Thursday, 22 December 2011
For me the year has flown and has been crammed with activity. This month sees me 10 years retired from the Bank and with the continuing difficult economic conditions across the world I decided to shut down my own Company due to lack of business and continuing costs and any consultancy work I do in future will be in my own name.
Highlights of the year have been many and here I mention some of them:-
*3 Coast2Coast (“C2C”) bike rides:
-Runcorn 2 Hull
-St Bees 2 Robin Hood’s Bay
-Fort William 2 Inverness (Great Glen).
*A C2C walk from Ullapool in the west of Scotland 2 Ardgay on the east coast some 55kms and thoroughly enjoyable and challenging in one day.
*I got to the top of 134 mountains across the UK/Madeira and a special delight was to finish all the high mountains in Sutherland on the top of lonely Ben Hee in July.
*I competed in two long distance races in Isle of Man:
-Parish Walk – 85miles
-End2End Walk – 40 miles.
*I competed in the Welsh 1000m Mountain Race, finishing once again but alas half an hour outside the nine hour time window. My fellow walking friends Geoff and Paul finished within the time with Paul winning the Male Vet 40 Section in a splendid time of 7hrs 24mins.
*I put a lot of effort into the Welsh 3000s Challenge (15 mountains over 3,000ft) and did this demanding walk over two days on two occasions. Alas on the day of the challenge four of us pulled out but Paul finished the route in an excellent time of 13hrs 25mins. So well done by him and encouragement for me to try again in 2012!
I hope you have a lovely Festive Season, health, happiness and continued success in 2012.
Very best wishes, Fraser.
21st December 2011
Tuesday, 6 December 2011
Cycling – continue to cycle once or twice a week with min of 20kms on each outing
Walking – continue to walk at least one a week
Walking – do a fast walk of 20kms+ once a week to prepare for 85 mile Parish Walk in Isle of Man next year
Gym/swimming – go to the gym and have workout/swim at least twice a week.
On Monday 28th November I went for a fast walk into Wales on a beautiful day. I reached Yvonne’s Café nr Connah’s Quay and called in for a bacon butty and coffee. Then it was back to my gym (Total Fitness) on a circular route by the River Dee and by the canal. I watched a large buzzard, saw two salmon jump and saw a flock of (unknown) birds going from tree to tree, as in a race with me. The winter colours all around were fantastic; silence prevailed.
Today Tuesday December 6th at 3.30pm I set of on the same route again but on my bike and while a very nice late afternoon with the sun about to say goodbye at the end of another day, it was extremely cold. I reached Yvonne’s Café at 4pm having done 12 kms but alas at that time it was closed so it was about turn and get back to Chester along the banks of the River Dee. The almost full moon was reflecting on the calm River Dee and the lights of the City could be seen in front of me in the distance. The same flock of birds were again racing me from tree to tree but they were difficult to see in the fast disappearing light. I was all on my own and my hands, especially both thumbs were freezing as I was peddling at around 20 kms+ per hour. I had flashing lights to the front and rear of my bike but I could also have done with my head torch but knowing the route I was okay. Getting back to Total Fitness at 4.45pm I had difficulty folding my bike etc and getting it into the car as my hands were ever so cold. Having camped at Gorak Shep at 5,140m/16,859ft.feet on my Everest Trek my hands had been warmer! Thus my winter mountain cloves will accompany me on my next trip. It was just magic to get into the warmth of the gym and into the steam room!
6th December 2011
Sunday, 4 December 2011
On Thursday 17th November it was an early start from Chester and we commenced the Kentmere Horseshoe (one of the classic horseshoe walks of the Lake District) at 9.15am on a day with dense low cloud and this only clearing on lower ground around 2.30pm. We made good use of our map and compass to check that we were on the right route. At 12.45pm we safely reached High Street at 828 metres, which we also wished to take in – its summit being the highest point in the far eastern part of the National Park. The fell is named after the Roman Road which ran over the summit. We did ten summits before returning to our car at 4.30pm.
On Friday we started our walk from Rydal at 9am on a wet and windy cold morning, alas again with dense cloud. Not a day for scenery and perhaps just as well as the climb out of Rydal to Nab Scar is very steep. At 11.50am we reached Fairfield 873 metres our highest point for the two days and it was ever so wild. Getting our bearings correct we headed for Hart Crag 822 metres. Here in the dense cloud we some how or other came off the main Fairfield Round path and when the cloud cleared on the lower fells we found ourselves heading for Patterdale on a demanding and difficult route and arrived there at 3pm. We were able to get a local taxi to take us back to our car. The good thing was that we dealt with the situation in an organised way and we were able to do six mountains. Tonight it was Kendal Town Hall for 7pm as it was the Premiere of the film “Moonflower”; with Matt Helliker and Jon Bracey climbing and filming their ascent of the Moonflower Buttress on Alaska’s Mt. Hunter.
The Hall was packed and there was an “air” of excitement and anticipation as ace filmmaker Alastair Lee came on stage and gave an overview of the film and its making. The film itself I found totally inspiring with magic photography and sound effects and new technologies used to capture the amazing images of this most demanding climb. I was on the mountain every step of the way with the climbers. An interesting question and answer session was held after and I had the opportunity to meet with the climbers and the film crew. I have bought a DVD of the film and I have watched it on a couple of occasions since the event.
On Saturday !9th I had two events to attend. The first was by Nazir Sabir at 11am at The Box with the title – “Pilgrimage to the Higher Heavens.” Nazir is a renowned Pakistani mountaineer who over a climbing career that spans four decades has climbed four of the five 8,000m peaks in Pakistan, including K2 via a new route. In 2000 he stood on the top of Everest, the first Pakistani to scale the roof of the world. He described his up bringing and showed slides of the beauty of the valleys and mountains in Hunza where he was born. He was so humble and appreciative of the packed audience that listened to him. It was a great pleasure to say hello and shake his hand.
In the evening at the Brewery Theatre at 6pm Cameron McNeish and Richard Else were delivering a talk and unseen footage about a new long distance trail from the Scottish Borders to Cape Wrath in the North West corner of Scotland. I have walked on parts of this new national trail and I found the presentation very interesting and something I might try to undertake myself at a future date.
