Achmore and Lochalsh: two short walks

On the Achmore Circular

On our last day in Dornie last summer we visited the castle in the morning, which I’ve already written about, and did two short walks in the afternoon. The first, the Achmore Circular, took us from the small village of Achmore across some very wet fields to the shores of Loch Carron. I presume the randomly placed bath was for livestock to drink from – or had it just been abandoned?

Our (driving) route to our next walk took us past the Croft Café in Duirinish and we couldn’t resist stopping. Cake! We didn’t choose an outside table, however attractive they looked, because the midges were out – I think this was the only place we were bothered by them all summer.

Our final stop was the Lochalsh Woodland Walk which also took us through the gardens of Lochalsh House. This was a very pretty walk, out through the woods and back along the shore.

We then went back to our apartment for our last evening in Dornie – but we weren’t going straight home the next day. We had two nights in Ballachulish to look forward to.

A virtual tea party

Cup and Saucer Vintage Tearoom

The lovely Su at Zimmerbitch is inviting us to a virtual tea party every month. I make no apologies for taking you back to my favourite Glasgow tearoom, The Cup and Saucer, which featured recently as part of Becky’s January Squares. You might recall that I arrived three hours early to meet my friend Esther, and had to go home and come back again! On that occasion, I was the first person in the tearoom when it opened at 11am, and I restricted myself to a simple black coffee.

However, here’s what Esther and I usually have when we meet – a full blown cream tea. Yum! I’ve even got a selfie in the teapot.

I do usually try to eat more healthily than that, honest. In Su’s post, Care to join me for a cuppa?, she reflected on her eating habits in a way which really resonated with me.

 … my food preferences are really a food philosophy. I want to “do good”; for my physical and mental health, for my bank balance, for small businesses, and for the environment. That means I eat home-grown where I can, buy as much as possible from local, preferably organic growers, avoid foods and manufacturers I believe to be harmful or unethical … and a bunch more considerations I won’t bore you with but which make trips to the supermarket time-consuming, frustrating and really difficult without my strong glasses to read the small print.

Funnily enough, when I met the aforementioned Becky, Queen of the Squares in Glasgow recently, we had a conversation on the very same topic. I’m a vegetarian, there are some countries I just won’t buy from on political grounds, and in the light of climate change I’ve also been trying to restrict the food-miles in my diet, because it seemed that every vegetable I bought was flown in from Spain, or even further afield. My trips to the supermarket can therefore be just as time-consuming as Su’s.

Becky has travelled much further down this road than I have, cooking with only vegetables grown in the UK. She recommended buying one of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s vegetable cook books, which I duly did, and I’m now trying to do the same thing.

How’s it working out? Well, I so miss my Mediterranean diet of peppers, courgettes and aubergines, and I’ve had to rethink my approach to cooking which was previously what I called the bucket method. Fling some combination of the above vegetables into one pot and, depending on what else I added, it could turn into sauce for pasta or couscous, curry, chilli – you get the picture. Seasonal in the UK right now are root vegetables and brassicas and I’m finding that really hard – literally in the case of the root vegetables. I’d never prepared celeriac before, and I can tell you I never will again! However, I now have half a dozen suitable recipes in my repertoire and I shall persevere. It doesn’t do to get lazy in one’s choices, so thank you to Becky and Su for making me think.

Have you been thinking of food recently? (Silly question. If you’re like me you’re always thinking of food.) All contributions to the virtual tea-table welcome!

Over the bridge to Skye

Skye Bridge from Kyleakin

Way back in November, I abandoned my diary of our summer trip to Dornie in the North West Highlands. Even further back, in October, I wrote about our first, abortive, attempt to visit Skye via the Glenelg ferry. That was scuppered by a puncture. Now it’s time to resume the tale. A few days later, we made it to Skye by simply driving over the bridge from Kyle of Lochalsh to Kyleakin.

Both Kyle and Kyleakin would have been much busier before the bridge was built in 1995, with ferries shuttling back and forth on the five-minute crossing between their harbours. Now both can be easily by-passed, although Kyleakin seems still to be a popular stop for coach trips. However, most tourists headed straight for the coffee shops so wandering the village was a peaceful pastime.

