Stuc a' Chroin and Ben Vorich

Stuc a' Chroin and Ben Vorich

Friday, 24 December 2010

Still in the grip

Temperatures are still well below freezing here with minimums ranging from -15C to -10C over the last 4 nights. Snow still lies in the garden, but iron hard now. With bright blue skies and an Alpine calm, it is breathtakingly beautiful.

Monday, 20 December 2010

Merry Christmas to all Followers

Thanks for your company during 2010.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010


The Scots Language Centre have posted a webcast of Lynne reading her 2004 translation into Scots of Beatrix Potter's, 'The Tale of Peter Rabbit'  - The Tale O Peter Kinnen. The reading is taken from the CD recorded by Lynne shortly after the book was published.

It is read quite slowly so those unfamiliar with Scots, but who have a copy of the original book, will be able to follow easily! It can be found here at Scots Language Centre, 4th tab on the picture. Click 'more'.

Friday, 3 December 2010

Dunmaglass update

Multi-millionairess Sigrid Rausing, who owns Coignafearn Estate in the Monadhliath mountains, is seeking a judicial review of Highland Regional Council's decision not to oppose the proposal for a 33 turbine wind farm on neighbouring Dunmaglass Estate. (see post 26 February this year). More than 1500 people and three community councils objected. (Source: Scottish Mountaineer)

The first hearing was scheduled for November although, as yet, I can't find any reports on the proceedings.

Thursday, 2 December 2010

World Cup Decision

I'm not a football fan, but my commiserations to any readers of this blog south of the border who are!

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

It just won't stop

Two days ago and it hasn't really stopped snowing since!

The tracks continued to just beyond the bushes and skis might have been useful thereafter, although ours are narrow competition style (we've never skied competitively) so the benefit would have been marginal.

Anyway, we knew we had a driveway to clear so headed back just as the forecasted bitter east wind started to blow.

We cleared it again yesterday and I'm off to do likewise again. Almost 2ft of snow now in the garden.

If you read this Hugh, I hope you are surviving where you are!

Monday, 29 November 2010

Lendrick Hill

Here you are Martin. Maybe next year! Join you on the top if we are around.

Lendrick Hill 456m from Seamab Hill (taken January 2010)


More snow

I've just been out to feed the birds - they are desperate - and have measured about a foot of snow in the garden. Looks like 2010 is (almost) going out like it came in. Another 10" to fall today apparently.

Waiting for breakfast

Martin Banfield is stuck (or has been) at Morrisons car park in Perth but I can't even think about popping up to see him. Pity really. Hope you make it home today Martin.

Friday, 12 November 2010

Lammermuir Hills and Highland Perthshire wind turbines

Yesterday I posted good news about sea eagles. Today it's bad news, at least from my perspective. The Duke of Roxburghe has won a seven year battle to establish 48 wind trubines at Fallago Rig in the Lammermuir Hills, south of Edinburgh. He stands to earn £2.5m a year from the project.

There has been fierce local opposition (supported by David Bellamy) to the turbines, but the Scottish Government continues its obsession with on-shore wind farms. I believe the local community are determined to continue the fight against this decision.

In Highland Perthshire 27 wind turbines south of Aberfeldy were recently approved by the Scottish Government, again against local opposition. To add insult to injury, Perth and Kinross Council, who opposed the development, have been handed the bill for the developer's legal costs.

I suspect the people of East Lothian and Highland Perthshire will not forget all this when the Scottish Election takes place next May.

Edit: Don't buy a house in upland Scotland. You won't like what will, in time, arrive on your doorstep.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Sea eagles

It has been reported that 46 young sea eagles fledged this year in Scotland - 10 more than last year- and that there are now 52 adult pairs, up 6 on 2009. Last year one was spotted over Cumbria and Dumfries having flown from Fife. Excellent news. (see also post of 21 August 2010)

However, the planned introduction of this beautiful bird in southern England has been cancelled because of budget cuts.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010


It's not the first snow to fall on the hills as we approach winter, but the cover on the Ben Lawers range looked pretty enticing today. The photograph is taken using a compact digital on full zoom so quality is compromised somewhat.

