Outdoor Discoveries

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!

Time for a return to cycling?

4th January 2014

Due to a problem with its brakes that I could not get myself to sort for too long, I have been away from cycling for the most of two years. Today, I finally decided to see if I could draw a line under the problem. While the result of my efforts was that I took the bike out for a quick run, I am not so convinced that the back brakes are fully up to the job just yet. Nevertheless, I have no intention to leave this one lie.

Even on that short cycle, I noticed that I was using muscles that were not used as much as they once were. So, I plan to do something about that during 2014. In fact, I am playing with the idea of getting a folding bicycle for trips to other parts that could offer some cycling. While doing some online and offline window shopping, it is amazing me who will sell you one of these. While Evans Cycles would be expected on many a shortlist and Halfords have been doing so for a while, names like Decathlon and Go Outdoors also come up. Also, for a name associated with motoring, it surprised me to see that around half the floor space in the Macclesfield branch of Halfords is devoted to cycling and there is a large variety of bikes on display too. Decathlon have a very nice commuting bike in stock and Go Outdoors have folding bikes for between £100 and £200 so there is a lot of temptation. Quite how cheaper bikes do over longer distances is another matter so it might be worth paying a little extra for something more decent.

As for those destinations where a folding bike would be handy, my mind does not need to roam far from home.  Parts of the Peak District that are served by train come to mind and going along the Monsal Trail, the High Peak Trail or the Tissington Trail may become possibilities. The Longdendale Trail is served by trains to Hadfield but a folding bike is still handier than a full sized item. These are just a few off road cycling trails and pondering others takes into Wales for the Mawdach Trail and tracks into remote country in the Scottish Highlands become possibilities for more robust bicycles. The track by Loch Ericht first came to mind here but that by Loch Shiel also falls into the same category and both are served by convenient train stations at Dalwhinnie and Glenfinnan, respectively. Maybe hiring out a bike for a day would be no bad idea. Before then, my legs need more cycling acclimatisation (as does my head when it comes to road sense and confidence if a minor misjudgement at one end of the road on which I live is any indication) and staying modest for a little while sounds sensible. Longer days may have something to offer yet.

Postscript 1

Since writing this, I found an article about bicycle braking that suggests that front brakes are better than back ones for stopping a bike. Of course, that makes me wonder about putting yourself out over handlebars on doing so yet the author says that keeping your arms straight avoids this. Nevertheless, speaking with someone at work revealed tales from childhood of getting thrown over bicycle handlebars and with broken wrists after one such mishap. Maybe I need to consult a book on cycling technique…

Postscript 2

During a conversation with a work colleague, minds wandered back to harem scarem antics with bicycles on Irish country roads. Her dad and his pals used to race downhill as fast as they could to see far they could freewheel uphill afterwards. If want a picture in your mind’s eye, think of a steep drop to a bridge crossing a stream and a steep rise immediately afterwards. Only for cars being rare in Ireland at the time, one doesn’t dare to wonder what would happen if one did pass the way around this hilly part of Wicklow.

As for myself, recollections of travelling around none too flat roads around West Limerick on a hand-me-down bike from my brother with ineffective brakes come to mind. A set of trainers got well worn on tarmac that summer; foot braking was in order. There was one mishap when my aged Brooks saddle broke and I somersaulted onto the grass roadside verge as a result. Small wonder then that my trust in bicycle brakes is so minuscule. Having cycled around Edinburgh’s hills cannot have helped, especially when a torrential downpour was the cause of my being unable to stop on Lothian Road one July afternoon. Even now, it is an effort to get myself cycling down steeper inclines so gaining some extra confidence is well in order.

2012, before an advancing life storm

31st December 2013

For various reasons, this summary of my walking during 2012 is arriving twelve months late. That’s mainly because I was not in the right frame of mind for writing it this time last year. The subsequent year has been life changing yet wandering through countryside not only did not stop but its restorative effects never were more needed. Before that though, things felt more steady and here is how things went.

January saw me staying local with a three counties (Cheshire, Derbyshire & Staffordshire) stride between the Cat and Fiddle Inn and Buxton that took in the Three Shire Heads bridge. It was having extra time on the day that allowed that to happen even if I arrived at Grinlow Tower, or Solomon’s Temple, too late in the day for much in the way of photography. Even now, I have yet to be there on an occasion when the conditions allowed for the sort of photographs that I like to savour and there were two visits during 2013. Some things take time to happen so patience is a prerequisite.

