Friday, September 27, 2013

Garden exploration

Partial view into the garden

Last weekend I took a stroll out into the back garden. I’d not done it recently because there had been quite a lot of work going on out there. Some updates to the plumbing system had been undertaken over the past few weeks, somewhat overdue, as the pipes they dug up were well over one hundred years old, in fact the house itself has a vintage of close to six hundred years. 

So, as is often the way with old houses, what they discovered when they started to dig below the surface displayed very little in common with you would be expected from above. Pipes veered off into adjoining houses, a septic tank or two were placed in spots that seemed to offer no benefit to anyone, if they were even used, although someone must have taken the effort to put them there. And couple of small streams were even discovered, which were a surprise to all.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Scotland Day 7 - An early start and a surprising sky

Woke up at 5.30 with some anticipation, as for most of the week the forecast had predicted good weather for sunrise, the only day of the week it had. I struggled out of my sleeping bag with no little difficulty, as my ribs were still playing merry hell with me since the fall on day two, and grappled my way to the window, where ominous, glowering clouds were assembled yet again.

I was not best pleased, but I figured I would get up anyway and face the day, as it was my last in Scotland. At least it wasn’t raining I thought, or more likely said, quite loudly, as by now I was regularly chatting away to myself, without the least concern.

I quickly attired, jumped in the car and headed to Buachaille Etive Mor, which is the classic sunrise shot, but the inclement weather was having none of this sort of behavior and the mountain looked flat and lifeless.

So instead of hanging around, I scooted over to Black Rock cottage, a classic view from this area, and somewhere I’d not been to yet, to see if anything interesting would happen. And much to my surprise it did.

As I stood there looking at the view, in yet another all encompassing wind of almost hurricaniffic proportions, and rueing my ‘at least it wasn’t raining’ comment from earlier, as the rain splashed down. I noticed a bit of colour appearing in the sky above the cottage. 

You can see the trees blowing about in the high winds.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Scotland Day 6 - A titanic battle at Glen Affric

Woke up nice and early to yet another morning of wind and rain, so quickly had some coffee then I was north bound to loch ness.

Within an hours drive the rain had stopped and the sun was shining away like it had never been gone. Once at the southern end of the loch, (a loch which, as you may be aware, contains more fresh water than all of the lakes and reservoirs in England and Wales combined) I took the smaller of the two roads that follows its length, and headed up the eastern side, which brought me up high into the surrounding landscape.

I first stopped at the little Loch Tarff, which had a delightful island in it and was looking lovely in the morning sun. So I set up thinking this would be a straight forward exercise, as even if the sun did go in when it saw me unpack my apparatus, as it surely would, it’d soon be back out again, thanks to the speed the clouds were being transported in the brisk wind.

So as with the usual accordance, once I had set up, the sun duly disappeared, but I wasn’t at all concerned as it would surely be back without haste. It wasn't. I stood on that mound overlooking the loch for about 25 minutes. Which doesn't seem very long, but when the wind is blowing around you in gale force strength, and threatening not just to topple the camera, but is brutally ruffling your very self, 25 minutes can seem an interminably long time.

Loch Tarff and its perfect little island.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Scotland Day 5 - The Cairngorms

Woke up to a very blustery morning, with a murky, sombre sky and very little visibility. So decided on a whim to head for the Cairngorms, to see if the weather was any better over there, and perhaps spot some of the local wildlife which, confusingly enough, had been notable only by its absence.

Also somewhat confusing is the name of the Cairngorms themselves. The range’s original name, Am Monadh Ruadh, translates as the red hills, yet Cairn Gorm (which is one of the mountains in the range) means blue hill. So the title Caringorms National Park in Gaelic means the Blue Hills National Park, yet the park authority also uses the Gaelic strap line Pairc Naiseanta a Mhonaidh Ruaidh, which in English translates as the Red Hills National Park.

But despite the confusion, the park itself is one of the most impressive in Britain. It is the largest in the UK, at almost twice the size of the Lake District, five of Scotland’s six highest mountains lie within its borders, and altogether it has fifty two summits over 900 metres. The fact it represent such a major barrier to travel and trade across Scotland, has helped to create the remote character of the Highlands that persists today.

The Cairngorms hold some of the longest lying snow patches in Scotland, they can remain on the hills until August or September, while in the Garbh Coire Mòr of Braeriach the snow has melted just five times in the last century. The lowest recorded temperature in the United Kingdom has twice been recorded in the Cairngorms, at -27.2C and the greatest British wind speed, 173 mph, was recorded on Cairngorm Summit, where speeds of over 100 mph are common. And lastly, but no means leastly, the park contains the finest collection of glacial landforms outside arctic Canada.