Monday, 18 October 2010

October sunshine

We've just had a lovely week based in Glen Coe. I'll post more later but, for now, here are a few photos from the trip.

Saturday, 21 August 2010

Sea eagles

I've just heard that 19 Norwegian sea eagles have been released into the wild from a secret location in Fife. This is wonderful news and I wish them well in Scotland. This is the third phase of the reintroduction of these birds by East Scotland Sea Eagles, a partnership between RSPB Scotland, the Forestry Commission and Scottish Natural Heritage. The programme commenced in 1975 on Rum.

Friday, 20 August 2010

Gold Mine at Cononish

The Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park Authority have, thankfully, refused an application by Scotgold Resources to redevelop a gold mine at Cononish, near Tyndrum.

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Nevis Partnership

Anyone wishing to find out about the work of the above can visit their site at

Monday, 2 August 2010

£1.00 to climb Ben Nevis

The Nevis Partnertship is calling for every person who climbs Ben Nevis to contribute £1.00 to the cost of maintaining the access track. Approximately 160,000 people climb the Ben every year.

Any views on this?

Saturday, 17 July 2010


There were many dragonflies on our walk along Loch Morar.

Friday, 16 July 2010


For anyone worrying about midges on their next backpacking trip to Scotland, but not too worried about weight, here's the very thing seen by Loch Morar:

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Scottish Event for Lynne's Book

Reading at the launch in Ambleside

It looks like a Scottish Event to 'launch' Lynne's book will take place, appropriately, in Birnam near Dunkeld in late October.

Monday, 12 July 2010

Rum was not to be

We arrived on the west coast on a Saturday in glorious, if very windy, weather. Hopes were high for a trip to Rum. But.....sacks were packed the next day under dull and unpromising skies and a walk down to the beach revealed Rum (or rather didn't reveal Rum) in thick cloud. Our plan was to catch the first ferry on Monday, camp by Loch Scresort, enjoy a leisurely afternoon around Kinloch, traverse the Rum Cuillin the following day and sail back via Eigg on the third. It was obvious, however, that if the weather forecast were correct, as it had been for that day, we would spend much time on the ridge in thick cloud and sail back in mist and rain.

Of course we could have done all this but we wanted really clear weather to experience these wonderful hills on what might be our one and only visit.

Plans shelved, we were compensated by a wonderful sunset on the longest day and......

...there were other compensations in the form of cool beer outside 'van! 

 Some days later we had an interesting walk along the north shore of Loch Morar stopping to explore the ruin of The Chapel of Inverbeg - and out to the west, the Rum Cuillin were clear.............

                                     Chapel of Inverbeg ruins

A plaque tells that it was built by the people of Morar in 1780 following the return of the priest Ranald MacDonell from the Scots college in Spain.

                             Near Bracara on Loch Morar

We may not have gone to Rum, but it'll be there for another time. And we were heading north west.

Lynne's new book

We have just returned from the Lake District where Lynne appeared at the Beatrix Potter Society's International Study Conference and launched her book 'Beatrix Potter's Scotland - Her Perthshire Inspiration' published by Luath Press, Edinburgh. Available at all good book shops and online at Amazon and others.

An event in Scotland will probably be arranged in the next few months. More later on this and our abortive attempt to get to Rum in June!

Thursday, 1 July 2010


Just catching up after a brief holiday so a warm welcome to peewiglet and Eddie Alvarez.

Thursday, 17 June 2010

Berghaus windshirt

There's an interesting discussion on windshirts on Martin Rye's blog and The Odyssee talks about an old jacket on his blog.

