Wintering out

Islay 12-1

Along with autumn, spring and summer, winter is one of my favourite seasons.

Of late in the WoW household we’ve been hunkered down, hatching plots and not getting out as much as we’d like. However, the opportunity arose and was swiftly taken to decamp to Islay for a short week (one up from a long weekend) and we’ve been out and about on the Queen of the Hebrides’ Atlantic coast enjoying the bracing weather. Here’s a few more pics:

Islay 1-1

Islay 4-1

Islay 5-1

Islay 11-1

Islay 13-1

Islay 14-1

Islay 18-1

Islay 20-1


The Hebrides

705_FCMuch excitement chez WoW today as the (provisional) cover for the forthcoming (April 2015) The Hebrides guidebook is up on my author page at the Cicerone website. As it says on the cover the guidebook includes 50 day and backpacking routes throughout the Hebrides. The cover picture was taken on Oronsay – Colonsay’s tide-separated sibling – in June this year and features TLF walking on Traigh Uamha Seilbhe with the mighty Paps of Jura across the Firth of Lorn. Here’s the original of the cover pic and a couple more pics from the walk on Oronsay:

004Seal Cottage 7064062Paps 1South Colonsay 7Strand 1

…and it’s goodbye to care!

An Cladach 2-1There’s a popular car sticker I’ve seen around on Islay and occasionally in Glasgow too, which reads ‘ Islay …and it’s Goodbye to Care! The last bit is from ‘Westering Home’ – a traditional song about how grand it is to be on (or ‘nearer to’) Islay. This sentiment certainly chimes with my experience of visiting the Queen of the Hebrides, as the island is sometimes known. The weekend just past we popped over to Islay on the Calmac ferry for a couple of days walking and some pottering around at the sublime An Cladach bothy on the Sound of Islay. Here’s a few pics:

Sgorr nam Faoilean 1-1Sgorr nam Faoilean 4-1

Bheinn Bheigier 1-1

An Cladach 6-1An Cladach 8-1The weekend saw the continuation of some very welcome late-autumn sunshine and warm temperatures, which helped to make our wee trip feel like a proper holiday. The evenings were cold though and the still, starry nights were alive with the belling of hormonal stags, it being the rut just now. A stag or two would start up in Gleann Ghaireasdail just beyond the bothy and their counterparts would respond from Jura just a mile or so away across the sound. On Monday morning there came another sound across the water – mechanical diggers and trucks at work, clearing the land at Ardfin, doing the groundwork for the selfish giant’s new golf course.

Anyway, we had a grand couple of days and so did Dougal Mor who was looking especially dapper in his new rucksack.

An Cladach 9-1

A fine few days on the Isle of Mull


Beinn Talaidh 2-1

A couple of weekends back we set off for a few days walking on Mull. We were lucky with the weather and managed to do all the walks we hoped to combined with a night at Tomsleibhe bothy and another camped on the shore of Loch na Keal. The experience was book-ended by Calmac fish and chips making this a near perfect weekend excursion.

Thursday afternoon we parked up at Pennygown and walked in to Tomsleibhe through Glen Forsa – a nerve-wracking experience for young Dougal who’s really quite scared of Highland coos. His fear is expressed by barking at them, which in turn causes us to fear for our own safety – luckily the brutes can hardly see you through those long fringes. The bothy was empty so we bagged a sleeping platform before climbing the steep north ridge of Beinn Talaidh. It really is very steep to start with, so much so that I had stiff thighs for a few days after the up and down. There are grand views from the summit, though to the west Ben More and A’ Chioch were under a cap of clag. However, to the east the Dun da Ghoaithe ridge remained cloud free; exactly what we were hoping for on the following day.

After a grand evening in the bothy and a good nights sleep, we set off southeast through the forestry plantation initially on a good track, which petered out to a rough, boggy and tenuous path, but we found a way through before crossing the Abhainn an t-Sratha Bhain and gaing the loooooong west ridge of Dun da Ghoaithe.