There no such constraints when I walked from Alnmouth train station to Embleton by way of Northumberland’s pleasing North Sea coastline and the remains of Dunstanburgh Castle, now under the care of English Heritage. What I got to experience was the sort of crisp sunny day that adds so much to a walk. That was much more than a previous walk in the same area more than six years before.

March was a quiet month on the walking front because of heavy work commitments and April was little better even if I was not working as hard. Even so, I did to walk up Nab Head near Bollington as an addition to a cycle that circled around by Pott Shrigley. Even with a heavy cold towards its end, May worked out much better with an evening spent around Tatton Park and other spots in Knutsford. The next day saw me get as far as Waterhouses in Staffordshire to fulfil and often aborted scheme: following the Manifold Trail from there to Hulme End. When that turned out to take less time than expected, I extended the walk to take in both Wolfscote Dale and Biggin Dale to finish up in Hartington. That was another design fulfilled on a day when sub eventually beat cloud cover to deliver its delights to anyone out and about. Later in May, I returned to Northumberland to visit Alnwick and Warkworth to see their castles.. The day was a hot one so it was best to limit exertions and a previous heavy cold made that all the better as a plan. There were enough sights to savour anyway and, with views along the Aln and the Coquet available so easily, there was little need to rush along anyway.

The extended public holiday weekend at the start of June, the bank holiday was moved from its usual place at the end of May, offered an opportunity for a getaway and I struck lucky in Scotland’s Eastern Highlands. Having based myself in Pitlochry, I took in the shores of Loch Ericht and sampled a little of the scenic drama of Glen Tilt. Sun was in short supply at times and it limited what I could do when capturing a view of Blair Castle. Even that was better than the wetting that anyone attending the Diamond Jubilee Events in London when rain that was very typical of the year pervaded.  Just like a previous trip to Pitlochry nearly six years earlier, my walks were mere tasters and I was more than happy with that at the time, unlike that preceding visit that left me yearning for more.

Having had it in my head for a while, I finally got to do an evening walk from Wilmslow to home after work during June, mostly using the route of the Bollin Valley Way except for where bank erosion necessitated an untidy diversion. It should have been a matter of reversing a previous walk along the route done of a winter afternoon whose timing mostly is lost to memory unless digital photos offer some resuscitation.

Even with 2012’s reputation for wet weather, I still got some other pickings from its summer and limitations on sunshine were a marked feature of otherwise dry weather walks. Looking on the positive side, it may have been better than walking in sultry heat. One outing in such conditions happened in July with a visit to Sedbergh from where I walked as far as The Calf in the Howgill Fells. That out and back trek definitely was satisfying and left me open to more like it. That I tasted my best ever fish and chip supper added to the appeal. Maybe I should go there again and there’s more of Cumbria and Yorkshire to be explored or revisited as well.

August saw me head to Wales twice. First, it was to the Gower where I walked over Rhossili Common before picking up the coastal path from Rhossili to Port-Eynon by way of Worm’s Head. The walk was a glorious one even with cloud advancing from the west all the while. Also, I’d like to revisit the portion near Port-Eynon because it looked very primeval and I was passing it with the object of catching a bus on my mind. As it happened, roads around the Gower were chaotic and the bus that I was making nearly was two hours late as a result. Still, I got back to Swansea for the night before light failed and electrical rain storms made landfall.

The Summer Bank Holiday weekend allowed time for a trip to Pembrokeshire, again revisiting somewhere not sampled since 2006. Only the Sunday of the weekend offered much in the way of dry weather and there even were showers in the evening time. Before then, I got in a walk from Strumble Head all the way to Fishguard under ever cloudier skies. The day started well so I saw Strumble Head at its best and very nearly got lured south-west instead of following the planned eastbound course. It was completed in dry weather so there were no complaints, especially with the drenching that came the next day.

