Ambles from Ambleside

North Cottage, Ambleside

Above is the Lake District home-from-home in which we spent a week at the beginning of June. We arrived on a Saturday afternoon, parked the car and didn’t move it again until we left a week later! This wasn’t what we originally intended, but we discovered that there were plenty of walks which we could do straight from the door, or using the efficient open-topped buses and, on one day, the Windermere ferries. So forgive the cheesy title, which I couldn’t resist: here are our ambles from Ambleside.

Sunday – Loughrigg Fell

It’s possible to do a circular walk from Ambleside taking in Loughrigg Fell. At only 335 metres / 1099 feet it’s not a very big hill, but the ascent is steep – however, if this was meant to be a warm-up for greater things it didn’t quite work out that way.

Monday – Wray Castle and Claife Heights

Windermere at Ambleside

On Monday, we purchased Walkers’ Tickets from the pier at Ambleside – three ferries with a walk in between ferries one and two. The first boat took us to Wray Castle which we’ve visited before. There have been improvements such as an upgraded café (whoop!) and new displays.

Wray Castle

The neo-Gothic “castle” was built in the 1830s as a retirement home for just two people, James and Margaret Dawson, using Margaret’s inheritance from her father’s gin business. Until recently it was assumed, given that marital law at the time gave a husband control over his wife and her property, that James was the driver behind this. However, research in Wray’s archives turned up proof that Margaret inherited as feme sole (sic), in other words had legal control over her own inheritance. It’s likely, therefore, that she had a much bigger role in building the new house than was previously thought.

Artworks and information panels throughout the house illustrated this. For example, I enjoyed a game on the giant Silk Stockings and Social Ladders board, a variant on Snakes and Ladders based on the prizes and pitfalls facing a respectable young woman of Margaret’s time. Staff insisted this should be played wearing a silly bonnet, which you can see I have whipped off in time for the photograph. Purse of Power considers the powers available to Margaret – or not. The trumpet banners represent the vote, which she did not have, and the juniper berries refer to her father’s gin fortune, which she did.

After the castle, we set off on a four mile walk to our next ferry. Well, it was probably longer than that because we chose an alternative route via Claife Heights. Actually, we’d have been better sticking to the lakeside as far as the views were concerned – with the trees in full leaf (not complaining) we only caught occasional glimpses through the gaps.

The path ended at the remains of an old viewing station, built in the 1790s for early tourists to the Lakes. In the 19th century it was also used for parties and dances, and the path from the courtyard below was lit by Chinese lanterns and coloured lamps. The small cottage in the courtyard was, at that time, the home of an old woman who welcomed visitors and escorted them to the station – including one of the Lakes’ most famous residents, William Wordsworth. Today, it houses a café where we had probably the best lunch of the week, albeit a late lunch at 3pm. (Don’t worry about us expiring, we had partaken of brownies at Wray Castle and we also have plenty of fat reserves.)

From here it was a short step to Ferry House where we caught a launch to Bowness, and from there a larger boat back to Ambleside.

Tuesday – Grasmere

The previous day, my ankle had started to hurt. I’d bashed it on something a couple of weeks before, and it seemed to have recovered, but obviously walking boots were applying pressure in just the wrong place, and when I took them off my ankle was bruised and swollen. An easier day was called for, so we caught the bus to Grasmere.

We know the village well, having stayed there on all our visits to the Lakes over the past 15 years. We started out in the Grasmere Tea Gardens, just visible to the left of the bridge above, which were established in 1889. In those days, visitors had to get out while their carriages crossed the River Rothay by ford and  the owner of the house, Mrs Dodgeson, served refreshments from her kitchen table.

After a riverside walk, we headed up to Allan Bank, a National Trust property. It was too nice to spend much time inside, so we mostly strolled its grounds and took its Woodland Trail. Great views from the Viewing Seat of the fells we wouldn’t be climbing!

For lunch, we headed to Lancrigg, the hotel we used to stay in. It used to be exclusively vegetarian ( a rare treat for me) but since our last visit three years ago it has been sold and now has a mixed menu. It still has great veggie choices though! After a final walk through Lancrigg’s woods and the lower reaches of Easdale we hopped back on the bus to Ambleside.