Kendal is a lovely town and I was totally impressed with the range of facilities available to facilitate such an enjoyable and diverse Mountain Festival over three and a half days. I very much enjoyed myself as did everyone I met. It is an annual event for like minded people to come together, have a great time and enjoy the wonder of wild places that the Festival shows you. To me an inspiration to do more in the years ahead.
20th November 2011
Saturday, 3 December 2011
We had the good fortune to be approached by a taxi driver who had a smattering of English. He was excellent value and we hired him for a full four days - contact details:
· Name: Andrzej (but call him Andy) Znanski
· Telephone numbers -
· Tel. kom: 662-982-844
· Tel. Dom: 012/270-3002.
I have recommended his services to friends and they have found him excellent.
Friday we mooched around Krakow, to get a lie of the land, and took in a good restaurant for lunch. Lunch is the main meal of the day and the soups are ACE (Restaurant NOSTALGIA, W. Karmelicka 10, tel 012 425 42 60, which is only a short walk from the main Square. We used it twice. Good food, service and wines.)
Saturday - we did the Auschwitz/Birkenhau/Schindler factory tour. Andy took us around and showed us more than we would have seen if we'd gone on public transport. It is a two hour journey by car. We had an English speaking guide for the tour costing us 30 zloty each. I found the experience very upsetting and will never forget it.
Sunday - we visited a flea market, supermarket and the salt mines - again Andy handled our collection etc, and made the trip so much easier as he showed us where to queue etc.
Monday - we did a strenuous, but not technically challenging walk in the High Tatra - a most magnificent mountain range. On the mountains for seven hours and we did four mountains above 2000 meters. Andy drove us to the start point of the walks near Zakopane - a good 1.5/2.0 hours from Krakow, and waited for us and took us back to the City each evening.
Tuesday - we did about the most challenging route in the Tatra - three mountains above 2200 metres, and lots of snow and ice - lots of danger too, so a wee bit unnerving. On the mountains for 8.5 hours and we got back knackered.
The Tatra Mountains are the highest mountain range in the Carpathian Mountains. Although considerably smaller than the Alps, they are classified as having an alpine landscape forming a natural border between Slovakia and Poland. They occupy an area of 750 km², the major part (600 km²) of which lies in Slovakia. The highest mountain is Gerlach at 2,655 m, located in Slovakia just north of Poprad. The north-western peak of Rysy (2,499 m) is the highest Polish mountain. I have done a separate blog on the two days spent in the mountains.
We had amazing weather (all sun, warmth and no wind) for all of the time we were there, but it did cloud over and cool down on our last day - Wednesday. The mountains can get cold if you are thinking of going there, but we were walking with just a thin top and shorts for most of the day as the sun was shinning. In Krakow, when the sun shines you can go about during the day with a short-sleeve shirt on, but take a jumper with you. In the evening, you will need a warm jacket.
The tram system is a breeze, all journeys cost 2.5 zloty and you should buy a book of tickets from the many little paper shops near the tram stops - if you buy on the tram it costs extra.
Krakow is a charming place, where you feel very relaxed and there was a good number of other things we could have done had we more time.
Food is tasty. You must try the soups - the dumplings and the pork dishes are great. There is a wide selection of restaurants to go to, and we never had a bad course.
Recommended restaurants are:
Pod Aniolami 35 ul Grodzka (Full the night we tried to get in.)
Szabla I Szklanka 22 ul Poselska.
For lunch try U Babei Maliny, 17 ul Slawkowska (opposite a church, through doors, a passage way and then round to the left and downstairs.
Shopping was about what you'd expect to pay in the UK so we didn't stuff our suitcases with goodies!
Recommend you only get a few zloty at the airport say 50/100 as the exchange rate is terrible. Then there are cash machines all around the main Square where you can use your Nationwide debit/credit card or other debit/credit cards.
Enjoy your trip.
We only had two days walking/scrambling in the mountains in September 2007 but these were two full days with good weather and snow/ice on the tops from the previous winter. It was the rut so many stags were roaring in the woods on the mountain slopes. Wear a bell on your rucksack to make wild animals aware of your presence. On commencing your walk you will need to pay a small fee at a hut which is normally situated at the start of the marked trail.
Day 1 24-9-2007
Our first walk was to Suchy Wierch at 1,539m. We did not do Sarnia Skala 1,377m. We turned left at the col and then walked to Suchy Wierch and then went on to do another four mountains:
Maly Glewont 1,728m
You will see the Border marking posts.
At the col before reaching Kondracka Kopa 2,005m we turned to the left and took the path down to join the path we had taken in the morning and then back to the start of the trail.
o Left - Zakopane 10.10am
o Hut - 11.10am
o Col - 12.20pm
o 1st mountain – 1pm
o 2nd “ “ - 1.30pm
o 3rd “ “ - 1.50pm
o 4th “ “ - 2.15pm
o Col – 3pm
o Hut – 4pm
o Zakopane – 5pm
Thus seven hours on the mountains.
We headed for Gzamy Staw Gasienicowy Lake, a beautiful location and went up to Skrajny 2,225m. This was very steep with a lot of snow and ice with chain grips in one section. You would not want to lose your footing and crampons are needed to be worn. We went along Eagle’s Ridge to Posredni Grana 2,234m and then to Zadni Grana 2,240m and then came back down to the Lake. I would recommend that Zadni Grana is done first with a walk along the ridge to Skrajny. Here you can make a decision, do you go down to the Lake or go back to Zadni Grana?
o Left Zakopane – 9.50am
o Hut – 11.20am
o Lake – 12.20pm
o 1st Mountain – 2.15pm
o 2nd “ “ - 3.00pm
o 3rd “ “ - 3.20pm
o Lake – 4.30pm
o Hut – 5pm
o Zakopane – 6.30pm
Thus eight hours forty minutes which was a long and hard day. We so enjoyed our two days in the Tatras.
Monday, 31 October 2011
Tuesday was a wet morning so it was a run in the car to check out Glentress mountain bike trails and to check as to hiring a mountain bike. The facilities are first class and we have coffees in the new café area. Glentress is probably the best biking centre in the UK with over 73km of purpose built trails that cater for all abilities. We then took a run to Innerleithen and drove up the Leithen Valley and continued on the B709 until we where able to see Edinburgh and the Pentland Hills in the distance.
