Belnahua Bound

When the chance came along to visit the abandoned island of Belnahua, on the west coast, my immediate response was an unambiguous YES as the exploring nerves in my body all went into overdrive. A friend is writing a book partly based on the island and she was chartering a boat to go over and do some research. Belnahua in Gaelic means “mouth of the cave” and is one of the Slate Islands. Slate was taken from the shores of these islands and slabs of the rock were used to cover buildings and as grave and hearthstones. There is surprisingly little online about the island but you can find out a little more about the islands here: https://slateislands.org.uk/belnahua/.

After speaking to Young Johnston about a possible boat trip, he was in. And Dave decided to come too. So along with Katie, who organised the boat, our merry band of adventurers were looking forward to stepping from 21st Century Mainland life to 19th Century island life.

We left early on Saturday morning and arrived in Ellenabeich, a gorgeous village about 20 miles south of Oban, from where our boat would depart.

From the village you can see the Slate Islands as they stretch south over the Firth of Lorne. We went higher to get a better look. If you look near the top left of the photo below, you can see two islands, one in front of the other. The one at the front, that looks a bit like a submarine, is Belnahua.

Getting our buoancy aids on.

Our boat arriving to take us out to sea.

The trip over only took about 10 minutes but in that short time we saw some stunning views of the surrounding islands as well as some porpoise. Young Johnston was on GoPro duty and took some cracking photos. In my head, the soundtrack to the trip was “The Island” by Skippinish.

Our tropical weather was probably showing us a side of the island that slate workers wouldn’t see in mid-Winter storms. The island still has the remains of some of the quarry workings as well as old machinery and some of the old housing.

Not only were the rocks on the island great for slate, but they were peppered with fools gold.

We’d come prepared to swim so before lunch we got our trunks on and tested out the water. The similarities to the Caribbean continued as the fairly warm water lapped our legs.

The water in the quarries was so clear and a pleasure to swim or even just float in.

After a last walk around some of the old buildings and another swim, this time in the sea, waiting for the boat to come back, we took our last selfie and headed back across the water into 21st century Ellenabeich. We booked into the Aire/Airidh, walked up the hills behind the village and ate fish and chips and ice cream, enjoying the sunset and talking about the day we had just enjoyed.

If you’ve never visited the island of Belnahua, or any of the Slate Islands, I’d absolutely suggest you should. Whether for the walking, history, swimming or to see a different part of the country, this won’t disappoint.

Date Day Paddles

A day paddling the River Earn from Forteviot to Bridge of Earn to celebrate a day without kids! Not even the boat starting to take on water (and the pump failing too) could dampen our enthusiasm and enjoyment for such a fab day.

And here’s the film.

It’s hard not to get lost in The Lost Valley

I’ve driven along the A82 through Glencoe many times. The road is an outdoor addicts dream as you pass mountain after river after ridge after yet more stunning views. Despite the many drive-throughs, I had no idea the Lost Valley (or Coire Gabbail) existed until about 4 years ago when I walked the Bidean Nan Bian circuit and my return was through the Lost Valley. The promise was made to return and properly enjoy the atmosphere of this magnificent amphitheatre, something I wasn’t properly able to do that day 4 years ago after 8 hours walking in the summer heat.

Along with Paul, James and Gav, I found myself in the big car park opposite the Three Sisters, a phenomenal viewpoint even if going no further than the low wall that surrounds the car park. But we were ready to go further. Four big kids full of excitement at where we were heading with our tents and our whisky.

The good path headed east and then quickly turned south into the gorge at the bottom of the corrie and then steeply up into the corrie itself.

As we climbed higher and the breathing became deeper the flat valley floor, famous from a thousand images, came into view.

As a venue for a camp, the valley is beautiful. High mountain cliffs on three sides and a flat floor with a mix of stones and grass. The Allt Coire Gabhail flows clear and fast at either end, although curiously disappears in the valley itself. Camp was set up and we ate lunch.

Despite being only a few short miles from the main road, you get the real feeling of being far removed from civilisation in the Lost Valley, something all four of us were craving.

