North Ballachulish 2

Wednesday 7th November

Fruit and yoghurt. Poached egg and beans. And a croissant. Not quite low cholesterol.

Met up with Karl Griffin who owns the Ballachulish Information Centre, the fish and chip shop and the hardware shop and is a professional photographer. It was very wet and windy. We went to 3 different locations and I learnt a few things but now feel I’ve got lots more to learn and need to keep practising.

After the session I went to the Onich red squirrel feeding post and watched squirrels for ages. I took some awful photos and then something clicked and I managed to get some half decent shots.

Back at Alltshellach, I dried off and then went out again with a view to taking more photos but it rained so hard I gave in and returned for a very hot shower and a cup of tea.

Dinner of pate, goats cheese tarts with green veg and potatoes, lemon pie with ice cream.

The HF quiz. The team I was in came second.

I’ve managed not to think too much about work today. If I’m not working there will be more time for doing all the boring domestic things and not having to cram them all into 1 day, taking photos, going hiking, hopefully leading for HF.

Thursday 8th November

Another wet looking morning. But then it cleared so I drove to Oban and had a look round. I went there on a family road trip back in 1970. It was very wet then and we went to pictures and saw Waterloo which at the age of 12 was extremely boring. Now I’d just have a nice sleep but then it seemed pointless. I looked for the cinema but it was demolished in the 70s and is now shops and flats.

I got diesel in Tescos for £1.34 a litre, better than the eye watering £1.39 elsewhere. Went to Sutherland’s Grove at Barcaldine. It has lots of Douglas firs. I walked around and went up to a reservoir – Glen Dubh Lochan, it’s quite big and has a great sluice.

Then I went to Glasdrum Wood National Nature Reserve and had another little walk round there. This was enough for me, I’m so tired still and Ben Nevis will have to wait for another day if at all, there are lots of lovely walks in this area.

Dinner of apple juice, braised beef, mash and veg, Scottish cheese and biscuits.


Connell bridge

From Glen Dubh

Sluice at Glen Dubh. Do NOT swim here.

North Ballachulish November 2018

5th November

7 hour journey including 4 stops. It took 2 hours (usually just 1) to get to Lancaster services where I had double espresso and granola yoghurt breakfast. Then another double espresso at Abington services. A woman tapped on my car door and asked if I liked my car! Once I’d recovered from the shock she was very friendly if a bit odd. Stopped for lunch somewhere on the side of Loch Lomond and then the loo at Tyndrum. Arrived at HF Glen Coe at 14.45.

Huge room with en suite bathroom. Tea and small piece of cake and one small shortbread. Out for little walk around the grounds and Loch Leven with Steve (leader, but everyone is doing self guided).

Back to house. I am now officially at risk of redundancy. Past caring.

Dinner: apple juice, grilled chicken salad, cheese and oatcakes.

Quiz but didn’t win.

Not one firework to be heard, bliss!

Tuesday 6th

Muesli, apple and yoghurt. Sausage, poached egg and beans.

Drove back along the A82 and parked up. I cut the walk route by not walking along the side of the A82, saved lots of kilometres. Walked up the West Highland Way about 350m to a col, this is part of the old military road network made by General Wade, although this section was done by his successor. The road is over 250 years old and was part of the Brits exerting control over the pesky highlanders. I turned right at the col onto a less distinct path to the summit of Beinn Bheag. Good views although a lot of low cloud around. Back down and then an espresso in the Clachaig Inn which is/was used by mountaineers. Drove through old Glencoe village, and Ballachulish village. I now know where the diesel and the Coop are. Then a scenic drive along and around Loch Leven and through Kinlochleven (another Coop and a leisure centre with a climbing wall and an ice wall).

I’ve seen more about the restructures at work and am cross. 15 years of loyal service and now I’m surplus to requirements. It’s not personal, of course it bloody is.

The house has an indoor pool so I popped in for a swim. It was nearly dark and there was a man in the pool. He told me he was naked and asked if I minded and I said I didn’t so we just chatted away. It was nice of him to tell me, I can’t actually see much without my specs on so I probably wouldn’t have noticed unless I’d seen him get out with his dingly dangly bits.

Missing Chris as much as ever. It’s when I’m out in the mountains that I feel it a lot. She would have gone a bit quiet over the boggy bits though, she hated bog and boy did we get in a lot of bogs.

Dinner of Scotch broth, sausages with veg and mash, hot plums and berries with a tiny bit of a sort of custard.

Quiz, the group I was in didn’t win again.

Looking back up towards Rannoch Moor

Footpath to Beinn Bheag

Loch Leven, towards Kinlochleven

Loch Leven looking towards Ballachulish

Loch Leven

Winter Navigation training, 27th February to 2nd March, 2015

Fri 27th February
A nice if lengthy journey up to Aviemore. I used a split tickets site: and knocked about £80 off the cost. The drawback outgoing was this:
Taxi to station
Sowerby bridge to Hebden Bridge
Hebden to Preston long wait
Preston to Edinburgh Haymarket
Edinburgh to Aviemore
Split ticket had me changing at Burnley Manchester Road too but the ticket man and I agreed this was pointless which cut my trains from 5 to 4 and waiting at Preston was infinitely preferable to Burnley Manc Rd which has nothing to recommend it.
Great scenery and lots of snow. Almost Orient Express at times. Not the passengers though.
I stepped out of Aviemore station to a bitter wind. So quickly popped into Tesco and then bimbled around an outdoor shop while waiting for the minibus pickup to Glenmore Lodge. I chatted to Carson a young man from the USA who was going to do a winter skills weekend. Another man came and told us that he’d spent a week at the Lodge and that the food was plentiful but not haute cuisine. He went away and the minibus arrived. Hundreds of people and bags got out and Carson and I got in.
I paid a single supplement for a room to myself. My sleep is very poor these days and I would hate to be disrupting someone else as well as me.
The room was enormous and had beds from the Olympic village. So I may have slept on Bolt’s bed!
I picked up my gear from stores – shovel, ice axe, avalanche probe, avalanche transceiver, helmet, crampons.
To the bar for a veggie curry with rice and poppadoms. Not bad at all. Washed down with a half of Cairngorm brewery Trade Winds.
To bed.

