Scotland October 2011

Friday 7th October

We set off a little later than planned. Weather is fine all the way. We stop at Lancaster services for me to get a lentil and beetroot salad for lunch and also my first espresso in 3 weeks which is lovely then Tebay as I want some soy sauce bur they don’t have any. Then Allandale Water for lunch. C doesn’t like it there as cars are playing radios and it’s not warm enough to go and sit out by the lake.
On to Glasgow which I manage to get through easily going out on the A82. We stop for Carol to get money and me the soy sauce just parking on the road next to bank and deli. Then out of the city along Loch Lomond. We take a road off the main drag and immediately into loveliness so pull up and brew using our “mobile beverages ” box! Then off again along the wiggly road where there is loads of litter.
Through Crianlarich and onto Tyndrum where we find our B&B – Glengarry House right on the road. After checking in with Ellen and Andy we chat to fellow guests for ages in the conservatory over banana cake and tea.
Then we are on a mission to find dinner. C has found a cafe on the web but when we go in it’s just a chippy with eating in a tent flapping in the cold and wet wind. We drive up and down the village 4 times but there are only 4 places to eat one of which is closed. This leaves us with the hotel and Paddy’s Rock n Roll Diner. The diner is quiet and the food is cheap all set to muted rock with a larger than life size Elvis at a table. C has fish and chips and I have a veggie burger with chips n slaw washed down with not very nice 80 shilling beer.
Back to huge bed and good comfy sleep.
A mobile beverage leaving lots of room for turning
Blimey, what’s that sticking out of your head?

Saturday 8th October

We wake just before 7 and have a hearty breakfast – posh muesli, bacon, sausage, poached egg and beans, all good quality.
After a bit more chat we head off into the rain and gloom crossing Rannoch Moor and through the pass of Glencoe to reach Fort William. I fill up the car and we get some final supplies in Morrisons. Then off again past lots of big mountains and lochs stopping to look at Eilean Donan castle. We take a little turn off the road and stop looking at a loch through the rain smeared windscreen. I eat my lamb and damson pie from Tebay and worry about C who eats nothing.
We plough on and the A road gets smaller and smaller. The last places for shops is Lochcarron. We find out when the butcher is open and the bistro which we are planning for our wedding anniversary but the woman who runs it is flying off to Majorca and it will be shut evenings.
The last leg is the Pass of the Cattle, or Bealach na Ba. This has had a huge build up as it’s the highest longest road in the UK (beating Cragg Vale’s claim?). The pass is quite scary and a definite no in snow fog dark etc. But we get round the hairpins with ease. My passenger is a bit quiet.
After the summit at 628m we drop down to Applecross and 3 miles later we are in Culduie at no. 2, a total of 470 miles since leaving home. We quickly unload and get the house warmed up and set up. It’s in a great spot with views to Raasay and Rona and Skye beyond. We take a short walk to the jetty and return to bake flapjack and make the fire in one of the 2 sitting rooms. C manages to smoke us out so we abandon that sitting room and transfer to the other one which is lighter and warmer and less gloomy. I make an omelette and we consider our walk options over a few glasses of wine.
Eilean Donan castle

Sunday 9th October

A leisurely start after a good long sleep. We trot round the nearest point to what is called a coral beach which is white sand with big chunks in it. It’s made of calcified seaweed but looks like chunks of shell. Only a short walk but I am well knackered so we return to base for lunch. Then a drive to the southernmost point of the peninsula which is sheltered and has some people doing something with fishing net but not quite sure what. Then back along the road to the north of the peninsula. It feels like an island because it is so remote and hard to get to. The northerly west side is bleak but has great views across to Rona Raasay and the Cuilin on Skye. Raasay has a small but perfectly formed mountain that just has to be an extinct volcano. Flat top to cone reaching like the hand of god (Bruce). Only 450m with a path so makes me want to climb it.
We have no TV, no digital radio, no mobile and no Internet which is mostly brilliant but I would like to get the weather and look up a few bits and bobs.

Back to the ranch for hot chocolate and then I bake bread (packet mix), and produce a Thai green chicken curry with rice and broccoli yum yum yum!

