Countryside Wanderings

It's amazing how things develop. After all, this blog started out as a news section for the rest of the website. With encouragement from readers, it has become a place for relating my countryside wanderings and musings about the world of outdoor activity. Walking, cycling and photography all are part of what I do out of doors and, hopefully, they will continue to inspire me to keep adding entries on here. Of course, there needs to be something of interest to you, dear reader, too and I hope that's the case. Thanks for coming.

Category: Skye

Going west from oncoming rain

Tuesday, May 23rd, 2017

It was late in August 2002 when my next Scottish escapade took place. Unlike its predecessor, this did not start with a stay in Edinburgh but in Bannockburn. Such was my lack of organisation that I reckon that I only booked somewhere to stay while on a stopover in Edinburgh. In fact, a weekend trip to Settle immediately preceded my trip to Scotland. What seers that in my memory is not so much the walk around that part of the Yorkshire Dales but my phoning my parents from Lancaster train station that Sunday night while en route home.

A First Night

Once booked into my accommodation in Bannockburn, I pottered into Stirling to stroll around the town centre and its well known castle. Other monuments like Old Stirling Bridge and the Wallace Monument were spotted too though a dull cloudy evening ensured that pleasing photography was out of the question. That matter only saw redress on a weekend visit during February 2016 and the crisp sunny day did plenty of justice to my surroundings, a factor that may draw me back to sample the Ochil Hills on which my eyes feasted in addition to the other aforementioned attractions. With the sun shining brightly, this was no time to be inside so I left explorations of Stirling Castle and the Wallace Monument for another time, assuming that offers itself.

Around Callander

Returning to 2002 again, a trip to another tourist office preceded onward travel to Callander so I had somewhere to stay that night. Once I dropped off most of my luggage, I set to walking along the disused Caledonian Railway line in the direction of Crianlarich. Of course, I was not going that far and I may have been playing with the idea of walking up Ben Ledi. The day stayed resolutely dull and cloudy but there were to be rewards later in the day. Though I now spy a path to Ben Ledi’s top on OS 1:25000 mapping, my progress that day took the form of stravaiging and my hill wandering was not long started anyway.

Back then, the gravel track played host to route 7 of the National Cycle Network but that now is joined by the Rob Roy Way, a trail that I have followed from Drymen to Callander with a night in Aberfoyle and from Kenmore to Aberfeldy. Filling the rest of its gaps may follow sometime should the mood take me to organise such an expedition.

My wandering took me along forestry tracks away from the old railway line in order to gain some height in spite of there being ongoing forestry operations. During this time, cloud broke over my head to leave out the sun for a delightful evening. That ensure pleasing sights and the creation of some photos as I retraced my steps to Callander where I sought an evening meal after my labours.

Revisiting Glen Nevis

The next morning came sunny so the prospect of making some photos around the River Teith and its tributaries was too good to miss before I continued on my way to Fort William. When I got there, I must have sorted out accommodation for two nights before heading into Glen Nevis for the afternoon and evening. For part of the way into the glen, I followed the West Highland Way before following a lower level forestry track that dropped me at Achriabhach. There, I lingered among well lit beauty and even gained a little height on the path leading to the tops of some of Mamores like Stob Bàn as I savoured what lay about me. When the sun faded a bit, I started on my way back to Fort William along the glen’s only road. There was time for an evening meal along the way too so progress was unhurried.

From Kinlochleven to Glen Coe

Exactly what led me to Kinlochleven the next day is lost to memory but I was after another stretch of the West Highland Way. There may have been other choices but I only recall the one I made. The day was largely cloudy so it began what largely is a poor run of luck when it comes to photography the Mamores from this part of the West Highland Way. Complicated terrain does not make of easy hill identification either though a hike over the top of Beinn a’ Chrualaiste helped a lot. Blue heat haze was my enemy when it came to photographing the Mamores though so you do not win all the time.

Still, the walk took me into empty countryside with plenty of views of unpeopled countryside round about me. The track was much used by menfolk building the Blackwater Reservoir and night-time returns from inns brought their share of tragedy too, not that the area’s human history is that prevalent today.

