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!

From slim pickings to superabundance

14th May 2024

The lack of sunshine during my March 2019 trip to Settle and Malham brought forward a repeat encounter in advance of an Easter trip to Edinburgh in the same year. Compared to the previous trip, when there was photographic famine, this one brought an overwhelming number of possibilities. A little sustained sunshine can make choices of what to show and what not to show more difficult, especially when not every landscape feature has a name. It is time to leave a narrative to do the discriminating.

Donkeys near Settle, Yorkshire, England

As well as the sighting of the donkeys that you see above, the way out of Settle offered views of a passing steam train as well as the chapel of the independent Giggleswick School, a far grander structure than you would expect to see situated in the middle of the pastoral countryside. There was more to occupy one’s eyes than more distant views of Pen-y-Ghent.

From slim pickings to superabundance

From slim pickings to superabundance

The main drama of the day began once I left the route of the Pennine Bridleway for that of the Dales High Way. In the morning sunshine, the limestone outcrops festooning the Warrendale Knots and adjoining Attermire Scar did nothing to disappoint me. Clouds stayed away from the passage of the sun for long enough to keep me entertained all the way as far as Stockdale Lane.

From slim pickings to superabundance

From slim pickings to superabundance

Continuing past Stockdale Farm also led me past Rye Loaf Hill and Kirkby Fell on a somewhat expedited route to Cove Road, near Malham. Views of Malham Cove did tease as I went forth, yet clouding skies stopped me from everything my own way for photographic exploits. Nevertheless, opportunities did present themselves as I followed the route of the Pennine Way onto the limestone pavement above the one time ancient waterfall.

From slim pickings to superabundance

From slim pickings to superabundance

From there, it was a matter of continuing north to Malham Tarn. Sunshine was again liberated to light up a part of the world that I largely experienced under cloudy skies on previous visits. Names like Raven Scar, Ing Scar and Ing Scar Crag hint at what you find in this classy limestone landscape.

From slim pickings to superabundance

From slim pickings to superabundance

Following an ascent, the terrain levelled out on the final approach to Malham Tarn. The size of the lake makes photography a little tricky, but the availability of sunshine almost enforced such activity. That also meant that there was some dawdling before embarking on an alternative route to Langscar Gate. Any gain in height was rewarded by views over the tarn and what lay around it.

From slim pickings to superabundance

From slim pickings to superabundance

After passing Langscar, I took a south-westerly turn in the direction of Kirkby Fell. After passing Grizedales, I returned to my outbound route for a time. The return to Settle was to keep me on Stockdale Lane until it reached High Hill Lane, which I then followed the rest of the way to my starting point. Not only did that offer different viewpoints (which was just as well given the shadows that had fallen on what was fully lit in the morning), but it also made the descent easier than the more usual way that I had been using. On tiring legs, that is easier as long as tarmac traipsing is kept to a minimum.

A good day hike ended with my being well sated by what I encountered. At the time of writing, though, my appetite for such countryside has been dimmed by excursions to Scotland and other possibilities. If it ever gets rekindled, the prospect of walking from Malham to Skipton could be tempting. A desire to replace photos from my film-using days may be just the thing for that.

Travel Arrangements

Return train journey between Macclesfield and Settle, with changes at Manchester Piccadilly and Leeds.

A festive escapade

20th January 2024

For various reasons, there has been a festive season getaway for me since 2018/9 when I spent the New Year period on Tenerife. 2019/20 was forestalled by the need to secure some freelance work, and the pandemic intruded after that. Thus, it was not before time that I did something different for the time of year.

So, I stayed in Edinburgh around Christmas before moving to Aviemore for a stay around the New Year period. The forecast was not promising, and hence I kept my expectations low, which was just as well given that only one day came sunny while I was in the Scottish capital. Even with rain and showers, I pottered by the Water of Leith, while the best day was spent going up and down various members of the Pentland Hills: Capelaw Hill, Allermuir Hill and Caerketton Hill. These had not been traipsed since August 2008, and I thought it to be a good idea for a short winter’s day with some ice on the ground and a sprinkling of what looked like snow on the tops.

