Thursday, 19 May 2011

Sunshine in Borrowdale

Innominate Tarn - Wainwrights favourite spot
Now Borrowdale is famous for being the wettest place in England. But we've visited three times in the last 12months and enjoyed glorious sunshine! And so it was as we set off early walking up to Haystacks and Innominate Tarn, via Honister Pass. A pause for lunch at one of the most beautiful and tranquil tarns, and then on to Haystacks, a curious collection of rocks. Back down the pass for a much-needed shower. The facilities on the islands can be a bit basic, and the weather wasn't conducive to stripping off in a cold shed with a concrete floor.

We've been visiting the camp site in Borrowdale on and off, since we were in our teens. Nothing has changed. They still charge very little, and the facilities are basic, but the position is fantastic, with 360deg of hill and mountain views, no buildings, just fields and sheep!! Hang on a minute- there is a good pub 10minutes walk away. As you emerge from the shed/showers with wet hair and no hope of drying it, because there's no electricity, you look around and think "It doesn't get much better than this". Weather- dependent of course

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Abandon all Hope!!

Ferry from Tobermory to Arnamurchan
Although we woke to a dry but very windy morning, the forecast is for torrential rain and gale force winds in the Western Isles, with an improving picture further South. In fact, parts of the South East are suffering the worse droughts in 35years!

We caught the early ferry from Tobermory to Ardnamurchan, one of the most inaccessible and solitary places in Britain. Ardnamurchan, Sunart, Moidart, Morvern and Knoydart are spectacular places to be alone! Single-track, very rough roads, one road travelling for miles and miles, around lochs and glens, with hardly any habitation. Every twist and turn in the road gave a different view. Sometimes across Loch Sunart and Loch Shiel, then across the sea to Muck and Eigg,and then out towards the pretty Arisaig peninsular. After some time driving around the Peninsular, we arrived at Lochailort, and decision time- north-west to Mallaig and stick with our original plan of journeying north to our much-loved Skye, or east to Fort William and then south, and abandon our plans. With the wind building and rain starting to fall again, south it had to be!!! What a shame! Skye and Applecross and the Pass of the Cattle would have to wait for next year!
Lunch stop

We kept driving on and on down the motorways (with messages advising to slow down because of strong winds), hoping for an improvement in the weather. We cheered up when we realised that the Lakes and particularly, Borrowdale, were do-able in time for a pie and a pint in the local pub! Forecast for tomorrow in this part of Britain, sunny with occasional showers. Brilliant! Cask beer, home-made steak pie and chips, and a walk up Haystacks and Innominate Tarn, beloved of Wainwright and where his ashes were scattered, in the sunshine, which we haven't seen for nearly ten days! Things were looking up!

Monday, 16 May 2011

Isle of Mull

Ferry in Oban
Even though the weather forecast is dreadful, (heavy rain, cloudy tomorrow, then heavy rain, heavy rain, heavy rain!), we decided to head off to the Isle of Mull. We bought an island hopscotch ferry ticket for Oban to Craignure (Mull), Tobermory to Kilchoan (Ardnamurchan Peninsula, mainland) and Mallaig to Armadale (Skye) and then return from Skye over the bridge.

Landed in Oban on Monday, just in time to catch the ferry to Mull at 2pm. From about 12pm until 6pm it rained hard continually - got an intermittent leak in the van which is very frustrating! We drove down to the far south west of the island to Fionnphort which is port for departure to Iona. Found a great site, Fidden Farm, across from Erraid and a most beautiful position, a few metres from the shore and a white sand beach, with little inlets and coves. We stopped overlooking the sea and when, eventually, the rain stopped it was one of the most outstanding sites we have ever been to. The occupants of the few vans that were there promptly spilled out of their cosy homes, complete with binoculars and long lens cameras. A bird-twitchers paradise and so quiet. We were surprised how quiet the island was considering it is only 30 mins from Oban - single track roads around all of the island - very unspoilt.

Beach at Erraid
On Tuesday, with the only dry period forecast for the foreseeable, we caught the first ferry to Iona and had a wander around. Iona is a religious community, founded in 1938, where visitors are welcome. It is famous, of course, for being where St Columba landed in 550AD and established the first christian monastery. The original abbey has been rebuilt and houses guests from all over the world. It is quite a thriving community and busier especially when day trippers arrive from Oban. Thankfully we had come back to Mull before the hordes arrived, brought in on several large coaches.

Then the long drive to Tobermory, main town on Mull and inspiration for Ballymory, children's programme. We went via a very screnic route which shook us around a bit! Milk had turned to cheese by time we arrived in Tobermory! Next time we said we would go to Staffa to see Fingals cave and maybe take a wildlife tour to try and see the golden and sea eagles. There are a number of locations on the south and west of Mull, famous for sightings of these large birds. The road twists and turns under dramatic cliffs, with views of nearby large hills, the highest at 3000+ft, Ben More, and across the sea to the Treshnish Islands, Coll and Tiree, Inchkenneth, once owned by the Mitford family, Ulva and Little Colonsay. In the distance we could see Staff, with its dramatic form, but not the weather to take a cruise there today!

Tobermory is very pretty with it's multi coloured houses and a very secure natural harbour, and an enticing whisky distillery. Keep walking Marie!!!

Tomorrow we set sail to Kilchoan on the Ardnamurchan peninsula - weather forecast not good I am afraid.

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Scotland in May

May 2011 and it's off to "Bonnie Scotland" again

Off up North for the cycle event of the year- The Caledonian Etape, which we did last year. 81miles of fast, traffic-free cycling in the most stunning scenery along the banks of Loch Tummel, Loch Rannoch, Schiehallion and then back along the River Tay to Pitlochry. Unfortunately for me, I'm out of action and can only stand and watch, having come off my bike in Mallorca, fracturing two ribs. Four weeks on, the pain is finally beginning to subside, but I am not a patient patient, and couldn't feel sadder that I can't participate in this superb cycle event. Never mind, there's always next year!!
Riding along Loch Rannoch

Ian did fantastically well, shaving 17minutes off last year's time, coming in in 4hours and 20minutes- fantastic- averaging 18.7mph!!

Ben Vrackie
The previous day, I had the consolation of being able to get up Ben Vrackie, a cracking little hill at the back of Pitlochry, and it felt great to get out, and breathe deeply, and get some good exercise.

3 nights here at the Milton of Fonab site and off towards the Western Isles, weather permitting. Possibly exploring the Inner Hebrides, having visited the Outer islands last year in dreadful weather. Ian was lucky for the cycle race. The forecast had been for rain all day, and as it was, it was dry all am. and then drizzle later pm. Having set off at an unbelievable 7.01am, he was finished, showered and sitting in the van eating a venison pie, before the first spot of rain!
Cycling on Schieallion