Sunday, 31 May 2009

Glasgow.A kaleidoscopic cycle tour.

Alex was feeling ill when I phoned.Despite our blog name he doesnt like it when its too warm ( not far off 80 degrees on sunday) so a sudden attack of man flu was called for."You`ll have to go it alone" He croaked."I`m counting on you.Feeling a bit rough."
Where to go? No challenge in finding the sun this weekend it was golden and roasting uk wide a la chicken on a spit.The challenge was simply to enjoy the day.It looked like I was soon going to be grafting hard at work in sweaty conditions so I wanted an easy day out.
The answer? An old favourite of mine that never fails to lift my spirits.Cycling around half of Glasgow and Paisley from my house on the western outskirts of the city.Its got everything. A true Kaleidoscope.
Although this is an urban ride it is surprisingly green and pleasant with large sections linking up meadows and parks.
So took the mountain bike and followed the Loch Lomond cyclepath from my house down past Glasgow Harbour (nice flat biking along the waterfront)
This is just the usual glass and steel towers common on UK wide new build waterfronts. Ok, but I just wish They had a bit more verve, boldness and individual style like a lot of continental projects I`ve seen.
So, continued into Glasgow centre intending to take the wee riverbus which runs to Braehead only to find its now on Loch Katrine plying its trade and the river is now an empty desert again.Gutted! It was a real tourist attraction for the city and brightened up many a journey for me on its decks.R.I.P. Thanks Glasgow district.Tourism is safe in your hands.
Back to Bell`s bridge then and detoured to take this pic of the Angel building with the aforesaid winged one looking pretty hot high above Paisley Road Toll.
After that it was a short distance to Festival Park which is cycle friendly and has a man made stream system you can follow leading you out to Ibrox. Smashing wee park ,shame about the usual heatwave rubbish though that people leave in their wake.BB Qs, takeaways,cans of drink.If they carried it in etc.
Next up, after a merry canter through the picture postcard scenery of back street Ibrox.....
it was into the cool shade of Bellahouston park.
My usual steady uphill push past the much enlarged dry ski runs (3 now) of the Glasgow ski centre brought me to my favorite seat atop the hill for a lunch stop and a great view west towards the Barrhead braes and the southern arc of Glasgow.
Although still in the middle of the city all you can see in this direction is trees, green rolling hills and more trees.My next destination,the vast and leafy Pollok country park lay ahead.
As I sat gumming down on my spicy chcken slice a fat old man was happy.After 15 minutes of sitting down,sweat tricking freely,I knew the bike was the right choice for really hot weather like this as a constant breeze dawdling along kept things pleasant and cool.Alex.Take note!
Had another wee detour just to take a picture before entering the north gate of Pollok park as there is a smashing short link section above the south side of the M8
with good views
Altough this is just off route from what I consider the best classic circlular route
the beauty of this tour is that most parts of it have many different options so its never the same route twice once you know your way around.
Cycled happily through the dappled woods of Pollok Park until I came to Pollok House.Done well here and managed to get this people free pic of the grand house without getting a kicking as maw, paw and scantily clad females of all ages wandered around.I was very careful where I pointed my camera.I only wanted this one iconic shot.
Next up skirted Pollok on quiet roads (Crookston Castle is worth a visit,can go to the top usually.Chain your bike!) then followed the slow meanderings of the White Cart water through the green meadows and inward pointing spiked railings of Leverndale hospital grounds with its dark tower a reminder of its past.Had a few mad relatives incarcerated in here when I was growing up but its quiet and serene mostly nowadays.
This is a lovely stretch of track leading into Paisley with gentle ups and downs along the river.You can continue through this town and out past Bridge of Weir to Greenock on the cycletrack but I cut off it down to Barshaw park as I was going through Renfrew and the ferry which would take me back near my home.
All in all this is a great little day out with endless variety.Braehead waterfront promanade, X scape and the newly constructed ferry village park next to it are all worth a look see on the bike as well.You could do this from anywhere near this route or park and bike from Braehead or Pollok park. Allow 3 to five hours depending on your speed and, or curiosity.
As I said in the title. Kaledoscopic man! Ma eyes are knackered! (No sunglasses as yet). Alex, you missed yerself boy!

Sunday, 24 May 2009

Cairnkinna Hill.

Continuing our attempt to further depress the share price of W.L.Gore ( Goretex © ) we headed down to Dumfries and Galloway for a day`s hillwalking on the advice of Heather the Weather.

I can`t fathom out why folk head north all the time and ignore areas like this.Cairnkinna Hill,a Marilyn, makes for a great day out from Glasgow, it`s only 60 odd miles,and yet we saw nobody all day.

