Tuesday, 25 September 2018

What did you do on the weekend?

It was that time of the year once more. The North East Skinny dip loomed large on the horizon. This is a charity event held on or near the Autumnal Equinox. Since its concept the dip has raised many thousands of pounds for the mental health charity, Mind.
Mike collected me on the Friday afternoon. Again, this has become a regular thing we do. Travelling up to Ross Back Sands on the Friday, staying overnight on the beach and spending the Saturday having a few pre dip swims and such. Come the Saturday afternoon and we head over to Druridge Bay, where the dip will be held. Camping is permitted for those partaking of the dip.
A heavy shower of rain hit us we set up our beach shelter, ( camping on the beach not permitted!) Soon we were snugly settled in with a cuppa. A heavy surf boomed on the beach.
Early evening saw the weather clearing and we were treated to a lovely sunset.
Evening skies.
Evening light.
Evening prayers??
Cloud  formations.
As we settled down for the evening, skeins of geese flew overhead, their haunting cries filling the air. Later the seals were heard singing their mournful songs. The sky was clear and the almost full moon shone brightly overhead.
Waking early, the morning felt chilly, however, the sky was tinged crimson with the early morning light.
Early morning skies.

Saturday morning was a lazy one. With the tide way out and a nithering wind blowing down the beach we decided to wait. Finally though I put on my cossy and headed seaward.. There was a heavy surf running. What I did find disconcerting though was the jumbled sea state Waves came in from several directions, I felt myself being pulled and pushed by confusing currents.  It did not feel good and I came out for safety. Mike went for a couple of dips but kept to the shallows and did not linger long.
Our abode Friday night.
Saturday afternoon we headed down to Druridge bay and set up camp. The skinny dip is a well run event. A band of volunteers work hard behind the scenes to ensure everything runs smoothly on the day. and  we arrived  to be greeted by some of these smiling folk.
Disappointed in not managing a swim earlier, we opted to try an evening swim at Druridge bay. Large waves were still rolling in but conditions were much better and we had an enjoyable dip and swim.
Sunday morning saw us awake by four fifty, in the morning and having a cup of tea.! Actually, I never sleep well the night before the dip. Nerves and old memories seem to crowd my mind. By around five thirty we were  following the throng heading to the beach. This year we were serenaded by a quartet of drummers and entertained by a fire dancer.
Pre swim and folk begin to gather.
It felt chilly on the beach. This is always the worst time for me. The waiting, the chill gradually seeps in and the body gradually loses any heat it had. My feet suffer from poor circulation and they slowly become numb. Mike is wearing his 'not a onesie' and he looks quite calm and collected.
Early morning skies.
As the beach fills with people, folk bustle about trying to find a spot for their belongings. A voice calls out, the organiser of the event welcomes everyone and thanks one and all for coming. She leads us in a few jumping up and down exercises to stimulate the blood? Around me folk are quietly shedding their clothing. There is a frisson of nervous anticipation, of excitement! The new day is dawning.  Suddenly a great cry goes up, any remaining clothes are rapidly shed and a great mass of naked bodies hurtle seawards. Old, young, fat, thin, it matters not. Yells, shrieks, screams, rent the early morning air as we plunge in to the rolling waves. As I wade in, it is amazing to see the grins and beaming faces, to hear the laughter of the people around me. It certainly is a joyful occasion.
To my own surprise, I find myself out further than intended. There is a heavy swell running and I find myself rising and falling in breaking rollers. Finally, realising I am getting cold, it is time to head out. There was obviously a southerly drift, as I came out it took a moment or two to get my bearings. Mike was already out and dressed. It was a shivery, fumbly affair getting my swim robe on.
The walk back to the tent was a long one and we were decidedly chilled. However, wrapped in sleeping bags and enjoying a hot cup of tea and a bacon roll, we soon revived. Later we packed up and headed out for breakfast. A walk up the Druridge bay beach completed our day.
Druridge Bay.
We heard later that six hundred plus people had attended the event. Certainly a weekend with a difference!

Monday, 17 September 2018


This was something different to the normal backpacking trips. It was something of a surprise when Mike e mailed me, suggesting renting a cottage in Fife for a week. It sounded interesting and I was certainly up for it.
We set off on Monday morning. it was a fairly straightforward run up. We stopped at Upper Largo so that Mike could nip up Largo Hill. The cottage we had rented was at Kilrenny. it was a nice wee place, providing everything we needed.
On the Tuesday we set off to bag a few local hills. These hills were separate individuals, standing alone above the surrounding rich arable lands . Our first hill was Kerrie Law.
The arable lands of Fife.
It was a steady pull up to the trig point and the wind was strong. Thus we did not linger long.