Wednesday was a nice sunny morning after a frosty night (the first frost of the oncoming winter) and at 9am we are away to Traquair and the start of our walk to Minch Moor 567m. We reached the top at 11am and we saw snow on the mountain tops in the distance. For a time we were on The Southern Upland Way (a challenge for the future!). At the back of 1pm we had lunch in Innerleithen before tackling Lee Pen 502m and reaching the top at 3pm with lovely views all around. We continue along the ridge and drop back down into Cardrona at 4.30pm. A most enjoyable day on the hills.
It was another frosty night and on Thursday I am bound for Glentress and my 4 hour mountain bike session. I started at 12.50pm and finished at 4.45pm having successfully done the Green Trail and with some stops also the Blue Trail. This proved to be very demanding with some steep climbs and some wonderful fast and twisting down hill sections. Not for wimps!! I was well pleased with my performance but to attempt the Red Trail I would need to acquire a lot more skills.
Friday 21st October saw me leaving my friends and I was bound for the Moorfoot Hills where I did Windlestraw Law 659m (2,162ft), Broomy Cleuch 657m and Glede Knowe 591m in two and a half hours. Had it been a nicer day with better visibility I would have loved to have got to the top of more hills in the area. It was dry but strong winds battered me on the tops and ridges. The Moorfoot Hills are a range of hills south of Edinburgh in east central Scotland, and are one of the ranges which collectively form the Southern Uplands. The Hills run from Peebles, Scottish Borders, in a north easterly direction to Tynehead, Midlothian. The highest of the Moorfoot Hills is Windlestraw Law.
For many a year I had wanted to call to say hello to Stewart McCullum who I knew still lived in Penicuik but alas I had never been able to find him. On this occasion I had more time and I drove around the various streets until I found Waukmill Drive. Stopping my car and walking down to a garage where I did spot a gentleman working, I immediately recognised Stewart (he had not changed – other than like myself - had “matured”) and within seconds of me saying hello, he knew who I was. Perhaps it was around 1984 (near 30 years ago!!) since we last worked together? Patsy, his lovely wife, took us in for coffee and we spent a couple of hours going over old times and what former colleagues we were still in touch with, etc. We will meet again in 2012 on one of my trips to Scotland and have a few pints.
I then went to see my friend Doreen O’Neill who was my next door neighbour when I lived in Penicuik and who I have always kept in touch with and visited on a number of occasions. Doreen was busy catching up, her daughter Lesley and family had been on holiday with her and they had left the day before. Doreen showed me her new laptop, she was now “online” and enjoying the internet and e-mails. As usual I had a lovely coffee, with Doreen bringing me up to date with her active life, family and holiday locations. Doreen left me with a wonderful quote – “Old Age ain’t for wimps!”
I was now bound for The Kingdom of Fife and Inverkeithing where I was to stay in a B&B for two nights as I hoped to walk a further two sections of The Fife Coastal Path and catch up with Wendy Smith a friend I used to curl with in Edinburgh. It was a 7am breakfast start on Saturday morning and then a drive to Crail and at 10am I was on the coastal path. On the whole it was a good walking day with periods of sunshine as I made my way along this very special coastline. Can I warn readers that this is a very demanding walk with lots of steps along the way. Make sure you also check the tides. The tide was out thus enabling me to walk on many of the beaches and watch many Saturday golfers on three pristine courses as I made my way to St Andrews. This is a wonderful walk and the high light of the day was watching gannets dive, so skillfully, to catch fish. At 4pm I arrived in the town centre (what a lovely location) where Wendy was kind enough to pick me up and take me back to my car in Crail and then catch up on what we both had been up to. Wendy is still very much involved in curling but like me is enjoying retired life and is heading for a holiday in Canada in November.
On Sunday it is another 7am breakfast at Inglewood Guest House where I did enjoy my stay, the accommodation and excellent breakfasts. Getting breakfast at 7am was also much appreciated. I drove to North Queensferry to have a look at the two bridges and the start of the first section of The Fife Coastal Path. The early morning darkness was fast receding and as it was turning out to be a nice morning I decided to return to The Pentland Hills to try to do a few more of these very special hills. At 9.30am I have parked and I am on my way to climb Castlelaw Hill 488m, it is then onto Fala Knowe 439m and up to Allermuir Hill at 493m and wonderful views over Edinburgh and in the distance The Kingdom of Fife. It was then along the ridge to Caerketton Crags and Hill 460m before retracing my route back to Allermuir Hill. It was a steep drop and then up to Capelaw Hill 454m where two vertical metal rods marked the top. It was now 12.30pm and my target of Black Hill at 501m, the highest point of my walk, seemed a long distance away. In between were Harbour Hill 421m and Bell’s Hill 406m and then a steep long slope up to Black Hill and with some fast walking and the odd trot I was there by 2pm - beyond my wildest dreams. It must have been the porridge with honey and cream I had for breakfast!! Descending Black Hill on a good track there are lovely views of Glencourse Reservoir in the distance. Gask Hill 412m is on your right as you continue to make your decent and then you meet a tar macadam road that leads you back to Flotterstone where I arrived at 3.15pm. I stopped at Flotterstone Inn for a bite to eat.
I was then on my way to stay with my sister Anne and her husband Tam for a few days and hopefully if the weather permitted I would get a couple of Munros climbed. On Tuesday I got to the top of Ben Ghlas 1,103m and Ben Lawers 1,214m (10th highest Munro) with strong wind and low cloud. This is a 10.5km (6.5miles) walk with an ascent of around 968m. I marked my way to the top as I knew I would be returning by the same route as it would have been silly to attempt more mountains in an area that was totally new to me. Ben Lawers is the highest point of a long ridge that includes seven Munros and it was ever so tempting to have gone further but due to severe weather conditions, sense prevailed. I took the time to visit the lovely small towns of Killen, Kenmore and Aberfeldy before returning home.