The second weekend of September granted us a glimpse of how the summer of 2012 might have been and I popped over the county boundary into Derbyshire for a stroll by the River Dove that took me from Thorpe to Hartington. The southern end of Dovedale was mobbed with families and I couldn’t get into my stride as I would have liked but things were so much quieter north of Milldale that there was no such concern. What took over as I neared Hartington was how hot the day felt in the afternoon sun after I had emerged from Wolfscote Dale. Any thoughts of an extension as far as Longnor or Crowdicote were set aside in favour of returning home. Quite how those wearing suits during the well dressing ceremony stuck their attire in the heat is beyond me. Maybe I am more warm blooded than some…

September ended with another sunny interlude and that drew me along the Saddle of Kerridge and onto Tegg’s Nose before I turned for home in the fading light. Ambitions for a trip to Teesdale in County Durham were frustrated by fatigue so the more local yomp was what was needed. Indeed, it made me ask why I didn’t head out among nearby hills more often than I did. Local walking has set that to rights though a Teesdale incursion has yet to happen.

The first Sunday in October allowed a trot along the Goyt Valley that had lain in my mind for a while. On the day, so many walking possibilities came to mind that I had difficulty choosing between them. There was walking home from the Cat and Fiddle Inn to take in Shutlingsloe along the way. Trotting along the Gritstone Way between Bollington and Disley was another though a late start put paid to that option; it was to serve me well later. The sight of cloud advancing from the south decided me at the Cat and Fiddle Inn so I headed for the Goyt Valley and it wasn’t a bad choice at all. The ground conditions were well soggy after all the rain that had fallen during the preceding six months and that was expected. Autumn and winter walks bring with them encounters with mud so that was no irritation and I had sunshine as far as the dam of Errwood Reservoir. Cloud took over then and the shore of Fernilee Reservoir was shadowed under overcast skies. Since I quite fancy retracing these steps with some sun, that is another excuse for a return sometime. When Whaley Bridge was reached, there was no dissatisfaction and it had been great to clear my mind.

November saw me make two trips to Tatton Park near Knutsford after some photos of autumn colour. The first of these involved some foolish conduct on my part and what I got for my pains was a ripped jacket, soggy feet and clouding skies that thwarted my hopes. The second outing set things to rights and all was unperturbed again. It was in that spirit that I made use of a possibility left unused the month before: following the Gritstone Trail from Bollington to Disley with a visit to Lyme Park. The morning was glorious and clouds left the sun alone until I had got as far as Sponds Hill. Much was savoured before them and it was my first sighting of sunlit Derbyshire hills from there. It was with satisfaction that I dropped into Lyme Park and ambled unhurried from there into Disley. There was one final trot before November was done: along the Macclesfield to Congleton along the banks of the local canal. The section between the Bosley locks and Buglawton was a delight even under cloudy skies and with declining light. Though I repeated the trek in the opposite direction, it remains worth revisiting.

December brought more fraught prospects and Christmas week was a difficult one for our family. Worries about my parents’ health pervaded and there were much needed short walks taken for head clearance. One of these took me over to Tatton Park again and the winter sunlight did nothing to disappoint, if only I wasn’t feeling so raw inside. 2013 then looked a tall order yet I made it through the year. At the point, 2014 looks less foreboding and it will be taken one day at a time. Life is not for grand designs right but smaller ones will do just fine. Hopefully, your 2014 will bring you good things and I am happy to await what it brings me.

An archaeological dig

6th June 2013

It’s a lovely sunny summer evening as I write this and there have been times when I was out and about in the sunshine during the past few weeks. Last Sunday afternoon saw me trot from the Cat and Fiddle Inn back to my house. Spying a useful right of way that dropped me down from Shining Tor to Lamaload Reservoir was the cause of taking me around there though my hopes of seeing the former in sunshine largely came to not as much as I’d hoped. However, there was sun to be enjoyed while I was around Shining Tor and a peaceful atmosphere pervaded much of the walk so I wasn’t embittered. There was no rushing about either as I continued to Rainow and then along Ingersley Vale to Bollington. The Macclesfield Canal and the Middlewood Way were what conveyed me much of the rest of the way home without the itinerary feeling overly long. In fact, I can foresee another wander by Lamaload happening when a chance offers itself.