Controlled progress got me down the Devil’s Staircase into Glen Coe but it was to be July 2014 before I would see Buachaille Etive Mòr in pleasing enough conditions for satisfying photos to result. Like that more recent encounter, such was my timing that I had to hail a passing Scottish Citylink coach where I could get it to stop instead of going with a more recognised stopping place. Still, I got back to Fort William as I had wanted.

A Quick Visit to Skye

The rain that had been following me west all week was getting closer so I headed for Portree on the Isle of Skye. Accommodation again was sorted on arrival and the landlady was astonished to find that it was an Irishman and not an Englishman that she was getting for the night. It was one case when my address led to a misimpression when there are other other times when my accent leads folk to think that I have come from Ireland. With luggage deposited in my new lodgings, I pottered about Portree before heading to the Old Man of Storr. The sunshine that greeted my arrival faded as cloud continued its encroachment but that did not stop my walk around one of the island’s best know landmarks and my then trying to return to Portree on foot. Friendly Germans in a camper van shortened that journey for me under skies growing ever heavier with rain.

Edinburgh Bound Again

Next morning, I woke to see that it was raining well. My luck had run out and it was just as well that it was a travelling day for me. The first leg took me from Portree to Inverness before I continued my journey south from there in improving conditions. Once in Edinburgh, inability to make contact with a friend cause me to book somewhere in Balloch as a backup for this was festival time in Edinburgh and I wanted to be sure that I had somewhere to stay that night. With contact made, the extraneous booking was cancelled and all was on the straigh and narrow for the rest of the weekend before I returned to Macclesfield again.

Travel Arrangements

Train journey from Macclesfield to Stirling with changes at Manchester Piccadilly and Edinburgh Waverley. Local bus service from Stirling to Callander. Scottish Citylink coaches from Callander to Fort William, from Fort William to Portree and from Portree to Edinburgh with changes in Inverness and Perth.

Starting independent touring of Scotland

Friday, March 24th, 2017

Prior to August 2001, my outings in Scotland were day trips or I set off with someone else. A conference in Aberdeen was attended with a university colleague and an annual trip to Highland Perthshire was with a university group. Then, there was a few days in August 1999 when I showed my brother some of the sights that I had seen on day trips and a few more with them.

A Family Outing

That last outing began from Edinburgh and took us to Fort William where we spent a night before exploring Glen Nevis the next day. Our late afternoon arrival meant that there was some time for a stroll along by Fort William’s shore after an evening meal at the Ben Nevis Bar. The town turns its back to the sea so it was up what lay across Loch Linnhe to assuage any lack of scenic glamour despite overcast skies lying overhead.

Next morning after breakfast, we parked in the Braveheart car park before setting off for a stroll along the road through Glen Nevis. The pace was to be a gentle one and I have no recollection of there being much road traffic as we went as far as the Water of Nevis car park. Though this was before I took up hill walking, my brother asked about how long it would take to walk up and down Ben Nevis. Seven of eight hours came the reply and I wonder at the naivety of our deciding against the proposition on the basis of the time we had. Nowadays, I would be thinking in terms of experience, conditions and equipment and that also would be the order on which I would base my decision.

The attentions of midges meant that we did not linger too long around the Water of Nevis. Also, we wisely did not proceed further along and the presence of a disturbing sign would have made sure of that. It was a few years later when I finally went a little beyond it and I maintained control of my ambitions even with the equipment and experience gained in the meantime. This is wild country that commands respect and is not something for a spur of the moment decision of a casual tourist.

We retraced our steps with a stop at a cafe so there was no rush in our movements. On returning to our car, we set off for Oban. Skies had been grey overhead all day but they now were to darken and bring rain. Scotland was to show its less favourable side that evening. Nevertheless, we still sought food that evening and pottered about Oban too. The rain must have passed sufficiently to allow this. We also figured out what to do the next day: a tour of Mull and Iona.

The weather next morning showed that we were not to see Scotland under sunny skies. Still, we crossed to Mull by ferry before catching a coach to Fionnphort with the driver providing commentary laden with dry wit. A mention of the once regular arrival of wet newspapers onto the island at Grass Point remains in my memory and does the description of the, at times single track, road as the island’s answer to England’s M6.

