The Skye’s the limit

My fourth night on Skye and already I feel rested and peaceful. The nights are dark and silent, although night before last I watched the edge of the Geminid’s shower through the sunroof. That was pretty amazing. It’s raining again this morning but as I’m working til 4pm I don’t really mind.
I’m busy testing the second battery too: it looks like they’re both shot.  🙁

Damned leak

The rain has been almost non stop here for nearly 2 weeks now. And I went into the wardrobe for something and there it was, a leak. Really bad too. So bad that my brand new, never used Canon printer was actually so full of water that I had to put it in the sink to drain out before throwing it away.

Spare towels, shirts, coats everything had to be taken out and I found a laundrette to wash them all toute suite. Of course the wardrobe itself was soaked. After an inspection it was clear what had happened. When I was sheltering from the 113 mph winds on Skye I parked in the lee of a tall wall beside some pine trees. I was barely bothered by the wind but I recall a scraping sound as a branch tickled the roof. I think one of them must have hit the gas flue and made it loose and so there was  basically a large hole in the roof for 3 days in pouring rain.
Still, at least I know what it was and it was fixed easily, simply tighten the locknut up and make sure the rubber seal was making a seal on the roof.

That part of the roof has leaked on and off for years now ever since Isatlan messed up when fitting that accursed satellite dish. The last time it was fixed was back in 2012 when I was last in Scotland and I wondered if that was the last I’d know of it lol

Cue that dehumidifier…sometimes things just happen for a reason eh?

Merry Christmas!!!

It’s Christmas morning, and this is my 8th Christmas in the van now. I decided to leave Bamburgh and come north and I am now sitting in view of the Forth bridge in Fife. I hope this weekend to get some photos of the new bridge construction before moving to Falkirk for more photos of the wheel.

The van’s old problem of non-starting is back again *sigh* I turn the key and it flat out refuses to start. I can try continually and it may or may not start eventually, and over the years there’s been no clue as to what causes it. However my fire works great, the fridge appears to be working and at least I am moving again.

I hope you all have a fabulous Christmas and Santa is kind to you 🙂

 

From Scotland to Hawaii and back again

Castle Moil, Skye
Castle Moil, Skye

Just on the edge of the Isle of Skye, beside the bridge to the mainland, is a small village called Kyleakin. Castle Maol is a ruin just a little outside of the village, on a hill top overlooking the Kyle Akin. Oddly, it is also known as Castle Moil, Dun Akyn, Dunakin Castle, Dun Haakon and Castle Dunakin! It was the family seat of the McKinnon clan and it looks commanding still, standing on the headland even though it is ruined.  I was taking photos from about a half mile away in a car park when a car pulled up and the lady driver asked if this was the way to the castle. I replied there was a path, but it was steep, muddy and in parts quite deep in mud and water. It is also overgrown and difficult to find in parts so this point was the best view of the castle by far without getting really dirty and tired.

She’d gotten out of the car and she smiled and told me this story:

“I’ve been going to night school to learn genealogy and I’ve found out about some of my ancestors going back hundreds of years. My great, great, great grandfather was a McKinnon. His family owned and at one time lived in the castle. Sometime in the late 18th Century he emigrated to Hawaii. He opened a bakery store there which whilst not in the family now, is still operating. I’ve thought about the family members who are lost in time now and who I’m resurrecting  in memory, and to find out I have  a physical connection to them through the castle fills me with an incredible need to be here, to see it, to touch it.

So I’ve hoped and dreamed for 20 years and finally planned this trip and now here I am, a half a mile away from something that has filled my thoughts and dreams for most of my adult life. I want to touch it, as my ancestors did hundreds of years ago and feel connected to them emotionally, across time and history. Getting muddy and wet is the least of my concerns and nothing will bar me now from going up there and touching the stone.”

Her and her elderly step-father set off and I took some more photos, feeling a little humbled by her story. Suddenly I thought about her amazing journey, and I thought about my journey too. I am agnostic, so I don’t believe there is a point to life, except the point you make. Mine is about People, Places and Experiences. This blog is about relating them too. Here I was in the midst of a great story, in a great place, about some amazing people, so I set off quickly to catch them up.