Wednesday – viewpoints over Windermere

On Wednesday, we were back on the bus, this time in the opposite direction to Bowness-on-Windermere. From here, we took a 3-4 hour circular walk to three viewpoints over the lake: Post Knott, School Knott and Biskey Howe.

Thursday – Brockhole

Brockhole – Lake District National Park Visitor Centre

By Thursday, my ankle was starting to feel better – and John’s knee was sore. What a pair of old crocks! We took the bus a few stops to Brockhole, built in 1899 as a family home. Since 1966, after a stint as a convalescent home for Merseyside ladies, it has been owned by the Lake District National Park Authority, opening as a Visitor Centre three years later.

We started on the café terrace (no surprise there) which you can see John is enjoying hugely. I had my eye on the couple at the far end who, it seemed to me, had the best seat in the house. As soon as they moved, I shot into their place – and proved myself right.

The grounds were being prepared for a big event at the weekend, so we didn’t linger. Crossing the main road, we climbed through farmland and forest to a path that took us back to Ambleside, looking down on the lake the whole way.

Friday – Rydal Park

Rydal Hall

By Friday, John’s knee was really hurting (the doctor has since told him it’s probably arthritis 😦 ) We chose another easy, circular walk, of which the route notes said: “This is a really soft walk with virtually no ascent. It is ideally suited to those recuperating from heart attacks, violent hangovers or loss of a leg.” Even so, for the first time in living memory it was John asking me not to go so fast.

The walk took us to Rydal Hall, these days a religious conference centre, so you can’t visit the house, but are free to wander the grounds. The sculpture in the gallery below, The Angel, was created in 2007-09 by Shawn Williamson from a piece of limestone from York Minster. The little “Grot” dates from 1688 and was deliberately built to provide a window to frame the view of the lower Rydal Beck waterfall.

The Hall does have a café, but we spurned that and headed off past Rydal Mount (Wordsworth’s home for many years and open to visit) and Rydal St Mary’s Church – both also spurned. We had a destination in mind – the Badger Bar where we have enjoyed lunch and a pint (or two) many times over the years, usually on a longer and tougher walk, but, hey – medicinal purposes!

After lunch, we took an alternative route back to Ambleside for the last night of a wonderful holiday.

Ambleside and its surrounds also featured in two of my posts for Becky’s recent roof challenge – if you missed them, see #RoofSquares 9-15 and #RoofSquares 16-22.

This post is linked to Jo’s Monday Walk, where this week she is in Krakow.

The Kelpies to the Falkirk Wheel

Falkirk Kelpies

Easter Monday: cold, breezy and threatening rain – but we needed to stretch our legs so I suggested walking the stretch of Forth and Clyde Canal between the Kelpies and the Falkirk Wheel, a return trip of about 8 miles. We’ve visited both before: I haven’t blogged about the wheel, but my previous post about the Kelpies explains what they are and has more pictures, including some taken on a tour inside the heads. I do sound a little grumpy in that post. The Kelpies had only just opened and parking and catering were a problem which new visitor facilities have now solved, so this time we enjoyed coffee and a scone before setting out on our walk.

I have to admit the walk was a little disappointing. We really enjoy tramping the canal banks round Glasgow and feel there is a lot to see. This stretch was largely through industrial estates and the like, and I wouldn’t bother with it again. However, there were a few interesting sights including a series of metal sculptures representing local personalities and trades.

First up was the vinegar bottle – in 1854, McAuley’s Vinegar works stood close by. Vinegar was used as a flavouring and preservative – and to mask bad smells at a time of poor sanitation. The smells at this point were good – the building behind John is an Italian restaurant. It was too soon after our scones for lunch, but we had high hopes of visiting on our return. Unfortunately, as we discovered about 4pm, it closed between 2 and 5 😦

The next sculpture is part of a national artwork project called Local Heroes. Not being from Falkirk, I didn’t recognise Dr Harold Lyon, founder of Strathcarron Hospice in 1981, Reginald Adams who trained numerous Scottish swimming champions, and Robert Barr – although I’ve certainly heard of the latter. Barr’s Soft Drinks are a big thing in Scotland, producing its other national drink, Irn-Bru (made from girders, according to one of its advertising campaigns, and originally called Iron Brew in 1904).

Whisky bottles adorn the banks opposite the old Rosebank Distillery which stopped production in 1993. However, new owners have bought the site and trademark and it seems that a new distillery, but with the same name, will soon be rising like a phoenix from the ashes.

