Monthly Archives: October 2015

back to where it all began

Finishing fever seems to have got the better of me, so despite pulling out two big trips on the spin, I was off again over the weekend, overnighting at White Laggan. This makes it a grand total of 78 current Scottish MBA’s out of 79, so all done bar one. Before I made my return to Barrhill and the train home to Edinburgh, I looked in on Back Hill of Bush, which seemed very fitting as its pretty much 50 years to the day that the MBA was brought into being within its haloed confines. Shame its been bashed about recently, but I think the Forestry Commission has committed to straightening it out again.

off we go again…start of the off road section of the Sustrans National Cycle Route 7 from Loch Trool to Gatehope of Fleet

arriving at White Laggan

first priority a mug of tea

second priority getting the stove lit

dawn in the kitchen window

view down the valley to Loch Dee and beyond

more tea

the bothy stove

Back Hill of Bush

didn’t quite know what I was expecting inside, especially after the reports I’d read of the bothies mishandling

not too bad which was a relief, though certainly quite a lot of rubbish piled up in the porch

view over to Craignaw and Dungeon Hill

view back towards Loch Dee

view towards Loch Dee and Curleywee on the cycle back…

route there and back…

Indian summer just keeps on giving

Now I’ve already been to the Lookout at Rubha Hunish on the northern tip of Skye, and checked out the amazing view it commands over the Western Isles, but at the time I had quite a minimalist approach to taking photos. I had been quite taken by a philosophy I had read about which put forward the idea of only taking one photograph a day, honing the skill of judging what makes a worthwhile image. So for example, if you woke up to a beautiful sunrise, you would have to quickly decide whether it was going to be the best set up of the day, or hope a more enticing scene would reveal itself later on. Had you already got a better picture of a sunrise on your travels? Was the composition going to draw the viewer in? That kind of malarkey. I never got that extreme, but was very disciplined in my approach, conscious to only get just enough pictures that ‘spoke’ of the essence of a trip, and not get snap happy. God have I lived to regret that now, I didn’t even take a picture of the bothy!

In the back of my mind I knew at some point I’d have to get a proper photo shoot, and having missed out on my last trip to Skye in May, I knew my opportunities were starting to dwindle, before the winter weather brought my more ambitious plans to an end for the year. So having just come back from Jura the day before, the forecast of continued high pressure for the next three days at least, was an opportunity just too irresistible to miss, and I booked the bike on the service to Mallaig before the day was out. My kit was barely dry when I jumped on a train Saturday lunchtime, and after an overnight camp in Arisaig, was totally focused on getting to Rubha Hunish and the bothy by the evening. According to mapmyride this is a fairly honest 65 miles through the Cuillin and beyond, and having misread the train timetable, realising at the station that there was no early morning service on a Sunday, I had to throw in the extra nine miles on the back road up to Mallaig. Oh and an extra two mile round trip back, when I realised as I went to take the first picture of the day, that in my earnestness I had left the camera behind at the campsite. Doh!

evening light at Arisaig

evening light at Arisaig

Fortunately there are some days when despite yourself you get a good slice of luck, and having no idea when the next ferry left for Armadale and Skye, I arrived at the dock with moments to spare. No time lost after all that. Substance not necessarily style the order of the day. Well, I made it to the road end just as it was getting dark, and stumbled up to the bothy in the light of my head torch. There was a welcome glow at the window, and a pleasant evening spent chatting to a lovely Irish woman, who was heading for Harris the following day.  I was up for the dawn, and the next 24 hours were a photographers dream. By lunchtime I had all the pictures I needed, and just when I thought I could put my feet up, tracked a rainbow for half an hour as it made its way across the Minch. Got some more shots at the point and returned for a satisfying long exposure of the bothy interior, lit with candles with the last of the light in the window. Back down to Sligachan by the following evening, taking pictures all the way, and back to Edinburgh the day after. I had toyed with the idea of stopping off at Glenpean, but after being ambushed by a half and a half on the ferry, I was in no fit state to do little more than snooze on the train home.

dawn shot of the bothy, which sits on the edge of a line of cliffs above Rubha Hunish, the most northern point of Skye

