Saturday, 14 May 2016

Scotland and the Solar System

In early April I met Greg and Alex up on the Mendips for a long overdue catch up and some enjoyable walks which included traditional food and beer courtesy of the ever familiar Hunter's Inn at Priddy.  Later a  group of us met near Bridgwater to cycle the canal down to Taunton that  was originally intended to cut across the south west peninsula to allow shipping cargo more direct access from the Channel to the West coast of Britain. However the arrival of the railways rendered the link obsolete and the final section was never completed, thus today the route stands isolated from the rest of the canal network but offers enjoyable riding in an oft overlooked corner of the West country. 
We started from the visitor centre and car parking at Maunsel lock heading north first to Bridgwater where the canal wharf and marina has seem some sympathetic development but lacked a cafe. Returning south we stopped for lunch at a canal side pub before continuing down to Taunton encountering en route the various plinths and installations that constitute a scale representation of our solar system with the planets marked at intervals from an enormous replica sun - the size of the planets was also to scale with Earth amounting to a tennis ball compared to the head height sun. 

Riding in to Taunton we passed some very attractive housing and the Somerset County Cricket Ground before finding a cafe in a sunny square for coffee and cakes. On our return a puncture caused a short delay before we picked up quiet lanes to complete a circuit after which I headed north to Sheffield - a straightforward run of under four hours.
Monday saw a good walk in the north of the Peak District and other walks and rides later in the week. I had left my old mountain bike for repair and collected it only to find four miles in to a trip to meet Mandy from work that the cassette body had failed leaving me to walk back across town and get the shop to rectify the problem.

On the Friday I left for Scotland avoiding Leeds by using the motorways and then turning off in to Northumberland and passing through Barnard Castle and Middle Teesdale. After Alston I did a walk on an old railway line with an impressive viaduct before tucking away in the Scottish Borders in Reiver country. It was lovely to be back in the van once more with nothing but birdsong and a sunset to add to a fine evening.
Saturday saw a smooth trip through to Killin on Loch Tay where I met the rest of the gang for a week in a well appointed holiday cottage that had red squirrels in the garden and access to some good walks and bike rides. Munroes and Corbetts were bagged on some days whilst I cycled the Killin to Callander Sustrans route that took in a lofty viaduct on one day and completed a hard circuit of Glen Lyon returning via an old estate track the next.
Glen Ample provided a good off road route and exhilerating downhill to pick up the Callander Sustrans route again where the Forest Holidays cafe provided refreshments and a roaring wood stove.

An excellent meal at the Courie Inn in Killin rounded off a good week and as the gang headed south I tackled Ben Lawers on a sunny day with a good covering of snow on the upper reaches. Quite a blizzard blew up on the final ridge but once on the summit the skies cleared revealing extensive views and an ice encrusted trig point. I descended via another path to collect another summit before returning to the car park for a peaceful night after a very satisfying day.

Sunday saw an early start for Sauchie where I met Mandy at her brother's house and after walking the dogs we decided to head for the ferry to Arran that evening as it would give us an extra day in the fine weather. En route we passed the Kelpies we had cycled to in January and stopped at the Falkirk Wheel - an ingenious method of linking two canals whereby two boats sit in sections of canal that can be isolated and then simultaneously be lowered and raised largely by gravity. The kids Zorbing on the ponds looked to be having a great time as well but we were soon off to Ardrossan for the ferry over to Brodick - an enjoyable hour as the sun set. 