Dun Caan on Raasay

Monday 10th October

I wake in the night to the sound of a bellowing stag. He is a noisy old bugger. After breakfast we head for Applecross village stopping to watch a gang of seals on a rocky outcrop in the sea flapping their flippers and sunning themselves. We actually have sun today so a quick visit to the peninsula shop which is tiny and stocks everything from engine oil to oatcakes. Then we visit the village info centre in Applecross – this has some nice gifts, some outdoor gear and a PC for weather forecasts. The girl pulls up a selection of sites via a very slow broadband connection on a high spec computer and the overall picture is showers today, showers and wind tomorrow and better on Weds before returning to more solid rain.
On to the heritage centre but it’s shut and charges £2 to look at some old rocks and a coracle. Then Clachan chapel which smells very musty and is extremely Spartan with hard chairs all in neat rows. Peaceful though. There is an ancient Celtic cross on a tall leaning stone, this is part of the old chapel set up by Maelrubbha whose name means red monk and Clachan is the sanctuary.
We park the car on the beach and have a lovely river and woodland walk. I pull up some of the spreading invasive rhododendron but not enough to make much difference although clearly efforts are being made to control it. It only showers on us a little as we picnic near the river. Through the wood to Applecross house and into the Potting Shed for tea and another coffee for me. Nice now I don’t have to have it.
Back to the village to look in the Coal Shed gallery where I spot a singular card I want to buy. A woman comes in the shop and quickly buys something and I take no notice of her at all not even looking at her. I turn to pick up and buy the card of a cheeky looking stag and it has gone. Pipped at the post. Bugger.
Back home for hot chocolate and flapjack and more rain.

Carol made me a bacon sandwich for dinner and I’m now washing it down with a glass of wine whilst playing with a very complicated washer drier machine. It probably isn’t that bad but reading the manual made it seem so. I’m sure the wine helped me to work it out…

This just has to be a volcano (and it is)


Tuesday 11th October

Wake up late on our 3rd wedding anniversary, we exchange small gifts – yummy choc marzipan for me and heather soap for C. We give each other nearly identical cards of the Bealach na Ba pass.
Small breakfasts as we are a bit behind. Off up the north coast long way round, this is very pretty and has its own dramatic sections but it does take an hour longer. Through Lochcarron which C is convinced has shops. It doesn’t, just the best Spar in Scotland so they tell us. Stop at Strathcarron which we also thought had shops but it doesn’t apart from a post office with much nicer cards than the ones we’ve sent! I only sent 2 so no curses please!
Back to Lochcarron bistro for our anniversary lunch. C has huge homemade burger and I have chicken with tarragon sauce and herby mashed potato. Good food and nice place. Into the best ever Spar for a few more oatcakes.
We drive along the loch shore and park near Strome castle which is well ruined. Someone blew it up a few hundred years ago.
Walk along the road through Leacanashie to Ardaneaskan. It’s an old pine forest with steep drops to Loch Carron. On the other side of the loch trains run next to the shore. We walk round to a beach which is part of Loch Ruraig and then up into the forest. Think we see an eagle, at least an enormous bird with a huge wing span. Then back down to Leacanashie and fast along the road to the car. We have to hurry because the light is going and we have to drive 18 miles back to Applecross half of them across the Bealach. The light on loch and sea is glorious. We climb steadily surprising a stag poking his head up and then a doe ambles across the road in front of us. This is an annoying move for me as it forces me into first gear but the ascent is fine. As we drop back down we see several more red deer. The Bealach na Ba passes between Meall Gorm and Sghurr a Chaoraachain. The car says it is 4.5C up there.

Home to chicken curry leftovers for me and bread and cheese for C.