Once at Fionnphort, we crossed to Iona in dry conditions. Skies remained grey but were strolling Baile Mòr without any wetting. We also visit the restored abbey buildings so we would have been under cover for a time too. Still, it was good to have respite while we were there and we reversed our outbound travel to get back to Oban again.

From Oban, we headed to Balloch where we stayed the night. Sadly, we arrived too late to walk along the shore of Loch Lomond in daylight. In any case, we would have some of it while in the way there. Next morning, we continued to Stranraer where we crossed to Ireland and I got a short stay over there before returning to Edinburgh again.

Going Solo

Because of starting a new job in England and having to move home, there was no Scottish touring in 2000. Though it remains the wettest year on record across Britain, my recollections of the summer are not in agreement with the statistic. The autumn that year was another story and I soon learned not to cycle the five or six miles to work in Cheshire rain.

Being lonesome after life in Edinburgh, I resolved to return from time to time and it is something that I still do. There was a weekend visit in November 2000 when I stayed with a friend up there. That became a regular feature for a few years and it was to another friend that I came to stay in August 2001. That was to be a jumping off point for another tour of Scotland, travelling solo this time around.

After arriving in Edinburgh on Monday afternoon and spending the night there, I headed off to Skye on Monday afternoon after spending the morning sorting out my accommodation arrangements. After the sunshine of the previous evening, it was under grey skies that I set off on a Scottish Citylink coach to Fort William. On the way there, we were to pass through heavy rain but it was drier if still grey when I reached Fort William. Bright skies were to persist for the onward journey to Portree though there was a sense of stormy conditions whenever any showers came our way.

The Quiraing from near Staffin, Trotternish, Isle of Skye, Scotland

Eilean Flodigarry, Trotternish, Isle of Skye, Scotland

The following day could not be more different for it came fabulously sunny. Having not been there before, I chose to head for the Trotternish by bus as far as Culnacnoc. From there I trotted along the road as far as Flodigarry and lots of little places like Staffin and Brogaig were passed on the way. Though the road walking left me footsore, there was next to no traffic so I could soak in my surroundings. The gorgeous weather and scenery also meant that my Canon EOS 300 got plenty of use and I made sure that I had enough film this time around. It made a good introduction to the place and I returned to Portree by bus.

After another night on Skye, I caught the bus to Armadale where I caught a ferry to Mallaig. Memories of any sights of Knoydart and the Small Isles are lost to me know but there was some sunshine. Skies were greyer around Mallaig and I travelled from there to Glenfinnan on the Jacobite steam train, a rather expensive endeavour to me at the time. Photography was limited by the sun but I still got a stroll to the shore of Loch Shiel, albeit pulling a heavy trolley bag after me. From Glenfinnan, I got to Fort William on a more ordinary train before catching a Scottish Citylink coach to Oban where I stayed the night.

My third visit to Mull took place next day and I left most of my luggage in safekeeping on the mainland while I made for Tobermory by ferry and bus. Sunshine was rather hazy but I still tried my luck with making some photos of Tobermory with somewhat pale skies. My long SLR photography lesson was only beginning so there was a lot left to learn. Returning to Oban by bus and ferry, I retrieved my luggage and caught the coach to Glasgow. Once there, I continued to Edinburgh on another.

This was the English and Welsh August bank holiday weekend so I stayed there until that Sunday. Saturday came grey so I went shopping for better walking footwear at Tiso and came away with a pair of Columbia trail shoes that I still have somewhere today. They complemented the pack of thick socks that I bought in Tobermory just the day before. It is amazing what sore feet cause you to do.

Sunday morning was spent around Edinburgh and it all felt autumnal. Any photos that I tried making then reflected that more than what I believed I was seeing at the time. It was later that I set to travelling south again and the bank holiday was to see me trying out my new footwear on a trail by Grindsbrook Clough near Edale in Derbyshire. An interest in countryside walking was beginning.

