Sunday 28 March 2010

River Ayr Walk.

Alex was feeling knackered after working all day Saturday from 8.00 am until 8.00 pm.
"I don't want anything long "he croaked."Something easy."I wasn't feeling too perky myself after a hard week out in the cold.As the weather forecast wasn't that great anyway I suggested cherry picking the best bits of the River Ayr gorge.We`d been hearing about this long distance walk for a while now and Alex remembered reading an article about big red sandstone cliffs,wires,caves and ladders hidden somewhere along its length or on a tributary."O.K." he said inspired by this vague memory. "Count me in.I`m off to ice my back now with packets of frozen peas."
"Really?Have fun with that then. See you in the morning."

Picked up Alex at 9.30 am and headed for Catrine where he thought this fabled via ferrata might exist.Despite asking several locals and examining the river at a few places where minor roads crossed it mighty sandstone cliffs were conspicuous by their absence.He gave me a strange glance when I was clambering up a steep bank sausage roll in hand after another futile attempt to spot cliffs.
"Don't take this the wrong way Bob but you could have been in that film Deliverance."
"Might be Mauchline." he offered.We attacked the river at various points near said town and drew a blank there as well.No via ferrata or hillbillies except for me.

Now Alex is a great mate but a crap navigator at times .As soon as he looks at a map in a moving car he gets car sick and we`d been down a lot of twisty roads by now.
"Think its down there". He suddenly tossed me the map looking pale."Wind the window down Bob or I`m going to lose my breakfast."
I stopped and had a look noting the number of minor roads we`d already been down and the lack of decent signage along the river at this point.

"Bugger this .Lets go to Failford"
I`d been there years ago and knew it was gorge like with good access and signs.We parked just outside the village in a layby to the east and walked the short distance to the entrance of the gorge.
The Ayr gorge at Failford....

A pleasant but not spectacular gorge walk with a few modest sandstone cliffs brought us to the highlight of the area.Pedan`s Cove where the great man preached to the faithful.
Interesting history on this board.Saves me retelling it.

It was only after we`d been up to the ledge we read the board more carefully discovering you are requested not to ascend the steps.Health and safety dilemma for the council again no doubt as they also have a sign saying no kids past here meaning they expect other folk to go up.

Bob on the carved rock staircase...

Anyway the cove was nice and quite dramatic and we returned back to the car in better mood.
Still no via ferrata though.After another short walk at Stair next up was a drive to the Lugar water near Ochiltree where Pedan and Wallace caves showed on the map.Nice bit of river.No fabled spiderweb laced cliffs.

Hunting for the caves.....

The locals keep a beady eye on us.....

"Right.That does it.Lets go to Loudoun Hill.I know where that is!"This from me, somewhat peeved by this time.
I enjoyed the drive over the back roads to Loudoun Hill,wild scenery and dramatic angry skies.
We stopped off for the walk up Gallows Hill outside Galston to visit the Covenanter memorial and viewpoint indicator on the way....

..... and further on the mighty Distinkhorn,all 386 metres of it,soared to our right.Well,maybe soared is not the right word.Alex has been desperate to bag this for a while.It`s an unusual name for a Scottish hill.

Loudon hill appears....

At the car park below Loudon Hill I was keen to see the new sculpture nearby and climb to the summit for a view as I hadn't been here for years.Alex sat in the car reading the paper as he`d been rock climbing here only last year.
"But I think you should go." he grinned. "Our fan would expect nothing less.Take one for the team."
I shot him a look departing but a few minutes later I`d forgotten it as the sculpture was a bit special.A lot of modern stuff just doesn't do it for me but this was perfect for the area.Really good piece of art in my opinion.

The Spirit of Scotland sculpture...

To the victor the weary legs.Views from the top were extensive and clear.I remembered my highlight here many years ago when I seconded the classic rock climb of the crag,The Edge, VS.Here`s Brian leading it.

On the way back to the car....

Back at the car Alex was now into the magazine section.More minor roads followed as we took an obscure route back to Glasgow via Ardochrig.
Suddenly a splash of vivid colour on a tree burned itself on our collective retina.Red/orange head black orange body,finch sized.
It looked too exotic to belong in Scotland unless in a cage or a zoo.
"What the hell was that?"Alex exclaimed.
Too fleeting for a photo this time but we looked it up when we got back.
A male crossbill.First one I`ve ever seen.Never knew they were so colourful and dazzling.Brillant day out after a moonshine trousers down where the hell are we start.Didnt get back until after 7.00 pm at night.So much for an easy day.

