Friday, 29 June 2012

Laggan: Lost World

Yesterday Ian and Sandra braved a poor weather forecast to join me on a circular walk from Lochranza, around the Cock of Arran, and back over the moor from Laggan Cottage.  The walk takes in some very remote coastline, rough boulders on the beach, and passes through the lost hamlet of Laggan, where some 100+ crofters made their living from subsistence farming and salt panning for the salt herring market.  Sadly in the late 18th Century, more "modern" farming strategies prompted wholesale clearing of tenant crofters on Arran to make way for ranch style pastoralism. It is a poignant walk through ruins and empty hollows, and a reminder of how harsh life was for the crofter in days gone by.

Today, this walk is also a stunning journey with magnificent views of Bute and the Arrochar Alps.  There is abundant wildlife including red deer, otters and birds of prey, rare flowers and world famous geology to be enjoyed on route.

 Ragged Robin heavy with raindrops on the Northern Shore beyond An Scriodan ("The Scree"). An Scriodan is a rough boulder field that bars the way between Lochranza and Laggan, best negotiated at low tide. 

 A sheltered natural harbour close to the old salt panning village on the shore.  Here the villagers mined a rough seam of coal to heat their salt pans. On the southern wall of this harbour it is possible to see the fossil footprints of the giant Centipede Arthropleura who trundled this way around 300 million years ago.

 Laggan Cottage, all that remains of the small hamlet and network of farms in the area. 

 View from the top of the Narachan track down to Lochranza, a moorland pony road that linked the two villages.  Lochranza was where the inhabitants of Laggan went to school and to church.

Three Beinns and a Badger

Its been another busy week for me, and I'm playing catchup again....  Here are some photos from a jaunt around the Three Beinns on Monday with John and Vivian. It was a still and overcast day to start, but by the time we were descending the sun was out and a gentle breeze was dispersing the midges.
A note on route choice for this walk- I used to do the horseshoe in a clockwise direction, getting a potentially tricky river crossing at the Garbh Allt  out of the way early on.  However, recent severe erosion on the path between Beinn Tarsuinn and Consolation Tor means that I now prefer to ascend this path, in an anticlockwise direction from Beinn a Chliabhain and thus leaving the river crossing till the end of the day. It is possible if the river is in spate to cross it higher up in Coire a Bhradain, and this is often the best option- so be prepared for late extension to the day!

 On the lower slopes of the Beinn a Chliabhain ridge.

 Brodick, Lamlash and Holy Isle from the summit of Beinn a Chliabhain.

 A'Chir from the NE flank of Beinn Tarsuinn

 Beinn Tarsuinn from Beinn Nuis. 

Across Coire a Bhradain towards Beinn a Chliabhain, with Goatfell beyond. 

Surprise find- a badger print on the ridge of Beinn Nuis!  Just what it was doing up there we can only guess.

 Coire a Bhradain, and the crags of Beinn Tarsuinn.

Friday, 22 June 2012

Gold Solstice in Knoydart

The Summer Solstice is a great time to be in the Scottish Highlands and the long days are perfect for Gold Duke of Edinburgh expeditions.  I'm just back from a practice in Knoydart- my first trip in to this remote area, and certainly not my last.

Day 1:
We caught the boat to Inverie the day before and set off on a bright morning for the first two days of our trip, a rough round of the Peninsula, beginning with a hike up the Mam Li and a traverse through two high passes down to Croulin on day 1.  We camped close to the tip of the peninsula, and were treated to a beautiful sunset that smouldered between Skye and the low cloud.

 A still morning in Inverie

 The pass at the head of the Mam Li

 Looking North to Loch Hourn, with glimpses of Torridon on the horizon. 

 The Skye Cuillins from the pass above Croulin. 

Sunset over the Red Cuillin

Day 2:
This was a tough day for the group with a lot of off path navigation back over the hills to Inverie, and then beyond, with a midgey camp at the entrance to Gleann Meadail ("Glen of the Midge"). We, being wimpy leaders hid out at Druim Bothy, a private bothy owned by the Kilchoan estate. 