The arrival of Storm Gerrit made the transfer to Aviemore more challenging. Having got as far as Perth, I ended up returning to Edinburgh for a rethink because of a closed railway line and a flooded road. Handily, the hotel in Aviemore altered my booking for me, and I was able to find a humble abode elsewhere where I could regroup. The next day, I embarked on a long if uncertain journey around Scotland to reach Aviemore. The first leg was by coach to Aberdeen before catching a crowded double-decker bus to Inverness. The latter thankfully got less busy after Huntly, but seeing a southbound railway departure from Inverness started to make me concerned about progress. Everything was OK in the end, though the timing was tighter than I would have liked. What might have been a three-hour journey became more than three times that length; though not waiting for news on railway reopening could have got me on a coach instead, thus avoiding the need to go the long way around.

Thankfully, the weather was less intrusive while I was in Aviemore. A hike into Glen Eanaich followed my gallivanting around Scotland. There was some sunshine too, which was a bonus. Any designs on reaching Loch Eanaich were forestalled by the amount of water flowing in burns; it is one thing to chance a difficult crossing on a one-way passage, but doing it on an out and back hike is quite another matter. In the event, I did not feel denied, though previous thoughts of doing the journey by bicycle evaporated from my mind. The hike is one that I fancy repeating when the waters are lower.

The prospect of rain and the need to attend to a matter lured me to Inverness the next day. What followed was some traipsing along the banks of the River Ness and the Caledonian Canal. The dafter idea of walking as far as the shore of Loch Ness was stopped by a wrong turning that instead sent me to the shore of the Beauly Firth at Clachnaharry. On the day, I thought that just as well, and I picked up on the idea a few days later. Then, I watched my navigation and got as far as Lochend with a walk along the side of the A82 that I had no appetite for repeating. Otherwise, there was much to savour and other ideas like walking to Inverness from Drumnadrochit using the Great Glen Way or checking out the South Loch Ness Trail got deposited into my mind.

Before this, I walked from Kingussie to Aviemore using sections of the Speyside Way as well as the East Highland Way. There was some sunshine but plenty of cloudiness too. Initial progress along the Speyside Way was at a sensible pace, until fallen trees made getting through Inshriach Forest more challenging than anticipated. Crossing one or two fallen trees at a time is one thing, but if five or ten come down together, heading back to a minor road makes a deal of sense. It might have been my stubbornness, but I continued around or over any obstacles in my way. Instead of continuing to Kincraig, I turned for Feshiebridge from where I continued by Moor of Feshie towards Loch Gamhna and Loch an Eilean, where the light really started to fail for the day. Being on familiar ground and having a head torch meant that encroaching darkness was no issue, and I looked forward to a quiet New Year’s Eve after the long hike.

With no public transport services on New Year’s Day, it paid to stay local, and the weather could not have been better. New Year’s greetings abound as I rounded Loch an Eilean and Loch Gamhna before I made for the Cairngorm Club Footbridge to cross Am Beanaidh, the river originating in Gleann Eanaich. My next destination was Loch Morlich, where I made good use of the available light for photographic purposes, dallying longer than on my previous ill-fated encounter when a tumble ripped my trousers. There was no such mishap on my return to Aviemore using the Old Logging Way. Even though the light was failing, I got away without using a head torch when I got under street lights in time. There were no complaints about the day, and staying low avoided the difficulties of snowbound upland travel, though I was amazed by the amount of motor traffic.

The whole Scottish escapade brought many gifts my way, as well as a few obstacles. Rain and storm intruded, but other compensations more than made up for any wettings or travel disruption. They may even have planted other ideas in my mind for future excursions. That is often the sign of a really good getaway.

When promised sunshine scarcely appeared

10th January 2023

These words are being written in a period of ongoing industrial relations turbulence. Whenever this happens, it can seem never-ending. Hope gets lost, but things can be resolved quicker than anyone can imagine.

Much of 2018 was blighted by Saturday-only stoppages that affected Northern Railway. It meant that outings were limited for me because I do not drive a car. In fact, they were an impossibility for many of the places that hill wanderer would go in the north of England. Thus, when the stoppages were halted, it was as if I was unleashed to take advantage of the restored sense of freedom.

Trips to the North York Moors and Derbyshire preceded two outings to the Yorkshire Dales. This piece describes the first of the latter, when sunshine was scarcer than predicted in the forecast. That encouraged another that will be described in a later posting.

The lack of sunshine necessarily limited the number of photos that I made on this trip, so figuring out the route again took some doing. Nevertheless, I reckon that I have recalled it. Recording GPS tracks or even filming hikes is something that I have avoided so far, but that needs a rethink unless I stop leaving it so long before writing trip reports.