Click for pic of male crossbill


Another short video from last year of Gavin on the crux of Epitaph at Loudon Hill...

Sunday 21 March 2010

Spartleton Edge and Deuchrie Dod.

By the time Bob arrived at my door he had already scoffed an all day breakfast and three double Bounty bars.Between mouthfuls of cheese and onion crisps he suggested a trip out east once more to take advantage of the sunny forecast.I wasn`t particularly bothered where I went to be honest as long as I could get a new hill tick of some sort.Another dual pronged day out ensued with a visit to the Marilyn of Spartleton Edge first of all to satisfy my Lust for Lists :o)

A quick stopover for paper,sweets and cakes in Haddington then down through Gifford where Bob spied a handily placed Co-Operative food shop at the junction into which he disappeared for more cakes as the Haddington supply had almost ran out over the course of the last four miles.Wonder where they went.....

We were delighted with the sunny weather and Bob was, as usual,enthusing about the Lammermuirs as a cycling venue whilst I kept my eyes peeled for the killer potholes that the winter had opened up on the minor road over the hills.We pulled in at a parking spot at the start of the Whiteadder reservoir just opposite the entrance to Priestlaw Farm alongside a couple of fishermen.

Bob fortified himself for the day ahead with three pork pies.This display of gluttony was a tad offputting so I wandered slowly off up the edge of the forest to see if I could find an easy spot to cross the Whiteadder Water.A quick hop across a couple of boulders and I waited for Hungry Horace to appear.Appear he did but it soon became apparent that he needed to refuel yet again before starting the ascent and sat down on the opposite bank to delve into his rucksack for some more goodies.I had a quick fag and watched a couple of swans and canada geese in the loch before wandering over to intercept a couple of walkers with a collie who were approaching from the north.I had assumed that they would be Marilyn baggers in this relatively remote spot but they were just out for a walk.Very interesting old couple from Gullane they turned out to be and a mine of information about the old castles and mining in the surrounding area.Bob arrived and soon turned the conversation around to the delights of the German bread shop in Gullane :o)

Eventually we managed to start up the hill.

The summit appears ahead.....

"Ah...the summit..good..time for a spot of lunch " says he.

The second packet of Sainsbury`s best Chorizo was consumed with relish along with a small plover that was unlucky enough to wander by too closely. "Need to keep my energy levels`s been a hard few weeks with work,studying and exams".Bob had been through to Edinburgh for an all day exam (not breakfast) on Tuesday so we put his gluttony down to either post traumatic stress or some sort of intestinal worms.

View from the summit down south to Dirrington Great Law which Bob was pleased to find out was my last remaing Marilyn east of the Edinburgh to Hawick line."Time to get the bikes out then after that..! "

We both meandered down in our own chosen direction.I took a south westerly route to see the remains of Gamelshiel Castle.Not a lot left to see....

We met up again at the reservoir and walked back up the road to the car,Bob keeping a wary eye open for supplemental roadkill :o)

Deuchrie Dod and the Pressmennan Lake were up next about 10 miles to the north through Garvald and Stenton.On the way we stopped to look at the old iron age hill fort at White Castle.Fantastic vantage point overlooking East Lothian....

More info here...... White Castle iron age fort

Further down the hill we pulled over in Stenton to admire this bit of topiary......

...before heading up to the car park at Pressmennan Lake.There`s a bit of debate as to how many lakes there are in Scotland.The only natural one I think is the Lake of Menteith but there are five other manmade ones that I know of.My favourite is the grandly named Lake Superior down near Cairnryan. Pic of Scotland`s Lake Superior here

We took the long way up to Deuchrie Dod by walking along the high trail through the woods to the viewpoint.News travels fast in these areas and Bob`s plover eating must have reached the ears of the local residents.The minute they saw us they were offski.

Bambi escapes Bob`s evil clutches...

At the topmost point we went over into the fields and doubled back in a south westerly direction to the summit trig point.Nice views over the red earth Lothian landscape towards Dunbar.The ridge in the photo below is the one that Bob cycled over last year. Report here

There were loads of roe deer up in the fields and woods behind Pressmennan...

Unfortunately there was a bit of dark cloud around by now but this must be a superb viewpoint on a clear day.Traprain Law looked huge below us and the Isle of May and Bass Rock were showing nicely but the views stopped over at Largo Law in Fife.We descended down through the trees following a new mountain bike trail.One to return to again....

