Sunday 20 June 2010

An Sgurr.Isle Of Eigg.

For an Island only five miles long by three and a half wide Eigg really packs a lot in.
We were up early and had time for a quick breakfast before setting off for the fabled pitchstone wonder of An Sgurr, a modest 393 metres or 1289 feet for us oldies but dropping sheer on three sides giving it a soaring majesty like few other hills.

The walk in was nice through mature woodland, a few large houses off the path. Most of the ordinary crofting population lives in the fertile valley of Cleadale on the far side of the island from the pier. Mainly big houses or farms around the pier area, which incidentally you couldn't actually land at with the Cal Mac ferry years ago and all goods and people had to change into a smaller flit boat. An interesting experience on a raw, howling early spring day as I found out on a visit here years ago with New Zealand Keith .No electricity then either and no pub. A dry, dark island with only the sound of the generators kicking into life after sundown. Beautiful but a very hard life I`d imagine.
Big changes now though. Wind farm and other green electricity on tap, cans and limited barrels also on tap in the tearoom /bar and a new large breakwater and harbour area. The island was the first in Scotland to be owned by its people through the Eigg Heritage Trust and has become a model for others thinking of this approach.

This is the view of the harbour from the summit. It is extremely exposed and I had to crawl to the edge to look over the vertical face from here. Peculiar egg box like rock structure. There are climbs on the front and side faces but we are talking mighty balls climbers here. Even at our peak, which wasn't that great admittedly in my case, we would need an E type rope jock and me a blindfold and strong sedatives to climb these walls to reach the summit.
Even the path up, though easy, has this sense of unseen airy space below you. Alex should have a good one sitting on the summit trig which he will no doubt put up.

This is Alex giving the thumbs up to our cheery descent gully which we couldn't see the bottom of. It turned out OK in the end, an easy grass and rock scramble.

Great little hill.
Back at the tents we slowly packed up thinking we had plenty of time intending to catch the MV Shearwater to Muck to bag the highest point there if we had time when we noticed it sneaking off well ahead of schedule from the far side of the now too large harbour. You have to watch this boat if you go over here it very nearly did the same thing again to us later that day.
There was nothing for it but to wait, all packed up at the tea room while it went to Rum and Muck without us. Boo Hoo!
We`d had a good night here sinking a few cans. Busy place and the throbbing pulse of Eigg life.

Mind you like all the western isles a lot of the locals here seem to guzzle it down like it was still a dry island which may run out of cans at any moment. Looked like they still had a collective memory of when the last can ran out and folk had to travel over to the mainland with empty shopping trolleys for new stock , wee tongues hanging out. A disaster when it only ran certain days but kind to the liver and the throbbing pulse of the temples. I`m sure in winter it can drizzle for months here which would explain a lot.

As we were waiting somebody off a boat dropped these nearby for the restaurant menu tonight.
We were not staying but now needed something to pass a few hours though tired and leg weary.
Alex suggested the caves a kilometre or so round the coast from here which are quite famous.
Andy decided he was happy wandering round the harbour and meeting folk.
Although I`d been into this cave, the Massacre Cave, before I still walked by it before I remembered it had such a tiny entrance.

You can see why they thought they would be safe here in 1577 and they were after days of fruitless searching but they came out too soon to see if the raiding party of enemy MacLeod's had departed and were spotted unknowingly from the sea. Now they knew where to look it was all over and the entire population of Eigg, 395 MacDonald's ,bar one family, were suffocated inside by fire.
All because of a long running simmering feud between islands and perceived insults. In a way you can see how some of the clans that left Scotland for America` s southern climes evolved into the Appalachian mountain people isolated in their valleys still harbouring grudges and thoughts of blood feud.

Although you have to crawl in it soon widens up to a long high chamber over 200 feet in length. It was so long and dark we couldn't really capture its size with one tiny torch and two small flashes.
Good though.

Next cave was bigger and more obvious. Still fun to explore. It was getting on so we headed back to find Andy.

Got this nice view from the pier. Alex made a friend.

