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:

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.

Building Bernie’s Bed

It’s always more interesting to look at how a child sees something. I’ve spent hours/days/months looking online and speaking to friends to find the best way to create Bernie the mini camper out of the Arnold Clark ex-hire van I bought back in August. Some of the builds I’ve seen have been painfully impressive. Young Johnston’s ideas were…..different.

Drawing his plan with him was probably the most fun I’ve had in months. He was articulate, engaged and full of very funny ideas about what would make Bernie the perfect mini camper. The teacher in me liked the giant tick and hoped it wasn’t a blood sucking version. Including a fire to burn me on the bum when I least expected it was a typical Young Johnston thing to say, but in this context it really tickled my funny bone.

I set to work with two competing ideas. The Instagram perfection version, all smooth lines, bright surfaces and usually with a stunning sunset in the background. And the plan I drew, with utmost precision, but probably way beyond my skillset.

With my measurements in hand I bought all the timber and bits that I thought I needed and set to work. I’d seen one film on YouTube that was my guide as I set off, cutting lengths of planed pine and screwing them together to create a basic frame, with added wood glue for extra muscle.

Even by this stage I was proud of my efforts. Size looked good and it seemed fairly strong. Next I had to find out how my storage boxes would best fit underneath. After trying a few options, I plumped for this layout.

And with the storage boxes in situ.

Next up I cut the slats for the solid section. And then created the frame for the pull out section.

And then added the slats for the pull out section.

You’ll notice two slats are missing. My calculations for what I would need were just ever so slightly wonky. Unlike the final frame! Which I’m pretty proud of. The final test was to make sure it would fit in the van, which it did.

I used some braces to screw it to the van floor.

And added these clips to stop the pull out section from moving when on the road.

Finally I had to add the cushions, kindly donated by a friend with an old caravan. My original measurements were made with these cushions in mind. I’m not a fan of the orange, but Kirsty is going to re-cover these for me at some point.

And all set up, ready for the road!

I’m incredibly proud of what I’ve achieved, with a lot of help from others like Kirsty, Young Johnston, The King, Rich and the many bloggers and YouTubers I’ve been stalking. I’m no DIY guy. I think Kirsty might expect a bit more from now on though…. And as for the wee man’s original ideas, there is no room for a police station, but for me, this is definitely worthy of a giant, big, fat tick.

There have been less outdoor adventures lately due to all the insulating, carpeting and bed building. Let the outdoor adventures recommence.

Our 7 Days of the West Highland Way – April 2014

This is the story of our West Highland Way trip. We walked the Way from Milngavie to Fort William in 7 days (Thank god we didn’t try for 5…). Those 7 days were some of the best days I’ve ever experienced with a mix of fun, adventure, banter, wildlife, gorgeous views and a great feeling of achievement. I’m genuinely sad it’s over (although my legs and I have been forced to disagree on this point). Thanks to all those who were involved, whether walker, supporter or feral animal.

1 long distance trail
10 mountain enthusiasts
96 miles walked
117 compeed used
141 litres of water consumed
1000’s of Scottish mountain views
Infinite memories…


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