A Footballers` Wives house at Garvald on the way home...

Sometimes I think I run an animal sanctuary back home.Two new born rabbits have been feasting at my expense for the last few weeks in the garden.I suppose it`s my own fault because when I built the summer house out back I raised it up and left a few entrance holes to the void underneath in the hope that some form of exotic wildlife would move in.Instead I give bed and breakfast to a family of rabbits :o)
I almost had one eating out of my hand last summer after about two months of trying. I`ve already got this one used to my presence and he/she will let me get to within about five feet or so.

Sunday 14 March 2010

Benarty Hill.Hill of Beath.

Better weather this week and an interesting and disturbingly different pair of hills.Parked at Lochore Meadows country Park near Ballingry in central Fife.I`ve been here before a couple of times and always enjoyed it.This was reclaimed land,unsightly spoil heaps and waste ground (site of the infamous smoldering Bing) until the 1970s.

Now its an attractive loch with several wooded islands,set in landscaped surroundings with a sailing club and horse and pony trekking. As it has a large catchment area of small towns and villages in this most industrial part of Fife its popular at weekends but still has a nice empty feeling to it.Just shows you what can be acheived to transform what was once an eyesore.

As you can see from the map set off from car park up Harran Hill then across a grassy meadow to the minor road where a good but steep zig zag path leads up through trees to the open summit ridge behind.

Stunning views over Loch Leven National Nature Reserve,The Lomonds,Cleish Hills and a large chunk of Central Scotland was our reward for reaching the summit..Although a mellow grassy hill on its southern slopes the northern edge boasts some impressively rugged cliffs.

Needless to say Alex had to have a scramble on the crags as soon as he noticed them.I think he must have been an African Rift Valley Baboon in a previous life as he seems to have no fear,dancing over pinnacles hundreds of feet above the ground.He`s always happiest with sheer drops below him ,safe from leopards above.
He also claims to be losing his head for heights now he`s older. Yeah, right. That's really obvious here.

Easy walking and a gentle roller coaster ridge found us on the lesser summit at 327 metres where we had another fine view over the M90 motorway.

Here Alex found another set of lesser crags to climb down onto,beating his hairy chest above the valley and roaring out a challenge to the young males of Kelty who looked up bare chested and tattooed in the streets and then roared back in return.He`d climbed here years ago with our club, fantastic views but fairly average rock routes he informed me.
Great place for a video though.Here,s King Monkey strutting his stuff in casual fashion.

If you are wondering what I was about to say at the end before that pesky cut out (damn these clumsy paws) its my promise to keep the blog going if old grey nut here toppled off his perch.
Mind you I`m writing most of it anyway these days.Lazy git.Get your finger out ya baldy slacker!
We ambled down in the warm sunshine,tee-shirts being seen for the first time in ages,back to the car.

A really enjoyable hill but one that most folk wouldn`t think of going up unless they lived in the local area.This was the hill I was wanting to watch T in the park from with the binoculars.Maybe a bit too far but a very different day out.Alas the weather that time was not in our favour,rain, mist and wind up here.
Back down at the car Alex sat and read my paper in the sun while I walked along the pit road for two kilometres past the riding stables to take this photo of the Mary Pit and Concrete frame monument with winding gear wheels.Impressive structure.A common sight once all over central Scotland.

I returned via the shoreline of the loch.Back at the car a now rested Alex was keen to bag a smaller second hill."You`ll love it" he said."This ones right up your alley.Its not that far away". He then gave directions for a magical mystery tour through deepest industrial Fife towards the trig of his choice driving back though Kelty and Kingseat until we stopped in a rubbish strewn lay by beside a locked gate."This is it."
Walking from here took us across a pedestrian bridge over the M90 motorway and up the grassy Hill of Beath for a view over Fifes very own heart of darkness.Jim Baxter was born and raised here before going on to have a great career in football with Scotland, Rangers and many other teams along the way.At the top views were unique.My kind of hill.Beauty and beast tangled up close in one tight sleeping bag.
An unknown and surprisingly overlooked (by us anyway) steep sided bing loomed above nearby Cowdenbeath.

Turning left slightly brought the chemical works and adjacent smoke chimneys to please the eye.

Turning further left gave us a vision of a wild frontier- like open cast mining operation.

