What originally was a news section for the rest of the website soon became a place for me to write about human-powered wanderings in the countryside. Photography inspires me to get out there, mostly on foot these days, though cycling got me started. Musings on the wider context of outdoor activity complete the picture, so I hope that there is something of interest in all that you find here. Thank you for coming!
Around the Spring Bank Holiday weekend, I made a Scottish Highlands return. Due to intrusions of life and escapades that convey me to foreign shores, I have not frequented a part of the world that I continue to admire as much as I once did, and there is much more to savour.
The reminders come from my dipping in and out of Seton Gordon’s Scotland, a compilation of selected writings from the selected author of some renown, made by Hamish Brown. This follows my devouring of Seton Gordon’s Cairngorms while flying from London to San Francisco last month. That followed much the same format and also involved Hamish Brown.
In truth, I often think of the West Highlands as being the epitome of the Scottish Highlands, though the most recent incursions have used Stirling and Aviemore as bases. The latter of these was where I headed for this year’s visit, partly because hotels in Stirling were fully booked and that possibly was caused by a Harry Styles concert in Edinburgh. The Cairngorms return was a welcome one in any event.
2009 and 2010 was when I last was there, so my going back was long overdue. Then, hostelling became my choice of accommodation, but the latest trip saw me ensconced in a hotel for greater privacy. In many ways, the ground covered in May overlapped with those earlier incursions.
There was an ascent of Bynack More, made in blustery conditions that briefly brought some light rain. This lay in my mind since 2010, and it felt not before time when I did it. This also is my first Munro; it was its relative accessibility that initially put the idea into my head and not the fact that I stayed in a dorm of the same name in Glenmore hostel. The day improved during my walk, and I might have liked lingering around Loch Morlich but for my feeling worn after my exertions.
That was resolved by going back there and returning to Aviemore on foot to take in both Rothiemurchus and Loch an Eilean, though any sunshine was made hazy by a thin cloud covering. There was a reprise on the next day, while walking from Nethy Bridge to Aviemore under clear skies and in warm sunshine. Other haunts like Ryvoan Bothy were passed on my hike and there were ample opportunities for photography too. What I could have done without was a tumble that ripped my trousers that cast a shadow over the rest of my wandering.
That mishap and its aftermath feels brief now and I might have fancied staying longer given the continued sunny weather. The trousers were replaced anyway, and any scuffs that I had suffered were well bandaged. However, the size of the Cairngorms began to enter my thoughts enough for me to consider hiring a bike for future off-road wanderings. Cycling would make a good way to reach Loch Einich, for instance.
Craigellachie National Nature Reserve was not ignored either, especially given its proximity. Now that I think of it, there were four incursions. The lochans are best savoured in the morning light while going above the tree line in the evening time grants you views east towards the Cairngorms and south along Strathspey. This is a wee place that offers so much.
Further Highland returns are possible. Seeing Ben Ledi in wonderful sunshine remains an unfinished business, as does reprising parts of the West Highland Way north of Bridge of Orchy to get better photos. The more adventurous prospect of a short backpacking trip from Taynuilt to Glencoe or Kinlochleven has entered my mind too. What went from being a place to explore to becoming a refuge from life’s woes now becomes somewhere to experience again and anew.
In Britain, last year saw a public jubilee being celebrated though I took no part in that. This year marks some private ones of my own, but it is the silver jubilee of my own shamblings on the World Wide Web that I have in mind here. Things have come a long way since those tentative steps on the now defunct Geocities. In the meantime, my interests in technology and transportation have found other homes to leave what you find here.
In the dying years of the last century, explorations of the sort that you find shared here only could be a pipe dream. Even photographic efforts were only tentative and involved a compact camera. SLR’s and hillwalking all lay in the future. Explorations of English, Scottish, Welsh and Manx countryside could come only because of what I earned from a working life. These needed time to make them happen too and clement weather to make the experiences desirable.
It is only within the last ten years that I could have entertained notions of international travel that has taken me to various parts of Iceland, Switzerland, Austria, Norway, Sweden, Spain, Canada and France. Even a return to the Channel Islands to follow up on a school trip only happened this year. In the next few weeks, I hope to embark on another international escapade, the details of which I will share later.
