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: Gwynedd

An exceptional summer

31st July 2018

The long dry spell that has dominated since April has some thinking back as far as 1976. There are some good reasons for doing so. In the Irish countryside, grass is not as plentiful and farm wells have gone dry. Over there, the extent of this has got farmers worried about keeping livestock fed and brought about water usage restrictions for everyone else. Temperatures soared to 32° C during June and roads melted, causing road closures and even bringing out gritting trucks for reasons completely at odds with their usual usage.

So far, 2018 can be said to have two seasons: winter and summer. Spring scarcely came at all and the northern hemisphere has been treated to a long hot sunny spell like few other summers. Fires have started, either naturally, through error or as a result of vandalism. The last of these defies reason yet it is said to have had a human cost in such disparate places as Greece and California. The moors around Manchester and Bolton had their blazes but these thankfully did not threaten life and limb as much.

My venturing into the world of self-employment had limited my enjoyment of the long sunny spells more than a general inclination to keep in out of the heat. Still, I got to spend a day around Edinburgh that took me by the Firth of Forth and the banks of the River Almond before venturing into the Cammo Estate and the heart of Scotland’s capital city. Any shady spots were relished because of the afternoon heat. The same applied on a day trip to Barmouth that took me strolling towards Cerrig Arthur before returning via the Panorama Walk while enjoy the views all around that part of the Mawddach estuary. The day was long and felt all the longer on a hot crowded train between Barmouth and Shrewsbury. What remains though are newly made good memories and they always outlast any recollections of ardour.

There has been a week spent in Ireland too with its usual mix of business and leisure. Evening walks took me by Springfield Castle and the village of Kilmeedy and it well bedecked in flowers everywhere you could look. Towards the end of the stay, much needed rain arrived but there was dry weather to savour before that happened. In fact, it may be that the idea of a trip for exclusively leisurely purposes can come to mind and there is a slot when it might happen.

Other than these, evening walks around Macclesfield have made pleasant use of the longer hours of daylight. No longer do I chide myself for not making good use of every sunny day that comes but using enough of them is sufficient nowadays. As long as the burdens of a working life are managed more carefully to leave enough emotional space, the energy and motivation could be enough to keep up my wandering.

The heat may have restrained things this summer but it also had me looking back through previous episodes that had me writing entries on here and that happened in both 2006 and 2007. In 2008, I even got to the subject of warm weather walking. Neither of these compares with 2018 and it even beat the benchmark summers of 1983, 1984 and 1989 that I recall from my childhood and adolescence. This has been a summer that will live long in younger minds as they mature and age. Surely, it will be the better bits that get recalled the most clearly.

Walks around Barmouth in different decades

2nd August 2016

Currently, I find myself in uncertain times. The cause is the recent vote on Britain’s membership of the European Union when a small yet significant majority supported leaving it. As someone who hails from the Republic of Ireland, that adds doubt to the prospect of my remaining where I have lived for more than twenty years. My being a non-British national making use of my rights to freedom of movement is but a part of this. Such has been the nature of public discourse during the referendum campaign that this no longer feels like home and I feel less a part of a place where I have felt acceptance before now.

All this is enough to cause me to stop and review my life situation, especially with the need to complete outstanding family business in Ireland after the change of last year. A career break would be welcome and it might allow me to ponder next steps. Obtaining British citizenship is one option that I am exploring seriously and moving to another EU country like Germany could be another. After all, it could make a good base for exploring the Alps as would Switzerland (though it is not in the EU) if opportunities arise there. Either would be a big change since my explorations of Britain would be much reduced and the focus of this blog and the whole website would change dramatically as a result.

Considerations like these were non-existent a decade ago when I considered myself a integral part of British society. That sense of settlement was enough to allow me to spend much time to be exploring the delights of hill country in Scotland, Wales and England. Many of those inspired entries on here and there are more to relate. One from November 2014 reminded me of another from the middle of the last decade, a simpler time that even pre-dated the existence of this blog. With all the current tumult, it is good to think back to then because recollections of happier times help us to get through the tougher ones that come our way from time to time.