It had been on my list for a return visit for ten years ever since I cycled down from Polskeoch bothy to Penpont one fine day.The Scaur Water itself,which runs from Polskeoch down to Penpont, is full of hidden waterfalls,birch woods and an inspiration for the local sculptor Andy Goldsworthy.



Seven miles of single track road leads up from Penpont......



.......to the start of the track leading to the building marked Woodend on the OS map at NX 795 997.There is just about room opposite the path for one car.Across the field for a few hundred yards and then the track takes off steeply through the forest before opening out into the fields below the cottage.


The view down the Scaur Water...



When approaching it you will see a gate about 50yards below and to the right of the cottage.Go down here and through to the next field and make a rising traverse up to the left aiming for another gate a few hundred yards away.This gives access to the fine south west ridge of Cairnkinna.

The ridge is a fairly effortless way of ascent with good views back to the Scaur Water valley and across to the hills to the west.Chanlock Rig looks a fine hill from here.Altogether it`s on a par with the Lake District.

Chanlock Rig....



As we turned north east along the ridge to the summit the views opened out to 360 degrees.The Lowthers and Queensberry were prominent to the east while to the west the views extended to the Rhinns of Kells.Criffel was easily recognised to the south although the Lake District hills were smothered in a fine haze for most of the day.

Bob with the Rhinns in the far background....



The summit appeared now and sported one of the biggest cairns I have seen on a Scottish hill although a small diversion was called for first of all to bag the trig point :)



For a cairn this size there appears to be little history to go with it.It`s not listed as an antiquity and the consensus seems to be that it is Victorian.

Myself on the cairn....



It was nice and sunny but the air temperature had taken a considerable dip on the summit plateau.Still,we managed a half hour lounging around in the lee of the cairn as our thoughts went out to the other members of our climbing club and the rain they were enduring on the Cuillin ridge :)

The view southwards towards Criffel...



Off downwards by the same route.....Glenwhargen Crag appears.There were rumours years ago that there was some climbing available hereabouts....



About 500 feet lower down Bob discovered that his sunglasses were no longer perched on his head and decided that they must have been left at the summit.Being a true friend,I volunteered to lie down on a convenient rock slab and have forty winks whilst he toiled back up to the cairn :)

The view from my rock slab...



And sheep may safely graze.....Wales being at least 200 miles away :)



A few choice curse words heralded the return of Specless Bob.No sign of them at the summit so the rucksac was duly upended just to make sure that they weren`t lurking in there.



Notice the contents...none of your emergency bivvy bag,gps and whistle stuff for the blueskyscotland boys.
A Gunsters and a packet of Mr.Kipling`s finest by way of sustenance,three bottles of coke to rehydrate.Three tubes of sun tan lotion...one factor 20 for not so good days,one factor 30 for normal bluesky days,and a factor 45 for extreme days :)

On our way again we were soon back down at Woodend....



....where we encountered the usual Young Bullock Posse that prove to be one of the obstacles of Marilyn bagging.Them and electric fences :) Ever since a close shave with a herd of mad charging cattle with murderous intentions on the Hill of Garvock in Aberdeenshire last year I exercise a bit of caution with these beasts.No problems this time though.....

The Posse think about it......



The Posse think better of it :)



Soon we were back at the car and getting the boots off.We dallied down the road back to Penpont taking the western fork this time.This part of the country is made for cycling with very few cars and loads of birdlife along with great scenery.Pretty much like the Lake District without the crowds.

Oystercatcher posing for us....



We had a wander round the old church in Penpont which had a few interesting old gravstones,stopped to admire a few free range pigs and had a wander up to this Andy Goldsworthy sculpture outside the village...



Miss Piggy stalking the photographer...



A really enjoyable day out in a great part of Scotland...

Friday, 22 May 2009

The Golden Triptych of the Shire.

Friday was a funny day.Squeeky bum time weather wise.Very warm but with frequent heavy showers forcast over most of the hill ranges until the afternoon.
Solution.An adventure in Renfrewshire,one of Scotlands best kept secrets as this an area competely, utterly and wrongly overlooked by most hillwalkers mad scramble for the greater ranges of the west coast.An overrated mist and midge ridden shit heap of hills that at least serves to divert the masses from these beloved pimples like a crowd of flies whizzing past a fallen angels face.
In my childhood, after reading the Lord of the Rings,I always associated this landscape with Tolkien`s mythical Shire. Indeed I grew up close to here,a tall man surrounded by the proud hobbits of Neilston and Barrhead,and have walked and cycled these hills in splendid isolation all my life.Watch the first film with scenes of Hobbiton,visit this place,tell me I,m wrong!
It is a land steeped in history like a beetroot is steeped in pickle.Iron age hillforts, numerous Druid stones and sites,varied industrial heritage.A land worth a visit.