Home at last
Home at last

They’d not gone far as the bracken and undergrowth had grown over the path. She had jeans and trainers on and her elderly step-father was wearing some very smart leather slip ons. They really weren’t dressed for this so being in walking trousers and boots I tried to beat a little path for them. As we walked I introduced myself and she said her name was Tari Thompson.  I explained about my blog and that her story had touched me and how most of my life now was spent going places and meeting people and having experiences. I asked if I could walk up with them and photograph her realizing her dream and touching the stone. She was happy with this idea and we set about making our way to the hill that the castle was on. I chose an adjacent hill when we got nearer, as I had an excellent view across with the Kyle Akin in the background. I then went over to where they were after giving them some time alone.

Tari Thompson fulfills her lifelong dream and touches the stone of her ancestral home.
Tari Thompson fulfills her lifelong dream and touches the stone of her ancestral home.

I got some photos, and I took some for them on their ipad and their camera. It really was a touching moment. This was a lifelong dream for someone coming true, and they shared it with me. I left them alone then so she could dwell on her own thoughts uninterrupted, but I left her my card, and hopefully she will email as I asked her to so she can see the photos I took and approve them to be published here.

And here they are 🙂

I love my life lol

 

 

EDIT: Some time after this was published, I received an email and I’ve copied the contents below…

Subject:
Castle Maol

Message:
I want to thank you for the great blog you wrote about Ms. Thompson
fulfilling her dream of placing a hand on the castle and connecting
with her ancestors. Her ancestors are, in fact, my own. It gave me a
chill to think about doing the same one day. Thanks again!

Jonathan McKinnon

What’s the chances!!

[tb_google_map]

Quack quack

View of Loch Lomond with distant mountains You’ll tak the high road and I’ll tak the low road and I’ll be in Scotland aforrrrrreeee yeeee….

OK so I can’t sing, but I’m happy to be spending time in Scotland again. Especially around here, Dunbartonshire, by the shores of loch Lomond which is beautiful. Scotland is generally very good to the tourist: routes are well signposted, there’s plenty of places to stop and enjoy the view, and you’re never far away from somewhere that will sell you food and drink.

I wasn’t sure where to go when I dropped off the camera in Glasgow, but Loch Lomond is less than an hour away so I’m pleased I came here now. Jack is loving it too and I’ve never seen him swim so much! I’ve no idea what’s got into him but he’s going into the water just for the fun of it, which is unlike him.

Chatting to someone at work who was talking about Duck Bay. I’d never heard of it so after I’d been to Asda in Dumbarton, I came to find it and it’s right there, almost on the end of the Loch, in plain view. I’ve already passed it twice without realising lol

A view of a beach with trees in the foeground and 6 men frollicking in the water,One of the great things about Scotland is that you can actually access the beautiful areas. Often in England they’re restricted, sometimes for no good reason, and it’s infuriating. But here you can park by the road, go down to the little sandy beach, and play in the water if you wish. Not that I did, I leave that to my brave dog, who doesn’t seem to care if it’s cold. On the second picture you can see 6 guys all playing in the water too. They were there for about a half hour messing around, stripped down to their boxers. God knows how they stood it, it was absolutely freezing despite the sun.

A tour boat cruising Loch Lomond with mountains in the distance There’s lots of cruise boats around this end of the loch too. I’ve never been on one, I usually find the value for money is just not there. Saying that you never know, I may check it out for the weekend. I like it here enough to stay til then, and  maybe next week too!

The photos by the way were taken on my trusty old Canon S70 compact camera. I’ve had it for years and it’s my backup for when things go wrong with the expensive ones, which they do 🙂

 

Glasgow parking is mad!

I got to Glasgow today to hand in my camera, found a parking spot after half an hour, and had to pay an incredible 60p per 12 minutes!! That’s £3 an hour lmao!
Has anyone ever paid more than that?
I think the nearest greed I can think of is the robbing Lake District charges.

Shame on you Glasgow!

Ice age landscape

I was driving back down to the north east when I spotted a sing saying Ice Age Landscape. You know, one of those brown ones that indicates an item or area of interest. So I quickly turned off the road onto a narrow, single track road and followed it along  a valley until I came to a viewpoint. After parking I read an info board which said that this was Glen Roy, and was virtually unchanged since being formed by glaciers during our last ice age.

