Saturday 23 March 2024

Loch Lomond Park and Whinny Hill.

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A drive to Balloch this time and a walk exploring Loch Lomond Country Park and Whinny Hill. Large car park in Balloch just off the main street at the entrance to the park.

 Whinny Hill walk, which is an extended add on to the park walk. I notice in some maps/booklets it's spelt Whinney Hill.


Heavy rain and storms the night before so the lower path beside the River Leven, where it meets Loch Lomond, was flooded. Still passable though.

Balloch Castle. Still lying empty and unused. You would think they would do something interesting and creative with it being a national park. Be careful what you wish for though.

Cameron House view across the loch.


Catkins on tree. A sign of spring.


Duck Bay Hotel/ Marina and a former Youth Hostel that doubled for the 'big house' in Scottish TV series Take the High Road. Now a private residence I think.



Stream on way up Whinny Hill.

 Alan and myself going up Whinny Hill. A walk of a few hours duration.

 A meadow section.


As we got higher a partial view of Loch Lomond and one island appeared. It's not a great viewpoint over the loch as there's too many trees in the way. The nearby Dumpling or Duncryne 142 metres above Gartocharn is  much better or Beinn Dubh above Luss if you want to see all the islands and loch spread out below your feet.This is a good walk though and Alan had not been up it yet.


Loch Lomond and Luss Hills.


Carved Acorn.


Woods at Whinny Hill.

 On the way back we visited the Walled Garden but being winter no flowers were out yet.

 Walled Garden.


A few large trees had been blown down in the recent storms. I've noticed for about 10 years now that the increasing wind strengths and unpredictable weather conditions are causing real havoc in parks across Scotland. Even mature trees 100 plus years old like this large beech tree are being uprooted every winter in gales or if the roots hold they are simply snapped in half ten feet up across the entire tree. If this keeps up parks and woodlands are going to look much thinner in future as it will take decades to replace the old stock even if replanted.



We returned to Balloch via the arrow straight main entrance.

Where a rook was enjoying a takeaway. Another good day out.

My recent infatuation with a popular USA singer songwriter's back catalogue is leading me in unexpected directions...underground in this case... and I'm happy to follow. Might be the Blackwall Tunnel in London....? Really like this version as well. The gift that keeps on giving for me. I also like a wee detective story. It's the Rotherhithe Tunnel in London. Mystery solved. 


Sunday 17 March 2024

A Water Adventure.

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A water adventure this time as Alan has a small boat so we motored up the west coast of Scotland a few weeks ago.


Fresh snow on the mountains but in general it's been a very mild winter thus far in the UK which is a bonus for people struggling with excessive heating bills.

We picked a calm day for crossing this sea loch as it's only a small inflatable boat and we did not fancy big waves. It did save us many miles of walking or cycling however as I've been into this remote abode several times before after a long trudge or cycle with a heavy pack. A beautiful day. 



It was a quiet loch people wise but not so for aquatic creatures. We spotted several guillemots, harbour porpoises, and a seal but all were actively hunting for fish and by the time I got the camera out they were under the water again. A lot of wasted shots later, (one advantage of a digital camera is that you can take loads), this is my best efforts to capture them so I gave up.

 Harbour porpoise being mysterious.


Unfortunately we managed to get a puncture in the boat just carrying it down the rocky shoreline and placing it in the water then filling it with all our gear as it was very uneven ground with loads of sharp the water and out of it... or it could have happened elsewhere. The boat bottom being only the thickness of an average tangerine skin.... or fabric elastoplast wrapped around a cut finger.  Anyway... this is Alan testing it out for leaks, above, after the DIY repair. A short time later we set off for our destination. As large commercial ships over 300 metres, (1000 foot long) sometimes use this dock facility here I was very aware the loch must be hundreds of feet deep in the middle in places. Not a comforting thought sitting in a bubble with only air keeping you afloat. Also some eagle eyed locals told Alan killer whales sometimes visited the loch and whereas normally on land I'd be really keen to see that.... a small boat encounter with creatures twice the boat's length did not fill me with joy very much, especially as in some European waters they like to play with small craft, treating them as floating toys to knock around.


Luckily, it was a beautiful calm day. Years ago I used to go swimming for free every week in my local swimming baths but after two decades of austerity cuts to council services UK wide it closed down so it's either sea swimming or expensive gym membership... the result being I've not been swimming for 20 years. If the repair came off halfway I'd soon find out if I still remembered how to stay afloat. ( we did have life- jackets on but that water was cold!) So not without risks to get there.


 Our destination. If you know where this is keep it to yourself.

Surrounding mountains. Only a private forestry track leads to this habitation on the end of an uninhabited peninsula.

