Sunday 31 August 2014

Back in England at last

We left Edinburgh this morning, and I wanted to see Hadrian's Wall on our journey south.
The first surprise was that the wall is not at the border between Scotland and England, but is roughly at the narrowest point between the east and west coasts.
I think that I was expecting the Wall to look similar to the Great Wall of China, so we drove right through where it was supposed to be and didn't notice it. We did stop at a pretty town called Corbridge, that used to be a garrison town for the soldiers, but it wasn't quite the same.

The final stats for our activity challenge in August are:
●  Vertical height, approximately 10,170 metres
●  Number of steps walked, approx 543,000

Strangely, none of our clothes fit us anymore as we have lost quite a bit of weight.
We are now going to spend a couple of weeks visiting friends and family and then we are heading back to France.
I haven't thought of a French challenge, but almost unbelievably, the Eiffel Tower is just over 300 metres tall, so on average, we walked to the top of it every day in August!

Whistle stop tour of Edinburgh

After a couple of very rainy days, today was forecast to be dry, so we headed for a day out in Edinburgh. In no particular order we:

●  Walked the Golden Mile - both directions, very touristy
●  Saw the castle from many different angles - but not inside
●  Spent a couple of hours on the Royal Yacht Britannia - dressed up as a sailor to pour a pint whilst saluting
●  Said hello to Greyfriars Bobby - he turned out to be a cute little Skye Terrier who guarded the grave of his master for 14 years
●  Saw the debating chamber of the Scottish Parliament - no sign of Alex Salmond
●  Stared through the gates of Holyrood Palace - home to the Queen when she visits the Scottish capital
●  Hiked to the top of Salisbury Crag - amazing views over the city
●  Ran most of the local Parkrun - couldn't cross the finish line as I didn't have my card

Phew, what a day!

Wednesday 27 August 2014

Nature at Cairngorm

It's not like us to spot and wildlife, but today we had to walk through a little herd of deer. Also, I kept hearing a clacking noise on the mountain, and I think it was a flock of ptarmigan birds.
Fantastic weather again as we parked at the base of the Cairngorm Railway station and walked on another ridge walk on the local Munro's.
We ended up on Cairngorm mountain and then followed the path down through the ski resort.

Monday 25 August 2014

Looking for Nessie

Went on a cruise on Loch Ness today. We did our best to find Nessie, and here she could be, swimming just below the surface.
On the other hand, it is more likely to be the ripples from a boat going past us, but it is the best that I could do.
I look a bit shocked to be sitting in the sun, and my sunglasses were last worn about a month ago, but it is lovely to find Summer once more.


Here we are on the last of our ridge walks in Scotland. This is the furthest north that we go, about 30 miles from the top of the map.
It was amazing today for three reasons - scenery, weather and the first time that we have managed to stick to the right route all way round.
There was no slacking with this walk as we trudged in a straight line over the top of all of the mountains in the photos.
The only scary one was the pointy bit on the second photo where the sides were really steep on either side and the tiny path just carried on regardless.
Towards the end, and with the van in sight, it got a bit slippery and muddy. I ended up on my bottom twice today, and once yesterday. I am either over confident or over clumsy - I think a bit of both.
Ps, the Everest challenge is now complete as we scaled 1,076 metres yesterday, making a grand total of 9,114. That is 266 metres higher than Mount Everest.
Phew, can throw the walking boots away now.

Sunday 24 August 2014

Storming the Fairy Castle!

The Fairy Castle - or Stac Pollaidh is a rock standing alone with turrets and bumpy bits on the top.
From the base it looked easy, and not too high and we marched to near the top quite quickly. The views were amazing, across completely deserted countryside for miles in every direction.
On the horizon we could see a little storm coming in so we took shelter behind a turret while it passed. We were then going to go along the ramparts, but I got a bit of stage fright as the rocks were wet and shiny, the wind had got up a bit, and two ladies were talking about going back.
Panicking at a dodgy corner, I refused to go any further and Darren had got slightly ahead of the ladies, who were screaming at that point.
To cut a long story short, we all got split up - I nipped round to where I thought they would appear in a few minutes but they didn't, Daz got almost to the top, and the ladies scrambled all over the place in terror.
We eventually found each other and calm slowly returned to us all.
Don't split up - another lesson learned on this dangerous new hobby we have found.
Ps, vertical height for August now 8,038 so one last push and we are there.