Drumochda from the train
Drumochter from the train

Olympic beds
Olympic beds

Sat 28th February
Got up early and walked down the road to the reindeer centre but the reindeer were not at home.
Back to breakfast. All self service so I toasted my bread and buttered it then put beans on. Orange juice.  Collected lunch. More civilised than PYB where everyone throws themselves at the packed lunches before getting their breakfasts.
To lecture theatre for welcome from Nigel.
To Ryvoan room to meet others on course and our instructor Kirsty. Billy, Steve, John, Mary, Pat. Mary and Pat are both experts in Gaelic, pronounced Gallic, so I may have learnt a couple of words.
3 of us have summer ML and 3 are beginners. Kirsty did a fantastic job of managing a mixed group.
Spent the morning doing all the basics. We measured our paces along the flat and uphill on the same stretches I used on my very first nav course back in 2008.
We practised using the avalanche transceivers and probes, impressive bit of kit.
We used a 1:5,000 map which was surprisingly hard when so used to bigger scale. Looked at aspect of slope. Very useful.
Back to Lodge for late lunch.
Out in minibus to lower ski car park with the 1:50,000 map. We went past the reindeer and back through the forest. Felt much more comfortable with this map.
Back to the Lodge quite late so we missed tea and cake.
Wet kit in driying room. Shower and yet another rucksack repack. Dinner of lentils and pasta. Choc meringue pudding. All very good and tasty. Maybe not quite haute cuisine but very nice. I sat with Billy and Steve.
We were joined by another man called Neil who is a guide and instructor etc. out of Chamonix. Mentioned my trip up Mont Blanc and the Gouter hut. Also our guide then Stephane Benoist. Turns out they are pals. Steph has since lost many fingers and toes on Annapurna and had to move to different activities. I asked Neil to remember me to Steph and tell him I now have ML! Saw Neil later and he had just received message from Steph after not actually hearing from him for some time. How strange. Steph did remember me and sent me nice wishes. Am impressed that he did remember. He is a holder of the Piolet d’Or for climbing a not previously done face of Nuptse. I was sorry to hear about his injuries as he is a very nice man with young children, he does look like he’s really been through it on this site: My account of our Mont Blanc trip is also on this blog – entries for October 2009.
To the lecture room where Nigel gave us a most amusing talk on winter nav. I may be inspired to do some orienteering especially as I know where there is some near us.
2 halves of beer with Billy and Steve and Pat’s husband Ian who had been out ice climbing.
To bed.

Sea King coming in to land at Glenmore Lodge.
Sea King coming in to land at Glenmore Lodge.

P1030358 P1030361 P1030364 P1030365



Sun 1st March
Slept well. Packed up to vacate room. Suitcase to luggage room (great idea that PYB could do).
Breakfast of beans on toast and coffee and juice.
Ryvoan room for recap. We all decided to use the 1:40,000 map. K went through route planning taking account of avalanche risk.
Nigel drove us up to car park and we set off. We used timing and pacing according to what we wanted to practice.
We had a go at directing someone on a bearing testing how far they could hear as well.
Made a journey to Utsi’s hut during which it started to snow. Utsi brought the reindeer over here 50 years ago and the reindeer herdsman had to sleep near his flock. Neat little hut where we lunched. It’s in the bottom picture on this page:
Back out and up and around hill. Crossed some snow in which I got my foot stuck. Kirsty came and helped me out. Had I been on my own I would have got my pole off the rucksack and put it across the hole to lever myself out as well as scrape the snow out. (I had to think like this as mostly I don’t have anyone to come and do what Kirsty did) I was stuck surprisingly fast. Up around hill to a lochan where the wind was quite fierce. Then followed the deer fence to the path. This took us down across a bridge and back up to the Sugar Bowl car park where Nigel picked us up.
Back to the Lodge. Kit back to stores. Collect suitcase. Collect hot choc and cake. Debrief. Farewell.
Nice young man took me to Aviemore in the minibus  I was the only passenger so had no worry about getting him to take me to door of Ravenscraig Guest House.
Jonathan welcomed me. Room was fine. Put wet kit in drying room. Shower. Out to the Winking Owl to eat. Had butternut squash and lentils. Only ok. Cairngorm Highland IPA.  Music quite depressing so didn’t feel like staying.

Red grouse
Red grouse


It's that way...
It’s that way…

We are a bit cold and wet
We are a bit cold and wet

All the gang
All the gang

He wasn't around
He wasn’t around

This is pine marten poo
This is pine marten poo


Utsi's hut
Utsi’s hut

IMG_0066 IMG_0069 IMG_0070

It's still Christmas in Aviemore
It’s still Christmas in Aviemore


Mon 2nd March
Pitlochry, the next stop of the train. I loved this. The trains home all went really easily. It was snowing as I left Aviemore and on my way home I got messages to say it was snowing there too. It was great that the travelling was all painless. I enjoyed my weekend but actually I’d paid to be stretched a bit more and expected to be out on the snow straightaway, but have fed this back to Glenmore Lodge. I’ve said they need to be very clear about what the pre-requisites are for courses. I’ll be back with Paul Poole Mountaineering for next time round if he and I are both free at the same time. The dates just didn’t quite match up for me this year.

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


Dawn at Aviemore station
Dawn at Aviemore station


Not likely at a railway station
Not likely at a railway station


From the train
From the train

Scotland March 2012

Fri 16th March

Set off fairly smartly stopping at Tebay for pies and meat. Some prolonged showers on the way up but a good journey. We went off the motorway for a fast sandwich lunch and only stopped once more for a wee before Glasgow. Arrived at Glengarry House B&B about 4.30 and were warmly welcomed by Ellen and Andy. We had flapjack and tea. We had a different room from the last time with an en suite shower, last time we had to cross the passage in our pyjamas to reach the shower room. Carol showered and I wasted time on my iPhone. After choking on my small Jura whisky we went down to chicken wrapped in prosciutto with pesto and mozzarella inside. Served up with small spuds, broccoli, green beans and carrots. Mine followed by boozy fruit and ice cream, C by sticky toffee pudding. Then coffee and mints. We stayed by the wood burner chatting to Ellen for some time. Some other guests turned up, the woman was going to run from Tyndrum to Fort William and the man from Bridge of Orchy, 42 and 30 miles respectively. She was in training for a 90 mile run!! Then another wee dram the right way down.