With no real plan other than to explore, we headed up the path that leads to the Bealach Dearg, the pass between the two Munro’s, Bidean and Stob Coire Sgreamhach.

At a ford and crossroads, we headed up the side of the Gearr Aonach ridge but went in different directions, each seeking our own mini adventure and solitude.

For me that included a foot dip and some snowman building.

We came together again later at the bottom of the path where the valley flattens.

A meal was cooked and a fire was created. As we admired our surroundings it was clear how small we really were compared to the huge mountain theatre we found ourselves in.

A breeze kept the worst of the midgies at bay and we had a really fab evening.

The next day was very wet with an extra large dose of midgies. We quickly ate some breakfast (our first), decamped and headed back the now much slippier stone path towards the bottom of the corrie and the car park.

When we reached the car park, it was agreed that a second breakfast was necessary so we headed for Tyndrum and the rolls and hot drinks were a fitting end to an amazing trip.

Take a look at the film below.

Loch Laidon Living

As the number of vaccines administered hits the millions, the end might just be in sight. I say that with one eye on a future that is still very much unknown. As one sage-like fellow said:

“Anything can happen, and often we are wrong. The best we can do with the future is prepare and savour the possibilities of what can be done in the present.”

With that in mind, I savoured the possibility of what I could do with a 36hr window.

I headed to Loch Laidon. For some camping, some eating, and some floating.

And watch the film here:

Bernie Needs More Shelving

A February break with nowhere to go, what do you do? Bernie has been in need of some new storage and finally here was a few days where I could maybe manage some time in the garage. First thing to do was remove the walking poles, ice axe and their mount from the side wall and re-attach to the back door. You can see in the picture the mount marks left on the wall.

The big question was what would fill the space? I did a bit of googling. Instagramming. YouTubing. And tried out some ideas.

I settled on a pair of flat shelves, built as a unit. And something more like a wonky letter box. After a bit of carpentry and some oiling, here’s what I ended up with.

I had checked earlier where the van ribs were as I wanted the shelves attached solidly. I know for a fact someone will lean on them, fall on them or just feel like testing their strength. That certain someone helped me drill the holes through the metal ribs and drill the screws.

A spirit measure was used although that might not be clear from the pictures… #eversoslightlysquint

And here’s a look at how it all looks now.

It’s a job I’ve wanted to sort for a while and I’m chuffed with how it’s turned out. I was a little concerned the shelf unit might stick out from the side to much. It’s a small van and I used timber with a 100mm width. But it’s worked out perfectly for the gear I though would go in it and for clearance.

The wonky letter box shelf is for atlases, maps, flat items etc. The top shelf of the unit has been left empty at the moment. Free for drinks, phones or anything else I want to put down.

Once the latest lockdown is finished, I can’t wait to head off into the wilderness for some outdoor adventure.

Good Lordy it’s coldy at Loch Ordie

Went on my first adventure of 2021 today to Loch Ordie, which is off the A9 between Dunkeld and Pitlochry.

The weather was beautiful. Cold, sunny and cloudless. And I spent a good part of my time at the loch being followed around by this Robin, even managing to photobomb me at the top of the stairs on the left as I pondered whether to get into the water. The ice covered water.

Hi Kev, said Robin.

A bit of walking and a bit of swimming. It was pretty cold today, but what a feeling to be in the water with my new friend, Robin.

Dark Skies

Two days walking part of the Southern Upland Way from Balgrennan to Dalry with Paul and James. Our camp near White Laggan bothy looking towards Loch Dee, a peak at just how “dark skies” that part of the world is, and our morning view as the sun was hitting Craiglee. A belter of a trip. And thanks to P and J for some of the photos. Film below.

And here’s the film.

Great Pairs

Great pairings….A pie and a pint, bacon and eggs, hide and seek, Tom and Jerry…. How about a morning canoeing….

And an afternoon on West Lomond?…

https://youtu.be/yCLJTqriKiA

Click the link to check out a wee film of our paddle.

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