And we damn near missed that sneaky little boat again coming in from yet another new angle. It toots its horn when leaving. Be better tooting also on arrival methinks.
A terrific weekend with two great guys to be on an island with. Andy and Alex were not bad either now I think of it :0)
The best weekend for a long time. The only weekend for a long time. Fun going camping again.

Here`s the two other pals though I suspect one would try to eat the other for lunch.

Some more pics from Alex:

Couple of An Sgurr. The Nose goes at E8 apparently.!

Summit trig point.....

Andy looking over to the Isle of Muck. We saw a whale breaching here early on the way up...

The bothy at Grulin...

Lovely light in Glencoe on the way home...

And finally, Bob escapes a soaking as we traverse around to the cave....

Saturday 19 June 2010

Beinn Bhuidhe,Isle of Eigg.

Having enjoyed our day on Holy Island a few weeks previous another island was on the cards. Canna was out due to the timing of the ferries but Eigg was made possible by the timing of the MV Sheerwater out of Arisaig. An early morning run up Loch Lomond side, Rannoch Moor and the Road to the Isles in gorgeous sunshine proved the ideal taster for what was to come.

We arrived in plenty of time for the 11am sailing. Priced at £18 it is a bargain. Although the sun was high and the sky was blue there was a bit of a wind blowing to say the least..! I tried taking a
short video but standing up without holding onto something proved impossible and I didn`t fancy going overboard :) The Inter Island Games between Rum, Canna, Eigg and Muck were being held on Rum so the ferry was a little bit busier than usual. A few musicians were playing on the journey over to Rum....

Bob`s camera was poised and at the ready in case I was seasick but I managed to hold it down...just :) From the jetty on Eigg we wandered over to our campsite beside the beach, a short ten minute walk away. Because we are fed up taking photographs of each other we had brought along Andy this time just for a change. Andy and Bob heading towards the sandy campsite in the distance...

After putting the tents up we lounged around for half an hour before heading off to traverse Beinn Bhuidhe.We walked over the islands only road connecting the east to the west before heading northwards at the highpoint to start up the ridge.

Almost at the high point of the road...

An easy ascent from here and the views soon opened up. Trollaval appears over the Sound of Rum..

Further along we happened upon the Finger of God. We had a half hearted attempt at getting to the top of this but the combination of high winds and loose rock, never mind the 700ft penalty clause, saw us beating a retreat to the ridge again.

It`s probably only Diff/V.Diff and no problem at ground level but being that it was such a nice day neither of us wanted to die :)

Never mind, you could pose at will anywhere along this ridge....

By this time Andy had long gone ahead towards the summit depriving us of our modelling shoot. I reckon that this is one of the best summer hillwalking outings I have ever had. The views over to Rum were stunning. Andy met up with the only other two folk on the hill only to discover that they knew one of our club members. Small world indeed. A point of note here for baggers...the summit is about a km to the south of the trig point at Sgorr an Fharaidh. When we met up with Andy again we sought out a sheltered spot beside the trig point for a bite to eat and a look over to the Cuillin of Skye to the north..

Andy and I wandered over to the spectacularly situated old hill fort on top of Dunan Thalasgair whilst Bob went out on to the northern tip of the island....

Andy and I on top of Dunan Thalasgair....

Headed down the steep nose towards Camas Sgiotaig, otherwise known as the Singing Sands...

It was still blowing a bit...

What a beach and nobody else there :) We couldn`t get the sands to sing but they certainly did squeak, but then again, that might have been our knees. From here we traversed around the headland to Laig Bay crossing a profusion of tortured rock formations.

Yet again Laig Bay was deserted although to be fair it was around 6.30pm by now.

Our model for the weekend makes a belated appearance on the beach....

A walk back over the island towards the tents now but stopping for a beer in the island tea room on the way. I was half tempted to stay but we were pretty hungry so we left behind the accordionist ,guitarist and bodhran player and headed back to the tents. The midges were making a slight nuisance of themselves but nothing horrendous...a quick fire put paid to them...

