Wednesday, 30 April 2014

A week in Skye - The Storr and The Old Man of Storr

We've had an excellent day, which started when we awoke at the Sligachan campsite to bright sunshine. Our plan for the day was to go and see the Old Man of Storr, and then go and get to the top of The Storr, a mountain of 2359 ft. Peter has been organising this trip, so I had no idea what to expect.
After a leisurely start, we drove to the car park near the base of the mountain. As we got closer we could see both the mountain and the Old Man of Storr. They both looked brilliant from a distance. Several cars stopped at the same point as ours to take pictures.
The Old Man of Storr is the sticky up rock, next to a triangular shape which is Needle Rock.  The mountain behind is The Storr
I was so captivated by this cliff face, I took this picture out of the van window as we were driving past.  I didn't know we would be coming down this cliff face later on!
As I said, I had no idea what to expect, but I didn't expect to find the whole world and his dog taking up all the car parking spaces! That's not strictly true, we did find room in the layby, but the place was chocka block full. There was even a bus parked up! The Old Man of Storr really is a Skye icon it seems. Everyone visiting Skye visits the Old Man and I think they all chose today to come visit. We watched them, including the bus load of foreign tourists, happy and chattering making their way up the hill. Once we were booted up and ready, we followed them, packs on backs and feeling rather over dressed in comparison. No matter, the sun was still hot overhead, and the views opened out as we climbed.
There were masses of primroses on the hillside
And violets
The Old Man of Storr looking more and more impressive the higher we got.
We got the route from the WalkHighlands site.  The path up to the Old Man is steep, but not that difficult, and it wasn't long before we reached the final approach. However, the weather was starting to change, dark clouds headed our way and the air started to cool. Peter was keen to get a particular photo shot before the weather turned nasty, so we had a brief parting of the ways, me to go up to The Old Man on our left, and Peter to take the path on the right. I started the final, very steep track up to the Old Man. No-one else followed, this path being too steep and slippery for the tourist folk. I kept going as far as I could, but had to stop within the last 20 or 30 metres. It was getting too steep and too much like a climb for me and I started to feel scared, so that was it, time to go down. As I said, the route up was steep and slippy. Funnily enough, so was the route down, and I made the executive decision that I might as well save my bottom the indignity and pain of falling on it by sliding down the hill on it instead. It was safer, but Peter found this highly amusing when he was walking behind me later on.
The final approach to the Old Man.  I never quite made it to the base.
Looking across to Needle Rock from the slope beneath the Old Man of Storr.
From there, I took a path to meet up with Peter at The Needle. We really liked this area, and were well impressed with the rock formations.
Curious rock formations
Needle Rock from a different view point
The Old Man of Storr from Needle Rock
Once we'd wandered around the area enough, and taken photos from just about every angle, we continued on our route which would take us up to the summit of Storr. Looking back at those incredible rock formations, I remember thinking the whole group together looked like the ruins of a fairytale castle. Quite stunning.
Altogether.....  magnificent.  No wonder there are so many visitors.
On we went, up and around the back of the cliffs, up slopes of varying degrees, up towards the summit. It was quite windy as we got nearer the top, but a huddle of rocks provided the perfect shelter for our lunch break. The view wasn't bad either.
Looking across to the cliffs of Hartaval, from our lunch point on the slopes of The Storr
Onward and upward, we finally reached the summit of Storr. Cue picture of Peter at the Trig point.......
Peter at the summit trig of The Storr.
And then it was time to go down,  after a few jaw dropping looks at the views over the cliff of The Storr that is.
Looking over the edge.  It's a long way down.
The trouble was that the path down was a lot more difficult to find than the one we'd followed up. We meandered and zigzagged all over the hill. Luckily, Giizmo the GPS knew where we were supposed to be and kept us going in generally the right direction. Eventually we came to a discernable path and followed it, relieved that we were back on a much travelled route.
That relief didn't last long when I realised where it was taking us....... it followed the route of a beck - straight over the side of the cliff!
Our way down.......   follow the beck over the edge of the cliff!
Looking down, it looked steep. Really steep.
But it was alright to be honest. OK, it was steep, and a little bit scrambly and we had to clamber over a small but recent rockslide, but it wasn't a bad way to get down. In fact it was a lot easier on the knees than many of the paths we've descended on.
Once at the bottom it was simply a case of getting across the moor to the road. I looked back at our route down the cliff, if I hadn't just come down that way, I'd have told you it wasn't possible.
Our route down, you can see the gulley in the middle of the picture.  But it was easier than it looks
Looking up, the clouds came down to cover the tops, hiding the peaks.
The Storr with his head in the cloud.  We are so glad we had a good day for our walk.
It started to rain just as we got back to the campervan.  A really wonderful walk, which I would very happily do again tomorrow.  Well worth it.

