Tuesday 30 August 2011

Rosneath Peninsula.The Forgotten Finger.

Its been many years since I`ve been round the magical Rosneath Peninsula on a bike,the first pinkie of land jutting down into the waters of the upper Firth of Clyde just past Helensburgh.Why forgotten? Well, unless you know how good it is already or live or work here there is a tendency to overlook this fine chunk of land as it doesn`t actually lead anywhere and has no prominent hills or main towns for the bagger to visit.
It is however a splendid area to explore on a bike or even on a leisurely circular drive with a wealth of  important architecture, stunning ever changing views round each corner,and a few notable stop off points.
Forget the ruins of Angkor Wat in the steaming jungles of Cambodia or visiting Beverly Hills and Hollywoods  real estate canyons or hiking the increasingly popular Inca Trail.We have our own version  right here and its far easier and cheaper to get to the starting line.You can rise late,pack in a full days exploration and be back in time to catch a good film on TV in the evening.
Arrived in Helensburgh to the sounds of the shows starting up,a  run of several  consecutive days of fine weather pulling out the tourists.(This was three weeks ago now as we have a slight backlog again.Damn this endless sunshine!)
Helensburgh is a fine town popular with day trippers as it has several streets of  attractive shops,a wide  coastal esplanade stretching all the way towards Rhu, a prosperous feel and good views over the Clyde towards  the three large  towns facing it .From this distance they also  look pretty and prosperous :) It also has a large free car park down by the water if you park up at the far end.

Off I traveled on my bike.The road was fairly busy at this point until I arrived in Rhu where the traffic slowed to a trickle but there is still a traffic free cycle route to here for folk unsure of cars or with children.Bike lanes tend to be slower though and I stuck to the main roads.The Faslane Peace camp was reached.This is still open with its half hidden line of rustic caravans in the trees but the residents have tried to make it colourful as you can see. Its purpose here is supposedly to protest against the Faslane MOD base nearby, home to the nuclear submarine base.
I was not too bothered either way politically until I got a puncture in my back tire right outside the uphill mile of razor wire fencing round the base whereupon I protested loudly and bitterly to the watching security cameras.
"Its always the bloody back tire! Why me God! Crap bloody surface!" or  different words to that effect.
Half an hours sweaty labour later I had a new inner tube replaced and the gears set back in order.
Up to that point I had been enjoying the run but a man on a  touring bike no matter how heavy or big of belly cannot flatten down newly scattered  loose chippings.I noticed they were only laid down before and after the main road leading towards Faslane hence the outburst.

With roads and views like this though I couldn`t stay upset for long.In the 1970`s I was an admirer of the early visionary art work of  Gage Taylor,Bill Martin,Cliff McReynolds  and Joseph Parker.Paintings that often took years to do.Not to everyones taste though.And I certainly don't like all the images or thoughts expressed in here. A lot of it is hippy guff but when its good and closest to the natural world its very special indeed.Pick your own favourites,if any.  http://www.billmartingallery.com/      
http://iasos.com/artists/jparker/        http://artamerica.com/gagetaylor/
Coming out of California and Mexico it was grounded in ordinary natural surroundings  but  layered with a minutely detailed explosion of tiny images, exotic trees ,animals and spectacular hyper bold sunsets that deliberately heightened and mixed reality with things that could never exist in the real world or were  placed outside of  normal settings.A forerunner  perhaps of  some of todays more sophisticated elaborate computer games and films only this was conceived back then  in oils.(avatar springs to mind here)
My favourite is South Aquaria.A bright circular painting covered in exotic trees,animals,steeply wooded cliffs,waterfalls and paths leading down to a little cove and beach covered in  ornate seashells. A girl stands beside the beach,arms folded, her back to a cave  as if waiting for a visitor.Its an intoxicating window into a land of  perfection which can never exist..I`ve still got a copy of it hanging on my wall nearly 40 years later.Its still my favourite.Its not depicted in  any of these links by the way . That would be too easy :o)
The only reason for mentioning it now is this.Nowhere else in the world have I came as close to seeing its real life equivalent than on the wooded slopes and  old red sandstone cliffs of the Firth of  Clyde Estuary.

