Glasgow Gallivanting: November 2019

Glasgow from Cathkin Braes. The Gothic tower, centre right, is the main building of the University of Glasgow. The mountain in the background is Ben Lomond.

I can hardly believe we are now hurtling towards Christmas! November turned out much busier than expected, and December is much the same, hence the lateness of this post.

Out and about

The introductory image is taken from Cathkin Braes on the southern edge of Glasgow, and shows how close we are to the Highlands. This was Remembrance Sunday, and our walk that day took us through the village of Carmunnock at the foot of the Braes. We admired the War Memorial with its hand-crafted poppies from the service earlier in the day.

We managed to get a few more walks in November, despite the wintry weather. The late afternoon light on the Carron Valley Reservoir provided some beautiful reflections.

The Scottish Wildlife Trust Reserve at Loch Ardinning has featured before, so just merits a couple of shots this time.

I’ve featured many Scottish castles in beautiful locations – Newark Castle is rather different: it stands next to a shipyard. From here, we followed the Port Glasgow Heritage Walk, which might sound unlikely to those who know the area, but which was interesting enough to merit its own post at some (much) later date.

We gallivanted up to Dundee! I had a day on my own while John was at a meeting, then we stayed on for a couple of nights. Again, a full post will follow, but here’s a couple of tasters. I climbed Dundee Law where, as you can see, the weather was dreich. Outside the McManus Art Gallery, Oor Wullie was keeping warm in his Christmas jumper / sweater – but I bet he got wet!

Happy talk

The guided walk season ended in October, and what was supposed to be my last talk of the year, What about the women?, took place in Maryhill in November, billed as follows:

When Maryhill Burgh Halls opened in 1878, stained glass artist Stephen Adam was commissioned to produce twenty windows representing local trades of which eighteen showed men and only two showed women. Adam was representing what he saw at the time, but what about the women of Maryhill? What are their stories? This talk seeks to redress the balance of history by looking at how we commemorate women in Glasgow generally before telling some historic tales about Maryhill’s women – from factory worker to heiress, and everything in between.

Well – I thought that was going to be my last talk, until I was invited to do another one in December! And, gulp, it’s tonight! More about that next time.

Ghost Signs

We went to a really interesting talk at Glasgow City Heritage Trust on their current project to document as many of the city’s ghost signs as possible. What is a ghost sign? Well, my definition would be a faded old sign from times gone by, which has never been completely obliterated or which reappears when newer signs are removed. I was surprised to find how many Glasgow examples I had in my files.

This project’s remit is wider than that, and includes signs which are integral to the building. Some examples from my collection include the former Sorn Dairy, now a block of flats in Maryhill, with its name picked out in brickwork on the front (though still quite ghostly).

The former Tobacco Warehouse and the Children’s Hospital Dispensary (now part of the Art School) have solidly carved signs which I would probably not count as ghost signs at all, but they feature in the project because they advertise businesses or institutions which are no longer there.

Former tobacco warehouse, James Watt Street
Children’s Hospital Dispensary, West Graham Street

I definitely wouldn’t count the Jacobite Corsetry sign which could easily be removed, and remains by choice of the current owners. Not ghostly at all in my book! But definition disagreements apart, it was a fascinating talk and I now have something else to look out for on my walks around Glasgow.

Jacobite Corsetry, Virginia Street

The last bit

So many other things! Of course, there’s been a bit of political stuff going on – as if you hadn’t noticed. By Friday we should know the worst. In better news, we’ve had lots of family and friends stuff happening.

The main family news is the first baby of a new generation. Tommy was born in October, and Mum and I met him for the first time in November. He’s my cousin’s daughter’s son, which I think makes him my first cousin twice removed, but I’m prepared to be corrected. Here he is being held by his Great-Great Aunt (my mum) with his proud Great-Granny (my aunt) alongside.

As for friends, one of the most notable events was the visit to Glasgow of the lovely Becky of  The life of B. It was our second “real-life” meeting, the first being on her home turf of Winchester last year. She hadn’t been to Glasgow before, so I took her on a tour of the city centre.

Left to right above, a unicorn in the Cathedral, the dome of the Gallery of Modern Art which started life as an 18th century mansion house, and the Argyll Arcade, one of Europe’s oldest covered shopping arcades (1827) and Scotland’s first ever indoor shopping mall. We got wet, because it was – guess what? – dreich.

