper than most other equivalent guide books but is packed with walking and cycling suggestions, for anyone that likes exploring this unique area.  
It's also the best of the last six years of Blueskyscotland adventures in this district but in one easy to read simple format with index of places including my tips on how to always walk in sunshine outdoors. No really... it is possible. I've been doing it now for six years most weekends so its not just luck anymore :o)

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Glasgow Parklands. Elixir of Autumn.


                                                        Leaf by leaf, tree by tree

                                                   the fading, falling transformation


from canopy to carpet takes place

                                           A favourite season for some, but not alas, for me

                                  or the wild creatures, as many of them will fade and die

                                          as heat and beauty retreat below the ground


                                  and the old familiar skeletons appear, stripped of flesh

                                           as darkness grows day by day into a tomb

                                                               a half life to endure.


                                                                eternal feminine

                                           as you sink beneath the ground day by day

                                       the warmth from your body becomes memory

                                               and the first long snows of winter appear

                                                     many go to sleep in the freezer

                               and never see the fresh hope of another spring burst forth.

                                                          Will that be me.... this year?