I`m not envious of this kind of moneyed manicured beauty at all as I`m only too aware of the effort, upkeep and maintenance required to keep it at this pristine level.I have enough trouble maintaining my own little shoebox as my natural inclination on a  free dry  day is to go outside somewhere and watch other folk grafting away while I sail past giving  them a cheery wave.I do like scenes like these though.Art works come to life.From artists sitting surrounded by the giant redwoods of California to me sitting here on my bike admiring  rows of transplanted cousins on the Firth of Clyde. Giant redwoods and monkey puzzle trees grow as well  on the damp mild hillsides of  western Scotland as in their native lands.
So...if you like grand architecture sticking out from the surrounding slopes and forests which contain hundreds of exotic trees  and shrubs carefully placed there by Victorian pioneers who made these fjord like inlets their playground  away from the  grim, smoke  filled metropolis then this is the place for you.Forget Angkor Wat... too many snakes, insects and hours sitting in planes and airports.Forget Hollywood with its annual canyon rim fires,smog and heat.  Its all right here,mansions of the rich and famous, old  red sandstone cliffs and numerous quiet coves with  secret delights in store for the visitor.

The King Tut stone.This is one of the famous painted boulders  scattered around the Firth (the boy kings tomb still being  big news at that time) originally painted I suppose  to give the steamer tourists a visual attraction on the shoreline and get them spending their cash in Kilcreggan.This is one of the lesser known ones repainted several years ago by pupils at the local Cove art school under the guidance of their art teacher.There are others...the more famous Crocodile rock and Gowk Stone on Great Cumbrae,Jim Crow at Kirn and the Maids of Bute near the Kyles and Burnt Islands.They were originally painted at a time well  before the days of  political correctness.
Kilcreggan with its pier and passenger ferry over to Greenock (car park,some shops and  easy coast walks) was passed then the road got really quiet.The section past Cove and Ardpeaton is the best bit of the trip.Three castles sit high above the road at intervals, one of them  reputedly built on the ruins of a viking stronghold.

This isn't it.This is Craigrownie Castle built by Alexander Thomson around 1854.He doesn't get as much credit as C R Mackintosh but for my money he`s the man.This is worth a read.
This is his only castle and fell into disrepair some years ago,almost beyond saving with the roof open to the elements when an intrepid individual with the right skills and money stepped in to restore it .http://www.telegraph.co.uk/property/3322873/From-crumbling-ruin-to-a-castle-for-keeps.html
Although famous in his day and a  more prolific architect  than Mackintosh a lot of Thomsons  projects fell under the bulldozer during the great slum clearance of the 60 and 70`s when if it was old in Glasgow it was bad,many more were  damaged during the second world war.He only rose to belated  prominence again a few decades ago, his work being cited by those capable of judging these things as a supposed  influence on both Macintosh himself and that grand master of American architecture Frank Lloyd Wright.Next generation Mackintosh actually won a scholarship  set up to remember Thomson, allowing promising architects to study buildings abroad something Thomson himself never achieved in his lifetime.All his work was here in the Roseneath peninsula,around a  dozen villas and the castle,a varied range of buildings all over Glasgow including mansions,warehouses, villas, stairs , three churches.and one house on Bute.He was inspired mainly by classical lines,Greek, Italian and Egyptian structures,hence his nickname  of "Greek" Thomson.There is a  weekend coming up  in September (17th and 18th) 2011 when many of his buildings will be open free to the public along with many others you don't normally get a chance to see. Its the yearly Doors Open day.
Mackintosh was a fine interior designer of houses,both himself and Lloyd Wright influenced more by Japanese styles just filtering into Europe and America around that time.Trouble is he`s far too popular in Scotland at the expense of many other fine architects who were also working here,his designs on everything from tea towels to coasters.Although they always sell well to overseas visitors and the fashion conscious I,m completely over saturated with  his designs  along with many other folk I suspect.
Also,apart from the Willow tearooms and the Glasgow School of Art the exterior of his buildings leave me cold.None of them make my heart beat faster in the same way as the wonderfully  turreted Dunselma, (the nearest we have in Scotland to the fairytale Neuschwanstein),a  baronial confection floating above the wooded Strone point,built as a sailing lodge for the  famous Coats family of Paisley.And it was built by Rennison and Scott who don't even get a look in! Neither do William Leiper (the local architect working out of Helensburgh who designed a decent chunk of it) John Honeyman ( Knockderry Castle),James Sellars (Cove Castle) James Carrick (Rothesay Pavilion) and James Smith (the magnificent Overtoun House above Dumbarton which always seems to  hang  above its abyss, both literally and financially.And dozens of others who built dreams out of stone,wood and marble. Unfortunately it takes vast wads of cash to keep these vast piles going.