On the day, I made my way from Settle’s train station towards Castlebergh Plantation. From there, I followed the Pennine Bridleway in the direction of Malham Tarn. That meant passing the turning for the crags that may have lured me out that way in the first place. They would be passed on the way back.

Everywhere lay under grey skies as I followed the track towards Langscar Gate and Malham Tarn. A young walking group was going this way too, so I dallied to give them time to move along for the sake of added solitude. Following the broad track appealed to me, as these so often do, especially when quietude can be found. That made up for any lack of sunshine.

When promised sunshine scarcely appeared

When promised sunshine scarcely appeared

Skies partially cleared of cloud around Malham Tarn, somewhere that I possibly had not visited for more than ten years. That made me linger and attempt a spot of photographic capture. The results may have been incompletely in their success, but they were proof that I was not totally out of luck. Now that I think of it, there may have been more sunshine available than I had thought.

When promised sunshine scarcely appeared

My next move was to make for Malham village. That took me past Broad Scars and Malham Lings before I returned to tarmac again. Descending by Malham Rakes gained me views over Malham Cove as well as getting me to the village where I enjoyed a refreshment stop.

When promised sunshine scarcely appeared

The shop was looking more tatty on the outside than when I was near there on previous visits. The paintwork was wearing off the stonework and the shopkeeper looked aged, which have explained the lack of maintenance to the outside of the building. Skies again broke to allow some sunshine, and I took in sights of the cliffs of Malham Cove on the next stage of my hike.

When promised sunshine scarcely appeared

My return to Settle took me near Town Head as I made my way onto Long Lane. That kept me off Cove Road until just before a steep ascent, after which I left the road for a public footpath that would take me back to the Pennine Bridleway near Kirkby Fell. There was empty countryside around Rye Loaf Hill, though I seem to recall seeing some mountain bikers around there.

More civilisation in the form of Stockdale Farm before I left the lane to follow the Dales High Way past crags that I had fancied photographing. The grey gloom put paid to that ambition, so I reconciled myself to enjoying the hike instead. There was one last uphill heave before the final descent into Settle, which felt very distant in the vicinity of the limestone outcrops that I was passing.

Another visit would be needed to make photographic use of the scenic delights that they offer, but the walk had left me content. There may have been a refreshment stop before I started on my train journey home in the knowledge that there was some unfinished business that remained in this part of the Yorkshire Dales. A return would follow.

Travel Arrangements

Return train journey between Macclesfield and Settle, with changes at Manchester Piccadilly and Leeds.

An Irish Year

25th December 2022

Changes that I am making to matters in Ireland were the cause of my spending a lot of time there this past year. That also meant that I really got to see more of the place than ever before. That was just as well for two reasons. One is that my explorations of Irish hill country have been more limited than I fancied. The other is that the pandemic had grounded me for 2020 and 2021. Being over there a lot allowed me to get more courageous again. There is further to go, but this start was useful compared to where I was earlier in the year.

The nerves applied during various trots starting and ending in Marsden during the spring, so some movement was needed. A day trip to Dublin got me started on flying again. After that, there was a hotel stay in Limerick that allowed me to sample the delights of Adare, the Limerick Greenway, the Lough Derg Way, the Slieve Felim Mountains, Killarney and around Lough Derg. Much of this was in unexpected sunshine, and some was inspired by what I saw from my hotel room as well.

A getaway from jubilee celebrations returned my Ireland. This time, my base was Tralee and I got some wet weather as well. Even so, any sunny interludes got used when other matters allowed. A hike along the Dingle Way from Tralee to Camp was one such beneficiary, as was a circular walk featuring Dingle and Ventry. An amble along part of the North Kerry Way also saw dry weather before something inclement arrived in for the evening time. That affected a second trip to Killarney as much as the presence of a bikers’ festival in the town. The weather also affected a hike from Dingle to Anascaul that might have seen me wander up to the Conor Pass if there were better views up there.

The Lake District got some attention for the first time in some years as well. One trip featured both Lingmoor Fell and Loughrigg Fell on a walk that attended to a photographic need as much as using up an idea that had lain in my mind for a few years. That was followed by a reprise of the Fairfield horseshoe, along with an ascent of Helvellyn. All of these enjoyed warm sunshine that allowed many photos to be made.

