Summer Escapades

After weeks of training for last month’s West Highland Way Challenge for Breast Cancer Now, I was concerned that I might feel deflated once it was all over. Luckily, it’s been an eventful time which has taken me to many and varied parts of Scotland, starting with a hen party island adventure.

Our celebration of Lindsay’s final weeks of singledom looked destined to be a flop when Calmac – the ferry company which links the Scottish mainland to its many Hebridean islands – went on strike for a day…..the very day we were due to sail.

DRAT! HOW VERY DARE THEY. I posted a ditty on Calmac’s Facebook page:-

A plea to Calmac Ferrymen, please don’t spoil Oor Lindsay’s hen!

Arran is our port of call, where we’d planned to have a ball.

The girls arrive from far and wide, Auchrannie’s where we’re meant to bide.

Now we hear a strike’s been planned, how the feck are we going to land?

We’ve planned the gig for many a day and upfront we have had to pay.

We’ve tried to sort Plan B and C, but to be honest we’re all at sea!

So, please Guys, get us to the Isle, and help send Lindsay doon the aisle.

But to no avail. With a few days to go, the strike was going ahead and our weekend looked scuppered. However, thanks to Laura, our uber organiser, we found ourselves at Ardrossan jetty bound for Brodick on a RiB. (That stands for Rigid Inflatable Boat. It is NOT a dinghy.)

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After a bouncy, breezy crossing we arrived at the splendid Auchrannie resort for a fabulous weekend of fizz, fun and pink paraphernalia, courtesy of henpartysuperstore.co.uk.

After the excesses of the hen weekend, it was time to walk my way back to sobriety. Dodging rainstorms and midges, I’ve clocked up many more miles in diverse parts of our glorious country, taking in beaches, canal towpaths and waterfalls.

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It may rain a lot (OK, an awful lot) in Scotland, but for me, it’s never dull.

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Patriotism and Puddles

It seems fitting that on the day that Andy Murray got through to the semi-finals of Wimbledon, that I travelled to his birthplace as a way of demonstrating my support. Dunblane is not a town I was previously familiar with and I found it a bonny place with an imposing cathedral and a golden postbox.

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I set off on National Cycle Route 765 to walk five miles and back to Doune. Now, I’m a wee bit apprehensive of cycle routes, having been very nearly mowed down a few times on the Kelvinside Walkway by ardent cyclists. (And no, I’m not of the intolerant ‘lycra-clad Nazi’ persuasion, a la Jeremy Clarkson. I just don’t fancy tyre treads tattooed on my face). But Cycle Routes pass through some of the best of Scotland’s countryside and they’re all way marked, so there is very little possibility of a person getting lost, even someone as relentlessly distracted as myself.

Leaving the Cathedral and following a brief walk along the river, I found myself walking through pebble-dashed Utopia, where the lawns are manicured, the cars are polished and everything is as it should be. These suburbs are quietly patriotic, with street names such as Bruce Avenue, Wallace Road and Scott Drive.

Soon I was out in the countryside with views out to the mountains beyond – which I have at one time climbed, but cannae for the life of me remember any of their names. It’s an age thing.

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I walked all the way to Doune without passing a single cyclist. I suspect that they may have been put off by the amount and size of the puddles, which were impossible to circumnavigate and, it being farmland, very dubby and not at all lycra-friendly. On arrival at the small town, I was pleased to note that the bunting was out for me.

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Mountain Memories

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I have a badly bruised bahookie. I was leaving the doctor’s last week, it was a dreich, drizzly day and I slipped and fell on the stone steps….aye-ya, or rather AYE-YA. As I had a hen island adventure weekend to attend (more of which later), I struggled on and largely drank my way through the pain for several days. On sobering up this week, I realised that I had a real pain in the ass and bruises that outdo Cheryl Cole’s tat.

This morning I hirpled back to the Doc’s and dropped my drawers to let him see the damage. After gasping and Goodness Me-ing a bit, he told me I’ve a large haematoma and that it will take a while to heal. So, no walking for me this week and to fill the time, I’ve been looking through some past pictures.

TOSHIBA Exif JPEG Aonach Eagach Ridge

My, what an amount of…

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Mountain Memories

I have a badly bruised bahookie. I was leaving the doctor’s last week, it was a dreich, drizzly day and I slipped and fell on the stone steps….aye-ya, or rather AYE-YA. As I had a hen island adventure weekend to attend (more of which later), I struggled on and largely drank my way through the pain for several days. On sobering up this week, I realised that I had a real pain in the ass and bruises that outdo Cheryl Cole’s tat.