Glenroy - Ice Age Landscape
Glenroy – Ice Age Landscape

You can clearly see the parallel lines going around the valley walls, where the different levels of water had been when it was a lake, and the scouring effect the ice had as it washed slowly along the ground carving out the glen itself.

I’m not a frustrated geologist, but I find all this stuff fascinating and spent an afternoon in Glenroy just marveling at the landscape and how it had been formed.

 

Beach but no sea?

Loch Morlich beach
Loch Morlich beach

I think I’ve already mentioned the lovely beach at Loch Morlich in the Cairngorms, although it’s not a littoral one, the nearest sea is miles away. However this sandy beach is as good as most beaches you’ll find by the sea.

There’s some ancient Caledonian Pine trees along this stretch too so it’s very picturesque. That’s Cairngorm in the background, still covered in loads of snow.

Jack stalking ducks
Jack stalking ducks

Jack of course loves it because there’s ducks there, and one of his favourite  pastimes is chasing them, even though he doesn’t even come close to catching any.

You can see in the photo how unconcerned all the ducks are that he’s 2 feet from them hahah I think they all know him now and know he can’t fly!

 

Morlich beach
Morlich beach

It’s quite popular too even though for this time of year there isn’t that many people around.  Yet the weather has been fantastic. It’s rained some days, but there have been plenty like this one with blazing sunshine most of the day.

I think maybe it’s a bit of an undiscovered place. I was chatting to work colleagues about Glenmore Forest Park and no-one had heard of it.

Swamp monster

Jack playing at Swamp Monsters
Jack playing at Swamp Monsters

It was really warm today, so jack was chasing ducks more than usual. He decided to follow these two into the lake through the marsh at the shore. He was definitely game for it!

Odd that until he was two he wasn’t keen on water but he doesn’t care now. He often goes in to cool off, or as here, to chase ducks! Yet another gorgeous day in Glenmore Forest Park and we walked round Loch Morlich which takes about 3 hours if you stroll, play in the woods and chase ducks…

 

Glenmore Forest Park

One of the best forest parks, or parks of any type for that matter, Is Glenmore Forest Park in the Cairngorms. Cairngorm itself rises right out of the park, and it’s a wilderness and wonderness of trails and activities and trees and lochs and everything you could want in the outdoors. In the heart of the forest is Loch Morlich, seen below at dusk.

Loch Morlich
Loch Morlich

I’ve been here a couple of times over the years but forgotten just how good it was. Drive into Aviemore itself and you get the standard small town shops, with noisy silly cars driven by swaggering teens. It’s not the nicest place I know of and I only venture in to go to the shops for food then I come straight back out and into the glen.

I’ve spent may hours walking around the loch itself, it’s only about 3 miles around the shoreline, but there is plenty of fun to be had at the shoreline and in the forest. There are still some ancient Caledonian Pines by the north shore, a tangled twist of clearly ancient wood and yet on a sunny day you could easily by on a tropical island.

 

Loch MorlichThe shores are shallow and sandy in parts so it’s easy to wade in and swim, or simply paddle. My dog loves chasing ducks onto the loch: I think it’s juts an excuse to go swimming.

It was here beside the shores of Loch Morlich that the Heroes of Telemark trained. They were the Norwegians who eventually went back to destroy the plant where the Nazi’s were making heavy water, thereby ensuring that they weren’t the first to develop the hydrogen bomb. Can you imagine a world now if the Nazi’s had succeeded in that?

Nowadays it’s home to kayaking, fishing, cycling, snowboarding, camping, hiking and of course skiing. It became a major ski resort as the Heroes of Telemark and other who had trained there, enjoyed the skiing so much that they wanted to come back and continue.

Double rainbowAlmost all car parks are only £2 a day, some allow camping overnight, and there are a myriad trails to follow both on foot and on bikes.  I absolutely love this place so I’m staying for a few days despite the fact the weather is awful.

 

I’m back

I finally got the ferry back yesterday. It’s telling that I went down to St Margaret’s Hope office to book the ferry at 10 am, and stayed parked at the terminal until 4:50 when the ferry sailed.

Orkney island is nice enough, and the people seem friendly enough, but once I’d seen the peculiar main street in Stromness and took some photos by the harbour, there didn’t seem much to do there.