Our loch for the trip. It's always been in my mind that Loch Ness is a very good PR stunt. Out of all the scenic Scottish lochs I've visited over many decades Loch Ness would struggle to get into the top 50 being just a deep drinking trough for cattle with not much going for it scenically except the monster. I've always thought that. Which is good as it keeps the tourists away from all the better lochs in Scotland.


We passed the first day exploring the shoreline and pine woods around the habitation.


Deep in the pine forest.

 And discovered an old track that used to presumably connect the scattered dwellings along the shoreline before the pine trees covered this peninsula. 1n the 1800s up to the 1920s dozens of water craft, paddle steamers, puffers and the like crisscrossed all the Highland lochs and villages when existing roads were terrible. Indeed many of the communities thrived better and were far better served back then than today as documented in the pages of  Neil Munro's Para Handy about the captain and crew of a wood, coal, brick and gravel puffer as they reached isolated outposts often easier than today from their shifting base around Glasgow's busy docks and Bowling Harbour. Puffers were designed to fit into Scotland's canal system or they could land directly on beaches at low tide to deliver coal and other supplies to remote cottages without a pier, floating off again at high tide, making them a valuable lifeline for West Coast communities.


We could also go back to that time in our temporary abode 'but n ben' with a traditional coal fire and candles. Similar to the Broons comic strip weekend getaway retreats which also highlighted the benefits of a short break from city life.


Even cooking dinner over it. A good night was spent watching the fire, singing songs and drinking.


One thing that was different was the lights from a busy Highland port across the water as normally bothy surroundings are a pitch black void whereas here we had Blackpool illuminations outside.


Extremely remote where we were yet not remote at all as it were. I remember the same feeling on isolated Kerrera Island looking across the bay at a thriving busy Oban with folk walking the high street and shops there while being utterly alone and disconnected if anything happened and I needed rescuing quickly.


The next day we did more exploring along the shoreline, the cliffs and forests inland being too steep to ascend except by the one rough track winding out to civilization again. The nearest civilization via that forest track being a small hamlet of a few houses.

You could call this rain forest as it was certainly wet enough with foot deep green moss in places under our boots once under the tree cover. We also gathered dead wood as there was plenty around due to the increasing frequency and strength of storms bringing down trees everywhere. That and the winter rainfall which has loosened entire slopes elsewhere in Scotland with repeated road closures in certain troublesome steep sided glens.


Another night in front of the fire and good company. It must be something primeval about a natural fire... coal or wood. I can still be bored watching TV or enjoying all the other gadgets of modern life if it's not riveting enough to hold my attention yet sitting in the dark in front of coal and candles I'm never bored at all.... and you make your own entertainment.


It's like a living thing, a central friend in the room and one that's ever-changing. It needs feeding every so often... and tended. Nurtured throughout the night or it goes in the huff...and dies... but it does reward effort. A person in the fire here holding a burning sword. 

 Or a large spider hanging above it with another already in the flames.

 How many ancient civilizations have started wars, created myths, or seen their gods deliver prophesies in the flames of fires like this one? 

 All too soon it was time to go home again... but typical of Western Scotland by this time the weather had changed dramatically. Rain and a strong breeze which turned the calm loch into an angry one with small white horses and a two foot swell. No photos on the return as I was too busy hanging on to the ropes to stay inside our plastic bubble to think about getting the camera out.

 This is the weather on our return. Typical west coast rain and mist, often lasting for days at a time. Scotland is either magical... or grey, wet and grim... year round. Reminded me of the west Highland postcard years ago of the lone sheep in a field munching grass in all four seasons. Winter... lone sheep in field in the rain but with snow on its back appearing immune/stoic to various conditions in all four photo quarters...Spring... munching sheep in rain with a single daffodil appearing. Summer... rain with longer grass... Autumn. Rain with single brown leaf on its back. I always liked that postcard. Inspired.


Thanks to Alan for the company...


And his suggestion to come here in the first place.

Tuesday 12 March 2024

Brownside Braes. Paisley and Glasgow's Arthur's Seat. The Balcony Trail Walk.

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This is Alan and myself driving up to the 'car park in the sky' above Paisley on the B775 which leads up to Gleniffer Braes public park. I read recently that the five best views of Scottish cities according to one popular newspaper was No 1:- Edinburgh from Arthur's Seat... No 2... Glasgow from Cathkin Braes...Stop!!!... at which point I was both happy and outraged. Happy because I knew it wasn't true yet would see an increase of footfall to the area mentioned...thus keeping better places quiet.... and outraged as I've always known the best places to view Glasgow from and Cathkin Braes ( although perfectly OK) ain't it. I know because I've spent five decades ( as Scotland's Finest Living Central Belt Landscape Photographer ... hey... it worked for Muhammad Ali calling himself The Greatest, didn't it?) exploring all the Central Belt's high points multiple times in every season.

