Outdoor Excursions

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: Weather

Weather better suited to indoor investigations

Friday, February 28th, 2020

Unlike this time last year when I was in the middle of string of outdoor excursions, this month has little very little action at all. The weather has brought storm after storm and the rain is flooding down from the sky as I write this words. January may have been more appealing but other concerns like gaining a new contract took precedence. That has been sorted now so next week should see a start on revenue earning work again.

That is not to say that I have not been exploring ideas for overseas trips or one nearer home even if COVID-19 could limit such excursions for a while. Finding possible destinations in Washington State, Oregon, Montana and Wyoming has drive me to perusing various guidebooks and others for Colorado, California and Ontario have found their way onto my reading list. It is the prospect of extending North American explorations after last year’s stint in British Columbia that is the underlying motivation for all of this.

There is no shortage of wilderness areas but there is a need to find a base from which to explore them. Denver looks promising for a stay in Colorado but I need to uncover more about that state and, in a sense, the same applies to Lake Tahoe on the boundary between California and Nevada or Ontario where being based in Toronto could have a use.

Reading guidebooks may not sound exciting but they do advance all these pipe dreams. Consulting local magazines like Distinctly Montana, Wyoming Magazine, Big Sky Journal, Montana Outdoors and Montana Quarterly would augment these in a more bite-sized manner and some have email newsletters too so it is not a case of reading everything at once only then to forget it all afterwards. My European explorations have been more gradual affairs, after all, and it always helps to find ideas one at a time.

The next steps would be to make use of these but that will depend on how the year goes. COVID-19 is a reminder that events can derail such designs so it is best to see what can be facilitated. One thing is sure though: another visit to North America could happen yet.

Reeling in some leap years

Thursday, February 27th, 2020

There was a series on Irish television called “Reeling in the Years” where each program covered happenings in a certain year in the past using archive footage. The concept may not have been all that original though the focus of Irish events gave it a certain uniqueness. It was the sort of light television programming that could be repeated endlessly should a vacant slot need occupying.

Of course, that is not how I tend to view the entries on here and I often struggle to complete a trip report as I have been doing for a while with a day spent along Derbyshire’s Great Ridge in the autumn of 2017. Sometimes, what should produce a timely report can gain the feel of an archive item.

Nevertheless, 2020 is a leap year and a very rainy, snowy and windy February gains an extra day; it is hard to believe that we were basking in unseasonably warm sunshine just over a year ago. Perhaps, it is little wonder then that I often state that we get weather instead of seasons and such is the defining characteristic of a maritime climate.

January and February often are the quieter months of the year so there is some time for looking back and a little forward planning. Thus, I take this opportunity to cast my mind back over leap years from a outdoor wandering vantage point since that stops me at 2000 when I commenced my working life after formal education.

By 2004, my pedestrian hill wandering had come into being with Scotland being a major focus along with England and Wales. The year itself was terrible from a weather standpoint with the summer being a washout. Only some flexibility at work allowed me to snatch a drier interlude to go north to Lorn and Lochaber to make the most of a fleeting opportunity.

2008 then was the third calendar year for this blog and saw a high point in my Scottish rambling. Until very recently, a week in August spent among some of the Western Isles became my most adventurous escapade ever. Skye was a staging point and I managed to avoid much of the rain that came from a stalled front lying across Ireland, England and Scotland. It now seems surreal that there was some glorious weather to be enjoyed on Harris, Berneray, North Uist, Benbecula and South Uist.

The occasional good fortune of those islands again manifested itself in 2012 when they in fact endured a drought while the the rest of Britain has the wettest summer ever. It was only the dryness of the Outer Hebrides that stopped the year going down in records as being wetter than in 2000, a year that I hardly regard as being that rainy at all though there were autumn deluges. The differences in weather were missed in 2012, not only because of a certain weather myopia but also because the heavy workload of 2011 had drained me to the point that energy for planning a return to the Western Isles just was not there.

By 2016, major changes were taking place in my life after the passing of both my parents. These were becoming evident in 2012 and the combination of a busy working life and ongoing inheritance works became enough to break me. One saving grace was that I started exploring elsewhere in Europe and that began in 2015. 2016 saw an extended weekend spent in each of Austria and Norway while there also was a mid-winter break in Mallorca. It was the latter than really taught me a lesson with a heavy cold and the others might have been but palliative care for an ongoing malaise. Changes were coming.