Stromness high street
Stromness high street

The main street is flagged rather than paved, and most of it’s length barely exceeds 8 feet. My camper is 7′ 6″ wide so it was slightly hairy getting through. And no before you ask, there were no signs warning me of the width.

The harbour is very busy and I stood for a while watching boats come in and out. I was amazed by how easy they made it seem, especially one large fishing boat called the Jean Elaine, who could have been parking a mini rather than a 50 foot boat.

Stromness ferry terminal
Stromness ferry terminal

I found  a nice lighthouse later, but that was after driving through the featureless, smelly farmland that is a feature of Orkney mainland. I’m sure someone will say “but they need to farm!” Quite. Ever since I entered Scotland in December at Dumfries I’ve been smelling the stink of slurry on fields. Oh wait, lemme check my shoes…

The lighthouse was lovely, and so was the Italian chapel, which was also interesting to read about.  After that, there just wasn’t anything else to take my fancy. You can eat out anywhere in the world so restaurants don’t do it for me, same with cafes and pubs. I’ve driven the length and breadth of Orkney and whilst it’s peaceful and friendly, it just holds no fascination for me. The lure of seeing whales was taken away when the lady in the Post Office told me she’d lived there 35 years and still not seen one.

Stromness harbour
Stromness harbour

The fare to the Shetland Islands was a staggering £232, which took it way beyond any trip I was likely to think of. So that’s what led me to return to the Scottish mainland. I’m now in Bonar Bridge, if only Orkney had scenery like this!

In conclusion, if you love peacefulness and can make your own fun, you will love Orkney. Lots of remote spots to camp too.

If you like climbing, hiking, ‘doing’ things, or have a dog that you want to let off the lead, forget it. And contrary to public opinion there are hardly any beaches with sand on and the few there are are tiny.

Ps: I had to drive all the way to Dornoch to get autogas for the cooker so bear in mind that between Skye and Durness, and between Dornoch and Dunnet head, that entire part of northern Scotland has NO autogas stations. I managed reasonably easily on the two tanks that I’d filled in Skye, but it’s worth bearing in mind if you use a lot of gas or only have one small bottle.

Orkney view

This is my last day in Orkney. I’m not enamoured of the place, but neither do I dislike it. I am totally ambivalent about it. Some people rave it to the eyeballs so here’s my take.

The island is farmland. That’s probably their main industry after tourism, although they still have a fish industry and I have no idea how big that is. However, farmland is farmland. There isn’t much to see except fields full of cattle sheep or grass. Large parts of it stink of slurry too which didn’t make me smile. 🙁

There is  craft trail, where you drive around the main island and pop into potters, weavers, painters and jewelry makers etc and see craft type industries. I don’t think these are traditional island crafts, just tourist ones, but I’m sure some people will find that a very interesting thing to do. It’s not my bag though thanks. There is also an island museum but it was shut when I went.

If you’re into history, it’s interesting to see the Churchill barriers. These were simply concrete causeways built between islands to block enemy sea transport through Scapa Flow. As you can see below they are simply concrete blocks with a road built on top.

Churchill barrier
Churchill barrier

Some of the concrete was used to make the Italian chapel which is probably the most interesting thing on Orkney and I am glad to have found it.

I found virtually no beaches, which disappointed me. Perhaps I didn’t know where to look, but I only found either tiny sand beaches, or rocky ones. I love my beaches and Orkney being an island I assumed it would be full of great, long sandy ones.

There are other things to see and do, but because of my negativity I didn’t really have the motivation to find them. I think there’s some ancient stones to view and an eagle centre, although as I was out of season I’m not sure how much will be open. I would not be averse to visiting again, in season, to find out what else is there, and to link it with a trip to the Shetlands. But I did check the ferry to the Shetlands and at £232 it was wayyyyy out of my pay packet.

So, booked on the ferry at 4:50 pm, heading for Glenmore forest park, one of my favourite places in Scotland.

 

Glen Etive

I call Glen Etive ‘the healing place’. This picture which was taken right at the entrance to the Glen. Sorry about the aerial!