166this route up the hill isn’t easy of access, but it makes a fine alternative to traipsing up the dull access track from Achnacroish – the usual route of ascent. Oh, and the views are marvellous. Sgurr Dearg looms to the southeast:

Dun da Ghoaithe 20-1While at the southern end of the Dun da Ghoaithe ridge the lower top of Mainnir nam Fiadh dominates the view:



Looking back to the summit of Dun da Ghoaithe from Mainnir nam Fiadh:


Dun da Ghoaithe 6-1


We returned to the bothy by our outward route, the out and back taking six hours. After packing up we headed back down Glen Forsa and were fairly knackered by the time we reached the wee green Corsa. We pootled off to Loch na Keal and pitched the tent where we enjoyed venison burgers and a plastic mug of Chateau Poop du Naff before turning in for a well deserved kip ahead of our planned assault on Ben More the following day.

Continuing our run of great good fortune the next day dawned bright and reasonably clear with clouds scudding over the hill tops from the west. After breakfast we launched ourselves straight up onto the ridge of Beinn Fhada from the south bank of the Scarisdale River. It’s a steepy, but it makes a horseshoe out of the Ben More walk and avoids the boggy ground of Gleann na Beinne Fada. Once the ridge is gained the views are magnificent. Ahead lay Beinn Fhada:


Ben More 1-1


While across the head of the glen loomed A’ Chioch and Ben More (right)


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Once we’d trotted along the ridge to the bealach between Beinn Fhada and A’  Chioch the onward route looks mighty impressive and ever so slightly daunting:


Ben More 12-1


In truth there’s no difficulty involved, but it’s not a route I’d fancy in winter with significant snow and ice.


Ben More 14-1


Once atop A’ Chioch the onward rote to the summit of Ben More involves a slightly airy ridge with a little easy scrambling; though this could be nervy stuff in poor visibility.


Ben More 17-1


The view back down the ridge to A’ Chioch from the summit of Ben More:



Ben More 8-1Ben More 10-1From the summit we scurried down the up-and-down route from Dhiseig passing a surprising number of folk of all ages on their way up. Most of them looked like they were looking forward to getting to the top – and I’m sure they wouldn’t be disappointed as the views are cracking.

Once back at the car we sped off to our appointment with the Calmac cafeteria…

Summertime on Airstrip One


In honour of TLF’s 50th birthday, we spent a week at the end of June staying at Barnhill in the far north of Jura, in the company of a few friends. It was a cracking week with fine weather, some great walks and a convivial stay at the house where Eric Blair wrote The Last Man in Europe back in 1948. Okay. Where George Orwell wrote Nineteen Eighty-Four back in 1948.

Barnhill 2

Barnhill has a fabulous, remote situation a little above the Sound of Jura and three miles from the Gulf of Corryvreckan at the island’s northernmost extremity. For me, having a week to really explore the nooks and crannies of the north end was a bit like  being a Labrador who’s found a decomposed seal to roll around in.

Staying at Barnhill would most definitely not be everyone’s cup of tea, but if you’re someone who thrives on the total absence of TV, the internet, shops and cars then it really does make for a satisfying brew. Speaking of which, Mr Orwell was rather fond of a cuppa and penned an interesting article on the subject in 1946:

In honour of the great man, we spent a great amount of time getting a brew on the stove at Barnhill, using water gathered from a nearby(ish) burn. Though I can’t claim to have followed Mr O’s advice on achieving the perfect brew.


Tea and roll-ups fuelled the creation of Orwell’s magnum opus as he clattered away at his typewriter in an upstairs bedroom, overlooking the Sound of Jura.


This was the room that myself and TLF slept in during our stay. I couldn’t resist having Nineteen Eighty-Four as my bedtime reading:

‘It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen…’

The following pictures are a selection taken from various walks over the course of the week. Almost all of the pictures were taken within walking distance of Barnhill; we did get a lift 4 miles each way from Road End to Ardlussa for the walk we did to Corpach Bay – we felt that 22 miles would be quite enough for one day…

Pig BayLooking down on Bagh Gleann nam Muc, with Scarba at the upper right-hand side

