A Straight Line from Laggan to Newtonmore

I’ve been meaning to get a proper bike rack for a while. I’d tried a few of ways of attaching the bike to the car and most would involve regular resprays. The £25 I spent was far less than expected and this trip was the fantastic first foray into what my brain already calls “bike and hikes”, a phrase the rest of me feels a bit embarrassed by….

The idea was akin to my time kayaking at uni. We’d take the minibus packed with gear, and on top of our boats and paddles we’d attach a bike so that someone could cycle back upstream and get the bus. Why we didn’t take a car I’m unclear about now, my memory being all the poorer after a lifetime writing lists.

But the bike was part of the adventure and I felt that access to a bike now would allow me to reach remote hills and areas more quickly and mean some of my walking trips could be more linear. I love a circuit, to avoid walking to a particular point and back, the back being the bit that for me can be a bit dispiriting on a day out. I’ve never particularly enjoyed the walk back as much as the powering ever onward, and this trip demonstrated the power of always moving forward.

The East Highland Way has interested me on and off for years and particularly the section between Laggan and Newtonmore. The bike made this simple. Park at Newtonmore, pedal to Laggan, and walk back to the car, a 13km cycle along the A86 followed by a 15km walk via Strath an Eilich, Dalnashallag bothy and Glen Banchor.

The old bridge up the track to Strath an Eilich from Balgowan. Yes I crossed it. No it didn’t break.

img_2908Looking down Strath an Eilich towards the Monadh Liath.

img_2918Almost at Dalnashallag bothy.

The view back down Strath an Eilich from Dalnashallag bothy.

Looking back at Dalnashallag bothy from Glen Banchor.

img_2951A ruined cottage at Dalballoch in Glen Banchor, looking back towards the bothy.

The warm weather and sunshine was amazing and the autumn colours on show were brighter and more natural than any Instagram filter could provide.

I’ve now got my eye on completing the EHW over the next few months. The bike rack will definitely help. As will the bike. And always forward. I don’t fancy cycling backwards. Check out the film.

https://youtu.be/Ue5OGx8EyIY

Ben Nevis and the CMD Arete

IMG_1192This trip took place on 30th June, so exactly half way through my atempt to walk 1000 miles in a full year.  At the end of the day, I was sitting on 473.7 miles, a little under where I need to be, but not much.

I considered myself very lucky on this trip.  I’d wanted to do this walk for a number of years, a definite “wishlist” walk and the continuation of the recent clear and warm weather conditions made me feel my chance was here.  The first day of the summer holidays looked like hill heaven so I made my plans.  I was also lucky as a mile into the walk I realised I’d left my sunglasses in the car.  This wasn’t the lucky bit of course.  The lucky bit was I hadn’t realised I’d left the glasses until I came across another pair, hung up on a tree just next to the path.  Thanks to whoever left them there.  I intend on leaving them elsewhere, in a kind of pay it forward donation.

On a less happy note, the body of Marcin Bialas was also found on the 30th June (the same day as my trip) in Observatory Gully, which you can see on the picture above.  He had been missing since January after falling through a snow cornice and although I didn’t find this out until I got home, it’s a sobering reminder of how mountain dwellers need to take care and hope luck stays on our side when we are out.

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The sun was strong and the heat was high, even on the highest top on The Ben.  My route also involved a detour via the CIC Hut, before climbing the steep slopes of Carn Mor Dearg, which was pretty tough.  The views at the top were worth it though.

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The Arete isn’t as exposed as you might think but the rock hopping and views over to Ben Nevis and the rest of the Mamores were more than I could have dreamed of.  The outlook even helped me forget about that steep climb.

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Better than a toblerone?

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The last push up to Ben Nevis reminded me of the CMD climb, just more bouldery.

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The top and the old observatory.  I think I saw about six people all the way round to the peak.  On the peak were an entire village.

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I wanted to take the quiet route home to the North Face car park so headed off by the rougher, north shoulder, rather than the tourist path.

An awesome walk.  And with a last lucky touch to the day, I got the last box of ice lollies from Tesco on the High Street (since a single lolly just wasn’t enough) and had finished them by the time I got to my bed for the night.  I also made a wee film of the trip.  Take a look below.

Team Deliverance Take on the Tay

IMG_7394Team Deliverance consists of Kirsty, Paul, Sas, Gav, Erin and my good self and there wasn’t a sign of a banjo or a squealing pig all weekend.

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Two days spent canoeing the waters of the River Tay in blazing sunshine and driving rain were a perfect way to welcome the coming autumnal changes.  I’ll let the film speak for itself.

Sharing Suilven

Leaving the house at 4.30am, the murky morning mist poked some tiny holes in my enthusiasm and, for a second, made me question the wisdom of driving four and a half hours north. The forecast looked good. Yet the fog became thicker as I passed Pitlochry and even from the roadside near Elphin, Suilven was nowhere to be seen.  A mountain with a distinctive shape, recognisable from all angles, rising from the relative flatness of the Assynt estates all around, it was elusive. Parking up near Glencanisp Lodge, Suilven had decided to show its skirt and the mist was beginning to clear. It was warm as I passed the honesty shop at the lodge and the road turned to track, but progress was still quick and with every turn in the track, the mountain became clearer.