A Spring Bank Holiday Weekend

Memories are faded now but I reckon that the occasion was in 2005 when I paid a visit to Dolgellau on that year’s Spring Bank Holiday weekend. It was to be a weekend visit and Cadair Idris was the lure. However, it had escaped my notice that this was the weekend of Ras y gader, a fell race up and down the very mountain that had drawn me in the first place. If I had an accommodation booking, this would have been of no consequence and I was in the habit of turning up at the local tourist office on the day to organise such matters back then. There was no luck in Dolgellau and the nearest vacancy was in Llwyngwril. This threw out whatever plans I might have had and I asked about Machynlleth instead.

With accommodation booked in Machynlleth, I pottered about Dolgellau a little before catching the next bus there. It was an overcast and rainy afternoon but things were cheerier when I reached Machynlleth. Strolling about the town, I sorted out something to eat and passed one of the marker stones of the Glyndŵr’s Way as I explored the place. Later on, I re-planned my weekend.

Looking at travel possibilities and pondering other considerations, I settled on a trot about Barmouth. Next morning, I caught the bus that followed the coast as it went between Machynlleth and Dolgellau serving such places as Aberdovey, Tywyn, Llwyngwril and Fairbourne. It was at the road end for Ynysgyffylog and Morfa Mawddach train station where I left the bus and where I caught it again in the evening for the return journey to Machynlleth. In between, there was to be a lot of stravaiging.

Firstly, I made for the Mawddach Trail and then crossed the tolled pedestrian bridge to get across the Mawddach river (the return trip was 50p then) to Barmouth where I had business to do before setting off into the countryside. With that out of the way, I set to ascending a steep path that took me by the first ever piece of land acquired by the now ubiquitous National Trust. Even now, I have recollections of seeing sea thrift as I did so in the bright sunshine.

After the sweaty climb, things levelled and I bumbled along a variety of paths. What tempted me was the prospect of an out and back walk to Diffwys, one of the Rhinogydd so that was the general direction that I took. The course was not direct though as I navigated the footpath network but I believe that I must have passed Cell-fechan and Gellfawr before heading north with views of the pastoral coastline ahead of me. Eventually, I would have turned east on a path that took me towards Bwlch y Rhiwgyr where the time of day caused me to set aside any thoughts of reaching the top of Diffwys. That was to wait until February 2010 when an out and back walk from Dyffryn Ardudwy got me there.

Cadair Idris from Cerrig Arthur, Barmouth, Gwynedd, Wales

The descent of good sense was no disappointment for the change of course was to gift me views of Cadair Idris like the one you see above. The lovely sunny day and the seasonal hight of the sun in the sky was enough to ensure that. In wintertime, the north face of Cadair Idris is often shrouded in shadow so that makes it a difficult photographic prospect.  The unexpected collection of three standing stones aroused my curiosity and, while there are not as dramatic a site as others of their kind, there are prominent enough to get highlighted on OS maps. What I had found was Cerrig Arthur.

From there I returned to Barmouth by a more direct route that still followed public footpaths to cut down on road walking. The evening was delightful with a mix bright sunshine and perfect views whose impressions have not been erased that much by the passage of time. Though I might have liked to hang around longer, there was a bus to catch so my time in Barmouth was fleeting and I returned across the toll bridge to make sure that I was in time for my bus to Machynlleth. Next day, I stopped off for a short time in Dolgellau on my way home for one last hurrah on a weekend that had not been unkind to me.

A Pleasant November Afternoon

It was to take me until November 2014 before I would go walking about Barmouth again. There were accommodation foibles this time around too but it was not finding a place to stay that was the issue for I have learned my lesson and nowadays book ahead before I travel. Another problem was to arise.