The road here is a delight,empty of cars with little bays and grand houses dotted above the shore.Cove is lovely, no other word to  describe it. It has a couple of  tiny lay bys ,a few seats down by a grassy  open esplanade and that's it.
The stopping point  here for me is always Linn Gardens,a brilliant rambling place with ponds,terraces, a tiny steep gorge,waterfalls and bridges all hanging onto the sides of a hill.A couple of quid in an honesty box lets you into a lush oasis clinging to the slope with a long thin water feature at the top and a main house being slowly swallowed by all the vegetation around it.A strange but fabulous place.Well worth a visit in season.
Next was the run out towards Ardpeaton and Coulport where a large chunk of the Kibble Palace Greenhouse in the Botanic Gardens came from donated by James Kibble (among  many other things he was a glasshouse designer and constructor who had it as one of his two Conservatories.That shows you the size of the properties around here.The area was home to  Victorian industrialists,captains of industry,wealthy inventors,scientists and the great and good of their day.Ironically its only now we are really reaping the benefits visually as when they planted out the often bare slopes around their grand homes and castles with  thousands of trees and shrubs they never saw the fully mature results.Same with all the Victorian parks around the world we just take for granted most of the time now.In their own day looking at old photographs  in books they  always look a tad empty with  newly planted miniature woods not yet grown to the  full splendour we see today.

Next up was the steep but short grind over the Cove pass but the views made it all worthwhile at the top.This is looking down Loch Long towards Strone point and Dunoon.A heat haze was building up by this time in the afternoon but the freewheel on the other side was good for a cooling breeze then it was back onto familiar roads round past the  pretty village of Garelochhead. Nearly everything is pretty round here though.

 and the millionaire enclave of Stuckenduff and Rhu.
I arrived back in Helesburgh as kids were getting thrown around on the show rides,laughing and mock screaming to the sounds of the Kinks. Lazy Sunday Afternoon then Britney Spears  Do you wanna Piece of Me? with its hook  line "Lifestyles of the rich and famous,Oh my God that Britney is shameless." Very apt dontcha think :o)
A great day out .A  feast for all the senses and its left me with a  few other ideas for adventures in this area.Will Alex Come?.I seriously  doubt it. Flying pigs and all that.

Tuesday 23 August 2011

Cumbernauld Uplands. The Bam Fae La Mancha.

"I,ll say this for you Bob.You always come up with places I`d never think of going to in a million years!"
"Its the same with some of your ideas Alex...cheers."
Sitting in the car heading towards our destination  neither of us could decide if this was a compliment.
One of the great things about Scotland though is how varied the landscapes and places to visit are for such a small country.Its not all mountains.We have miles of low grassy golden hills (braes),flat cliff ringed escarpments;hundreds of miles of beaches,each one different and unique;At least five different types of woodlands and even that rarest of Scottish features.....the high flat plain.
Recently I`ve been inspired by Rick Steins colourful 4 part TV  series on Spain and in particular the vast elevated plains of La Mancha with its wide horizons and big blue skies.
Recently too Alex has climbed ( reluctantly) into the saddle,due to his dodgy foot, so a brainwave had occurred in my kaleidoscope of a mind for a cycle ride he`d really enjoy.
We have our own version of La Mancha right here.A high elevated plateau rising to almost 1000 feet where skies are big and wide and views stretch away into the hazy distance in all directions.