The Certificated Site at Shiskine provided a quiet pitch with hook up and our base for 3 nights with day one comprising a sweep round the south of the island and including an off road link through forestry followed by a long climb across the centre of the island. Day two started with another climb across to Brodick passing en route a rather unhappy van driver who had dropped the nearside of his van in to a substantial ditch. After a quick look round Brodick and Arran Aromatics we headed north to Lochranza stopping at the delightful hamlets of Corrie and Sannox before another stiff climb and a swift descent to the Arran Distillery for coffeee and cake.
In Lochranza itself we turned on to a side road to head round the coast a little towards Newton to enjoy warm sunshine and good views before returning to the castle where deer grazed the surrounding grassland and a rather fine private yacht moored up. The castle was in an impressive setting but before long we were heading north and then west pasing a row of fishermen's cottages known as the Twelve Apostles. A superb road took us south under a hot sun and on stopping at Pirnmill we decided to dine out on their terrace looking over to the Kintyre Peninsula on a calm and idyllic evening.
The final hour home soon passed and we enjoyed hot showers at the small site which is planning to double in size (still to only 20 pitches) as the recent 50% reduction in Calmac Ferry fares has increased visitor numbers substantially.
We drove across to Lochranza for a mid morning crossing to Claonaig passing the yacht we had seen moored the previous day. We were almost only the car on board and it was a shortish crossing followed by an even shorter drive across to Kennacraig for the ferry to Islay. Not having booked we were lucky to get on the next sailing an hour later and enjoyed the two hour journey on a flat sea with extensive views including a very attractive new build right on the fore shore.
Entering the Sound of Islay we spotted Mcarthurs Head lighthouse and the nearby MBA bothy before docking at Port Askaig.  A quick crossing of the island with a brief foray to the local shop at Bruichcladdich saw us parking up near Machir Bay for 3 nights of wild camping - the stream provided additional cooking and washing up water and the hot sun topped up the battery via the solar panels.
We walked along the deserted beach to enjoy a couple of hours sitting on the sun warmed rocks before heading back for a peaceful evening and an impressive sunset.
A rewarding day exploring the local lanes and coast took us to some stunning coves and beaches such as Saligo Bay and Sanaig Mor with its memorial to those lost from an Irish migrant vessel 200 years ago before we arrived at the Loch Gruinart RSPB centre. This was very informative and provided a welcome respite from the strong northerly winds -  the coffee machine was very much appreciated and once revived we pedalled up the west coast of the loch to enjoy the extensive dunes and views at Ardnave. Returning mid evening to the van after an enjoyable day we walked on the beach under a full moon around 11pm before sleeping soundly.

The next day we visited the ruined church and military cemetery at Kilchoman before a quiet road took us back to Bruichcladdich for a bacon sandwich enjoyed in the sunshine outside the excellent cafe and shop. Heading south we passed the distillery and then through Port Charlotte with a small harbour and some very attractive waterside properties. The village also has a community run campsite utilising the sports field and facilities with good views across to Bowmore.
The almost deserted road led us down to Port Wemyss and Portnahaven both unexpected delights with seals basking in the clear waters and a sturdy lighthouse on an offshore island.
Turning north we stopped at  the stunning beach near Lossit before taking an off road back to Machir Bay.
Moving on  after a relaxing morning we decided to stay at the Port Charlotte campsite which gave us a chance to have hot showers, fill up with water and top up the battery from hook up as well as taking a moderate ride across to the West coast and back spotting deer in the woodland as we followed an off road track. The historic cemetery at Nerabus had some remarkable carved headstones and the campsite provided a cosy base with even a TV signal available from across the waters.
We then headed back to Port Askaig via Finlaggan - the ancient seat of power for the Lords of the Isles - and the Bunnahabhain distillery which seemed deserted but did have a shop and tasting area tucked away. We were surprised that the old workers cottages were largely unoccupied as we had been told that the islands have plenty of job opportunities but affordable housing is in short supply. We were due to catch the short ferry over to Jura before lunch but low tides meant that the next sailing was delayed giving us a chance to chat to the local lobster fishermen and enjoy a pint in the pub as the Calmac ferry from the mainland arrived. The five minute crossing to Jura put us on the island's only road which we followed to Craighouse and then took a track down to the beach at Kells for a memorable pitch just yards from the sea. We cycled up to the nearest high point past Knockrome before taking a track right round Ardmenish bay to reach the two Light Houses that sit at the far end of the peninsula alongside a stone jetty. On our return we decided we had time to grab a pint at Jura's only pub back in Craighouse before sleeping soundly back at Kells where offshore a Norwegian motor launch had dropped anchor.
A short drive to Tarbert saw us parking up to spend the day walking round the coast to the newly renovated MBA bothy Cruib Lodge which was a credit to all those involved. It is a demanding route and forms part of a tough multi day walk up Jura's wild west coast - see later.
Our final day was spent cycling to the very northern tip of the island passing Barnhill where George Orwell wrote 1984 and remote Kinuachdrachd before walking the couple of miles to the waters between Jura and Scarba that house the Corryvreckan whirlpool. Wild goats grazed the craggy headland but sadly there was no sign of the sea eagle nest I had seen on a previous visit four years ago. Our return south was assisted by a strong tailwind but this also brought in the first rain of the trip making it a rather strenuous day so we decided to treat ourselves to a night in the Jura hotel and were soon enjoying hot showers and good food with a view across the bay where a small French yacht had moored up. The comfy room came with a heart breakfast and we departed for Islay amused to see that the bin lorry timed its arrival to the minute for its return crossing.