Sat 17th March

C had breakfast of bacon, egg, sausage, tomato and cornflakes. I had fruit n fibre with yoghurt followed by baked beans, toast and a veggie sausage. Good journey to Fort Willy with some heavy showers. Stopped at Morrisons for even more supplies. Stayed on the A82 until Invergarry where we had a swift coffee at the hotel. This is a nice old hotel with decent coffee and a mountain theme. A change here as we took the road to Inverness because of the landslip at South Strome. Up to Fort Augustus but you can’t see the fort from the road (but I have since found it’s not Fort Augustus I’m thinking of but Fort George) and then all round the side of Loch Ness to Drumnadrochit. A few wiggles and then a quick pie break. C didn’t eat much of her steak and potato pie so I had to help out. Some more wiggles and then more or less a straight run through to Lochcarron which we reached about 3.30. Stalker’s Cottage is down a long track off the road, past another cottage and some big barns. It is a long low white building clad entirely in wood on the inside. We unpacked and boosted up the heating, then out for a short walk to get our bearings. Loch Carron is the view out the front and Glas Beinn behind. Steep drop behind the cottage leading to a stream in the ravine. We walked up past Tullich House to which estate this cottage used to belong, and up a path leading round Glas Beinn.
Back to the cottage which was then pretty warm and so roasting hot by the time I’d finished cooking that I was in a muck sweat.
I cooked up pasta and Mediterranean veg in sauce using a mixture of the Rayburn and the mini electric cooker. The room is so hot we don’t need the fire but the water wasn’t really hot enough for C’s bath. We are going to experiment with the settings…..
Drank the nice Merlot that greeted us and then looked into our walking plans for the week.

I think this is Ben Oss (near Tyndrum)
View from Stalker’s Cottage

Sun 18th March

C didn’t sleep well because she was cold as the eiderdown had slipped away so the bed has now been remodelled. The bed is made of blankets and eiderdown which is really heavy and too hot (for me).
I took a fairly chilly bath and then ate all last night’s leftovers for breakfast. We planned out the walks some more and then set off down the road  to Craig which we’d driven through yesterday.  Parked up in the forest and crossed the little railway line to be greeted by a white horse.  On along forestry tracks to cross the River Carron and then up along the side of the Allt a Chonais ravine.  The walk was supposed to go down to the river and then across a bridge but the path was non existent and the drop so perilous that we gave it up. We walked a bit more along the track with Sgurr nan Ceannaichean in the foreground and then it rained quite hard so we backtracked as we didn’t have a full complement of wet weather gear. We shared out what we had and got back down by which time the  sun was warming us so we stopped for sandwich and fruit lunch and then returned to the car.
We went through Lochcarron passing the golf course cafe where we are to look for Ellen’s (from the Glengarry B&B) aunt to see if she is living there. The cafe was shut. Also our bistro was shut which was disappointing as we were counting on it for a meal out. There is a guest house called Rockvilla which we may try despite terrible name. What if it’s full of Shakin’ Stevens?
Back to our cottage. The water is now really hot so we seem to have sussed the Rayburn. The main drawback to cooking on it is that I get so very hot and am still feeling roasted now an hour later. We’ve just had Thai green chicken curry with Pak Choi.
Watched a bit of Downton Abbey to which we have both succumbed!

White Horse sans whisky
Sgurr nan Ceannaichean

Mon 19th March

Into Lochcarron to buy a small selection of supplies including lamb mince from the butcher and oat cakes from the Spar. After putting the shopping back in the cottage we set off for a driving tour as it is very wet. We’ve got all the gear in case it dries up. First the single track A road to Torridon. We drop in at Shieldaig and get more postcards in the shop. Raining a lot. Then Torridon which is mostly shut including the cafe with the nice coffee. The season seems to be April to October which means most of the possible eating places are shut. We drive up a steep mountain road and stop in a car park for lunch in the car. There is a fence round the car park which is keeping out the rhododendrons. Very like the triffid fence. We both entertain ideas that J Wyndham got the triffid idea from these destructive plants. They are especially pervasive around Torridon and in parts have grown to be about 5m in height which is killing off the native pines.
Then out towards Kinlochewe passing the Whistle Stop Cafe which is open but we are not hungry. It’s in a tin shed. However its customers rate it highly. We go out on the road towards Gairloch and peer through the rain spattered screen at Loch Maree and then back via Achnasheen. Driving into the weather is vile. Back to the cosy cottage where I cook up baked potatoes, sausage casserole and veg. C does a washing load which takes forever.

Tues 20th March

It’s not actually raining today but there’s still a lot of low cloud. We drive along the road east to Achnashellach station which is a train station on a private estate. Our plan is to walk up to the Coulin pass and back in a circuit. Almost immediately we have to change our plans as logging is taking place on a big scale so we will have to do a linear route up and back.
The path is good and we follow the railway line for a while then rise up gently passing all the logging work. This mostly involves whacking the trees over and grabbing them as opposed to cutting them down. Some big logs were being loaded into piles along a wire.
The wide path peters out and then we go through a piny dell up and across the hill to meet up with the path we had wanted to take. A short clip to the pass with good views across to the Coulin forest and Glen Torridon beyond. We turn back stopping for a quick lunch on a log. Then retrace our steps back crossing the railway line.
Back to the cottage for a short while then out again and a fast drive (yes, this is still possible here) to Kinlochewe for dinner. We see some brilliant views, shafts of light glowing over the evening hills and a panorama down the valley to Kinlochewe with Loch Maree (it used to be Loch Ewe) and the Torridon range as a backdrop.
Dinner is at the Whistle Stop Cafe where fried green tomatoes are indeed on the menu. It’s a tin shed and is a bit chilly although it does have a big wood burner.
We both have chicken, mine stuffed. Both my first 2 choices are not available tonight neither is my first choice of drink. That apart, our food is all freshly prepared and very nice. Mine comes with pesto and pasta and thankfully not too much chorizo which I don’t like. The staff are very cheerful and friendly. Carol eats yet another sticky toffee pudding just in case they go out of fashion. We are warned to watch out for deer on the road and consequently I drive back at 40mph. We don’t see any deer and it takes the same amount of time to get back as it did to get there at 60mph.
I switch the lights on as we go in and the fuse blows. I know the torch is near the door and feel for it, the first thing I find is scratchy plant (dried lavender). Carol knows where the fuse box is so we soon get sorted out.
I bake some bread but forget to grease the tin. It tastes nice but will be in big chunks.

