Tag Archives: hangover

if Calsberg did bothy trips…

When I started this blog, I had half a mind to call it bothies on a budget. But I’m glad I didn’t venture to far down that particular avenue, as it would be hard to tie in last weekend’s bothy trip with a few old student friends. Its sketchy enough to airbrush out any tenuous bike links into this this cameo entry, but when you get a door to door lift in a Aston Martin DB9, all I can do is hold up my hands and say this wasn’t exactly part of the original vision.photo (4269)

Although I am counting the pennies, most of my friends have muddled through pretty successfully and a couple are seriously in the money. And when Ant confirmed that he and Paul were coming along, I knew that the lap of luxury would be gently eased into my otherwise back to basics plan. So a potentially austere wilderness weekend morphed into the most luxurious bothy trip imaginable: the booking of the Edinburgh University Mountaineering Club Hut in Glen Licht to save us from interacting with the hoi polloi, a hired Landrover Discovery to save us from a walk in, and enough booze and coal to iron out the lack of hot tub and sauna. And of course sirloin for dinner and a fine selection of cheeses to adorn the oatcakes. We even took in three guitars and an accordion. I don’t quite know how I’m going to readjust back into my monastic routines when I next venture out.

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boys own action

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delving into the Pogues back catalogue…

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excursion to Camban bothy which is much improved since I was first there twenty five years ago

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view of the bothy from the ridge on Ben Fhada

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the crew taking a break

bike error

The latest leg of my quest had been planned with a fair amount of care and efficiency. It was to start with a cheeky Monday excursion with John to Sheilin of Mark bothy, cycling in from the Glen Esk side. Then I was off mid week to Oban on an advanced train ticket, with the intention of peddling to Fort William via Mull and the back roads of Morven, with a possible extension on to Inverness if the weather held. And over the weekend I was committed to marshalling a leg of the Islands Peaks Race with some guys and gals from the Carnethy Running Club, having resolved that it would be good for me to nudge myself out of my comfort zone, and actually positively interact with people for a change. So when John reversed into an unsuspecting tree in an otherwise empty car park, after a jolly day dodging the snow showers, it wasn’t quite the launch pad I had been hoping for. Surveying the quite impressive amount of damage done to our machines, which had moments before been studiously secured on to the tail gate of the car, I really didn’t think I’d be honouring my commitments.

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Sheilin of Mark bothy

However, sometimes I can still pull my finger out and act with unnerving haste and ill consideration, just like the old days.  Having man handled the broken bike to Edinburgh the next day on the train, the bloke from the cycle shop confirmed that my buckled forks were a right off, and that to get back on track I would have to buy a new machine that afternoon. Which, with the promise of some cash from the very apologetic driver, I duly did. The Bike Station just happened to have a perfect bike at an acceptable price, and with a bit of swearing, I had the bike rack transferred and the panniers packed before the evening was out.

Ahhh feel this post is already spinning out of control, so I’ll try and get back on track as quickly as I can. Made the marshalling gig in Salen on Mull, after staying in Tomsleibhe bothy in Glen Forsa the night before, and headed on to Leacraithnaich on the Morven side with a bit of a hangover. I had a stand off with a sailing couple over the only copy of the Weekend Guardian in the shop in Lochaline, and because the distance was actually really short – barely twenty miles in all – I even had time to do a bit of exploring down by the coast, for another little secret spot which I’d been curious about for a while.

Tomsleibhe bothy, Mull

Tomsleibhe bothy, Mull

First boat heading to Salen in the Islands Peaks Race

First boat heading to Salen in the Islands Peaks Race

Southern coast of Morven

Southern coast of Morven

Leacraithnaich bothy

Leacraithnaich bothy

By the Sunday I was off over the hills to Strontian, and arrived there pretty knackered at lunchtime with the intention of cycling on to Resourie. I then looked more closely at the map and realised the top of the pass was over 400m, bracketed with those tell tail double v’s indicating steepness on either side. What an idiot. In fact it almost broke me just cycling over that afternoon, having pitched my tent in the very welcome campsite in the village. And the worst of it was the nagging feeling that I still had the trip back over the bealach once I was working up the forestry track to the bothy.