The SNP were canvassing in Bowmore and secured my vote with free scones and jam before we headed south to walk on the Oa peninsula passing the poignant if intrusive American Memorial to fallen naval crews that stood atop impressive cliffs.
Round at Port Ellen we  walked out to the Whistling Beach and back via the oddly square shaped lighthouse that guards the port entrance and checked out the ferry terminal before passing the Laphroaig distillery and calling in at Lagavullin which is celebrating its 200th anniversary. We bought a bottle as a present for Mandy's brother and discovered that the once free Portuguese and Spanish sherry barrels now cost around £2000 as the collapse in the consumption of sherry means that much is poured away leaving only the barrels to be sold as a source of income. A good view across to the distillery was enjoyed from the ruined castle further round the bay.
Round at Ardtalla we found another superb wild pitch adjacent to a pebble beach with deer appearing at dusk and two swans paddling just offshore. Whilst it was still dry it had turned much colder and as we were alone decided to fire up the genny giving us a cosy evening.
Overnight quite a bit of snow had fallen on the local tops and across on the mainland peaks but at sea level all was well allowing us to walk north to the estate bothy half way along the route to MacArthurs Head lighthouse. We descended the steep steps to the small stone wharf as a fierce wind blew from the north and after watching the ferry pass headed back to the van for another cosy night in with the genny purring away almost inaudibly.


