Plockton, Scotland

With the heatwave continuing, Jude and I decided to take a trip to the pretty village of Plockton, which was used for the filming of the TV series Hamish Macbeth.  It sits on the shores of Loch Carron facing east, away from the prevailing winds.

On the west side of the peninsular there’s a few beaches marked on the map, so we set off in search of one of them with our picnic.  For much of the day we were on our own apart from a herd of highland cows who, like us, took to cooling off by paddling in the crystal clear waters.

Later in the afternoon we took a boat ride on one of Calum’s Seal trips, where you don’t have to pay if you don’t see any seals.  We were not disappointed, as one of the small islands in the loch was covered by around 30 to 40 seals.

Walk from Loch an Loin

Jude’s friend Kate had been away since we arrived in Lochcarron, so today was a day for the two of them to catch up on things.  I decided to do what I thought would be a short 10k/6 mile walk from Loch an Loin (on the Shieldaig A896 road) back to Lochcarron…

So Jude dropped me off at the start and navigation for the first few miles, around the loch and along river, was quite simple.  The path then seemed to disappear.  According to the map, I needed to be going east, but the river bent 90 degrees to the south.  So off I went across the open moorland, keeping the sun and the high mountains to my right.  I hadn’t studied the map too closely, but I was looking for a gap in the mountains to bring me back to Lochcarron.

It’s  a funny thing when you look at the terrain and then the map, how you make things fit, even though, in your heart of hearts, you know there’s something wrong.  Like the wide river which was running along the valley and that loch.  My map only showed a small trickle of a stream and no loch.  Also, you often think that you’ve walked further than you have, particularly along difficult terrain, so I wasn’t too worried that I hadn’t reached the gap yet.  Also, since the sun was shining brightly, I had plenty of time to get to my destination, or maybe go back the way I came…

After what must have been 2 hours of trudging over the moorland, a gap opened up to the right.  ‘At last!’ I thought, and made my way up to the col, fully expecting to see Lochcarron below.  However, my heart sank when all I saw was a loch with steep sides on the far side…

I was lost!  Well, at least I thought I was, until I checked the shape of the loch against my map.  It had two pieces of land sticking in from the sides, one large and one small.  Piecing everything together, it then became clear; instead of heading east, I’d been going north east and was now back at the same loch I’d seen 2 days before – Loch Coire an Ruadh-staic.   To position myself back on the map,  was a huge relief I can tell you.  And I was glad to have done that route before to know the quickest way ‘home’.

So it was that I again did the steep descent from the col below Maol Chean-dearg.   But just when you think you’ve seen it all before, a ptarmigan popped out from the side of the path and I nearly trod on a lizard sunbathing on a rock.  I haven’t measured it accurately but my short walk was probably nearer 16k or 10 miles.

Applecross

After our exertions of yesterday, Jude and I decided a leisurely day at the beach was called for.  So we set off over the Beallach na ba, one of the steepest roads in Britain, to Applecross.  The drive over wouldn’t normally  have been a problem, but the workmen had decided to close the road for a while to lay some drainage pipes.  “We’ll keep the delay to a minimum” the man said, repeating it again when pressed, to make absolutely sure he didn’t give us even an estimated time.  An hour and 10 minutes later we were on our way again… (Meanwhile I walked up the road and took some photos…)

The Coille Ghillie beach is known locally as the coral beach, due to its creamy white sand. I even plucked up the courage to go for a swim.  (The first time I’ve ever beaten Jude into the sea !!)

Afterwards we had a delicious evening meal at the award winning Applecross Inn, which is owned and run by our good friend Judy.  It’s well worth a visit if you are ever in the area.

I would also commend to you a fellow WordPress blogger by the name of Ali MacLeod, who writes some very interesting and informative articles on life in the NW of Scotland.

 

 

Maol Chean-dearg (@933m/3,061ft)

So, while the rest of Britain, and possible northern Europe, had their umbrellas out, the NW of Scotland was having a mini heatwave.  Jude and I took full advantage of this by taking a walk from Coulags Bridge up the river valley to the bothy.  From there we went our separate ways;  Jude carried on up the valley to Loch Coire Fionnaraich, while I took the path up to the top of Maol Chean-dearg.  (To be fair, Jude had done this mountain before).

She’d advised that route finding was simple, (which it was), but she didn’t say what a scramble it would be over rocks and boulders to get to the top !  Nevertheless, I think you’ll agree from the photos below that the effort was well worth it.
(Also, take a note of the loch in picture 6, it would turn up again in a couple of days time).

 

Cuaig beach and Shieldaig, Scotland

If you’ve never been to the north west of Scotland, and I mean further north than the (albeit very good) tourist hot spots of Glencoe and Fort William, then you should add it to your ‘must visit’ list.  When the sun shines (as it did for us) then there’s probably nowhere better on earth to be.  It is also best seen in the Spring, before the infamous midges emerge.

On our first full day in Lochcarron, Jude and I decided to drive around the Applecross peninsular, via Shieldaig, to Cuaig beach.  Returning the same way, we stopped at almost every turn to take photos, and we had an excellent meal at the Coastal Kitchen, which is part of the Tigh an Eilean (‘House of the Island’) Hotel in Shieldaig.   As the sun was setting and we gazed out over the Loch from the terrace, Jude was heard to say: “Life doesn’t get much better than this!” 🙂

To give you some idea of the location, I’ve added a map below, courtesy of Google maps.

Luss and Arrochar, Scotland

Jude and I were heading to Lochcarron in Wester Ross, Scotland for a week in Kate and Geoff’s Waterside apartment before heading even further north to Sutherland for 3 nights. The journey up from the Lake District was quite long and we were not due in Lochcarron until the Saturday, so we stopped off in a place called Luss for lunch and spent the night in a B&B near Arrochar.  Both are near loch Lomond.