The wanderings continue and photos keep coming. Since Easter, there have trips to Ireland, northwest Wales and highland Scotland. The last of these saw me spend some time around Aviemore taking Craigellachie National Nature Reserve, the top of Bynack Mór, Loch Morlich and Rothiemurchus. A tumble may have ruined a pair of trousers but it pained me to leave the place with a week of sunny weather in train. The Welsh trip had no such drama and featured the top of Y Garn near the Ogwen Valley on a day of gathering heat.
The weather on the Irish trip was mixed, yet there were a few highlights that avoided the razzmatazz surrounding a coronation. A walk from Newcastle West to Abbeyfeale along the Limerick Greenway convinced me that it is best enjoyed as a cycling route. That exertion may have left me feeling the worst for wear, but that did not stop me heading to Clonmel for a circular hike taking in part of the Comeragh Mountains as well as a walk by the River Suir.
The threat of rain did not stop me spending a few hours around Ballybunion or Galway. There was a soaking at the former after a stroll along the Long Strand and a cliff top walk. That was while I was awaiting the bus back to Limerick and I dried on the way back. The day improved in Galway and I got no wetting around Salthill, it somewhat pained me to leave sunny Eyre Square to return from there. Return visits to either place cannot be discounted, even though I have been scathing about the first of these; my parent’s chosen form of enjoyment was not mine, I need to say.
Stories of all the journeying over the decades would have stunned a young university student all those years ago, and there may be more yet. New locations continue to beckon to me and old ones entice return visits. More of those may await and inspire more writing on here afterwards.
After my trip to Ireland in March, I noted how much good it did me and started pondering an Easter getaway to further the improvement. After surveying possibilities and rejecting a few because of the predicted inclement weather, I decided to base myself in Jersey instead.
For the sake of speed, I flew there and back to enjoy a week-long stay. St. Helier was where I based myself and a good bus network got me where I wanted to go. After that, ferry services allowed day trips to Saint-Malo and to Guernsey. What was not so convenient were some of the timings with an early morning arrival from Manchester along with early morning sea and air departures. The departures particularly meant that breakfast was skipped on some mornings in favour of getting something on the way.
Arriving early on Wednesday did mean a day of exploring though and it was possible to check in early at the hotel too. A stroll across the beach took me to St. Aubin, from where I ventured to Noirmont and wandered around its German gun emplacements. Sunshine was in short supply when I began this and cloud cover grew all the while with rain encroaching on the way back to st. Helier with the tide having come in while I was in Noirmont. It moves fast on these islands and covers a large area as it does so.
Thursday saw me head to L’Étacq, from where I was to walk all the day to Rozel in bright sunshine. Along the way, I passed Grosnez Castle, Plémont, Greve de Lecq, Bonne Nuit and Bouley Bay. After Greve de Lecq, there was an inland detour before the coast was reached again near the Devil’s Hole. A motorsport track meant another slight detour later on, but this was no deprival. There was plenty of dramatic coastal scenery to savour on what was the longest hike of the trip, and all the ups and downs made for tired legs too.
Friday became a day composed of shorter trips. The first was to La Corbière, whose dramatically sited lighthouse grabbed my attention while passing on the bus the previous morning. Next was Noirmont again, this time in bright sunshine so better photos could be made before strolling back to St. Helier across the beach. After that, there was an evening visit to Gorey to see and photograph Mont Orgueil Castle. That was a short stay but it was still long enough for the tide to come in to its full extent.
For Saturday, I went to Saint-Malo to retrace old steps from a school trip longer ago than I care to admit. The old town looked stunning as ever despite being festooned with a crane. Most of my time was spent beach hiking as far as Pointe de la Varde. The sun beat down on me as I did so and it felt unseasonably warm to me too. On the way back, I followed the GR34 and along a promenade much traipsed in that August numerous years ago. There was a brief call to Centre Patrick Varangot where we stayed back then. The hostel had not changed much apart from the sports facilities in front of it. Being there and spotting the hypermarché where midday lunches were sourced brought back some memories before I returned to the coast again. That was a quieter interlude before I ventured among others again, and especially so around the old town, which was very busy. Fancying somewhere quieter, I went out along Môle des Noires, a breakwater with a lighthouse at its end. By this time, I felt tired so I returned to the ferry terminal even though it was a bit early. It had been a good wander anyway.
On Sunday, the skies grew cloudier, but there was ample time for photographic wandering around St. Helier. That was followed by a saunter from Rozel to Gorey past St. Catherine’s under clouded skies. That may have limited photographic activity yet it was still a good stroll and finding a good vantage point for viewing Mont Orgueil Castle in the wrong weather was no perturbation.
