Tag Archives: Sun

red wine becomes a bit of a theme

Another weather window, another hasty plan put into action. Taking heed of last months worries about my rather suspect fitness levels, I decided to head south and tackle some bothies in the borders, and contemplating a couple of shorter days and less hill time. Well relatively speaking at least. The key factor in the decision though, was availing myself of the most splendid hospitabilty of another great friend Pam, who lives near Thornhill a few miles north of Dumfries. Oh how great it was to be spoiled for a change, with mountains of food and free flowing red wine. I’m just glad I was at least doing a bit of exercise to burn off the calories.

After a late evening catching up and a good night’s sleep, I studied the map in the morning and realised I could cycle off road over the Lowthers, and take in Kettleton Byre and Burleywhag in one fell swoop. Happy days. Two bothies in the space of a few hours, if only the whole project was this simple. The only thing I hadn’t factored in was that it was the start of the lambing season, and I spent a fair amount of time hanging around behind a couple of shepherds on quad bikes, who were rounding up ewes to get them safely off the hill. Anyway job done, and all I had to do when I got back to base camp was try and steel myself for the inevitable capitulation when trying to refuse third helpings of chilli con carne.

On the way to Durisdeer

On the way to Durisdeer

Kettleton Byre bothy

Kettleton Byre bothy

Burleywhag bothy

Burleywhag bothy

The next morning I was very grateful for a lift over towards Carsphain so I could tackle my next objective which was a wee jaunt to Clennoch. I had had in mind and overnight stop but I read up that the bothy didn’t have a stove, so that put the mockers on that plan. It looks so unpromising on the map surrounded by forestry and with a wind farm stuck up on the hill above the glen, but to my surprise the bothy turned out to be a little gem. There is even an adhoc group called the Friends of Clennoch who are unofficial custodians of the place. All the old bothy books had been lovingly laminated, there was a pair of binoculars for general use, and the last entry in the log described how the visitor had bought up some daffodil bulbs to plant. Thank god its a little further away from the road than other more forlorn bothies in the area.

Clennoch bothy

Clennoch bothy

On the way home I popped in to see another glamourous old friend who was celebrating a birthday, which to my shame I had completely forgotten about. I quickly recovered though and more red wine flowed, so the limit of the next days activities barely stretched to a stumble to Tunskeen for lunch. However another bothy in the bag, six for the year already, roll on Easter.

Tunskeen bothy

Tunskeen bothy

jelly legs

Now I have no one to blame for the over ambitious nature of my first outing of the year. I think the deluded memories of last summer, sauntering over the summits like some puffed up domestique, were just too fresh in the memory to dissuade me from starting with something simpler. And it all looked pretty straight forward on map my ride, but I still seem to be blind to factoring elevation into the equation when planning a route. Anyway, I can safely say that the B974 Fettercairn to Banchory road over the Cairn O’Mount is bastard steep. Normally when you start on up a slope and begin tapping out a rhythm (cough, cough), you can at least fool yourself that the top of the bealach is within reasonable distance. But this slope just kept on going and going. And just when I thought it must be levelling out soon, I realised to my horror that  the road went straight over the freaking mount, and there was to be no relief. Man I barely made it to the viewpoint without toppling over and asking for mercy. It was intense, all two miles of it…. So where was I off to? Can you not guess? Oh yes, that’s right I’m the bloody bothy bore who knows about all these obscurities. House of Charr my friends, House of Charr. The most easterly of the MBA’s as I’m sure its becoming clear, even further east than Mount Keen, which is almost in Aberdeen as it is. And that is about as interesting as it got. The bothy is in some nondescript old territory and it doesn’t even have a fireplace. I was lucky to get some sunshine. And the shame of it is that I had to walk the final 500m back up over the summit on my return. Yes walk. I can barely type the words. After a whole year of not getting off the bike on a tarmac road, I had to admit defeat.

House of Charr bothy

House of Charr bothy

The next morning I was filled with not a little apprehension as I got a lift to Glen Shee with my bestest friends John and Katherine, who were absconding from child care duties for the day. The plan was to scoot down the hill towards Bramaer, and trot across to Callater Stable while they went skiing. But obviously that meant in the afternoon I would have to cycle back up to the ski station, and just to rack it up a bit John had to be back for a meeting, so there was a cut off time to contend with. It was a beautiful day so it wasn’t really a hardship, but I didn’t have so many spare minutes for lunch and I was already feeling my legs when I got back to bike. Safest to say, despite my fears that it would turn out to be something like the torturous experience of Tour de France competitors finishing up the Col de Tourmalet, I made it without incident. But I have made a mental note to plan something a bit more sedate for my next adventure.

Callater Stable

Callater Stable

View over Loch Callater

View over Loch Callater

day tripping

Just got back from a great little excursion to Mark Cottage, one of the newest MBA bothies on the list. The forecast was fabulous for this morning, though it did cloud over later on, but it was so worth getting up and onto the platform at Haymarket at 6.45. The bothy is tucked away near the bottom of the Ardgoil Peninsula by Loch Long, and would feel like quite a remote spot if it wasn’t for the oil terminal that is incongruously sited opposite. The cycle round from Arrochar is really straight forward and I was at the bothy by 11 o’clock. For some reason I thought it would take much longer but perhaps I had a walk in in my head. Anyway had plenty of time to kill before the scheduled service back to Queen St from Crianlarich so in the end I rode round the coast to Helensburgh and got the train back from there.

Arrochars Alps from Loch Long

Arrochars Alps from Loch Long

View of Loch Long looking north up to Arrochar

View of Loch Long looking north up to Arrochar

Mark Cottage bothy

Mark Cottage bothy

 

 

 

 

 

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

Pan (3023)

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