At Lock 16 two pubs faced each other across a large basin where the Union Canal from Edinburgh used to join the Forth and Clyde. Still anticipating out Italian meal, we let them pass.

From here, there was quite a long stretch with nothing much to see until the colourful canal boats suggested we were getting close to the Wheel.

And here it is! The Falkirk Wheel opened in 2002 and links the Forth and Clyde and Union Canals replacing the old link of 11 individual locks, which was dismantled in the 1930s. A boat enters one of the wheel’s gondolas, each of which holds 500,000 litres of water, and the turning of the wheel then lifts it up or down to the level of the other canal. You remain in the correct position at all times, this is not a fairground ride! You can just see a boat emerging in the second picture below.

By this time, the threatening rain was a downpour and we set off back towards the Kelpies, discovering the closed restaurant on the way. There was nothing for it but to take our cold, wet selves home and cook our own dinner!

Linked to Jo’s Monday Walk which this week is in my native Northumbria.

A walk round Utrecht

The second day trip we took from Amsterdam last year was to Utrecht. Again, it was an easy train journey to a lovely historic city, by far the oldest we’ve seen in the Netherlands – it dates back to a Roman Fort built around 50 AD.

Instead of a walking map as in Haarlem, this time we had a little booklet with photographs of the main sights, so I might do a better job at identifying the buildings we saw. To start with, here are the medieval city castles of Oudaen (c. 1276) and Drakenburg (11th C) which face each other across the Oudegracht. It was much later in the day when we got round to Drakenburg, probably the oldest brick house in Utrecht, but I’ve included all the pictures here.

The first Dutch department store, with the unlikely name of Winkel van Sinkel, dates from 1837 and has four huge classical Greek statues as pillars. Again, I’ve included a picture as we passed it in the morning and a shot from later in the day.

We were heading for the Dom, or cathedral, which wasn’t very difficult as you can see. Just look for the tower! Although, at this time it was trying to hide in the mist.

We were surprised when we got there to find a large open square, the Domplein, between the tower and the rest of the cathedral – it has been this way since the nave was destroyed by a tornado in 1674! We spent sometime looking around inside what was left of the church: this was December 1st, hence the nativity scene (by Dick Bruna – more of him later).

Next to the Dom is the Academiegebouw, richly decorated home of Utrecht University:

And next to that, is the entrance to the peaceful Pandhof:

We now had a choice before moving away from the Dom. We could either climb the tower or go underground, but we didn’t have time to do both. We decided we’d been up many cathedral towers so exploring underground was the better bet. Just time to have lunch and a warm up, before setting off on the tour!

DOMunder takes you underneath the Domplein through the huge pillar foundations of the cathedral where archaeological finds dating back to the Romans are displayed. An interactive flashlight brings history to life, including “experiencing” the destructive tornado of 1674. No photography was allowed, so do follow the link at the beginning of the paragraph if you want to know more. It’s very good, especially as an English-speaking guide was provided for us as the only non-Dutch people on the tour. This guide was the only person in the whole week we were in the Netherlands who mentioned Brexit to us – in disapproving tones: “So. You are still doing Brexit?”  I was quick to point out that we were from Scotland where over 60% of those who voted chose Remain, but it seemed to cut little ice.

After our tour, we resumed our walk. The house with the turret was built around 1400 for a canon of the Dom chapter but is now used by the university. The red and white house was built by order of Pope Adrian VI (1459-1529) who was born in Utrecht, but he never lived there. The statue is of him. The French Baroque black door is a former Mayor’s house, and the other two images in the gallery below are just pretty street scenes that I like.

Next stop, the park at Lepelenburg where Dick Bruna strikes again – John was rather taken with this urinal, but I wouldn’t let him use it!

Onwards! So many more lovely buildings – hover over the gallery for captions, or click on any picture for a slide show. I’m running out of words!

We’ve already come across Dick Bruna a couple of times. This well-loved children’s writer and illustrator was born in Utrecht in 1927, and died there in 2017. Outside the Conservatoire, the last building in the gallery above, we came face to face with Bruna and Miffy, his best known character. We’d already passed the Miffy Museum – I wish I’d taken my hat off for that photo, but it was COLD! I think the tributes are all rather sweet.

