A Travellerspoint blog

Road Trip North

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When the day dawned cloudy, windy and wet yet again we decided on a road trip north as a way to get out and explore the countryside. We began by retracing our steps to Ullapool but on the way we stopped a few times to admire views and discover wildlife. The first stop was only a few minutes from Poolewe as the road wound along the coast. We stopped initially to take photos of the view but we spotted something in the water that captured our attention while other tourists came and went. Even with binoculars we couldn't tell whether it was a seal's head or a shark's fin or maybe something else altogether, so that animal escapes my list of wildlife spotted.

A bit further along we stopped to take piccies of the swollen rivers. It's rained so much that the rivers are flowing even more fiercely than they were a few days earlier when we first arrived on the mainland. We spotted a nice channel in the river by the road we wanted to investigate and as we got out of the car I remarked that it smelt like goat. As we returned to the car from taking piccies of the waterfall we saw them - a small herd of wild goats lazily crossing the road.

We drove on retracing our steps to Ullapool but this time skirting the edge of the town and continuing north. We turned off the main road and headed west through beautiful scenery until we came to the small village of Loch Inver. We had a late lunch here at a place that specialised in pies. We went with the flow and ordered pies - venison for me. As we waited I saw that they post their pies all over the UK. What i thought was a viking helmet was in fact, a pie with wings!

After our late lunch we continued our journey north, in and out of little coastal places. It was getting late now and a little dark so instead of having lots of photo stops we simply enjoyed the journey. All the places we had earmarked for stopping at on our way back, we just passed by but as we drew closer to Poolewe both of us spotted a barn owl as it flew across the road. How cool! And what a great way to cap off a great drive.

Posted by pythagnz 19:26 Archived in Scotland Comments (0)

Wet Weather Activities

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The bad weather experienced all year in the UK has continued into autumn. So far I have had two blue-sky days. I'm averaging 1 in 10 for that. The weather down the head of the loch where the big hills are was dismal - low cloudy, rain, wind. So that has put paid to our ideas of walking. Disappointing but not much you can do about it. So a few days were filled with more touristy activities like visiting the Gairloch Heritage Museum, driving to a local beach, visiting the local markets (disappointing as we were expecting a more farmer's market kind of experience) and traipsing through the Inverewe Gardens.

The Gairloch Museum is a special find. It is on the main road and is only small but has great displays of traditional life including peat-cutting, a blacksmiths, a school room, a shop, and general crofting life. There is also a good display on lighthouses. And another about the geology of the area. Lewisian gneiss - the main rock on the Isle of Lewis where I have been staying is the oldest rock in the world at 2000 million years old. The reddish Torridean sandstone from the local area is next oldest at 500 millions years old. It's been interesting walking in the area and seeing both types of rock - often the reddish boulders of sandstone perched like pebbles on the gneiss. Scotland has been completely covered in a huge ice cap that has carved out the valleys and left loads of little hummocks in the valleys called drumlins.

The gardens are also interesting as it is a kind of haven from the strong winds that have been blasting us. I was on a NZ plant spotting spree. Cabbage trees, flaxes and hebes are the most commonly recognised plants in ordinary people's gardens but the Inverewe gardens had a few more such as pittosporums (I can't remember the other ones). Nothing much is flowering at this time of year and we enjoyed the walled garden the most as it had a kind of kitchen garden similar to the one in the Hamilton botanical gardens.

Posted by pythagnz 08:41 Archived in Scotland Comments (0)

Local Exploration

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Everytime we drive the 6 miles between Poolewe and Gairloch we eye up this small crag 3 min down the road from the croft where we are staying. It is rocky and craggy and inviting. Today we accepted the invitation for an explore. From the carpark we headed up and over a small rocky knoll always lookuing at the crag for a possible route up. But it was too steep and we ended up picking up quite a good footpath (which would have saved us quite a bit of work but not been so interesting).

As we came to a pair of huge square boulders (probably one boulder that split in two when it fell off the main outcropping) we spied a gully that looked promising. A tiring half hour later we made the top and happily discovered we weren't far away from the summit cairn at all. So now I have added Creag Mhor Thollaidh (343m) to my bagged peaks list. Not as impressive as the hills we wanted to climb but fun for its exploration factor.

We decided we would traverse along the tops and pick up the footpath again at the saddle before it dropped down to Loch Maree. But hills over here don't have the same well-defined ridges that they do in New Zealand. There are many routes you can take to get to where you want to go. It would be easy to end up in a quite a different place from where you want to go. But yet again we managed some pretty spot-on navigation. The only time it really failed us was when we were going over the hummocky hill we had started the day with and Louise led us off track a bit. Her excuse is that we were deep in conversation about the woes of the world and she wasn't paying attention to where we were going. Luckily, in this case it didn't take much to rectify (and we didn't have to follow my usual advice to "go straight down" as that would have involved down-climbing some bluffs).