Glen Etive
Glen Etive

When you turn onto the single track road the first thought that comes into your head is the 23rd Psalm. For you non-catholics, that’s the one that goes:

“Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death…”. Now, some of you are saying “How can that be a healing place if you think of walking through the valley of the shadow of death?” Well, here’s the full 23rd Psalm:

The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures:
He leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul:
He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His name’ sake.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil:
For thou art with me;
Thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies;
Thou annointest my head with oil;
My cup runneth over.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the House of the Lord forever.

Now, I’m not a catholic, I’m not even christian, but some things ring true whether you attach any spiritual meaning to them or not. I don’t believe in God or Jesus, but the effect of being in Glen Etive is similar: it makes me feel rested and at peace, and so I can put my thoughts in order and revitalise my soul.  You probably have to experience it to understand it.

Some miles along the track into Glen Etive I came across these wild deer foraging by the road:

Wild deer in Glen Etive
Wild deer in Glen Etive

It’s different seeing majestic animals in their natural environment, instead of behind wires at a zoo. I stayed there some time trying not to spook them, just taking in the vision of wild deer foraging in a wild forest of highland Scotland.

I took the opportunity for some walking whilst here and got over 100 photos. However I had to curtail my walking after a few hours as my left calf muscle is permanently cramping. I suspect a trapped nerve or something grr

Glen Etive
Glen Etive

Bridge of Orchy

So much for getting to the Isle of Skye…

I only got a few miles and came across the Bridge of Orchy. Now I know that most photographers like sunshine, and indeed most photos look better with sunshine in them. However, misty, dull days can still be attractive:

Bridge of Orchy
Bridge of Orchy

The sky has been overcast in Scotland for 3 days now but some views are spectacular for it, especially the huge vistas of some of the glens.

The second shot actually has the Bridge of Orchy included:

Bridge of Orchy
Bridge of Orchy

When you look at the bridge, and use it to scale the mountains around it, it’s humbling. Actually this scene reminds me very much of Spean bridge, as seen from the Commando Memorial. I must hunt out a photo of Spean bridge and compare the two.  Anyway, if you’re ever stuck in the house with your camera moaning that the weather is too bad to take photos, take heart, you can get great photos even when the weather is bad.

I stayed in this location for lunch, it was far too good to waste on one quick look.

Ayr I go again

I’ve been around Ayr for a few days now, and I like the beaches. I’ve not ventured into town much yet but I did find out there’s a theatre. I get paid on Monday so I hope to book up for their performance of Beauty and the Beast next week. I’ve ordered some new reading glasses from Tesco which won’t be here til Tuesday so I’m around til at least then.

There’s been a few honkers last night and today, despite the fact I’m on an industrial estate by the sea, and where I’m parked is used by dog walkers and no-one else. Seriously, why blare your horn at me as you go past? Am I harming you in any way? Do I affect your life negatively? What is it I am doing by simply being here, exploring and taking photos that makes you angry? And have you ever considered that you disrupt the peace of people living nearby with your immature actions?  In six and  a half years not one of you has bothered to come up and speak to me and say your piece, and find out about me.
Today the police visited, because someone walking their dog decided to stop them and point out that I’d parked here two nights. So? The police were great, spoke to me for a while, took my details, apologised and explained they have to speak if someone has complained. They were polite, friendly and open which is more than can be said for the mindless few who drive past blaring their horns without even knowing who I am. I’m legal, a tax payer, spending money in your town whilst I’m here, explain how I am bothering your life?

Anyway, I couldn’t resist taking this pic as I was on the beach. I’m sure locals will instantly recognise it. The beach at Ayr is lovely and goes on far enough to satisfy most people.

Heads of Ayr
Sunset over the Heads of Ayr

The photo below is of Millers Folly, down close to the harbour at the river mouth.

Millers Folly, Ayr
Millers Folly, Ayr

As the story goes, this structure was built by Cromwells army back in the 1600’s and th area here was called Montgomeriestoun. Later it was made a Burgh of Barony. Then along comes this businessman John Miller, who bought it and conferred on himself the title of Baron.

He decided to add this tower structure to the end of the old citadel walls, although with no apparent function in mind, therefore it was called by the locals ‘Millers Folly’.

I don’t know yet what the Cannon is in the background. My guess would be a defensive piece left over by Cromwell’s army.

