Author Archives: david123

KNOYDART, FLAGS AND FRIENDSHIP.

Anybody who is familiar with my website and blog will know that I have a special place in my heart for Knoydart. Described by many as “the last true wilderness of Scotland” Knoydart got into my system like nowhere else and is now somewhere I try to visit every year. Its just something I need. Now, not only is it my favourite place to be, it represents the beginnings of a unique friendship.

Before I had even set foot on Knoydart, I had heard of Alastair Bruce but didn’t know much more. I knew he worked for Sky Television as a Royal Commentator but that was about all. He came to my attention however when a friend, knowing we had already booked a house on Knoydart said “Do you know of Alastair Bruce, he has a home there.” I didn’t know anything at that time and did’t think much about it. Our friend wasn’t sure which house belonged to Alastair but she did mention that he always raised a flag when he was in residence.

I’ll never forget travelling to Knoydart for the very first time. When you leave Mallaig as a foot passenger, it is as if you leave everything behind you and carry with you only what you really need. The Wilderness awaits you as you sail up Loch Nevis and the white washed cottages Inverie come closer into view. The easiest way to reach Knoydart is by boat, the nearest road is nine and a half miles away.

We were met off the boat the most lovely people, Tim and Hannah, who looked after the house we were staying in. Before long we had settled in and were having coffee in the garden and I noticed we were sitting beneath a very tall flag pole. It was then I realised that we were staying in the very house that belonged to Alastair Bruce. The house was called Tigh Na Feidh, an old whitewashed crofters cottage. I was really intrigued by the coincidence, some people say there is no such thing, so I launched Twitter and searched for Alastair Bruce. There was a stone carving with the name of the cottage set in the wall of Tigh Na Feidh. I took a photograph of the stone, tweeted it to Alastair and said I was staying in his cottage. Alastair was delighted and that was the start of our conversation.

Over the next few months, I learned a little more about Alastair and his life. I love getting to know people and their story no matter where there are in life. For me, life is about people, each other, and our common lives together. We all carry history on our shoulders but Alastair’s is particularly interesting being a direct descendant of King Robert the Bruce. I just had this desire to get to know Alastair better and I hoped that one day we might meet.

I returned to stay in Tigh Na Feidh again the following summer. I continued to drop messages via Twitter to Alastair which he very politely replied to. I say politely, because I suspect that Alastair hoped that I would quietly disappear. He was, quite rightly, rather reticent to get involved with or have more contact with me. I was a writer and blogger after all, I could have been trying to make contact for disingenuous reasons. My desire was just to have contact and learn more about his life and history and get to know him better. So, I didn’t disappear, I persisted and kept up my idle chatter via Twitter

In April 2019 Alastair, or Major-General Alastair Bruce of Crionaich to give him his official title, was sworn in as Her Majesty’s Governor of Edinburgh Castle. That’s great I thought, we were both living in the same city so that must make us neighbours. Everybody knows the only way to welcome a new neighbour is to drop by for tea, so that’s what happened. Alastair, perhaps feeling exasperated by this time that I hadn’t quietly gone away, invited me up to Edinburgh Castle to meet him. My legs felt like jelly on my way up the castle. What would he think of me for having pursued him all this time and finally meeting me face to face?

However, I had nothing to worry about because he made me feel so at ease. We had a lovely chat and it was a real pleasure to meet him. We spoke about Knoydart of course as well as many other things. It reinforced my desire to be out in the world meeting people and making friends everywhere I can. It felt like a real privilege too, to be at the castle after closing time and have the place to ourselves without the crowds. Performers were rehearsing for the Tattoo and we were talking to them as we walked round.

A week later I joined Alastair and a group of distinguished guests for dinner at the castle after which we watched the Tattoo. It was a really astonishing evening and I thoroughly enjoyed meeting everyone in the party. Among the guests was Lieutenant General Ivan Jones who took the Salute at the Tattoo that evening. There were representatives from different countries around the world as well as people at the top of their fields here in Scotland. After the performance, which was just spectacular, we were treated to a champagne reception in the Royal Gallery. I felt extremely welcome. It was a real privilege to meet so many lovely people and be part of the wonderful occasion.

I am extremely honoured to have had the opportunity take part in such a lovely event. I am, of course, particularly grateful to Alastair for taking the time to meet me. I am delighted we kept up our Twitter conversation over such long time and I think, or hope anyway, that Alastair is too! Social Media often receives negative press but since I started promoting my blog on social media platforms, some great things have happened in my life. Not only have I met many new people but I have managed to garner support for my work. This is a good example of the power of Social Media to bring together two people in unlikely circumstances. Through my website I try to Motivate and Inspire others to achieve whatever they can in their lives. Patience and persistence is key.