And extending the confusion somewhat, I wouldn’t actually be heading into the heart of the park itself, as there are no roads, I would just be skirting the edge. So with that cleared up, I struck eastwards and, as luck would have it, left the worst of the weather behind me.

I stopped in a parking bay on the main road that lines the eastern side of the park, as the views to the sun speckled ranges in the distance was looking rather nice, and tramped off into the undergrowth. I was pleasantly surprised to find some heather in bloom, as I’d not really seen much so far, so I made the most if it by including some in the shot.

Shame the sun didn't grace me with its presence,
but I like the colours.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Scotland Day 4 - Highland meanderings

Woke up early to an utterly grey morning so went back to sleep again for a while before arising at the more respectable hour of 8.30.

I was heading north today, possibly to Loch Ness, depending on how the time went, but first I was going to loch Eli. So I drove the several miles up the road to the car ferry, so I could jump across the other side of Loch Linnhe, which would save driving all the way around it. Then follow the western shore northwards until it doglegs left and feeds into Loch Eli.

That was the plan anyway, except I took a wrong turn when alighting from the ferry at Corran. Well there were two whole choices placed before me, so I can't be entirely responsible for that. Once I realised I was going the wrong way, I stopped alongside Loch Linnhe and got a shot of the little islands that reside in it, plus, as a bonus, I saw some seals messing about in the water which was nice.

Loch Linnhe on an overcast day. The seals were splashing about around those three islands.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Scotland Day 3 - Showing signs of dementia

I arose after a fitful nights sleep, thanks to the pain in my ribs, which must have been caused the by the fall I had the previous day (and made every move in the cramped confines of my canvas home an uncomfortable exercise), to the pitter and patter of raindrops on the tent.

And also in it, which is how I discovered my tent was not waterproof. It’s supposed to be, let me make that very clear, I’m not so inept to deliberately choose a tent that wasn’t waterproof, for my trip to Scotland. But this one wasn’t, and my views towards camping were growing decidedly dim.

The rain eased off in the end so I crawled out and made some coffee before heading off for the day. My first stop was Loch Achtriochtan, a small loch that is served by the river Coe, the same river that gives the glen its name.

Looking along the Loch bank with a swathe of reeds in the water

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Scotland Day 2 - Etive Mor

Woke up to thick mist and dull, weighty clouds so there was to be no sunrise shoot that morning. Fine, OK, I forgot to set my alarm and didn’t wake up until 7.30, by which time it was indeed rather grey. What it was like at sunrise I have no idea, but to ease my mind, I’ll say it was rubbish.

I feasted on oat biscuits and peanut cookies, as I’d forgotten to buy any milk for cereal, and made a flask of (black) coffee for my day ahead. After loading up the car, I headed to Signal Rock with a view to doing some forest walking, as it was so overcast. But as I was contemplating doing just that, I noticed a bit of light on the distant hills, and not one to let such an event go to waste, I made directly to Etive Mor.

When I got there the clouds were starting to disperse, but low hanging remnants still curled around the mountains, which looked a treat. I got some pictures of the iconic Buachaille Etive Mòr, meaning ‘the great herdsman of Etive’, that marks the junction of the beginning of Glen Coe to the west and Glen Etive to the south.

The peak of Stob Dearg rising through the clouds

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Scotland Day 1 - Camptastrophe

So after a nine hour drive I finally arrived at the campsite in Glen Coe that was to be my home for the next seven days, and considering I hadn’t been camping for years, I was quite looking forward to it.

It was early evening when I arrived, so I was keen to get set up and head out for the sunset as soon as possible. So with prudent haste I pitched my tent and loaded it up with all my supplies for the week ahead. Then I realised, with more than a moderate amount of dismay, that my power cable was not long enough to reach from the tent to the socket.

In something of a forewarning of what was to come, I had forgotten to check whether or not it would reach, so as quick as I could, I unloaded the tent, took it all down, re-pitched it and filled it back up with my weekly provisions. By this time I was perspiring with some abandon and quite exhausted.

But there was no time to stand around cursing my stupidity, I would have plenty of time for that in the days to come. Right now the light was as good as it was going to be, so I had to get moving.

Driving along the A82, the road that runs through the Glen Coe valley, the landscape was looking incredible. With huge mountains rising steeply on each side, the soaring peaks wrinkled and craggy, and their lower banks, undulating and surging under a velvety covering of verdant moss. Home to gnarled trees and sparkling waterfalls, nestled in ancient chasms, it really was like something from a fantasy film.

It's quite difficult to get a sense of scale, but if you look closely, you can see a couple of people on the
footpath that runs from the bottom left of the frame, to give you an idea the size of two of the
Three Sisters pictured here.