The previous bank holiday weekend should have seen me do more with it but for fatigue and computer tinkering taking from my resolve. The greatest extent of my outdoors wandering wasn’t to be limited to various shopping errands or watching Terry Abraham’s The Cairngorms in Winter with Chris Townsend though. The latter turned out to be a pleasing use of time with there being plenty of stunning countryside to ogle; the quality of the film footage was stunning. While the Cairngorms were the star of this film, Chris got to draw us to the area by tracing his love of wild country. The realities of camping (includes bothy usage), walking, snowshoeing and skiing in winter mountains got a necessary airing and the featuring of a walk through the Lairig Ghru that was abandoned was no harm either. If that was insufficient, there is wealth of social outdoors history surrounding the Cairngorms that could have been added too but the sparing of that probably got us looking at the scenery more closely. After all, that was centre stage in this production and with a stirring soundtrack too. It probably was odd to be enjoying this film with sunny weather outside, and that’s how it was, but I was lured out at far as Tegg’s Nose on the Sunday evening. Just like a warm summer evening among Scottish hills, it too was quite and peaceful as I took in views towards Shutlingsloe on a circuit that took me by Langley and Sutton along paths and tracks that I have travelled a fair few times, so often that I hardly need a map for these anymore.

Alongside all of this and midweek evening walks around Macclesfield’s Riverside Park, I got the idea of adding more details to photos featured in the site’s photo gallery. These include the camera used and the date that the photo was made. The first of these is not too hard to recall but dates have been the more trickery because there have been times when I have wondered if part of my memory managed to fall into some sort of black hole. The blog certainly has helped from mid 2006 on and the move to digital photography almost nails your dates for you. Before both of those, unless a certain scarcity of trips, coincidence with a memorable event or the imprinting of dates on photos helps. There also is the trawling of old emails (yes, inertia has meant that more of these have been retained than might seem conventional) to see when train tickets were booked and peering at now historical calendars . The last two of these especially have a more archaeological feel to them, hence the title of the post. The fact that dates do not surface without some effort for trips between 2004 and 2006 is a reminder to me that I should be thinking of improving records for the future. After all, you never know what another bout of stress can do to a memory and, like anyone, I have had a share of that in recent years.

The addition of that extra information to the photo gallery continues and some refreshed or new photos are to come online too when all is done. Looking at those older photos has another effect too. When you see a photo and think that it can be improved, then a trip idea emerges. It already has been the cause of retracing some steps in the Peak District and it may be that 2013 could be a year spent exploring more of this alluring part of the world. What has been in my mind for a little while is a potential walk from Edale to Hayfield or Glossop that follows Grindsbrook Clough at the start so as to replace a photo that dates from the Summer bank Holiday Monday of 2001. Hopefully, it can happen before we lose the current run of good weather. There also is walking north along the West Highland Way from Bridge of Orchy, at least as far as Kinlochleven, to see if I can better photos from previous outings along the route of that well trodden trail. With the way life is going for me now, that is a longer term ambition and it’s always good to have them.

Things may be quieter on here these days but the walking continues and I need to add a number of trip reports as you can see from the Trip Reports to Come page. What’s needed is the summoning of energy and it’s hard to commit to scribbling them when sunshine is peering in your window as it is this evening.

A weekend of Scottish reconnaissance

24th October 2012

June’s Diamond Jubilee holiday weekend with its two public holidays needed using and I picked a hotel in Pitlochry as my base away from home. Getting there did involve more effort than catching scheduled trains but it proved worth the outlay. Not only did I get to spend more time taking in the sights around the town where I had located myself but I managed to leave it to head into some hill country too. With other parts of Britain seeing rain, it would have been rude not to make good use of whatever opportunities that made themselves available to me like they did.


A feature of my stay this time around was that mornings were spent pottering around Pitlochry before heading somewhere else. This included the Tuesday that I was leaving for home but it was Sunday morning that started the trend. For one thing, I needed to attend to a few necessities prior to the day’s walk along the shores of Loch Ericht. The later getaway also allowed some time for walking by the River Tummel. That I had found a quick way to get there from the town centre on a post evening meal stroll the evening before helped too as did fleeting episodes of sunshine

In fact, it was the Pitlochry end of the Rob Roy Way that took me down to the river banks and across a disconcertingly bouncy suspension bridge, especially when other folk were using it at the same time as me. Once on the other side, I was reminded of the last walk of my last time around Pitlochry in July of 2006. That took in the top of Ben Vrackie before I dropped down to Killiecrankie, from where I made for the eastern side of Loch Faskally. There was a lot of cloud around that day too though it did attempt to clear as the day wore on. That eventually took me by the hydroelectric generating station though I never crossed the dam for some reason and continued on by road to my then lodgings.

