Castle Law Hill Fort

The doors are closed and locked on adventures far from home once more as coronavirus takes hold again. So close to home is the default option when scouring maps for places to explore. I’d seen the Castle Law hill fort from afar loads of times, often from the Dunning to Bridge of Earn road in the van, sometimes from the park in Forgandenny with Young Johnston.

Find out more about the fort here: http://hillforts.arch.ox.ac.uk/records/SC2994.html

It was so cold last night, the frost on the van was thick, snow-like and solid. -5 on the temperature gauge. But the sun was rising and the clouds were in hiding.

I passed the snow line and was slightly disappointed at what lay on the ground, you can’t craft snowballs out of powder. The views improved with every step looking west toward Ben Chonzie and back toward Bridge of Earn.

I passed what used to be Glenearnhill, an old farm, finding a bonus geocache in the old fireplace, and carried on up the last few metres to the top of Castle Law.

I reached the summit. In some ancient forts you struggle to spot the ditches or wall foundations. Today, even in the snow, the lines and curves here were clear.

The summit cairn included painted stones, a reminder of the virus. But my mind was lost in the hills and the snow and the sunshine. The views were stunning, with the shapes of Ben Vorlich and Stuc a’ Chroin obvious in their winter coats.

The snow was so deep in places. But it was so powdery that getting a solid foothold was pretty tricky. I slid most of the way back to the old farm.

After lingering in the cold at the summit and marvelling at the fort and sliding most of the way down, my hands were like ice blocks. So I built a wee fire, created a cheese and tomato masterpiece and checked out the geocaching app again to find another treasure nearby. Turns out there are a few around the Law.

And after my second treasure find I started for home.

My route.

Lockdown has curtailed our outdoor adventures again but their is so much to see on our doorsteps that it’s a great opportunity for Microadventures. And with this walk today I achieved my 50 mile target for Doddie Weir’s DoddieGump challenge, raising money to help fund research into MND. Might have to try for 101 miles now. There’s lots more to see on my doorstep.

Grid Square Journeys no. 3 – NN 7941 (Meall a’ Choire Chreagaich and a Swim!)

For the third of my Grid Square Journeys, I needed to do some tweaking. I’ve used the same number of steps since I was first taught to navigate properly by Rich. But either old age or maybe too many injuries has meant my stride has started to change.

The last two squares has seen me finish short of my goal, so after a bit of thought and some measuring, I’ve added 6 double steps to each one hundred metres. I’ve altered my timing too and you can see at the bottom my new stats.

So here was the plan, up to the top of Glen Quoich, in the hills between there and Kenmore. Far from dirty camping and cramped honeypot parking. Meall a’ Choire Chreagaich, a small peak to walk round, with a wee loch and not too much height, looked great. I stopped at an abandoned cottage on near the head of the glen. Good stonework and a solid roof, the sheep have made it their home.

I parked up at a road end, just a km from the start of my route. Note the lack of another soul or car. Bliss!

The weather was a mix of showers and brightness, with only a tiny point of blue sky seen all day. The going was fine, lots of heather. I could see the munros of Glen Lyon and Loch Tay, as well as Schiehallion, although the tops were shrouded in cloud. Lunch was the chunkiest cheese sandwich I think I’ve ever had.

And how did I do?

Distance-wise, I think the new steps made a difference to my overall accuracy and each section measured about right. Timing was more accurate too. My bearing was a little off on the northern and southern sections, although not by far. I’m aware that the long distances invoked, a full km, mean any mistake is exaggerated the longer the section.

It’s looks like a square, so maybe I shouldn’t be too harsh on myself. Here’s the stats.

After I’d finished I passed Loch Freuchie and remembered a waterfall I’d seen when before so pulled in and went exploring. The falls are 2km from the road and about 15m high so the noise of the water as I approached grew more deafening.

Definitely time for a dip. Not so much swimming, more bobbing, as a friend described it.

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:

Cottaging on Dava Moor

I have a dream. To live in an old cottage far away from civilisation. And every now and then I travel over Dava Moor (between Nairn and Grantown on Spey) and I can see the remains of what must have been a well populated area in days gone by. Old and derelict cottages, tracks and bridges can be seen in amongst the heather and peat of the moor.

A holiday in Carrbridge presented itself as a great opportunity to take a closer look. An early start meant I caught the sun rising over the moor and some of the abandoned buildings.

My route around the cottages at Easter Crannich, Wester Crannich, Anaboard and Rychorrach totalled about 7km and the warm air and lack of breeze were really noticeable, even at 5am. A breakfast of wild raspberries was pretty tasty and more refreshing than the nutrigrain bars I’d packed.

