Outdoor Discoveries

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: Stirling District

Into the 2020’s

1st January 2020

2019 had its share of preoccupations, both political and professional, and I did get out and about more during the first half of the year than the second. Weather had its part in that as much as those aforementioned preoccupations but the dividing line appears to be my trip to British Columbia in July. That also needed recovery from jet lag together with financial restoration.

Before all that, there were numerous trips to Yorkshire and Scotland between February and May. The Yorkshire outings took me around Settle and Malham after a visit to the North York Moors near Great Ayton. Easter was spent around Edinburgh with excursions to Linlithgow, Peebles and Penicuik getting me out into more natural surroundings on a sunny weekend that rather spoiled me. Subsequent return visits in May even featured a return to Stirling as well as another stopover in Linlithgow.

The Canadian trip was the highlight though and my base in Vancouver allowed for plenty of exploration around the city itself as well as fitting in side trips to North Vancouver, Squamish and Vancouver Island. The introduction was so thorough that I struggle to think of an excuse to return and there should be plenty of those as long as I figure out how to spend time on any associated long flights.

To some, 2020 is not when the new decade begins but popular opinion is not awaiting 2021. For me too, a certain wistfulness has descended and I look back to 2000 when I began my career and 2010 when I changed jobs. The 2010’s have been life changing too and unwanted political developments to come in 2020 will bring more change. For that reason, I am not planning very much and will see how the year goes.

It this was 1990 or 2000, my sentiments would be more optimistic since that was the world view at the time. However, all that has dissipated and popular dissatisfaction is causing all sorts of upheaval. Throughout all this, it is important to keep a sense of perspective so it is likely that sunny days will lure me out of doors like the last days of 2019. After all, my late mother left me with a constant desire never to waste bursts of sunshine.

We appear to live in a time when making one’s own new happy experiences is never more needed and then there is the necessity to share them. Distractions in 2019 have lengthened the trip report backlog though I am writing one at the moment. As I now look to 2020, that motivation is one that feels sound even if I largely will let the opportunities come to me. Then, less of them get wasted and more stories are there to be told. If a few are uplifting too, that will be even better.

A busy spring

31st May 2019

The continuing non-availability of Northern train services on Saturdays due to industrial action became such a source of personal confinement that their restoration produced such a dramatic effect. From February until now, I have been away most weekends making use of the increased opportunities for train travel. The promising weather helped too even if it meant that water supplies were not getting replenished as required after last summer’s extended spell of hot and dry weather.

The result was that Yorkshire got a lot of attention throughout February and March. It started with a visit to the North York Moors on a sunny day in February that felt more like summer than the actual time of year. Roseberry Topping was revisited as well as nearby hills as I traced out part of the Cleveland Way on a circuit centred on Great Ayton’s Train station.

Other circuits were followed by train as dictated by the extent of day ranger ticket areas. Two of these took me between Leeds and Carlisle so it might have been inevitable that I ended up getting ideas for walking outings as a result. The departure point for such attentions was Settle since I had not passed Attermire Scar or visited Malham and its nearby tarn for far too long. Sunshine may not have been in ample supply through my walking rounds so another trip to Malham Cove cannot be ruled out and it could see me going to Skipton on foot as well. There were two outings in total and there already is another in mind.

It has been a spring full of city visitations too. In the north of England, the tally included Newcastle, Leeds and Sheffield and Scottish cities like Edinburgh and Stirling got their share of attention too and there even was a trip to Cardiff for some wandering by the River Taff. More will be written about these below while Newcastle saw more wandering than other northern cities as I pottered along by the River Tyne on the way to Wallend using part of Hadrian’s Wall Path. That again was a quieter stroll and there was much to savour on a journey from a city centre to greener parts of its suburbs.

An elongated Easter weekend allowed for a longer stay in Edinburgh that has been in mind for some time and there was a truncated effort in 2017. 2019 saw no such intrusions so I was there from Holy Thursday through to Easter Tuesday as planned. That allowed for a lot of city rambling and there there were two visits to Linlithgow. Hill wanadering featured too and days were spent among the Pentland Hills and doing a round of the hills encircling Glen Sax. Along the reminisces and silly daydreams entered my mind but the time spent around a city where I spent part of my university years also became a chance to deal with any episodes of unfulfilled promise that returned to haunt me.

When I moved away from Edinburgh in 2000, there may have been an element of unfinished business that drew me back again and again to somewhere for which I still hold much affection. The 2019 version of the same was a suboptimally composed photo on Calton Hill so I returned on the Mayday bank holiday weekend to set that to rights. Other sights like the city’s botanic gardens and Costorphine Hill Local Nature Reserve were frequented too and the latter featured on another visit during the following weekend.