This time around, I was lured as far as the dam and took in the views north along Loch Faskally. As I did so, there were surprising plops; salmon were emerging from their ladder into the loch. It certainly was a memorable sight to see a large fish ever so briefly emerging from the water. It just felt like experiencing nature in the raw. For those wanting a more manicured experience, there’s a visitor centre where television pictures of the chamber where salmon reside before going on their time honoured way upriver, repeating a feat that has gone on for millenia. You may see more on that television screen but it also poses a question: why civilise the experience? That a fish ladder was included as part of the dam’s construction is a display of the sort of enlightenment of which many of us would like to see more. It certainly would have helped defuse uneasiness about the construction of a hydroelectric power station in some quarters. The station now seems to fit well within its surroundings these days but I am left wondering what feelings about it were when it first was proposed.

Close up view of Ben Vrackie from near hydroelectric station, Pitlochry, Perthshire, Scotland

Quite apart from denying myself the sight of leaping salmon, not crossing over that dam in July of 2006 was the cause of my missing out on more sights. Looking back along Loch Faskally would have been one of them and but there was another: a view of Ben Vrackie itself and one largely without the encumbrance of human constructions. If this had been presented to me back on that earlier trip, I wonder if I might have come away home feeling more satisfied than I did; it was as if I had savoured a little of a variety of different things without really sating myself with any or all of them. That proved not to be the case this time around.

In fact, it took a few tries to get the photo that you see above. That serendipitous sight on Sunday morning drew me back again on those of Monday and Tuesday. As it happened, it was the last of these when clouds kept out of the sun’s way enough for me make something of what lay before. That I didn’t have similar luck with Loch Faskally is no irritation but rather a reason to return. Hopefully, that takes less than six years, unlike the last one.

Loch Ericht

Back on that summer 2006 trip to Pitlochry, I got in what now seems like plenty of decent walking: from Kinloch Rannoch through the hills and along by Loch Errochty to Trinafour, following the Rob Roy Way from Kenmore on the shore of Loch Tay to Aberfeldy and that aforementioned circular walk around Pitlochry itself that took in Ben Vrackie, the Pass of Killeicrankie and the shore of Loch Faskally. A grey day spent in the rough around Newtonmore was another walk that I got in while up. This sounds a lot so I am left wondering how I left without feeling a greater degree of satisfaction from it all. Was I expecting too much?

After all, this was an area that I then hardly knew and much it remains largely unfrequented by myself even now. Maybe it might have been better to settle with getting to know it a little more before embarking on longer walks. The getaway was a last minute one too so there wasn’t much of the advance planning that took me to the Western Isles and back in August of 2008. If there was more of that, there wouldn’t been any chance for drowning in the many possibilities that the area offers. Sometimes, it can feel an impossibility to decide between these though weather ironically can make that task easier too.

Another item that might have helped on this year’s escapade may sound a strange one: a laptop PC that I had brought with me for the weekend. For one reason or another, my planning prior to leaving for Pitlochry was limited. It might have work-induced weariness that made me go for basing myself somewhere and then taking things from there in the first place. It was that Saturday evening in Pitlochry that it came into its own for sorting out possible places to go and their travel logistics. That isn’t to say that I went away without any plans in mind because the prospect of walking the Rob Roy Way from Aberfeldy to Pitlochry did come to mind. In the end, other places shone more brightly for me even if the sun struggled to do its business at times.

One of the those was Loch Ericht the idea of going there for a walk first came to mind during that trip in 2006. Scotrails’s being hit with a strike then was one of the considerations that worked against it. Since then, I have played with travelling to Dalwhinnie overnight from home (Caledonian Sleeper train service, more than likely), enjoying a walk around there and heading off to somewhere like Aviemore or Pitlochry to stay the night. That would have allowed a short weekend raid but it never came to pass. The more conventional approach of finding somewhere to stay and enjoying a day walk using that base was what did the trick.