Impossible to resist
Strome Castle

Wednesday 12th October

It’s a beautiful sunny day and we are up reasonably early and up the hill back to Bealach na Ba. I park up at the viewpoint and ours is the only car there. By the time we’ve got out of the car the parking space is nearly full. It’s cold in the wind and height so we wrap up warm in full winter layers. We walk up the good path to the mobile phone tower and get the most fantastic views to Skye and way beyond, the other way to Torridon – just mountains interspersed with lochs as far as the eye can see. Truly heavenly. C likes this type of mountaineering which means most of the work done by the car and just the last 750 m on foot!
I then drive down the Bealach which I had been dreading but actually is fine. Take it nice and easy on the hairpins and the barriered section and all the rest is a breeze. It’s the altitude plus the exposure that makes it seem hard. I remind myself that 40 years ago this was the only way to get in and out of Applecross. However once in a day is enough for me!
Once down we head for Shieldaig, a tiny village on the edge of loch Shieldaig. Park up and walk around the promontory. We stop for lunch, sandwiches with the latest bread batch and circuit the headland. This takes a while and the going is rough in places including a helpful arrow pointing up on a sheer wall. After a bit of a scramble we carry on round passing houses whose only access is our rocky boggy narrow path or the sea. It’s very warm and we are soon down to our shirtsleeves so winter and summer all in one day. C gets bad ankle pains due to leggings and sock putting pressure on her ankle bone so she hobbles back the last section. She rests on a bench while I get the car to taxi her back.
We take the long road round admiring the stunning light on sea and mountain.
Then to the Applecross Inn where I had chicken and Provencal veg with linguine and creme fraiche and C had haddock, chips and peas. Huge portions and very tasty.

It’s still quite mild and we can see a long way even in the dark.

From the cottage
On Sghurr a Chaorachain
On Sghurr a Chaorachain
On Sghurr a Chaorachain
On Sghurr a Chaorachain
On Sghurr a Chaorachain
On Sghurr a Chaorachain
I’m told these are easy to photograph
From Shieldaig
From Shieldaig
From Shieldaig
From Shieldaig
From Shieldaig
From the cottage

Thursday 13th October

Up late. C cooks my breakfast of bacon, egg, toms and I do the mushrooms in garlic with tamari.
Plan is for car tour to take account of C’s ankle. In Applecross we see a pale buzzard very close. We take the long route to Torridon and find it has a loo, a YH, a campsite and a shop. We drink coffee looking over the loch. Torridon very blighted with rhododendron which is strangling the trees.
Then we park up on the road near Loch Clair for picnic lunch. This is another single track A road with passing places. On to Kinlochewe which has a loo, a hotel, a garage and a rather run down but well supplied shop. C v excited with the retail opportunities today is offering. The woman running the shop is perturbed because the fish man has driven past and she needs to feed 20 on Saturday because Evan who used to be in the Wolfe Tones is coming. At least I thought that’s what she said. But it turns out there is a band called the Wolf Stones. I’ve had a cold sore in my nose and sniffles all week so have been congested which means I’ve been extra deaf. Evasio Radice was said to have hung out with Wolfe Tone during the time he taught at Trinity College Dublin, this is absolute cobblers because Evasio was 4 when Wolfe Tone died.
Then we head back and stop so we can walk on an estate track which is better for C’s ankle. Lovely walk by Loch Clair.
Then home the long way round as I’m not in the mood for Bealach thrills. We think we spot a deer.
Back to pasta bolognese cooked by me to a secret recipe handed down by my mama. No I am lying, I just did it the way I like to do it.

Another day of no rain, we have been so lucky with the weather especially as the forecast before we left home was awful.

From the cottage
Sleepy cattle
Every picture tells a story
From Loch Clair
From Loch Clair
From Loch Clair
From Loch Clair

Friday 14th October

The cottage is an old croft in the island style so it has 2 dormers. This one has a single story extension to the side and this is the sitting room we ended up using. The one we didn’t use except for all our kit is always much colder than the rest of the cottage. The main cottage is internally clad with pale painted tongue and groove which makes me feel like it’s a boat.
We have a lazy morning in then just drive to Applecross village seeing the seals on the way and walk a good length of the Applecross river along a well made track. C is in my shoes so the ankle stays ok. Picnic on the path. Weather is cloudy and v mild but doesn’t rain on us.
Back home we pack up ahead of the long journey tomorrow. I bake some more bread and read some more.
Off to the Potting Shed for dinner. C is concerned that it will be awful. She is worried that the lack of cars in the car park means it’s no good. We are led in through the walled garden by a string of fairy lights. The proper dark and green canopy makes it feel almost Mediterranean especially as it is so mild and not raining. Very magical.
I have venison rillettes with Cumberland sauce for starter. A rillette is a kind of rissole. This is really nice. Followed by poached salmon and cous cous also excellent.
C has black pudding starter followed by hummous starter which both went down a treat! Pudding is apple bramble crumble, try saying that after a few glasses. Top marks for presentation at the Potting Shed. Do not confuse with the Coal Shed the gift shop here. C says it is great. I try some of hers and it is yummy. I’m too full for my own pudding.
C agrees that this was a good choice to come here after all!