Because I went for a walk around Llangollen the day before, I stayed in the town that night and at a hotel that I had used a few times previously. After the day of walking, I was hoping for a quiet relaxing night. What I had not expected was that the night’s entertainment was to set off the fire alarm so many times that the band had to finish early. If the band was called The Blunders as I remember it, then it was particularly apt.

The result was two unhappy sets of customers. First, there were the hotel’s overnight guests who did not get the quiet night that they might have expected until all the fuss had subsided; some cancelled their payments in disgust. Then, there were those after a good night out and had travelled a distance to see the band in question. Neither were satisfied and it was one of those nights that are best not repeated. As it happens, I have not been there since then but that has more to do with my not visiting the area rather than any fury at what happened.

Still, a night’s rest was had once everything had calmed down again and the next morning saw me catch a bus to Barmouth. A midday arrival with short daylight hours along with heaviness in my legs after the previous day’s exertions meant that I was going to keep things simple.

The fine winter sunshine and the location meant that nothing more than that was needed so I pottered about a quiet Barmouth for a little while before picking out the path that was to take me by Dinas Oleu and Gorllwyn. There was height to be gained but I took my time and recall no overextension as I dealt with the intricacies or passing through a network of small walled fields.

Mawddach Estuary as seen from Panorama Walk, Barmouth, Wales

Cadair Idris & Tyrrau Mawr, Bontddu, Gwynedd, Wales

Eventually, I found my way onto the single track road between Barmouth and Sylfaen and that was left so I could sample the glorious views from the viewpoint at the Panorama Walk. Even though it was November, others were about too and what was a mild afternoon for the time of year. Views along the Mawddach estuary were in plentiful supply and there was Cadair Idris on the other side, shrouded in its habitual wintertime shadows.

Diffwys, Bontddu, Gwynedd, Wales

Garn Fach & YGarn, Bontddu, Gwynedd, Wales

Because it led downhill and away from my objective of Cerrig Arthur, I eschewed the track leading towards Cutiau and returned to the road. Well lit views towards the Rhinogydd and their foothills lay ahead of me as I shortened the distance to Sylfaen. Diffwys and Craig y Grut lay among their number and I delighted on seeing both from this side again.

Cerrig Arthur & Craig Y Grut, Barmouth, Gwynedd, Wales

After Sylfaen, the road became a gravel track and the time of day concentrated my mind when it came to seeking out the antiquity on which I had happened in 2005. Hazy memories made for an indirect course and there was no one around to get upset about that. Once I relocated the three standing stones, I set to making some photos in the late afternoon light. Lengthening shadows made this tricky but I managed what I came to do and returned again to a quiet Barmouth well ahead of the time to start my homeward journey. Those few hours reminded me of the delights of the area and why I should focus my mind and set a few days aside to explore around there sometime soon.

Travel arrangements:

Bus service X94 from Llangollen to Barmouth and the way back to Wrexham. Train journey from Wrexham to Macclesfield.

Two visits to Llangollen

25th April 2016

It feels like a different world now that I look back on it but 2014 had its share of hill country excursions and these have yet to be recalled on here. All this came before my father’s passing away near the start of 2015 and thoughts turned elsewhere afterwards. Naturally, there was grieving as I moved into an era with work to be done with my late father’s estate. In fact, some of that remains outstanding yet and that still weighs on my mind a little as does the fact that neither of my parents are there any more.

More cheerful distractions have occupied my mind too for I can begin to consider overseas explorations like those to Iceland and Switzerland last year. Associated mental meanderings still entertain me with recent explorations of the prospects of North American wilderness wandering still bringing their own learning episodes. While I am realistic about the chances of making those possibilities real, learning more more about other parts of the world is good too.

One of the risks of doing this is that far flung shores bedazzle me when similar delights are nearer to hand. In other words, they could have curtailed the motivation that once got me out and about the hill country of Britain and Ireland. Certainly, 2015 saw me doing less of such things and my main holiday breaks were spent overseas too. Still, you cannot journey among overseas mountains without doing so among home hills and I hope to rekindle those again.