That’s twice I’ve mentioned dreich in connection with the weather! We had Book Week Scotland in November, which this year included a vote for the most iconic Scots word, and dreich was the winner. Originally meaning enduring or slow, tedious, over time these definitions gave way to dreary, hard to bear and from there to dull, gloomy. Dreich has been one of my Scottish words of the month before, as have many of the rest of the top ten: glaikit, scunnered, shoogle, wheesht, fankle, outwith, braw, beastie and bumfle. Maybe I’ll feature some in later months – in the meantime, if any intrigue you, you can ask me about them in the comments.

Finally, I’m never one to turn down a chance to rootle around in someone else’s library. Three of us from the Women’s Library visited the Goethe Institut and Alliance Française which share a 19th century terraced house in the Park District of Glasgow. Library staff were very welcoming (and served lovely cake and biscuits / cookies) and we came away with several ideas for future collaborations.

So that’s it for my November roundup, and I’m not anticipating posting again until December’s Glasgow Gallivanting. I hope we will meet elsewhere in the blogosphere before then, but if we don’t I wish you all the very best for the festive season. See you in the New Year!

Going up Doon Hill

River Forth at Aberfoyle

Yesterday, 1st December, was a lovely crisp, winter day so we decided to go for a walk in the Trossachs. We drove to Aberfoyle, less than 30 miles from Glasgow, and followed the trail to Doon Hill, home of the fairies. Allegedly.

The minister in Aberfoyle between 1685 and 1692 was Reverend Robert Kirk who had a strong interest in local folklore and wrote a famous book telling the secrets of the fairies. Doon Hill is the site of their revenge. The fairies were so cross with Kirk’s revelations that they kidnapped him and encased his soul in the pine tree at the top of the hill.

People sometimes leave offerings to the fairies in the form of clouties (cloths) in the hope that, as the cloutie rots, the illness or misfortune affecting the person on whose behalf it was placed will also vanish. It’s a few years since we did this walk, and it seems from the new trail notice, that some people aren’t quite getting the concept and are leaving non-biodegradable items which are never going to rot.

Something else that was new to us were the fairy houses, carved from tree stumps, on the way up the slope. Lots of offerings here.

On the other hand, the top of the hill seems to have been cleared quite considerably. We remembered the surrounding oaks all being decorated and bells tinkling in the breeze. Even if you don’t believe in the fairies, that made it quite a haunting place. Now, the offerings are largely confined to the central Scots pine, home to Rev Kirk’s soul. Or not.

After descending Doon Hill, the path took us through woodland, following the River Forth for a while, before returning to Aberfoyle. The frosty trees and the late afternoon light were wonderfully atmospheric.

It’s a while since I’ve linked up with Jo’s Monday Walk. If I’ve made you feel cold, I suggest you hop over there immediately for a warm in some Portuguese sun.

Attadale and Balmacara

Attadale House and Gardens

The fourth day of our highland holiday in July dawned dull and damp. We’d spotted Attadale Gardens on our way to Applecross a few days earlier and thought, optimistically, that if we pottered around there for the morning, we might be lucky with a brighter afternoon (spoiler: we weren’t). However, the gardens, including a sculpture trail, were well worth a visit, rain or shine. First, a few house and garden shots (the house is private, so you can’t tour inside).

Then the sculptures – there were 19 in total, so I haven’t included them all! These images are captioned with title and sculptor, so hover over, or enlarge, them if you are interested.

Finally – there was a tea room, The Old Larder. We had a hot drink when we arrived and sandwiches for lunch before we left: all very good, serve-yourself with an honesty box. And it was warm! We didn’t bother with the outside seating shown below.

So what to do next? It was raining harder than ever, so we thought we maybe wouldn’t get so wet under trees on a forest walk. I told you we were optimists, so we drove on to Balmacara.

The little settlement at Balmacara Square is a mixture of old estate buildings and newer houses, and now belongs to the National Trust for Scotland which carried out substantial renovations. It was good weather for the ducks!

The circular woodland walk we intended to follow from Balmacara was, we discovered, closed for logging about half way round. Our alternative route was, I suspect, a lot longer and we were soaked by the end of it. Good weather for frogs (or are they toads?) as well as ducks, not so good for us – but we’re still smiling! Just.