Achnashellach station house
Stalker’s Cottage
This is Loch Chroisg near Achnasheen

Weds 21st March

As we eat a late breakfast we receive a visitor, he is wearing a deerstalker and says his name is Eek, he has a strong scouse accent so to be honest I’m not entirely sure what he did say but he was wishing to go to the shed.  We head off for Gairloch. A short break at the head of Glen Docherty looking down Loch Maree to take a photo. We wiggle round Loch Maree but mostly it’s a very good road only single track at either end of the journey. Investigation of Gairloch shows a few shops and a nice bookshop with cafe, the books are all travel and exploration. We park up at the old cemetery and walk along the beach, past where there was a fort on a bit of headland and then we stop for lunch on a bench overlooking the sea. Over to the harbour where there is a gift shop so we chat to the man in there. Finally we get walking and go up the side of Flowerdale House which is a large Georgian house. The current factor doesn’t want walkers looking in so he has put black netting up to stop the hoi polloi from peering in. We do in fact still see quite a bit. It would be better if he had forked out a bit more and just built the wall up. We follow the stream all the way up to the waterfalls passing some Shetland ponies where there is a ford in the stream. The lower falls are in a lovely spot and it is possible to go further up to more falls. We return to the car nipping by the side of the house and going through the woods until we come out at the new cemetery across from where the car is parked. On the way back we call in to Badachro which we had looked at for a cottage to rent out. It’s very pretty and in a great location, sheltered with islands on which the cottage sits. We had rejected it in the end as it was reliant on tides so would have been a bit hard if we had missed the time when the causeway was available! Back to the cottage stopping several times for photos. C has sandwiches and I have a baked spud for supper.

The view to Kinlochewe
Inland from Gairloch
Path through Flowerdale
Can’t remember, a famous mountain though!
From shores of Loch Maree

Thurs 22nd March

A beautiful day, the sun is shining and it’s warm. We get out early and drive to Achnashellach station. A train is due and we get chatting with a woman who lives in the old station house and who is about to take the train. This time we turn left away from the timber operations and follow a good track. The map says to go up through a forest but the path says to turn left so we follow the map and effectively cut off quite a corner but we come out onto the inevitable bog and make our way to the fence which has no regular stile but a sort of ladder affair which we use. A jolly chap then appears from a very good path which is what we should have taken and comments that we have taken the “interesting route” and so we did because we saw an enormous boulder and a pond in the forest. He teaches us a bit of Gaelic, he is going up to Fuar Tholl which is pronounced Phwoar Yoll! Of course he could have been having us on, how would we know? But he seemed a nice man, he’d done all the Munros and is now on the Corbetts. We take the very good path up to a junction and head down to the burn where there is a ford. A couple is also trying to cross it and they do but we decide it’s really too wide and too difficult to do it let alone to come back that way. So we retrace our steps and stop for lunch looking at a vast glacial expanse. This is Drochaid Coire Lair. Drochaid means bridge but none actually visible. It’s the middle of an enormous saddle at the end of a vast moraine. It’s too far to go up to the Loch so we turn back and descend. This time we stay on the proper path and skirt round the forest following the stream. Very beautiful.
We drive back to the cottage for a quick refresh and then out again to look at Achentraid and Kishorn. We stop for a brew of tea (Carol) and hot chocolate (me), brewing up looking at the Bealach na Ba. Then a small stop at Courthill House which is ruined and its chapel which is still in use.
Driving back through Lochcarron, I stop at Rockvilla and the owner tells us she is not open until after Easter, she is very friendly and seems almost rueful to be losing our custom. She tells us some more about the landslip and the road being built on a fault and some of the politics.
Back to Stalker’s Cottage for baths and shepherd’s pie. Despite me turning the Rayburn down a bit every day it is still really really hot and I am well roasted. I’m sunburnt too which doesn’t help. Sitting here in my T-shirt gently radiating heat.
We went out for a stroll down the lane with our head torches. There are so many more stars here than at home, it was hard to identify the ones I do know but in the end I found Orion’s belt, but not his trousers, C found the Plough and then we got Polaris from that. I still failed to find Cassiopeia, not a very good day for navigational success.
I have turned the Rayburn down quite a lot now after having to go online to get instructions for it. The owner of our cottage is Lady Scarsdale of Kedleston Hall in Derbyshire and her son lives there and she lives nearby. The hall is now owned by the Nat Trust and Curzon Jnr has a wing to live in with 23 rooms.

Porch at Stalker’s complete with stalker
View from Stalker’s
Achnashellach station
A Corbett
Loch is behind big lump on left so quite a way to go
More big lumps
The vastness
Walker not stalker
Towards Achnashellach
Courthill House
View from Stalker’s (Loch Carron)

Friday 23rd March

Another lovely day, so up promptly and I whizz in to Lochcarron to buy steak and spuds. We drive to Strathcarron and park up at the station. Into the shop to see the very chatty owner who tells us lots of local gossip, more about the very contentious landslip and road. He says that Lady Scarsdale is “a real character”, the second wife of deceased Lord Scarsdale who died of emphysema.
Eventually we get going and it’s just a few yards from the station to Achintee and then a good hike up to Loch an Creadha. Today I’ve got my eye in on the navigation and everything is pretty much where it should be! Although I do take us on 2 more difficult sides of a square as have failed to see the path. We have to traverse several burns most of which are little more than a step across. Just before the loch we have to get through a big boggy bit with deep peat hags, then across a burn. This is much easier than yesterday and we cross successfully and sit near a stream by the loch for our lunch. It’s a bit windy and has clouded over. After lunch we head back the same way and this time crossing the burn is more challenging but we both get over. We take the correct 2 sides of path and it’s easy to see why we took the wrong one. On the way back we see the trains from Kyle and Inverness meeting at Strathcarron station. At Achintee we chat to a man at the fish packing shed. Back to the car and back to Stalker’s to pack up. Don’t want to go back to work but at least we have two more days of holiday, even if they are on the road!
We eat excellent value fillet steak from the Lochcarron butcher although hard to cook as Rayburn not good for grilling and Baby Belling grill not working.  We watched some more Downton Abbey.

