Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Ho Ho Ho!

Greetings of the Season and loving wishes too,
for all the joys of Christmas are being sent to you,
then looking to the year ahead and hoping you will find
every day turns out to be the very happy kind.

Best wishes for a lovely Festive Season, Health, Happiness, and Success in 2011!


December 2010

Monday, 29 November 2010

Scotland Tour – October/November 2010

Leaving Chester on 22nd October and returning on 12th November was a round trip of 2,000 miles by car but saw me attend a 60th birthday party, visit and stay with relatives, visit friends, mountain bike in the Cairngorms, get to the top of some twelve mountains and do part of the Sandwood Trail from Blairmore to Cape Wrath and back again.

Weather on the whole was good to me but due to severe winds I had to crawl to the top of two mountains and was in a snow blizzard for an hour or so on another mountain top.

Hotels, Lodges, Inns and Bunkhouses I stayed in all turned out to be good but at this time of year not many visitors are about and in the North I found a lot of hotels/restaurants closed up for the winter.


I spent two days in the Cairngorms staying at Braemar Lodge Hotel where the hosts are just excellent. I cycled as far as White Bridge on Tuesday 26th Oct and then walked into the mountains. On Wednesday 27th I cycled to Derry Lodge and then walked. Alas the tops of the mountains I wanted to do, Monadh Mor 1,113m and A’Choinneach 1,017m, were too far away to be able to return to Braemar in daylight.

Thursday 28th October saw me spending a day in The Highland Wildlife Park in Kingussie to see the Deer Rut, the Amur Tigers, the Polar Bear, the Wolves and other wild animals. If you have not been to the park I would recommend it as it is a great day out.

The mountains of Sutherland were my main challenge and here I managed to do the following over six continuous days of walking:

1. Ben Klibreck 961m

2. Cnoc nan Cuilean 557m

3. Ben Loyal 764m

4. Conival 988m

5. Ben More Assynt 998m

6. Conival (you do it again on the way back!)

7. Beinnan Fhurain 806m

8. Cul Beag 769m

9. Meall Dearg 657m

10. Breabag 815m

11. Glas Bheinn 776m.

My accommodation was at The Crask Inn and Inchnadamph Lodge both being excellent. On the day I got to the top of Breabag I visited the Inchnadamph Bone Caves. Nearly 1,000 fragments of reindeer antler have been found and some of these have been aged at 47,000 years old.

Perhaps the biggest challenge of my holiday was to walk from Blairmore to Cape Wrath Lighthouse and back again on the same day. On Friday 5th November I was wakened at 6am by my cousin Rhoda and after a sumptuous breakfast and flask of soup in my rucksack and other goodies I left Blairmore at 8am and was walking on Sandwood Beach (4.5miles distance) at 9.20am but no mermaids were to be seen!! Crossing the river from Sandwood Loch at the north side of the beach was tricky as this was in spate. A further five rivers had to be crossed and under foot conditions was extremely wet. At 1am I did reach the Lighthouse and it was an immediate turnaround as it had taken me five hours to get there, so it would take another five hours (at least) to get back. By 4.15pm I was back on Sandwood Beach in the darkness. I had again safely crossed all rivers and now there was a recognised rough track back to my car.

Sandwood is a very lonely and eerie place at the best of times and with the ruins of a house said to be haunted I was on my guard for ghosts roaming about in the high reeds. At 4.45pm I was on the hill above the beach and in the distance the Lighthouse was dispatching its strong rays of light. I said goodbye to both and thought to myself perhaps I will never be back again? It was around forty four years since I was last at Sandwood Bay. “Time or tide waits for no man.”

At Loch Mhuilinn at 5.15pm I switched on my head torch and at 6am I was back at my car. What a sense of achievement, I was buzzing. Around twenty four miles was the total distance without a stop!!

On Saturday I was travelling to Shiel Bridge and staying at Kintail Lodge Hotel which was excellent in every way. On Sunday 7th November I visited Eilean Donan Castle at Dornie and went across the bridge from Kyle of Lochalsh to Skye and visited Kyleakin and Broadford. On my way back I went to see the lovely village of Plockton. The challenge on Monday was to do The Saddle 1,010m and perhaps the finest of the Kintail peaks and one of the most magnificent in the Highlands, on the south side of Glen Shiel. It was a windy morning when I left my car at 10am. This got much stronger as I hit the snowline at 11.20am and at 12.20pm on reaching the top of Sgurr na Sgine 946m in very high winds coming in severe gusts, deep snow in places and poor visibility I took the decision to turn back. By 2.15pm I was safely back at my car.