Posted by pythagnz 08:24 Archived in Scotland Comments (0)

Fairy Lochs

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The weather wasn't great today so we opted for another low-level walk by the coast, not far from where we had gone walking yesterday. In fact, we had good views of the Kerrysdale Forest and the second half of yesterday's walk. Today's walk began with a 10 minute stroll along a 4wd track before we headed off up the side of a hill on a water-logged walking track following a sign to the Fairy Lochs crash site. We emerged at a low saddle and saw a bunch of people on the small hill we wanted to bag. They turned out to be a bunch of boys and a couple of men, perhaps a scout group or a school group. They said they were staying at the local hostel. Yay for having our own self-catering accommodation!

I eyed up a nice route up the rocky top of the hill. The name of the hill is Sithean Mor. Mor means 'big' but at 225m this is the lowest hill I've bagged on the trip. Still, height doesn't matter as much as interest. And we added interest to the walk by spending a happy hour scrambling and free-climbing some rock slabs. Louise wasn't impressed when I shimmied up a route that she wasn't keen on, especially since she is a climber and I'm not. She will say something about me kicking a loose rock and then using it to propel myself onto a rock ledge where she plaintively called out "I'm stuck" when she tried the same thing. It seems short legs can be an advantage at times.

After rock playing we continued our walk circumnavigatinga small loch and then finding the crach site mentioned on the sign posts. A US airplane was on its way home from the war in 1945 with nine crew and six passengers when it crashed in the area and all lives were lost. There is a plaque with the men's names, ranks and ages (almost all in their early 20s). There is still wreckage strewn around. It's thought an engine caught fire and the pilot reduced altitude to put the fire out. They were also slightly off course so didn't realise they were still over land. It's probable the engine exploded and the plane wreckage ended up scattered over 2kms. A sad story.

From the crash site we set off again using our mix of navigation styles across the boggy ground (everything is either boggy or rocky, there isn't really a middle ground) to pick up the original 4wd track and follow it back to the car. We thought there was a pub/hotel in the area we could have a drink/early meal at but after a bit of to-ing and fro-ing realised this wasn't going to work for us so it was back to the self-catering croft for our own home-cooked meal.

Posted by pythagnz 08:03 Archived in Scotland Comments (0)

Flowerdale Waterfall and Navigation Brilliance

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After our biggish walk yesterday we though we'd better have a quieter day today so we perused the maps and settled on a low-level one to the Flowerdale Waterfall. The walk started at the Gairloch Golf Club and began with a stroll down a short section of road past a cemetery and a brambly paddock before picking up a nice path in the trees. At this point Louise realsied she'd left her camera behind and as she is a keen photographer and I am a keen runner I jogged back to the car to retrieve it. Just as well as half the photos I've posted on Facebook of this trip have been taken by Louise.

The path was a well-constructed gravel path suitable for whhelchairs most of the way to the waterfall. It went past an estate house and a couple of paddocks of horses and followed a small river up to the waterfall. We rested and ate a nice lunch looking over the waterfall and watched various other walkers coming up the path towards us. Louise said the piles of dirt we could see were probably made by moles but as I didn't see any I can't add them to my wildlife list.

All the other walkers followed a path across the top of the waterfall and back down the other side of the valley but we reckoned we could go right round a clumpy rocky outcropping so we set off on faint tracks, over a stile over a deer fence and headed off up the valley. The clumpy rocky outcroppings on both sides of the valley aren't very high (nothing is in a country where the highest mountain is lower than Mt Oxford) but they were very inviting and it looked like a couple of good days could be had traversing across the tops.

At the head of the valley we crossed the stream that fed the Flowerdale Waterfall and headed up, around and over a small saddle. Our objective was a track marked on the map in the Kerrysdale Forest. We could see the road to Kinlochewe in the distance and with a bit of map-and-compass navigation (Louise) and a bit of follow-your-nose navigation (me) we traversed the slopes in a general downwards direction, into the forest (silve birch) and hit straight upon a well-defined track! Good on us!

We were sitting on the track admiring dragonflies and I was thinking about how it would make a very good mountain bike trail when a mountain bike (with rider) appeared and rode past us. This confirmed our confidence in our navigation and we began the walk back to the car. Quite a pleasant walk through the trees (which are a rare enough situation) and we eventually rejoined the Flowerdale track to the waterfall.

A very satisfying walking day.

Posted by pythagnz 07:46 Archived in Scotland Comments (0)

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