Pan (6676)

view out of the 180 degree Lookout observatory window at first light

dawn from the bothy door

dawn from the bothy door

view of Rubha Hunish as you start to head down the path between the cliffs

as it says on the tin

catching the light

relic of a time when the bothy was a Coastguard Station

rainbow on the Minch

view out to Harris

kitchen window

one of ten or so pictures of the bothy I took during the day, minimalism be damned

view back to the bothy from Rubha Hunish, its just visible on the top left of the cliff

evening light

final shot of the day

and a few of the pic’s I took on the way back down to Sligachan…

view across to the mainland from somewhere around Flodigarry, Torridon and An Teallach just visible on the horizon

quick stop off on the hill out of Staffin with the Quiraing behind

clearer view across the sound to Rona, with Applecross and Torridon on the horizon

the Old Man of Stoer

coasting down to Sligachan, with Glamaig and Sgurr nan Gillean catching the last of the sun

route round….

going lightweight

Entry in the bothy book at An Cladach on Islay:

Mon 5th to Wed 7th Oct 2015

Wasn’t initially thinking of coming here on this trip, but through a creeping sense of inertia yesterday afternoon, and strong winds forecast for today, I thought it would be a good backstop if the ferries weren’t guaranteed to run. Cycled from Bordick last Thursday morning, heading for Cruib, with a planned excursion to Ruantallain if the time allowed. Finally made it to Loch Tarbert after a night camping in ‘the Field’ outside the Jura Hotel at Craighouse, and spent a rather spaced and rambling two hours walking in. I caught a stray bungee cord in the eye as I was setting off to Ardrossan on the train, and have had cloudy vision for the last couple of days! Cruib is in excellent shape, and I was relieved that there is a peat cutting just above the bothy, so I could have a cosy evening by the fire.

I am experimenting with overnight bothy stays with a 35 litre OMM sack, stowing my bike and panniers by the roadside, and taking whatever I can squeeze in beyond the basics. In fact, I coped surprisingly well, despite the lack of fresh milk for my tea, and fried breakfast on the menu, and actually stayed on for a second night instead of heading back to Craighouse to watch the rugby. A fortuitous decision it turned out, as I avoided the carnage inflicted on puffed up England by the marauding Aussies. It also meant that I could spend a more leisurely amount of time at Ruantallain, and do a bit of exploring of the cliffs. The added significance of the afternoon was that this prized bothy ‘tick’ means that to all intents and purposes I have ‘finished’ the full round of Sottish MBA’s, and what I slightly arbitrarily call significant others. There are a few more places I want to visit, ( and a couple of borders day trips to polish off) but I have drawn a satisfactory line, and am happy with that. Spent part of today deciphering some notes, and resolved to try and come out in this direction once a year around this time. It was also lovely to see my sister’s entry of September last, and I have a lot of time for your man asking after the old bothy book so that regulars can revel in times past. (I am officially going to make a smart arsed comment here but can’t help myself) On a past visit to Clennoch for example, I discovered that the ‘Friends’ of the bothy have actually photocopied and laminated a number of the old bothy books, going back to the 90’s at least. Sorry out of the system now. Anyway I should be writing a blog entry, but I thought I’d take some time to jot down something here. I’m not a big fan of writing long entries, but I have been inspired this evening.

In terms of house keeping, I’ve hopefully left enough kindling to dry off the last blocks of peat. There are some rather damp pieces up at the cutting, but I think that’s it for the year. And apologises if the place is a little untidy, I’ve got to rush off in the morning to get the 12.30 ferry from Port Ellon. Normally I would clear out the ash from the fireplace, but I’m loathed to put out the embers tonight. And good luck with the big logs, a happy find on the beach back at the Logain burn.

Also a big thank you to Dave (1 of) MO, and of course the MBA and the estate. This really is a home from home.

Geoff Allan


Photos from the trip…

sunset over Arran from the last ferry of the day

campsite outside the Jura Hotel with the Paps behind


attempt at going light weight

view south over Loch Tarbert to the Paps

peat fire magic


view back to the Paps

an old Laird of the estate

stumbled on these two by accident and quickly made my apologises…

walking back to Cruib, view of Islay on the horizon

back to the hotel just in time for a late Sunday lunch

a quiet evening by the fire at An Cladach

a writers retreat

only partially a set up shot, as I had just about run out of gas by early afternoon on the second day

walking out in the dawn glow

discovered that a ferry left for Oban from Port Arkaig, saving me a pedal south to Port Ellon…happy days