ACCESSING THE OUTDOORS MADE EASIER

REWIEWING THE VANGO DRYFT RUCKSACK

Here is a great rucksack by Vango ideal for days out in the country or for using around the city.  See my review!

 

DISCOVER YOUR PASSION & DO WHAT MAKES YOU HAPPY

Two years ago just now I started this website, David Ventures. I had been writing for many years on aspects of disability but it just wasn’t making me happy.  In fact I was not enjoying much at that time at all. Then someone said ‘just do what it takes to make yourself happy’ and I did.  It was then I got right into my outdoors sport again and what a change came over me. What this video and please leave a comment below.   Thanks.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qeYIokBFA_I&feature=youtu.be

 

 

TAKING THE HARD WORK OUT OF CYCLING, E-BIKES ARE SO MUCH FUN!

 

E-bikes are becoming more popular than ever as people realise that having an electric-assisted bike can take much of the effort out of cycling. This is of tremendous benefit to commuters who don’t want to arrive at work in a puddle of sweat, or those less active but who still want to get out and about. To celebrate bike week, ‘Inghams Holidays‘ launched their brand new e-bike programme in Austria, and I went along to join them.

 

The Surrey countryside on a balmy summers evening provided an ideal venue for us to experience the joys of riding an e-bike. Taking in the local landmark of ‘Box Hill we enjoyed a ride on some electric-assisted mountain bikes supplied by local e-bike specialists ‘Cycling Made Easy‘. ‘Cycling Made Easy‘ sell a range of e-bikes to suit different needs as well as being a local source of information and advice. After being fitted out on appropriately sized bikes we set off from the venue at ‘Denbies Wine Estate’.

The bikes made very light work of Box Hill. It had been some time since I had been on an e-bike and I had forgotten what a fantastic sensation it is. Power kicks in with every peddle stroke and, the harder you peddle, the more power it puts out. The bikes have conventional gears as well as three different power settings. This allows the rider to find the best combination of effort to power for the particular trainer they might be on. Riding can either be effort-free or can simply be assisted, taking the hard work out of any journey.

The bikes handled really well and felt really stable. It maybe takes a little practice to get used to the sensation but, once you do, it really is good fun. Being about to climb a steep hill such as Box Hill with such ease was just a joy. The down side is that these bikes are phenomenally heavy and difficult to lug around. I certainly wouldn’t like to be stuck out somewhere with a flat battery, it could be a very long ride home! The good news is that this is very unlikely to happen because the modern batteries have a range of 20-30 miles. By using the different power settings appropriately, the range can be extended even further.

My first ride on an e-bike for a while has really put me in the mood again. I really want one ! These bikes make cycle a lot of fun. They are particularly great for people who are possibly not so fit for whatever reason. They could be a tremendous boost for disabled people like myself, and those of us who live in a hilly cities like Edinburgh. ‘Inghams Holidays‘ are a super way to try them out and experience a taste of Austria or Italy. Below you will find links to ‘Inghams Holidays‘ that have experiences to suit all abilities and needs.

Inghams is offering a seven-night stay on a catered basis (including buffet breakfasts, packed lunches, afternoon tea and cake, and four-course evening meals with complimentary wine for six days) at the three-diamond Chalet Linda in Kitzbühel, Austria, from £599 per person based on two sharing. Price includes return flights and airport transfers, and the package is valid for travel departing on 14th July 2018. To book, visit www.inghams.co.uk/lakes-mountains-holidays or call 01483 791 116.    

5 REASONS YOU SHOULD VISIT LEWIS

I have just returned from another fantastic week in the Outer Hebrides. It has to be one of my favourite places. The scenery is breathtaking with fantastic wildlife to observe and white sandy beaches that seem to go on forever.

In September 2016 I undertook the epic cycle ride from Barra in the south, right up to the Butt of Lewis in the far northerly tip. The 186 mile ride took me 5 days and I felt a real sense of achievement at the end of it. Since my cycle ride I have wanted to return and experience a more leisurely look at the islands. I wanted to see more of the historical gems as well as the feast of natural history it has to offer.