Making a planned escape in the midst of a time of turmoil

Tuesday, March 14th, 2017

In a lot of ways, 2005 was an eventful year. My mother’s health was poor for much of it and several weeks with a vomiting complaint resulting in her having to go to hospital, a move that she resisted. We could have done without the clueless inexperience of the consultant that had here in his care. It all meant that an Easter visit to Ireland proved inevitable. During the summer, the poor woman suffered an episode of shingles if life was not hard enough as it was.

In the world at large, there was a general election in Britain where the government got itself re-elected with a reduced majority. Times were changing and July brought two terrorist attacks in London, one horrifically successful and the other resulting in failure. Neither did anything to steady nerves and I resolved to keep away from London for a time; it was to be a few years before I made any return visit.

Not a Good Time to be Going Away

With all this happening, my by now customary week long summer break was in order. The timing was not nearly as bad as my brother’s trip to London with a friend of his. An abortive terrorist attack happened on 22/7 while he was staying in the city and I was to travel to Scotland the very next day. Paternal nerves needed steadying after I sensed that I might have said too much about London events so I got my brother to make contact with Ireland. London turned out to be big enough that he saw very little of anything that happened.

As I travelled north, there was heightened awareness as I topped up on a few things at a WHSmith’s branch in Manchester Piccadilly train station. Otherwise, the security situation does remain so much in my memory these days. My journey was to take me to Edinburgh where I would spend the weekend with a friend before continuing to Skye.

Any recollection of how the weekend was spent has faded as much as that of the journey from Edinburgh to Broadford on the Isle of Skye. Shortly after arriving, my brother phoned to see where I was because our mother  had shingles. Both of us were away from our normal bases so our father had to be supported in another way, possibly with help from an aunt and uncle. While the security situation felt very far away, life’s tribulations displayed their ability to follow you. Still, I got out for a stroll along Broadford Bay and found my way to somewhere where I could get something to eat.

2005-07-27

Gars-bheinn and Sgurr na Stri, Strath, Isle of Skye, Scotland

Next morning, I caught the bus to Elgol. Then, services were not as regular as they are today and that influenced my choice of walk. It is a scenic spot with coastal views of the Cuillin hills. There were to be plenty of those as I followed the path north along by Loch Scavaig.

As this took me along the steep side of Ben Cleat, my mind was focussed by the possibility of slipping into the see if I was to lose my foothold. It reminded me of walk along Offa’s Dyke Path by the side of Eglwyseg Mountain only a few weeks earlier. Tripping there would not have dropped me into the sea though.

Camasunary, Strath, Isle of Skye, Scotland

Reaching Glen Scaladal brought with it a sense of relief though the amount flotsam and jetsam from the sea made for a surprising sight. Next up were the slopes of Beinn Leacach but they were not as intimidating as those along Ben Cleat had been. Camasunary was reached without incident.

Loch na Crèitheach, Strath, Isle of Skye, Scotland

Strath na Crèitheach, Strath, Isle of Skye, Scotland

Sgurr nan Gilleann, Minginish, Isle of Skye, Scotland

From this point, many continue towards Loch Coruisk by way of The Bad Step near Sgurr na Stri. That way would take you into the heart of the Cuillin but I was not so adventurous. My choice took me towards Loch na Crèitheach and Glen Sligachan before I would finish my walk at Sligachan itself. This would continue the scenic grandeur to which I had been exposed.

Bla Bheinn, Strath, Isle of Skye, Scotland

Glen Sligachan, Minginish, Isle of Skye, Scotland

The sun was set to shine for most of the way too. Thus, I would get to see a whole range of delights like Blàbheinn and Marsco at their best. This was a small helping of wilderness walking with encumbrance from scarcely a soul, exactly what I needed after all that had happened that year. Waterways like the River Sligachan and lochs like Loch an Athain or Lochan Dubha would be watery companions for parts of the hike. Map inspection was as much for working out what surrounded or what other walking possibilities there might be as much as it was for progress assessment.

The famous south-facing view from Sligachan was not a photographic possibility as I awaited the next bus to Broadford. Taking some refreshment at the Sligachan Hotel tempted too but I decided to play safe though buses were not so irregular here. This is a place to which I probably need to return.