Blackthorn bushes allowed to grow without being laid for hedging.
Our second top was Drumcarrow Craig. The remains of an ancient  Broch where discernable on the top. The hut circles where far more obscure.
Trig point, Drumcarrow Craig.
From our high vantage point we could see out across to the  Firth of Tay. Something else that stood out was the Eden estuary.  Beyond that was the expanse of the Tentsmuir Forest. On a spur of the moment decision, we headed off in that direction. The forest appeared well managed. No dense stands of sitka pines. Mainly a mixture of pines with a scattering of hardwoods. The adjoining beach was a vast expanse of sand, stretching in to the far horizon.
Miles of Beach.
We set off for a walk along the beach, much to Lucky's delight. It is an ideal area for a dog to run around daft!
The strong wind sent eddies of sand blasting along the beach.
A deserted sand blown beach.
Lucky the dog explores the tide line.
Storm tossed driftwood trees.
An incoming tide gradually enveloping the sand.
With one more hill to bag, we headed back to the carpark. We were rather amused when a car parked next to us. The lady driver had scrawled a rough message in lipstick across her side window. it appeared to be in regard to someone stealing her parking space! The last hill of the day was Lucklaw.
Wednesday was a fairly relaxed sort of day. We had one hill to bag, Kincraig Hill. We set off from Elie.

With the tide out we were able to walk across the harbour and follow the beach around to Earlsferry. At one time there had been a ferry service from North Berwick and had been regularly used by pilgrims on their way to St Andrews. Following the Fife coastal path, we headed across the golf links.
 The path leading up the steep cliffs looked daunting but went ok. Kincraig hill has the remains of a coastal battery. They were part of the Firth of Forth coastal defences in the second world war.
We had been considering having a swim in Shell Bay, however, it would mean a long drop down and lengthy climb back up. There was a plan B in place though.
After a spot of lunch, we he headed back over to Elie.
Despite the white caps and choppy seas out in the Firth of Forth, Wood Haven offered a delightful swimming spot. There was a swell but no large breaking waves on the beach. It was a nice wee swim followed by hot soup.
Wood Haven Beach.
We stopped at Anstruther on the way back, to pick up a few bits of shopping and wander around the harbour.
Converted fishing boat.
Thursday morning began with rain. It was forecast to clear later in the morning. Amazingly it did clear. We had agreed on a straightforward walk, an out and to Crail. Once again we followed the coastal path. it was a pleasant walk.  We paused to have a look at a group of sandstone caves. At one time these had been used by pilgrims and monks en route to St Andrews. Now they are in a rather sad and sorry condition.
Weathered sandstone.
At one time children (and adults) used to try and throw a stone through the hole. It was believed that if successful a wish would be granted. To me it looks more a head. The eye, the deep, furrowed brow, a bulbous nose and jowled chin?
 Low tide, Crail.
It threatened to rain while we had lunch at Crail. Fortunately it was just a few wee spots.
 Crail harbour.
Friday saw us once more heading south. It certainly had been a pleasant change. Nice one Mike!

Elie harbour.

Saturday, 25 August 2018


Mike and I had discussed the possibilities of a visit to Glen Callater some time ago. It had been some years since my last trip to that area. Mike had noted a few excellent camping spots on his way through the glen a year or so before. Thus now a plan was made to spend a few days camping at the head of the loch and then proceed on to Glen Shee.
We travelled up on the Monday in somewhat atrocious weather. It was still raining when we set out to walk up to Callater lodge. From there it was another mile or so following the path beside the loch. Thankfully the rain had stopped by the time we had arrived.
The spot we chose to camp on was quite splendid, offering superb views all around. The deer came visiting during the night. Soft grunts, gentle murmuring and the crunch of hooves on the shingley beach marked their presence.
Mike had intended to walk up to one of the tops. Unfortunately the distant sound of vehicles, and shortly after,  the sound of gunfire, curtailed that idea. Instead we spent the day pottering around our immediate area, drinking tea, reading and generally taking it easy. Later I went for a skinny dip in the loch. Lovely, smooth, silky water, but oh my, so shallow. Even way out it barely came up to my chest. A nice wee swim though!
Frustratingly on the Wednesday morning I had been quite ill. With no sign of the grouse shooters, Mike set off to bag his hill. In the meantime I ambled down to the lodge, came back to our camp and after a cup of tea, followed Jock's Road up the glen.
The lodge was shuttered up but the adjacent bothy was clean and tidy.
Loch Callater is hemmed in by high hills on both sides. The through route, known as Jock's Road, is an historic right of way used at one time by cattle drovers. It came over from Glen Doll to Braemar. The upper glen is a wide strath that offers many lovely spots for wild camping. Time could be spent up there just pottering and exploring the surrounding area.
Deer could be seen high on the tops. Mountain hares bounded away as  I walked up the glen.
Low cloud drifted over from time to time.
Mike arrived back shortly after me. He was pleased with his trek up the hill.