Early on the Friday morning we were off for the first ferry of the day back to Kennacraig - it arrived disgorging mostly commercial and freight vehicles and we were soon loaded up and tucking in to a breakfast during the two hour crossing. Three hours down to Stirling rounded off a superb trip in the form of a good evening meal out with family before the haul south to Yorkshire.
I then headed to Shropshire and mid Wales to attend to family paperwork, play some badminton in Brecon and catch up with Ian near Neath.
Across in  Bristol  I gave Bill a hand to rehang his van door following some minor bodywork (a T4 door is a surprisingly heavy thing) after which we explored some off road tracks and lanes in and around Berkeley having first cycled along the Severn from his sailing club near Oldbury Nuclear power station - currently being decommissioned. After a good meal in the Anchor's garden I returned to my place by the inlet but decided to move as a family were having a rather smoky barbecue nearby.
After sleeping soundly I woke to the alarming site of my initial pitch being under two feet of water courtesy of one of the higher tides of the year - that would have almost certainly been the end of the trusty old van which later that day clocked up 322,000 miles.
A good walk in the Peak District saw us sweltering in hot sunshine before on the Monday three of us with four bikes headed down to the Swansea Valley for another visit to the Ancient Briton at Penycae.
Jean eventually turned up after a torrential downpour to join Penny in a comfortable room while we pitched up on the peaceful campsite. There was time for a walk to the Craig Y Nos country park before dinner although the rain had arrived and stayed during Tuesday. However we togged up and enjoyed a walk in Waterfall Country above Pontneddfechan before a good lunch at The Angel and another walk visiting the cave entrances at Porth Yr Ogof and walking down to the Clyngwyn falls.
That evening the four of us were joined by local friends for an enjoyable evening and on the Wednesday despite leaden skies we loaded the bikes up to drive down to Gorseinnon and the start of the Millenium Coastal Route heading to Pembrey. During coffee at Llanelli the skies cleared giving us a good day following the trail, watching two 360 excavators dredging Burry Port Inlet and returning after a total of 30 odd miles in the saddle.
That evening saw a good curry in Ystradgynlais before we returned to Sheffield on the Thursday.
So I am currently back in Scotland as the wild west coast of Jura has tempted me in to a four or five day walk from Tarbert across to Cruib Lodge and back via Barnhill. The logistics involve a sailing to Islay at 09.45 tomorrow, followed by the Jura ferry, a drive to the end of the tarmac, a ride halfway along the track to dump the bike, a walk back to the van which will then be left at Tarbert whislt I walk in to Cruib Lodge. Some days later I should return to the bike and then pedal back to the van with the option of a similar circuit covering the southern half of the island if the weather holds.
I collected a young French couple hitching north of Glasgow who are also heading to Islay and was pleased that my French was less rusty than expected. With up to two weeks here I may try and RV with Pete and Jan before heading south to farm sit near Brecon and then enjoy the Horizons Unlimited event at Clyro in mid June - well worth attending if you have the travel bug : check it out at

My photos sit at THIS LINK

and my forthcoming locations can be checked HERE

Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Emerging From Winter

An unusually long gap between posts largely reflects some major changes in my lifestyle - whilst still predominantly occupying the trusty old van that is now approaching 320,000 miles and still provides cosy and reassuringly comfortable accommodation I have also been spending time in northern England and exploring new areas, revisting old favourites and still taking adavntage of the stunning variety of scenery across mid Wales.

A challenging pair of muddy rides in a rain soaked Wiltshire tested our skills and endurance but it was, as ever, good to explore new routes and catch up with friends although our departure from near Brecon was almost thwarted by a heavy fall of snow that transformed the farm yard and buildings.
Dyrham Park near Bristol is undergoing major refurbishment work but its extensive parklands still provided a good walk and extensive views across Bristol.

Back up north I joined the Halcyon Walking Club on a route around Castleton that included Mam Tor and reminded me of many happy times caving in the area thirty years ago.

As part of celebrating Mandy's father's 80th birthday we visited the National Motorcycle Museum near Birmingham where over 800 models spanning the development of the motorbike were presented in perfect condition. It was very moving to see Graham transported back to his youth when these very machines had been a source of pleasure and adventure.

Returning south we walked the impressive Pontsycyllte viaduct near Llangollen before calling in on Mum who is still safely and cosily ensconced in her new home although a nasty fall in the village rather shook her confidence and sensibly a stick is now the order of the day when out and about.

We were heading for the comfortable accommodation provided at Nannerth near Rhayader in their Granary which made the base for a good wintry walk over to Lluest Cwm Bach bothy whose door as ever was proving troublesome. Otherwise all was well and after a sheltered lunch headed south to the dam wall to pick up the track east over the tops. The weather turned quickly giving us a demanding walk in snow across to the mountain road from where a more sheltered bridle path took us back to the cottage.

The following day we cycled round the Claerwen reservoir with the intention of reaching Claerdhu bothy but my chain snapped a couple of times which delayed us a little allowing us only enough time to glimpse the remote buildings from the track. However it was a stunning ride as was our final one on the last day which saw us complete the Elan Valley circuit giving a good view across to LCB and the awesome sight of all the dams overtopping following the heavy winter rains. That evening we sat outside under a starry sky in the newly installed hot tub - a truly memorable experience.