2005-07-28

After the enjoyment of the previous day, I was off again and the destination this time was the Trotternish. With a stopover in Portree, I went from Broadford to Brogaig. It was on the second leg of the journey that i saw that newspaper delivery to Staffin was done by bus. Once I had disembarked, I was on the minor road across the ancient landslip that so dominates sights on this part of Skye.

Though the curiosities of the Quirang lay to my right, I chose instead to turn left and stroll south along the inland cliff top. Quite why I had overlooked an out and back stroll in the other direction is a little lost to me now but it might have been because the day was dull at this point. Leaving the making of photos of rock formations like The Table, The Prison and The Needle for a sunnier day does have a ring of sense about it.

My course was to carry me over humps and bumps as far as Beinn Edra. For whatever reason, the stroll felt a long one. Whether it was because the day before had spoilt me with its delights or the ground underfoot was less compatible with rapid progress is not something that I can answer readily. Either way, I dropped into Glen Conon on the way to Uig under breaking cloud cover.

Rha Glen, Uig, Isle of Skye, Scotland

The sun was out by the time that I reached Uig and, with time to spend before the next bus to Portree, I found my way to a shady glade at the foot of Glen Uig where I rested a while. It was to be August 2008 when I would be here next and that would be when I made my first, and so far only, trip to Harris. Explorations were set to continue.

The way back to Broadford cannot have been eventful for I have little recollection of it now. After my last evening in Broadford, it was time to start heading south again. That must have been a journey without much ardour too for next to no detail remains in memory. That autumn, I was set to embark on a career move so the changes were set to continue.

None of the changes in 2005 were anything as dramatic as those in 2016. My life was set to continue in a readily steady direction with one thing leading to another. Good memories remain and yet may call me back to those places where they were first made.

Travel Arrangements

Train from Macclesfield to Edinburgh. Scottish Citylink coach journey from Edinburgh to Broadford with a change of coach in Fort William. Highland Country bus services from Broadford to Elgol, Sligachan to Broadford, Broadford to Portree, Portree to Brogaig, Uig to Portree and Portree to Broadford. Scottish Citylink coach journey from Broadford to Glasgow with a change of coach in Fort William. Train from Glasgow to Macclesfield.

Learning many lessons during an introduction to Skye

Wednesday, March 8th, 2017

It was July 1999 when I had my first experience of multi-day solo travel. Before that, there were day trips that took me to Fort William, Inverness, Oban and Loch Lomond. There were other excursions too with regular university science meetings taking me to the shores of Loch Tay and a conference in Aberdeen. All laid the foundations for a trip with my brother that took in Fort William, Glen Nevis, Oban, the Isle of Mull and Loch Lomond before he went home via Stanraer. That allowed me a chance for a weekend in Ireland too.

That first multi-day trip of my own took me to Skye for the first time. It came after the oral exam for my Ph.D. so there was an element of celebration after a successful outcome. That July had been dull in the main so it was a change to have a sunny day for the exam though it clouded over by evening time.

The prospect of some more sunshine later in the week was such that I managed to plan the trip away. This was a largely spontaneous escapade that commenced after a late night going through the phone bill for the flat to work out how much each of us had to pay. My pay as you go dial-up internet usage made the task more laborious but the job got done regardless of this.

Any lack of sleep made for a more bleary-eyed journey to Edinburgh’s St. Andrew’s Bus Station to catch a Scottish Citylink coach to Fort William. This was to be my second time going that way and the sunshine ensured that I was looking our the window at the passing scenery instead of catching up on any sleep. After all, both Rannoch Moor and Glen Coe are captivating places for anyone’s attention.

After a break, it was time to catch another Scottish Citylink coach to get the rest of the way to Portree. This was to show me new scenic delights as it passed the Commando Memorial, Glen Cluanie, Eilean Donan Castle, the Skye bridge and the Red Hills (some call these the Red Cuillin while others disagree) of the island itself.

The Square, Portree, Isle of Skye, Scotland

Once in Portree, it was time to seek out a bed for the night. Nowadays, I do this ahead of time but I took a chance and tried the Portree Independent Hostel and was in luck. The naivety of the act now astounds me and I later got to going to a tourist office if I arrived anywhere without a pre-booking. Even that is out of my favour now.