So here is a combination of both these things: a picture of my ancient Berghaus windshirt made from their own Airfoil fabric. It has survived some rough use rock climbing as well as during backpacking trips and is still perfectly serviceable. It's not very waterproof even when treated, a bit on the baggy side, weighs about 185g, is about 25 years old I guess, has a hood and packs into its own pocket which, incidentally, is just large enough for an OS Map.

I have trousers from the same material but hardly ever use them, mainly because the legs have no zips for easy on and off over boots or trail shoes.

Not bad gear for it's time I think - can't imagine it ever wearing out.

Monday, 14 June 2010

More wind turbine proposals

Chris Townsend reveals three more planning applications for wind turbines (one in NW Sutherland, one in the Lammermuir Hills and one in Wales.) All very depressing. Chris also gives a link to the John Muir Trust's site where a full objection to the Sutherland proposal can be read.

Sunday, 13 June 2010

A short trip to Loch Leven

The Loch Leven Nature Reserve is an easy drive from home and although our visits are generally confined to the winter months

     November on Loch Leven

a recent balmy summer afternoon found us strolling along the 12.5km Hertitage Trail, linking Kinross and the RSPB Reserve at Vane Farm.

The Reserve with its range of wildlife, including tens of thousands of breeding and wintering birds, has a number of hides constructed on stilts above the water but they have recently been removed following structural damage from shifting ice during the severe winter. It's hoped to have them rebuilt by August.

        The hide has gone      

The sky was full of swifts and a few geese were scattered along the shores; after the heavy rain and wind over night, the Yellow Irises were flagging a bit.

Followers of this blog will know that we have been unable to get away to the hills since April - something that has never happened (ever) before - and short walks like those around Loch Leven have been brief, but refreshing, outings.

Things are looking up though and, if the last of the proofs of Lynne's book arrive today, we should be heading for Rum and its delectable ridge, Knoydart and Sutherland - soon-ish. Mind you, these sort of hopes have been constant companions throughout May and the first half of June!

Unfortunately I'm not mobile blogging having been too busy to get organised. Maybe before the next trip.

Loch Leven - in the past a home to monks, scene of great curling tournaments and the imprisonment and escape of a queen.

Friday, 4 June 2010

Moy Estate raided

Police have raided the Moy Estate near Inverness following the discovery of poisoned birds of prey in the area. Several red kites had been killed and a grouse carcass had tested positive for an illegal poison.

Forty five investigators including 25 police officers, SSPCA and RSPB staff, wildlife conservation officers and SNH staff took part in the raid.

RSPB Scotland reported that one of the dead kites had been among a number of birds of prey which had been satellite tagged for a school project called 'Eyes to the Skies'. The signal, which was being tracked on the internet, stopped moving and this raised suspicions. (Source: BBC Scotland News)

Anyone found guilty of this appalling act should receive the harshest sentence available.

Later this year Carbon Free Developments are due to submit an application to erect 55 wind turbines on Moy no doubt bringing substantial financial reward to the owner of the estate, if, as seems likely, it is approved.

Monday, 17 May 2010

Carrion Crows

Yesterday we saw two carrion crows in the rear garden finishing off what remained of a young pigeon, we think. Our first reaction was that our sparrowhawk had paid another visit, although it's never left any remains behind before for crows and the like. Then we noticed the mark on the door window and concluded that the youngster had flown into it and either been  killed or badly injured; the carrions had moved in.

Despite having bird silhouette stickers on most of the windows we still get a fair number of casualties each year, although we've revived a few unfortunates over the years too.

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Good luck to all Challengers

Lynne and I would like to wish all Challengers a safe and enjoyable crossing no matter what the weather throws at you.

We are busy reading proofs of Lynne's new book and so it looks unlikely that we'll manage any backpacking in May. If we do though, we'll be sure to say 'hello' if we spot any of you.

Good luck to everyone.