The village of Callanish is of course famous for the stones and provided our base for the next six days. During the time we were able to explore the cultural sites including The Blackhouse, Stornoway castle and the Callanish Stones themselves. Staying in a small farmhouse right next to the stones, we were able to see them in all sorts of light conditions at all times of the day and night. This was truly a great experience. From there is was only a short drive to the Arnol Blackhouse and museum, a fascinating insight into our not so distant past. Stornoway castle provided some wonderful vistas as you walk through the grounds. We also explored a part of the island called Uig and what a treat that was.

I thought I’d put together a little list of reasons you should visit Lewis. So below are a few of my favourite things to do and see and do.

  • The BlackhouseThere are two preserved blackhouses on the island but for me the Arnol Blackhouse cannot be missed. Preserved to exactly how it was when the last families lived, this gives a real window into the past. The last families left in the 1960’s so it is really not so long ago that people were living in it. With all its original furniture and a peat burning fire it really gives you a great window into the past.

 

  • I have visited the Stones of Callanish many times now and I still find them amazing. Speaking to someone there recently he said he found it a ‘spiritual experience’. Whatever your beliefs, you can’t fail to wonder at them and be impressed. The sheer age of them, the scale and the fact that nobody really knows what they mean, still blows my mind.

 

  • I have been to Lewis several times and up until now had overlooked the corner of the island called Uig. This was big mistake because it is really special. The drive down to it is spectacular, with stunning vistas round every corner. At the end of whatever road you take you find exquisite, beautiful beaches. Usually there are very few people on them. It is without doubt a most beautiful part of the island and well worth a visit.

 

  • Stornoway castle is set in extensive grounds and provides a lovely place for a walk. You have some great views over Stornoway, the bay, and further afield. The inside of the castle is really impressive and there is a museum as well.

 

  • On the way to Uig, hang a right turn and let the road take you on a bridge over the Atlantic and onto the small island of Great Bernera. This beautiful road twists and turn and eventually brings you to Bostadh. Here you will find a stunning and quite sheltered beautiful sandy beach. There is also a tiny museum that is unmanned right next to the car park. This beautiful spot is well worth a visit.

ST ANTON, THE ARLBERG, AND 5 REASONS YOU SHOULD VISIT

I have been lucky enough so far to have visited a few ski resorts in the Alps, some in France and now a couple in Austria. I enjoy skiing very much and it is a pleasure to visit different places. My recent trip to ‘St Anton’, supported by Inghams Ski was particularly good and I wanted to write about my experience there.

 

 

Arriving in ‘St Anton’ had a great atmosphere and it was evident from the start that St Anton was a traditional Austrian town which felt also vibrant and modern. Some resorts you visit feel like ski resorts and not much else. ‘St Anton’ felt very different. My hotel, ‘Hotel Post‘, was situated on the main street facing onto what looked like the town hall or civic centre.

 

 

 

 

I was made very welcome in the hotel and I was shown to my room without any delays. ‘Hotel Post‘ was very comfortable indeed and everything was delivered to the highest standard. The hotel had a swimming pool and a thermal suite. The food was of a high standard with a buffet breakfast and a five course evening meal. I would highly recommend ‘Hotel Post‘ as a place to stay in ‘St Anton’. It is a very comfortable, welcoming hotel, the food is excellent and it is in a great location, being very close to the ski lift.

Skiing in ‘St Anton’ is fantastic. ‘St Anton’ is part of the ‘Arlberg’ Ski Region, one of the biggest interlinked ski areas in the world. Five villages make up the ‘Arlberg’ region and there are ski lifts and regular bus services that connect them all. The ski pass entitles you to use any bus as well as the lifts. When the new cable car systems opened in December 2016 – all ski resorts on the ‘Arlberg’ turned into Austria’s largest inter-linked ski area with a total of 305 kilometres of marked runs and 88 lift and cable car systems The ‘Arlberg-Arena’ extends from St. Anton in the Tyrol to Lech and Zürs, as well as Warth and Schröcken in Vorarlberg.

One of the highlights of the week was the weekly Ski Show in ‘St Anton’. Every Wednesday during the winter season they hold a ski show. This is a display of all types of skiing showing historical beginnings to the present day. We were treated to a wonderful display of skiing, lights and fireworks. It was a wonderful event and something I’ve never seen in other resorts.

My trip to ‘St Anton’ felt too short as there is so much more to see. As well as skiing there is a fantastic Apres-Ski scene. I had the pleasure of visiting some great bars and restaurants where a lot of fun and a great atmosphere can be found. I really hope to return to ‘St Anton’ soon to explore further and soak up more of its wonderful environment.

 

 

To finish, here are my 5 reasons you should visit St Anton.