The ladder up the tree (missing a rung)
Burn at Loch an Creadha
From Stalker’s

Saturday 24th March

Set off smartly as we had packed up before our steak dinner last night.
On the journey we stopped at Fort Augustus for the loo, Invergarry but our coffee hotel was having a wedding  So we went to the next one along which turned out to be proper old fashioned hotel (Glengarry Castle Hotel) overlooking Loch Oich. More copies of Scotfish Field. Very strong coffee and delicious shortbread   Then stopped for lunch by roadside. And then just kept on wending our way through the highlands. It was the first time I’d really been able to see Ben Nevis properly. Stuck behind a caravan forever. Stopped for diesel just as came into Glasgow and again for loo just after. The M8 has lots of perjurations or do I mean admonitions? Telling us to check tyres, check fuel, tie children into safety seats that I feel thoroughly harangued and nagged. Last bit from motorway through Lanark was very wiggly and both tired. Found our b&b which is in the middle of nowhere. Nice shower and then we set off from Doreen’s (emphasis on the 2nd syllabub not the 1st) down the very dark lanes and across the Tyne over an old single track bridge. The Cornhill House Hotel is down a long lit drive and is Scottish baronial but not posh and we get 2 course deal for £14.50. I have mini haggis starter which is great and realise I have missed out by not having it before. Then I have Balmoral strips of beef in whisky sauce with rice and veg. Carol has pork saltimbocca which looks nice and then a sticky toffee pudding, the third in a week!  I finish off with a Laphraoig. Back through the lanes in the very dark. Trains go past nearby which is quite odd as we are in middle of a field but line to Edinburgh is near. Carol not feeling too well which worries me but eventually get to sleep.

Glengarry Castle
Somewhere near a loch
Road movie sky, never mind the single track A roads being empty

Sunday 25th March

Carol and I have become useless at remembering the clocks now that we no longer have Muriel to remind us. Luckily we wake early enough to make breakfast at 8.30 which is still an hour earlier to us. Carol is feeling a bit better after sleep. I managed to wrap myself into a parcel in bed as was a bit worried and didn’t like C to have any pain.
Doreen breeds West Highland Terriers and while she went to see to them this morning, four of them escaped and have run off. Her husband hasn’t helped so she is clearly worried as the train line is behind the bungalow. Husband does go off in the Land Rover to look for them. We promise to do the same on our way out but we don’t see them. We wonder if they could have been stolen but all told this doesn’t seem to be the case.
We are now in Daylight Saving Time which means that the sun is due S at 13.00. When I was trying to fix it the other day, I thought the winter months were Daylight Saving but no, they are GMT so I was 30 degrees out the other day. I knew it was wrong but couldn’t work it out. Sometimes feel very stupid, it has to be said.
We stop at Allandale Water for coffee as Doreen’s was weak instant. I have a double ristretto which is like taking drugs rather than an actual drink! Stop at Tebay for supplies including lunch and supper. Then go off the motorway for lunch but the road we pull onto is a bikers’ route and they are having a meet by a river so hundreds of them whizzing around and not very relaxing. I have a rant about Think bike, think biker when a motorcyclist overtakes me as I, having of course checked and indicated, am overtaking a pedal cyclist with lots of consideration for width from them. The bloody gormless idiot of a biker should be shot. Think bike, think pushbike. I am happy to think about bikes, but equally bikers need to ride with due consideration for all other road users too. Of course, I’m an ex biker as well as an ex smoker and “they’re the worst!”
Then we get back on the motorway and head for home. Nice to be home but would be even nicer if we had phone and Internet.

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

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.


Isle of Jura 21st to 29th May 2011


Friday 20 May

A good sleep and up before 7. Left home but without a jacket I meant to take. Picked up Chris who had woken v early and has a sore mouth. Managed to get off in good time with a fully loaded up car. Chris takes the wheel and receives instruction on speed and gears and revs! Once I lent Chris my car and told her it wouldn’t go faster than 60 so she didn’t but she is wise to my tricks these days!
We stop at Lancaster services and spend about an hour on coffee and M&S. I drive as C has sore mouth and is a bit run down as well as to change over. Stop just into Scotland for lunch at services sit outside by lake, only just warm enough and 3 ducks arrive so I give them each a bean but then swan turns up and hisses at us. I carry on driving up to Glasgow, weather sunny and showery. Traffic terrible on Glasgow inner motorway so we come off and go through Dumbarton. Reach Loch Lomond, switch over and C gets us to Loch Fyne. Stop at shop but not loads of stock.
Inveraray just the same. Sleepy town. We go to coop and find youth hostel which is long low old barracks of a shed. We have ground floor bunks room for 2. My turn for the top. All v clean with slight underlying damp smell in the washroom. Beds are already made up. Chris cooks up pasta, veg and sauce with cheese on top. We have tuna nicoise on the side.  Our dinner is by far the nicest and accompanied by lovely bottle of Sauvignon. Fellow hostellers include cheeky chappie Martin looks like David Jason short and v broad on top, his pal Richard looks like John Laurie – tall thin Scot wearing shorts and raggedy jumper both well into 70s. And 2 Americans from Georgia. We help with oven lighting. Then off to the George for a 60 shilling beer which cost about that. First bar loud and not nice. Lounge bar better and listen to Peter Jagger trying to make himself heard singing and guitaring. But terrible songs for his nice voice. Raining heavily as we leave but still light at 10.30. Climb with difficulty into bunk as hard to grip with feet on the round rungs.
Bridge at Inveraray