Home stretch now! The light was fading as we came back round to the Dom (where the tower had now emerged from the mist) and made our way to the station.

This was our last night in Amsterdam, but we’ll soon be back. Our friends that we travel with each May have only made one brief visit to Amsterdam. They saw some of our photos and suggested we went there together, and John and I could act as tour guides! I can’t wait – not least because in May I shouldn’t need my woolly hat …

Linked to Jo’s Monday Walk – today she’s in South Shields, somewhere I knew well in childhood, where she discovers a Roman Fort.

Historic Haarlem

During our visit to Amsterdam last November, we took two trips outside the city. The first was to Haarlem, just 15 minutes away by train. As we left the station and walked towards the main square, we were already noticing lots of interesting historic and decorative buildings.

The square, Grote Markt, is the heart of the city  where we admired St Bavokerk, the 14th century Town Hall, and a statue to Laurens Coster who is believed by Haarlemmers to have a claim, along with Gutenberg, to be the inventor of moveable type.

There is a small Tourist Information Office in the Town Hall, so we headed there to pick up a walking map of the old town which we followed for the rest of the day. At first we passed mostly shops, some of which retained traditional signs such as this chemist (1849) and baker (1900).

Then we turned into residential areas, a higgledy-piggledy mix of narrow streets, small squares, churches and alms-houses.

Our steps then led us to 62 Groot Heiligland, formerly a poorhouse where the artist Frans Hals (1582-1666) spent his final years, and now a museum dedicated to him. We saw two interesting exhibitions, The Art of Laughter and A Global Table – both very good, but long over now so no point in me recommending them! Do you recognise Frans Hals’s friend in the bottom picture?

It seems our walk took us down to the canal after the museum. I really should write these trips up nearer the time – even with my map, I’m struggling to remember what all the buildings are, so much of the gallery below is not captioned.

A last hurrah for some more decorative features:

Then, in the faded light of late afternoon, we arrived back at Grote Markt from where we headed for the train.

With a few minutes to wait, we admired the art deco station, a national monument.

My Fitbit recorded 20,355 steps on this day, the second highest for our week in Amsterdam. The highest (almost 26,000) was the other day trip we did, to Utrecht. A post on that is coming soon – if I can remember it! In the meantime, this post is linked to Jo’s Monday Walk – today she’s in the beautiful North Yorkshire town of Knaresborough.

A walk on Great Cumbrae

Magnus the Viking

On Easter Saturday we decided to take a trip to Great Cumbrae, an island just off the coast of Ayrshire. Don’t be fooled by the name – the island’s circumference is only about 10 miles, but there’s also a Little Cumbrae so this one has to be Great!

We arrived at the ferry terminal in Largs and left our car under the watchful eye of Magnus the Viking. He appeared in 2013 to commemorate the 750th anniversary of the Battle of Largs in 1263, an indecisive engagement between the kingdoms of Norway and Scotland.

The ferry ride from Largs to Cumbrae Slip only takes about 10 minutes, but the skies changed dramatically during the short journey. When the ferry arrived in Largs, all was blue. When it dropped us off at Cumbrae, the skies were grey and a strong wind was blowing. That set the tone for the rest of the day.

A bus meets every ferry and takes passengers into the main settlement of Millport. After a quick coffee and scone as fuel, we set off on our walk. As we climbed out of the town, first stop was the old cemetery, used from 1703 to the 1930s. John spotted the 15th century “jougs” on the gatepost for manacling prisoners.

The road we were following ended at a golf course, so we struck off along farm tracks and onto open hillside. The Gowk Stane is one of several in Scotland – it means Stone of the Cuckoo (or fool) in Scots.

The path then dropped steeply down to the far side of the island where we made a small detour to the Fintry Bay tearoom for a hot drink – at least, we expected a tearoom, but it turned out to be outdoor seating only, so it didn’t warm us up much!

The toilet facilities were basic, but charming. We had read in town that due to council cuts, public toilets are now community-run. It seems that Suki is doing a great job in Fintry Bay. (Apologies, Scottish readers, for the scatological pun.) Cludgie is probably self-explanatory from the context.

From here, we followed the perimeter road and coastal paths round the headland back to Millport. Next stop, the War Memorial.