We decided afterwards that we liked the Sligachan campsite so much we'd go back.  After a shower, we went for our evening meal in the hotel just across the road. I have to say that is one of the best pub meals I have eaten in a long time, and reasonably priced. Once again, I recommend the campsite, and I definitely recommend a meal at the pub. Awesome.

Tomorrow we have another Skye icon to visit, The Quiraing, (whatever that is). Class eh?

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

A week in Skye - Loch Sligachan

So now we're at the Loch Sligachan campsite on Skye (which we recommend by the way) and it's really, really lovely.  We've just finished dinner and are sitting in the campervan with the setting sun coming in through the front window screen.   We have the Cuillin mountains around us and Loch Sligachan right alongside.  It really is a fantastic evening.

We left the holiday park at Loch Lomond quite late this morning, and we've slowly made our way  here, stopping wherever we wanted just to look and take photographs.  Actually, our slow meander was even slower and more meandering than we meant it to be.  Flamin' sat nav!

But all was not lost, we got to see a bit more of Scotland, and take more pictures.  Now all I have to do is work out which picture is which Loch.

The Bridge of Orchy.
If you are wondering why we stopped there, and why I took a picture of the Bridge of Orchy, it's because it's iconic apparently, meaning Peter told me to.  Something to do with the West Highland Way.
Glencoe Pass.  All broody looking
Sgeir na Sean Chroit on Loch Linnhe.  Nope, I have no idea how to pronounce it, but it was cracking spot to sit and have lunch.

After lunch we reached Fort William where we were able to see the mighty Ben Nevis.  Or at least part of it, the top half was covered under cloud, which was a little disappointing.
Not to worry, now's the time to go the wrong way.............
This could be Loch Eil, or Loch Shiel, or Loch Eilt.  No idea, but we liked it enough to stop and take pictures.  There's actually a really lovely little old church on the other side of the road to this point too.  
Loch Nan Uamh, another loch from our detour collection.  Just round the corner from here was another stopping point, where I got to see a grey heron.  Absolutely brilliant. 
So then we finally realised that we were going the wrong way, and turned round to go back to Fort William.  Another bonus to the mistake is that we got to see nearly all of Ben Nevis this time.  I say nearly all, the peak still refused to come out from under it's cloudy blanket.  It doesn't 'alf look like a grumpy mountain from where we were looking.

Anyway, now were running a little later than planned, so Peter drove more and stopped less until we got to the bridge at Kyle of Lochalsh. Finally we were across the bridge and onto Skye.  Yippeee.

Half an hour later we were at the campsite with this view.  
A few of the mountains surrounding our campsite, we've worked out these three peaks are Am Mam, Beinn na Gaoithe and Beinn Bhreac
Tomorrow we're off for a little walk up a mountain.  It should be fun. 

Monday, 28 April 2014

A week in Skye - The Beginning.

I'm sitting at the top of a little sloping green overlooking a few caravans in a holiday park.  All of the caravans have their own area of private decking, fenced off and acting as a perfect outdoor patio area.  Each little patio area looks out onto the waters of the beautiful Loch Lomond. Overlooking them as I do, my view is quite, quite lovely.

We've driven up this afternoon as today is the start of our Skye holiday.  As usual for anything we do, we're taking it easy.  Peter hasn't bothered trying to drive all the way up to Skye in a single day, and this morning we both cleared tasks and errands, before setting off just after midday.

And right now, I'm sitting outside the camper van.  It's a little breezy, and beginning to turn cold, but it's been lovely,warm evening up until now and we've had a little walk around to see how far we could go, (not far sadly).   I can smell onions frying as Peter cooks our tea and there's a cuckoo cuckooing over to my left somewhere.  The birds are chirruping and chirping, a couple of geese are honking every so often, and there is nothing else but the gentle sound of waves lapping up against the shores of the Loch.


Aren't holidays just brilliant! 

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Dove Crag

So yesterday was a lovely hot day, and we had a lovely quiet, empty campsite.  Today is completely different.

Today we stopped at Sykeside.  Much more organised and commercial.  We got a flat pitch, the facilities included things like hairdryers, and there were a couple of "pubs" and a shop right next to the campsite.  This site is ideal for so many people, especially families probably.  But I think I preferred Cross Dormont, much more our style.

