A walk,a climb and a run in Wester Ross

It wasn’t all lazing about when I was on holiday. On one of the really nice days I headed off on the track to Slaggan Bay. This is the view looking back from near the start where you can see the single track road I had just left.
The mountain is An Teallach – one of the iconic Munros although I have to say it doesn’t look so impressive from this side. I had been allowed 80 minutes for the 10k route when my lift would return for me so I marched fairly resolutely along the track. Quite soon the first loch came into view and you can just make out the track on the right of the picture.
Not long afterwards the second and larger loch came into view.
I know you shouldn’t keep looking back when you are walking but I found myself repeatedly being drawn back to views of An Teallach, Beinn Mor Dearg and the Fisherfields.
Before long I was at Slaggan – a ruined settlement. The only inhabitants were Highland cattle and they seemed surprised to see me. There is a gorgeous bay at Slaggan with a glorious beach.
It looks an idyllic place to swim but I’m told that the currents are dangerous so care has to be exercised.

The last couple of times that I have been up Flowerdale Glen near Gairloch I have spotted this impressive little rocky hill.
I’m not sure that the picture does An Groban (383 metres) full justice. Trust me it is steep. This time round I decided that I had to climb it. The obvious route is the west ridge but the estate are carrying out “construction work” and the track had a large “Closed” sign on it. Normally I ignore these but I had actually decided to tackle the brute straight on so headed off to the right. Soon I was scrambling up a gully which led to rocky slabs. The rock was good, with good grips so the scrambling which ensued felt fairly safe albeit pretty exposed in places. Before long I was on the summit ridge and the photo I took shows both that the west ridge would have been much easier and also that there really is construction work going on – follow the bulldozed track to see it.
It was a stunning viewpoint to the west, the islands, peninsulas and in the other direction the wonderful Torridon hills which almost seemed to be within touching distance.

I also did a 10k run on holiday just so that I wouldn’t forget how to do it and to punish myself for all the scones and cakes that I had been devouring. There are no photos of this run but it was lovely to run in such gorgeous surroundings and marvelous views. Certainly beats running in Edinburgh.


The glories of Wester Ross

Now we know that it is sometimes wrong to have a favourite. I was my parent’s favourite child – but only because I was an only child. When you’re a boss it is very wrong to have favourites among your staff. And part of me says that because I love the whole of Scotland I shouldn’t have a favourite part. But confession time – I do have a favourite and it is Wester Ross. And here’s the reason why.
Or maybe you need more evidence
Maybe a nice sunset would persuade you
Or an unspoilt beach?
Need I go on?
The scenery is fabulous; the pace of life magnificently slow; just the right combination of majestic mountains, beautiful moorland, beaches, loch and sea, islands and unspoilt panoramas. And we regularly rent a cottage that has this rather decent view from the living room window.
So it was a very excited boy who was picked up after completing his 91st Edinburgh parkrun 5k a week past Saturday to head north – destination Strath, Gairloch, Wester Ross. It was a gorgeous day and the journey north improved the further we got. You can never totally relax on the A9 because of the lunacy that it seems to attract – please expedite the dual carriageway Scottish Government! But once you’re over the Kessock Bridge onto the magical A835 you start heading north west and the eye is continually drawn to the left to the glorious mountains that become more and more visible. But the best is saved for last – the majestic A832. If you ever wondered if it is worth being in the European Community then the funding of the Achnasheen to Kinlochewe road and the outstanding roadside walls alone should convince you. After Kinlochewe I couldn’t resist a picture of Slioch which of course doesn’t begin to do it justice.
We had a glorious week in Wester Ross enjoying drives, walks, coffees out, reading, relaxing and generally adapting to the pace of life. I’ll leave you with another sunset and a final picture of Wester Ross

ullapool and life

I’m still feeling the benefit of my holiday in Ullapool. There is some amazing scenery in and around the town.
Wonderfully sharp hills rising majestically.
Ullapool itself is defined by its importance as a ferry route and life very much revolves around the ferry from Stornoway arriving and departing two or three times a day. I found myself taking lots of photos of the ferry coming and going and you can see the various weather conditions we experienced from the following.
It was very evident that life in the town revolves around the arrival and departure of the ferry. The area around the harbour and ferry terminal would become very busy as the arrival of the ferry approached. Once moored all the passengers and various forms of transport have to be unloaded. After that all the travelling passengers and various forms of transport have to be loaded. I was going to write that it was all done very speedily and efficiently. But we are very definitely talking about a very different pace of life here. And nothing whatsoever is rushed. The story is told of the visitor to the Highlands who became exasperated at how long everything took to do in the area where he was on holiday. Finally his patience snapped and he asked a local : “What’s the equivalent of manana in Gaelic?”
The local scratched his head for a minute then replied seriously : “In the Gaelic we have no word which expresses that degree of urgency.” And the story (surely apocryphal) is told of a time in the 1960’s when a tourist went into a Highland shop and asked for a newspaper. The shopkeeper asked : “Do you mean yesterdays’ or the day before?” The tourist, reasoning that he would make the best of a bad job, said “Yesterdays'” “Come back tomorrow then” was the reply.
Now things have moved on and the ferry timetable is (loosely) observed. The tides ebb and flow. The ferry comes and goes. People help each other and great hospitality is shown to visitors. You could observe the same in a dozen Highland ports. It is a bit like life and more particularly how life should be lived.

Hurray for holidays!

I’m just back from a week’s holiday in Ullapool – a ferry port in the north west of Scotland. I’m a great fan of the north west in general and Wester Ross in particular. The scenery is stunning; the pace of life is dead slow and stop; the natives are friendly; the air is wonderfully fresh and you literally can leave your troubles hundreds of miles away. When I say scenery I’m talking about views like this :
The above is a view of Stac Pollaidh from the road to Achilitibuie. And it is isn’t just the mountains. The sea and islands are pretty special too :
These are some of the Summer Isles – probably called that because you wouldn’t want to go near them in winter.
And if you’re wondering why the whole world hasn’t relocated to the Scottish Highlands then the two reasons are the weather and the midge.

We were extremely fortunate with the weather this time round and the gentle but persistent breeze kept the dreaded midge away so it was win, win for us.

It was good to get away and breathe in some wonderfully fresh air. And eat whatever we liked for a week. I haven’t dared weigh myself since I came back but a week of scones, cakes, fish and chips (twice), ice cream and chocolate have definitely taken their toll!