Friday 21 February 2014

Knock Of Crieff. Milquhanzie Hill. Laggan Hill.Famous Grouse.Lady's walk. Crieff and Monzie.

 This is one from a couple of weeks back. A sunny day dawned but one with a bitter cold wind at higher levels. The forecast suggested that the highest peaks would be prone to spindrift and arctic like conditions so a lower level alternative seemed like a better option for this sunshine enthusiast.
I had a cunning plan to weave three shorter hill walks of modest height into a longer one of great variety and interest in an area I had passed through many times but never walked around. Crieff. This is the well known main street, above.

                                        ALL PHOTOS CAN BE VIEWED FULL SCREEN
Today it's a fairly prosperous and busy town on the northern edge of the fertile and lush Strathearn and sits at a crossroads of central Highland and eastern highland mountain districts. It has certainly enjoyed a colourful history over the years and was once notorious as a savage and unruly frontier town where only the bold arrived and stayed for any length of time.
The first of the great mountain strongholds start just north of Crieff :- The Lochearn group, The Ben Lawers Range, The Kinloch Rannoch peaks and the Atholl/ Beinn a Ghlo group rise in rocky waves surrounding the town  in a semi circle with various glens, ancient pathways and drove roads all heading towards it. This made it a wealthy place and a gateway in former times, as for hundreds of years it was where the highland clans did business with the lowlands.
Crieff started out as a livestock/cattle town where highlanders brought their surplus half wild black cattle to market hoping for a good price. It also attracted dodgy dealers, cattle and horse thieves, murderers, wanted men and groups and clans with bad blood between them with old scores to settle. The gallows and hanging trees around the town did brisk business back then and the sight of a row of swinging corpses helped subdue anyone else thinking of causing trouble.
 This might also explain why most of the town of Crieff was burnt to the ground during the early 1700s by returning highlanders after the thwarted Jacobite rebellion--- and was just saved from suffering a similar fate at the last minute during the 1745 rebellion. They obviously liked the sight of the town burning to a cinder so they must have harboured a strong grudge against it back then. Or maybe it was the price they received for their cattle at the market.
Now it's a prosperous looking place filled with affluent homes, holiday accommodation, guesthouses and hotels centred around its colourful history, the surrounding scenery of Perthshire, and the Famous Grouse distillery at nearby Glenturret. As its situated across several rolling ridges it's a pretty place to look at. The Hydro can be seen in the photo above. Large building- centre top. In many aspects it's similar to Bearsden, Newton Mearns, Bridge of Weir and Kilmacolm with its visual weave of large houses and woodland setting climbing on or over a ridge- districts I also like... both for photography, period architecture and interesting walks, as the lanes, back streets, gardens and mansions are usually stunning- particularly in spring and summer.
The walk starts just above Crieff Hydro in a layby under the Knock. From here various paths run up
to the summit and a good view is had over a large chunk of Perthshire.( The Big Tree Country.) It was just Ron and I on this outing but we did see several dog walkers and a few mums with expensive, go anywhere, large tyre prams jogging past.( that's how I know its posh here as only posh mums jog around country lanes with mountain bike tyre prams. It's been a familiar sight in the Home Counties parks and certain London suburbs for many years whenever I've been visiting Kent and Surrey.)
Star Wars actor Ewan McGregor was brought up in Crieff and attended Morrison's Academy before finding fame in Hollywood .Likewise fellow actor Denis Lawson (who is his uncle and also attended Morrison's Academy as a Crieff local) with a huge back catalogue of film and TV credits over many decades to his name- so it's obviously in the blood.
Soon views opened up over the surrounding uplands which had a fair dump of snow on them. It looked freezing over on the heights but we were fine down here at 278 metres. Out of the wind it felt like a spring day with 8 hours of unbroken sunshine.
Milquhanzie Hill, at 350 metres, looked an inviting small peak to bag as well so we headed for that next via the Shaggie Burn and Monzie castle. This is still a private residence but guided tours at certain times can be arranged. It's an impressive building.