With accommodation sorted, I pottered about the place in the evening sunshine. There was time for getting something to eat too and I found somewhere simple that did what I needed. Otherwise, there was no wastage of the weather and lack of prior research meant that I got to see as far as the Cuillin without realising what I was seeing. The lack of a detailed map could be blamed and so could a certain gap in experience but I think it also was a certain scepticism.

After rising and getting breakfast the next morning, I found a place where I could hire out a bike for the day. Duly equipped and with my few belongings in a bag on the back, I set off to cross the island. Doing so, I followed the main road for Uig and turned to continue to Dunvegan. Lots of little place like Edinbane were passed and Macleod’s Tables were there to be seen in heat haze too.

Dunvegan Castle, Waternish, Isle of Skye, Scotland

Once in Dunvegan, I headed to the castle and gardens with the sort of sunburn that I avoid these days. It was a hot sunny day so a rest under the shelter of trees and shrubs was in order. For the entry, I seem to have stuck with the gardens because I did not enter the castle itself. Instead, I found a quite place by the sea with view of the building where I lingered a little while.

All the while, I was making photos with my compact camera and realised that my film supply was low. Since there was shop around Dunvegan that sold any, rationing was the only option. When I left Dunvegan, I decided to return to Portree by a different way for a spot of variety. The was evening glorious as I plied the west coast of the island and the Cuillin lay ahead of me too since the road I was travelled lead to Sligachan. However, I crossed to Portree on a minor road that I joined after Struan.

Initially, it was a scary affair with a drop at one side that was as steep as the initial ascent. Sharp ups and downs awaited as I continued my crossing. If there was any regret, it was that my film supply was by now exhausted. This was before I had any sense of how much film you would need on a day away from home. Even so, that was forgotten when I found another hostel where I could stay for the night. Again, I took a chance and it worked out for the best.

The bike was stored and food sought before I made for bed in a more amenable spot than where I was the night before. Once I sorted myself the next morning and handed back the bike after the agreed 24 hours, it was time to head for home.

Eilean Donan Castle, Dornie, Ross and Cromarty, Scotland

Given the fame of Eilean Donan Castle, there was to be a stop at Dornie. However, I did not realise that I needed to tell the driver of my plans so we had a job to found my bag under all the luggage of Glasgow-bound passengers. He hardly was impressed but we got it sorted. It was yet another lesson for the future.

Eilean Donan looked well and I did go inside to see this castle. Film supplies had been replenished before leaving Portree and it might have been then that sunscreen and after-sun soother were acquired for I did need these. There was plenty of use of the newly acquired items as I pottered about the castle and what lay around it in the time available before the next coach came.

Not much can be recalled of the journey back to Edinburgh but there must have been changes of coach at Fort William and Glasgow. After the trip, there were photos to get developed and some have yet to be bettered. Nowadays, getting all this for around £100 could appear an unbelievable bargain but it left my financial reserves in need of parental replenishment. Quite what my father really thought of this is unknown to me but it was good to get away for a while and set in motion a series of explorations of Scotland that has continued since then.

Precious Gifts

Wednesday, February 11th, 2015

After a break needed to care for their own older relatives, my parents started to go exploring Ireland again. Early memories of this involved evening drives after the cows had been milked. Places like Springfield Castle, Cahermoyle House and the last resting place of William Smith O’Brien still reside in my memory. Somehow, I also seem to recall that the evenings were clouded and dull when we made these excursions but my father retained an interest in history for much of his life and a few of these outings stemmed from that.

That is not to say that places were not frequented for their scenic worth. After all, my mother enjoyed flowers and shrubs with many a pot plant about the house while shrubs and trees made mowing the lawn all the more interesting. Trees were favoured by my father so places like Foynes Wood, Curraghchase Forest Park and Doneraile Park also saw visits and the Ballyhoura Mountains were not ignored either, especially given my mother went on Sunday drives around there with her own mother. Visiting gardens open to the public was more my mother’s interest and she found ones like Annesgrove Gardens near Castletownroche in North Cork or Derreen Gardens near Lauragh in Kerry through the pages of the Cork Examiner (now the Irish Examiner). Rhododendron flowering seasons nearly always saw excursions to the Vee and Mount Melleray in the Knockmealdown Mountains between Clogheen in County Tipperary and Cappoquin in County Waterford.