The meal is accompanied by non stop Cat Stevens which drives me to a form of mania. I had not considered torture by Cat Stevens before but I can assure you it works.

One for Chris
I loved the skies
Sky and Skye

Saturday 15th October

At New Lanark youth hostel. It’s been a very long day.
Up at 7 and away at 9.30. We take the long slow way off the peninsula because of huge wind and driving rain and very thick mist at sea level so all will be much worse on the Bealach. I think I said before it’s quite enough fun in good conditions! As we go past the end of the road coming down from it and look up it’s in big fog so I feel it was the right decision.
It rains all the way to Glasgow. We stop for coffee at a nice 4 * hotel in Invergarry. Then for lunch off the road near the Commando memorial at Spean Bridge. Then for a few supplies and diesel at Morrisons in Fort William. Then at Crianlarich for chocolate and sweets Then in a lay by at the end of Loch Lomond for air and leg stretching. We walked round the car 6 times. It did wake me up.
We don’t stop at the services on the motorway and this is a mistake as we both need the loo. There are 11 garden centres between the motorway and Lanark a distance of 12 miles. We try Morrisons in Lanark but they don’t have any loos so we have to hold on until we get to New Lanark YH but then rush in and use all the loos on the ground floor. This done we check in and arrange ourselves.
Picnic supper using our picnic plates. There are about 8 others only one of whom could be described as youth and 2 of whom are geriatric.
Short walk in rain to show C Robert Owen’s house and the big water turbine all lit up and shining wet.

Wine in plastic cups to finish off.

No. 2

Sunday 16th October

Slept well on nice firm beds. C in bottom bunk and me in separate bed. The YH (which I
visited in April with Chris) now supply towels as well as squirty soap. This is Scottish YHA which also have much higher standards of cleanliness than the
ones I’ve been to in England and Wales.
We are up early and have a quick breakfast of cereal and toast. I chat with the New Zealander manager, Scott who is very nice man and then we pack the car and take quick walk to the Falls of the
Clyde and the hydro electric power station built in 1927 and still going strong. The falls are
in full spate. Lovely walk and it only rains just as we return to the car.
Off to Tebay for lunch stop and shopping.

Then home before 5pm after 1237 miles and having increased my knowledge of every loo between the Highlands and home.

Corra Linn hydro electric power station
BIG pipes
The Falls of the Clyde
New Lanark

Please visit Map and Compass and learn how to interpret a map with me and my navigation partner, Cath.


