A Travellerspoint blog

Peak Day

We started with a drive to Gairloch and on almost to Kinlochewe. Kinloch apparently means something like ‘top of the loch’ which makes sense as that is where Kinloch is on Lake Wakatipu. I don’t know what ‘ewe’ means – nothing to do with sheep we think.

We parked in a quite nice parking area at the head of Loch Maree. It has information boards, picnic tables, pamphlets about nature trails, people cutting grass but no toilets. Weird. Our objective was Meall a Ghiubhais (‘Hill of the Fir Tree’ - 887m). We started along the mountain trail which climbed gradually through trees and heather and scrubby stuff. The track climbed more steeply through quartzite rock to eventually reach a large cairn, more or less marking the highest point if you are just following the marked trail loop back to the carpark. But we weren’t. We followed the trail past some small tarns for a few minutes then took a side ridge. This was the beginning of our side trip up the mountain but first we had to fuel up with lunch. After food we followed our noses up a broad rocky ridge to the subsidiary summit. The full length of the loch appeared before us as we crested the top and we had great views in all directions. It was a short stroll along to the true summit where we had more views and more food!

We took a different line down the hill and rejoined the main track for an easy descent back to the carpark. An easy, but not a quick descent, as we took time out to sit on a boulder in the sun, admire a gorge and take lots of photos. Another great day in the hills!

Posted by pythagnz 07:45 Archived in Scotland Comments (0)

Borrowston to Poolewe


Travel Day – wahoo! The car was loaded to the gunwales for just two of us on a 10 day trip to the mainland. But first we had to go way north to Tiumpan Head to drop Hugo at a kennels. The kennels are in old lighthouse buildings, very similar to the one we saw a few days earlier at the Butt of Lewis. Except this lighthouse is painted white and not so high. We saw Hugo safely into his cage. Sadly we couldn’t explain to him why he couldn’t join us (something to do with sometimes digging up carpets – Hugo that is, not humans).

Next we went to Stornoway for some final grocery shopping before boarding the ferry to Ullapool. The ferry left about 2pm and was a 2 hour 45 min trip across the strait known as the Minch. The ferry was very similar to our Cook Strait ferries, except a fraction smaller. We sniffed out the decks and different places you could go and settled ourselves in the viewing lounge up front where we had good views of the way ahead. Not that we could see much as it was cloudy. We did have a fun time spotting birds (mainly gannets and the odd shag) and perhaps disturbed the other passengers as they were so quiet. However, quite a few people got excited when we spotted a pod of dolphins – they leapt into the air right in front of us! How cool!

Ullapool was cute with its whitewashed houses lining the waterfront. We visited a bookshop and the fish and chip shop where we ordered a large helping of chips each. Yum! That safely inside us we could begin the 80km scenic drive to Poolewe where we are based for the next 10 days. There were trees on this drive! And waterfalls. Scotland seems to be comprised of two things – rock and water – and not much else.

We are staying in an old croft cottage which has two units. We have the one with steep stairs. (Yes – it IS steep!) It is called a 1 ½ story as the windows on the second story are in the roof. Downstairs there is a sitting room/kitchen and a bathroom. It is cosy and comfortable and I am happy as I am able to watch rugby world cup on the tv!!

Posted by pythagnz 07:42 Archived in Scotland Comments (0)

Midgey Monday

overcast 18 °C

It's been a quiet couple of days here. Mainly because of the weather - grey & a bit miserbale. Not so good for walking. But not bad for eating Scottish pancakes. Or picking snow peas and digging potatoes.

Yesterday was a bit of a foodie day. We went to a friend of Louise's for brunch of pancakes. Later in the afternoon we had a short walk out the back. But the weather ended up being quite conducive for toasting bread and marshmallows in front of the fire. Yum!

A big storm was predicted but didn't eventuate here tho' apparently big seas were experienced further south. We had fairly mild weather and it was quite warm for half an hour! We did some gardening tasks and I got to experience the dreaded midges. Not sure if they are as annoying as sandflies or not. I had asked what was on the other side of the loch - visible as I look out the window. So we drove round there this afternoon, just as the rain came! We had a wee explore of the coastline and also of an old cemetery - overgrown and disused now. A couple of headstones dated to the 1880s but many had no markings at all.