Rain made a visit on Sunday night but I still went to Guernsey, perhaps with more hope than expectation. The weather improved as the day wore on, so there were plenty of dry interludes and occasional sunshine too. My wandering took me out of St. Peter Port, past Fermain Bay and as far as St. Martin’s Point before retracing my steps with some unintended deviations. There were views of nearby Herm and Sark to complement what was on Guernsey itself. There was a motorsport event at St. Peter Port so I was happy to get away from that, and there was plenty of peace and quiet away from that. While I might have fancied a visit to Castle Cornet, I thought it to be best to be at the ferry terminal in plenty of time with a deliberate detour through the town centre.
Tuesday morning was the drier part of the day and desire for a sighting of Jersey cows sent me out to St. John. That errand duly satisfied, I then made my way to the Waterworks Valley, through which I headed to First Tower on the island’s south coast. That was a rewarding hike and would benefit from a sun-blessed return, yet I did not feel short-changed. A stroll along the promenade by the beach returned me to St. Helier before the rain got too heavy and I was back in my hotel relaxing before my early departure the next day.
The whole trip had been very rewarding, and whets an appetite for a longer visit to Guernsey and perhaps Brittany. Only time will tell what becomes of such prospects with what else there is in my life. There was much gained in any event.
These words are being written in a period of ongoing industrial relations turbulence. Whenever this happens, it can seem never-ending. Hope gets lost, but things can be resolved quicker than anyone can imagine.
Much of 2018 was blighted by Saturday-only stoppages that affected Northern Railway. It meant that outings were limited for me because I do not drive a car. In fact, they were an impossibility for many of the places that hill wanderer would go in the north of England. Thus, when the stoppages were halted, it was as if I was unleashed to take advantage of the restored sense of freedom.
Trips to the North York Moors and Derbyshire preceded two outings to the Yorkshire Dales. This piece describes the first of the latter, when sunshine was scarcer than predicted in the forecast. That encouraged another that will be described in a later posting.
The lack of sunshine necessarily limited the number of photos that I made on this trip, so figuring out the route again took some doing. Nevertheless, I reckon that I have recalled it. Recording GPS tracks or even filming hikes is something that I have avoided so far, but that needs a rethink unless I stop leaving it so long before writing trip reports.
On the day, I made my way from Settle’s train station towards Castlebergh Plantation. From there, I followed the Pennine Bridleway in the direction of Malham Tarn. That meant passing the turning for the crags that may have lured me out that way in the first place. They would be passed on the way back.
Everywhere lay under grey skies as I followed the track towards Langscar Gate and Malham Tarn. A young walking group was going this way too, so I dallied to give them time to move along for the sake of added solitude. Following the broad track appealed to me, as these so often do, especially when quietude can be found. That made up for any lack of sunshine.
Skies partially cleared of cloud around Malham Tarn, somewhere that I possibly had not visited for more than ten years. That made me linger and attempt a spot of photographic capture. The results may have been incompletely in their success, but they were proof that I was not totally out of luck. Now that I think of it, there may have been more sunshine available than I had thought.
My next move was to make for Malham village. That took me past Broad Scars and Malham Lings before I returned to tarmac again. Descending by Malham Rakes gained me views over Malham Cove as well as getting me to the village where I enjoyed a refreshment stop.
The shop was looking more tatty on the outside than when I was near there on previous visits. The paintwork was wearing off the stonework and the shopkeeper looked aged, which have explained the lack of maintenance to the outside of the building. Skies again broke to allow some sunshine, and I took in sights of the cliffs of Malham Cove on the next stage of my hike.
My return to Settle took me near Town Head as I made my way onto Long Lane. That kept me off Cove Road until just before a steep ascent, after which I left the road for a public footpath that would take me back to the Pennine Bridleway near Kirkby Fell. There was empty countryside around Rye Loaf Hill, though I seem to recall seeing some mountain bikers around there.
More civilisation in the form of Stockdale Farm before I left the lane to follow the Dales High Way past crags that I had fancied photographing. The grey gloom put paid to that ambition, so I reconciled myself to enjoying the hike instead. There was one last uphill heave before the final descent into Settle, which felt very distant in the vicinity of the limestone outcrops that I was passing.