The views across to the islands of Bute and the more mountainous Arran behind it were amazingly beautiful, despite the clouds.

The road back into Millport took us past some splendid Victorian villas and then more humble terraced housing.

What next? Well, it was either a very late lunch or a very early dinner. We headed for the George Hotel where we met a friendly band of pirates and were entertained by a band as we ate.

We could have got the bus back to the ferry from outside the George, but decided to walk a bit further. We spotted a conference bike for hire and The Wedge which purports to be Britain’s narrowest house – that’s it to the left of the café, barely wider than its front door. Garrison House, built in 1745 to house the captain and officers of the Revenue Cutter Royal George stationed in Millport, is now the town’s library and museum.

Turning left, we went back uphill to the walled, wooded grounds of The Cathedral of the Isles, the smallest cathedral in Britain. It dates from 1851 when it was built as a theological college for the Scottish Episcopal Church – it’s still possible to stay in the old college buildings and the cloisters house a pleasant do-it-yourself coffee shop.

Finally, we made our way back down to the seafront to see Millport’s famous Crocodile Rock – the Clyde’s fiercest stone since c. 1900!

From here, it was a short bus ride back to the ferry and home. Who would have thought we’d meet Vikings, pirates and crocodiles on a tiny Scottish island?

Linked to Jo’s Monday Walk – join her and her band of fellow cyber-strollers.

A stroll round Lanark

Wellgate, Lanark

After our recent visit to the textiles exhibition at New Lanark, we walked up to the original town of Lanark and onwards to Lanark Loch.

Below are the clock tower of St Nicholas Church (1774) and the Provost’s Lamp (1890s). At one time, this ceremonial lamp-post would have stood outside the house of the current Provost (Mayor), but these days it is a permanent fixture outside the Tollbooth. The dog sits on the roof of a house in Castlegate. Sometime in the 1800s, a Miss Inglis lived opposite. She complained so much about her neighbour’s dog that it had to be put down, and in revenge its owner erected this statue so that she would see it every time she looked out her window! It’s called the “Girnin’ Dug” (the “Crying Dog”).

Lanark is one of the few Scottish towns with direct links to William Wallace, whom you possibly know from the film Braveheart in which he was played by Mel Gibson. St Kentigern’s Church (pre-1140s) at the entrance to the cemetery is where Wallace married Marion Braidfute – unfortunately, it’s fenced off so you can’t get inside. I loved the little skull and crossbones on this gravestone next to it – sweet rather than scary.

Nearby is the Murray Chapel, bequeathed to the community in 1912 by Helen Martin Murray in memory of her parents and siblings. It’s not possible to go in here either. The doorway is finely carved – if you can’t read it, the inscription says Thou wilt not leave us in the dust : Thou hast made us, thou art just.

Finally, we had a walk round Lanark Loch. The sculpture at the entrance, Spirit of Flight, commemorates the Lanark Airshow of 1910.

We made our way back to New Lanark along a lovely path called The Beeches – all downhill. What goes down, of course, must come up so we climbed the very steep steps to the carpark and headed for home.

Linked to Jo’s Monday Walks – this week, she’s camellia hunting. As for me, next week I’ll be back to writing about Amsterdam – there’s still more to tell!

The Birks of Aberfeldy (and other walks)

Breadalbane Stag

The Birks of Aberfeldy

Between Christmas and New Year we spent three nights in Aberfeldy in Highland Perthshire. The Birks (birch trees) of Aberfeldy is a famous walk, and also the subject of a Robert Burns song, a few words of which you can just about make out on the Breadalbane Stag above (Breadalbane being the name of the wider area).

The walk itself is a steep climb up one side of the Moness Burn and down the other. It’s the third time we’ve done it, the first being at a similar time of year in 2009, but with much more snow. Check out the two photos of Burns’ statue to see the difference! This year Rabbie, like the stag, has been decorated for Christmas.

I actually preferred walking on the deeper snow – it was more stable. In 2017, a thin covering of snow, followed by rain which froze over night, meant we slithered up and down to the Falls of Moness. Again, compare and contrast – in 2009 the Falls are frozen.

Black Spout

Another circular walk starts in Pitlochry, taking you past Black Spout waterfall and the Edradour Distillery (sadly, closed to visitors in the winter – a warming dram would have been nice).