Wednesday saw me travelling north once again and my target was Schiehallion 1,083m (3,553ft) a walk of around 10kms (6.25miles) and an ascent of 731m. This is a famous Munro (ranked 59th out of 283) and lies totally isolated between Loch Tay and Loch Tummel, 10 miles north of Aberfeldy. When I left the Braes of Foss car park (£2 parking fee) at 10.30am there was low cloud but it looked promising that this would lift which it did as I gained height. By 12.30pm I had reached the top with one walker getting to the top before me. With breaks in the cloud on top I was able to see the beauty of the surrounding area and glimpses of the long East Ridge I had come up. It was cold on top so I was well wrapped as I stopped for some lunch and to enjoy the roll and cheese between two pan cakes my sister had made for me. As I made my decent lots of walkers were making their way to the top of this popular mountain. By 2pm I was back in the car park thus taking me three and a half hours which I was well pleased with. I went all the way to the top without a stop.
I popped in to say hello to my friends Moira and Ian in Perth before returning to my sister’s for dinner. After dinner I went to say see my friends Louise and Grant, again living in Perth.
After breakfast on Thursday it was alas time to travel south. 293 miles lay before me and my driving time was 4 hours with around an hour’s stop near Carlisle. In my enjoyable short break visiting friends I had done a total of 1,031 miles in my car, 15 mountains, a 13 mile walk on The Fife Coastal Path and a half day on a mountain bike in the UK’s premier mountain bike location. I have to say I was well pleased.
30th October 2011
Sunday, 30 October 2011
All of us were arriving on Friday from across the UK, meeting at the flat firstly and then going out to sample the Festival atmosphere. The Edinburgh Festival is a generic term used to describe the cultural explosion which takes place in the City in August each year. It is in fact made up of a variety of festivals and events including the International Festival, The Fringe Festival, Edinburgh Book Festival, Edinburgh Military Tattoo, Jazz Festival and Edinburgh Mela. The Edinburgh Fringe is not only the largest arts festival in the world; it’s the most important, the most exciting and undoubtedly the most fun. It grows each year and in 2011 there were approximately 258 venues, 2542 shows and 41,689 performances.
We went up The Mound and down the High Street, sampling some street entertainment as we went. Our first pub stop was the Albanach on High Street which is recommended on the City’s Pub Trail and here the beer was ever so good. We turned to the right at the Tron Kirk and went into Hunter Square and down Blair Street to the Cowgate sampling the Fringe Venues such as The Underbelly. The atmosphere was magic. We were soon in the famous Grassmarket and somewhat peckish we stopped at Mamma’s for a light meal. The Grassmarket was “buzzing” as we made our way back to Dundas Street at a late hour and we were well aware we had an early start next morning as we were walking in The Pentland Hills.
What is particularly good about these hills is that there are so many walks and variations. Pia had been here before and like so many others found that it’s just not possible to tire of them. We had opted for a linear walk taking in around 10 individual tops.
We had an enjoyable breakfast at Henderson’s before we caught the No102 Dumfries Bus on Lothian Road which was dropping us off at Flotterstone at 10.15am and the start of our walk for the day. The weather was kind to us all day staying dry but cold at times on the higher hills. Our first hill was Turnhouse Hill, then Carnethy Hill at 571m and then on to Scald Law at 579m the highest point of the day. We took a slight detour from the main path to get to the top of South Black Hill at 563m, before getting to the tops of East Kip 534m and West Kip 551m. West Kip is a mountain in miniature and is perhaps the shapeliest; having a narrow and rocky summit that is gained by an all round steep ascent. Our first intention was to follow the path down to Nile Mile Burn but due to good progression we decided to do Spittal Hill 526m and Patie’s Hill at 500m before coming down near Carlops at the back of 3pm and telephoning for a local taxi to take us to Roslin to see round the famous Roslin Chapel. After a drink at the Original Roslin Hotel it was back by bus to Edinburgh.
We had decided on an Italian meal and my recommendation was to go to Bar Roma in the West End, a well established restaurant I had known when I worked in the City many years ago. We all had a wonderful time where food, wine and service were just ace in a packed restaurant with a lovely ambiance.
Sunday morning saw us up nice and early and having breakfast on George St before heading to the bus station for the X59 Stagecoach bus to Leven. We gained Fife Dayrider tickets (not five!!) and we were on our way at 10.35am on a dull but dry morning. On a Sunday the X59 changes to the No 95 (at Leven) which takes you up the Fife Coast to St Andrews.
We were off the bus (and Pia negotiating with a taxi!) before we discovered this but we were soon back on and at 12.20pm we were in Elie to walk eleven miles (17.6kms) on The Fife Coastal Path, ending our day, we hoped in Crail. The Fife Coastal Path runs from the Forth Estuary in the south, to the Tay Estuary in the north, stretching some 150kms and is part of Scotland’s Great Trails. This was just a wonderful walk passing through the small fishing villages of the East Neuk. We saw lots of wildlife and historic sites along the route. After Elie we passed through, St Monans, Pittenweem, Anstruther, Cellardyke and Crail. At Pittenweem we shared a smoked mackerel and smoked nuts, which were so enjoyable. We encountered a few light showers of rain but at Caiplie Caves this became heavier. We arrived in Crail at 5.20pm and only had a few minutes to catch our bus which we took back to Anstruther where we stopped for fish, chips and mushy peas at one of the busy fish restaurants on the harbour. At 6.50pm we boarded a bus which took us back to Edinburgh at the end of a wonderful day in The Kingdom of Fife.
With two of our party having to go back to London in the evening Monday was designated our culture day. It was a very relaxing breakfast in a café in Stockbridge before a walk by the Water of Leith to Dean Village. We then went on to the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art to see Tony Cragg’s first museum show in the UK for more than a decade. This proved a very enjoyable experience seeing the fascinating work by one of the world’s greatest living sculptors. We decided to have lunch in the gardens of the Gallery. It was then a stroll back to the City Centre and through the Grassmarket up to Chambers Street and we were bound for the National Museum of Scotland. Our first target here was to get to the roof garden to see the “jaw-dropping” views over the City – we were not disappointed.
What a wonderful experience in this unique building with some 20,000 objects, displayed in 36 galleries grouped in five collection themes – Natural World, Art and Design, Science and Technology, World Cultures and the history of Scotland from its beginnings right up to the present time. You do need a map of the various floors to help you get round and to enjoy this wonderful place. I came away totally amazed that between the 1820s and the 1920s more than 2 million people left Scotland for a new life in Canada, America, Australia, South Africa or New Zealand. On exiting the Museum we headed for Greyfriars Bobby and a welcomed drink and to discuss the highlights of our Day of Culture.