Back over for a nightcap but we had been up since 5am and the eyes were getting heavy. Not as heavy it would seem as some of the locals who were now fast asleep on the tables.! We sat around the fire for a while unable to see the comet which is around in the NNW sky just now as it was hidden by the hills. A last look over to the pub at 11.18pm....almost still daylight.

An early rise was on the cards for tomorrow but that`s Bob`s story still to come....

PS: If the lawyer from Cologne wants to get in touch then we`ll send you a list of places to visit on your next trip over to Scotland :)


Sunday 13 June 2010

Festival Sunday.Kelvingrove Park.

A wee change for the camera this time.Asked Alex If he wanted to go to the West End Festival`s Sunday Parade.He doesn't like crowds or loud music yet he`s the one that's the people person,always starting up a conversation with strangers and finding out things in five minutes it would take me years to find out, if ever.He` s just got a knack of asking all the right questions.
Anyway he declined so I phoned a guy I thought might be interested along with his wife and daughter.John, Gail and Morven, proud owners of wee white dog Chalky who has appeared on here in the past.They accepted and we met up at lunchtime for a fun day out.
I`d been to this parade a few times,once years ago with the same family group when the parade used to go down Byres road and a heavy downpour melted the paper mache costumes of the giant Elvis and Marilyn Munro dropping lumps all over the street.It`s always a good laugh and an interesting once a year experience.

This year the Parade would go down KelvinWay and snake through the park ending up at Park Circus right at the top.As it gets bigger every year they need the space,Byres Road packed solid last year from top to bottom.The park is much better.Its sloping, you can see all the acts far better and it makes for a great picnic atmosphere watching the various bands.All of which were excellent on the main stage.

First though the parade bands.A great variety this year.Music groups, dancers , jugglers and stilt walkers.

This is a lively samba band ,very popular with the male audience.Girls loved the costumes too.

Berlin nightclub theme with these girls,also very popular with the guys for some reason :0)

I really liked this act as well they really put a lot of heart into it.Devil or Balrog?
We were standing not far from the start for these pics.Lot of photographers, professional and amateur side by side competing for the best shots.I`m not bold enough for close ups, too shy.
You could tell the professionals used to doing this sort of event as they had an easy charm getting in for a intimate snap and a way of working.Must say though its nice to get a subject other than hills ,animals and insects.Makes a change.

Really wanted to get a close up of the dragon`s head here but it moved around faster than a butterfly!

Back to birds.This heron seemed a bit put out by all the noise, trying to ignore the fact its normally quiet park was alive with people.The parade started at 3:00 pm and ended at 4:00pm.

Sea life theme.

I think this was a sea horse.

Horns at the double.Jazzy!

This was the group everyone wondered" how they would manage the hill?" as it`s quite a climb up to Park Circus.A round of applause greeted them all as they topped out with a little help from support staff.Best parade yet I think and a smashing effort from everyone involved.A brilliant day out.
It wasn't over yet though.We settled down in the grass near the giant scarecrows to watch the bands perform.I`m very picky about music but every band I heard here sounded terrific.This was a free event.I`ve paid good money now and again for bands I wanted to see and came away disappointed due to the sound or lacklustre performance or unknown songs.None of this here.All class acts.

The Amphetameanies.Madness type ska band really energetic and fun.I don't even like ska normally but they were great with their own driving rhythm.John Beattie Band were next up getting everybody jumping with classic rock and roll covers.

Here`s some of the crowd.

Looking at the stage.You can just see wee dug Chalky in the picture next to the girl with dark glasses looking at the camera.

Liked this one at the end of the parade.Team photo shoot.

Folk were making their own entertainment by this time and a few worse for wear young teams were getting their drink poured away by the police as it was a family event. Tut Tut.It wasn't too bad though and the rain came down on cue around closing time driving folk to the buses or the pubs nearby. A lot of the parade dancers had stayed on in costume with the crowd and were still dancing in stiletto's in some of the bars when we headed for home.A great day out in fine company.Thanks to my companions.Ya boo to Alex.Ya missed a real treat.

This samba band closed the show in style.Rain starting to fall.