Falls of Acharn

Yet another waterfall, this time above Loch Tay. Again, we slithered up one side of a gorge and down the other. The Falls are seen by walking through a so-called “Hermit’s Cave”, in reality an artificial structure built in the 1760s by the 3rd Earl of Breadalbane in order to conceal the view until the last minute. Some of these pictures look almost black and white but they are definitely in colour!

River Tay at Kenmore

Kenmore Hotel

No waterfalls in this walk! Kenmore is a model village built by the Lairds of Breadalbane. After lunch in the Kenmore Hotel, which dates from 1572, we walked downhill past Taymouth Castle gates.

Crossing the bridge over the Tay, we could see the back of the hotel, with its modern extension, on the other bank.

We walked along the river as far as a Gothic folly named Maxwell’s Temple, built by Lord Breadalbane in 1831 as a tribute to his wife Mary.

Returning through the village, we passed the church, white timbered cottages built by the 3rd Earl in 1760, and the Post Office which still advertises itself as a Telegraph Office (zoom in above door).

Aberfeldy

Should you ever need to visit Aberfeldy, we can recommend the Townhouse Hotel: comfortable rooms, a great breakfast and pleasant staff.

We ate in the hotel the first night and set out to explore on the other two – not that we got far: The Three Lemons was just across the road. We had a lovely dinner on night 2, but liked the look of the pizzas on the next table so much that we went back on night 3 to try them. Delicious!

Linked to Jo’s Monday Walks, which this week comes from Lisbon and is a much sunnier prospect than Aberfeldy.

Edinburgh: a Canongate walk

White Horse Close

After our recent visit to the Scottish Parliament, we walked slowly up Canongate exploring the closes, or courtyards, to either side. Canongate itself is over 800 years old, and was a separate burgh from Edinburgh until 1856. Its name comes from the Augustinian Canons of Holyrood Abbey who, in the 12th century, were given permission by the king to build on either side of the path, or “gait”, between the Abbey and the Old Town of Edinburgh.

Immediately opposite the parliament is White Horse Close (above) which takes its name from an inn which once stood there. The buildings have been restored, but still give a good impression of how the courtyard must have looked hundreds of years ago. Zoom in on the window above the stairs and you will see that it is dated 1623.

Further up Canongate is 17th century Panmure House, once home to the economist and philosopher Adam Smith. It’s currently undergoing renovation so it was hard to get a photograph to do it justice.

Panmure House

Not all the closes hide old buildings – tucked away in Crichton Close is the Scottish Poetry Library (1999).

Scottish Poetry Library

Next we explored Canongate Kirkyard – like all these places, apart from the Poetry Library, somewhere I’ve walked past many times without investigating. I was surprised how extensive the Kirkyard is.

The next close was my absolute favourite – Bakehouse Close is home to Acheson House, built in 1633 for Sir Archibald Acheson and now the home of Edinburgh World Heritage. The Acheson family crest, a cock and trumpet, is above the door.

Why do I love it so much? The information panels on the wall about Rangers Impartial List, a 1775 guide to 66 of Edinburgh’s prostitutes. Many of the closes in the Old Town housed brothels, and Acheson House was one of them, then known as the Cock and Trumpet after the crest. The list pulls no punches in assessing the women’s appearance and skills – I hope you can enlarge the panels sufficiently to read some of it. I particularly like Mrs Agnew, a “drunken bundle of iniquity” who would think nothing of a company of Grenadiers at one time. At 50!

A couple of shots as we made our way to our next stop – the Tolbooth Tavern on Canongate peeking through an archway, and a further example of modern buildings behind old ones. These are student flats, with a lovely view of Salisbury Crags.

Another 17th century mansion is Moray House, now owned by the University of Edinburgh. The buildings round about comprise the University’s School of Education.

Next up is Chessel’s Court with this traditional 18th century Edinburgh ‘mansion style’ tenement, originally built to provide better accommodation for relatively wealthy residents of the Old Town. Back on Canongate, we were observed by a strange statue which is said to represent the Emperor of Morocco.

Finally, we turned the corner into St Mary’s Street, the site of Boyd’s Inn where Dr Johnson stayed in 1773 on his way to meet James Boswell for the start of their journey to the Hebrides. I liked the shop opposite with its rather cross looking bull!