If you are keen to bag a Munro or three you couldn’t find a better area to be in with some thirty Munros being situated within reachable distance from the hotel which has a bunkhouse as well as a trekkers lodge. I will be back to this very special part of Scotland. Knoydart to the south is another area I would love to visit.

I had a wonderful time and I would like to thank all the nice people I met on my travels.

12th November 2010

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Cleveland Way

The Cleveland Way is a designated National Trail starting at the historic market town of Helmsley. The 110 mile/176 kilometre walk skirts the upland ridge on the edge of the North York Moors National Park before reaching the coast at Saltburn-by-the-Sea and ends at Filey. It is often described as two walks in one with the first section being beautiful heather moorland and the second part being of outstanding coastland. The trail was opened in 1969 being the second official National Trail to be opened. The trail is waymarked along its length using the standard National Trail acorn symbol.

We arrived in Whitby on the afternoon of Saturday 13th November and once registered at our accommodation, Larpool Hall Hotel, we were away to discover the quaint streets, alleys and ghauts of this historic fishing port and to sample some of the fish caught by the active fishing fleet out of the harbour.

At 10.30am on Sunday 14th November we left Skinningrove on a lovely sunny morning, stopping for lunch in the unique fishing village of Staithes. Soon after we were up high again on the cliff tops looking out to the ocean and down onto deserted beaches where big waves were constantly breaking, just breath-taking. Other nice small villages were passed and as it was getting dark we arrived in Sandsend. It was time to put on gloves, a hat and a head torch. At 5pm we arrived back in Whitby and after a welcomed shower we opened a bottle of champagne to celebrate my birthday. Alas another year older, but the question asked – any wiser? We ate in Cosa Nostra Ristorante were we enjoyed a lovely meal with good food and service.

After a most enjoyable breakfast on Monday morning we started our walk at 10.15am from Ravenscar. Again a warm sunny morning with excellent visibility permitting us once again to enjoy the many delights of this Heritage coastline. We stopped for lunch at Robin Hood’s Bay, which is as picturesque a village as you could ask for with fabulous views across the bay back to Ravenscar. It is a very steep climb out of the village onto the cliff tops again. By 3.30pm we were back at the magnificent ruins of Whitby Abbey. Today alas we were going home and leaving behind this lovely part of the world.

15th November 2010

Saturday, 23 October 2010

Sierra Nevada/High Alpujarras, Andalucía, Spain


Since reading Driving Over Lemons by author Chris Stewart many years ago I always wanted to visit and stay in one of the High Alpujarras’ whitewashed villages, on the southern slopes of the Sierra Nevada Range (75km from west to east), and soak in the very special atmosphere that was outlined in the book.

With flights, hotel, village house and car hire all booked over the internet we left Manchester on Friday 23rd April 2010 and arrived 10 minutes early with Ryanair at Malaga.


We were staying at the Hotel Guadalmiar for two nights and this turned out to be an excellent hotel. The ambiance of the City was enjoyable during the day and at night time. Malaga is one of the most atmospheric and historic cities of Spain.

On Saturday morning we did a leisurely four hour bike tour around the City with Malaga Bike Tours – – and this was ever so enjoyable, hearing about the City’s history and culture as well as lively local anecdotes. On a bench in the Plaza de la Merced we sat beside a metal sculpture of Pablo Picasso, the world’s most famous artist.

On Saturday evening we enjoyed a lovely meal at the restaurant – Comepizza

On Sunday morning we were away to the airport to pick up our hired car for our journey to the Las Alpujarras and our village House in Capilerilla, a hamlet Nr. Pitres, a whitewashed village at 4,450ft above sea level.