Our day was far from over as we were now heading by bus to Ocean Terminal and Leith to see The Royal Yacht Britannia and to have our evening meal in one of Leith’s fish restaurants. Entrance to the Yacht was sadly closed but we were able to look down on the vessel from Ocean Terminal. It was then a short walk to look at the various restaurants and we chose to eat at The Shore at 3 Shore which we very much enjoyed before getting a taxi back to our flat. Another full, active and enjoyable day had passed.
Tuesday after another delightful breakfast on George Street, we needed to run for our train to take us to Dunbar and with major structural alterations at Waverly Station we only managed to get our train with a couple of minutes to spare. We commenced our walk at the harbour at 10.45am and it was out intention to follow the John Muir Way and then walk on the lovely beach as the tide was out. It was a lovely morning with a good breeze and surfers were enjoying themselves amongst the large waves as we headed for the River Tyne estuary. We had our lunch on the beech and not another person was to be seen. We decided to rejoin the John Muir Way and walk as far as the end of the estuary before making a decision as to what route we would continue to take. While we did think about going as far as North Berwick this was not going to be possible so rather than walking back to Dunbar on virtually the same route we decided to follow the John Muir Way (well waymarked) to East Linton and from there we would get a bus back to Dunbar or indeed Edinburgh.
We arrived in East Linton at 2.45pm and took the first bus back to Dunbar after a brief snack in a local café. We just caught the train at Dunbar (it was 10 minutes late!) bound for Edinburgh and we were back at Waverly at 4.20pm. It was now time for individual shopping and we agreed to meet back at the flat for around 7pm. We had drinks in The Dome on George Street, enjoying the special ambiance of the place and the smell of lilies. We reckoned the building must have been a former bank. It was then on to an Italian Restaurant called Caciopepe on Hanover Street for an enjoyable meal before a night cap in our flat.
Next morning after breakfast we were all going our separate ways to London, Chester and Geneva. This had been a wonderful break and one that is going to be hard to beat. We all loved our few days in this wonderful City. Various suggestions were tabled as to where we would meet next year but no decisions were made. Munich is high on the list. A massive thank you to Pia for organising the Edinburgh get together and the very special accommodation.
2nd September 2011
At 10.15am we set off from St Bees on a lovely sunny morning, having arrived there with our bikes being carried by our Carrier – Packhorse. We had come from Kirkby Stephen where we left our cars.
As we were following much of the route taken by the Master Fell walker, crossing three National Parks (the Lake District, Yorkshire Dales and North Yorkshire Moors) over five days we were having our kit thankfully carried for us. On day one we needed to get to the scenic village of Troutbeck, so we opted for a quiet route that took us through some lovely villages such as Eskdale Green and over two steep passes (Hardnott and Wrynose) to Little Langdale. It is then onto Skelwith Bridge and Clappergate and up a very steep hill for the last mile or so to the Youth Hostel at Bridge Lane, Troutbeck where we are staying. We arrived at 4.45pm having covered a distance of 65kms. After our meal we took a walk higher up the hill and enjoyed a couple of pints at the Mortal Man pub. The Youth Hostel was first class as to accommodation, food and service.
Sunday 12th June
We had breakfast at 7.30am and we were away at 8.30am on a nice sunny morning and today we were bound for Kirkby Stephen and the small village of Soulby where we are staying with Jane and James at their B&B at Cross Bar View Farm. We had stayed there on the Friday evening and found out what an excellent establishment it was. Jane’s breakfasts are just wonderful.
By 10am we were on the top of the Garburn Pass, a very hard off road section and by 10.45am we were in the village of Kentmere. At 1.30pm we were on the top of Shap when we discovered our first light rain of the trip. We had done 40kms. By 2.30pm we were in Crosby Ravensworth and now it was very wet as we crossed the moors and at 5pm, having done a total of 77kms we arrived at our B&B. Coffee was immediately brewed and by a roaring fire we ate some of Jane’s unique home baking once again. Our wet cloths were taken away to be dried by the large aga in the kitchen and after wonderful showers we had fully recovered.
Over the two days we had seen two red kites, an owl, curlews and roe deer along with many other animals.
Monday 13th June
After another excellent breakfast (Jane’s home made sausages are to die for) we left at 9am on a dry but dull morning. In the first few hours we encountered a number of steep hills and on the moor we encountered a short period of rain. At the entrance to the Yorkshire Dales National Park, it was another photograph opportunity, and soon we were at Tan Hill, the highest Inn in the UK at 1,732ft. It was noon and we had done 22kms. From here on it was mainly down hill for most of the way with spectacular scenery as the weather continued to improve. I was able to reach a speed of 56kms (my fastest ever) but my friends Glyn and Dave (“professionals”) recorded speeds of 48mph on their mountain bikes – imagine the speed they could have got to on a road bike!!
At 1pm we stopped by The CB Inn for lunch, we had travelled 36.6kms. Here we spotted our first and only cuckoo although we had heard their unique calls all along our route which in itself added to the great ambiance of this special adventure we were all sharing. We had a brief stop in Reeth to watch the world go by and with easy cycling we were in Richmond at 3pm having cycled some 60kms. Here I took advice from Glyn and got new brake blocks at the town’s cycle shop –Arthur Caygill Cycles. We met the owner, a very keen cyclist, and we were all impressed with his setup.
It was a lovely sunny evening as we arrived at our hotel the – Shoulder of Mutton Inn at Kirby Hill – at 5.50pm, having travelled a total of 69kms. After a shower and getting our bikes and kit ready for next day (we adopted this discipline each evening) we walked down hill to a pub called the Bay Horse Inn in the village of Ravensworth where we had another excellent meal and a couple of pints of real ale. Glyn and Dave were introduced to Haggis for the first time and did enjoy it.
Tuesday 14th June
Today was to be an easy day as we were travelling to the Youth Hostel at Osmotherley. We would have liked to have gone further along the route but we could not find suitable accommodation. We were all very conscious that we had a long ride on the last day with the added pressure that Packhorse were picking us up at 4pm in Robin Hood’s Bay!