From here, we headed across to the New Town and our visit to the ice sculptures which I’ve written about previously. I was soon to find out that it was possible to shiver even more on this bitterly cold December day!

I hope you’ve enjoyed your tour through part of old Edinburgh. I’m linking to Jo’s Monday walks – the blue skies of Portugal should warm you up after this chilly post!

A walk round Kerrera

Remember this view from last time? Our window in Oban looked out on the island of Kerrera which we were determined to explore. A small passenger ferry runs from Gallanach, a couple of miles along the coast from Oban. Unless you live on Kerrera (current population about 35) no vehicles are allowed.

There are two possible walks suggested, the southern loop taking in Gylen Castle (and nearby tea garden – vital!) or a linear walk to the northern tip where there is a monument to  David Hutcheson, one of the founders of the Caledonian MacBrayne Ferry service. We chose the 11km loop to castle and tea garden / bunk house.

Kerrera

From the ferry, we turned left along Horseshoe Bay and Little Horseshoe Bay. We hadn’t gone far when we discovered the tea garden owners were enterprising in a quirky sort of way. The slates read Hello! Is it tea you’re looking for? Lionel Rich Tea. 

From here on our walk was punctuated by teapots – and cattle. At one time, Kerrera was a stepping stone for transporting cattle from Mull (the much larger island behind it) to the mainland.

Sometimes the teapot messages were really helpful. Cake!

The path to the castle was just before the tea garden but we chose to go for a cup of tea first, then explore the castle and return for lunch. Might as well make full use of the place! It was a lovely sunny day, but even if it hadn’t been there was comfortable indoor seating in the old barn.

The quirkiness continued in the bike park (an old tree trunk, click to enlarge to make it clearer).

And the toilet which is twinned with a toilet in Pakistan.

The ruined Gylen Castle, dramatically perched on a rocky outcrop, was built in 1587 by Duncan MacDougall of Dunollie, the 16th chief, on the site of an earlier fortification.

From the castle and tea garden, the path followed the more rugged western edge of the island before crossing back to the ferry point. And, of course, just in case anyone was walking the loop in the other direction, there were more teapots.

This was an absolutely beautiful day and I’d love to go back to Kerrera. The next day, we were heading back home from Oban and the weather was not so kind to us. We still made some interesting stops, though – next time!

I’m linking this post to Jo’s Monday Walks. Pop over for some Portuguese sunshine, I could certainly do with that today!

Kananaskis

At Kananaskis Village

Kananaskis Country, south-east of Banff National Park, is an area we had not explored on our previous visit to the Canadian Rockies. This time, we enjoyed a stay at Kananaskis Village – basically, Delta Lodge and a few attached businesses. Originally developed for the 1998 Winter Olympics, it was later chosen to host the G8 Summit in 2002 for its get-away-from-it-all ethos – what world leader could complain at being surrounded by scenery like the above?

The main hike we did here was a lovely trail round Upper Kananaskis Lake, starting at the Upper Lake parking lots at its south-east corner.

Upper Kananaskis Lake near parking lot

From there, we crossed Upper Lake Dam (both Upper and Lower Kananaskis Lakes are now reservoirs).

Upper Lake Dam

We continued round the lake drinking in the views:

On the north shore, the path began to climb above the trees –

View from north shore

– ending in a huge boulder field, dazzling in the sun.

After picking our way down through this, we encountered rivers and falls as we made our way back along the west shore.

Two final panoramic views – as we neared the parking lot we could see people out on the lake enjoying the boating life.

I admit my feet were sore after this walk – our first of the holiday and yet, as measured by Fitbit, the longest of all at over 30,000 steps (although there wasn’t much climbing: we did much steeper hikes later on).

A last word on Kananaskis Village. There are two routes in and out.  On the way in, we took the long way round – the unsealed Smith-Dorian Road via Spray Lakes.

On the way out, we stuck to Hwy 40. When we woke up that morning it was pouring with rain, but by the time we got out onto the highway this had cleared to leave a pleasing mist over the mountains. I also include what I think is the only picture of our hire car, a Nissan Rogue, which served us well for three weeks.

Where were we headed? Into British Columbia’s Glacier National Park. Nostalgia is involved. In the meantime, I’m linking this visit to Jo’s Monday Walks. She takes us to Northumberland this week.