The inspiration to climb the Scottish Mountains I believe, once inside you, is a feeling that never leaves you. Twenty years have passed since I last climbed a Munro. Recently my motivation, inspiration and passion for hillwalking flooded into my system again and last weekend I had the chance to rediscover what I have missed. Since I started writing my outdoor sports blog last year I have embraced fully an outdoor life. I wanted to see if I still had what it takes to climb the mountains and meet similarly minded people to do it with along the way.
A few months ago I came across the website of ‘Walk Highlands.’ This is a tremendous online resource for anybody considering, walking in Scotland. There is a lot of information about walks in the Munros and at lower levels too. Basically there is something for everyone no matter what level you are walking at. As well as providing information, there is a forum enabling walkers to communicate, share walk reports and make arrangements for meets. I was on the website recently looking for opportunities to rekindle my walking experience. There was a weekend meet in Kinlochleven. I booked myself a bed in the hostel for two nights and decided to go and see what would happen.
Not knowing who else would turn up at the meet, I was a little apprehensive when I arrived on the Friday evening. I’ve not seen other people with cerebral palsy out on the mountains and I suspected neither had they! Had a disabled person ever pitched up at one of these meets before? Very soon, I felt very welcome indeed and found myself in conversation and laughs with many. It was a lovely atmosphere and I had a good feeling about the weekend ahead.
With such a passage of time since I last climbed a Munro, I had no idea if I would be able to do this. As the evening wore on people were discussing plans for the walk. I knew I could join any of the walks but I didn’t want to take on more than I could do and end up holding people back. Before I travelled to Kinlochleven I had decided on the walk that I wanted to do. I wanted to tackle the majestic Buachialle Etive Beag in Glencoe. I have climbed its sister, the Buachialle Etive Mor over 20 years ago and just loved walking in that area. Thankfully I found someone happy to tackle it with me and so I was looking forward to the walk very much.
Conditions could hardly have been better when we set off. It was a beautiful morning. We followed the very well trodden path that leaves the car-park closest to the waterfall in Glencoe. After about a kilometre, the path splits where one goes into Glen Etive, the other up towards the saddle of the mountain. This part of the walk went more or less straight up, what felt like, a giant staircase. So much effort had gone into constructing a path with very large boulders. We soon gained height and gazed at some great views over to the Aonach Eagach ridge. The path continued upwards fairly relentlessly until it levelled out somewhat as we approached the saddle of the mountain. At this point I decided just to enjoy the views and not climb any further. I was Glad I did!
I felt fine when I started heading back down but I was beginning to feel tremendous strain on my thighs and hip joints. Taking my time I kept a steady pace and used my walking poles to steady myself. Not much further down however, I could feel my legs starting to grow painfully sore. I was ready for my lunch but didn’t want to stop because I knew, if I did, my legs would seize up. Determined to make it down over the most difficult part of the descent before I stopped, I kept on.
I was in a lot of pain by now but I carried on. Some people who were on their way up who asked me if I was alright because I was obviously looking quite wobbly by that stage. Eventually I got back down as far I wanted to before I stopped for something to eat. My legs and lower back were in agony but fortunately we only had a kilometre or so to go back to the car. The last kilometre was extremely challenging and I had to keep stopping due to the severe pain in my joints. I was so grateful to see the car again.
All my apprehensions about going on this ‘Mountain Meet’ quickly evaporated and I experienced a great weekend. I met some lovely people, felt very welcome and I had a lot of fun. I had wanted to try something like this for a while and didn’t know how I would get on. Sometimes when you have any form of disability it can take an extra bit of courage to turn up. This can be particularly so when the emphasis is on a physical activity. All my fears were needles and I had a great time .
The walking experience itself however, has left me feeling very frustrated indeed. I can’t put into words how much energy and determination doing something like this sucks out of me. As well as being in a lot of severe pain at the time, it really wiped me out for a few days afterwards. I do, of course, ask myself if it’s worthwhile and sometimes the answer eludes me. I don’t want to experience that level of pain and exhaustion on the hill again. However, I am still determined to enjoy the mountains and make them part of my life. I am very keen to climb Munros again one day and I intend to try and build my strength up to enable me to do that. I am also realistic and I will look for other ways to enjoy the wonderful mountains. Either way, I hope to attend the next ‘Walk Highlands‘ and have as much fun as I had this weekend.