A stormy winter has not helped that and the other topsy turviness of the past twelve months meant that I took to local cycling trips in a big way. That restored my cycling confidence after a break of around two years so I am not complaining. If it helps my going on cycling trips away from my home turf, it would be even better.

All remained ahead of me in 2014 and dared not to go foreseeing the future. There was enough on my plate with my keeping an eye on how my elderly father was doing back then. It was plain that he was not going be there forever so the focus was on what then was the present. It was a time where breaks were much needed so that got me out among hills on foot.

One might have thought that Christmas 2013 would been tough going after the passing away of mother earlier in the year but I was to find the one a year later much harder for a variety of reasons. My father must have gotten to thinking that Christmas 2014 was his last and it sure enough was. It may have meant that he had a dream for it that could not be made real so that did not help. That a neighbour began talk about plans for Christmas 2015 was no help either and became another obstacle to overcome as if grief itself was not enough.

Maybe it is now that those are behind me that I can begin to write these words because ever Christmas is becoming something to surmount with a breather afterwards. Forgetting the next one until it comes now is my way and it could have been that way for a while since I relished the peace of January and February even when my parents still were there.

After the ups and downs of early 2013, 2014 got a steady start and things were settling into a rhythm with my father though his fragile health meant that nursing home care was his lot even if never was one that he wanted. This semi-steadiness where a new set of circumstances had become familiar meant that my mind could to hill wandering and the middle of January 2014 saw a weekend visit to Llangollen.

2014-01-19

To make sure that I actually did make it to North Wales, I booked an overnight stay in Llangollen. It helped that it would not mean an early start of Saturday to get there and I also broke any rut into which I had fallen by spending a night away from home. It was an uneventful stay too and the quiet of the dining room next morning was a reminder of how early in the year it was.

Castell Dinas Bran, Langollen, Denbighshire, Wales

It was a frosty morning too as I dawdled around Llangollen. Though  I had a day of walking ahead of me, it would have been rude to leave the place in haste with the sun out like it was. There was some clag about too and it circled the ruins of Castell Dinas Brân but that was to burn off.

Soon enough, I found my way to the canal whose banks I was to follow out into the countryside. It also was the start of my shadowing the River Dee, a trend that was to follow for much of the day. That way out from Llangollen is familiar to me from many walks around there so it was a case of following the towpath, enjoying what lay about me and keep an eye on progress. Helping with the last of these were landmarks like the Royal International Pavilion and the train sheds of the Llangollen Railway.

The canal ends near the Horseshoe Falls, an attraction for many a stroller. Beyond this, I had a little bit of navigating to do but a clear path was on hand to get me onto the road near Llantysilio’s church, where I stayed a while to see if the sun would return from behind a cloud again to light it for a photo. It was not so willing so I got going again.

Road walking was my lot for a short while until I found the path that was to take me around by  Llandynan. This was to take me through forestry where I was not so sure of where the path was. After some deliberation, I made my way out the other side to reach the collection of houses that I was seeking and where I was surprised by the course from there to Rhewl.

Pen-y-bryn, Llandynan, Denbighshire, Wales

Rhewl too is a small place and I dallied there to make sure of where I was headed next. Once I was decided, the course was plain: follow a tarmacked byway uphill. This took me along part of the Clwydian Way and I found it steeper than anything I had met before that day so stops were needed on the way. The scenery on view beyond the trees provided ample excuses, especially given that the sun was out again. One of those was where the road ended so I could take stock of what lay ahead of me. Though I though it them a series of rocky outcrops at the time, I also got to gaze at quarry spoil heaps that I was to pass later on.

On the other side of the gate, a gravel track awaited and initial progress was across gentler gradients. Around the next corner, the way that the track was cut into the hillside became clear to me and it took an enticing line. Some height was lost so that had to be regained again on the way up to the pass between Moel y Gaer and Moel y Gamelin. With what surrounded me, it was a minor chore.