Lofty crags and tumbling waters.
Light mist drifting down the glen
Evening sunset.
We had rain and some gusty wind during the night. By Thursday morning though the weather had cleared. As planned, we packed up and set off to the metropolis of Braemar for a wee bit of shopping. Mike fancied an all  day breakfast while I had visions of poached eggs on toast. Sadly the cafe stopped serving breakfast at twelve and we arrived five minutes too late. Fish and chips were indulged in instead.
Shopping over, we headed over to Glen Shee. The idea was to head up Glen Taitneach and camp. The rain was back so we set off all togged up in waterproofs. Again I had problems, having to stop, take meds and rest for a few moments. No joke in the pouring rain! it is so frustrating and annoying when that happens! Mike called a halt a mile or so short of were we where heading. It was a fine spot to camp though.
It rained on and off through Thursday night and heavy showers continued through most of Friday. A day spent reading, drinking tea and snoozing.
Dark, brooding clouds drifting over the tops.
Saturday proved to be a much better day weather wise. Mike had his eye on a cluster of tops. We set of in high hopes. Initially I felt fine and was looking forward to a good walk. It was not to be though. The first sign of trouble was the increase in my tremor. When it is bad I am unable to use my trekking pole, it hurts, there is no control of the pole and my arm muscles become painful.. Also, my balance was a tad wobbly. With the poles I can counter any wobbly moments. Without them I am in trouble. Also, one side of me felt odd. Unable to keep pace with Mike, I capitulated and let him go on. That is so, so frustrating.
Frustrated and far  from happy, I slowly head back down the glen as Mike headed up.
Taking it easy, I had a look around the area where we had planned to camp. There are some nice spots to  tuck a tent in.
This is Mike's route back down.
There is a path running up the hill.
Heading back to the tents, I saw the glint of sunlight on a vehicle windscreen. Initially I thought it was the stalker. However, as it drew closer, I saw that it was an almost new, top of the range long wheel based Land Rover. A smartly dressed young lady was driving and all her passengers were clutching cameras. Emblazoned of the side of the landy was the logo, 'The complete'Highland Experience'. Well, each to their own, but I question how one can have such an experience travelling up the glen in a tin box?  To roughly quote Nan Shepherd. One has to experience the mountain in all its seasons. To go in to the mountain, to explore its rocky recesses and corries. To sleep upon the mountain. To take time and get to know it more intimately.
The thing that annoyed me, was when the land rover came heading back down again. We were camped quite close to the track and I was standing by the tents when the vehicle stopped, the windows came down, a battery of cameras appeared, all pointed at me and the tents. Photos taken, the windows went up and the truck headed off again. How rude, they could have asked if it was ok!
Not in the best of moods, I sat down outside the tent with a cup of tea. Glancing about, I spotted three red deer hinds heading down the hill behind the tents. Keeping still, I watched as they forded the river and came close by. Three heads stared in my direction, ears pointing forward, twitching, checking me out. Obviously not seeing me as a threat, the deer began to graze. Always though keeping a close eye on me. Finally something spooked them and they took off up the hill in that long, gangly gaite that deer have. Five minutes later Mike appeared with Lucky. Obviously the deer had heard them and rapidly took off. Later I plodded slowly up to the waterfall high on the hillside. A narrow cleft with a cascading waterfall. Beyond a jumble of rock and boulder there was a delightful rock pool complete with a small grassy patch beside it. An idyllic spot for a skinny dip. Not enough room to swim but space enough to have a luxurious wee dip.
A wide open glen.
It rained on and off during the night but had eased by morning. Mind, we still had wet tents to pack! It had been a good week, but not without it disappointments.

A few more photos