It was another mild sunny morning as we left and we stopped in Richmond for sandwiches etc. By 11am we had done some 20kms and we were at Ellerton. By noon we were at Danby Wiske (29kms) and we stopped at the White Swan for drinks of coke to have with our packed lunch. For the first time we saw a good number of other walkers and cyclists. At 2pm we did arrive at the Youth Hostel, having done 51kms, but reception was closed so we did make ourselves comfortable, had a shower and locked away our bikes.
We walked into the village and had drinks and a meal at the Queen Catherine Hotel. We did as best we could to work out the start point on the Cleveland Way. Tomorrow was going to be a hard day so an early night was on the agenda.
Wednesday 15th June
We were up at 5am and away by 6am on a nice quiet morning but later on the sun came out and it was a perfect day for cycling. The Cleveland Way as we did expect proved very hard off road cycling in stretches and we had no alternative but to walk with our bikes and carry these over a number of stiles. At 9.45am we had reached Ingleby Greenhow but had only done 20kms! At 10.50am we stopped for tea at The Hayshed Shop before going off road once again but this proved a good fast section. A welcomed drink was had at the Wheatsheaf Inn near Egton and we had done 57kms. At 2pm we were at Sleights some 65kms along the route and at 3.30pm we finally arrived at Robin Hood’s Bay and went down to the water front to have our photographs taken. This had been a hard day and we had come some 84kms.
At 3.50pm we were on the bus and heading for Kirkby Stephen – the massive adventure was over. It took us 5 days and we did a total of 346kms - magic memories will last forever.
16th June 2011
Monday, 29 August 2011
Every year I love to return to Scotland, the land of my birth, and undertake a number of challenges. This year was no exception and taking the advice of my cousin Joyce to visit early in the year for longer and better days, I did visit in July 2011. Returning home also gives me the opportunity to visit and stay with some relatives and friends which I was also able to do.
My round journey was 1,205 miles and I needed to plan my route and at this busy time of the year also book my accommodation ahead as best I could. The first three nights I spent with my sister Anne and her husband Tam in Luncarty, near Perth, and I also stayed with them on my return journey.
Fort Augustus was my base for two days and my first challenge was to cycle the Great Glen Way cycle route. This is a Coast 2 Coast (“C2C”) Route from Fort William (Loch Linnhe) on the West Coast 2 Inverness (Moray Firth) on the North East Coast. Over the two days involved I had lovely weather which made the challenge easier if that is indeed possible? The first day saw me depart Fort Augustus at 9.30am, and pass through Invergarry, Laggan, Clunes, Gairlochy and on to Corpach, arriving at 2.10pm having done 50kms. This was a well sign posted delightful route through forest gravel roads, some minor public tarmac roads and along canal paths all with spectacular scenery. Looking on to the Ben Nevis massif from Corpach was a delight. After a light lunch it was on my bike once again and by 6.40pm I was back in Fort Augustus having done a total of 100kms. The second day saw me once again leave Fort Augustus at 9.30am and tackle the East Side of Loch Ness on my route to Inverness. The first 6kms is very steep and at Suidhe View Point you are at 400m (1,312ft) with breath taking views all around. You travel through small loch side hamlets of Foyers and Inverfarigaig before coming to Dores and then a journey into Inverness (what a delightful City) by the River Ness and I made my way to Carnac Point and the Moray Firth. It was 2pm and I had come 58.45kms. Going back I followed the Great Glen Way which took me through Drumnadrochit, Lewiston and Grotaig with some steep climbs and down hills which saw me having to walk with my bike on a few occasions. At Invermoriston I decided to take the main road back to Fort Augustus, arriving at 7pm and having travelled 115.5kms. All in all this was a hard cycling day but ever so many happy memories of what I had seen along the way. While I did look out for Nessie on both sides of Loch Ness, alas he/she was not to be seen, although having been sited by some people the day before. I had now to travel to my Cousin Joyce’s home and arrived to her kind hospitality at 9pm.
At 6am next day I was up again and with a good weather forecast I was bound for the West Coast of Scotland and the sea weedy shores of Loch Broom at Inverlael for the start of a C2C walk to Ardgay and the Dornoch Firth on the east side of the country. Joyce was my back up, driving me to Inverlael for 9.30am and was to pick me up at Ardgay in the late evening. Armed with my OS sheet and compass I set forth at 10am.
I had wanted to do this walk for a long time and I had an intimate knowledge in my head of the route I wanted to take. Looking across to Loch Broom, an enormous sea loch, I realized the enormity of the day/evening ahead of me. Stopping at Glenbeg Bothy overnight was something I did consider but alas I did not have the time as I was on a tight over all schedule for my visit to Scotland. I had to make the most of the day in this remote and beautiful wilderness and the best way to record all that I would see was to take as many photographs as possible to record this spectacular scenery that abounded all around. There would be so much to see, to stop to admire and then record, adding of course to your walking time. With so many places in the world to see I would not be doing this mainly low level walk again.
For the first kilometer or so you are on a good forest road but then you join a narrow up hill path which terminates after Lochan a’ Chnepaich. As I came out of the forest I could see Beinn Dearg’s 1,084m (3,557ft) cloud covered top a long way in the distance. The River Lael to my right was in good spate which did indicate to me that it had been wet weather and once on the open moorland, peppered with peat hags, stony outcrops, heather clumps and long grass, lots of ups and downs, I would need to be careful as to where I placed my feet as deep holes and stones are often hidden and the last thing you want to do is twist, sprain or break an ankle or leg. Thus constant vigil would be necessary all the way along the trackless section of this C2C walk.
Above Lochan a’ Chnepaich, at approximately 800m (2,625ft), you are at the highest elevation of the day. I had promised Joyce there would be no diversions to do the four main mountains on the route. This would be a day’s walking on its own. These high peaks were cloud covered at times but then clearing which made for spectacular vistas of magnificent, immense and large landscapes. I was entering a short downward valley of around three kilometers which would eventually join Gleann Beag. I tried to set a route as direct as possible but on numerous occasions I had to change my route due to stone boulders, extremely soft ground, numerous peat hags and small burns flowing down from the high ground to my left.
I was following an integrate water system (source waters) that would eventually become the River Carron with hundreds of little burns feeding into a growing river as it meandered its way through isolated valleys to eventually flow out with mystery into the Dornoch Firth. How I wished I could have stopped and fished on a number of occasions but these are private waters.