Resourie bothy

Resourie bothy

I was pretty run down when I woke up the next day and I resolved not to push myself too hard for the rest of the trip. I camped in an ok spot by the beach at Ardtoe the following evening, and it was drizzling as I completed the leg up to Lochailort, round the coast of Moidart, on the Tuesday morning. I was very thankful when the train to The Bill pitched up and thought I may just bite the bullet and get a ticket back home there and then. However, I rallied and decided to look at the forecast in Nevisport before deciding what to do. In the end I cycled up to Invermaille along the Caledonian Canal, and was very happy that I’d pushed myself on a bit, as the sun came out and the bothy had an ample supply of firewood. The next leg up to Inverness could wait though, and I cruised back down to Fort William the next morning happy in the knowledge that I had some more choice bothies in the bag.

Invermaille bothy

Invermaille bothy

bothy fire

bothy fire

another island escapade

Just back from Rum where I spent a couple of happy days searching out the bothies at Guirdil and Dibidil. Having decided that this year at least I wasn’t going to ‘do’ midges, I’ve been waiting on a weather window for the last few weeks, and was relieved that the Met Office had finally promised a wee ridge of high pressure. I had also in the meantime arranged to meet up with a woman called Lucy Conway who is setting up an exciting art project called Eigg Box. However, for some naive reason I thought there was some kind of straight forward integration between Scotrail and Calmac and didn’t look up the ferry times before I went. So I cheerfully pitched up in Mallaig at lunchtime a week last Wednesday only to find out the only sailing left at 10am. And when was the next ferry? Friday. Oh. Fortunately there were a couple of places I wanted to search out if I had had  the time, so I puttered about for a day and a half before I was back on the quay, anxious to get going. Then I got talking to a group of singers, a camera man and sound recordist who were off to Canna to record some music evoking the calls of sea birds imitated in traditional Gaelic folksong (Air falbh leis na h-eion : Away with the birds). With my eye slightly off the ball I almost ended up going with the flow and tagging along. But the project had to take precedence. In fact, Lucy and a group of people from Eigg were going over on the Sunday for a informal performance, but the fiendishly complicated ferry timetable between the Small Isles scuppered any rescheduling on my part. So in fact I ended up in Guirdil on my lonesome that night, looking out to Canna across the Sound knowing where the party was that weekend.

Sunrise over Canna

Sunrise over Canna

Gurdil bothy

Back in Kinloch, I decided to pitch my tent in the small campsite run by the Isle of Rum Community Trust which had a honesty box and a free supply of fire wood. It was a no brainer really, but did mean my excursion to Dibidil would just be a day trip.  In fact I ended up walking back from the bothy over the hills, which was certainly pretty sporting in places, and would be quite a navigational challenge if the clouds were down. Back in the campsite I got talking to a couple who had been part of an organised wildlife tour to the island. I can see that on these trips there is an anecdote arms race about what people had seen. The highlight in their group was watching a golden eagle swooping down on some prey and then getting attacked in turn by a white tailed eagle. All I had to offer in return was that I was becoming an expert on crows and rooks, and had been followed for half an hour by some inquisitive wild horses. So it goes. However, the next morning I was rewarded by the most amazing sunrise, and then watched a school of porpoises in the bay while I had my breakfast.

Dibidil bothy and Eigg

Dibidil bothy and Eigg

View of Eigg from the Rum Cuillin

View of Eigg from the Rum Cuillin

Trollabhal and Askival on the Rum Cuillin

Trollabhal and Askival on the Rum Cuillin

Exotic wildlife

Exotic wildlife

Campsite at Kinloch

Campsite at Kinloch

Dawn looking over Knoydart from Kinloch

Dawn looking over Knoydart from Kinloch

Unfortunately a storm was brewing and the next days ferry was going to be cancelled, so my trip in Eigg had to be put off. I meet up with the Canna crew on the boat back to the mainland, who seems to have had a great time, and in the rush to get off the ferry I almost left my camera behind. Doh! I still had a couple of days left before my apex single was due so I went back to this secret little spot I’d found, and had a day trip to Peanmeanach. All in all a productive trip, and I have a mental note to go back to Dibidil with a bag of coal at some point, and have a couple days of contemplation with some whiskey.