This was a day when we were particularly glad to be staying in an apartment rather than a hotel. Our clothes went straight in the washing machine when we got back and dried out overnight. Would we have better weather the next day? I still wanted to get to Skye …

Plockton and Duncraig Castle

Plockton

After diverting onto other topics for a few posts, I’m back to our summer trip to the north-west highlands. Eleven miles up the coast from our base in Dornie is the village of Plockton. It’s a bit of a film star having appeared in, amongst other things, The Wicker Man and Hamish Macbeth, a popular British TV series of the 1990s in which it played the fictional Lochdubh (pronounced Lochdoo). Hamish, the village policeman, was played by Robert Carlyle, and his love interest was Shirley Henderson: both have gone on to greater stardom.

After two sunny days for our Applecross and Glenelg jaunts, this day was cloudier and cooler. It made the views over Loch Carron beautifully atmospheric.

In the photograph above, you can see a large house, Duncraig Castle, near the top right. We would walk to it later (6km there and back), but spent the first part of the day wandering the village (and enjoying coffee).

We then set off up the road to find the path round the bay to Duncraig, stopping to look at Plockton’s open air church.

This dates from a time known as the Disruption (1843) when a number of Church of Scotland Ministers left to form the Free Church. The slopes of this natural amphitheatre were terraced to form seating and services were held here until a Free Church was built in 1845. An annual communion service was held until 1936, and since then it continues to be used occasionally and is classed as a monument of national importance because, although many congregations were forced to use open air preaching sites, few remain.

The path to Duncraig took us along the side of the loch, with views back to Plockton, with the Kyle of Lochalsh to Inverness railway line close by. We crossed this a couple of times.

As we got closer to Duncraig, we could see it had its very own request stop on the line! That’s what you get when you’re rich enough. The castle was originally built in the 1860s as the country seat of Sir Alexander Matheson who made his fortune selling opium to the Chinese.

The castle too has had TV fame, in 2003 when the then-owners took part in a reality TV series. The current owner is renovating the castle as a Bed and Breakfast and wedding venue. While writing this post I checked its website and the B&B is due to open in Spring 2020. I rather fancy the octagonal Tower Suite at a mere £350 per night!

Interestingly, the masonry company is called Loch Dubh in a nod, I presume, to Hamish Macbeth.

After the castle, we passed the stable block with its inscription Fear God, work hard, be honest. Then there was a bit of road walking till we could cut down a forest path to rejoin our original route back to Plockton.

By this time, it was mid-afternoon and we were very hungry. The Plockton Hotel was a welcome sight. We were interested to see that one of the houses which made up its accommodation had once been the home of poet Sorley MacLean.

This was my birthday, and we had originally planned to have a celebratory dinner that evening in the hotel in Dornie. However, as lunch was both large and late I was happy with that. In fact, I ate the best veggie haggis ever!

Not only that, thanks to several clever people posting their cards early so that I got them before we left home, I had a birthday display to look at in the apartment. It had been a lovely day altogether.

Loch Doon and Loch Cornish

On a bright, cold Sunday in October, we ventured down to Ayrshire to explore the area around Loch Doon. We arrived just in time for lunch and, although the ospreys which nest nearby had departed for warmer climes some months before, we still enjoyed watching them via video as we ate in the Roundhouse Café.

The view across the loch from the café is very pretty, and there is an interesting walk along the Ness Glen which leaves from its door. However, this was the day after the clocks went back and we knew it would get dark early. There was more we wanted to see along the road, including a castle, so we decided to save this walk for another day.

Loch Doon Castle looks ancient – and it is, but all is not what it seems. The castle was built in the early 14th century on an island in the loch. In the 1930s, the loch was dammed for a hydro-electric scheme and the water level rose. To save the castle, it was moved stone by stone and re-erected in its present site on the shore. Impossible to tell!

Just after the castle we took the winding, gravelly road that is Carrick Forest Drive. It was beautiful with some lovely viewpoints – and you might recognise the adventure playground which appeared a couple of weeks ago in my Walking the line post. I’m not entirely sure why one of the trees was dressed for Christmas in October …

At the end of the drive is Stinchar Bridge from where a circular walk climbs up through the forest to Cornish Hill and Loch Cornish. We decided we had just enough time to do this before sunset. (NB the name has nothing to do with Cornwall: the best explanation I can find is that it is an anglicisation of Loch Coire an Eas: the lake of the corrie of the waterfall.)