On reaching the start of Gleann Beag I decided to cross the river where a herd of red deer, I had earlier startled, had crossed the river and I did follow their tracks, one hundred or so feet up from the river but often very wet in places and once again strewn with peat hags and in places dense reeds. I knew I was not far from Glenbeg Bothy and this would be a welcoming sight and perhaps other walkers staying there. At 2.30pm I reached the isolated Glenbeg Bothy. There was alas nobody here, with the last entry in the visitors’ book being two days before by a lone gentleman. In bad weather this bothy is a very welcomed refuge to walkers. From here there is no path and I made my way for the Weir marked on the map approximately two and a half kilometers further on and arriving there at 3.30pm but having a short twenty minute break for lunch. I am now on what I would describe as a service road for the Weir and what appeared to be water storage systems around it. The road has an excellent surface. I am coming to the end of the U shaped glacial valley of Gleann Beag which I so enjoyed and in the distance I could see the narrow entrance into Gleann Mor which again is U shaped and very steep on both sides. The unfolding vista before me just got better and better and Deanich Lodge suddenly came into view, giving me so much comfort that I was indeed on the right route. At 4.30pm I am outside Deanich Lodge. What a beautiful valley and location but total silence and wild red deer, small frogs and one herd of highland cattle have so far been my only company. By 7pm I have reached Alladale Lodge, nine kilometers on and the Lodge, not visible from the track, but the high quality of this Estate and its grounds would indicate the Lodge will be a very nice place. It is not long before I am on tarmac road and some houses are seen for the first time and at 8pm I am on the bridge at The Craigs and the start of lengthy Strath Carron. This is a long Glen with houses mainly to the left hand side of the single track road with passing places as you make your way to Ardgay. Not long after this I got my first mobile signal and I was able to communicate with Joyce to let her know I was alive, well and doing nicely after having a great but hard day’s walking. At 11pm I arrived at Ardgay, head torch on and with a red flashing rear warning light; locals must have thought that an UFO had arrived from outer space!!
I got my walking boots off and Joyce had a bottle of beer for me – sheer nectar after a hard lonely walk. Yes at last this C2C had been done – what an achievement. I wondered to myself could this be the shortest C2C in mainland UK and Europe? I have read that the distance is 53kms/33miles from Inverlael to Ardgay which I need to accept but the route I took did feel a little longer. OS Landranger Map Sheet 20, essential to take on the walk, takes you to the start of Strath Carron but alas not all the way to Ardgay so I have so far not been able to accurately measure the length of the walk.
From Joyce’s at Hill of Fearn I travelled on to Kinlochbervie to stay with my Cousin Rhoda and here my challenges were to walk/climb three mountains, Ben Hee 873m (2,864ft), Cranstackie 800m (2,625ft) and Beinn Spionnaidh 772m (2,533ft) thus completing all the high mountains in Sutherland.
On a dull morning with low cloud on the mountain tops I left my car at Karbrek at 10am and set of to climb Cranstackie firstly. I had studied the route I was to take carefully as there are no well defined paths. By 1pm I had reached the steep rocky top as the cloud was lifting and sunshine was taking over. At 1.45pm I was back down to the coll (I am in Scotland so I should say Bealach) between Cranstackie and Beinn Spionnaidh and I had a short lunch break by a rock boulder in lovely warm sunshine. Sky larks sang sweetly above me. By 2.24pm I was on the top of Beinn Spionnaidh with splendid views all around. I made my decent down to Rhigolter Hill Farm and then using the access road, crossing the River Dionard, and I was back to my car at 4.15pm. Another two of Sutherland’s lovely mountains had been captured. Being so near Durness I popped in to give a surprise visit to my Cousin Barbara and her husband John.
Ben Hee at 873m is the highest summit amongst a group of rounded hills in this empty and lonely part of Sutherland. Having walked throughout this wonderful former County of Sutherland when I use the word “empty” I must stress that there are no people living or communities in these remote locations. People would have lived in these parts once and there is evidence in the form of various former habitations to confirm this. The Highland Clearances during the 18th and 19th centuries (the Sutherland Clearances were the most notorious of these, taking place in the early years of the 19th century) were forced displacements of the population of the Scottish Highlands during the 18th and 19th centuries. They led to mass emigration to the sea coast, the Scottish Lowlands and in particular to the North American colonies where these poor hard working and honest people had to start a new life which they successfully did.
Tenants were evicted in favor of sheep runs. Otherwise you have every thing else; wonderful scenery , influenced by the ever changing weather of the day, you see different animals, birds and plants, constant changing sweeping landscapes, the lovely noise of running water with different levels of sound at times and unique smells.
I worked out that the best way to climb the mountain would be from West Merkland on the A838 road to Lairg and firstly up the gravel road that links Merkland with Hope. A kilometer or so up this road there is a cairn of stones on the right by a small river (Allt Coir’ a’ Chruiteir) which marks the path you take. It is a lovely hot sunny morning as I make my way by the south side of this delightful river (erosion has taken away parts of the path) and gradually gaining height. I left my car in a parking area at the west edge of Loch Merkland at 10.15am and I am at the top at 1pm. The views all around are staggering of what is a mountain panorama, and in particular as you look north to Ben Hope 927m a Munro I had climbed three years ago, seeing absolutely nothing due to low cloud and yes, very wet rain and stags roaring – yes it was the rut. What a beautiful mountain with lots of others to look across to. I remained on the top for half an hour taking in the unique ambiance of being on top of this special and lonely mountain. Such clarity prevailed that I could see for miles in all directions. Rather than take the same route again I traversed along the top of the ridge and then coming steeply down to join the gravel road I had used in the morning. Being attacked by hungry clegs I was back at my car by 3.30pm. This was a good time to get back as I wanted to do a spot of sea fishing before I went back to Rhoda’s kind hospitality and I was pleased to take back a good sized mackerel with me!! Weather wise it was the best day I had spent in Scotland mountains for many a year.
My adventure to Scotland had been short but very successful and enjoyable. Roll on my next trip to this very special area of the UK.