From here we followed a minor road back to the A822 then climbed up the side of Milquhanzie Hill which proved to be an excellent viewpoint.
A view of it from the Knock above Kate Mc Nieven's Craig. I found out after I got home and looked it up ---why it got its name. Her sad and brutal tale here. Reminds me of "The Crucible"
Ron climbing up to the summit.
Getting closer now.
A view back towards The Knock- Laggan Hill just visible behind The Knock. We would go on to climb this as well. It turned out to be a long day.
 On the way back we took minor roads  leading past The Ibert and Monzie which is a small but beautiful hamlet with its waterwheel, tumbling Shaggie Burn and ancient Packhorse bridge.
 The landscape around here is dotted with numerous standing stones, cairns, circles, forts, earthworks and  antiquities dating from Roman and  Pictish times. Also visible all along this minor road past Mains of Callander are what appear to be drumlins or eskers or at least some type of large glacial moraine deposits.
These low mounds of earth appear all along this shallow glen. This is a view looking back at The Knock. Sheep enjoying the day long sunshine as much as we were.
More wave like mounds of earth rising in height. Very unusual and interesting scenery throughout this walk- most of it could also be done on a bike using the network of minor roads.... or a large all terrain tyre pram. Wonder if anyone has written a pram guide yet to adventurous exploring? Why should new mummies be left out of any adventure I say!  :o)
Next came a visit to the Glenturret Distillery. Reputedly Scotland's oldest and home of the Famous Grouse. It is the most visited distillery in Scotland which I was unaware of until now.
The distillery. Beyond this point it's tour guide only territory. The path down to the burn and back towards Crieff exits left here.
After paying a visit to this huge sculpture of the grouse we took said path down the side of the Turret Burn which led us into Crieff at Dalverk, where we then cut down towards Laggan Hill via the main public park.
Like everything else in Crieff it sits on a slope but this only adds to its attractions as its a lovely green oasis that makes the most of its steep setting, woods, tumbling stream and meadow area.
At the end of the park we found this helpful info board which recommended Lady Mary's Walk, a pleasant riverside ramble  beside the swollen and impressive River Earn which is still lined with large beech trees.
In Victorian and Edwardian times this was a popular outing for the elegant upper classes to be seen strolling along here and it's still popular today with local dog walkers, weekend ramblers and family groups. We however, had a hill to do and the numerous ups and downs were taking a severe toll on our legs. It seemed a long, long way to Laggan hill along that riverside path and each step took us further from the car.
Eventually we topped out on the summit and were rewarded with a view of the sun going down behind Crieff. We still had a descent back down into civilization then a punishing re-climb back up past Morrison's Academy and the hydro again. It was almost a ridge too far.You need to be fit to live in Crieff.  Closer view of the Hydro below. It's an impressive building when water torture and a Spartan approach to heath and fitness encouraged folk to sample its delights from the inside of  a cold water jet room. Today's guests get pampering weekends, golf, horse riding, fishing and whisky tasting treats instead as a "treat them mean- keep them keen" policy fails to attract many votes nowadays.
By this point we were absolutely dead on our feet. Every step back uphill was an effort and we reached the car just as darkness fell over the layby. It's a long time since we've been so shattered after a walk. Maybe two hills would have been a better option as adding the third was really tough.
A great walk- good company in Ron- and bags of interest throughout. Cant ask for better.

Sunday 9 February 2014

Cruach an t Sidhein. Luss Hills. Loch Lomond

One of the nice things about other folk picking the walk is it can be a bit of a magical mystery tour as to where you end up. A full car load of Graeme, David, Sandra, Alan and I left the sleepy metropolis after a dawn start and headed for Luss. I had to look up Cruach an t Sidhein as I didn't have a Scooby Doo where it was  but was pleased to find out it was one of the Luss hills on the left bank of Loch Lomond. It was also one I hadn't climbed before so that was a bonus. It was also a cracking day of course. Having sold my soul to the Devil in childhood I expect nothing less in return. I call him daddy and he lets me tickle his horns and tail :o)
David, Alan, and Sandra walking up a wet track in Glen Luss. Graeme parked his car at the end of the single track winding up Glen Luss, halfway up Loch Lomond at the last small parking bay. From here the last farm up the Glen is reached. Do not go through this farm as it has a heavy posse of free running dogs who might not be pleased to see you there. Don't ask how I know this :o)
Instead, take a signposted stile on the right just below the farm, over the fence, then follow a boggy path until you reach this track above the farm, thus avoiding the dogs.