Though it started with some promise, Sunday was be a dry day with largely cloudy skies where I was. Even that was a stroke of luck because so many other parts of Britain weren’t that lucky; wet weather greeted many setting about enjoying jubilee celebrations so I only could be grateful. Even the greyness of the day as I left the Citylink coach from Pitlochry did nothing to detract me; a walk was in order and one was about to happen.

Leaving the side of the A9, I traipsed along the A889 towards Dalwhinnie. The atmosphere even here was quiet and peaceful and there was a gently flowing river not far from me either. This was watercourse that gave the glen its name: Truim. That the road wasn’t so busy made the walking less taxing and I was in Dalwhinnie without much delay though I hardly wasn’t pushing myself. The surrounding hills could have done with a spot of sun to enliven their appearances but it was not hard to imagine how they might have looked.

There is a sign on the way into Dalwhinnie professing services like accommodation and catering but there was not much of that to be seen as I made out the way to the train station. It was just as well that I hadn’t depending on having these. As I was passing the train station, I decided to double-check train times and platforms for the evening return journey before making for the vehicle track leading to Loch Ericht.

As I was setting off towards this, I retained an open mind as to how far I would be going along the side of Loch Ericht, mostly because of the amount of time that I had available to me. Also, the loch is of the long narrow variety so going its full length needs a multi-day backpacking outing that would take one by Loch Rannoch, again not a small body of water, before civilisation is reached again at Kinloch Rannoch.

Of course, Scotland seems to offer plenty of these large lochs and multi-day excursions into the hill country in which they are to be found. Loch Eilde Mor near Kinlochleven, Loch Shiel near Glenfinnan and Loch Etive are but two more possibilities that I have pondered. With those, I also have gone with out and back itineraries so far but things may proceed from there. My visit to Loch Ericht was to follow the same out and back pattern and the fact that this was a first visit made it more sensible to do so.

While plodding a vehicle track and with grey skies over me for much of the way may sound like a disappointment for anyone seeking blue skies and sunshine, there were some advantages given the time of year. After all, those weather conditions come with hot temperatures and cooler ones better suit walking. There was a calm stillness in the air too that more than made up for the overcast conditions and, without very many folk going my way, it was possible to chill out and pace myself and that exactly is what is needed as an antidote to the frenzy of a modern working life.

Loch Ericht & Creagan Mòr, Dalwhinnie, Badenoch, Scotland

Loch Ericht & Tom A' Bhacain, Dalwhinnie, Badenoch, Scotland

On the outbound leg, a lunching stop was enjoyed and I got as far as the gates of Ben Alder Lodge before turning around. By then, folk were returning from their own hill wandering escapades on bicycles of various kinds. The wheeled approach to travelling around there sounds very useful if you want to make more of your day in the hills; the likes of Ben Alder itself take time to ascend so it is easy to see why this is done. Maybe, a wheeled Scottish hill country incursion of my own would be no bad idea either. It’s been quite a while since I enjoyed one of those.

Cloud was beginning to break over me as I retraced my steps. The success of the sun’s efforts at lighting the countryside proved to be patchy to say the least. Still, they did provide hints of how things might look if the pesky clouds melted away. If they did so, my journey back to Dalwhinnie may have taken that little bit longer and I wouldn’t have had as much time for awaiting the train that I needed for returning to Pitlochry as I had. Maybe it was better that I had that extra time anyway since it was the last southbound train of the day and I don’t think that coach services ran later anyway. A return seems in order though.

Glen Tilt

Blair Castle, Blair Atholl, Pertshire, Scotland

Having passed Blair Atholl on my Scottish travels a fair few times, it was time for a visit since plenty of hills lay beyond the distinctive white Blair Castle. Before taking a look at those, my first priority on arrival was to see if I could make use of the bright sunshine to make a photo of Blair Atholl itself. Having seen it from a passing coach the previous day, I popped up the road a little to have a look at it over an estate wall. In the time that it had taken for a good viewpoint to be found, the clouds that lay in the sky overhead got in the way of the sun. Having some time to hand, I decide to wait for them to let it out again. In time, they did just that though I do wonder if the whiteness of the lower part of the sky caused me to make the subject of my photographic exertions a little too small in the frame due to my wanting some blue sky in there. Scotland might be wanting to draw me back hereabouts again; any excuse is good.