High Alpujarras

Jane Garbutt the owner of the house had given us excellent directions and we arrived at 2pm, unpacked and then went for a walk up the mountainside to the rear of the cottage. In the evening after some beers and tapas we ate at La Oveja Verde. We wisely took our head torches to light up our way home. The house is 500+ years old and is delightful and well equipped inside and outside on the flower-filled terrace you can saver the beauty of this lovely part of the world. Particulars can be found on -

Our main holiday activity was walking with the target being to get to the top of Mulhacén at 3,478 metres (11,411 ft) the highest point of continental Spain and in the Iberian Peninsula. The mountain has two tops with Mulhacen 11 being 3,362 metres. While not of exceptional height by European standards, Mulhacén is the highest peak in Europe outside the Caucasus Mountains and the Alps. It is also the third most topographically prominent peak in Western Europe, after Mont Blanc and Mount Etna, and is ranked 64th in the world by prominence. The south flank of the mountain is gentle, and presents no technical challenge, as is the case for the long west ridge. The shorter, somewhat steeper north east ridge is slightly more technical. The north face of the mountain, however, is much steeper, and offers several routes involving moderately steep climbing on snow and ice (up to French grade AD) in the winter.

After some shopping on Monday morning for groceries we were walking on the GR-7 and reaching the snow line and were able to look down on the villages of Pampaneira, Bubion and Capileira (Poqueira Villages). The European long distant footpath E-4 begins in Athens and ends in Algeciras. The GR-7 long distance runs the length of Spain from Andorra in the north to Tarifa in the south and is part of the E-4. Way marking is not the best we found. However being at the 2,000 metres line was good acclimation preparation for the higher reaches of Mulhacen.

On Tuesday we launched our first attempt on Mulhacén parking our car at Capileira but with rivers in flood from melting snow, this did prevent us from crossing above the Hydro Station so we had to turn back and take a higher route with another difficult river crossing before reaching Las Thomas (2,100 metres) at 3pm. Even though a lovely sunny and hot day it was too late in the afternoon to tackle the steep and snow covered slopes that took you firstly to mountain refuge at Refugio Poqueira (which is open all year round but book in advance tel: 958 24 33 49) and then up to the top of the mountain. After eight hours of hard walking we were back at our car. We had made the right decision.

Wednesday was another lovely hot morning so we firstly went to Pampaneira to do some gift shopping and we also called in at the Information Centre for the National Park of the Sierra Nevada and we took advice as to the best route to get to the top of Mulhacén. It was then back home as we were to undertake “The Seven Villages” circular walk of 8km which was ever so enjoyable and relaxing in hot sunshine. We discovered “Alhambra Reserva 1925” beer at the Café Bar Aljibe in Mecina. At 7.30pm we took Jane out for dinner in Mecina.

Thursday we were up early to discover a duller day and by 9.30am we had parked the car high up at Hoya del Portillo on the snow line. At 1.50pm we reached the top of Mulhacen 11 in deep snow and at 2.18pm we reached the top. It was a wonderful vista with snow covered mountains as far as the eye could see. On the way back we did a further two mountains:

· Alto del Chorrillo – 2,727 metres

· Prado Llanc – 2,578 metres.

At 6.30pm we were back to the car after nine hours of hard walking much of it in deep snow. We saw some six people all day but singing sky larks accompanied us all day.

I dedicated the walk to Kathleen sister of Caroline Macdonald (a friend of mine) who had died after a long battle against cancer.

In the evening we enjoyed drinks and tapas at Jane’s home having our meal out in the garden.

Alas on Friday 30th April it was a road journey back to the airport and then a pleasant flight back to Liverpool.

We had a great week in this spectacular part of Spain.

Saturday, 17 July 2010

Completing the Hadrian Wall (Coast to Coast) walk

At 6pm on Friday 16th July 2010 we reached Segedunum Fort and the end of the walk! A little tired and sore but a wonderful experience.
We left Bowness-on-Solway at 9am on Monday 17th July 2010 and enjoyed five days of beautiful scenery and good weather conditions.
Day 3 (Gilsland to Chollerford) some 20 miles was the hardest section with many ups and downs, but the finest views and the most complete sections of the Wall.

Fraser Mackay 16th July 2010

Asturian House

Remote Emergancy Care

Henry Garcia Tours Madeira

Henry Garcia Tours Madeira
Henry at your Service

Homestay at Evans Bay New Zealand

Rachid Imerhane

Rachid Imerhane
Guide & Organizer of Treks - Mountain - Coast - Desert & Imperial Cities

Clashview Kinlochbervie

Clashview Kinlochbervie
Clashview Kinlochbervie





Bayhead Self Catering, Isle of Harris

Bayhead Self Catering, Isle of Harris