As I look back, it is tempting to think that leap years are not always the best for me though I now reckon that they were not as bad as I might have thought them at the time. 2020 could prove no different but that remains to be seen. Changes are continuing and I now work for myself so overseas and other excursions can continue alongside the other things that need doing. Only time will show what chances are available.

Cabin bound

Wednesday, February 26th, 2020

The title of this post could have been “Cabin Fever” but there is a good reason why that is not the case. It is true to say that February’s weather has not been inspiring this year with a storm arriving most weekends but there is also the draw of indoors activity and the need to attend to working life matters too.

There also has been some tinkering on the technology side and that also applies to the operation of this website too. Most of this is behind the scenes and all of that is about keeping out unwanted visitors, spammers included, so that things run more smoothly. The appearance on mobile devices is another matter that needed attention and things should appear better on smartphones after the remediation.

Along the way, there was much to learn and there always was another thing to try. that may remain but, COVID-19 permitting, there is a need to get out of doors too. With the debt caused by the purchase of a new camera now paid off, any better weather in March could be used using an old trick of mine: booking an associated night in a nearby hotel. After that, there is the Easter weekend which rather spoiled me last year while I was in Edinburgh. Some pondering and planning lies ahead.

Autumn reflections

Thursday, August 30th, 2018

There have been a few nights this week that possessed the chill of autumn and some trees already are losing their spring and summer colouring. In fact, I picked two early conkers on a walk this evening. Meteorologists may prefer us to wait until the start of September but I always wonder if autumn really starts in the middle of August. Some I overheard talking about turning on their heating may not disagree with me so strongly.

It is strange how we assign the summer months because when it comes to hours of daylight, August in some ways is a mirror image of April. The main difference generally is the residual heat remaining after June and July, something that can hold until the start of November. This past summer has been exceptional so it is not that the school year starts after a break without its share of sunshine even if August came damp.

For whatever reason, I can get ideas about fresh restarts around this time. It might be that there is a lull during September or the start of those school, college and university years but my mind can fill with possibilities while bemoaning that such things often are stymied by a decline in energy coinciding with growing hours of darkness. It often feels like a brief burst of energy before other things take hold.

The latter has me wondering about a midwinter getaway since I did not have an overseas trip this summer because of other concerns. This line of thought also emerged two years ago and there was a trip to Mallorca with some walking that in on my radar for a forthcoming trip report. Other possibilities will be assessed and enough time allowed so as not to have 2019 began like 2017 when a heavy cold weighed me down.

2018 has been a busy year for me with a move into self-employment taking up the summer months and a series of property maintenance tasks in Ireland that were planned during the career break that I began in August 2017. The last part of 2016 came busy with Irish matters so that might not have helped the start of the next year either. As I look to the rest of this year, I hope that work will remain steady enough for me to focus on other things like getting out and about in any good weather that comes. Life has become an adventure again and that blows away any staleness that once may have beset me.

Making do with the weather that came

Monday, August 27th, 2018

After reproaching myself for not doing so for too many years, I set aside some time to explore part of the land of my birth and upbringing. Too often, any such excursions have been fitted in around other activities and needed to cater to the needs of others. It was time for some self-driven explorations of my own and the idea of doing just that on a trip to West Limerick to attend to Irish business affairs. There was a past occasion when the weather had been so fine that I was tempted to stay on a coach heading for Galway rather than disembarking at Shannon Airport as planned. It was to set the scene for what I did on a six day stay this summer. As luck would have, the extraordinarily hot sunny weather was gone and a more usual mix was my fare but I made the best of what I was allotted.

City of Galway as seen from causeway leading to Mutton Island, Ireland

Perhaps unsurprisingly then, the city of Galway was my chosen base and its transport connections allowed me to explore a few places beyond its limits. The choices were numerous so some filtering was in order given the time that I had. Of course, I got to strolling around the city too with much that happening on the day of my arrival. An evening of improving weather saw me find the coast near Claddagh and pop out to Mutton Island before venturing as far the perimeter of Salthill. The hills of north Clare lay across Galway Bay and the more extensive sunshine allowed for some photography.