Another visit would be needed to make photographic use of the scenic delights that they offer, but the walk had left me content. There may have been a refreshment stop before I started on my train journey home in the knowledge that there was some unfinished business that remained in this part of the Yorkshire Dales. A return would follow.
Return train journey between Macclesfield and Settle, with changes at Manchester Piccadilly and Leeds.
Like my earlier Galway and Clare trip, I also split up the Tenerife trip report into several sections. This then is an overview piece that collects what I already have written, adding details of urban strolling that accompanied the various escapades.
The first big hike was on New Year’s Eve 2018 that was an incursion into Parque Rural Anaga from the heart of Santa Cruz. That was a tame encounter compared to what followed on New Year’s Day when I found adventure around Igueste de San Andrés and Antequera. Things felt more dramatic in Parque Nacional del Teide after that, though I contained my wanderings due to time and altitude considerations.
All in all, this was a trip that brought a lot more than many visitors to Tenerife might expect here. It is not for nothing that the island is a well known hiking destination. Guidebooks from Cicerone and Rother offer ideas that can be followed faithfully or customised like I did. Mapping is tricky, though, and I found myself switching between different maps while pottering about. Nevertheless, everything worked well without any sense of being lost at any point.
There were urban explorations too, though these were put on hold because of an after-dark arrival into Tenerife Sud. A shuttle coach got me to Santa Cruz, where I remained in the hotel that night without any explorations. When I went to Mallorca in 2016, I did potter about Palma, so this was a different approach.
There was a need to go to Puerto de la Cruz the following morning as well. This might have encouraged an early night because I fancied getting going early. The bus interchange was a significant walking distance away too, so I was leaving myself plenty of time to get there. After all, this was my first real introduction to Santa Cruz.
It so happens that Puerto de la Cruz is another of the island’s popular tourist bases, and most on the shuttle from Tenerife Sud airport were going there rather than Santa Cruz (I might have been the only passenger for Tenerife’s island capital). On this trip, I was intent on avoiding tourist fleshpots, but Puerto de la Cruz felt reasonably authentic to me as I wandered about the place in the sunshine aside from doing what I needed to do. When I arrived, I got off the bus a little early to photographically capture my first sighting of El Teide since I missed out on one the day before because of where I was sitting on the plane.
There was a lot more distance covered along the island’s northern shoreline than my memory had credited me with doing. The western terminus was Loro Parque, even if I opted not to go into this zoo. They may not have tempted me, but the little yellow street trains were unmissable as I wandered about Puerto de la Cruz. When I returned to the town centre, I opted for an al fresco meal before going back to Santa Cruz.
Once back in Santa Cruz, there was some shopping to do, and I found a good shopping centre where I could get it done. Batteries were acquired for my GPS receiver (which is heavy on them). These days, I might rely solely on a phone app with added backup from paper mapping. Garmin mapping is expensive, when an annual subscription is cheaper and offers more.
Skies went grey overhead for possibly the only time during my stay in Tenerife, though there was some cloudiness around Antequera too. The cloud cover over Santa Cruz meant that I was encouraged to return to the hotel for a quiet night after following a round-the-houses way there. My bearings were being found, and I was not overdoing things at the start. The strange mid-winter mix of restricted hours of daylight and summer temperatures need acclimatisation for someone like me.
There was to be much more wandering in following days, as well as navigation of local New Year celebrations. Buses conveyed me hither and thither in search of hiking opportunities and occasional quieter spots. Everything was unusual in its own way, as befits a subtropical island of volcanic origin.
The last day was devoted to getting to the airport and flying home. Bus connections between Santa Cruz and Tenerife Sud are not clearly timetabled, but all worked well regardless of this. On the plane, I wanted to see El Teide, but the routing and my seating position granted me views of other islands instead. Later on, there were views of Portugal, mainland Spain, France and England in the gloaming as I returned from a satisfying trip.
Fatigue stymied any mid-winter sunshine getaways this year. Until this realisation hit me, the Azores and Madeira were being lined up as possibilities when I spotted the cost of fares and infrequency of flights from Manchester Airport. That was just as well, given the strikes on the railways and in airports over the Christmas and New Year period. Resting at home was what I needed anyway. If I had realised that Tenerife offers more, maybe my mind might have been changed. The place does offer more, and I am not ruling out the chances of a return now.
This section is more than it might be on other posts, since there already is a post on using buses to get around Tenerife elsewhere. Some of the content overlaps with what is here, so I am referring to it instead.