  • The ski area is huge. 5 villages are inter-linked providing miles of pistes and a great variety of runs.
  • There is a fantastic apre scene you can’t fail to enjoy.
  • Its a pretty place with modern and vibrant atmosphere.
  • Great shops, bars and restaurants for off the slopes
  • An easy hour transfer from Innsbruck Airport.

INGHAMS SKI HOLIDAYS, AND THEIR SUPPORT FOR DISABLED TRAVELERS

I still love the moment when I click my boots into my skis. It doesn’t seem to matter how long I’ve been skiing, I get the same feelings of freedom and joy. Although, just accessing the snow can be difficult, ski resorts can be challenging environments for anyone. My recent trip to St Anton, supported by ‘Inghams Holidays’, gave me an opportunity to observe how I could cope. I wanted to know if a disabled person like myself, supported by a holiday operator like ‘Inghams’, could manage in a ski resort. What a fabulous week I had .

I could see the Alps from both sides of the plane as we descended into Innsbruck. It was quite spectacular. After being met in arrivals by an ‘Inghams’ Rep, I was shown to my coach for the short transfer. In just over an hour we were arriving in St Anton and I was checking into my accommodation for the week, ‘Hotel Post’. Situated right on the main street I was in a great location for shops, restaurants, bars and most importantly it was only a short walk to the Gondola. The main street seemed quite charming with many traditional looking buildings. It had the wonderful feeling of a small Austrian town and not just a ski resort.

After settling into my hotel room, the first task was to obtain my lift pass and organise my ski hire. Accompanied by an ‘Inghams’ Rep, I made the short five minute walk round to ‘ Alber’ ski hire, which was situated right next to the Gondola. I collected my skis and left them there with my boots as I was able to store them for the rest of the week. This was really a tremendous help. Sometimes just moving around a ski resort can be difficult. This can be compounded even further if there is snow and ice on the ground and having to wear ski boots or carry heavy skis. I and I have no doubt many other disabled people can be exhausted before they even start skiing. Having help to transport equipment like this and make arrangements to store it was a tremendous help and made me feel much more independent.

 

‘Inghams’, along with the Tourist Board of St Anton, had arranged for me to ski with a guide for the first two days. This gave me a chance to find my bearings and learn my way around. I had a super time with my guide ‘Naggy’. He showed me a number of suitable pistes in and close to St Anton. This was really important as it helped build up my confidence which helped me tremendously later on during the week.

Confidence is really important for anybody, and I’ve found this so both on the slopes and off the slopes. Like most people, I imagine I grow more confident the more activities I do and the more opportunities I have. When I started skiing, I wouldn’t have dreamed of skiing alone. Now I am fully independent on the slopes, I feel fantastic and I love the freedom it allows me. Building and maintaining my confidence has been key to helping my skiing.

Over the next few days of my stay with ‘Inghams’, I had some wonderful experiences both on my own and with a group. One morning I had choice to stay on what was now familiar slopes or explore another area. I chose to go somewhere different and I was so glad I did. I skied an area called ‘Randl’ which I enjoyed very much. The sun was out, I achieved a few red runs that day and I had a fantastic time.

Later in the week, I joined an excursion with ‘Inghams’ to a neighbouring resort of ‘Sonnenkopf’. A coach took us on a half hour drive through the mountains on what was a beautiful morning. Just the journey to get there was amazing and I could have sat on the bus all day admiring the view. ‘Sonnenkopf ‘was a beautiful ski area with many red and blue runs, wide pistes and some lined with trees. We had a fabulous day. I skied with a group in the morning but had time to myself in the afternoon. I had a similarly fantastic day on Friday skiing with a lovely group of people I met in the hotel. After a super morning on the slopes I packed up and joined them again later in the day. I couldn’t believe that was the end of my trip. How quickly it had gone by but how much I enjoyed it.

‘Inghams’ went to a lot of trouble to make my stay as smooth and comfortable as possible. I am very grateful to them for that. Just moving around takes up so much of my energy that practical assistance is immensly helpful. Having someone to help transport my equipment and organise the experience was a huge help. I really hope to travel with ‘Inghams’ again as I will know that they can provide the support I need to make a it fabulous holiday. I hope that other travel operators will look closely at what support they can provide for disabled skiers.

Factbox

David was a guest of Inghams.

Inghams offers a seven-night holiday on a half board basis at the four-star superior Hotel Post in St. Anton, Austria, from £1,338 per person based on two sharing in January 2019. Price includes return flights from Edinburgh to Innsbruck and airport transfers. Lift passes, equipment hire and tuition can be pre-booked through Inghams. To book, visit www.inghams.co.uk/ski-holidays or call 01483 791 114.  