From here a long walk up the now deserted glen on a fairly decent path leads you to the summit of  Cruach an t Sidhein. The Luss hills are deceptive and you tend to dismiss them as easy as they have no Munros in their number but we all found this a tough walk. About 14 kilometres round trip. It can be done from the other side but it doesn't look as scenic or adventurous as that side is forestry plantation. Considering it's only a half hour's drive from Glasgow it's a very wild and empty glen in its upper section. The summit had six inches of fresh snow plastered on it from the night before which gave the area an extra appeal.

Looking across Loch Lomond towards Balmaha district.
 As we climbed higher the islands in Loch Lomond started to make an appearance.
 And then the seaplane flew over right above us. As I've said before I honestly don't envy rich folk their lifestyles at all when you can get all this for free. For a lot of city dwellers the Luss hills, The Campsies, The Kilparticks, The Gleniffer Braes and The Cathkin Braes are all easily reached by foot, train, or bus for a few meagre coins and this was our playground growing up. Every city in Scotland has access to great scenery on its doorstep but we seem to be increasingly living in a world now where a young modern generation somehow view the outdoors as boring, dirty, dangerous, cold, lifeless or irrelevant to daily life. Or take part in organized and expensive group days out en mass as if nature needs to be approached under strict guidance and rules to make it safe.  It's the exact opposite. It's the greatest free gift you will ever receive. Common-sense makes it safe. Start on the easy low landscapes first in good weather then build up. Don't sit down on snakes.

I still remember, (and still get today) that same thrill of exploration crossing these modest local hills.... and you could drop me in the middle of The Rockies by small plane- The Alps-The Cuillin Ridge on Skye next week and it would not come close to matching the first time I wandered on my own across the wild empty Kilpatricks from Carbeth to Faifley or sat in the middle of the Brownside/Gleniffer Braes above Barrhead/Paisley in spring sunshine at 12 years old with my pals, listening to skylarks and yellowhammers giving it big licks overhead having walked there from my house as it was the further point on the horizon we could see from my window.( not so ecstatic on the return trip though as it seemed to take forever and we had no money for a bus, but that's life)
                                                              The Cobbler and Beinn Ime.
So much of modern life now seems to have evolved around consumers seeking small chunks of instant gratification for hard cash but these things rarely promote lasting happiness in any way. It's just a quick fix to hook in the customers but its getting to a dangerous level now when people become completely addicted to it. Fear not. A solution could be on the way. Ever heard of space weather? Can you imagine a world without mobile phones and computers? I could live without them without too much trouble as I remember my life without them but could a younger generation? Well... someday we might find out. Last week I posted a picture of the sun for a reason. I also mentioned 'bubbles', 'elemental forces', 'invisible signs affecting natural conditions on earth' ' large ocean going ships built to spend months at sea' I was only half joking. Who knows what will happen if modern technology goes down over a large area- even for a few weeks, if it takes time to get it back on again?
It could happen at some future date so it might be better not to put all our eggs in one basket, technology wise. Or will we be lucky?
Looking West over Cowal,  Gareloch and Loch Long.
The new full moon appearing over the side of the hill.
Looking across towards Argyll and the magnificently rocky range of little peaks that are ironically misnamed Argyll's Bowing Green. A great day out with fine company.