This morning I hirpled back to the Doc’s and dropped my drawers to let him see the damage. After gasping and Goodness Me-ing a bit, he told me I’ve a large haematoma and that it will take a while to heal. So, no walking for me this week and to fill the time, I’ve been looking through some past pictures.

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Aonach Eagach Ridge

My, what an amount of mountains I climbed, how fit I must have been…..and man, have I gone downhill since! The featured image is me on the Ficaill a Choire Chais ridge on Cairngorm in 2000. The same year, I scaled the Aonach Eagach ridge (above), the thought of which now makes me quite pale and nauseous.

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The Route to Mustang, Nepal

The following year, I travelled to Nepal and trekked for three weeks through the Himalaya to the ancient Kingdom of Mustang. Shrouded in mystery, Mustang was closed for many years to foreigners. It finally opened its doors in 1988, although access is restricted and trekkers require a permit. Mustang lies in the rain shadow of the Himalaya and geographically is part of the highlands of Tibet. It is a vast high arid valley, characterised by eroded canyons, colourful stratified rock formations and has a barren, desert-like appearance. It was an amazing experience.

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A lovely young monk
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Nepalese children

A Plea to the Ferrymen

A plea to Calmac Ferrymen, please don’t spoil Oor Lindsay’s hen!

Arran is our port of call, where we’d planned to have a ball.

The girls arrive from far and wide, Auchrannie’s where we’re meant to bide.

Now we hear a strike’s been planned, how the feck are we going to land?

We’ve planned the gig for many a day and upfront we have had to pay.

We’ve tried to sort Plan B and C, but to be honest we’re all at sea!

So, please Guys, get us to the Isle, and help send Lindsay doon the aisle.

A Marina, Militia…….and Miners

Yesterday’s walk was an enjoyable and varied one, a circular route taking in two Roman hill forts on the Antonine Wall, as well as the Forth and Clyde Canal. The start – and finish – point was the Auchinstarry Marina on the canal, which has good facilities including a pub hotel, The Boathouse – Scotland’s first eco pub – and a scents and sensitivities garden.

From the marina I set off to the wonderfully-named village of Twechar which was built as a mining village in 1860. The original miners’ rows have gone but the ‘spirit’ of the bygone industry remains in the shape of the Twechar Miners’ Welfare and Social Club, of which I happen to be a member. Oh, yes. One Sunday afternoon some years ago, I was walking the canal when I found myself in need of a comfort break. I did a detour into Twechar in search of conveniences and spotting the Tennents red ‘T’ sign, I headed for the hall (pictured).

IMG_0555An old boy on the door informed me that to get inside, I would have to join the club. After some rudimentary paperwork, I was duly signed in and after using the facilities, I felt it would be rude not to partake of a small libation, especially as the place was in full swing. I got chatting to some of my fellow club members and before I left was invited to join the annual ‘booze cruise’ – a barge trip down the canal to Kirkintilloch. ‘But don’t tell any of the wives.’ I was warned by one erstwhile miner, ‘They’re not invited’.

From there, I followed a track uphill to the site of Bar Hill Roman Fort. Just south of the Antonine Wall, it was built around 142 AD and was once home to a garrison of 480 men from all parts of the Roman Empire. I then continued on to the top of Castle Hill, the site of an even earlier iron-age fort.

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Before returning to the canal path, I crossed Croy Hill on a grassy path that follows the line of the Antonine Wall. I’m not going to mention the weather as I could descend into full-scale rant, I just had to be content with rather gloomy views across the Campsies and beyond.

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The West Highland Way – A Very Scottish Challenge

We’ve done it!

Over the weekend we completed the West Highland Way Challenge for Breast Cancer Now*. It encompassed all those elements of Scotland that we love – breathtaking scenery, weather aplenty, chat and camaraderie, hearty food and a fair few swallies. It was a fantastic experience and we – me, Grace and Blonde Eleanor – are feeling rather gallus about our achievements.

We set off on Saturday to walk 14 miles from the King’s House Hotel at the entrance to Glencoe, over Rannoch Moor, through to Glen Orchy, with our small team arriving first at Bridge of Orchy. It will come us no surprise to anyone, that I ordered the first post-walk drinks at the bar.

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On Sunday, we departed from Bridge of Orchy to walk down to Tyndrum where we lunched outside The Green Welly, before walking to Crianlarich. It was a very pleasant walk with stunning views.

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Now, just so we’re clear, I’m not saying it was a piece of cake (although there was plenty of that, thanks to Eleanor’s fundraising bake-off). It was quite a trachle at times. It rained all day Saturday, there were pesky midges aplenty and there were many steep bits – leaving us with many stiff bits.  

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