Once at the pass, I had a decision to make. Did I want to take in Moel Morfydd and Moel y Gaer before visiting Moel y Gamelin? Looking at the time, I made straight for the latter and it was to be the November visit when I trotted over the other two, not that I foresaw that at the time.

There is no right of way over Moel y Gamelin so it is just as well that this was access land and more folk were around there than elsewhere. Quite where they started was not clear to me but the day’s weather had drawn them just like me. There still was no crowding though and occasional friendly greetings accompanied the much needed episodes of soothing solitude.

Eglwyseg Mountain, Llangollen, Denbighshire, Wales

All the heat generated by the height gain resulted in the shedding of layers such that one might have thought that I’d thought it a spring day. There had been one last heave needed to get to the top of Moel y Gamelin and open up views over the Horseshoe Pass in all directions, including the distinctive Eglwyseg Mountain to the east. Though it was well into the afternoon, I was drawn as far as the top of neighbouring Moel y Faen before retracing my steps to pick up a public footpath that was to be the first leg of my return to Llangollen.

That hugged the steep hillside much like the Offa’s Dyke Path crosses the aforementioned Eglwyseg Mountain. Along with the Horseshoe Pass below me, Berwyn Quarry came into view and acted as a reminded that I was in a working landscape. Later, I was to pass behind some of its spoil heaps before moving onto less industrial surroundings. There, paths looked less clear and I went around by Pen-y-Bryn because that was clearest and it usefully dropped me onto the Dee Valley Way near Llandynan so I could retrace my steps to Llangollen along the outbound route, a useful thing in declining light.

Travel arrangements:

Return train journey from Macclesfield to Wrexham. Bus service 5 from Wrexham to Llangollen and bus service 5A for the way back.

2014-11-22

Given the vagaries of the weekend weather forecast, I must have been in need of the getaway that took me to Llangollen on that Saturday before continuing to Barmouth the next day. The tale of the second part of the weekend has been moved to another post but it revisited places that I had not seen since 2005.

Moel y Gamelin, Llandynan, Denbighshire, Wales

For the Llangollen portion of the escapade, I saw to unfinished business earlier in the year when Moel y Gamelin took my fancy. My hilltop objectives then became Moel y Gaer and Moel Morfydd and an early morning departure landed me in Llangollen. The initial stages of the walk even retraced much of the January route apart from sticking with the road as far as Rhewl because the wood near Llandynan did not inspire me when I was last there. The part of the Clwydian Way from there to the gap between Moel y Gamelin and Moel y Gaer was followed more faithfully. There seemed to be more pheasants than people for poor field-craft on my part was causing them to take flight in their usual noisy manner. The theme of unpeopled hills pervaded as good as all of the walk for whatever reason; it might have been the weather but that only can be a guess at best.

While I had started under sunny skies, clouds had staged a coup to show me why the weather predictions had been so variable. As I gained height to reach the the top of Moel y Gaer, rain began to move in to dispel any hopes of much in the way of photos. Though it came and went, the wet theme continued until I was losing height again on the other side of Moel Morfydd, when things dried up for me.

Then, the question of deciding when to turn off the the track I was following came to the fore. This was not a right of way so it helped that I was on access land. Though the track would have taken me to a road that could have made for easier route finding, I decided that it would have gone the long way around and went so far along it for views before turning back to find a public footpath that would get me down part of the way. On open moorland, finding such things without signs takes a certain amount of deduction so a navigational puzzle had been set. The further down I went, the more tricky it got until I finally got myself on the route of the Dee Valley Way as planned. From then on, route finding was more straightforward and became even more so after Rhewl when I merely retraced my steps, albeit in declining light. A night’s rest was to follow before the rest of the weekend took shape.

Though I have yet to go back to see more of Llangollen’s nearby hills, there are excuses for returning. Walking over Moel y Gaer and Moel Morfydd in better weather would be one and following the whole Dee Valley Way is another option. The latter would be a long day walk starting from Corwen and then continuing east as far as Llangollen. Then, there are those ups and downs of which I suspect it has many. It only goes to show that you never can say that an area is done since there always is something new to see.