Retracing my steps into the village, I was on the lookout for an entrance to the Atholl Estate that I spied on my map. However, it proved to be the ornate main entrance that I needed to use. There were signs of car camping in the fields to either side of the main avenue. There was another avenue that I was set to take but I went closer to the castle to see if there were any signs up that listed visitor tariffs but none were to be seen even though they clearly were charging incoming cars at a booth; maybe I should have been looking on the web first…

Retracing my steps, I noticed an extra degree of heat that was absent on my visit to Loch Ericht the day before. That particularly was apparent when I joined the avenue that I needed to use to head towards Glen Tilt and I donned a brimmed hat that I bought in Capel Curig in 2010 and has gone with me on a few trips since then. The estate “bus”, a tractor and trailer with seats on the latter under a roof, passed me with a few folk on board as I went on my way and I relished whatever shelter trees had to offer.

Crossing a public road, I walked through open gates to start along a track leading to Glen Tilt. There warnings about steep drops into the gorge where the River Tilt was flowing but embracing those dangers would have involved real effort as I was to find. My surroundings were still tended but felt ever more rural as I continued with the River Tilt below me, hence those earlier warnings. Onward views contained bare hillsides and gave me an early taste of what lay further along.

Another way of looking at those warning signs was that they were meant for the impatient who wanted to get to the banks of the River Tilt at the earliest opportunity.  Of course, there is a safer way: taking one’s time and following the main vehicle track. That there’s no sense in rushing around in these alluring surrounding should be another hint but some aren’t as open to that as they should be.

River Tilt from Gilberts Bridge, Atholl Estate, Blair Atholl, Scotland

Rushing the experience wasn’t part of my plan and I found myself crossing the first of several bridges, Cumhann-leum, in Glen Tilt without too much time elapsing at all. Beyond there, the Tilt was to remain in sight for much of the time and Gilbert’s Bridge became a worthwhile diversion with the sun out. The photo that you see above is the but one of the results of my dawdling. The conifer-clad slopes almost gave me a sense of parts of the world where I have been: American wildernesses.

Looking up Glen Tilt towards Bràigh Coire Chruinn-bhalgain, Atholl Estate, Blair Atholl, Perthshire, Scotland

Ironically, for all that, there wasn’t much more in the way of forest through which I was to walk. After that, the sort of bare hillsides that draw me to Scotland time after time took over. Settlements such as Auchglobal were passed  I continued towards my turning point of Marble Lodge, a simple wooden hut despite the pretensions of its name. Handing checked on train and bus times, I could have gone beyond that but thought it best not to overdo things on a first incursion. Also, the sky overhead me was so shuttered with cloud that it almost felt like an end of service for the day. That, and the distance to Braemar where a walk along Glen Tilt eventually would lead after an overnight wild camping stopover, made turning around not feel premature at all. The day had been good to me and it wasn’t going to stop there.

In fact, the walk wasn’t going to be a straight out and back affair like that along Loch Ericht the day before. The closure of the gates of Blair castle by the time that I would have reached them saw to that. My own curiosity and the times of trains helped too because I started to drift off the track onto any interesting diversionary path that I met. One of these took me around the back of Auchglobal and landed me on tarmac again near Kincraigie. There was an idea of returning to the original vehicle track that I used but it never happened and I ended up enjoying a quite track largely to myself; only one other soul went the way and I using it and he was going in the opposite direction. The main track wasn’t exactly overrun but this one felt far nicer.

The road walking from Kincraigie down to Fenderbridge and the Old Bridge of Tiltwasn’t that unkind either and there were views over Blair Castle and the surrounding countryside that would have me reaching for my camera if the skies were less full of cloud. An off-road path by the River Tilt was sought and found for one last trot on a softer surface before I emerged in Blair Atholl again. Cloudy skies had no effect on my mood and I happily awaited the local bus to Pitlochry and there was more than me at the stop too, a reassuring sign given that it was running late.