Due to its modest height and ease of ascent Its obviously a favourite outlook point.
"**** me, its grim! " laughed Alex."Makes Grangemouth look like a good place to spend your holidays."
"Its probably the most industrial part of Fife ."I conceded."Better to keep it all in the one bit though eh? Keeps the rest of it clean."
Being Fife it also had fine views aplenty too up here.Excellent panoramas over Edinburgh and the Pentlands,North to the snowy wall of the Ochils and this one of Benarty just climbed.

And this of the Saline group of hills.

Just at that moment Alex noticed a bird of prey that he didn`t regognise.We took a picture.Later I looked it up on the net and one of these had been spotted in this area.

I think its a male marsh harrier.A rare sight nowadays.Good spot from Alex.
"I love wildlife." he proclaimed." It turns up in the most unexpected places".
Later I dropped him off outside his house only to find his front garden infested with wild rabbits,busy munching his prized plants just dug into the soil recently to celebrate the spring weather.
"God in heaven, its teeth city out there" our big baboon wailed,leaping out the car to give chase,cursing mightly.
"Aw,what a shame Alex.After all your hard work."
Happy days.Go on you munching bunnies! Go!

Here`s a pic of the bullfinch helping himself to my tree buds last week.

Sunday 7 March 2010

A Fife Beach Day.

It had to happen sometime.For once the weather forecast got it wrong.Watched it night before.Dry and sunny out east,dull and misty in the west.No surprise there then we thought.
We headed east intending to park at Dollar and climb that steep narrow gorge leading up to Castle Campbell then follow the horseshoe of hills above.
It was dull and grey when we left Glasgow and stayed dull and increasingly misty as we progressed east.Soon break into the sun we thought smugly, our success rate thus far giving us no reason to doubt it.We arrived near Dollar took one look at the mist shrouded Ochils and carried on,neither of us having any desire to trudge about in a peasouper for hours on end.
It didn't get any better though.

After a quick eyeball at the maps we decided to head for Wormit under the Tay railway bridge,a very modest trig there catching Alex`s fancy as it was also a stretch of coastline we hadn't done yet. We parked and headed down to the shoreline via an old railway tunnel then along an atmospheric shore towards Balmerino Abbey.

It was still and eerie in the mist,old buildings and wrecks of boats sticking out the mudflats hearabouts.

Shingle and flat rocks made it not too bad to walk along,low tide mud flats and sand banks stretching further out into the Tay.Sure as Death Bank caught our eye on the map which could mean a good stepping off point or a very bad one in a boat.

The trig Alex wanted to bag was between Wormit Bay and Jock`s Hole.A very pimply 74 metres,even I thought it small so we walked for a couple of kilometres along the coast before we backtracked then climbed up to the summit.

Two friends seemed to have fallen out near the top.
Misty views of Dundee across the firth just visible in the murk,much clearer views of Newport on Tay on this side.

Alex phoned his wife on the mobile about another matter and was stunned to be told it was a glorious day now in Glasgow,warm and sunny.He had to sit down for a selection of muffled curses.Ah well ,we were here now.

Back at the car another swift conversation found us heading to St Andrews to bag the famous West Beach and River Eden,another area neither of us had explored,although we`d both independently visited the Tentsmuir beaches and its sand spit seal colonies on the far side of the Eden.
We parked at the very end of the road at a spot called Out Head then followed the sands along the Eden intending to walk to Eden Mouth.The tide was well out and it looked a long way across miles of flat featureless sand.This is where sand cycling comes into its own as you can cover great distances with ease.Frankly it looked a bit boring on foot.

Not having bikes today we didn't attempt it and cut away to where more interesting events seemed to be taking place.A large section of the beach was being used for sand yachting by a crowd of young folk.

This was more like it though not as exciting or with the same go anywhere freedom as say- "SAND CYCLING!"( Ah go on. Try it, it`s a fun day out if you stick to firm sand)
The good folk of St Andrews seem to be keen on flying bits of fabric and tossing things at each other,a fine assortment of kites,spinners and Frisbee's on the beach here.
After a spot of people watching we headed back to the car, then ,as we were here anyway, I parked outside the Botanic gardens, a place I`ve always been curious about.Alex sat in the car reading his paper while I had a quick look round.Ok glass houses,nice necklace of descending pools and a good close up view of a heron.

Normally they fly off as soon as my hand goes for the camera like a one sided quick draw contest but this time It stood its ground waiting for a fish.Winter is not the best time for any garden so It was not in its full glory yet.
We then headed back to the sun in the west.A complete reversal of our usual day out.
Ah well makes a change I suppose.