The next day could not be more different and it was tricky to work out what to do given the predicted rain. Nevertheless, I headed to the Cliffs of Moher where I hiked as far south as Signal Tower before returning north again to pass O’Brien’s Tower and continue along the Burren Way as far as Doolin where I got something to eat before going as far as the pier to see where ferries leave for the Aran Islands and boat trips along the Cliff of Moher are offered. Though damp for much of the time from rain, drizzle and ocean spray, it had been a satisfying day out with the return coach journey taking in such sights as Dunguaire Castel near Kinvarra and Black Head near Ballyvaughan. There even was a short stop to take in the view down from near Corkscrew Hill though I suspect it was the action of a canny bus driver to stop people standing on a moving coach to take photos of what lay before them.

Thankfully, the following day stayed dry until evening when heavy rain came. During the dry spell, I headed to Recess in hope of walking to the top of Lisoughter hill. However, the sight of a low cloud base made me reconsider my plans so I instead chose a shorter stroll that still gave the desired views over Lough Inagh and towards what could be seen of the clouded Twelve Bens while passing  both Derryclare Lough and Glendollagh Lough. After that, I continued to Clifden where a coastal stroll was enjoyed though skies looked laden with moisture. Dark grey cloud cover had been my lot though there was some sunshine around Oughterard as I returned to Galway where some matters needed my attention.

Owenriff River, Oughterard, Co. Galway, Ireland

The predicted heavy rain only lasted a few hours and left the next day completely dry so it was time for some longer hiking. This started from Maam Cross where I started along the R336 to reach the Western Way. Someone in a car stopped to ask if I was local but left me to carry on when he learned of my plan. A French family were milling around as I left the road to cross bogland on a bouncy plastic mat on the way to a Coillte forestry plantation. Then, I was lead along a boardwalk that lasted for kilometres over a sodden landscape under grey skies with hilltops cloaked in cloud; it felt like a repeat of the previous day at this point. Lackavrea lay to my left all of the way to the backs of the Folore River that I would shadow as far as the shore of Lough Corrib. One of the French visitors caught up with me to ask how far it was to the lake in broken English. Maybe I should have tried my French but the required assistance was provided nonetheless. The boardwalk was left after me at the lake shore for a rough gravel track that lead to one with a smoother surface that itself conveyed me to the narrow road that I followed for the rest of the way to Oughterard. Progress along that was punctuated by various food stops, the first of which had me being wished “Bon Appetit” by someone who arrived in a car for a spot of strolling, and a side trip as far as Lough Seecon. Cloud broke and the day grew more sunny to leave a fine weather dawdle  around Oughterard before grey cloud cover grew again as I awaited a coach back to Galway.

Looking towards Dun Aonghasa, Inishmore, Aran Islands, Co. Galway, Ireland

There was one more full day to use after my trot along the Western Way and that allowed me to spend time wandering around Inishmore, the largest of the Aran Islands with a coach and ferry combination getting me there and back. Once on the island, I found its quieter southern parts as I walked towards Dún Aonghasa. Light rain showers peppered the morning time before growing less frequent as the day progressed and bright sunshine began to appear so that helped any photographic efforts. The clifftop fort was visited and I could have spent longer there but for my heightened desire to reach my desired ferry connection to the mainland. On the way back along the island’s north shore, I found myself sharing a lane with cyclists and touring minibuses together with horse and trap excursions. As it happened, the horse traffic added odour to the journey courtesy of dung left on the tarmac. The journey had its busy moments but there were quieter stretches too and I had some time to spare before catching the ferry to Rossaveal where I spent some more time before catching the coach back to Galway.

My departure happened the next morning but there are reasons to return to this part of Ireland. Any lack of sunshine would not be the main cause because there remains much more to see. Sunlit walking along the Burren Way between Liscannor and Doolin sounds attractive and there is Black Head itself too. Inishbofin is another island that I would like to visit and then there are the smaller members of the Aran Islands. Other parts of Connemara such as Letterfrack and Leenaun take my fancy while a walk from Recess to Maam Cross could be another possibility. As things stand, only a start has been made in exploring Clare and Galway while Mayo and Donegal are worth doing too. There could be an Irish hill country and island wandering project yet.