In some ways, the day had felt more like a normal working one than the public holiday that allowed me to make my getaway. Trains were working to normal weekday timetables and buses did the same. Also, I spotted folk checking on the wildlife and checking on the water quality too. For all that, there was nothing that shattered the peaceful atmosphere even if a rifle range lay not so far away from where I was walking. That alone should be enough encouragement to return. Before I ever do so, more pouring over maps will be needed since this is big countryside with long trails through it. The comment applies to that around Loch Ericht and I now wonder it that was what left me feeling the way I did in July 2006; that there is so much that multiple sittings are needed to make the most of the hill country around Perthshire.

That did nothing to dampen the good that the long weekend did me. Restrained ambitions and an open mind ensured that was the way that things went. Given that, a return is in order. Maybe sometime not too far into the future? Of course, only time will answer that.

Travel Arrangements

Ostensibly by rail from Macclesfield to Pitlochry with changes at Manchester, Carlisle and Edinburgh. An overly busy train from Manchester had me leaving it in Preston and a fatality on the line near Leyland disrupted the journey such that there was a train journey to Lancaster, a coach from there to Oxenholme and a train from there to Edinburgh. After that, things were as planned apart from later travelling.

Travel from Pitlochry to Dalwhinnie (A9 road end) was by Scottish Citylink coach service M91 and a train returned me to base again.

Travel from Pitlochry to Blair Atholl was by Scottish Citylink coach service M91 with local bus service 83 used for the return.

Travel from Pitlochry to Macclesfield was by train all the way, with changes at Edinburgh and Manchester. Apart from a delay due to a bridge strike, this ran more smoothly than the outbound journey.

Why go elsewhere when there are good things nearby?

9th October 2012

The past few weekends have seen me enjoy walks through local countryside. For instance Sunday saw me drop from the Cat and Fiddle Inn into the Goyt Valley before walking along its length as far as Whaley Bridge. Skies may have filled with cloud as I went and much mud may have been encountered but that reminder from last January while on another walk from the same starting point that landed me in Buxton at its end was set to prove its worth and I wouldn’t mind having another hike around there either.

The Saturday of the previous weekend came up sunny too and I used the afternoon for a walk from Bollington back to my house that took in the Saddle of Kerridge and Tegg’s Nose Country Park as I revisited parts that I should frequent more often than I do. In fact, that was a thought that occupied my thoughts as I took in my surroundings. With so much on my doorstep, I have been wondering why do I not get out there more often.

That may get corrected on the evidence of the Saturday before that again when I followed part of Macclesfield Canal while en route to Lyme Green Retail Park on a shopping errand. A short snippet like that neatly fits into a life with other things that need doing. Little outings often have their uses in getting out of doors to build up to bigger ones and that certainly has been happening over the last few weeks.

During that time, thoughts of wandering around Teesdale from Middleton-in-Teesdale has surfaced more than once only for working week fatigue to put paid to the scheme. The same thing has defeated a trip to Abergavenny to go up and down Sgyrryd Fawr. Another is playing more of a part now as well: local attractions. That’s quite a change given how delights that were further away once blinded me to what lay nearby.

For instance, Sunday offered choices that I struggled to decide between them. One possibility was a walk that took me from the Cat and Fiddle Inn, over Shutlingsloe and then onto home. It was one that would have been my choice but for the sight of cloud advancing from the south. Reprising the Gritstone Trail between Bollington and Disley was another and there’s walking along the Macclesfield Canal between Macclesfield and Congleton in mind too. Then sun shone and decision needed overcoming to get out the door. The Goyt Valley may have got my vote on the day but the others remain tempting though and would make ideal walks for shorter days too.

However, that isn’t to say that walks have been discounted because the list of trip reports that need writing include a range of destinations: Loch Ericht and Glen Tilt in Scotland, Cumbria’s Howgill Fells, the Gower in south Wales and Pembrokeshire in west Wales. Of these, I scarcely have made any mention of those August visits to Wales. The Gower saw me walk from Rhossili to Prot Eynon and its a hike that I can recommend. On a long deserved return to Pembrokeshire, I sampled part of the coastal path between Strumble Head and Fishguard. Cloud may have filled skies on both of these – is that becoming something of a feature for me, I wonder? – but the walking was good and that’s all that I ever ask.

So, I have some sharing to do and more ideas on places to be exploring and revisiting. The shortness of some of my designs should mean that the shorter days of winter should not be an excuse for hibernation. Getting in (at least) one longer walk every month has become my target and it seems to happening so far. It’s a habit that I wish to continue.