Anyway, this was the starting point for another walk.  Another coincidence eh?  And today we are off up Dove Crag.  I didn't take that many pictures, and I should have got some of the herd of black cattle that we walked through at Hartsop Hall, and their gorgeous, playful calves, but I missed it.  Never mind, here are the best of the rest...............
We started off with a lovely gentle slope that just took us up and up.  Peter told me that we were going to go up to that hill and round the back.  It doesn't look that high does it?
But he didn't mean the one in front, he meant the one behind it.  Yep!  That looks high.  And if you wondering why there are so many pictures with Peter in, it's cos he's always in the way.  ;-)
See what I mean.........   The path got steeper as you can see.  Sadly the day was mostly overcast and a bit drizzly, but it's a beautiful area, rugged, rocky and dramatic.  Sadly the camera can never really capture it. 
Dove Crag looming closer.  The path is off to the right off picture here, and it's really steep.  Thankfully, the Park people have built a stony staircase.  So much easier.  There's a cave round here somewhere, known as the Priest's Hole. Maybe we should have gone looking for it. 

He's in the picture again!  OK, I admit, I asked him to be this time.  This is the cairn summit of Dove Crag, at 2598 ft. 
And then we came back down  again.  This is Caiston Beck. 
And I'm learning stuff all the time.  This is an erratic.  A leftover from the glaciers.  I quite like the way it just poses there in the middle of the field. 
I really enjoyed this walk.  Mostly cos of the rough and rugged scenery on the way up I think.  Sadly, that's another walk over.  I'm not sure what we're gonna do tomorrow, it's a sort of wing it day, I wonder where we'll end up?

Saturday, 19 April 2014

Up Barton Fell

So it's Easter, the weather's gonna be good, and we know the whole world is gonna be on a beach or heading for the Lake District. Well, that's not strictly true, they might be heading for one of the other national parks. But most of them will be heading for the Lake District. Why? Cos that's where we're going! And we wanna go cos it's the Lake District, innit?

To be honest, we've been waiting for months for the decent weather to be around at the same time as us so we can go climb a mountain in the Lake District, in the sunshine. And finally we got what we wanted, the only drawback being that it was Easter Bank Holiday Weekend.

But we hadn't booked anywhere to stay. We had been waiting to make sure we had decent weather, and once the Met Office promised that, about four days before the bank holiday weekend, we found that trying to book into any one of the hundreds of Lake District campsites was completely useless. They were all full.

Except one.

Actually, it was nearly empty. A great big field with hardly anyone on it. Flamin' Awesome!
This campsite empty on Bank Holiday Weekend.  There were a few others camping on it, but as you can see..... Bliss.
OK, so the facilities weren't the best.  No shop, a single shower in not much more than a cupboard and a not very flat field. But it was EMPTY during the bank holiday weekend. We drove past campsite after campsite filled to the rafters with kids and campervans, dogs people and tents. Then we got to the peace and quiet of ours. Bliss.

And not only that, it was the starting point of our first walk up Barton Fell. Well, that would be cos Peter worked out a walk using the campsite as the starting point, but what a coincidence eh?
Barton Fell looking good.  And fantastic weather too.
So we set off from the Cross Dormont campsite and walked on past Seat Farm and Crook-a-dyke, heading for Thwaitehill and Sharrow Cottages. Our plan was to start uphill from Sharrow Cottages, but the thing was, we came to a permissive path that directly headed uphill, and we took it. 

Half an hour or so (make that even more of the so) later, we were up Lock Bank near the Reservoir. Point to note...... The Reservoir is underground, which is why you cannot see it, either marked out on the map, or in the landscape. What you can see is shown in the fotie.
The fenced off area with the block is the reservoir, or at least an entrance to it.  Did I mention our campsite overlooked Ullswater?  Doesn't it look gorgeous?
Anyway, our planned route was to follow the path along and then switch back to get up to White Knott. Or we could take Peter's preferred route which is always the shortest. We found another path going straight up, which is of course what we did.
So we reached White Knott glowing red and sounding like overcharged steam trains. But from there it was a nice gentle slope along Barton Fell to the Cairn at Arthur's Pike. (I like that name). Easy Peasy! And of course the views are wonderful.
Looking over Ullswater from Barton Fell, Blencathra in the distance.  What a beautiful day.
Next we were to make our way to Bonscale Pike and Bonscale Tower following the paths on the ground as they are on the map, but............. What is it about us that means we always seem to wander off paths. We did find our way to the next landmarks, but not by following a well trodden route. We meandered a little. (Or maybe a lot).
Despite losing the path, we did find it again at the Swarth Beck crossing.  These are the remains of an old sheepfold and hut.
Swarth Fell and White Knotts next. (Note the 's' on White Knotts, it's a different place than White Knott).
More views of Ulswater.  Just stunning
Then we had to make our way down to Mellguards. If this part of the walk looks steep on a map, it's because it is. Steep I mean. It hurts your knees and forces your toes into the front of your boots with the slope. Ow. Ow. Ow!
Going down.  That round lump mid right is Hallin Fell, and the ridge mid left is Steel Knotts. 
And finally, the flat (Phew! What a relief.) walk along the shore of Ullswater back to the campsite.