Friday 22 August 2014

Smug, smug, and not so after all

Arrived in Ullapool last night, camped up and enjoyed listening to the rain on the roof until morning.
Feeling pretty happy when we opened the blinds and enjoyed the view this morning. Weather forecast as always pretty dodgy, so in the afternoon we decided to take the van up to the number one TripAdvisor local attraction.
That's when we hit a problem - the camper was stuck in mud. I started off enlisting help from three strong looking neighbours, but apart from rocking back and forwards a few inches, nothing else happened.
In the end the owner had to drag us out with his tractor. We were a tiny bit embarrassed, but we were off on the road again.
Went to the terrifying Corrieshalloch Gorge and stood looking from the bridge at the gorge many metres below.
Very dramatic, but possibly not as good as the rainbow across the bay that we saw while eating fish and chips at the harbourside pub tonight.

Thursday 21 August 2014

Walking in whisky

Our last morning on the Isle of Lewis, and the last chance to see a beach at its best. I chose Tolsta beach and what a fantastic and deserted pick it was.
The sun started to come out as we made our way carefully down the single track road to the shore.
We parked up and all we could hear was water,
- lots of little peat stained streams that were racing down to the sea.
I resisted for as long as I could, ripped off my shoes and socks, then paddled around in the multi coloured water. It was amazing, like standing in a huge world of whisky.

Wednesday 20 August 2014


Just to prove me wrong after yesterday's post, I set out to walk to the coast at Shawbost last night and not only did I find a lovely beach, but the sun put in an appearance while I was there!
I didn't see another person on foot for the whole of my hour long walk, which was bit scary, but I did see dozens of seabirds and hundreds of sheep.
The rain didn't hold off for long and set in again once I was back at the van.
Yet another wash out day today at our new campsite in Stornoway. I honestly couldn't find anything picturesque here, so had to settle for a shot of me making friends with a local fisherman.
Highlights of today, I got my haircut and Daz bought some kippers from the Stornoway Smokehouse, which apparently has the last brick built kiln in Britain.
Ps, sorry that I have turned into a bit of a moaner, will try harder tomorrow.

Tuesday 19 August 2014

Isle of Lewis

I had heard of the Isle of Lewis, but it turns out that it is attached to the Isle of Harris and they are actually one biggish island. Very confusing.
I prefer Harris (where we were yesterday) as it is much more rocky, scenic and almost all of the houses are painted white. They stand out nicely from the grass and Heather, and look very pretty.
In contrast Lewis is flatter, peat boggy and most disappointingly, almost all of the houses are pebble dashed and a dirty grey brown colour.
Today we hit the Lewis tourist trail and first stop was the Whalebone Arch. It didn't detain us long and was in someone's front garden.
It was absolutely massive and Daz looks a bit nervous in case the spike lands on his helmet. We found out later that the whale wasn't hunted, but washed up on a beach nearby about 100 years ago.
Second stop was the Norse Mill and Kiln. It consisted of two little restored buildings, one where grain used to be dried and this one - pic two, where a water wheel turned a large millstone to grind flour.
Our main stop was the Gearrannan Blackhouse Village which was a beautifully restored little crofting village. We looked around a house that was styled from the 1950's and was very cosy. The most surprising thing about it was that it was built on a hill, and rather than flattening the floor, all three rooms sloped downhill. However, the buildings are really low to keep out of the wind so maybe the builders had no choice.  Also surprising was a little room at the back that housed both a large weaving loom to make Harris tweed and a straw stall for new born cows.
Unfortunately, that was it for local attractions that we could cycle to. We also tried to get to the coast, but couldn't find any way of reaching it.
Ps, on a positive note, the wind is dropping slightly and we only got rained on twice!

Beaches on South Harris

The ferry across yesterday was late, but fine after all - I think that we must have been sheltered by the island, so arrived feeling good.
We drove to a very basic campsite at Horgabost  that was almost on the beach - see pic one. On a summers day it would have been lovely, but huge rain clouds headed in so we had to whizz back to the van.
A gale raged all night and into this morning, so we wrapped up warmly and tried again. Along the beach we found a plastic walkway that headed out to sea, so Darren gave it a go as it rock and rolled with the waves.
We then headed to the beach on the other side of the estuary. It was called Luskentyre, and was  beautiful with miles of golden sand. We kept hoping that the sun would come out, (no chance) but it was remote, dramatic and amazing anyway.