Only joking.To be more precise its the high triangle of moorland above Cumbernauld stretching southwards to Carluke and eastwards as far as Livingstone.A surprising place that's perfect for cycling.Wild, remote and empty yet full of surprise,history and interest.
Car parks are few in this area and indeed most people unless they are local aren't even aware of its existence
as they zoom past on the M8 motorway between Scotlands two largest cities,Glasgow and Edinburgh.(Its that high flat boring bit in the middle.)
But its aware of them alright and they could not function properly as a society without it. Without this place there would be chaos.Not believe me...read on.

It was a lovely sunny morning (well, it always is in BSS land isn't it?) when we arrived in the large car park at Palacerigg Country Park among the pigs, goats and chickens on the southern outskirts of Cumbernauld. A quick tour of the rare breeds in their various pens then we were off on the bikes,climbing up on empty roads past the remains of Longriggend remand  centre, the  vacant eerie bus shelters the sole reminder of its troubled existence in this isolated spot.It was closed down in 2000 due to prison cuts and the large number of suicides within then demolished in 2007. Only the village of Upperton nearby remains.A fairly tight knit community I`d imagine.
After more uphill panting and pedal work we reached the  actual  village of Longriggend sitting prominently  on top of its high ridge.Its well worth the effort to get here.It feels so special ,like a frontier town from a Clint Eastwood film and what a view.Looking down from the roof of Scotland itself.

This is a back view looking towards the Campsies as to the obvious relief of Alex we had  now reached the central plateau section.He doesn't like hills very much :o).
It feels amazing up here and its now easy cycling. I told all this to a  game but suffering Alex  beside me.It was another warm sticky August day. Luckily we`d picked a morning of light winds as it can really blow up here and in grim weather ,well... its a very grim place indeed for a victim on a bike.There is a distinct lack of shelter apart from widely scattered tree plantations.
From here we cut round past Caldercruix then on to the new cycle path running past the giant Hillend reservoir,a place very popular with central belt anglers fishing from the shoreline or in small hire boats.A railway used to run past here then closed down. After many years Its now rebuilt again as the new monkland line running from Airdrie to Edinburgh so apart from easing congestion on the roads network it should also improve Job prospects and Journey times.Good to see it back.
Next came the road from Forrestfield to Drumbow and its a gem.Straight, empty and with vast open skies.

 Superb cycling.The skies seem massive up here.Much of this is reclaimed land and it would have looked very different a hundred years ago,teaming with open cast coal mines, deep coal pits,shale oil workings and ironstone quarries with miners and workers toiling hard and a network of railway lines and waggons dragging the raw materials off towards the hungry cities, seaports and towns. Entire villages and communities grafting away of which little now remains.Here`s an information board to  some of the lost villages in the area.

A byproduct of all this endevour and industry all those years ago was the quantity of large holes left afterward
once the rich coal seams had run out.A handy place to stuff all our rubbish over the decades creating at the nearby Greengairs Reclamation Site  high above Airdrie what is reputedly the largest single landfill site in  Western Europe.Anybody who wonders why we need all those different recycling bins cluttering up the garden need only come up here and see the  few holes remaining.Most have already been filled, landscaped or planted with trees.Half a million alone over the region we passed through. An additional square added to the patchwork carpet of the Central Scotland Forest which will one day transform this bare high plain.
Alex was still not happy though, dragged away as he was from his mountain trig points and bagging lists.
"Its official.You`re a bampot!" He rubbed his head to wipe away the sweat "How can you  possibly compare this to Spain.Its nothing like La Mancha.
"How do you know?I shot back."Have you ever been there?
"No but I know its nothing like this.Do you even know where we`re heading?
"Si senor"!
Knowing that Alex had to have a hill on any outing to keep him happy I was gradually heading for the most prominent summit in the area.

The soaring bump of El Sombrero.Known locally as the Mexican,s Hat.Its formal name is Lochend Colliery Pit no 5 bing but that's not got quite the same ring..
To enhance the Spanish influence even more there was a surprise treat in store for Alex.