Late February saw me visiting most of the central Wales bothies to check their condition prior to the bi annual Area Meeting that I would be unable to attend. Most had withstood the winter well but again a small minority of mindless users had left rubbish, damaged fixtures and caused issues that could lead to the loss of these very special places. However the publicity surrounding the MBA's 50th anniversary last year has led to a surge in membership so with luck the influx of more responsible and respectful visitors will ensure that the less desirable elements will be deterred.

A Canadian visitor to our bothy in the Black Mountains was very appreciative - I met her on a real cracker of a day when I was giving my newly acquired carbon fibre mountain bike its first real test - a long high loop over Waun Fach and down the superb track to the Hermitage. It took the steep rocky descents in its stride and the 10kg weight made for a fast and responsive ride in superb conditions. Up above the ridge a pair of gliders soared in the sunshine whilst at ground level a substantial path is being built to counteract the erosive power of many pairs of feet on the soft peat.

The bike was a replacement for my 4 year old KTM that has seen a lot of use in largely demanding conditions and needs a few new bits and bobs - these will be fitted in due course as it is the bike I plan to use for our attempt on the Hadrian's Wall cycleway starting in west Cumbria and finishing on Tyneside. A return on the C2C is a possibility with the event taking place in late June.
Three of us walked in to Moel Prysgau to remove some rubbish and were able to pinch a lift across the swollen river in a Land Rover whose occupants seemed to have little idea of where they were or where they were going - indeed with no accompanying vehicle their solo descent of a substantial washout seemed foolhardy at best.
A trip south of Brecon gave me a chance to catch up with friends near  my old haunts - Ian's woodland camping is a continuing success and Paula has now seen the back of her horse box dweller.
Later that week I joined Mike at Nant Rhys to repair some snow damaged guttering, paint the interior walls and investigate the source of a water leak - this turned out to be a cracked upper window sill so can be easily rectified with lead flashing at a later date. A quick trip to LCB with Martin and his son saw the recalcitrant door eased once more and the stove doors reinstalled with their new glass before I took off for sunny Sheffield once more and walked with Penny. 

My 56th birthday in early March revolved around the Brecon Beacons with a combination of good walks and rides in the company of good friends.

On our journey south we visited dramatic Raglan Castle before enjoying the BANFF film festival in Brecon where one of the more original films followed a lad parcouring on the Isle of Man.
We enjoyed a quiet field with excellent shower facilities behind the Ancient Briton pub in the Upper Swansea Valley which also provided an exceptional meal in the great company of Tony and Sylvia.
Friday saw a 40 mile round trip down to the Mumbles and back on Sustrans routes - our reward being a good Italian at Verdis and views across the Bristol Channel to Somerset. Up at Jans we embarked on a snow bound walk above Llangorse over Mynydd Troed before that evening she produced an excellent meal, entertaining birthday card and sumptuous cake - thank you VERY much Jan as always.
Sunday saw a group of us on a wintry ride round the tracks and trails of Crychan forest before we headed south once more to the Ancient Briton from where we explored the waterfall country of the southern Beacons around Ystradfellte and took in the tour of the Welsh Whisky distillery at Penderyn which provided a fascinating insight in to the production of this elusive spirit.

Back up north once more we drove over to just south of Buxton to enjoy the cycling on old railways that cris cross the White Peak. From Sparklow the High Peak Trail took us right down in to Cromford after which lanes took us round Carsington Water to pick up the Tissington trail north of Ashbourne and return after over 40 miles of delightful riding - 11 labrador pups in a sunny garden were perhaps a notable highlight.
Next day we took a friend and her dogs on a good walk with her sophisticated off road chair coping admirably with the rough path as we climbed above the woods where her son and friends have created a network of challenging downhill trails.
In Sheffield we attended another adventure film festival - this time it included a film made to publicise locally built AirDrop bikes in which Mandy's lad and his mates played starring roles.
Sunday saw a group of us walking above the Snake Pass on Kinder Scout in beautiful weather - the rocky outcrops provided good shelter for lunch with outstanding views.

