Carron Bothy

Last weekend, Neil, Gordon, James and I were supposed to be heading to Sandwood Bay.  But the weeks worth of torrential rain had put that plan on (pretty wet) ice.  We scoured the weather forecast for even a glimpse of sun, anywhere that the chance of rain was low-ish.  We settled for a trip to Argyll and Carron Bothy.

We arrived at the Auchindrain forest road end in sunshine and warmth, totally unexpected as other parts of the country were under yellow weather alerts. The forest road was great for walking, allowing us to travel fast, even with our heavy packs laden with waterproofs for the expected deluge.  The final 2km of path were wet underfoot.  And when I say wet, I mean tsunami wet, turned to small rivers by the weeks rain.

The bothy was clean and well maintained, despite James’ best efforts to blow it up with his exploding Jetboil.   We dropped our overnight gear, had lunch, found some deadwood for a fire and headed into the hills.  The views were superb and the breeze took away some of the heat from the sun.  The main phrase of the afternoon was “I can’t believe it’s not raining”.

The peaty brown burns did a great job of soothing the sore feet before teatime.

A peaceful nights sleep followed a peaceful evening of games and chat.  And the next day we headed back the way we came to the car, in the rain this time, but by then, it didn’t matter.

And the film…

Ambling the Annandale Way

Two days walking and camping the fantastic Annandale Way from Moffat to Hoddom Castle with Adventure Man and Gav.

The weather was glorious and the scenery was even better. People forget the south of Scotland, assuming the North is where the WOW moments occur. But the south has the x factor if you know where to look.

History v Progress?

I love a bridge. And this walk was full of bridges, large and small. Some of historical note (as in you can find info on the internet), others not…… Starting with this beauty.

My wander started in Tomatin, just under the Findhorn Viaduct. And I was aiming for Boat of Garten, following one of General Wade’s old military roads. As I climbed higher and looked back, the road was clear to see although it more resembled a river after the recent snows than a road. I saw a weasel and a deer and a buzzard. This was looking back toward Tomatin.

I left the moor behind and dropped down to the Slochd, a high point on the A9 I’ve passed hundreds of times by car, but never in foot. Below is the old A9 (foreground) and the newer A9. Plans for the future duelled A9 we’re being looked at higher up the hill on the left.

After passing an abandoned cottage at Ortunan and forest plantations I reached Insharn and after crossing another lovely old bridge, the view opened up ahead.

I reached Sluggan Bridge, an impressive structure which crossed the River Dulnain, and another ruin. The bridge was one of General Caulfield’s.

It’s hard to tell from the picture but the bridge is huge and makes a lovely gateway from the moors to the Carrbridge forestry, and the final few kilometres of walking through sun kissed trees down passed Kinveachy and into Boat of Garten.

The history of the bridges and paths and the progress of the later roads and future A9 are a contemporary headache which everyone shares. What’s more important, the history or the progress?

Our history helps us to learn, often from our mistakes. But history, in the form of one of General Wade’s roads, won’t allow 21st century communications to seamlessly stride on. This struck me in its most blunt form as I passed Ortunan. Over the top of Wade’s old path, a tipper lorry and road roller were filling in the past with new stone to improve the road, allowing modern day road vehicles to rumble conveniently over them, presumably for access by geological teams planning the progression of the new A9 dual carriageway.

I was left feeling a bit shameful of my fellow man as the historic old right of way was turned into little more than a forest road. But I appreciate the need to make A9 journeys safer and quicker, especially as it’s a road I use often.

Appreciate the history while it’s there I think is the answer. Walk over those old bridges and follow the line of the old roads and take pictures and films of how they looked on the day you were there. So you can appreciate how different they become later. Check out the film below:

Coasting Along

With Brexit and Ecksit dominating the headlines, Neil, Dave, Tony and I headed to St. Andrews for some escapism and a weekend adventure. On the Saturday Neil and I decided to walk some of the Fife Coastal Trail from Lower Largo to Anstruther. That was the escapism from Barnier and May. The adventure came in the form of the Elie Chain Walk, a tide level section that involves much rock hopping and dangling from metal chains over fear inducing heights and white, bubbly seas.

Dumbarnie Links was blowy but looked lovely in the warmth of the morning sun. Old WW2 barriers were dotted around the sand like chocolate squares. We walked past Ruddon’s Point and Shell Bay and reached Kincraig Hill, where the adventure really got going.

Caves and strange rock formations were admired and explored as the sea cliffs rose up above us. From here, we worked our way around the rocky peninsula using the chains and good balance.

It took us about 45 minutes to get from the start to the end of the chain walk where we reached the next beach.

As well as the basalt columns we saw buzzards, kestrels and even a peregrine falcon.

When we finally came out onto the beach, we found a top spot and lunched with sushi and rolls and fruit pastilles. Sitting, we quickly cooled after our scrambling so got moving again and passed St. Monan’s and Pittenweem and some old buildings on the way.

By this point we were getting close to our destination at Anstruther. Our prize was going to be some Anstruther chips so onward we strode past the rising tide.

The chips we ate while sat at the harbour were the tastiest I’ve ever had. Crunchy and dipped in brown sauce. Although we were so tired that I could have been eating a raw tattie and considered it a delicacy.

It is worth pointing out that if Theresa May scrambled her way over the Elie Chain Walk in the same way she has scrambled through the Brexit process, she would have gotten pretty wet. Anyway…

I’m keen on further adventures in Fife and its coastal trail. But a week away to Boat of Garten is coming up fast. Back to the mountains.