First, we followed the path through the mossy, fungi-rich forest.

Climbing upwards, we emerged onto open moorland before reaching the top of Cornish Hill. The autumn colours were stunning looking down to the loch.

We descended to, and crossed, the loch’s outflow (Water of Girvan) before climbing through trees and moorland again, then descending to a forest track which meets up with the forest drive a short distance from where we had parked our car.

It was still light, but only just – the 1.5 hour drive home was mostly in the dark. Once again, Scotland had amazed me with a lovely day out in a place within 60 miles of home which I’d never visited before. We’ll definitely be back – we still have Ness Glen to walk.

Glasgow Gallivanting: October 2019

Rainbow over Nethy Bridge

Strictly speaking, the rainbow above should have been in last month’s Gallivanting post. It was taken on a visit to my cousin on the last weekend of September, by which time the post was written and scheduled. However, it’s too good to waste! That’s it again below, along with a much feebler effort from Argyle Street in Glasgow. We had a lot of rainbows in the early part of the month, but every time I whipped out my phone they instantly faded. I liked this shot though, becuase it shows I wasn’t the only one making the attempt.

Riverside Museum / Street art

Riverside Museum, home of Glasgow’s transport collection. The Rest and be Thankful is a pass at the top of a steep climb on the A83 through the Arrochar Alps

The Riverside Museum down by the Clyde is somewhere we pop into often, but our latest visit was briefer than normal. We were on a hunt for street art! The railway arches opposite the museum have recently been given a makeover with 27 graffiti artists contributing. The murals are quite hard to photograph because it’s difficult to get far enough back without throwing yourself into the traffic on the Clydeside Expressway, but John did his best. NB a wean is a child – short for wee one and pronounced wane.

Walk round the other side of the arches and there is more to see. The project is led by the SWG3 arts venue which is also covered in murals. (SW stands for Studio Warehouse and G3 is the location’s postal code.) The area has so far kept its post-industrial look, which makes a change from similar sites nearby which have been covered with more and more student housing.

Edinburgh – Cut and Paste at Modern 2

Now that the Festivals are over, and there are fewer tourists around, it feels safe to visit Edinburgh again! We were meeting our friend Jim there for dinner one Saturday and went over early to see a couple of exhibitions. The best of these was Cut and Paste, 400 Years of Collage at the National Galleries’ Modern 2. Previously known as the Dean Gallery, Modern 2 was built as an orphanage in the 1830s and converted to a gallery in 1999. It makes good use of its grand staircases and high ceilings. The large sculpture shown below begins in the café on the ground floor and rises almost the full height of the building. The coloured tiles are in the Ladies – even the lavatories are artistic!

Cut and Paste was interesting and ended with two fun exhibits. Edinburgh resident Craig W. Lowe (b. 1982) covered his childhood wardrobe with stickers. The door was on show and we were encouraged to emulate Craig by sticking our own stickers to the museum’s entrance gate.

These days, of course, collages can be digital. Cold War Steve is a project by Christopher Spencer which started as a series of photographs of the Cold War era with Eastenders actor Steve McFadden (in character as Phil Mitchell) inserted into each one. Brexit has led Spencer into even more surreal territory with a series of dystopian photomontages peopled by politicians and celebrities, always with Steve looking utterly disgusted and bemused. Confused? There are some good examples on the Twitter feed @Coldwar_Steve which might help.

Harold, the ghost of lost futures

The collage above was created specifically for this exhibition and I can’t even begin to explain the significance of most of the characters – though the more I look at it, the more I recognise. Can you see Stephen Fry, Tom Jones, Kathy Burke, Alan Bennett, Slade, or Phoebe Waller-Bridge for example?

The tuba-playing Harold is a character from Neighbours. The ghastly yellow figure is Kingsley, surely the scariest football mascot ever. He belongs to Partick Thistle and I’ve even had my photograph taken with him after one of my guided walks. Eek! Everything is going to be alright is from an artwork by Martin Creed which is on display at Modern 1. It’s quite good fun looking for points of reference once you start. I should add that I have downloaded the montage legitimately – it is available on the Cold War Steve website in return for a donation to mental health charities.