Saturday 21 May
Woke early and breakfasted early. Out before 9 hoping for coffee at Inveraray woollen mill but no show. We looked at the pier and wandered onto sad closed old boat which was no longer trading as a museum. At £5 a head no surprise. The deli was open for coffee and although nice food in the deli the coffee was not. Got some more supplies. Then off to Lochgilphead for big well stocked Coop and even more supplies. Also things for Chris’ sore mouth. Good coffee drunk in car in rain. On a bit more but in good time so stopped for a bit of diesel in Tarbet plus 20p wee. Chris got some more gloves. Then to Kennacraig quickly got tickets and loaded onto RORO (Roll On Roll Off, not one we had to row, row) boat. 2 hour easy trip only a bit of rolling. Bar full of hard drinkers. Chris shared her lunch of leftovers and bread and cheese with me cos for some mysterious reason she had taken my lunch out of the lunch bag! As we Rolled Off we asked for the ferry to Jura and there it was adjacent to the CalMac. Us and 4 other cars whizzed over to Feolin in 5 minutes. We drove around the south east tip to Craighouse saying I don’t remember this, in fact still saying this the next day. The cottage is near the centre of the village, it’s a left paw semi. Little garden behind big hedge. It overlooks Small Isles Bay. Summer house. Cottage nice and well equipped although some oddities. We find we have left a bag with garlic carrots red pepper rhubarb and weirdly both our boxes of eggs and 2 packets of energy bars at the youth hostel. Chris tackles the kitchen and I make the beds up. There are 2 bedrooms but 1 is bunks. After a while we set out for the village in the rain. Walk down pier and jetty. Look at Antlers resto and go to hotel for rubbishy beer. Back home I make courgette and broccoli risotto with spring onions which we eat with greens with lemon. Chris bakes bread. We drink gin beer and whisky, not all at once and not even all for both. Bath very hot and cold water only available via the shower! Then sleep like a baby.
From Craighouse

Sunday 22 May
Leisurely start with breakfast of muesli yoghurt toast. I may soon stop saying this as there is very little variation in what I eat for breakfast. This is the point at which we realise all the food that is missing that we’ve left at the hostel. Each thinking the other has got it but still can’t quite work out how our veg and eggs have all got together. Make sandwiches and drive up to Knockrome. Drive down to the School House which now has nice new track. House looks very nicely done up now and not the derelict old ruin we stayed in for a fortnight 21 years ago. Then there was no track and we just had to walk across the bog with our suitcases. We park up and head to the sea and lots of seals are basking on rocks and splashing in sea. Difficult walk on bog rocks with seaweed all stinky. Come to swan on nest and skirt round her then big black bull and cows with babies so more avoidance. I cower behind C!  Oyster catchers. Get away from waterside as going too hard. Onto track past farm and across to houses where old man and dog Pilot gave us tea before. His huge Victorian pile sadly unoccupied and starting to rot. Lunch behind barn out of wind. C then charges up the rocks towards the split in the cliffs of which there is some half baked tale of leaping across. Then we head back. There is a 4×4 on the track ahead and a small white dog is ejected from the driver side just as we walk up, Juran dog exercising method. C talks to dog and I tell it to get down. Its lady owner surprised to see us. We return to car collecting firewood. Look in at Corran Sands which C has marked up for a swim in her wet suit. Back at house C makes good fire and very good lamb sausages coriander mash carrots and broccoli followed by creme caramel. I make first batch of flapjack to actually stick together firmly but oven too hot fierce and high so need chisel to get at it. Sit in summer house and watch sea at 10.30. Bordeaux then bed.

Across Lowlandman’s Bay
Across Lowlandman’s Bay
The Paps, actually just 2 as the one on the right is not
Across the gap in the cliff
The Paps of Jura
Across Lowlandman’s Bay

Monday 23 May
Woke at 7. Read in bed and then roused ourselves to get up and out. First stop was the shop to stock up on some of our lost supplies. Bread arrives in the afternoon but not today as no ferries are running because of the stormy weather. We get some eggs, frozen peas, soup and garlic and some postcards. Then over the road to the Antlers Bistro, disappointed that despite the advert, it seems not to be run by 2 poofs. Coffee and cake but not that nice, not horrid just not lovely. I ask about the School House and we find that Victoria (not Vic anymore) has married a much older Juran man and had 2 kids, sold up and gone to live in Limousin. Also that the old man has just had a heart attack. At least now we can stop imagining that every passing car is driven by Vic who in my head has totally changed her appearance and become unrecognisable.  Return to the cottage and pack up lunch of rye bread and flapjack and crisps. Head out in car maybe to walk across to Loch Tarbert at the narrowest part of the island depending on what it/we feel/s like. Drive past Lagg and great sea vistas up towards Tarbert and come to tree across the road. There is car behind it so I check no-one hurt and no-one is in car so that’s ok but see another fallen tree is sandwiching the car. C turns our car round and first we pick up Richard who has appeared out of the woods and is very wet and has lost Martin. Then I run down to approaching Land Rover and explain what has happened and he says he will chainsaw the tree. Next we leave a note on Martin’s car to say we have picked up Richard and back we go to Craighouse, shoving him out to return to their caravan at Keils. We get in to find a power cut at 2pm which is still in place as I write at 10pm. Back to the shop to buy coal and fire lighters but no bread as they are keeping the freezers tight shut. We read a bit and then go out for air to walk up to Keils and the cemetery, passing the caravan so we know that madman Martin has got back ok as the 2 old fools had parted company in terrible weather on hills. We meet Annie who directs us twice to the cemetery and tells us she has put her long drawers back on! Despite the informality she fusses over us and tells us not to fall in the burn. She is a nice old lady and I like her. We manage not to fall in and look round the cemetery which is very old and has some really old stones including what I think is a Templar one. It is on a raised section of land tucked away at the base of the hill with a fine sea view. We wander back and see the man from the shop who is standing in his doorway reading, so we know the light is not back on. He says his son has left us some kindling but he must be really dopey as he has left the bag next to the money we left out for him! On return I keep trying to find my new gloves but they have run away. I am annoyed at the recent run of lost things as never normally lose anything. Thankfully we have the gas burner so dinner is meze of hummus olives and stuffed vine leaves and oatcakes for starters followed by leftovers soup with extra onion and cannelini beans herbs and spring onions which is very delicious and with cheese on top. Carol very clever has rung Scottish Hydro but all they are saying is that it’s too windy to climb the pole to fix it. Must be a big pole as the whole of Jura and Islay are without electricity. We are fine as have the coal fire, candles and head lamps and the gas burner. It won’t be so much fun if it continues tomorrow.