Anaboard Cottage – The fireplace gives an idea of when the lintel was put in.

Wester Crannich Cottage – The most ruined of the four buildings with no roof or internal fittings but lovely stonework.

The last two cottages were the most interesting. Quite snazzy if you like your history.

Easter Crannich Cottage – Very steep steps and horrendous contemporary wallpaper downstairs. But upstairs I found a wall plastered in old newspaper, the newspaper in question being The Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News. Not one you’ll see in the stands today as the last day of publication was in 1970. And it reported on just what the title suggests, sports and theatre.

I’m assuming the newspaper was used as an insulator, as I imagine winters in Dava would be pretty chilly. The date on the paper was pretty interesting, Saturday 25th March 1905. 1905!!!!….

Rychorrach Cottage – A beautiful setting higher up with views for miles, including the Cairngorms. The occupants of this house had followed the lead of the Easter Crannich residents and put extra insulation on the wall, but had taken the idea a step further, thicker cardboard boxes this time instead of newsprint.

They were tacked to the walls incredibly neatly and looked almost artistic as the collage of brands wouldn’t look out of place in a gallery. Corn Flakes, Vim and Scott’s Oats, which are still going strong today. Others I’d never heard of such as Smedley’s carrots and Oxydol washing powder.

The most interesting box was one labelled dried eggs and “For European Recovery” and was part of the post-WW2 Marshall Plan to revitalise Western Europe. A fascinating discovery and quite something to see the item in real life and how it was used after.

I found a calendar at the house from the year 1950. And after a bit of research I think the last occupier was a man called James McDonald. Maybe he was the decorator but I can’t be certain, there isn’t much online about Rychorrach to be sure.

On the one hand what a lucky man to have lived in such a beautiful place, especially in summertime. But what a harsh existence it must have been for James, his family and the previous generations of McDonald’s who farmed there and at other cottages on the moor in winter conditions

Would I live there? Probably. 21st century heating is a wonderful thing.

Angus Church – January 2015

This church has been on my “to do” list for a while now.  It’s columns make it look extremely grand and Athenian from the front, although less impressive at the back where it’s falling (or being knocked) down. Inside the main chamber it remains obviously a church with the pews and the altar.  I love the second level where you can look down from height or see it from below as it stretches from one side of the room to the other.  The only flock gathering here now are the many pigeons that have made it home and turned it into a giant communal pigeon toilet….

A wee explore around the old Broadford Works (Richards Factory), Aberdeen.

My last Aberdeen explore before going to pastures new. It’s a site I’ve wanted to look round since moving to the Granite City and I’ve wandered and driven past it many times.

Built for Scott Brown and Co (of Angus), 1808, bankrupt 1811 and sold to Sir John Maberly MP, entrepreneur, speculator and introducer of jute to the UK. Maberley rapidly developed Broadford Works, adopting the first gas lighting of an industrial complex in Scotland, by Boulton and Watt in 1814-15, and Scotland’s second power loom linen weaving factory in Scotland in 1824. Maberly was himself bankrupt and in 1834 the works passed to Richards and Co, who had a bleachworks at Rubislaw and branches at Montrose, produced canvas tarpaulins and as a particular specialism, fire hoses. Latterly man-made fibres for carpet yarn etc replaced flax. Employment peaked at 3,000, once the largest single employer in Aberdeen. (Historic Scotland).

Since closing in 2004, plans to redevelop the site haven’t got much further than the planning department and it’s only regular visitors since then have been vandals and the fire brigade….. An awesome place and despite only being resident for a short time, I’ll always associate Aberdeen and it’s skyline with the factory towers.

Gartloch Hospital – Monday 7th April 2014

Visited Gartloch Hospital on Monday on the recommendation of a new like-minded chum. It was closed in 1996 after serving patients for 100 years as a hospital/asylum. It is now in the process of being redeveloped into a “luxury village”.

Shortly before its closure, it was used in the BBC television series Takin’ Over the Asylum where its distinctive French Renaissance style architecture served as the exterior of the fictional St. Jude’s Hospital. Although many of the surrounding buildings have been converted into homes, the Category A listed administration building remains derelict.

The Glasgow burns units must be busy, so many ARSonists seem to practice their craft there… The Ballroom was a nice surprise, which you’ll see at the end. Although at nearly 17st, I didn’t fancy too many of the floors.

Causewayend School Explore film, Aberdeen – 28.3.14

A cheeky Friday explore. Causewayend is an old school that closed in 2008. It sits in the centre of Aberdeen and is a prominent landmark as it sits just off the Mounthooly roundabout.

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