Mum & Dad walking around Kilkee (Dad never liked standing in any photos...), Co. Clare, Éire

Mum & Dad enjoying rocky shoreline views around Kilkee, Co. Clare, Éire

Continuing the scenic theme, my parents also appreciated mountain and coastal scenery. My mother especially enjoyed the latter and it was the freshness of Atlantic sea air that especially drew her. There were so many visits to Ballybunion in County Kerry that the place no longer appealed to me and might have inoculated me against seaside resorts for life! Other favoured seaside destinations included Beale, Banna and Ballyheigue on the same stretch of coastline as well as the likes of Kilkee, Lahinch and Spanish Point in County Clare.

Thinking back on it, it sounds that my parents enjoyed much of what is branded now as the Wild Atlantic Way. In fact, I reckon that there was not much of Ireland’s western seaboard that they had not savoured. Donegal stands out in my mind as well as Sligo and maybe north Mayo too. Definitely, their travels has West Cork, Kerry and Clare well covered and there were a few days spent around Connemara too nearly twenty years ago. Car touring was their way rather than country walking though and they thought of their excursions as going for drives and these often were leisurely too, the often narrow roads that were travelled saw to that. Doring Kindersley’s Back Roads Ireland (from their Eyewitness Travel series) would echo what my parents enjoyed doing.

On some of these , they would bring us along and there would be a lot of miles covered between the two milking times in the day. One was around 180 miles and took us all around the Beara Peninsula with a scary moment when it looked as if there was no road and that all that was ahead was the sea. Even though it was a sunny summer day, the sight gave pause for thought until we saw the road go around to the left and lose height as it did so. Going slow around there certainly paid its dividends. Another memory from such an escapade was dropping down into the Black Valley and the Gap of Dunloe on a gravel track in an ordinary family saloon, a four door Nissan Sunny. The places that they took their cars would surprise you and there was a story about the way into a waterfall on of their multi-day trips away; the road was well rough and my father proceeded without due regard to the underside of the car and got away with it. It may have been Glen Inchaquin near Kenmare but I cannot be more definite than that.

The east coast of Ireland did not get overlooked either for they honeymooned around Bray in County Wicklow. Thirty years later, they reprised that trip and went to Glendalough and other spots too. The full details escape me at this stage but their love of scenery certainly excluded few parts of Ireland. Another trip away took them down to the Ireland’s south eastern corner though it was not as sunny as its reputation suggests when they were there. There was one story about an experience in a guesthouse when trying to open a window for fresh air at my mother’s insistence resulted in the thing falling out on my father. It was dodgy anyway and hit no one as they discovered next morning. Many a B&B say was secured at the end of a day’s touring and they were fortunate that accommodation providers at any fully booked establishments rang around to sort them out for that night. That is something on which I never would attempt myself now and I did take such an “on spec” approach with hostels on my first visit to the Isle of Skye. It makes me shudder a little even now.

All of these visits to scenic areas rubbed off on me and actually inspired me to go visiting the Scottish Highlands in the first place. Even so, I followed a very different approach with more cycling and walking with hardly any motorised touring at all. Nevertheless, all that exploring of Britain, Ireland and the Isle of Man never would have happened if visits to Kerry and West Cork with my parents had not stirred up something in me and my mother encouraged it in her own small way by asking if I had gone anywhere during a preceding weekend. Without my various excursions, there would be anything for this blog or even for this website and that is one of the priceless things that they have left me. My curiosity for seeing new places or new sides to old haunts still remains with me. There are parts of Ireland that they visited where I have yet to go and there is armchair wandering beyond the shores of Britain and Ireland too with the Faroe Islands and the Alps arousing enough interest for me to survey guidebooks because I realise how little I know of such places. Whether I actually get to these places is another matter but my current hunting grounds have much to delight me so I have no plan to desert those either. The two people who inspired all this may be with us no longer but their wanderlust has not gone with them. It is difficult to see them wanting to be very much different.


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