"See! You cant get any more Spanish than that! I declared proudly. "Hola! Hey Torro.
Despite my best efforts Alex still found something to complain about.
"There`s not much cover if its lurking about somewhere out of sight." he muttered, scanning the large  field in question.
"To the victor the spoils (heap)" I quipped,pushing him ahead of me Go get your bing man! Its there for the taking."

No bull appeared and the view from this surprisingly steep pimple was extensive.A complete 360° panorama
of near empty  moorland, occasional farms and  forest.A  rare sight in Scotland where something usually sticks up to break the horizon.The only thing disturbing the summit was a pulsating mass of tiny flies,hundreds of them who greeted our arrival with glee.Probably the first human victims this summer.It was like being in a bull run  all right only in miniature.
"Probably Spanish flies."Alex commented dryly,still not enjoying himself sufficiently for my liking.
We returned swiftly to our bikes and continued past the Black Loch then Limerigg before a glorious freewheel down into Slamanan  which was still over 500 feet in the air.

This is a fairly quite place now but  the area around here used to be full of miners and industry.A look at the war memorial nearby convinced us that the region was also a prime recruiting ground for the the armed forces in the past as names of the men killed right up until recent battles lined the sides.Mind you when I found this list of old mining accidents online I can see why joining up might be a preferable if risky choice.Reading  down this hair raising report of tragic but often grotesque calamities befalling the local population the armed forces might seem the safer option.See the accident reports here

Leaving Slamannan behind Alex suggested heading along a minor road from Wester Jaw to  Jawhills which would take us back to Fannyside lochs on the edge of Palacerigg.(I`m not making these names up,honest!)
It was a cracking road for cycling with a dirt  track section (white road on map) between two gates fortunately  left open as  three big sheepdogs  gave us the usual excited  farm welcome tearing along beside the bikes.
In the distance perched on Black hill,at 285 meters high ( or 935 feet) the twin Black hill transmission  masts could be seen.Well ,where else would you put a TV aerial except on a roof .

If your TV picture occasionally gets knocked out by a massive lightning strike this is where it hits.Each of these monsters reaches a height of 306 meters over1000 feet ,the largest free standing structures in Scotland only beaten by the Durris Transmission mast near Stonehaven.322 meters;1056 feet.They cover a huge chunk of the central belt and Greater Glasgow.
Fannyside Lochs surprised Alex who had heard of them but never visited.He was surprised how large  the main loch was when it appeared.Maybe he was expecting a puddle.They have a small sailing school here and  both lochs are quiet,serene and delightful in good conditions.Although just above the traffic and bustle of Cumbernauld all you experience up here are views over moorland and a more distant backdrop of the Campsie Fells. A scenic but fairly lonely place.
Yet within minutes we were descending rapidly to access the back entrance of the country park.A short canter through the woods and we were back at the car.
"How did you enjoy that then? I asked a groaning Alex struggling to dismount from his noble metal steed..
"Pigs will fly before I get back on a bike again!" he declared, rubbing his aching bottom.
Oh, OK then.That,s easily arranged.Thought it was going to be something hard :o)

A flying pig.


Tuesday 16 August 2011

Windy Hill.Barone Hill.Bute.

Back at the Wemyss Bay ferry terminal again but this time with a difference. Alex was with me.We were both keen to bag some west coast  islands before this  unpredictable soggy summer was over and Bute fitted the bill being easy to explore during a days adventure once a good forecast was certain.This time though we were aiming northwards.
The lure for Alex was Windy Hill,the highest point on the Island situated at the northern end in the middle of  an expanse of nondescript empty moorland.
The lure for me was simply being back on Bute again.One of my favourite Scottish islands.Few can match it for its combination of scenery,Victorian and onwards period architecture, variety of walking, cycling,lochs, beaches and history.I,ll get more folk going over there if it kills me : o)

The plan on arrival was to cycle round from Rothesay past Skeoch Wood then sleepy Port Bannatyne and Kames Castle until we arrived at a farm road leading up into the hills just before  the golden sands of Etrrick Bay.Following it to a suitable  highpoint  we would  then leave the bikes locked up out of sight and take a dirt track leading up through cows and fields onto the higher moors.All went well and we soon arrived on the upper slopes after an entertaining approach.From here the path faded out and a romp over the open moors saw us reach the summit which didn't look like it received many visitors.

