Monday, August 14, 2017

More exploring including the Isle of May

We've carried on exploring our local area and beyond here in Scotland.  One day we'd planned a hill walk but the weather looked ominous so we decided Plan B would be to visit Blackness Castle by walking from Bo'ness:


It's a very exploreable castle and quite photogenic too:


It's described as the 'ship that never sailed' due to the shape and location, alongside the water of the Forth.

We've also been walking up hills again.   I visited the NNR on Ben Lawers again and extended the visit by walking most of the way up Beinn Ghlas however there's one particular section of rock, stair-like, with extensive drops:



I explored off the path for a less steep way up on this particular section but couldn't find one and with time ticking on decided to head back down.   If i didn't have vertigo i'd have done a number of Munros by now.   The views on the ascent and descent were as usual breathtaking:


I then had a long pause around a small series of dental operations which thankfully were an outstanding success.   My thanks to the professionalism of the NHS and NHS dentistry in Scotland. 

Once i'd recovered it was time to head out again though the summer had passed in a blur it's now mid-August and already feeling Autumnal this far North.  I still however wanted to visit the Isle of May.  Having booked a day with an afternoon sailing i had spare time in the morning on the way to Anstruther so decided to stop first at South Queensferry:


And then North Queensferry to see and photograph the bridges over the Forth:















From there to a busy Anstruther, packed with tourists enjoying the sunshine and the beach.  I sought peace and quiet at the end of the harbour to enjoy my lunch:


Before boarding the May Princess and heading back out to the Isle of May.  The sea condition was frankly idyllic:


 We did land this time, unsurprisingly, and got to explore the now near-deserted Island.   The majority of the birds having left during the previous week.  That was a shame but it was still good to explore the place:


Not all the birds were gone.   Kitiwake fledglings were still roosting on the cliffs and the Island still hosted a number of gulls including these Lesser Black-backed Gulls


The freshwater reservoir was a popular spot for the Island's remaining inhabitants for bathing and drinking: 

I even saw a Red Admiral sunbathing on Ragwort:


The boat left after a few hours and we completed our circuit of the Island taking in 'The Bishop' rock formation on the way:


The next day we had guests arrive from Cornwall and had a great evening together before dragging them up to the Southern Highlands for some exploring.

We took in Loch Venachar, Loch Arkay, Loch Katrine before ascending Ben A'an, a short sharp ascent of only 1,500 feet but worth it, both for the views:




And because I finally managed a summit, it felt really good grabbing hold of the summit rock, i'd achieved something indeed we all had.

After lunch we rounded off the afternoon by visiting Rob Mulholland's 'Still' sculpture in Loch Earn:


It's a very eerie art installation and well worth a visit.   So that's me caught up for now then.... hopefully the arrival of some sunshine means more getting out and about, though the DIY is calling, still plenty of cold, dark days ahead...

Monday, June 26, 2017

Cousins


Well Sister-in-law in fact but the one that lives in America, came to visit with her family for a week during which we were joined by another Sister-in-law and our household of two swelled to seven!

We decided to fill their week with all things Scottish so as well as feeding them kippers and veggie haggis we took them on a whirlwind tour including, the Kelpies:


The Falkirk Wheel, resplendent in reflected light:















This is the view along the canal to the wheel, the water looks to be suspended in mid-air:


The next day we took in Edinburgh including visiting the Botanic Garden:



The Royal Mile, the Scott Memorial, lunch in the shadow of Arthur's seat.  It was a thoroughly good mooch.

The next day was the one long walk we were allowed, we picked Ben Lomond, here a view from halfway up, taking in the Northern end of Loch Lomond:


This is a view to the East:


It's a fantastic walk and they all completed the ascent.  

After three days of burning sunshine the rain came in, we waited until it was light enough then headed up to visit Stirling Castle:




Another grey day saw us visiting Tantallon Castle and then New Berwick: 


For our last full day together we chose New Lanark which is a remarkable site even on the third visit in less than 12 months, we know we'll be going back again a few more times, for sure.   This is the upper falls:


We headed home albeit via Alloa and the sculptures on the roundabouts and finally the mysterious Pineapple building as the sun broke through the clouds again: 


It was a whirlwind of a visit and one we thoroughly enjoyed.  Shame it was over so quickly...

Castles, Castles everywhere

We had a spare long weekend but the weather forecast wasn't great in any direction.   Given the propensity for the East to be better than the West we decided to head towards Berwick-upon-Tweed as it looks very picturesque from the train.