Fallen tree
On a mission
Oldy headstone
Another one
From ye ancient cemetery

Tuesday 24 May
I woke at 7 to find the electric had returned during the night. So I celebrated by getting all the washing up done, then a thorough Hoover and a nice long shower. Chris was still sleeping through all this, sort of. We had bacon for breakfast and made up sandwiches. Then a walk to the shop for a few more supplies, a spot of recycling although why they can’t put the glass with all the other types I don’t know. I logged on at the Antlers. We set off and passed Mrs Cameron’s funeral and parked up at the misnamed Evan’s Walk, misnamed because Evans only had one leg and travelled on horseback. Martin and Richard were doing the same hill as us and after we had taken photos of an American couple and they of us, I found I had left the map at the cottage so we went back and saw the piper for Mrs Cameron. Also saw some baby swans. Set off again with map for the long bog trudge. Went up to Loch na Cloiche and then headed west up the mountain of Corra Bheinn. Fairly straightforward climb but a lot of wind and squalls. I got to the top thinking Chris was right behind me only to find she wasn’t. Just as I started to worry her head appeared. The view is fantastic you can see all round the island with the sea on both sides and Loch Tarbert and lochans high up, but terribly windy so we ate our sandwiches, I put on a Compeed and off we went back down taking a more direct route to meet a path that would take us to the car. We reached a fast flowing river and it took a while to get us both across safely as the rocks were slippery. Chris had already excelled herself by sitting in the bog and now her feet got a bit more wet. Soon we were back at the car and Martin and Richard’s car was still parked up so hope they got back too. We’d been out for 6 hours. Drove back past a load of Shelduck ducklets. Back to cottage, Chris cooked up tuna casserole and I had a shower, I did bread while she had a bath. We ate all the casserole and drank all the Chablis. I then made flapjack and while it cooked we went to the pub for coffee and Jura whisky on the fiver we had found. We also got details of the RSPB reserve on Islay for tomorrow from the Antlers’ free wifi. More whisky – Caol Ila and bed.

Ready for Corra Bheinn
Towards Loch Tarbert
Bog woman
Is it raining?
Big bugger we did not attempt

Wednesday 25 May
After breakfast of boiled egg and home made bread we packed our lunches and set off to Feolin to the ferry to Port Askaig. A quick hop over and we were on Islay. It’s mainly quite flat with big expanses of flat with nothing in them but wet and bog. We stopped at a RSPB reserve and drank machine hot chocolate. Went on a bit further and parked by the sea and had a look at some horses in a shed who had lots of lovely hay. There were remains of several concrete bunkers and gun emplacements. By the shore the waves were huge. Back in the car for our sandwiches and my first truly successful flapjack. We went on a bit more to the Kilchoman distillery and its visitor centre. This was lovely, a new distillery on a farm selling nice things. We had good coffee and I tasted 2 whiskies. Then to Bowmore which seemed almost exactly the same apart from a new square and tourist info. centre. We heard some folk music (Islay whisky festival) and watched a handful of bearded old men get pissed in the cold wind. Had a great shopping spree. The lady in the soap shop said the storm was the worst in the 10 years she’d been there. She said it made her plants black and our windows are now very dirty with volcanic dust. There was talk in the town of the switch to digital TV and the new ferry arriving today! After buying up the town and draining it of whisky we got some more diesel at an eye watering 1.55p per litre, nearly as bad as the 30 year old Laphraoig at a mere £750 per bottle. Then back onto the little boat to return to Feolin. The water was very rocky on the Sound and we saw dolphins playing and swooping. The little boat rocked about a lot and I worried we would not be able to get off it but the rolling off platform was still so didn’t need to fret. Dinner of Thai green chicken curry and trifle. Now very full.

Chris told me about the Rapture people on the trip up and this barmy story has continued to amuse. I expect the storm was part of it all and we have been punished for being gay.
Cows on the beach

Thursday 26 May
We had decided last night that we would change plans and leave the island a day early. We were just fed up with all the rain and bog. Despite this we woke early and set out early having packed lunches and breakfasted. We drove up the road as far as you can go which is just past the turn to Inverlussa at Lealt. We saw Martin and Richard getting out of their car at the point where the road ceases to be an A road at Ardlussa. This is a fab big house and one of the 4 or 5 estates for stalking that divide Jura. The road continues for another couple of miles although its condition is fairly poor for quite a long time even when it’s A status. We parked up and then set off on foot. Arrived at Barnhill after an hour and a half. We didn’t bother to go and poke around this time. It would appear to be occupied now. Next stop was Kinuachdrach which is the most northerly house on the island and definitely occupied. Their generator was whirring away. There is no electricity after Ardlussa although one house had made the most of wind and sun with an array of solar panels in the garden. Kinuachdrach had 3 Land Rovers but were not keen for anyone else to use the track which is fair enough. At the house which the map says is a bunkhouse we turned off left to do the last 2 miles to Corryvreckan, on a small path through a lot of bog. I worried about this as Chris says she hates bog and there was a lot of it. We eventually got to the whirlpool but it was quite calm compared with previous visit. The sign where we parked the car said to allow 3 hours each way but we had already taken 4 hours by the time we’d eaten lunch in a slightly more sheltered bit of bog. As we started back the rain came on for the rest of the day. Chris’ waterproofs yesterday had made me giggle uncontrollably as her legs were foaming with soap bubbles in great profusion! We made fast progress back to Kinuachdrach in 45 minutes and saw the only 2 people for the day, 2 lads who looked very fit. They were on very expensive bicycles with very expensive locks. Another short hop and we were back at Eric Blair’s house. Got back to the car at 5.20 so our return trip took under 3 hours. Feet sore after 14 miles on hard surfaces. Headed back with a call in to Inverlussa but the lady who brings out tea and cakes seemed not to be open today. Got back to Craighouse at 6.30, raced in, C made hot chocolate in the microwave and jumped in the bath, she had got cold with being so wet. I showered and then we were in the Antlers on time having glugged back a big glass of bubbly as they don’t have a licence and charge corkage.  I had samosas and C had haddock chowder, then both had steak and we shared a creme brûlée made with Baileys which I would have liked more made without. Graham said the other named man at the Antlers was leaving so we didn’t press him. Nice meal, back at cottage struggling to get fire blazing. Caol Ila is lovely. We have decided to stick with original plan and pootle around tomorrow. We saw several deer, some in groups and one very fine chap on his own. Also heard a cuckoo which C thinks may be a hoopoe and saw a siskin or it could have been a greenfinch but we think it was a siskin.
Deer through windscreen
House where Eric wrote 1984 (Barnhill)
Ships that pass in the day
My feet hurt
Mine too