This is the view from the ferry of the route taken.It has to be said its probably the most boring hill summit  in Bute for both views and situation.Even Alex  admitted that. A bagger was happy though and we both enjoyed the cycle round and the ascent up the lower slopes.I didn't even bother taking any pictures of the view from the top which is unusual for me.

What I did take a picture of was this very large hairy fly.I,ve seen these before a couple of times on higher moors and mountains but can`t find out much information about them as I don't know what they are called to type in..About the size of a thumbnail,much larger than a bluebottle, they may be harmless.They do seem to take a keen interest in humans though and always settle beside folk when they stop moving for any length of time.Sure enough when we stopped for a well earned lunch one quickly appeared,sitting a few feet away, bold and unafraid.It reminded me of a polite vulture or vampire bat that just happened to find itself,completely by accident,  resting next to a  static person.
We studied each other as it hopped onto a closer rock,eyeball to eyeball.It seemed more interested in me than the crumbs of sticky almond slice offered so I  made a mental note never to fall asleep when one was nearby just in case it was looking for somewhere warm to incubate its eggs.Cute wee bugger though!
After lunch we strolled downhill through knee high grassland back to the dirt path and the bikes.It was a warm humid day so it was something of a relief to get a cooling  breeze on the bikes and ferry.

This is the farm road leading  up to the hill.A good one. By this time Alex was enjoying himself and suggested cycling round via Ettrick Bay to Straad which used to be a tiny but thriving fishing village in the days of the herring fleets but nowadays is a pleasant cul de sac of houses and a few,discreet, low rise holiday apartments.
One thing that struck us as odd was the fact that the Ettrick Bay Cafe was packed to bursting with day trippers and kids munching and drinking yet only two families were actually playing on the empty expanse of beach.It was deserted by comparison.It was a fantastic day...warm and sunny! It may seem daft but I honestly believe a lot of children nowadays have simply forgotten how to amuse themselves outdoors without the aid of  an endless stream of gadgets.And  parents, for some reason best known to themselves, no longer make flasks of tea and  home produced sandwiches if they are going away which would save them big bucks every trip.My entire lunch and  two bottles of fizzy drinks that day pre bought cost under £2 quid.Alex was even less as he had home made sandwiches with him.I spent a day with a family group a few weeks ago and for two adults and two kids in a well known children's attraction  restaurant a basic lunch for them was over £30 quid.It seems such an easy,painless way to save money to me.Mind you, myself and Alex  are both pretty  tight when it comes to spending these days :)

Barone hill was the next Summit to get a bagging from us.It sits in a great position overlooking the town of Rothesay  itself but as we were  reaching it by bike we climbed it from Loch Greenan,yet another picturesque Loch on an island Jam packed with  them.This was the normal  expected summit viewpoint on Bute with great views over the Firth of Clyde and beyond.

We thought about having a go at Canada Hill as well as we could see it across the valley but by the time we got back on the bikes and down into town again it was getting late.Better to save it for another time..For day trippers that fancy an easy hill walk any time of year  Barone or Canada hill make fine excursions with superb views.For those others wishing a Full day hike Barone hill then the traverse along the low spine of hills above Loch Fad  to Quien hill then returning by Birgidale Creiff Butts track and Dixons Dam track to Rothesay is a fantastic varied adventure.This is a true classic of a walk yet is hardly known.

Of course I couldn`t let Alex leave the island without showing him what I think is one of Scotland's most Iconic views, yet one I`ve never seen in any magazine or calendar.Its always the Five Sisters or Glencoe or Edinburgh Castle or the  Black Cullin in them.( I buy Scottish Calendars every year to send to Australia and its fairly predictable stuff.....Its the same tired old shots year after year!Theres so much more out there to capture)
"This could be the Rockies or New Zealand." Alex admitted."What a setting!" He was further impressed when he met a wildlife photographer who showed him some of the birds and animals he`d captured earlier that day.