Walking Group Leader Assessment

Sunday 2nd October
I got to Betws-y-Coed in under 3 hours having stopped for pasta salad lunch at services. I parked up and Kate arrived about 5 mins later her journey having taken as long for a much shorter distance. We exchanged a toasted sandwich maker and a chocolate bar and set off for a bit of shopping. I got a Mountain Leader First Aid kit and a half price shirt in Cotswold Outdoors only it wasn’t discounted at the till.
We went to one of the 2 street facing hotels and Kate had a panini with goats cheese and red onion, I think that’s right and I had some bara brith. All fine.
Really we just chatted and caught up with each other and generally had a nice time. Lovely.
Kate then whizzed off, I got my money back and headed on to Capel Curig.
Because of courses lasting all day, rooms at Plas y Brenin are not available until 8pm so I waited in the bar swotting up on mountain leadership and ordered an omelette.
I didn’t have to share my room which was good as the assessment itself is stressful enough without any added extras like having to wear clothes in bed or talk to someone when you just want to concentrate.
The room was very warm so I stood on a chair, climbed onto the 2 foot thick window sill and opened the window wide. I’m overlooking the air and heat system this time!
I did some more swotting and so on.
Monday 3rd October
Up at 7 and ready for breakfast at 8. First you grab a plastic bag and select biscuits, fruit, cake and filled roll all neatly labelled and laid out. The sandwiches have been bought in and doesn’t look as nice as the ones they used to make.
Breakfast of muesli and fruit. Then toast and a poached egg.
Pack my leader rucksack and attend the welcome to PYB lecture. There are 3 of us on the course, Ricky from near Dartford and C a walk leader, we follow our course leader who is Helen. We go to the Cromlech room for intros, also to John who is assessing us for this first day. The 4th person Tim never shows up. We hand in our log books and home papers.
Fine and dry all day.
Off to Penmaenmawr and park on Mountain Road which straightaway makes me feel comfortable as I did some of my training there. Then it’s nav nav nav all day taking legs in turn. I am ok. Each leg we lead or follow we just get ok i.e. no clue as to whether we are right or wrong. This takes a bit of getting used to but for me starts to work to make me get it right.
John gives us individual feedback by the van. My nav is good but my flora is less so, which has been obvious to me. I’m not quick to identify plants and need to know more than just names. But my laminated cards are good.
John drives us back for freshly made cake and tea. I’m now on lemon and ginger.
I get my bag ready for the night nav, read a bit more. Then dinner of melon followed by veg pancakes and nice sauce with loads of veg all v fresh and lots of it. I don’t eat too much as we are about to be exercising once more.
We gather at 8pm and John drives us for all of 2 mins so still in Capel Curig. It is a hard 3 hours we spend locating features but at the end John’s feedback to me is that my nav is nearly Mountain Leader standard. ML is next in the hierarchy of awards from the Mountain Leader awarding body. It’s hard work but some laughs too when I slide down slowly just missing the stream.

The bar is shut when we get back after 11 pm so we have a hot drink together. I shut the window up a bit in my room as it’s got colder.

Tuesday 4th October
This day we get Helen. She is very nice and reminds me a bit of mountain friend Ann. I eat a bigger breakfast of muesli and then egg, beans on toast and hash brown. Hungry after night work!
Helen goes through our leader rucksacks questioning gently. She has a pleasant but thorough manner and is a sucker for gear which amuses me, she is very interested in my folding walking poles.
Then it’s off out to Dolwyddelan which puts me at ease as we park just where I did when here with Carol and the first bit of our walk is the same as Carol and I did.
During lunch I give my 5 min talk plus laminated cards on the YHA. It’s cold in the strong winds.
Back at the bus we get our feedback. I am ok with nav but just need to be more self confident. I think this is assessment strain. It’s actually fine doing my own legs but really hard to follow the others and that’s part of the test.
Back for scones and butter. Jam optional. We are all really tired and now have to do a route planning exercise. Again I’m in luck as it’s a walk to Llyn y Fan Fach which is an old favourite of mine.

Dinner of veg pie and lots of veg followed by raspberry pavlova yum. This evening we can socialise so I sit with the guys in the bar watching extreme mountain biking which is strangely balletic and beautiful. Such reckless control. I drink beer and Laphroiag. The rain is here so window completely shut now.

Crack of dawn at PYB
Wednesday 5th October
I wake feeling anxious. After a smaller breakfast just toast and poached egg and beans we set off smartly. It’s been raining and more predicted but I’m too hot in my waterproofs already. Helen drives us to Rachub, just outside Bethesda . I’m thrown by getting a 1:50000 map to work with and make a mistake straight off as does Rick so we are both kicking ourselves.
It’s not wet but very windy so we stop in a hollow for a break and Helen quizzes us on emergency procedures. We keep going leg by leg and at lunch in a sheltered dip R gives us his 5 min talk on nature and myths.
Then back to the bus and early back to PYB for testing on the overnight experience. R gets the Trangia and I get different types of stoves most of which I have never seen but thank god I have some sense to work them out!
Then we go for showers and I pack up my things in the room. We meet back in the bar where fresh Eccles cakes are waiting for us and Helen meets us one by one to give us our results. Rick goes first and soon returns having passed. Then I go in and Helen shakes my hand and gives me my good news. I am elated and feel like crying after all the mental, emotional and physical investment I have made. My nav is good and my paperwork is excellent.
I take my leave and set off for home. One very happy bunny.
I celebrate with some more Laphroiag at home.
I have joined the MLTA for CPD and registered to do the Mountain Leader. Onwards and upwards!

Please visit Map and Compass and learn how to interpret a map with me and my navigation partner, Cath.