Nipping across to York I collected Mum who had been visisting her sister and then called in at Keighley on the way back to vist another of her friends - heavy traffic on the M62 meant a slow return but at least the late night drive back through mid Wales proved the worth of the new headlamp loom upgrade I had fitted to the van during a recent service.

Over the last week or so back in the Brecon Beacons I have clocked up a couple of hundred miles on the bike - a loop above Talybont and back over the Gap Road under clear blue skies was followed by a thrash along the Sarn Helen and a cold return past the Storey Arms before attending a talk on the vernacular buildings of Powys at Brecon theatre. A walk on Saturday was aimed at breaking in a new pair of boots before next month's trip to Scotland and three of us repeated the Gap Road ride on Sunday encountering above Pontsticill an illegally off roading Land Rover well and truly impaled on a large ash tree. On the Sunday night we were kept very much entertained by Mark Beaumont whose talk about his endurance cycling around the world included some remarkable statistics - 500 miles in 37 hours.......??
An easier day on Monday took me on old Roman tracks above Myddfai and the Usk reservoir but yesterday saw a much longer undertaking, the Monmouthshire and Brecon canal providing an 83 mile round trip to Newport which left me ready for bed at 8pm last night.

So Easter sees me in Yorkshire again, then a quick return south for a follow up to a recent blood test - a cholesterol level of 4.3 is encouraging so I should be raring to go for an April to be spent largely in Scotland that might include a trip to Mull for a bothy work party.

Later in the year I am looking after the farm near Brecon and in mid June assisting with and presenting at the HUBB 2016 event near Clyro - this should be a really good event for all those interested in travelling around the world, more details in my next post or just go to Google.

Photos from the last 10 weeks sit here.

Locations here.

Wednesday, 13 January 2016

MI(L)D Winter in the UK

After the heat of South America I was expecting something of a shock to the system but unusually mild weather for December prevented any adverse reaction and after a quick rv with Mum I headed north to the Lake District travelling by chance past the old church in Adel near Leeds where my grandparents had lived and worked and my parents married. It was quite an emotional moment for me especially as we found my grandparents grave - I had quite forgotten that Gran had passed away in 2000 - a year when I was celebrating a decade at the farm and the completion of all the major tasks that had entailed : new roof, kitchen, woodburners, conservatory, bathroom, electrics, bore hole, barn extension, polytunnels, greenhouse and seemingly miles of fencing and gates by the dozen. A very different life to the one I now lead and at the time an absolute privilege to pursue.

The Brimstone Hotel, part of the Langdale complex at Elterwater, provided a sumptuous room with complimentary food, drink and a full breakfast so acted as the base for a few days revisiting old favourites such as Dungeon Ghyll and Stickle Tarn, Cathedral Cave at Tilberthwaite, the hills behind my late grandfather's home and Tarn Hows which looked almost spring like.

A covering of snow on the Saturday added to the beauty and made for an interesting return long after dark with our route through Little Langdale illuminated by head torches. In fact we enjoyed the accommodation so much we stayed an extra night returning to Yorkshire after a very enjoyable break.
I then headed south for a memorable badminton club Christmas meal near Brecon and then made use of Ian's barn at Penylan to replace my front discs and pads on the van thus curing an alarming wobble in the steering under heavy braking. After a day in Halfway and Crychan forests with Jan we were joined by Bill, Pete and Greg for an excellent meal above Lower Chapel after which Bill, Pete and I headed to the Elan Valley for a mild, wild and wet ride up to LCB bothy. The dams were overflowing dramatically and the bothy was in fine order providing shelter for lunch before we hared back over the hills to Rhayader.