Scotland puts on a show for family visitors

My sister and her husband were up from London visiting my mum this month, and were lucky to get amazing weather when we went to Irvine, Troon and Lomond Shores.

John’s Aunt Anne, along with two of his cousins and their spouses, also visited Scotland from the south of England, staying at Loch Monzievaird in Perthshire. (Don’t pronounce the Z!) We went to meet them for lunch in Crieff and enjoyed a walk round the loch later. Once again, it was a lovely day with Scotland looking its best.

Both Mum and John’s Aunt Ann turned 93 in October. Happy birthday to two fabulous ladies!

GlasGLOW

For the second year, Glasgow Botanic Gardens is hosting GlasGLOW, a Halloween sound and light show (on till 10th November). We went on the second night – there are a few highlights below. I particularly liked the pumpkin patch with lanterns carved by local schoolchildren, the three scarecrows, and the Pumpkin God. There were a lot of Brexit jokes – spot the pumpkin with the European stars!

The last bit

I like to have something quirky for The Last Bit! One Sunday, we had a beautiful autumnal walk in part of the Carrick Forest. That deserves a post of its own – coming soon – but for the meantime I’ll share the quirky towel dispenser I found in the Ladies of the café at Loch Doon. I assure you, I still have my hopes and dreams intact.

I’m not exactly an award-free blog, but I’m usually so far behind with the posts I want to write that I don’t have time to take part in awards and challenges, as is the case here. I’d like to thank Flavia Vinci for nominating me for the Blogger Recognition Award. Flavia is Italian, but works in tourism so travels the world taking stunning photographs. I definitely recommend you take a look at her blog – try one of my favourite recent posts, Iguazú Falls.

Finally, to my Scottish Word of the Month. The clocks went back at the end of October, it’s dark by 17:30, and temperatures have started dropping below zero overnight. It’s time to coorie in or snuggle up. October has been a colourful, outdoor month for the Gallivanter – I’m not sure November will be the same. Have a good one!

Walking the line

The marvellous Becky has been running one of her square challenges again in October, and this time it’s lines. Here I am, joining in for the first time on the very last day with three people walking the line with varying degrees of competence. Tail-end Charlie, that’s me, or as we say up here: the coo’s tail.

The first image was taken on a wet Sunday this summer, through the window of the Kinlochleven Climbing Centre. No, we weren’t climbing  – it was the only place open for lunch and we fell into it gratefully. We didn’t know there was going to be entertainment! The figure on the right, a boy of 16, fell off the aerial adventure course and didn’t have the strength to pull himself up again. In the end, it took two instructors to haul him back to the platform while the whole café watched enthralled. We knew he was roped on and thus always safe, if undignified, so didn’t feel too bad for gawping.

The next image is a busker in Buchanan Street, Glasgow, who managed to play the fiddle and walk the tightrope at the same time. He didn’t fall off, or at least not while I was watching. Most impressive!

Finally, we have John walking the line at an adventure playground in Carrick Forest in Ayrshire. He didn’t fall off either, though I don’t think the Olympic gymnastics team is going to be calling him up anytime soon …

Thanks, Becky, for another great challenge.

Glum in Glenelg

View from Mam Ratagan

One of the things I definitely wanted to do while we were staying in Dornie was to make the circular trip to Skye via the Glenelg ferry and back over the bridge. Day 2 of our week was another beautiful, sunny day which seemed the perfect opportunity. The first step is to take the steep and winding Mam Ratagan Pass (1115 feet) with fabulous views as seen above and below.

The village of Glenelg itself, or Kirkton of Glenelg to give it its full name, Glenelg being the name of the whole valley, was a strategic centre in the 17th century when a large barracks (the ruins of which we’d visit later) held the clans in check. Now, it’s a sleepy row of cottages round a shingle bay. The roofless storehouse seen by the bay was built by local farmers during the potato famine of 1837, to receive the quantities of food aid which came from the south. Just behind the old store is the Glenelg War Memorial, one of the most remarkable in the West of Scotland. It was presented to the community by Lady Scott of Ellenreach, designed by Robert Lorimer and sculpted by Louis Deuchars. The first name on the list of fallen is Valentine Fleming, father of Ian, the creator of James Bond.