Friday 27 May
Walked to the village all 100m away. Recycled. Shop for stamps. Distillery for cards oh and some more whisky. Village hall for craft fair – nicer cards. Chris had made bread so we made up lunches and drove off to Knockrome and parked up nearly at Ardfenal. Wandered about the bay in at An Dunan looking for otters. None of them today but a party of seals came to see us and some dolphins although I barely saw them thanks to my drizzle coated specs. Sandwiches on the point then up to see cormorants. Also a very old cairn on the area where the old fort is. Walked back and it really rained on us so glad to return to delicious hot chocolate and hot buttered toasted malt loaf. Spent the evening packing up, eating lovely pasta bake of mixed vegetables and cheese, drinking wine and whisky. Did some crosswords and went to bed late. Chris died her hair during this too. Wrote a letter to the caretaker suggesting that they do what the job title says. Will also make suggestions to the cottage company.
Saturday 28 May
Got up at 6.30 after not enough sleep. Finished off packing up and left the house cleaner than we got it except we didn’t do the floors again. Chris restrained herself from burning the dried grasses which were part of the decoration! Set off for Feolin and saw some of the fell runners getting ready to attempt the 7 fells including the three Paps in just over 3 hours. They must not actually see the view in that time, just the bog beneath their feet and I don’t know how you can run very fast in bog. There were no otters at Feolin, both sad not to see otters or wild goats who now live on the west side of the island. Smooth crossings both to Port Askaig and to Kennacraig. We only had a small muesli breakfast at the cottage so had decided to treat ourselves to a second breakfast on the boat, both hoping for croissant, but we ended up with “hot” rolls with 2 fillings. C had bacon and sausage and I had sausage and beans. I don’t know what possessed me to opt for sausage as I normally won’t eat them if don’t know where they’ve come from. Anyway it was a poor choice and we were squashed at a table with some old gits we didn’t like so we ate up and got good coffee and went on deck. Took lots of photos of the elusive Paps as we left them behind. It was a really lovely day and warm in the sun, a right bugger after all the bloody rain. It’s just a shower, meaning a thorough cloudburst drenching. I managed to get drenched in 30 seconds while packing the car first thing, as that’s how long it took to get my anorak on. After arrival at Kennacraig we next stopped at Inveraray to look in the Christmas shop but it was a bit mad in there and pricey, both put me off. Then stopped at Loch Fyne to get supplies for lunch and saw some friendly people from the boat, whose cousins we had photoed and who we had photoed before the walk to up Corra Bheinn. Then we went all the way to New Lanark only getting a tiny bit lost in Glasgow because the navigator wasn’t concentrating. The driver was very calm about this and luckily we saw a sign which put us right. The road from the motorway to New Lanark is notable for a vast quantity of garden centres and nurseries, we must have passed 6. Got to Lanark, GPS said one thing and we didn’t do it so went to Morrisons, got some more beer and then found youth hostel in New Lanark which is fab preservation place where Robert Owen was manager. Hostel is old millworkers’ dwellings and run by New Zealander. Very clean and we get big room with tiny window about a foot square next to the floor. But room has its own loo and shower so is most luxurious. Mad time making dinner with lots of people. I chat to man who has had terrible time with his eye and it sounded like they had taken it out, given it a scrub round and shoved it back in. I told him I had to eat my dinner. We had sweet corn for starter and then cauli and broccoli in carbonara sauce with extra cheese and bacon. It was a bit on the heavy side but the manager seemed to like the smell so we let him lick the spoon. I washed up but must admit to struggling with communal kitchen use as some people don’t rinse and some (us included) don’t use the right chopping boards and some don’t use the right sinks for things. I have decided to take my own crocks and pots next time, well so long as am in a car. Drank some beer and then wandered round the mills all to ourselves and up nature walk along the Clyde, lots wild flowers, and chances of creatures but all quiet tonight. Fab view of falls and 1929 hydroelectric power station. Back for more beer.
View from the cottage
Seaview cottage
Impersonating an otter
Paps, what Paps?
Water wheel at New Lanark
The Falls of the Clyde

Sunday 30 May

Muesli yoghurt toast boiled egg. Got YH card stamped. Out to see 2 baby peregrine falcons and their mother on perilous rocky ledge through a powerful telescope. Nice man told us all about them. Went up to top of falls and watched machine clear out leaves and debris from the water being diverted to the turbine below. Back to New Lanark for coffee and cake before going into the various bits of heritage experience. Some of this was really naff and some of it was very interesting. If you go, don’t bother with Annie McLeod’s ride but do go to the roof garden, the mill workers’ houses and Robert Owen’s house. The overall place is lovely and wasn’t madly full of people, it’s clean and is in fab setting on the steep banks of the Clyde. The falls are spectacklier. We eventually set off stopping on the way for an M&S snack and then at Tebay for more yummy things to take home and eat.

We were both fed up it was such a wet week. So here’s to a future dry trip.
Door to Falls walk


1929 hydro electric power station, still in use today


Smaller volume of water in Falls
Do not walk across this bridge
In the roof garden
 Please visit Map and Compass and learn how to interpret a map with me and my navigation partner, Cath.