Skye from the Rum ferry

Skye from the Rum ferry

Coast off the Mallaig road

Coast off the Mallaig road

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Peanmeanach bothy

opening salvo

If I was going to start out making a statement so the thinking went, I might as well start with a bang. So I bought a train ticket to Oban, hopped onto the ferry to Barra, and for thirty quid I was in the pub in Castlebay with a whole bunch of cyclists, all setting out on the classic tour up the Western Isles. I know your going to say that this isn’t the most efficient way to start hoovering up my list, but bear with me. Part of the motivation was certainly because I’d always wanted to do this trip, and now I was on the bike it seemed a natural thing to do. More crucially though, Usinis, one of the most high tariff of the MBA bothies, is situated on the east side of South Uist. Having been adopted for a couple of days by a staunch family of cyclists, and surviving a winter storm (in the middle of May!) holed up in the Gatliffe Trust Hostel in Howmore, I made the bothy in reasonable style, walking in round the coast and accidently disturbing a pair of nesting sea eagles on the way. Usinis really is the most magical spot and really has a truly wild feel. Even the local seals seemed more curious than in other supposedly remote spots I’ve been to, as though you are an off the beaten track tourist in their yet to be developed country.

Sunrise on Vatersay Beach

Sunrise on Vatersay Beach

Bike posing at Barra Airport

Bike posing at Barra Airport

Bike posing on the edge of Benbecula

Bike posing on the edge of Benbecula

The Graham's, staunch biking family...

The Graham’s, staunch biking family…

Usinis bothy

Usinis bothy

Now I was onto the more ambitious part of my itinerary. Having arrived unscathed in Stornaway, I got the ferry to Ullapool and headed north, hoping to sweep up all six of the bothies found in the far north west on the way to Durness. First off was Suileag, found under the watchful eye of Suilvean in Assynt and then onto Glendhu and Glencoul.

Suileag bothy

Suileag bothy

Sun setting over Suilven

Sun setting over Suilven

Glendhu bothy

Glendhu bothy

Glen Coul bothy

Glen Coul bothy

Next I headed up to Oldshoremore, and had a fantastic walk in blistering heat to Strathan and Strathcailleach. This is where a hermit lived for twenty odd years back in the 70’s, collecting his pension every two weeks in Kinlochbervie, and in the winter slowly working through the peat bog found behind the bothy.

Footprints on the beach at Oldshoremore

Footprints on the beach at Oldshoremore

Strathan bothy

Strathan bothy

Peat stacked up outside Strathcailleach bothy

Peat stacked up outside Strathcailleach bothy

So far so good, and I wandered up to Durness in fine spirits. I was now off to what I imagined was going to be one of the highlights of the trip, a visit to Kervaig, which loiters quite casually close to the far north western tip of the mainland at Cape Wrath. And it didn’t disappoint. I shared the sunset with a slightly crazed guy who had just crashed through the wilderness, and was completing the Cape Wrath Trail. We toasted the occasion with the meagre supply of red wine I had imported in, and had a unspoken race back to the ferry in the morning, me limping along with a duck tape fix to the wall of my front tyre.

Kervaig bothy

Kervaig bothy

Sunset on Kervaig beach

Sunset on Kervaig beach

The next part of the trip was the one I was most looking forward to. I had arranged to meet a posse of friends somewhere in the vicinity of Altnaharra, who were celebrating a 40th birthday with a cycle tour of their own. I had been out on my own for two weeks now and however much I was enjoying my adventures, it was great to be with familiar people for a couple of days. And on the way I stopped off at Strabeg, and spent a couple of nights with a very wired estate sub contractor in the bothy at Achnanclach. In the end I spent a three timeless days with the birthday girl Sarah and the team, at Torrisdale beach by Bettyhill, with a miracle supply of driftwood and some beautiful sunshine.

Strabeg bothy

Strabeg bothy

Achnanclach bothy

Achnanclach bothy

Campsite at Torrisdale beach

Campsite at Torrisdale beach

Now came my last planned objective before heading south to Inverness. This was a march across the bog to another obscure bothy called the The Loch Strathy Croft house, which sits in splendid isolation on the edge of the Flow Country. And I have to say I was really chuffed when I got there, and even did a mental back flip in the stylie of a goal scoring premiership footballer, and gave a little fist pump. In terms of the project, efficiency is the key, and I knew that it would take an almighty effort to get back up to this area if I’d had to duck out of one of my prizes.

Loch Strathy bothy, The Croft House

Loch Strathy bothy, The Croft House