Apart from having a beautiful loch side location, Luss is a charming ‘conservation village’ with neat rows of renovated cottages.  It was used as the main location for the Scottish TV drama series Take the High Road. Perhaps fittingly, we had one of those famous people spotting moments, when John Sergeant walked by.  (For non-UK residents, he’s a well known BBC journalist, who also took part in Strictly Come Dancing).
Here I have to apologise, as I left my camera in the car, so I have no photos of the village, nor of Mr Sergeant, not that I would have taken his picture anyway!

By stark contrast, Arrochar was quite a dull place, though it does also have the advantage of sitting right at the water’s edge – at the head of Loch Long.  We were very lucky to catch it on a very calm day, as the surface of the (n.b. sea) loch was like a mirror.  Many walkers  travel through Arrochar on their way to climb a very interesting mountain called Ben Arthur (@884m or 2,900ft), or the Cobbler as it’s more affectionately known due to its very unusual shape.

 

 

 

English Lake District Walk, Day 4 (of 4) – Buttermere to Braithwaite

Proof, if proof were needed, of how quickly the weather can change and that a map and compass are essential when walking in the Lakes, was evident on Day 4.  Like Day 1, the forecast was for the clouds to lift around late morning.  We should have set off later, but we were keen to get on with it, hoping the mist would rise as we climbed Whiteless Pike on the way to Crag Hill.  From there we thought we might ‘bag’ Sail, but as you can see from the photos below, we were still in the clouds when we reached Whiteless Pike – a featureless mountain, with only a trig point and pile of stones for company.  Visibility was down to less than 30 yards.

So out came the map and a compass and we took a westerly bearing, soon emerging from the mist, down to a stream leading to Coledale Hause.  There we took stock, looking at the cloud still hanging over Grisedale Pike, hoping it would clear as we sat for a few minutes refuelling.  Colin again decided that he preferred the simpler and more visible route down the Miner’s track to Braithwaite.  But, flushed with our earlier navigational success, Pete and I figured it would only be about a kilometer or so in the cloud and that we’d still get great views when we emerged from the other side.

So it was that we again went our separate ways.  However, less than 10 minutes later, the cloud cleared completely and Pete & I were blessed with fantastic views in all directions.

Feeling rather pleased with our decision, not to mention completing our walk, we stopped and sat outside the Coledale Inn in glorious sunshine for some well earned refreshment. 🙂

Tomorrow, after also spending some time walking in the southern Lakes, Jude would pick me up and whisk me off to Scotland…

English Lake District Walk, Day 3 (of 4) – Wasdale Head to Buttermere

We awoke to a slightly brighter, but very windy, day.  Our plan was to go up Pillar (@892m) but, a) it was still in cloud and b) Colin warned us that there might be a precipitous drop.  Regular followers may recall that my mate Pete doesn’t like heights, nor me for that matter in strong winds, so we gave it a miss.  This left us with the straightforward route up the Black Sail pass into Ennerdale.  From there we would ascend to Scarth Gap and then turn right (east) up to Alfred Wainwright’s favourite peak, Haystacks.   (Here I have to disagree with the great man, as I found it a rather dull and muddled peak, with 4 apparent tops, but each to his or her own…)

Once there we had a mini-rebellion, as Colin decided he didn’t fancy the ridge walk along High Crag, High Stile and Red Pike in gale force winds and so he took the direct route down to Buttermere.  Pete and I felt it was too good an opportunity to miss (and we didn’t want to get to the pub too early), so we braved what must have been 60 mph plus winds on the top.  I’m sure both of my feet were off the ground at one point!

As you’ll see from the later pictures below, we were rewarded with some fabulous views – including our expected route the following day above Buttermere village.

 

English Lake District Walk, Day 2 (of 4) – Rosthwaite to Wasdale Head

Hopefully the pictures will now be available in your email (with watermarks).

Alittlebitoutoffocus

Reposted as I forgot to add the watermark and I promised Pete I’d give him the credit for his photos !

It’s a rather strange anomaly but only one of the many ‘lakes’ in the English Lake District is actually called a Lake, i.e. Bassenthwaite Lake.  The rest have their own names, like Buttermere, Derwent Water or Wast Water.  Smaller bodies of water are called Tarns.  Don’t ask me why, that’s just the way it is. (The hills are also called fells for some reason too !)

Today’s route takes us from Rosthwaite, over Glaramara (@783m) and down via Sprinkling and Styhead Tarns, to the very welcome sight of the Wasdale Head Inn – said to be the birthplace of rock climbing.  While there, I was reminded of home, as there were some black and white photos of the Arolla valley. 🙂

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English Lake District Walk, Day 2 (of 4) – Rosthwaite to Wasdale Head

Reposted as I forgot to add the watermark and I promised Pete I’d give him the credit for his photos !

It’s a rather strange anomaly but only one of the many ‘lakes’ in the English Lake District is actually called a Lake, i.e. Bassenthwaite Lake.  The rest have their own names, like Buttermere, Derwent Water or Wast Water.  Smaller bodies of water are called Tarns.  Don’t ask me why, that’s just the way it is. (The hills are also called fells for some reason too !)

Today’s route takes us from Rosthwaite, over Glaramara (@783m) and down via Sprinkling and Styhead Tarns, to the very welcome sight of the Wasdale Head Inn – said to be the birthplace of rock climbing.  While there, I was reminded of home, as there were some black and white photos of the Arolla valley. 🙂