Here`s one I captured myself outside the Victorian toilets at the pier.This cheeky crow was doing its business over the heads of folk using the facilities then looking  down to see if it had got a victim.Seemed to be enjoying itself as were the gulls with young chicks around the castle.Having a moat all the way around  you means not many predators can get near without a swim.

Parts of Rothesay castle date back to the early1200s and is a very rare example in Scotland with its ornate moat and rounded structure. A lot can change in that time. Although its now right in the middle of the town surrounded by buildings it wasn`t always that way.Originally it sat on the shore.Over the years the shoreline was extended outwards to accommodate the growing town til the castle ended up several streets back from the sea.

Like many small towns Rothesay itself over the centuries has experienced many periods of boom and bust.Royal patronage from the early kings of Scotland, Herring fishing fleets, linen and Cotton industry then Victorian tourist mecca right up til cheap holiday flights took off in the 1970s .Its still here though and Bute is still the undiscovered isle for far too many living on its doorstep.
Thankfully Alex has at last seen the light.We were so overcome by holiday good will back on the esplanade that we  forked out for two hot dogs from a nearby stall.He watched the bikes and took pictures of the Waverley paddle steamer which had just arrived while I waited for our order.When asked if the dogs  would like a coating of mustard or tomato sauce I said the red stuff as that's what I like best.Of course Alex wanted mustard on his.Well he would wouldn't he.
A fine trip and a day of great variety with bikes, hills, gardens,paddlesteamers and fairgrounds.

Monday 8 August 2011

Ben Hiant.

Tuesday 13th July.

The intention was to go up to the Flow country in Caithness for a visit to the old hill fort on Beinn Griam Beag but due to one thing and another we ended up on the opposite side of the country.
The previous evenings forecast was for great weather out west so we filled a long term ambition and headed off to camp on top of Ben Hiant in Ardnamurchan.Across the Corran ferry  to Ardgour and then the long,and I mean long,forty odd miles to the lighthouse at Ardnamurchan.I`d bagged the westernmost point of mainland Scotland a long time ago with Big George and contrary to what people think it is not Ardnamurchan point itself.It`s at Corrachadh Mor about half an hours walk due south.
Having already bagged it though I could relax with a coffee at the tearoom near the lighthouse in the warm afternoon sunshine :)

We pottered around for an hour or so and then headed back,through Kilchoan,and back east a bit towards Ben Hiant...

Opted for the easy option and parked the Bongo off the road at NM551640 and packed the tents etc;
It was now about 6.30pm and the sun was beginning to ease off a bit thankfully.A well used path leaves this point and ascends the north east ridge.Although steep,it`s a pretty effortless ascent and my foot didn`t seem to object too much.

Yachts entering loch Sunart from the Sound of Mull...

There wasn`t a breath of wind at the summit and no midges either thank God as we pitched the tents about 10 metres away from the cairn overlooking the Sound of Mull....

A cup of coffee and then dinner was cooked followed by the swally which was awaiting nearby on the trig point...

Gavins bottle somehow didn`t seem to last very long and I was a bit suspicious when he took up position right next to mine :)

Just to be on the safe side Bob and I dispatched him to a small knoll a short distance away to watch the  sunset on his own...

Then the sun went down behind the Isle of Muck....

...and turned the Isle of Rum all sorts of colours...

When the light had finally died we had a look at the moon through Gavins Leica binoculars..

...before going to bed after midnight some time.

Sunrise was at 4.20am but I awoke at 3.50am in time to have a cup of coffee in readiness.True to form the sun put in an appearance rising behind Sgurr na Ciche ridge in Knoydart...

Bob and Gavin got up and we watched the differing array of colours that presented themselves until 7.30am when I went for another hours kip :)

The island of Carna in Loch Sunart sticks its head up above the cloud...

The campsite....

We headed off down at the back of 9 with the intention of going up the nearby Marilyn,Meall nan Con but it was warm,we were in holiday mood and my troublesome foot was beginning to hurt from the descent.The beach it was..the beach at Sanna and a walk round the coast.It was a perfect day to be out on a yacht....

....or even a tall ship come to that.