The same could be said for the major holiday trip of the year, for that took me to Ireland again. Killarney and Cork were the bases for this one. The former allowed me to frequent parts that I had not surveyed for nearly thirty years. There was one all-day stroll that took me around Knockreer Park, Ross Island and Muckross Lake. This was followed by a hike from Kenmare to Killarney that used past of the Kerry Way, with a diversion to the top of Torc Mountain. The Kerry Way also had a part to play in a serendipitous walk that took in the Gap of Dunloe, the Black Valley and the Upper Lake. These were followed by trips to Bantry, Whiddy Island, the Knockmealdown Mountains, Kinsale and Cobh as the weather continued to warm.

There was a return to Scotland too, though luck with the weather was such that a return trip is in mind. Staying in Stirling again would allow the Ochil Hills and Ben Ledi to be revisited. That awaits longer hours of daylight and a favourable weather window. The two trips that I have had already whetted my appetite for a part of Scotland that I either overlooked or surveyed twenty years before.

There was one trip to the Welsh hills too. This took me to the Ogwen Valley for a dramatic day that saw me go over Glyder Fach and Glyder Fawr. Eroded slopes were the cause of some adverse comment, but this was a warm, sunny day that offered much. Any plans for descending to Pen y Pass and Llanberis were rejected for time and transportation reasons. Assessing one’s progress often needs a change of route, not that it mattered in this case.

The last Irish trip did not allow more hill wanderings. Time was short, the weather was unfavourable, and other matters needed attention anyway. It was not as if a lot of satisfaction had been given, so I was not put off by this. The temptation might have been unwanted anyway.

The rest of the year saw me grow increasing tired, mostly because of lack of progress with the things that I need to get done. They are spilling into 2023, but that is another year. It remains to be seen how that will go, but trips to Galway and Clare as well as other parts of Europe and North America entice. Only time will tell how things proceed.

A time with little sun around the counties of Galway & Clare

23rd December 2022

2022 became a year when I enjoyed many hikes in Ireland. Even with other things to do, I got out as much as I could. There was a lot of sunshine and some rain too, but the expansion of horizons was beyond my hopes. Another aspect of this was that I could enjoy seeing the country of my birth without feeling guilty. Before, my ventures had felt more like theft, in that I stole in and out of the place. This includes brief saunters around Howth Head and to the top of the Great Sugar Loaf near Kilmacanoge. The reason is that trips to Ireland were always about family, and it felt wrong not to do that. The passing away of my parents and the passage of time since then means that I can move beyond that now.

The seed for the Galway trip was sown one weekend when my father was still around when I was returning to the U.K. It was a fine, sunny Sunday afternoon, and I was tempted to stay on the bus all the way to Galway instead of disembarking at Shannon Airport as planned. The need to be at work the next day, together with a lack of accommodation, put paid to that proposal, so it had to wait.

Galway, Ireland

Looking towards Mutton Island, Galway, Ireland

That vigil lasted until August 2018. By then, inheritance works had settled, a career break has passed, and I was back in work as a freelancer. With those in place, my mind could turn again to longer excursions, and I stole into Galway without telling very many at all. Staying in a hotel about thirty minutes walk from the city was about keeping costs under control, not keeping a low profile. That distance did add peace and quiet, even if there were building works ongoing at the time; it never meant that any excursion from the city became impossible, though catching a regular city bus did speed things up from time to time.

On the day of arrival, I naturally pottered about Galway, especially with the evening becoming brighter. This was one of the sunnier periods during the whole trip, for grey skies were more common. There also was dampness that affected an incursion into Clare as well as the Saturday evening in Galway itself. Saturday itself was spent around Recess and Clifden in Connemara, with low cloud and leaden skies predominant. Sunday then had a grey start, but there was more brightness between Maam Cross and Oughterard, even if having it arrive earlier would have made my surroundings rather magical. On Monday, I ventured to Aran where there was some sunshine after a grey start, though rain showers were about the place at times.

All the dry sunny weather for which many recall 2018 was a passing memory, while the introductions could do with following up should life events allow. There was to be one trip report for the lot until it got too long. Thus, it got split into five other parts, which you will find linked in the preceding paragraph. Along the way, there were some awkward moments to recall, but there was a lot of solo wandering as well. This was the start of Irish hill country incursions that I followed with numerous others this year. Returning to Galway and Clare in better weather remains an unaddressed possibility for now, though.

Travel Arrangements

Getting from Manchester to Galway involved a return flight between Manchester and Knock and a return bus journey between Knock and Galway on Bus √Čireann Expressway route 64.