Travel arrangements:

Return train journey from Macclesfield to Wrexham. Bus service 5 from Wrexham to Llangollen and bus service X94 from there to Barmouth.

A month for slipping and sliding?

21st January 2014

Over the weekend, I got to spend some time around Llangollen. For a while, I have been having designs on exploring the hills of Llantysilio Mountain and Sunday finally saw me reach the top of Moel y Gamelin. Though time constraints meant that was the only hilltop of the bunch that I sampled, the views from there were in all directions and had me savouring sights that I had seen before, albeit from different angles. With all the value that was given, I was happy to save the hill’s neighbours for other days. Having not been around Llangollen for the most of three years, some concrete reasons are in order if I am to return sooner.

After the area has found its way into the enlarged Clwydian Range and Dee Valley Area of Natural Beauty. That happened during the second half of 2011 when other things were eating up my time. The visit that I paid around Easter of that year still remains as fresh in my mind as if it happened only a few weeks ago. What happened longer ago was a visit to Denbigh and Ruthin that skirted the Clwydian Range and an abortive attempt to reach them from Llangollen by way of the Offa’s Dyke Path National Trail that was halted in Llandegla before a return to Wrexham was made. Continuing north from there would be good (a visit to Moel Famau could be nice) and bus services around those parts seem to be more useful than they were then. Let’s hope austerity never affects them quite like what is happening in the north of England.

It was during the first months of 2004  when I first embarked on day trips to Llangollen as a compensation for a failed attempt to get to Dolgellau. Then unruly housemates didn’t help with the realisation of that ambition with an all night party accompanied by loud music until the small hours of the morning. That was enough to make me seek a place for myself that resulted in an Eastertide move. Now, it either is the ups and downs of life or my own fatigue and laziness that is to blame for such failures these days.

Those day trips to Llangollen saw me wander around by Castell Dinas Bran, along the Panorama Walk that is part of the Offa’s Dyke Path north of Trefor, around by Valle Crucis Abbey. Due to the lateness of my arrival and the shorter days, the walks weren’t so long apart from the aforementioned abortive trot from Llangollen to Ruthin. A preceding overnight stay would have helped that effort with an earlier start and my last two visits to Llangollen have benefited from that with the 2011 trip seeing me enjoy an evening walk around those day tripping haunts before I stayed among the flatter tops to the south of the Dee Valley where the North Berwyn Way goes as it connects Llangollen to Corwen. There also is the Dee Valley Way is you want a long circular walk between the two towns and along both sides of the valley.

Many of those visits to Llangollen were the cause of getting me muddy and last Sunday’s was no different thanks to the early point in the year at which we currently find ourselves. In fact, one flawed footstep resulted in a slide and a short tumble into gorse. The resulting pricks left their marks on my legs but there otherwise is no consequence from the mishap. In fact, it reminded me of a similar one around Craigmillar Castle got me muddy when it really wasn’t needed. Hopefully, these are not signs of my becoming accident prone but I am reminded of previous January skids.

In previous years, it was frozen and not greasy ground that was to blame. One slip happened while descending from Grinlow Tower, or Solomon’s Temple, near Buxton. That was in January 2012 after a walk through three counties from the Cat and Fiddle Inn. The same month in 2006 had me trying out a possible route to the top of Cader Idris from Dollgellau and similar unreliable ground played its party trick on me too.

Foolish steps on branches can end stupidly too as I found in a wood near Dolwyddelan when an attempt to avoid soft ground landed me on my side on it. The day wasn’t  a warm one so I could have done without that wetting though I came to no harm because of it. While none of these episodes is flattering, they seem to be the sum total of such misadventures apart maybe from what a rogue stone did one one summer visit to Floddigarry on the Isle of Skye. It all makes wonder if more concentration on foot placement is in order and that does happen on steeper slopes. Maybe it’s time for extra footing practice to avoid foolishness or anything more serious on downhill slopes.

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.