After looking round the village, we took a side road to visit Glenelg’s three brochs. Brochs were built all over the west and north of Scotland and in the islands from about 500BC onwards. They are huge structures with double walls protecting against the elements. The first is Dun Telve. This one survived almost complete until the 18th century when it was partially demolished to reuse the stone for other buildings.

A short distance up the glen is Dun Troddan, the second broch. These two are unusually close and a bit of a mystery – did one replace the other, or were they lived in at the same time?

As luck would have it, the farm opposite Dun Troddan runs a small outdoor café and a bar. It was a little early for the latter, but coffee and cake at 11:30 are always welcome!

After our cake, we set off to reach the third, and apparently most spectacular broch, Dun Grugaig. I can’t tell you how spectacular it is because this was the point at which things went badly wrong and we never got there. We continued to the end of the public road where a narrow, wooden bridge led into a farmyard. Had we continued straight across this we’d have probably been alright, but we stopped and pulled in slightly to consider if we would be trespassing or not. Across the farmyard, we noticed a signpost to the broch and space to park, so we decided it was ok to carry on. However, we approached the bridge at the wrong angle and the back near-side tyre caught its curved, metal lip. Instant puncture!

Oh, my goodness, this was a low point. Newish cars these days don’t come with a spare wheel, just a repair kit which pumps a sticky substance into the tyre where it is supposed to set over the hole until you can get to a garage. This would be fine if we’d run over a nail and had a small pinhole, but we had quite a big rip and as fast as the substance was pumped in, it ran out again. You can just about see the rip about 2/3 of the way down on the right hand side.

I should add that we are entirely at fault here. We knew we had no spare and had intended to get one before we left, but hadn’t. Neither of us had any phone signal. In retrospect, I don’t know why we didn’t call at the farmhouse to see if anyone was in and could let us use their phone, but we chose to limp slowly back to Glenelg. Still no phone signal, but the barman at the hotel let us use the phone there. He was also reassuring. I had been very worried about how a breakdown truck was going to get across the steep, single-track pass to reach us, but the barman was blasé – oh, just phone your breakdown service and someone will come out from the garage at Kyle of Lochalsh in about four hours. Happens all the time!

So we had lunch, then took it in turns to take short walks to view the aforementioned barracks while the other waited with the car. Bernera Barracks were built around 1719 at the time of an abortive Spanish invasion. They also guarded the road to the isles and discouraged cattle rustling and blackmail. Today, only ruins remain.

In fact, it didn’t take four hours for rescue to arrive. By the time I got back from my walk a very nice young man was already loading our car onto his truck and off we set. It was the fourth time that week he had been over the pass to Glenelg – and there can’t be better views to have in your workplace. Sitting high in the cab was the only advantage of such an ignominious return journey: we saw so much more than on the way over.

Once back in Kyle, the wheel was swiftly changed and we were on our way. There was still quite a bit of afternoon left, so we had a quick walk round the village which, until a bridge was built in 1995, was the main gateway to Skye. Now traffic mainly thunders past over the bridge and Kyle is a bit of a backwater. There is still a small station at the harbour, part of which is now a museum. We noticed a memorial to the Iolaire which left from Kyle and sank off Lewis on New Year’s Day 1919 losing 205 passengers (mainly returning soldiers) and crew.

We climbed the Plock, a small hill with great views all around, including of the bridge which, as you can see, is actually two bridges with landfall on an island in between.

On the way back to our apartment, we made one final stop at Murchison’s Monument where there was another great view back to the bridge. Colonel Donald Murchison was loyal kinsman and factor to William, fifth Earl of Seaforth, during the Jacobite Risings of 1715 and 1719. When Seaforth’s title and lands were forfeited to the Crown, Murchison risked his life time and again to collect the rents and take them to his master in Paris. He was caught and imprisoned in the Tower of London until King George I, admiring his loyalty, pardoned him and gave him a grant of land. Unfortunately, Seaforth did not recognise the King’s gift. Murchison moved east and died disillusioned in middle age.

So although the day did not go to plan, and I was extremely glum in the middle of it, it could have been worse. We visited Skye a few days later, but by the prosaic bridge method. What did we miss? A passenger ferry has been in existence at Glenelg since at least the 17th century, and a car ferry since 1934. The current ferry, the MV Glenachullish, carries six cars and is the last operating manual turntable ferry in the world. Fortunately, Ruth’s Coastal Walk has an excellent post on the ferry, with some great pictures, if you want to know more. Someday, we’ll go back. But this time we’ll take a spare tyre.