Tomorrow we might manage a walk but its more likely we will be getting ready for our trip to the mainland. The weather is forecast to improve. Just in time!

Louise says I must mention that it was nice enough to have lunch outside though I pointed out we have done that at least twice now.

Posted by pythagnz 11:49 Archived in Scotland Comments (1)

And Butt

The Butt of Lewis

overcast 14 °C

The Butt of Lewis is the northern most part of the isle of Lewis at 58deg north. There is a lighthouse, 50-something metres tall made from brick but not painted like most lighthouses. They only de-manned it as recently as 1998. Originally there was a lighthouse keeper and two assistant lighthouse keepers staying on site. Now the lighthouse is maintained once a year and operated from Edinburgh.

The cliffs are amazing and there are a few sea stacks, also amazing. Especially the closest one which has a cairn on it. It is a few metres away so too far to jump and I wondered how the person or people got there to construct the cairn. Perhaps they climbed down and up, or did they put a ladder across, or find some other means? One sea stack had a heap of shags perching on it. We had a short walk along the coast - the grass is very short, grazed by the sheep.

As we were leaving I spotted a sandy beach (of which there are a surprising number - pity the temps aren't 10deg warmer). As it was lunchtime we took out wraps down to the beach and sat on a rock having a picnic. As we we sat there we saw a seal in the water. It's head popped up periodically and we guessed that it was fishing. I regretted leaving the binoculars behind.

On the way home we stopped in at a pottery gallery. Most of the island is peat so the clay is likely imported. Next we stopped at a gallery. The art didn't inspire but I was impressed they had a speights poster. Turns out they go to NZ every year for several months at a time. Now that's good advertising for the home country.

Yesterday we drove to Stornoway, the main town on the island. The route is a 30 min drive or so along a one-way road, luckily dotted with copious passing bays. The town centre of Stornoway is quite small - we walked through it in about 5 minutes. We visited the museum which had an exhibition about the Chessmen of Lewis - little character pieces from a board game thought to date back to when there was Viking (Norse) settlement of the island (800-1200 AD). It's actually thought that Gaelic predates the Norse period and was revived afterwards. Another room in the museum outlined the history of Lewis (which we accidentally read in reverse order). A long time ago the island would have had a lot more tree cover but most were chopped down for building of the round houses etc. It's a sort of Easter Island story in that the resources were all used up and then all that's left is stone. Speaking of which, there are dry stone walls EVERYWHERE. Cool!

A hurricane force 12 is forecast for Monday so that'll be interesting!!

Posted by pythagnz 10:56 Archived in Scotland Comments (0)

Two in One Day

overcast 13 °C

Grey clouds, a bit of rain, mist, patches of sun. Just another day in the Scottish hills. We drove the same route as to Sunday's walk to Suiainebhal and continued to the end of the road.

The walk started with picking our way through the heather along the coastline for a short time before beginning the ascent of Griomabhal (497m). Again, it's not very high but when you look at it from different angles, the hill is impressive. It has a near vertical slab rock face on one side but we had a fairly easy ascent up a ridge from the coast. As we approached the summit the wind picked up and the cloud descended and we were left sheltering in the summit cairn without views. After a quick rest we continued over the summit, Louise navigating by compass until we cleared the cloud.

We descended to a loch on a saddle and sheltered behind a rock while it tipped down for a few minutes. Despite these patches of bad weather we could see it was clearing so climbed to the summit of Naideabhal a Muigh (~435m). We admired the neighbouring summit but didn't have time to bag it today. And the route is a bit uncertain so we thought we might leave that for another day. We began by following the ridge down to the coast until I said 'why don't we just go straight down?' This had the potential for us to be bluffed out but we found a straight forward route down (though if you looked back at the way we came you might disagree). As we were resting I spotted some deer on a ridge. At least five of them. We saw them a bit closer up 10 minutes later so I was quite pleased to add them to my wildlife tally.

It was another great day in the hills and we are satisfied if a little tired.

Posted by pythagnz 12:02 Archived in Scotland Comments (1)

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