Above GlentrosdaleAbove Glen Trosdale with Ben More on Mull on the horizon

Looking northwest from Beinn BhiorgaigLooking northwest from Beinn Bhiorgaig

An CruachanDescending to the wild west coast beneath An Cruachan

Glen Trosdale Bay 1Glen Trosdale Bay

Glentrosdale 01Glen Trosdale

Dougsie 1Dougal Mor

Bagh Uamh nan GiallBagh Uamh nan Giall

Lochan on Cruach na Seilcheig 1Lochan on Cruach na Seilcheig

GlengarrisdaleGlengarrisdale and the bothy at the foot of Ben Garrisdale

Glengarrisdale 3Looking across to Scarba from Glengarrisdale

Wee bay 2Wee bay on the west coast

Traigh a Mhiadair 2Traigh a’ Mhiadair and Corpach Bay

126Konrad, Dougal and Nell with Dubh Bheinn as a backdrop

 Traigh a MhiadairTraigh a’ Mhiadair


Abhainn CorpaichThe Abhainn Corpaich


SlowormSlow worm

mating dragonfliesCoitus interruptus: mating dragonflies

Le Roi de Barnhill-1Le Roi de Barnhill

20140627-IMG_7121The very cosy lounge at Barnhill

Otter Spotter


We live in the West End of Glasgow, five minutes walk from the River Kelvin, a fine if modest body of water that flows from the Kilsyth Hills into the heart of the city, where it merges with the Clyde. As it winds its way through town the river is fringed with wooded embankments for much of the way. It’s a great thing having the river close by, especially when co-habiting with an energetic, sociable Labrador.

Like parks in any town or city, you’ll occasionally run into snotty or anti-social people who ride their bikes too fast or are in the company of weapon dogs (and usually a bottle of Bucky), but by and large it’s a great place to take Dougal for walks. A pair of kingfishers have been in residence along our stretch of the Kelvin in recent years and occasionally you’ll see the electric-blue flash of the male bird arrowing  along the river. A couple of weeks ago I got to watch him from about 30 yards near the opposite bank of the river as he perched on a branch and dived into the water to catch a wee fish. Lovely.

This morning I was out walking Dougal along part of the riverside path, which has actually been closed off for a couple of years since a tree collapsed down a steep embankment into the river, taking a large chunk of the path with it. We walk along there quite regularly and pick up rubbish and broken glass left by some of the city’s absent-minded residents who like to enjoy a liquid picnic in peaceful surroundings. Looking down at the fallen tree, which has been busy collecting flotsam and jetsam in its submerged branches, I saw the hind quarters and tail of an otter disappearing among the branches. I knew it was an otter, but told myself it must be a small dog with an unusually long tail. Then the animal emerged from the water and scurried up a branch; no doubt about it, this was definitely an otter. Dougal had got wind of him, but had failed to spot him on account of his poor eyesight. The otter slunk back into the water and re-emerged seconds later with a sizeable fish wriggling in his jaws. At this point Dougal spotted him and dashed down to the riverbank in pursuit; the otter glanced his way and then made himself scarce.

Maybe spotting otters catching fish in the heart of large cities isn’t unusual, but frankly, I was amazed. If you’d told me yesterday that I’d be seeing an otter today I would have assumed that it would be in the waters around Colonsay, where we’re off to this afternoon…

I have to admit that the otter in the pic above was snapped on the Sound of Islay back in December and is not the fella we encountered this morning.



Haste me back

Iona 17

We spent the last week on Mull, with trips to Ulva and Iona to boot. I’d never been before and now, inevitably, I can’t wait to go back. Here’s a few pics from walks we enjoyed among the islands’ magnificent and diverse landscapes:

Corra-bheinn 2

Corra-bheinn 1

Beinn Talaidh 1

Ben More 3

Ben More 4

Carsaig Arches 2

Carsaig Arches 8

Carsaig Arches 15

Carsaig Arches 13

Iona 19

A Ruantallain retreat

Ruantallain 2

On Monday afternoon we scrambled out of Duncan’s dinghy onto slippery rocks in a downpour, watched by a pair of common seals. For the next few days we went for walks, gleaned driftwood, watched white-tailed and golden eagles and sheltered from the weather in the estate bothy. Gale force winds, snow, sleet, rain and sunshine in an ever-changing meteorological merry-go-round. Here’s a few more pictures.

Raised beach 1

Sea and sky

Ruantallain bothy 2

Dike 3

Rainberg Mor 1

Shian Bay 3

Bagh Gleann Righ Mor 4