The Lomond Hills stand pretty much in the centre of the Kingdom of Fife and can be seen from afar. The village of Falkland lies at the foot of them, an old and historic Scottish town. Falkland is home to the famous Falkland Palace, a monument now under the care of Historic Scotland. I set out to walk West Lomond Hill and capture some of the views of Fife and the Central Belt.
Seen from miles around, the Lomond Hills are the most prominent feature of Fife and they are also know as the ‘Paps of Fife ‘. Surrounded by moorland and farms they became a National Park in 1986. Steeped in history going back to the Iron age, remains of hill forts can be found at the top of both East and West hills. We left the car at the Craigmead car park which lies between the two hills and set off to climb West Lomond. Shortly after, I was lost in the memory of the last time that I completed this walk during my first year at the University of Abertay. That was in 1991 which made me feel rather old!
A very well constructed path is clearly signposted and leads most of the way from the car park to the foot of the hill. The path crossed heather and moorland and very quickly we were rewarded with beautiful views over Fife. At the foot of the hill the path comes to an end and the walker is faced with a choice. One path goes straight up the side of the hill very steeply indeed. Another path, and the one we took, carries on around the hill and onto the top making for a slightly more gentle ascent. Paths are very well constructed and marked out and suitable for runners and mountain bikes.
After a short section of rather steep ascent, we were soon on the top and enjoying spectacular views. On the top is a very well established Cairn and Trig Point. Views were stunning over the Firth of Forth and across the river Tay into Angus. After a short time at the summit we returned to the car the same way.
I had underestimated this hill. By the time I got back to the car I was really shattered and in a lot of pain. I had thoughts about climbing both East and West Lomond on the same day. Many able bodied people do this but I’m afraid it would be too much for me. However, I’m sure many others could do the two in the same outing and this would make a great day trip. I am looking forward to returning to explore more of Falkland Village and to walk East Lomond next time.
Seadrift Bed and Breakfast
I have recently returned from a delightful short break on the beautiful shores of Lochalsh. My adventures took me onto Skye where I was walking amongst magnificent mountains. I went there to stay in a Bed and Breakfast just outside the Kyle of Lochalsh to sample its delights. I discovered a gem of a place in a peaceful but handy location ideal for exploring the Isle of Skye and breathtaking parts of the mainland. I went to review and report my experience and I have highlighted some of the finer points below.
When we pulled up in the car, I immediately felt that I was in a restful, relaxing environment. Facing onto the loch side it felt peaceful and tranquil. The house itself is a lovely modern home, owned by Lisa and David Bevan and was purpose built as a B&B. It has three guest bedrooms, all en-suite and two of them have a view of the sea loch. The bedrooms are very modern with beautiful furniture and fittings. We were immediately made to feel extremely welcome and comfortable with a lovely pot of hot coffee and delicious home made fruit cake.
This B&B is in a fantastic location for exploring on day trips. Located only a few miles from the Skye Bridge, it has many places nearby well worth a visit. Within easy reach of the B&B are a number of wonderful spots both on Skye and on the mainland and below are just a few of my favourites, although I am sure there are many more.
I couldn’t imagine running out of things to do whilst staying at Seadrift. However if you don’t feel like driving anywhere, you don’t have to. Seadrift is set in a lovely little bay and there are plenty of walks along this coast and an abundance of birds and wildlife to observe. If the weather is bad, a range of Dvd’s are available to watch in your room and you may read books or play games from the range provided. The stunning map on the wall in the dining room allows you to plan walks. David is very knowledgeable about suitable outings in the area.
After a great sleep we were treated to a delicious breakfast. There was an enticing selection of fresh fruit and yoghurt and some home made granola which was just delicious. There was of course porridge available and a range of cereals. We enjoyed a full cooked Scottish breakfast with locally sourced meat products and eggs from David and Lisa’s own hens. The food on offer was just excellent and a very wide choice too including home made jams and marmalade.
I would recommend Seadrift Bed and Breakfast to anyone wishing to explore the area or the Isle of Skye mainly because of the following:
We had a most enjoyable, comfortable and relaxing stay and I would like to return some day. The only thing I would mention to prospective guests is that Lisa and David have pet cats and a dog. Animal lovers tend to assume that everyone else loves pets too. This is not the case. As far I can see this is not mentioned on the Seadrift website however, I feel guests should be made aware of this. Although, pet lover or not, you will thoroughly enjoy your stay at the Seadrift Bed and Breakfast, set in a beautiful environment.
I was lucky enough to be asked to write another guest post. I shared in it my experiences of camping with a disabilty and some of the things I have learned. Here is the Link.