So, picked up Alex at his house and soon we were under the volcanic basalt core of Duncarnock in the lovely green hill country above Barrhead.Access to this ancient hillfort summit is via Glanderson dam(os sheet 64 grid ref 564500)

We soon had this steep little wonder ticked off as the first bump of the day.For such a modest hill the views are sensational and panaramic. Cows knee deep in the loch to escape the coming heat(how did they know).Sun already pounding down like a prizefighters fist.The entire length of the city of Glasgow spread out below like a 3d pop up book.


It turned out to be the hottest day of the year yet for the blue sky guys.Magic stuff.Shame it rained over most of the west highlands that day.Poor old shit heap hills.If we,re not careful Global warming will wash em clean away!
A short drive with boots still on took us to the second hill range of the day.Walls Hill and North Castlewalls(trig for Alex).Gained by the right of way to Howwood ( verylimited parking at Mid Hartfield farm) this iron age seat of the Damnonii tribe is best reached going round the old reservoir(now a field)then up to the ruined farm.The frontal approach still beats off invaders as it has its moated protection still in place. Stunning views from the escarpment over Johnstone and Paisley.

Our last hill group of the day was the 200 metre trio of Cuff, Lochlands and Brownmuir .Modest bumps it is true but plastered in yellow gorse,wild flowers, rocking stone and butterflies of every decription.Here also views were exceptional. The waterfilled trench containing Lochs Semple, Barr and Kilbirnie on one side and Barcraigs reservoir on the other.A real contender for Scotlands prettiest.Despite this Alex passed on this final summit(brownmuir) of the day(no trig) as he`d forgot his hat and the sun was kissing his hairless cranium like a blow torch.
To the victor the spoils.
All in all a great unique day for little hills that deserve some acclaim. It was holiday friday yet they maintained their usual wonderful solitude contrasting with the lego land of tower blocks and massed housing below.Where else would you find a secret kingdom all to yourself during a may bank holiday.This is not an area that can take many car visitors(shortage of laybys) but for those few who make the trip.
Welcome to the Shire.

Monday, 18 May 2009

St Abb`s Head.

Forecast time.Off we went to the far east again as it was cloudy or raining most other places. (What a surprise)
What started off as a throwaway bet in the pub has grown to a firm commitment to see if we can go a full year in scotland without getting a soaking.As you,ve probably guessed we,ve both served apprenticeships in the usual mist, rain and snow and we are determined we`re not going to take it anymore! Summer is always out there it just takes a bit of finding some days ,thats all.
Parked in the £2 car park above St Abb`s then wandered down to the harbour for a wee snoop around...



Very popular with divers from both Scotland and England this place, as its the start of an underwater eden of caves ,rips and steep"hanging garden" dropoffs.After a tour around we climbed back uphill to start the route where we found this handy board...



A gently ascending climb on short grass took us to the start of the cliffs and sea stacks.



After that every new turn and bend opened out to further views of stacks and cliffs asking to be in the camera lens.Here`s an intrepid old coffin dodger nonchalantly balenced on the end of one.



Seabirds...Guillemots,Razorbills,Kittiwakes and Fulmars clung to every ledge and a few dedicated snappers with serious zoom intentions clung to cliffs nearby braced above the waves on tripods.



Soon we reached the lighthouse and left most of the tourists behind going on to further stacks and cliffs before reaching the famous headland itself where a little scramble was called for to test the nerve.



Having been down to our local mountaineering club recently and given a lukewarm reception to our sunny sunday exploits(i.e. sad old gits-well past it....humour em,they`ll be dead soon!) we decided to pull out all the stops and show these young whippersnappers what it was like in an era before ropes.
Not having sufficent comely madiens hair to chop off and weave into a confidence line just like in the old days, we soloed up the near vertical grass in style.
Ha! Eat your heart out men of St Kilda,these two old gits will do anything for a photo opportunity!
(Dear milk tray ad,here is our c.v....."having swam from the boat with the chocs stuffed down our boxers" etc....)



After the adventure of the cliffs we headed inland at Alex`s insistance to bag the usual trigs,fundamental skid marks and assorted little lumps of white sticking out of fields in the middle of nowhere.(What,s wrong with that boy!The cliffs man, the cliffs!)
A great remote epic can be done, if your lucky enough to be without a bagger, all the way to Fast Castle missing trigs and wee white sticky up bits en route.
Anyways the views were suberb, as always, all the way back to the car.
We then motored to Eyemouth (interesting big harbour) for further trig adventures round the back of a sports centre .
Incidently,Eyemouth has more curry houses,chinese takeaways and kebab shops than I`ve ever seen in a small town main street before.
Must be a hell of a laugh in the toilets at chucking out time.Facilites being at a premium hereabouts.




All in all a brillant day on what must be some of the most varied and exciting sea cliffs in scotland. A real five star gem of a outing.