Years ago I used to get album CD's out the library. Not so much now as you only get a week to listen to them which is too short in my case. For me finding a great album, song, book, film, sculpture or discovering a great new ( beautiful, audacious or just plain crazy) building or idea makes life worth living. This is worth a look.
 So much of our existence is taken up with mundane but necessary routine tasks we all perform that it's easy to feel like an unimportant cog in a vast uncaring machine at times and anything that lifts you out of that ennui ( you can tell I used to listen to Lou Reed songs- a great lyric writer) to a higher plane, if only temporarily, is a gift.
Not expecting much, but always hoping, I stuck on the Guillemot's CD 'Through the Windowpane' as I was driving through to Edinburgh in the early dark of a winters morning. I didn't know anything about the band which is sometimes the best way as it comes as a bigger surprise. I'm very picky about music but after five minutes travelling along the motorway I thought "hey this is actually good! I really like this!" Just the lyrics alone fired my imagination. Clever, vividly descriptive and dripping with imagery. After ten minutes I knew I was listening to an exceptional CD- full of well crafted but unusual ballads and love after another. and I'm not usually a love song person. I detest 'Rom Coms' and 'Chick Lit' fluff unless its good enough to actually transcend the genre.
This song came on just as the morning sun climbed over the Pentland Hills in a wash of flaming crimson and I had a full on epiphany. For a joyful five minutes it lifted me out of the ordinary routine and straight above the rainbow. Music, books, films, art, ideas, landscapes and certain entertainment in general can do that. When I came back down to earth my first thought was  "Damn- I wish I'd written that."
Everyone has there own ideas on what's special however and many will not get this at all so I keep posting these videos for the odd one who might just think "Wow" at the end of it instead of thinking "He's still got shite taste in music" Hello Alex :o) which is why I always try to pick interesting  videos as well. " He's still got shite taste in videos too." Alex again :o)))

Saturday 1 February 2014

Elemental Actions. Fire,Bubbles,Ice,Animals,Giants

                                                My Kingdom of Heaven Has no God
             But it is beautiful just the same                   
                                                Instead, a Queen on her silver throne
                                         Sends out her angels to decorate the realm
                                         Who breathe on the land in winter's grip
                                    And leave subtle signs behind to show she's there
                                          (Bird fossil sculpture carved in ice)
                                                     But only for those who can see
                                      She's no stay at home Queen but rides the land
and only her subjects understand
                                         When she passes among us or stays for tea
                And in that moment wondrous sights unfold- like sand dunes in the sky for me
                                            All know her name, be they be good or bad
                      And Gods And Angels Sigh                              
       For those that cherish her- love her ways                 
                         Nox Angelica and Ra entwine- under the table of Isis to chart the years.
                                            she kisses the sun- the decades are hot 
                                        when she leaves no lipstick- the cold returns   
                                           her passion ignites the spots on our sun           
                                    Sometimes the human view of her is very blurred
                               But humans only miss their water when the well runs dry
                                      Treat her well and she will be your friend- for life
                                               The gifts she brings can fill the world
                                        Or shatter it like glass- So beware her wrath.
                                          as the signs she's upset are already there
                                                   I know for certain that she exists
                                                      I believe in giants you see.
                                         I believe in a world where people can be stars
                                        That light up the cosmos and the void in-between.
                           So we walk in the darkness together and look over her realm
                                                   In her city on the edge of the sea
All photos best viewed full screen.
Always liked this song by lamb but it didn't have a decent video until now. A perfect fit for this post
as it's on a similar theme- of the human race as a collective entity focusing too much, as usual, on the wrong issues and finding itself locked into a cut throat competition for dwindling resources of water,food, metals, and land- whether they like it or not, while new technology products- most of which we don't actually need but are persuaded to buy anyway as it fuels the economy- drain even more of the world's resources. Will we have a 'Bonfire of the Vanities' and come to our senses before it's too late or fight over the last rainforest for its timber and precious metals underneath to make smart phones and garden fences. I'd like to believe the lyrics in this song but past history says otherwise. By the way-ever wondered why the billionaires now are commissioning massive ocean going ships that could be entirely self sufficient or why we are still determined to explore other planets at huge cost for so little in return?'s always prudent to prepare an escape plan- or an Ark-if you can afford it and most of these folk didn't get where they are by being dumb :o)