I reached the bothy after an hour and a quarter. Suileag has two rooms, each with a working fireplace and sleeping platforms. My overnight gear dropped and laid out, I was ready to fall into my sleeping bag when I returned that night.

On I went through the treeless Glencanisp forest and after crossing the footbridge over the Abhainn na Clach Airigh, I turned off the track and found myself on the first section of a newly created path leading up towards Loch a’ Choire Dubh. By this stage I could see the full Suilven profile and I have to say I was a bit excited. I’d wanted to climb Suilven for as long as I’d been a walker. A hill walker mind, not a toddler. And here I was. Completely in awe. Why hadn’t I come up before? The final steep scramble to the Bealach Mor was tough. But the rewards were huge as the top of the pass was reached with views south across Stac Pollaidh, Cul Mor, Ben More Assynt. And more.

The final push to the top at Caistel Liath was short but glorious. I could see for miles, blue sky and sea surrounding the rough coastline and mountain landscape. A paraglider lugged his 15kg of machine parts just behind me and since he looked shattered from the effort, I headed off towards the other, more pointed end of the ridge. A footstep here, a scramble there. I didn’t make the peak of Meall Meadhonach. I value my various body parts.

One curious point about the day was the wall. A wall that cuts Suilven in half and runs down both sides as far as the terrain will allow. A stunning piece of work. And whether built as a joke between neighbouring estates, or for a labour creation scheme, the splitting in half of the hill adds a sense of symmetry to the view and a neat human-made addition to nature’s Scottish sugarloaf mountain.

Back to the bothy and the company of T and C, a fire in the grate and a bottle of Highland Park. More sharing. Company. Whisky. Heat. Suilven looked glorious in the evening sunshine, the breeze meaning I didn’t need to share the view with the midges. Later at dusk, as the sun went down, the mountain was ablaze, the red a major contrast compared to earlier in the day, the red rainbow a bonus touch.

And click the link below to see more…

https://youtu.be/SsTbmsCA8oE

Island Children

As a primary school teacher I’ve taught boys named after the isles of Harris and Lewis. I’ve taught an Ailsa (Craig), a (North) Rona, a Tara (nsay), a Summer (Isles) and a (Stac) Lee. And not so long ago I taught a girl called Skye. I’m bearing in mind that when teaching some of these nippers have told me that they often canna do something…but that’s another story.

In my present class of P6’s, I have a boy called Arran. And in my opinion it is far more acceptable to name your child after a Scottish island than a model of car (Mercedes) or brand of wine (Chardonnay). Especially when you consider how beautiful and peaceful our coastal archipelagos are.

Last Saturday I had a glorious looking weather window with warm and sunny days promised and clear visibility. Beinn Tarsuinn and Cir Mhor are a pair of Arran corbetts that I’d been eyeing up for a long time and so I boarded the 7am ferry to explore these igneous monoliths and then later, camp in Glen Rosa.


The weather forecaster did his job and the climate was warm, sunny and still. Even at sea the breeze was light and as we docked my route became clear very quickly. You can see Glen Rosa from the shore and that was where I headed, passing the big wooden house and the heritage museum. The sun lit up the whole glen to Beinn Nuis on the horizon and I set up camp ready for my no-doubt tired return later.


I’ve always had a hankering to live on an island. The feeling of serenity that drapes herself over me changes my thought processes, slows them to a light whir. And I can think with greater clarity. Add some mountains to the mix and the reset button is well and truly punched.

So feeling already more refreshed, I walked up the valley to the footbridge, swung a left uphill and after a couple of hours hiking had reached Beinn Nuis. The view towards Brodick and Holy Isle were stunning.


Passing over the snow-covered Beinn Tarsuinn was in itself a joy with the Paps of Jura and army helicopters vying for airspace. The ridge over to Cir Mhor looked incredibly inviting but I took the bypass route around the base and appeared to see the corrie and tors of Caisteal Abhail on my left and Cir Mhor ahead.


I followed the snowy path to the top of Cir Mhor and from their I could almost touch the top of Goat Fell. The deep, blue sea all around was licked by the spring sunshine and was blinding at points. But that blindness couldn’t have hidden the beauty of the views all around.


I could have stayed forever. It also reminded me of something I’ve long known. I should have been an island child.

Metal Trees: Wind Farms in Scotland

Scotland is embracing renewable energy in all it’s forms. But onshore wind will single handedly make the Scottish Government’s commitments to developing a further 100% of energy use from renewables a reality in the near future.

Some communities in Scotland are fighting wind farm developments. These include the proposals to build a wind farm on the Talladh-a-Bheihe estate on Rannoch Moor. Other groups have used wind power as a means to allow residents to make improvements to their homes and communities. These include the village of Fintry and the work done by the Fintry Development Trust.

These two sides of the story are both important and have equal merit. We need renewables. But when will enough be enough? Is Rannoch a site too far?

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