Divers returning to St.Abbs.....

Sunday, 10 May 2009

Garleton Hills.

The original intention had been to indulge in a spot of Graham bagging by doing the fine rocky peak of Mor Bheinn,sometimes called Ben Halton,above Comrie in Perthshire.Our usual check of the weather at meetup time on Sunday morning revealed that the demon clag would blanket this area though....read on...

"Can you smell something ?".

"Wisnae me..!"

"No,no....a sort of angle grinder smell" I said.

We pulled over into the layby at Pencraig woods on the A1 near East Linton.A quick shufty around the van soon revealed the source....smoke belching out of the rear wheel.It had a new wheel bearing fitted on it the other week and there ensued an unproductive 10 minutes cursing the incompetence of the mechanic responsible :)



Our destination had been the sea cliffs at St.Abbs Head and then a quick jaunt up the nearby Marilyn of Dirrington Great Law.Time for a change of plans..

Luckily there was a small public convenience in the layby.Off with the cistern lid and an empty coke bottle was filled up with water.Poured it onto the wheel drum and it vapourised immediately..! While I was on the phone to the mechanic, Bob spotted a small path heading into the nearby woods.We decided to go for a walk and let the offending wheel cool down in it`s own good time.Once we had negotiated the usual empty drinks cans and used condoms in the immediate surrounds it turned out to be a great wee view point atop the escarpment overlooking North Berwick Law.The gorse was in full bloom and the fields of yellow rape fields added an almost surreal look to the landscape.

The Garletons from the layby....




North Berwick Law from the escarpment...



The mechanics advice had been to get the AA to tow it back to Glasgow,or,if we were feeling lucky,to drive at 30mph on the side roads and stop every 15 minutes or so.It was such a glorious day however that we elected to go with the "lucky" option :) First stop up was the picturesque wee village of Athelstaneford,where,legend has it,that the Saltire was first seen in the sky.A quiet half hour was spent wandering round the old grave stones and listening to the audio sound track on the origins of the Saltire.

Inscription from the granite memorial....



The Garleton hills loomed in the near distance ........



........and Bob suggested we head there next.He had cycled over them a few years back and promised excellent views for such wee hills as is usually the case.Bonus trig point there for me as well to salvage something from the day :)
Along the road another few miles and up through a lovely old native oak wood to the bottom of the Hopetoun Tower.



As luck would have it the gate at the bottom was lying open :) It was pitch black inside and the steep spiral stairs were covered in old leaves and twigs.The sound of pigeons cooing above drifted down...



It wasn`t too bad further up...there were shafts of light every so often from the narrow vertical openings.We eventually landed on the top parapet and what a view.Briliant..! I don`t think I have experienced a sense of exposure like this since the Old Man of Stoer.

Looking down on the gorse and oak trees from the top of the tower...



Zoomed shot of North Berwick Law and the Isle of May in the background...



We must have spent a good half hour on the top and were particularly cheered to observe the rain clouds over the hills to the west :) Off to the highpoint next to bag the trig point...



A pleasant walk along the spine of this wee chain of hills followed,over a couple of fences and soon the trig point appeared.



We lay on the grass in glorious sunshine enjoying the views... Bob kindly donated a couple of Mr.Kiplings lemon slices to fill the void in my stomach as I`d spent all my cash on diesel and 20 Lambert and Butler :)



Bob walking along the summit...



Back over towards the Hopetoun monument and the van.The wheel had now cooled down and we thought we would try and get it to the other side of Edinburgh and find somewhere else to pass an hour.No luck though.Just passing Dalkeith an ominous rumble developed from the rear.There was no way on God`s earth I was pulling over in Dalkeith.I`d been there once before you see :)

Chancing our arm we continued trundling along the Edinburgh Bypass and turned off into the Straiton Retail Park.The AA were duly called and we had the prospect of a two hour wait in this hellhole.We perked up at the sight of TKMaxx though and off we went in search of the fabled £20 goretex jackets.Not that we foresee any need for them of course I hasten to add :) Zilch,nada....just a collection of garish crap that passes for fashion nowadays...you wouldn`t be seen dead in it.

Read the Sunday paper and worked on the tan a bit and bang on time the AA arrived.Their never keen on towing you home as it affects their bonus system.If they can fix your problem at the roadside they get a bonus,but,if they have to to transport you home they get nowt and also forego any bonuses that they may have earned whilst towing you home.The guy was friendly enough though and half an hour later the van was on the tow dolly...



I was a bit pissed off initially at the side of the A1 as the weather was perfect but it could have been a lot worse.Got a nice wee hill or two done in pleasant company,sunny weather,a new Yeaman and a new trig point to boot. :) Not looking forward to the garage bill though..!!