Friday 3 September 2010

Loch Lomond.Island I Vow and Doune bothy.

Over the summer we had been discussing the possibility of a raiding party by boat in to Knoydart to do the north east ridge of Ben Aden.As Bob is hors de combat at present I thought I`d drag HMS Blue Sky out of dry dock ( i.e. my workshop ) and see if she was still seaworthy after her two year lay up.I`d checked the outboard the previous week and it started on the second pull.How come it doesn`t do that when it`s in the water ?

A lovely sunny day and the hard part was over once I`d stowed everything into the car.This was a bonus as I wasn`t sure it would all go in.! All previous trips had just meant tossing everything into the back of the sold.I had a few other things to do so it was around 1pm by the time I arrived at Inveruglas up at the northern end of Loch Lomond.It`s usually nice and peaceful here away from the hordes of noisy jet skiers and other riff raff at the southern end.Thirty minutes later everything was ready and in the water.When I played a lot of golf my pet hate was all the old duffers sitting in the clubhouse and watching the first tee just willing some poor sod to shank his drive.A similar feeling came over me today as the carpark and cafe were filled with tourists who had nothing better to do than watch me

I done my bit for the Tourist Board by sending them all away happy as it turned out.It had been a few years since I`d been out and I was congratulating myself on getting it all together and into the water.Even the engine behaved itself in front of the throng and started first pull. A quick turn of the throttle and I took off from the jetty....heading straight for the rocks I`d forgotten to free the pin that holds the outboard in position and couldn`t turn it to steer.Ah...I hit the big red button and and killed the engine before causing too much amusement.I broke out the oars and sneaked out under the jetty and  into open water before remembering where the pin was.All being well now the engine roared into life and off up the western shore I headed on my way to Island I Vow.

An absolutely gorgeous glad to be alive day it was,enough to require sun cream and a hat.Sometimes it`s hard to believe that  all this beauty is under an hour away from my house I tootled up the lochside stopping to watch a couple of herons fishing before cutting across to land on Island I Vow.Bob had kayaked out to this one years ago but this was my first visit.There was a small shingle beach on the northern side to land on.

The castle ruins were almost obliterated by ivy and the trees and shrubbery made it impossible to get even a half decent photo.I had a look into the dungeon where I think Bob once spent a night with the ghosts....rather him than me ..! Although it`s quite a small island I spent about an hour there just looking up and down the loch and having a picnic.

The view southwards down Loch Lomond from the castle on Island I Vow...

The view up north wasn`t bad either ..

Sadly the usual eejit variety of campers had recently been here and left their rubbish  piled in a heap in the centre of the island.When I grow up and become Prime Minister they will undergo summary execution.Mind you...while it is slightly possible that the nations highest office may yet await me, I can`t really see myself growing up come to think about it

Back into boat and up the loch again heading for landfall ( God...I love these nautical expressions ) at Doune bothy.The only time I`ve  stayed there was many years ago shortly after it was restored.As we had overindulged in the Drovers Inn  beforehand, had a carry out to ensure hydration levels were topped up on the walk in and then started on the wine upon arrival it would be fair to say my memory of the previous visit is somewhat hazy.Changed days...cup of cocoa is more like it now Tied the boat up at the old ruined jetty and wandered up the hill to the bothy.It sits bang on the West Highland Way and is subject to thousands of visitors a year so I was surprised to find it spick and span inside.The people who left the rubbish bags neatly stacked at the front door however have been added to my execution list also.

I returned down the heavily wooded eastern shores,along the small cliffs,until I came to a small bay with a nice wee beach that proved too inviting to pass by.This was to prove my downfall.The water seemed deep enough to just run the boat straight onto the beach and so it might have been if I hadn`t struck a rock with the propeller.A large bang ensued as the shear pin snapped.At that moment it dawned on me that the spare one was sitting proudly on the dressing table back home.I resisted the tempatation to shout " Abandon ship..!" The only waterborne traffic I had seen all day were two jet skiers (also added to the list  ) but a few minutes later Wee Betty motored up the loch."Avast there me hearties.! " I bawled out across the loch.Well,I didn`t really shout that but I wanted to  If it had been the 19th September then I most definitely would have

Wee Betty steams to the rescue....

What a stroke of had the same outboard as mine and he shouted over that he had a spare pin
We took off the prop and fitted the new pin then chatted away for a while in the warm evening sun.I can`t thank you enough if you are out there....I forgot to ask your name.!

I sailed off into the sinking sun and back across the loch to Inveruglas which was deserted when I arrived at 7pm

Wednesday 1 September 2010

Beinn nan Oighreag.

I put the mountain bike in the back and set off as planned to catch the Corran ferry over to Ardgour with a few hills in mind.That was the plan anyway.! By the time I`d negotiated a huge traffic jam at the M80 road works I was getting a bit peeved.After turning onto the A84 Farmer Giles decide to drive from Doune all the way to Tesco in Callender for his Yorkie bar or whatever it is farmers eat of a day.Eight miles behind a fat EEC grant recipient with straw sticking out his hair doing about 15mph without the courtesy to pull over ocassionally had me fuming.Eventually Giles pulled over for his Farmers Weekly and chocolate fix and I managed to get through Callander and up to Loch Lubnaig.Now it was the turn of three French camper vans travelling in convoy to hold everyone up.Made my mind up never to buy French wine again.It shall be rioja all the way from now on
They eventually  pulled over at a layby to photograph each other being eaten alive by midges and normal traffic flow resumed.I was running very late now and the prospect of a long drive back in the dark had me turning my mind to other hills.The last straw was when big plops of rain landed on my windscreen at Lix Toll.Bugger it I thought..I turned right towards Killin instead.