Planning trips like this is fun, cross-referencing various websites, travel guides, national history organisations, etc.  In the end the trip became quite castle-centric and we duly started on a grey, drizzly Friday morning at Craigmillar Castle.  It's an interesting and accessible ruin:


From there we visited first Seton Collegiate Church:



And then Dirleton Castle:


Dirleton is very impressive and again accessible and explorable:


The staff there keep the grounds in excellent order too and there's a fascinating Doocot in the grounds:


In the afternoon we headed to Tantallon Castle:


This is spectacular both in terms of the castle itself:


And it's location, on the coast overlooking the magnificent Bass Rock, home of the largest Northern Gannet colony on Earth:


We really enjoyed our visit and marked it down as a place we'll definitely be bringing visitors to.  From Tantallon we headed to St Abbs Head as I wanted us to see our first Small Blue butterfly.  Alas we couldn't find any information on the specific sites and no one to talk to about the Nature Reserve,

We made do instead with a lovely walk around the reserve, taking in some of the cliffs along the coastline, the lighthouse, the loch, etc.:


From there with the evening drawing in we headed to our B&B in Eyemouth, which was very reasonably priced, good rooms and a proper veggie breakfast.

There's a lovely beach too at Eyemouth:


The harbour was very still as we walked about looking for somewhere to eat.   The building reflected in the water was apparently erected to conceal smuggling activity therein and beneath as this harbour was used extensively for this given its location, apparently: 



As we walked back from dinner a fishing boat had returned and the fisherman was filleting the pollock he'd caught, throwing the remains into the harbour... where a large male seal was waiting to grab everything he could:












That was a fascinating fifteen minutes.   Apparently there's a group of them who mop-up after the fishermen.

The next morning we decided to try and avoid the worst of the weather by heading out to Norham castle, another accessible, explorable ruin, though very wet underfoot still worth the trip:


From Norham with rain all about we headed into Berwick-upon-Tweed.   The town has a real sense of history and in fact we'd be getting a sense of the history of the area building-up form each of the sites we visited.   So much so that Helen bought a history book for Scotland which is really bringing this to life.

Berwick-upon-Tweed changed hands a number of times for example.

We walked around the city visiting various sites and then headed for the castle ruins, passing this rail viaduct on the way: 


The castle had a train station built on half of it so there's not much to see now and it's inaccessible.   We enjoyed our visit to the town though better weather would have made it more enjoyable.

On the Sunday morning we visited Crichton Castle, another fantastic, accessible ruin:















You get a real sense of the passage of time and taste inside:


Our final stop on the way home was at Hailes Castle, completing our circle:


There's a lot more to see in the Borders, time to plan another few trips me thinks....

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Lewis and Harris - Hushinish and Luskentyre

Another sunny day arrived despite the forecasts so we set off to explore Harris this time, heading for Hushinish.

The road is very narrow with passing places, some more realistic than others.  It descends at one point by a shallow river outlet that was very pretty:


And then passes through a walled castle and grounds, which is a bit odd.  Anyway we got close to the beach at Hushinish, stopping to let a cow amble on down the road and to take this picture:


A Dutch tourist eventually persuaded the cow to move so we were able to park-up and get onto the beach proper:


We also walked over to a much more exposed and windy bay with views back into the island.   There's a really interesting looking walk however we could see it rising on a sloping bank alongside the water, which is exactly my least favourite and doable kind of walking so we gave that a miss and just took in the scenery instead:


From Hushinish we drove towards the southern most point on the Island at Roder and the Churhc of St Clements:


We saw a seal colony close to Roder:


One thing we found rather bizarre was the fact that virtually every single cafe and restaurant was shut for Sunday.   We hadn't expected this and basically missed lunch.   You need to make sure you have lots of fuel too as the petrol stations are also shut.   There was one cafe open but by the time we found it we'd given up on the idea.  The hotel restaurants stay open apparently.   All a bit odd if you ask me.

By now we were heading along the coast heading for the famous beach at Luskentyre, passing some less famous but quite jaw-dropping beaches and landscapes on the way:




Luskentyre is indeed breathtakingly beautiful , heretically though so is the beach at Hayle in Cornwall, though Hayle lacks the hills and Luskentyre isn't covered in tourists.  We really enjoyed walking around the beach and over the dunes:





With the day marching on we headed to our booked hotel near Tarbert for a much anticipated gastronomic feast, passing Tarbert town on the way:


The food disappointed, the prices surprised,but we still enjoyed ourselves.  Given the great weather we'd seen everything we wanted to see on the islands and didn't fancy going back up to Stornoway to stay in a terraced house, self-catering, with a very early start for the ferry two mornings hence so booked ourselves on the afternoon ferry, which meant a long day and a long drive but it was all well worth it.  We really enjoyed our trip including our first visit to the Outer Hebrides (must do the Uists and Barra too at some point) and particularly the non-stop scenery and landscapes we travelled through. We'd seen a lot of birds too including Golden Eagles and Golden Plover amongst others.  Time then to head back as the rain clouds moved in, the temperature dropped (1c on our last night) and everything went grey:


Best get planning our next explore then....