Monday, 25 October 2010

First weekend of winter, or last weekend of summer?

The weekend past could have been counted as the first of winter; the hills in the north had a good covering of snow down to around 700 m and the more dedicated climbers among us took the opportunity to nab the first winter routes of the season. Instead of reaching for crampons and axe I looked out bucket and spade and headed to the Big Sands campsite near Gairloch, keen to savour its delights one last time before it shuts up for the season. 

Since the lamentable closure of Achnahaird I rate Big Sands as the best beach campsite in Scotland - almost  like wild camping, but with flush toilets, a great selling point to those of us engaged in potty training. Sheltered pitches are available amid the dunes but I always prefer an elevated spot so I can take advantage of the exceptional views to Torridon, Skye and the Outer Hebrides. 

Looking south to the snow-dusted peaks of Torridon

Dancing sunbeams with Skye's Trotternish Ridge as backdrop

Saturday, 16 October 2010

Knoydart, Knapdale and the Northwest

Last week I indulged in an extremely risky activity - I allocated  a week's precious annual leave to holiday in Scotland in October. The gamble paid off; my week coincided with something of an Indian summer. The photos accompanying this post give a flavour of the highlights.................

The week kicked off with trip to Glen Pean for a bothy weekend. This leaves Kinbreak as my only outstanding Knoydart bothy. It was a fine weekend, echoing a similar trip last year, only this time round all of us had abandoned young families and the morning lie ins were that much sweeter as a result.

On leaving the bothy I made directly for Kintyre to meet up with my own family. We took a trip to Knapdale in an attempt to seek out another young family; I was aware from the excellent beaver blog that some of the recently re-introduced beavers have produced kits this season. We didn't spot any but were very impressed by the huge dam they have built (below). I'll definitely be back in the hope of clapping eyes on the beasts themselves.

This photo of pounding sea and perching shags was taken during a stroll round the Coves near Kilberry Head. I can't quite bring myself to take advantage of the opportunity for double entendres provided by this unlikely combination of beaver and shags, feel free however  to add your own as comments below.

The paps the paps are calling me.......... The paps of Jura from near Kilberry.

The Islay ferry from the same vantage point. I have started plotting an adventure that will take full advantage of the presence of willing babysitters a stone's throw from the ferry terminal at Kennacraig. Watch this space!

The icing on the holiday cake came on the last day. I returned home slightly ahead of family and livestock and on finding a fine forecast for the Sunday I headed for An Teallach. (the photo shows the view over Strath na Sealga to Beinn Dearg Mor with the Fisherfield and Torridon Munros beyond).

Despite living very close to this fine peak I'd never climbed it before. There is some fine airy scrambling to be had on the ridge which renders it a poor choice for dogs. Many's the time I have planned to bag it, but finding myself unable to leave my four-legged friend behind, I've changed plans and tackled more canine friendly hills instead.  My fisherfield trip earlier in the year was dog-free specifically because I intended to tackle An Teallach on the last day, but when it came to it I couldn't muster the energy to take on the pinnacles while carrying a heavy sack. It was, therefore, unfinished business. With a distinct chill in the air it felt like it may have provided a fitting end to the summer season.

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Friday, 8 October 2010

Rum Perspectives

I'm always interested in analysing exactly why I love the landscape of Scotland and in reading other people's views on this topic. For W. H. Murray it was the unusual combination of water and mountain that made it so enchanting. Murray would no doubt approve of the subject of the photos I have selected from my recent excursions, for they feature one of the more aesthetically pleasing combinations of water and mountain, the Cuillin of Rum.

Scotland is composed almost entirely of distinct and recognisable elements and one of the great pleasures of getting to know the landscape is being able to pick out distant features, letting them bring to mind the occasions of previous visits. The pictures below show the Cuillin of Rum from two different perspectives.

An early morning shot from the Croft Campsite at Arisaig (second visit of the year) taken on the last weekend in September.

And one from the first weekend in October, taken from the the hillside on the southern side of Glen Pean. The view is down Loch Morar with Arisaig being located on the coast beyond the flat area at the western end of the loch. I found it tremendously satisfying when the view prompted me to recall the previous weekend's sunbathing while crouched on the distinctly autumnal hillside with the roar of the stags ringing in my ears.

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