Mr Ratty goes to heaven (Some might find the images in this post disturbing)

We’re walking by the river Nith in Dumfries when Jack starts digging in some bush at the base of a tree. He was intent so I knew he smelled an animal, and thinking about the floods on Sunday, I thought perhaps a  rat or other river creature.

Dumfries in flood
Dumfries in flood

He must have dug for about 10 minutes or so, on a 5 m leash as I watched buses go by, watched a Heron on the river and basically let him have his fun. Suddenly a rat zoomed out from the base of the tree and scurried off along the wall and behind a litter bin. As Jack was on his leash I had to run to let him keep up.

But when we got to the bin there was no sign of it. We walked along the path a few feet and I tried to get Jack interested in another bush at the base of another tree, thinking it may have taken refuge there, but he wasn’t having it. He wanted to be back at the bin. So we went back and I pulled it out and leaned it over and showed him there was no rat behind it. Suddenly, up it pops on the inside of the bin, clinging to the side of the metal insert and glaring at me. The bin had gaps underneath so the sneaky creature managed to get in one and go inside the bin itself and of course, to utter safety.

So I’m trying to convince Jack he has no chance when the stupid rat, seeing him standing up and peering through the litter box, runs back down the bin and out the hole in the bottom and runs off up the path again! Madness, suicide, Jack was on it like a car bonnet! lol

Jack with his latest kill

For some unknown reason he didn’t do his normal ‘bite and shake’ kill maneouver, where he bites them hard round the neck and shakes them to snap their neck. No, he bit it to death. Simply stood there biting it hard til it stopped flopping. I’ve never seen him do that before.

There was quite a lot of blood and looking at the splatter I’m sure it’s Jack’s. I suspected it had managed to bite his dewlap or nose, so we went straight back to the van where I cleaned him off, and remembered there was  a vet about 5 minutes walk away. However when I got him cleaned up there wasn’t  a mark on him, so I will keep an eye just in case infection starts, but it seems he got off with it.

Here’s an interesting fact: In the US last year, cats killed approximately 1.6 Billion small mammals. It’s actually becoming a problem as so many little things are being killed that numbers are down. The massive number is said to be due to the increase in domestic cat ownership. I hope most of those are rats 🙂

Snnnnnnowwwwwww!!!

Snow….but only for a  few hours 🙁

I took Jack out and we walked down to the market in Dumfries, which only has 2 stalls and was deserted apart from the stall holders. Turns out the man running the hardware stall comes from Sherburn, very near where I was born. He didn’t have a 70mm hole drill though so I still can’t fit the Gaslow valve.

Never mind we left there and had a very cold but enjoyable walk along the river til it was lunchtime, but as we returned to the van the rain started and it slowly washed away all the snow.

Never mind, tomorrow I’ll find that camper accessory shop I passed on the way in, get some water pipe, heating flue and various other bits and bobs and then head for Whithorn, which a friend recommended as being a nice place.

North Queensferry

Forth road bridge
Forth road bridge

I love Scotland.

It’s one of my favourite places in the world to visit. It’s a lovely peaceful village,  with great views of the two bridges.

North Queensferry is a small village at the foot of the Forth bridges on the north side. It’s incredibly pretty and even has a convenient village car park. You could easily while away a few hours down by the harbour and wash away the dust of the day with a few cold beers in the pub later.

This is just one small corner of a beautiful country, and I’ll share a lot more with you over the next few weeks as this site develops.

Lochgilphead

As I said I’m in Scotland to see someone from this dating site I was a member of. Once again Vodafone totally screwed me over with the dongle, and after a couple of hours with CS a manager finally got it all sorted. Some sort of screw up with their admin grrr. This is getting too frequent and unreliable for work.

Anyway, I stayed around up here for a couple of weeks or so as it is a beautiful area. The person I visited has a loch side house and the views were amazing. Here’s one from her garden :

A picture of a sunset over a Scottish loch
Lochgilphead

“Can you imagine spending time here?” she asked. Dam right I can. This photo is taken with my Sony DSC-R1. This is without doubt the best camera I’ve owned.

Anyway, I stayed around for a while but I had to leave in the end simply because I was still failing to get a signal and work were unhappy. I hope to come back to Scotland though and explore somewhere. I absolutely love the place, especially the wild north.