First we climbed to the War Memorial where we had good views of Castle Moil.

Then we made our way towards the castle, enjoying the quirky art work, gnome-decorated gardens, and signs that Kyleakin has not given up on the dream of Scottish independence. The sculpture of Teko the Otter is a nod to Gavin Maxwell who wrote Ring of Bright Water and once lived on Eilean Ban, the island which now joins the two parts of the Skye Bridge.

Castle Moil, or Maol, stands on a promontory a few hundred yards from the village’s slipway. There’s not much left of it, especially after it was damaged by lightening a couple of years ago and lost about four metres from one of its towers. The warning signs are there, about both falling masonry and the dangers of being cut off by the tide. Still, it’s a pleasant climb and the views back to the village and bridge are pretty.

Just outside Kyleakin we stopped to climb Cnoc a’Mhadaidh-ruaidh (hill of the fox). As on many walks last summer, we found there had been a lot of logging, which rather detracted from the appeal, but the views back to the bridge were interesting. It looked very odd from this angle. In the wider view you can see Eilean Ban (with the lighthouse) which the road crosses before continuing over the second part of the bridge beyond.

From here, we drove to Broadford, the next village, where we explored a small park and the harbour, then partook of a welcome coffee – next to a bookshop, which I managed to resist.

Beyond Broadford, we found another forestry trail which took us in a loop above the sea, and back past the cemetery.

After our walk, we set off back to the mainland and our base in Dornie. If you think of Skye as a mountainous island, you are right, which means you might be puzzled by this post as it looks quite flat. However, if Skye were a house we would barely have made it into the entrance hall. We’d had a lovely time though, and it wasn’t over yet.

In the next village to Dornie, Ardelve, there is a ‘pizza hut’ which we had promised ourselves we would try before we left. Pizza Jo has to be the quirkiest pizza place ever, and if you visit the area I highly recommend it.

Also on site is Manuela’s Wee Bakery (closed by the time we got there) and the Fairytale Distillery, all run by the same German family. While our pizzas were being made we sampled some gin and, as I’m sure you’ve guessed, we left with a bottle. The pizzas were absolutely delicious too! A lovely end to a lovely day.

Glasgow Gallivanting: January 2020

Celtic Connections, 2020

Music lovers don’t get long to recover from the festive season in Glasgow: Celtic Connections, Glasgow’s annual folk, roots and world music festival, arrives in the last two weeks of January. This year there were over 300 events, 2,100 musicians performing, and 130,000 attendees. As usual we had a ball, attending six concerts at four different venues. We ended the month exhausted, in a happy sort of way, and considerably heavier given that before every concert we had a pre-theatre meal and sometimes a pint of Festival Ale.

Out and about

The weather has been dreadful – rain, rain, rain. Our only day out away from Glasgow was an exception – a bright, cold Sunday in Stirling. Some aspects of that day have already featured as part of Becky’s January Squares Challenge, and there are so many other photographs that I feel it merits a post of its own. However, we did quite a lot of wandering around Glasgow, always searching for interesting details. For example, I didn’t know before that the CCA (Centre for Contemporary Arts) on Sauchiehall Street is housed in a ‘Greek’ Thomson building (Alexander Thomson, 1817-1875, so-called because of the many Grecian features of his architecture). It’s obvious when you look up!

Further along Sauchiehall Street, we came across ghost signs, angels, torch bearers and regimental flags.

Round the corner at Charing Cross are the magnificent Charing Cross Mansions and the drunken-looking Cameron Memorial Fountain. No longer in use, it was built as a tribute to Sir Charles Cameron (1843 – 1913), a much respected newspaper editor and Liberal MP. Some say its tipsy lean is due to subsidence from the building of the nearby M8 motorway in the 1960s, but apparently photographs from the 1950s show that it was already listing then.

Moving down to Argyle Street, I have long been fascinated by the Buck’s Head Buildings – also by Alexander Thomson (1863). I was glad John had his camera with him to get a close up of the buck itself, now sadly eroded.