Ullswater again.  We enjoyed watching the yachts and boats.  
A nice little foray out for our first day in the Lake District. In the end we walked just over 6 ½ miles, and nearly 1700ft of up.

Despite our pleasure at finding the delightfully empty Cross Dormant campsite, we were also due to stop near Brotherswater, so tomorrow we are at a different campsite and Peter has his sights a bit higher for tomorrow's walk.  I am so looking forward to it. 

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Finding the falls in Swaledale

This walk was a little bit of a Swaledale exploration. I worked out a simple circular route from Thwaite, and invited Mel from the WalkersForum to join me, promising her an easy day of it.

We met at a layby just outside Thwaite and after brief hello's and then a yes, no, yes, no, yes, no, yes discussion about wearing gaiters, we set off on a nice gentle slope from Thwaite to Dirty Piece. (Yes, really). I'd noticed a waterfall marked on the map called Aygill Force and wanted to go take a look.
We got to Angram, crossed the road and then started to make our way towards where I thought the waterfall was. I think Mel was suspicious of my map reading skills, especially when we couldn't see the path (she's probably got a point). But she needn't have worried, I did know where we were and where we were going, despite the lack of paths, AND I have Gizmo (GPS). My only problem was that we couldn't find the waterfall.
Looking back towards Thwaite from Angram Lane
Lime Kiln near Angram
Looking back at Angram and as we go up.
I should have remembered how ambiguous OS maps are when it comes to locations. If I'd have looked a little closer, I'd have realised the waterfall was at the end of the OS wording, not the beginning.
But no matter, it caused plenty of hilarity at my expense and it was easy enough to follow the course of the little beck Ay Gill back down to the village of Aygill and Hey Presto, we found the falls. We'd convinced ourselves they'd be naff after all the effort it took to find them, but actually, Aygill Force is a striking little drop. There wasn't a lot of water coming over it when we visited, but we could imagine how it would look after a downpour. Even more attractive was the fact that we found the perfect little seat for a snack stop right alongside.
The grassy tussock lower left is perfect to sit on for a snack stop.
From there, it was a little bit of trespass through fields to get back to the road, and then left to follow that road into Keld.
Awwwwww.  So cute. 
Funny enough, I'd never been to Keld before. Mel had, and knew exactly where to get coffee n cake, so naturally we made a beeline for the little cafe. At this point I realised that the money I had deliberately brought with me for the purpose of coffee and cake in the little cafe at Keld was actually in the little purse in a little car just outside Thwaite. 


Mel subbed me.

Coffee'd up and raring to go we set off with renewed vigour, and then immediately stopped at the notice board telling us stuff about Keld, (Did you know it's the highest village in Swaledale?). We stopped again five minutes later to visit the unnamed falls at East Stonesdale.

I say that now, but at the time I was well confused. As mentioned earlier, OS maps can be very ambiguous with names, and these falls could be Catrake Force or even Kisdon Force. But they ain't, Catrake and Kisdon are on the river Swale. Once again Mel knew the area better than me, and put me right. I've visited these falls a few times with Peter, and I've always liked them. It's a shame they don't have a name.

Toothwort.  A parasitic plant without leaves

So we set off again, our plan was to take the higher path around Kisdon side above North Gang Scar.

A cracking rock formation on the path around Birk Hill

But just before we did, we took a diversion down and around Birk Hill to see Kidson Force. Mel had been here before and remembered where the falls were. I'm pleased she did, as I'd not seen them before.
Two waterfalls make up Kisdon Force
Now it was time to get back up again to our path. We decided to take the most direct route, i.e. straight up. This meant a load of huffing, puffing and glowing red until we burst out from the trees onto what was, much to our relief, a relatively flat path. Once we'd got our breath back, we turned in the direction of Muker.
We were chatting away, as women do, enjoying the sights and taking photographs. In fact, we'd been chopsing since we'd met, and perhaps, if we'd been less talkative, I'd have noticed that we'd got back from our diversion onto the wrong path and we were now following the Pennine Way. Not that it mattered, we were still heading for Muker, the sun was out and the valley was lovely spring green. The only downer was the wind. Boy did it blow, and it blew cold. 
I wonder who lived here?
We stopped for a break just opposite Arn Gill and it's waterfalls. We sat in a hollow, "sheltered" by a wall in a completely ineffectual attempt to get out of the wind, which was FREEZING!
Swinner Gill catching the sun. 
We were on the last leg now, Muker was just ahead, and once we got there, all we had to do was find our way out of the village and back to Thwaite. That took three attempts! It was Gizmo that found us our way this time.
Looking back towards Muker on our way to Thwaite.  It's a beautiful day.  (But still very cold n windy)
And then back to Thwaite, our cars and the drive home. 8½ miles and about 1000 ft of up and down.
Thank you Mel, it was a really good day. 
Here's the map.