 By coincidence I did a walk on the Cathkin Braes just recently with Alan and it had none of the variety of the Gleniffer Braes/ Brownside Braes which is one of Scotland's best balcony trails running from Paisley over to Barrhead. Highland Cattle herd, above.


In my humble opinion Cathkin Braes viewpoint is too distant from the city centre, even with a zoom, to capture it properly... also it's a plain direct view of the city, not its best angle at all. University of Glasgow, middle; Moss heights, white line of hi rise;  Springburn hi Rise, top middle. The view is clearly better from Brownside Braes. No contest. No dopamine effect.

Also Gleniffer Braes sits close to Glasgow Airport. With flights landing ...


And also taking off... incidentally all my blog photos are sized for an 18 inch by 10 inch screen so viewing them on a smart phone is a complete waste of time.


You are even closer to Paisley, one of Scotland's largest towns so that's also a bonus for a God's eye view of Scottish urban areas. So much so we felt like human drones...launched into the air to hang above individual buildings.... or glide about slowly like ancient relics/citizens of Mount Olympus.... two vast heads....staring down at frail humanity living below.  Never had that feeling once on Cathkin Braes. The city there is too far away... wrong angle.


 Golfers. Leverndale Tower view. Also Crookston Castle, (middle right in woods) and Glasgow Tower ( the thin needle above C.C.)



Water is another big part of any Brownside Braes walk. Glenburn Reservoir here. None to speak of on Cathkin Braes. Mere puddles pissed by pygmies.

 Looking across water close up... or looking down. Paisley again here.

We both thoroughly enjoyed this walk as it's long enough, at a few hours duration, to get the real dopamine effect flowing freely from exercise yet it's mostly flat or gently rolling on this upland plateau. And large enough an area, even after dozens of visits... to get lost in, if only for 20 mins or so.


Our balcony trail by the way... the nearest hill top views Glasgow has to match/ compete with Arthur's Seat... runs from Gleniffer Braes Country Park across this upland plateau in the direction of Barrhead passing Glenburn Reservoir on its southern edge then cuts across to spot height 219 ( OS landranger Map Glasgow Sheet 64) then Thornliemuir trig high point at 237metres or 777 feet. On good paths that on this occasion keep to the high ground edge of the escarpment rather than descending down into the gorge via the Tannahill way


This is the spot height view.


And a hazy winter sun view of Glasgow. Pastel Perfection. Also from this viewpoint you get an idea of the sheer size of the urban area involved. Glasgow and the surrounding satellite towns like Paisley, Clydebank, Hamilton, Airdie, and Motherwell. A large chunk of Scotland's population in one go. Suburban sprawl... As far as the eye can see fading into the distance in both directions. No wonder this slab of concrete creates its own micro climate as I've observed many times. Wall to wall sunny blue skies under this valley bowl all day long yet grey skies or rain on the surrounding hills and braes on that same day.

Pollok Park and House.

And the edge of the Scottish Highlands...far less sunny blue sky days up here but it does happen... just not that often.

And Cathkin Braes is missing Highland cattle.

Calf taking a drink. Girl interrupted perhaps.

And not just a few token and there... but a massive herd. This was the first day this winter it really felt like spring. Warm, sunny... daffodils, snowdrops and crocus all out in one go lower down in the suburban gardens. The first early trees starting to bud and turn green.

So much variety... plus the city views as well The path up via Barrhead with what looks like the Scotstoun Hi Rise Flats ... and maybe Bearsden's Schaw Court...  top middle.

The City of Glasgow. Balcony Trail View.

Dykebar Hospital in foreground. Sandstone buildings.

Plenty of paths up here, and a golf can arrive and car.. or bus... or train. By public transport you also have the option for one way walks with Barrhead to Paisley over the hills a grand day out.

Abbey Mills and Paisley View.


A view of Silverburn Shopping Centre and Nitshill's white tower block surrounded by the extensive woodlands of Pollok, The Hydro and Glasgow's City centre district. Bellahouston Hi Rise twin flats in front in salmon colours. Both middle of photo.


Even local views make a big impact. South Nitshill, Darnley and Arden here. 27 years of memories growing up in this district. What looks like Parkhouse Road on far right of photo.


And a joy to walk on top of this upland plateau, usually with views over the escarpment edge on a cracking spring day that holds so many wonders.


Looking across at my childhood home. Nitshill. Aw. So much open countryside to play in and explore. So many different options in life.... strange paths to visit. 

I think, looking back at my teenage years, I was not always completely sane. Who is at that age with hormones kicking in?

Yes. My name is written down in  tiny silver letters and I live in Oz.

And I always have done.... as I could easily walk every summer to reach Glasgow's Finest Balcony Trail from my old house. As seen here. above. Brownside Braes view in June. Buttercup heaven.



... and May/June spells Magic... in any language.


 Yes..... I see fed people....

This montage sums up those tricky teenage years very well :) Ticks every box.