DELIGHTED TO HAVE DISCOVERED HILLTREK’S VENTILE TROUSERS

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I must admit, I hadn’t heard of Ventile material before, but I am now so thankful that I have. Thanks to ‘ Hilltrek Outdoor Clothing ‘,I got to try out their Ventile Blaven trousers and was delighted with what I found. I put them right to the test by going out into the snow and I was not disappointed.

Ventile material is a natural fabric made out of cotton. It is highly durable and it is ideal for outdoor pursuits. Made from cotton fibers it is comfortable, heard wearing and protects you from the elements. Once the fibers are wet, they swell and provide a barrier to any further water. This makes them weather and wind proof providing comfort and warmth while staying completely breathable at the same time. These trousers are all hand made to the highest standard. The have two pockets front and back, as well as two cargo pockets on each side. The rear pockets fasten securely with a zip and the cargo pockets with poppers.

I have to put my hands in the air now and say that I am a convert. The first time I wore them I really put them to the test by going out on a cold winters day in the snow. I must say I was really impressed with them. I was very warm and comfortable. The bottom of the trousers of course got wet with snow but I didn’t even notice. They formed a fantastic barrier keeping me warm and dry. I am very grateful to have discovered these trousers and I look forward to using them again in the near future.

MY PASSION FOR SKIING AND EXPERIENCING ADAPTIVE SNOWSPORT IN NIEDERAU

 

 

 

My motivation and inspiration doesn’t get much higher than on a ski trip to the Alps. On behalf of Crystal Ski Holidays, I visited Niederau in Austria to take part in a Disability Snowsport UK (DSUK) holiday. Thanks to both Crystal and DSUK, I had a fantastic time and my enthusiasm for skiing went through the roof again.

 

 

 

 

Skiing had been a passion of mine for the last 15 years. I learned to ski as an adult on Hillend dry ski slope, on the outskirts of Edinburgh. It took me a very long time to find my balance on skis, much longer than the average person I suspect. I fell over many times in the early days and, on the dry slope matting, I really hurt myself. However, it wasn’t enough to stop me. I was absolutely determined to be able to ski and be able to move myself around the mountains. After many lessons, and spending hours on Hillend with a close friend, I began to find my balance. Since that time I am fortunate enough to have made several trips to the French Alps.

 

This trip however was to be my first time back on snow for a long time. It was also my first holiday on a trip organised by DSUK. I had a brilliant experience and, most of all, I had lots of fun. DSUK are an exemplary organisation when it comes to inclusion and they should be very proud of what they do. There is no disability that prevents anyone from taking part in Snow Sport. Whether a skier has full paralysis, or a learning disability, DSUK bring out the best skier in them. They have their own highly trained instructors as well as a large team of helpers on hand. All their ski instructors have to undertake additional training in Adaptive Skiing.

Using a range of equipment DSUK can support anyone skiing either sitting down or standing up. There are several disciplines that come under the name of Adaptive Skiing. A skier with poor mobility might use a bi-ski or at mono-ski where they can sit down to ski. Others, for example amputees, might use what’s called a three track, a single ski but with out riggers on their poles. A visually impaired person might use tethers on their skis. Learning disability is another category all together and DSUK and very skilled at bringing out the best in anyone.

The groups that take part  are totally inclusive. There is no distinction between disabled skier, instructor and helper. They are just a group of people going skiing and having fun together irrespective of anybodies ability or not. Personally, it was an absolute joy for me to be in that sort of community for seven days. It had been a very long time since I had been in a group situation where I felt so accepted and welcome.

In everyday life there can be, for disabled people, pressure to present as able or as mainstream as possible. It felt special to be in such an inclusive group for a week. Most of, I just met some lovely people, had lots of fun and I am really thankful for that. One of the great benefits of Adaptive Skiing is that it breaks down barriers of disabilities. When I get on my skis I suddenly feel equal to everyone else because I can ski as well as the next person, able-bodied or not. I am aware that other disabled people feel the same way when they ski which can, for many, be a real liberating experience.

Taking part in a DSUK holiday has really given me the bug to ski again. I have to be honest and say I might not return to Niederau because I prefer a slightly larger skiing area. I would love to go on another DSUK holiday. I am very grateful to Crystal Holidays for the opportunity and I hope to travel with them again. I have plans to Ski in Scotland in February but I would love to make another trip back to the Alps before the end of the season.