I no longer do rain on the hills and they were hidden in clag around here despite the BBC promising me a suntan.I`ll go up the high Lochan na Lairige road over the shoulder of Ben Lawers I said to myself.I`ll have my breakfast there and if it doesn`t clear up I`ll go for a low level walk in Glen Lyon instead.and seek solace in the best wee scone shop  in Scotland at Bridge of Balgie 
There were a couple of guys getting geared up for the hill at the northern end of the loch so I pulled over to ask if they had a recent mountain forecast.It turned out they were a couple of Dutch Munro baggers.Seemingly the Dutch also have great faith in the BBC because one of them had left his waterproof jacket behind on the promise of a sun lashed day on the hills
We chatted away for a while and as we did the weather did indeed lift.Beinn nan Oighreag`s summit cleared on the opposite side of the road and that was good enough to revive my spirits.Rather than taking the quick way up I drove down to the bottom of the glen and went up the north ridge.Managed to get the car into a small parking place on the single track road and crossed the river to the ruins of some old shielings.Looking back over the shielings to the car...


By God it was muggy.To make matters worse the still air meant I was getting plagued by flies...the stupid variety that take no notice of  swattage.Still,this meant that to escape them I made great time up the ridge and on reaching Creag Dhubh a slight breeze sprung up and gave relief.

It was a weird day cloud wise.Over to the east everything was normal but the clouds formations to the west were looking like someone had laid a fuzzy blanket over the sky.

The northern side of the Lawers group to the east...

Weird clouds to the west..

It was tshirt weather on the summit and I took full advantage of this Scottish rarity.I was there for around two hours and even managed a snooze before heading back down the way I came.

21 miles away Buachaille Etive Mor at the entrance to Glencoe was looking good as the skies reverted to a more normal look..

The flies had gone on my return so I sat in the middle of the river and dangled my feet for half an hour trying to get a photo of a dipper that was hanging around.

Not a memorable day on the hills and pretty rubbish for photos but I managed to regain my inner calmness up on the tops and may even buy some of that French rotgut again 

Hightown Hill,Bishop Forest Hill and the Ukranian Chapel.

A report from a few months ago in early June.I`ll leave it here for a few days and then file it in it`s proper place.As Bob is somewhat incapacitated right now I`m going to try and get rid of the ever increasing backlog of walks

I like doing all sorts of things in addition to hills.Quite a few Marilyns are nice easy wee hills and it`s always interesting to have a root around the area for additional interest.These two hills were a case in point.I can`t remember where Bob was on this particular day.Todays hills were Hightown Hill and Bishop Forest Hill.

A lovely sunny day was in prospect so I decided to go down to bag a few Dumfriesshire hills for a change.I`ve never yet managed to visit the Italian Chapel on Orkney but today I was to discover it`s equal at the other end of Scotland . I turned off the M74 at Lockerbie and was aiming for Hightown Hill when I noticed a small homemade sign at the side of the road. "Ukranian POW Chapel" it said.Followed the sign down a few minor roads and eventually came to what looked like a heavy goods vehicle yard.The sign to the Chapel indicated I should go in here so that`s what I did.It didn`t look too promising I can tell you..! There was a small car park and a workshop with a few lorries outside.A couple of men chatting away gave a nod in my direction.Another small sign at the edge of the car park said "Chapel this way".Around the corner the chapel came into view....

Not very promising looking , is it ?

Here`s what greets you when you open the door....

It`s a riot of colour....

This is a hidden gem of a place
They Ukranian prisoners of war obviously had no access to money for materials as it`s entirely made out of random pieces of timber,plywood, plasterboard,carpets and Christmas decorations.What a job they done though.! It`s still in use to this day by the Ukranian community in Scotland.A caravan next door is left open and has a small display of newspaper cuttings etc.A nice touch is the kettle,tea/coffee/milk and biscuits left there for visitors.More info and pics here....

Ukranian chapel at Lockerbie

I found this video on Youtube which goes into more detail and is worth watching if you are interested...

Back on the road again,through Lochmaben, and I parked opposite Hightown farm at the start of the marked path.It didn`t take long to get to the trig point at the summit.As an isolated hill the views were expansive but too distant for a camera to capture with any interest.Queensberry was prominent to the north and the Lake District was just visible through the haze to the south.

The summit of Hightown Hill...

Onwards to the next hill of the day,Bishop Forest Hill,via a quick snack at a roadside coffee bar outside Dumfries.I knew there was a sculpture park of sorts up Glenkiln but was surprised by the lack of signs in this regard.A small discreet one past Shawhead was the only indication that there was something up there.I pulled in to the small car park at the head of Glenkiln Reservoir and parked below this.

John the Baptist by Jacob Epstein...

Further along the road.Henry Moore....The King and Queen.

For a detailed description of the various sculptures  and some excellent pics visit this site....

Glenkiln sculptures 

A couple of greylag geese were posing by the banks of the reservoir on the walk back to the car...

I didn`t time myself as it was a nice sunny day and I was in no rush but I`d guess it probably takes around an hour to vist them all.Picked up the car and drove up the glen a bit to Marglolly Bridge where there is room for a car to squeeze in at the entrance to Slongaber farm.

From there an unmarked track goes all the way up to around 1,100 feet or so leaving a battle with the tussocks for the remaining kilometre over to the trig point and the huge cairn at the summit of Bishop Forest Hill.

I came home via Moniaive which was added to my list of places to retire to as it seems to have more than it`s fair share of old hippies
To give the day a more modern bent sculpture wise I paid another visit to the Andy Goldsworthy one further up the road outside Penpont.

All that was left was a pleasant evenings drive over the Dalveen Pass and back up the motorway.A day with a difference and unusual in that the hills were the lesser of the days pleasures.