The Applecross peninsula

View from Bealach na Bà

The first full day of our north-west highland break dawned bright and sunny – a good opportunity to cross the Bealach na Bà (Pass of the Cattle – 2054ft) to explore the Applecross peninsula. This is a classic drive on an old drovers’ road with a 1:5 gradient, switchbacks worthy of the Alps, and views across the Minch to Raasay and Skye. Before heading down the other side to Applecross village we climbed a small hill from where the views got better and better.

As we left, people just arriving reported an accident on the road behind us. An air-ambulance was mentioned, and we learned later in the week that a motorcyclist had broken his pelvis in a collision with a car – a sobering reminder to drive carefully.

Applecross sounds like a very English village, but the name derives from the Gaelic Apor Crosan meaning “estuary”. There’s not much there, though we found a good lunch (of course) – and deer!

By the time we’d had lunch, the road we had come down was blocked by a coastguard vehicle, presumably because of the earlier accident, but we were heading further round the coast to explore the grounds of Applecross House. We parked in a picnic area on the beautiful Applecross Bay from where we followed a 4km circular walk.

A short road walk took us to the Applecross river which we followed upstream into woods. We then climbed up the side of a small burn to a viewing platform – as on several of the walks we did on this holiday, there was much evidence of logging going on.

Next we skirted round the house itself – and even saw another “deer”! Applecross House was built by the Mackenzies around 1740, and the village largely grew up to service it and the estate. The Mackenzies also built the Bealach na Bà road in the 1820s – it remained gravel till 1956. Thank goodness for tarmac!

Behind the house was a walled garden – you can possibly tell by my determined gait that I’ve spotted a café at the end of that path. I smell coffee! And cake!

After refreshments, we explored the gardens a bit further. These two big kids couldn’t resist playing on the swings and treehouse.

Then we headed down the drive and back to the road and our car.

We planned to return the way we had come, but the Bealach na Bà was still blocked and we had to take the much longer, coastal route. Not a problem with these views and a herd of heilan’ coos (highland cattle) to look at!

We made a couple of stops at viewpoints over Loch Carron on the way home. I remember frantically checking my phone here, having had little or no signal until then. It was the day of the Wimbledon Men’s Final which was in an epic fifth set. I so wanted Roger Federer to win, but just after I logged in he dropped serve and lost. I couldn’t help feeling I was a jinx …

And the next day was jinxed too – I wanted to go to Skye, but it didn’t happen. Read on next week for our disaster in Glenelg!

Dornie and Eilean Donan

Eilean Donan Castle

In July, we spent a week in an apartment within walking distance of Eilean Donan, arguably the most romantic and most photographed of all Scotland’s castles. It’s a bit of a cheat though – originally established in 1230, it was destroyed during the Jacobite uprising in 1719 and what you see today was rebuilt between 1912 and 1932 by a British army officer, John MacRae-Gilstrap. The MacRae clan has ancestral links to the area and its war memorial is below the castle walls (see gallery below).

We took a stroll round the exterior after we arrived late on Saturday afternoon, and returned a few days later to look inside. No interior photography was allowed, but I think the exterior is the spectacular part anyway.

In the last picture above we are looking down from the castle onto the remains of a medieval tower (more or less obscured by a tree). Beyond it, immediately before the northern end of the road bridge, you can just make out our apartments. To the right of the bridge is the village of Dornie, and we finished our afternoon / early evening by following the dead-end road through the village to its termination at the small settlement of Bundalloch (just over a mile each way). We could again see our apartments on the other side of Loch Long.

In the last image above, the windows just above the fence belonged to us. I can highly recommend Eilean Donan Apartments which are operated by the same trust which owns the castle. The building was initially constructed as a hotel in the late 19th century, but has been extensively refurbished over the last few years into eleven self-catering units for 2-8 people. We loved it!

We settled in for our first evening, but the view across Loch Long to Dornie kept distracting us from making plans for the next seven days. These pictures were taken around 10pm – it’s wonderful when it stays light so late.

Spoiler alert: we did make some plans. What would the next day bring? Coming next – Applecross.