We were on our way to Street Level Photoworks at Trongate 103 to see their Oscar Marzaroli exhibition (on till 15th March). Italian-Scot Marzaroli (1933-1988) photographed Glasgow from the 1950s to the 1980s, often concentrating on the poorer areas. Many of his images are very well known – I particularly wanted to capture Gorbals Boys, three young lads playing in high-heeled shoes, but it was in the corner by the window and the reflections were terrible. For comparison, see the sculpture by Liz Peden which reproduces the scene in today’s more modern Gorbals.

Marzaroli was a friend of artist Joan Eardly, and I loved the portrait shown below of some of the Samson children whom she often used as models. Another comparison – check this link for an example of Eardley’s painting and a picture of two of the Samson children as they were in 2016. Bonus image – a smiling John in the gallery complex at Trongate 103.

Street art

At the beginning of January, I noticed that many of the Big Heids seen around town had been upgraded to Christmas versions, and some of them had acquired wee pals.

Where’s a bench challenge when you need it?

Can it really be 5 years since Jude was looking for our benches? My eye was caught by this one in George Square, set up in memory of a long running equal pay dispute with Glasgow City Council. 163 women died while they were waiting for their claims to be settled, a disgraceful statistic.


Burns Night

We were out at a concert on Burns Night this year. However, John was invited to a Chinese Burns Supper (not painful!) a few nights before which looks to have been a glorious cultural mix. On the same night, I was out at a party at the Women’s Library to celebrate the installation of their new boiler. I don’t have a boiler suit so couldn’t dress the part, but several people did, including my friend Anna. I’m happy to self-identify as an Old Boiler without labelling myself as such!

The last bit

So after many false starts, the UK finally Brexited at 11pm on 31st January – sort of. There’s a transition period till the end of the year so not much will change till then. There were some celebrations in Scotland, but mostly sorrowful vigils – this country voted to remain by 62%. In Glasgow that figure was almost 67%, and in typical Glaswegian fashion Wellington’s traffic cone was updated to suit the occasion.

So those are my January highlights – better late than never! Happy what’s-left-of-February to you all.

January Light: reflection

I was going for reflected-light today to describe this shot of St Andrew’s RC Cathedral in Glasgow. Then I realised that the pesky lamp-post ruining the view allows me to use lamplight or streetlight, thus finishing January Squares within the rules – words ending in light – without relying on a hyphen. Woohoo!

All that remains is to thank the wondrous Becky for hosting such a fun challenge. During the month I came across this quote by novelist Edith Wharton (1861-1937):

There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it.

Becky is our candle and we have all been little pieces of her mirror.


JanuaryLight: raincoat

Why am I posting a picture of a raincoat? Because it reminds me of this couplet from the song Big shot, by the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band, which has always tickled me:

A punk stopped me on the street. He said, “You got a light, Mac?”
I said, “No, but I’ve got a dark brown overcoat.”

I don’t have a dark brown overcoat, but I do have a light mac! On this penultimate day of the January Squares words ending in light challenge I hope you will also delight in the joke. Or maybe you won’t. Forgive me, Becky, for mucking about with your theme.

January Light: churches

Two churches in Glasgow’s West End, both with spectacular floodlight. Above, Wellington Church (Thomas Lennox Watson, 1883-4) with its splendid Corinthian columns. Below, Kelvinside Hillhead Parish Church (James Sellar, 1876) modelled on the Sainte-Chapelle in Paris.

Linked to Becky’s January Squares challenge – words ending in light.


January Light: lamp stall

Lamplight on a stall at Edinburgh’s Christmas Market a few years ago. Below, a café in Tarbert with very similar lamps – another two squares which were taken for a previous challenge (Timesquare) and not used. Waste not, want not!

Part of Becky’s January Squares challenge – words ending in light.

January Light: The Lighthouse

No, not a lighthouse, The Lighthouse – Scotland’s Centre for Design and Architecture. Formerly housing The Glasgow Herald, The Lighthouse was the first public commission completed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh. I’ve included it because I love the lamplight on its atrium and the bluelight on its escalators.

Linked to Becky’s January Squares Challenge – words ending in light.