8th August 2011
Monday, 25 April 2011
CYCLING WITH MIDDLETON
“Mersey2HumberC2C” - Bike Ride
18th April to 21st April 2011
A lot of planning went into this trip and not being hardened cyclists we gained a lot of good advice from Gordon Short owner of Cyclone Cycles at Winsford, Cheshire. He also serviced and upgraded our bikes to deal with this 261Ks trip over four days. We were blessed with good weather.
We used National Cycle Routes: 5, 62, 6, 67, 62, and 65 with an overall Difficulty of 5 (but each day was different with day 1 and four being a 1 or 2 (easy cycling), day two being an 8 (over the tops of the Pennines), and day three an easy 4).
Day One – Sandiway 2 Runcorn and onto Stockport – Total Ascent 411m
This was a most enjoyable day making our way along the pretty banks of the Weaver River and into Runcorn to cross the Runcorn Bridge where we picked up the well sign-posted and delightful Trans Pennine Trail (“TPT”) via Fiddlers Ferry and onto Stockport. At 12 noon we were passing under the M6 near the Thelwall Viaduct and at 2pm we were crossing the M60 at Trafford. By 3.30pm we were in Stockport where we got the train back to Cuddington. We did a total of 81.3Ks and having left Sandiway at 9am we were eighteen minutes outside our estimated time.
Day Two – Stockport 2 Wortley – Total Ascent 1,329m
We were on the 8.30am train bound for Stockport and on a sunny morning we left the station at 9.20am, once again picking up the TPT signs. We knew we were in for a hard day as we were to pass over a lot of mountainous terrain. At 10.16am we passed over the M60 ring road and we were out into lovely countryside with spring bloom in abundance everywhere. By 1pm we arrived at the first Reservoir of five in the Upper Longdendale Valley which is very picturesque and surrounded by high moorland. By 2pm we reached the Woodhead Tunnel where we had to push our bikes up a long and steep hill which we thought would never end. By 4pm we were in Penistone and a welcomed stop at a café for coffee. At 5pm we arrived in Wortley (here you need to take the Timberland Trail (“TT”) off the TPT if you wish to continue West to East, as the TPT goes South towards Sheffield) and were welcomed to our great value B&B by Su and Tony owners of Wortley Cottage Guest House. This is a lovely village with two excellent hostelries – The Wortley Arms (where we ate) and the Men’s Club. Again we were only 8 minutes over our estimated time of seven hours, thirty two minutes! The trail today, totalling 71Ks, was reasonably well sign-posted but was badly pitted throughout the route, making for a bone-shaking, if enjoyable ride. The section from Penistone was much better, and with a long gradual downhill section was a joy towards the end of a hard day (we still had a bit of a climb to Wortley, but it was worth the effort).
Day Three – Wortley 2 Thorne – Total Ascent 265m
After an enjoyable breakfast from Su, we were away at 9.25am. We envisaged this was going to be a difficult day with navigation as a number of trails cross each other and the prominent TPT goes in different directions (N/W as well as W/E). On seeing the M1 ahead of us and knowing we had to go under it we were nevertheless outwitted by the numerous prominent TPT markings and we found ourselves on the outskirts of Chapeltown, heading south for Sheffield!! We soon rectified the position by plotting a route back to the TT. We were warned that trail markings were confusing in this area and we can verify this. By 11.30am we stopped for a well-earned coffee break at the RSPB Centre at Old Moor and were impressed with the facilities afforded to visitors.
Along the entire route we found there were very few eating and accommodation facilities (close to the trails) so you do need to have your own supply of water and food. We had another stop at a small roadside café in Braithwaite before arriving in Thorne at 5pm. We had done a total of 69.7Ks on the hottest day of our trip. We were well out with our expected time of 5 hours and lost around half an hour in going off route but we also had two coffee stops, met and chatted to loads of interesting folks and were held up at around 4 railway crossings.
To get to Thorne, we had to go off the TPT, for about three miles – not a lot to recommend Thorne to the traveller; despite some interesting people we spoke to, sorry Thorne. We had booked (and paid for) two rooms at the Thorne Central Guest House but they had double booked us (caused they said by the booking system or internet connections being faulty). The owners of the B&B paid for us to stay at the Belmont Hotel, which is about as basic as it gets, and was the low point of the whole trip.
It is key that you plan your route carefully.
Day Four – Thorne 2 Blacktoft – Ascent 22m
After a reasonable breakfast at The Belmont (where you had to ask for everything), it was a misty morning when we left Thorne at 9am and we were to be on side roads for most of the morning. By 9.30am we went under the M62 for the first time and rays of the sun were filtering through as the mist began to lift. We were in for a major surprise as we arrived to cross the river Ouse by bridge at Boothferry – but disaster, it was closed for essential repairs. A notice we finally spotted advised that a bus service every hour took you across the M62 viaduct – we had five minutes to find and catch this “lifeline” which we were able to do. It was then onto Laxton, Yokefleet and to Blacktoft and we arrived here at 11.20am after doing 33.5Ks and well under our estimated time of 2.47hrs.
Our goal had been attained and our first C2C bike ride was achieved.
It was now a further 5.9Ks to Gilberdyke for the train to Doncaster where we would change for the Manchester train to Stockport and then onto Cuddington, our final destination. Leaving Gilberdyke at 11.45am we were back home at 3.30pm and the first thing we did was clean our very dirty bikes and allow them to dry in the sun.
Thankfully, we had no problems in taking our bikes on the various trains we did use. As it was the day before the long Easter break, we envisaged there would be demand for the very limited bicycle spaces on the trains, so we had contacted the train operating companies to enquire about reserving our bikes on the trains. We were informed that they didn’t do that – however we met someone on one of the trains who did just that, so we would insist on booking for the future.
This was a wonderful trip and around 90% was off road, passing through the Pennines, alongside rivers, canals and reservoirs and through villages and towns. We saw breath taking scenery and met a lot of lovely people along the way. You need to train for such a challenge and you need to be “bike fit”. Attention needs also to be paid to your bike to make sure it is in good working order, and you have all the spare kit with you that you may need. Our strongest tip would be to ensure the tyre pressures are checked (on our mountain/hybrid bikes we inflated to a pressure of 50psi) – which helps to cope with the sometimes very rugged terrain. While you want to travel as “light” as you can, here again you need to carry essential clothing, all adding to the weight of your bike.
21st April 2011