Sunday 17 August 2014

Uig to Tarbert

Waiting to board the ferry from Uig on the Isle of Skye, to Tarbert in the Outer Hebrides.
The ferry is late due to the horrendous weather, apparently force eight winds.
Worried, but had lunch very early and the journey should take less than two hours so it can't be that bad. It looks quite a small ferry though.
We are going to spend four days on the Isles of Harris and Lewis, and not sure about wifi out there, so writing now to be on the safe side.

Old man Storr

Another stressful walk today, this time around the Old man of Storr. It is one of the most popular walks in Scotland and we cycled to a large and busy car park. The path was very defined and loads of other walkers were heading our way.
Unfortunately, we did not realise that the Old man is actually a small spikey rock in front of the huge rockface, (I thought he was at the top) so we did not notice that almost everyone else reached it, took a few photos, then turned around and walked back.
We carried along a smaller path that led around the back of the serrated edged rocks in picture one, and as is usual, it then disappeared. I then noticed a couple right up at the top, so we started climbing up towards them.
The views through the gaps at what I had thought were the old man's teeth, were astonishing and terrifying. I had to lie down and crawl towards the edge to have a look, but kept a good distance back as my knees were knocking.
Afterwards, we carried on up a little path that appeared along the ridge, the sun appeared and all was calm and relaxed - pic 3.
Eventually the path went up almost vertically and I was panicking as I thought that we would end up on a knife edge at the summit. 
Imagine my surprise when we gingerly looked over the top and there was a massive expanse of grass, with the trig point in the distance.
On the top it seriously was blowing a gale and even though the trig was a long way from the edge I couldn't manage a smile as I was worried about being blown off the edge.
We were following what we thought was a circular route, but we couldn't find the point where it went back down over the edge (mainly because I was so scared of going near it), so we kept walking along the top in the gale, following a little path.
We then came to a section that looked as if there had been a landslide, we lost the path and the route down was super steep, wet, slippery and windy. I had to keep shouting out 'calm, calm, calm, etc' all the way down, but I don't think it helped me much.
Obviously we made it back as I am writing this, but I am glossing over a lot of stress.  I could definitely do with a reassuring tot or two of whisky tonight.
Vertical height - still no stats as very slow Internet here, but it should be a few.
Grey hairs - quite a few new ones today.

Friday 15 August 2014

Cowpat and washing line

Drove up the coast a few miles to just outside Portree.
We wanted to do a fairly short morning walk, and then on to our new campsite - btw, it turns out that it nestles in view two, behind the sea cliff and in front of the spikey mountain.
The walk started well when we found a little sign saying 'path'. After that we almost immediately lost the path and got stuck in very tall, wet bracken. I fell over twice and disappeared from view - the second time I landed within a few inches of a cowpat. Lucky, lucky, lucky.
We eventually found the path again so then it was plain sailing up to the top. Excellent views all around, although it was absolutely freezing.
Feeling good on the way down and happily following the path until suddenly, it just disappeared. How can it happen?  One second a well trodden footpath, next step and nothing.
We set off cross country and I stamped in a cowpat - bad, bad, bad.
Then we followed a stream and found a new, really steep muddy path through some trees . Someone had tied a blue washing line rope to hold on to, which I did. Unfortunately, then I slipped and skidded down on my knees, elbows and hands. Muddy, muddy and dirty.
We then ended up on the seashore where I tried to have a wash in the sea. Hiked along shore towards the campervan, jumping on rocks across a stream, fortunately,  without incident.
Ps, collected about another 400 metres vertical height - will check it later - and now in a pub eating haggis, neeps, tatties and whisky sauce.  Fantastic.

Thursday 14 August 2014

One Corbett and three Grahams today

Out hiking again today, up in the Red Cuillin mountains on the Isle of Skye. I didn't know that as well as the Munro summit, there are also Corbetts ( over 2,500 feet) and Grahams (over 2,000). Consolation prizes maybe, but we got four today anyway! 
Excellent walk although our lunch stop was a bit worrying, as we were glared at the whole time by an enormous raven. I know it wanted some cake, but it's hard work walking uphill, so I couldn't spare any.
We did a circular walk from our campsite, following instructions from a book. The only problems occurred when we changed the ending ourselves, so had to hike 2,300 feet steeply downhill without a path, jump over a stream, then climb a wire fence to get back on track.
Picture four is the route as viewed from our campsite, and pic five is current view - the clouds have come streaming in and hidden it all.
Lots of vertical height gained today at 1,199 - annoying we didn't get 1,200 but we can't see the results until we get home, otherwise I would have walked a couple of extra steps. 
Current total for the month - 6,272. Almost the same height as Mount Salcantay, Andes, Peru.