Though I was bound for Stirling, a stopover in Edinburgh did allow me to revisit the Royal Mile and Costorphine Hill in good sunshine for the sake of a little closure of what was becoming like an Edinburgh trilogy. Stirling saw plenty of sauntering with photographic pursuits in mind but the prospect of a walk among the nearby Ochill Hills remains outstanding so that could be another excuse to go back up there again.

After all those weekend forays elsewhere, it now feels as if some quiet time at home is in order and that pervaded the Spring Bank Holiday weekend aside from the aforementioned day trip to Cardiff. Others making the same journey had the attendance of a Spice Girls concert in mind but designs were far more demure as I avoided bands of cyclists to amble by the River Taff to take in the spring foliage on trees around Bute Park and Llandaff on a sunny afternoon that could not be enjoyed further north, such was the available weather. The summer awaits so only when that arrives will its roaming be revealed.

Going west from oncoming rain

23rd May 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’ Chrùlaiste 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 straight 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.

A weekend around Edinburgh

14th January 2014

 Duddingston Loch, Holyrood Park, Edinburgh, Scotland

Craigmillar Castle, Edinburgh, Scotland

The past weekend got spent around Edinburgh and spots from my time at university there got frequented. On Saturday, my perambulations were blessed by blue skies and sunshine as I strolled around the city’s Old Town and New Town areas when on my way to Holyrood Park. There might have been cross-country running going on there but it was easy to leave that after me to spontaneously head south to Duddingston and Craigmillar Castle. For all the lack of planning, neither of these disappointed me though it was late in the day when I made a photo of the classic western profile of Craigmillar Castle.

That there remain so many sights around Edinburgh that I left unexplored while I lived there sometimes makes me wonder what I was doing while I lived there. There was more than four years so that should have meant that not very much was left unencountered. However, it only was after I moved to England to start a career that I got savour the likes of the Pentland Hills, the Water of Leith, Dean Village, Leith’s Waterfront and Cramond. Was it a certain lack of curiosity that limited my horizons back then?

A developing interest in computers and the time that took certainly has been one thing that I blame as well as the need to find my own way through life. On Sunday, I found another culprit under skies that remained largely cloudy: Edinburgh’s world famous city centre. Even in Princes Street Gardens, it was possible to allow a slip into reverie and recollection without very much in the way of disturbance. The same could be said of a stroll around Grassmarket and Dean Village as it could for dawdling in the West End branch of Waterstones surveying books in the Scottish Interest section of sampling a coffee and a croissant with copies of few books with me.

Another suspect might have been my travelling around by bicycle. Just walking means that there is no need to finding a parking place for one or get stopped from leaving it in a location such as the front of the Balmoral Hotel as happened one time. It was the lessened practicality of a bike for exploring hill country that caused me to turn to walking in the first place. When I went further afield to see other parts of Scotland, the bike had to stay at home so walking more than did and there was a certain lack of planning to these ventures. It was as if they were learning ventures and that I need a few visits before I get to make the most of anywhere.

Now that walking retains its appeal for me, books like Kellan MacInnes’ Caleb’s List and Rab Anderson’s guide to the Pentland Hills published by Mica now hopefully will see some use in the future. Not only do I hope that they will bring back to Scotland again but I am left thinking about returning to Edinburgh more often too. Even in January, it retains its allure and is without the crowds that frequent it during the summer too. Sunday stayed bright and offered more than could be expected from the forecast. If cloud had broken in the right part of the sky for long enough, it would have felt even more special: a day of superb weather when the forecast didn’t predict one.

Returning to Kellan MacInnes’ Caleb’s List, there was but one occasion when Scottish hill country got visited during 2013. With all else that happened, it was more than could be expected and allowed a period of calm in a period of ferment. That was a visit to Glen Coe and Loch Shiel but there are opportunities around Stirling and Peebles too. As odd as it may sound, a sort of hill wandering trip could feature Edinburgh too. Between the Southern Highlands, the Ochill Hills and the Pentland Hills, there should be enough excuses for short getaways.

Before I leave this piece, there are more reasons why some parts of Edinburgh needed me to leave in order to see them. On initial appearances, it is tempting to blame getting too comfortable in one’s neighbourhood and home. Having open spaces such as Bruntsfield Links and the Meadows nearby, it can feel that there is no need to go further afield whenever the sun appears. Then, there are films and shows to be seen along with museums and other attractions to visit. Edinburgh’s festivals have been the cause of my seeing the Tattoo of a weekday night and a Bertoldt Brecht satire (Mr. Puntilla and his Man Matti) in the Traverse Theatre so it is easy to see how a city can distract anyone. It can be said that there is much to see and much for which to return. Maybe that can keep me coming back again and again.

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.