 Descending to the road via the Sandaig Burn.

 Back in Inverie, briefly.

 Kilchoan and Inverie

Lord Brockett's Watnot.  Lord Brocket had the dubious distinction of being a Nazi sympathiser, and the last aristocrat to systematically clear a large area of the highlands.  See the Highland Clearances website for more about him and the Knoydart Seven.

Day 3:
This was a magnificent day with two mountain passes to negotiate and some of the finest scenery in Scotland.  We took Gleann Meadail and descended to the remote Sourlies Bothy. From here it was another high pass via the Mam na Cloich' Airde and down to Glen Dessary.  Here the hardy students braved the midges, while we leaders yet again hid down the road in A'Chuil Bothy.  

 Sgurr na Ciche
 Camus Ruaridh at the top of Loch Nevis.

 The forlorn ruins at Carnoch

 Sourlies Bothy, what it lacks in size, it more than makes up for in character. 

 Tide is out in Loch Nevis

 Ascending the pass via the Finiskaig River

 Lochan a' Mhaim
A' Chuil Bothy.

Day 4:
The summer soltice and the longest day.... We hoped it would be a bit shorter than the other days and set out for Glenfinnan amongst gathering clouds.  The weather broke as we topped out of Gleann a' Chaorainn. The rain chased us down hill to the viaduct and the welcome respite of soft shoes and a warm dry minibus.  What a trip!

 The conical shape of Streap guards the pass to Glenfinnan. 

 Looking back up the pass from Glenfinnan. 

There is, allegedly, a horse and cart buried deep in one of the pillars of the Glenfinnan Viaduct.

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

This week I have been mostly......

Its a busy time here on Arran with the Jubilee celebrations and a long bank holiday weekend bringing lots of visitors, who were luckily greeted with some very fine weather too. I've been quite busy, and its always tough to keep the blog up to date when I'm out and about all the time, but here are a few snaps from the last few days work, both off and on the island.

Last Friday I was off island, assisting Bob from Taylor Made Adventures with a canoeing session for a team of students from a school in Ayr who are doing their Silver Duke of Edinburgh Award. They were putting the finishing touches to their skills with a day looking at travel on lochs, and some spicy rescue scenarios.  We had a great time on Loch Doon, in perfect weather.  Luckily it was nice and warm so we didn't mind a few swims in the loch. We all got absolutely soaked and had a ball.  They are off on their final exped next week.  Good luck team!

Saturday was an absolute corker and I had the day off so Wally and I headed in to the western hills and up Beinn Bharrain with friends, where we were treated with panoramic views of the Goatfell range, golden eagles and some of the best walking I can think of!  Lucky us!

I've also been out and about doing otter walks a fair bit this week, but I don't get time for photos so much on these so the camera stayed at home.  We've been getting great sightings though, with our local otters really taking advantage of the settled weather and spending hours at a time hunting for food along the rocky shore.  I've recently been sent some great photos from Ian Kerry who came out on an otter walk with me on the 8th of May and will get them up on the facebook page asap. I also had a lovely morning checking out Machrie Moor with Brian and Dan on Sunday.  We didn't see any hen harriers, although we had hoped to, but got some really good views of a couple of young kestrels zipping around playing tag in the air above us. We also spotted a red throated diver in Machrie Bay. Sightings of these stunning birds are not unusual around the coast of Arran, but its always a thrill to spot them.

Yesterday I was up Goatfell with Hannah and Steve.  It was a great day for it and the views from the top were stupendous.  We could see Ireland, Jura and Glencoe. Not bad!

Looking ahead for the rest of the week, it stays busy for me with more otters and mountains. I'm up goatfell again tomorrow- this time not for work, but to take part as a supporting team member and general hanger on for the Douglas Hotel 4 Peaks Challenge. A team of brave walkers have been attempting to climb Scafell Pike, Snowdon, Ben Nevis and Goatfell over fours days to raise money for Arran Mountain Rescue Team. Its a tough schedule, and a good cause, so a gang of us will be there tomorrow to give them a bit of moral support for the last leg. If you fancy donating- please click on the link above.