The excellent small site at Llangurig provided showers and electric alongside peace and quiet before on the Sunday we drove across to Nant Yr Arian to tackle the Sydyfrin black route that explores the remote hills west of Nant Y Moch reservoir. It was one of our best days out ever with good weather, stunning views and some superb single track to finish with.

After for me a second night at Glangwy I cycled in to Nant Rhys bothy after a morning of heavy rain - the sun came out and again the hut was in fine order sporting an unusual stag's head on the dividing wall.
Back in Shropshire I enjoyed a family Christmas before heading north once more where after a few days walking and cycling in the Peak District including Ladybower reservoir we headed north to Scotland. Despite the dire weather warnings and recent flooding we had an uneventful journey arriving safely in Stirling on the Forth estuary. Here we were warmly welcomed by Mandy's brother and sister in law and met her father Bill who at 83 has recently bought a new Triumph motorcycle and regularly heads off in to the Highlands - quite an inspiration.
Two good bike rides on mostly traffic free routes took us to Culross, an old village with cobbled streets and to see the art installation known as the Kelpies. These are two huge metal horse heads rearing out of the ground which provided an impressive sight and the opportunity for some arty photography.
After a traditional Scottish seeing in of the New Year with whisky and haggis we headed up to the west coast staying at the excellent Lagnaha farm campsite near Duror on Loch Linhe ( Glencoe had looked as dramatic as ever and the site provided clean hard standing pitches, excellent showers and the all important hook up to keep us cosy at this time of year.
Sunday saw a walk in to a nearby bothy which provided a spot for lunch - several large pines blocked the forest tracks and some had been snapped clean off several feet above the ground - we found out that a couple of days earlier a localised storm had passed through and even flipped an 8m motorhome on to its side - apparently a write off.
The owners had bikes available and as the site lies adjacent to the Fort William to Oban Sustrans route we borrowed one and headed up to Ballachulish and Glencoe before stopping on the impressive girder bridge as the wind screamed through the lattice work.

Calmer weather on the Tuesday saw us cycling south to Appin and dramatic Castle Stalker. A very smart hotel welcomed us in for hot soup and sandwiches by the fire and after checking the ferry times to Lismore we returned to the site for another very comfortable evening. A quick foray in to Fort William restocked our fresh food but the town was very quiet at this time of year so we did not linger long.
Wednesday started off damp but we were off by mid morning to Port Appin for the ferry over to Lismore. I had failed to notice that the crew enjoyed a lunch break so we had to wait for the 2pm sailing but this gave us time to spin round the local area which took longer than expected leaving us a dash to catch the small boat for the ten minute crossing.
With limited time available we turned off for Sailean and the small sheltered jetty alongside an old limestone quarry and kilns that had once been a thriving community. Abandoned crofts stood forlornly and even the tied up boat looked as if it rarely set sail, indeed the pungent smell from several rotting barrels of salted herring rather indicated that the local economy had failed.
Across the loch though the lights of a large marble quarry accessible only by sea indicated that there is still industry in the area and the island still boasts a school and shop, craft centre and holiday accommodation.
We caught the 17.15 ferry back and enjoyed a final night of comfort in the van having packed up most things as poor weather was forecast - it was a wild night but the van proved as trusty as ever as we headed through Glencoe and south alongside the overflowing Loch Lomond.
Glasgow's motorways were quiet and the sun emerged as we headed to Carlisle where the sight of a skip each outside many houses in the centre was sobering. We treated ourselves to another night of luxury at Brimstone and had the pool more or less to ourselves in the mid evening and early morning before heading across the Peninnes after an excellent 10 days away.
On the Saturday I caught the train to York to visit an aunt who is recovering well from a heart attack and stroke before on the Sunday we walked on the outskirts of Sheffield.
Monday gave me a chance to catch up with Penny and all her news and I am now in Brecon for the first badminton of the year before heading over to Wiltshire for a weekend of walking and mountain biking.

Photos can be found here
Locations here.