Category Archives: TRAVEL

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

EXPERIENCING THE WONDERS OF SHETLAND

I have been intrigued by Shetland since I was a boy and have wanted to visit there for such a long time.  Being as far north as you can go in the Britsh I had always wanted to go and experience it. It the summer time the such hardly sets but winter days are cold and very short. I have loved the music of Shetland for a long time. There is a real Scandinavian influence on the island and that is evident in its structures and cultures.

I went to Shetland at midsummer and made this short film, so hope you enjoy it.

THE 3 VALLEYS WINTER PLAYGROUND

I have recently returned from a wonderful weeks skiing in The 3 Valleys.  Supported by Scottish based Chalet company Ski Hame, I spent 6 days skiing the biggest ski area in the world. This 640km of ski runs offers a fantastic variety of terrain and truly has something for everyone.

Returning to The 3 Valleys was a real joy. I had skied there a half dozen times although not for many years.  Ski Hame has been a source of support and friendship over the years and it was a pleasure to stay in one of their chalets again.

It took me a very long time and perseverance to find balance on skis but, when I did it was worth the wait. Out of all the activities and sports I do and have done, I love skiing the best.  The activity that I had to work hardest for, and took me the most determination to achieve, I enjoy the most.

Below is a short film on my time in The 3 Valleys.

 

CYCLING ABERLADY BAY EAST LOTHIAN AND HAVING THE RIGHT BIKE

East Lothian represents for me, some of the most beautiful coastline in the country. Long sandy beaches, rolling dunes, and views over the Firth of Forth make it a haven for recreation and relaxation. I wanted to explore more of it by bicycle and recently took a trip to Aberlady Bay.

I have been very fortunate to have been supplied with a Surly gravel bike and this has opened up so many opportunities for me. Having the right bike opens up so many more opportunities because it enables me to access parts that would until now have been out of reach. The dunes and open sandy beach of Aberlady Bay is a fairly long walk from the nearest car park.  I had been there once or twice but found it a rather tiring walk.

I cycled out to the beach on my new Surly gravel bike and what wonderful ride it was. It struck me what a great place to be for disabled cyclists. This would be ideal for families to cycle or anyone who is not confident enough in the traffic. But for me, it was just a lovely place to cycle and has great rewards of some wonderful views of the Firth of Forth.  Below is a short film I made of it so hope you enjoy.

 

COOKING UP OUTDOORS

I don’t know about you but I just love cooking outdoors. Even doing something as simple as making a cup of coffee I just love. I like getting my little stove, finding a bit shelter and taking it all is.   See my little film below….

 

SHORT FILM OF KNOYDART PEIR

If you follow my blog you will likely know that Knoydart is one of my very favorite places.  While I was there recently I made this short film on the pier and village of Inverie.   Hope you enjoy !

 

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.