Sunday, 2 May 2010

Symington's Mug Shot

We discovered these last year in Morrisons and found they made quite a good lunch time snack when backpacking. A sachet weighs 68g and provides 301kcal. Empty into a mug, add boiling water and allow to stand for 5 mins (we find a bit longer is required) and we usually add a Butter Bud. We've only tried the Creamy Cheese one, but others are available.

Wednesday, 21 April 2010


Meant to say on the previous post that the ticks appear to have survived the winter!

Variable snow cover

Just back from a trip to the Mamores and Loch Ailort area. Very variable snow cover as can be seen from these pics. I've put a few more up at  which might give Challengers planning to start at Loch Ailort and/or take in the Mamores, Ben Nevis, Aonachs etc, some idea of snow conditions. Still early days though.

Loch Beoraid

The Devil's Ridge to Sgurr a' Mhaim

Northern Corrie and summit ridge of Sgurr a' Mhaim

Saturday, 3 April 2010

A June day on Ben More Coigach*

Beinn Ghobhlach

 As an antidote to the recent return of snow, sleet and strong winds I began looking at some photographs of summer days spent on the hills of the NW Highlands, and one set of images in particular transported me northwards: I was in Coigach on two magical June days.

Coigach means 'Fifth-part', the old Celtic custom being to divide land into five parts. So Coigach is the Coigach of Ross, the fifth part of the Cromarties and it is the land from Outer Loch Broom to the Sutherland border.

It had been several years since we had visited this area and now we were returning to meet friends based at Ardmair Bay, some three miles north of Ullapool. When we arrived, the bay was hidden by a rolling sea mist which occasionally shredded and eventually dispersed revealing blue skies and lovely Beinn Ghoblach.

As you descend the steep hill towards Ardmair the most striking sight is Ben More Coigach appearing as a wall of sandstone riven with gullies. Its westernmost top, Garbh Choireachan, drops abruptly to the coastal path which joins the Achiltibuie road near Culnacraig. Exposed to the Minch, the settlements along this coast are offered some welcome protection by the Summer Isles.

We had climbed Ben More Coigach many years previously but our two friends had not and we needed no persuading to accompany them on a second ascent. Parking at Blughasary we took the track to the bridge over the River Runie, quiet after six weeks of drought, and continued along the coastal path before breaking off up the slopes to the east of Beannan Beaga to Lochan Eadan dha Bheinn. Higher up we crossed great slabs dotted with spheres of rock, all Torridonian sandstone, before the final ascent to Speicein Coinnich.

The slopes to Speicein Coinnich

We were soon on this first top and the true character of the hill was revealed to our two companions (well four actually, including their dogs). On the summit of Ben More itself, we enjoyed a leisurely lunch and discussed where to go next. Tom pondered taking the narrow ridge to Garbh Choireachan and returning to Blughasary by the previously mentioned (and exciting in places) coastal path. Lynne and I had already been along the ridge to Garbh Choireachan and were happy to visit again, but a return by the path on such a perfect day for the tops was easily rejected by all of us.

 Long ago the postman walked this arduous coastal route to deliver the mail and was paid 2/3d per journey. 'Taking the Rock' was how folk described the way via Ben More Coigach when coming to or from Ullapool.

The interesting ridge to Garbh Choireachan

In the end we decided to head for Sgurr an Fhidhleir, an impressive peak with 200m cliffs plunging to Lochan an Tuath.

Sgurr an Fhidhleir from Beinn an Eoin

 From the opposite shore of this lochan rises twin-topped Beinn an Eoin, 619m, which we all agreed looked worthy of attention.

Sgorr Tuath, Beinn an Eoin - familiar hills beyond

From Sgurr an Fhidhleir's airy summit the hills of the Inverpolly Nature Reserve, Assynt and Sutherland were a familiar and welcome sight. We lingered at the cairn, reluctant to leave, but eventually turned and retraced our route to Speicein Coinnich. Terns graced the head of Loch a' Chlaiginn as we passed on our way back. Curlews called on the moor. It had been a grand day shared with good friends and the comment made by Colin Kirkus to Alf Bridge on the summit of Sgurr Alasdair summed up our feelings:

"You know Alf, going to the right place at the right time, with the right people is all that really matters. What one does is purely incidental."

