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.

A Hole Lot of Wonder

Q. What equipment do you need to go caving?

I only ask because if a Trivial Pursuit victory depended on my knowledge of potholing, I would be left floundering with 5/6s of a pie. The very idea of exploring the depths of middle earth excites me but scares the bejesus out of me, probably because I saw The Descent. I’m no caver, not for me the dark, creepy and ever decreasing holes in the ground where my larger frame would be constantly screaming “diet!”. But I do like the idea of natural howffs or shelters, which give you a genuine sense of protection from the wind, rain and snow, cut into or made of rock such as Bonnie Prince Charlie’s Cave near Elgol on Skye.

I recently heard about a cave in Glen Almond near Amulree. Not a deep cave. And no evil creatures apparently. Thieves Cave (Thiefs Cave on OS maps) can be found at the back-wall of Coire Chultrain. There isn’t much information online, but it’s link to reivers and catarans (and no mention of Neil Marshall) made it sound worthy of a expedition.

As it turned out, the cave has mostly collapsed, leaving a pile of particularly large, slabby boulders. It was at least a lovely, snowy walk up from the bridge at Sma Glen, but what really made the trip was that some enterprising soul has placed a geocache on the site. And a well stocked one at that.

I swapped trinkets. However, my new helicopter wasn’t quite big enough to fly me out of the corrie.

Continuing my search for dark places, yesterday I went looking for Cave number two of the week. Balnamoon’s Cave can be found in Glen Mark, near Edzell. The hiding place of a Jacobean laird on the run, I was hoping for better luck this time, something I could clamber inside and get a sense of protection from the wilderness.

After a mornings walking through light snow and then an hours rock hopping around the hillside looking for the tell-tale vertical slit, I was in luck.

Water streaming down the back wall like a fountain, but roomy and with two heather single beds already created by some expert howffers, it inspired some  mixed thoughts along the lines of “Who last slept here?” and “I’d like to give that springy bed a shot”, which I duly did.

But actually, I was well chuffed with my find. More than big enough to hold a crowd, lots of protection from the elements and a feeling of stepping back in time, the cave was just deep enough to be a shelter, but close enough to the sunshine to escape any strange predators that Hollywood might create.

Sitting under one 500 tonne rock was scary. So to ask my initial question again, what equipment to you need to go caving deep under ground? The answer is simple. You don’t need ropes, rucksack or even a helmet. You need balls. Big ones.