Today, Coigach had been the right place; Tom and Chris the right people.

*Note: I have not used the OS spelling of Ben (Mor) Coigach but have opted for the fully anglicized form rather the half-way house as it were. Both forms seem acceptable. Probably something like 'Beinn Mhòr ǹa Coigich' is the full Gaelic name, but I'm no expert. As Hamish Brown points out, the experts only disgagree anyway!

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Zamberlan Ultralite GTX - First outing

There's not much to say really. We sploshed through water, mud and slush, over tussocky hillsides, old hard snow and descended steep slopes; even some pounding of tarmac was required. The boots didn't feel like 'old friends' of course, but they were comfortable and felt light on the feet and you can't ask more than that really. We'd want to have a few more days out in them before wearing on a long trip, but that's purely precautionary.

Friday, 26 March 2010

Dunmaglass and Moy Estates - Wind Turbines

I've just heard that Highland Council planning committee have voted by six to two in favour of the erection of 33 wind turbines on the Dunmaglass Estate. The Cairngorm National Park Authority and The John Muir Trust opposed the application and 1556 letters of objection were received and 912 for.

Meanwhile Carbon Free Developments want to establish 55 turbines on the Moy Estate and will likely submit an application later this year. The developer will probably offer free or discounted power as a community benefit.

I'm afraid there is simply no stopping the march of these ineffective monstrosities across Scotland.

Zamberlan Ultralite GTX

We have always been fans of Zamberlan boots but for the last few years have been unable to obtain them up here in Scotland, and they never seemed to be available in the Lakes either. So, when we noticed that Tiso had the new Ultralites (claimed weight, 960g in size 38) we had to go and have a look. Both of us ended up with a pair and will report after their first usage.

Based on past experience we expect them to be comfortable 'from the box' or at least to require very little breaking in.

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

A Walk in Flyrocs

Tuesday 23 March

I bought a pair of Inov8 Flyroc 345 GTX on Monday. It was a bit of a risk since I have a metatarso-phalangeal joint  injury on my left foot and using lightweight footwear on the hill usually means pain, whereas I have had none at all this winter using my Meindl Borneos.

Yesterday I decided to take them on their first walk, an easy one from Castlehill Reservoir through to Castle Campbell via the old drove road. The morning's early promise vanished in thick cloud cover and a spritely breeze, but larks were rising, curlews were crying and around Glen Quey reservoir black-headed gulls congregated noisily.

Snapped trees and branches reminded of the severe winter just gone (almost) and frogspawn that spring was here (almost).

We passed Maiden's Well which is on record as early as the mid-1800s. Legend has it that the spirit of a young woman haunts the well and could be called forth at night by potential suitors. However, those who dared to do so were discovered dead in the morning.  

Records show that she was a princess held captive in Castle Campbell, known at that time as Castle Gloom, because she had dared to fall in love with a man below her station; sometimes her gaolers would allow her to walk to the well to drink its waters.

Full marks for the walk and so far for the Flyrocs, but to find out if the joint injury would remain pain free in these lightweights, some ascent over rougher ground was called for. Whitewisp Hill rose conveniently above us and by the time we reached the cairn I was fairly sure they would be fine. The rest of the walk over Innerdownie and down its steep slopes back to the car seemed to confirm they had been a good buy. Only longer and rougher walks will truly tell.

Their first summit!

Monday, 15 March 2010

River Braan Hydro Scheme

As Chris Townsend has reported (see also Byeways for further comment), the above proposal has thankfully been rejected by the Scottish Executive. It would have been an appalling assault on a magnificent river and thanks must go to all who successfully opposed it.

 River Braan near Rumbling Bridge