Sunday, July 15, 2007

The Tarf and Tilt Hills: Carn a' Chlamain (192)

Walk date: 14/06/07
My Munro #'s:

Pronunciations - translations - heights:
Kaarn a klaavan - hill of the kite or buzzard - 963m

Duration - 12:00 - 18:30
Distance - 24.7km
Total ascent - 1090m
Weather - Fine day with light rain, mainly sun, with moderate wind at height
Team - with Sonia
Other hikers: none at height

Pretty straight forward and no chance of a circular:

Carn a' Chlamain far distance, Carn a' George up close:

Wonderful Carn a' Sonia over the wonderful Glen Tilt:

I somehow expected more, Carn a' Chlamain runs out:

The panorama of Beinn a' Ghlo was a majestic sight:

Ready for the cycle back down Glen Tilt:

Waiting to ambush the Sonia on the lower slopes:

A beautiful evening led us back down the glen:

There are worse places to hang out:

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Sunday, July 08, 2007

Orkney 2007 - Days 7 and 8

Sunday 2nd/Monday 3rd July - Return to Scotland; Tain and Glenmorangie/Balblair and Cromarty

Ah, it is a sad truth that for holidays to truly be holidays they must end and be replaced by work, and this one was no exception.  Thus it came to pass that far too early on Sunday we got up from our cosy little cottage, made it as ship-shape as possible, and then got onto the real thing at St Margaret's Hope for the voyage back to mainland Scotland.  

Mind, there was the silver lining that returning gave us access to more distilleries!  After a welcomed lunch at The Royal Hotel in Tain, which seemed to be the first place where proper food had been available since setting off, we got ourselves to over Glenmorangie.  

Like Highland Park, this tour started with an audio-visual presentation, but it was made better by the fact that it merely was on a continuous loop in the collecting area, so it felt a little less like you were being herded in and fed.  This tour was also taken by a summer student, but a highly competent and professional one, so we'll let that go!  The dram came at the end and the tasting room was fantastic, so plus points there, but it was just the one dram again so a disappointment to close.  However, Glenmorangie is a well-known name and there was something great about being there.  the distillery has the tallest stills in Scotland and they were definitely a pleasure to see. 

The tasting room at Glenmorangie, it'll do:

The start of the tour, this way:

Cask staves put to good artistic effect:

Traditional cooperage tools on display:

Audio-visual blah.. Featured our girl's home town though:

Alison at home with some wash-backs:

The oddly cathedral-like Glenmorangie still room:

Sitting patiently, waiting for you!

Personal casks in a variety of colours!

After a welcomed restful night in our great and recommended B&B, Weymss House in Bayfield, we had another distillery to visit, this time Balblair where an entirely different touring experience awaited us.  First of all, this was a by-appointment only tour, which always improves matters, kindly arranged by the folks at the B&B!  Second, we were taken around by the assistant manager and third, I'm not entirely sure about how many malts we got at the end but it was a lot!!  Balblair is a much smaller operation than Glenmorangie, and there was no prepared walkway for tours (no audio-visual presentation in sight!); the entire site had a small-scale industrial feel to it with the fat stumpy stills almost shoved into one corner with gangways all around.  The proof however, is of course in the pudding and I have to say hands down that any of the Balblair expressions are superior to the Glenmorangies that I have tasted.  In fact I was gutted that I'd used the last of my whisky budget the day before but at least I was taken pity upon and handed a miniature!!

Is that a chimney in your pocket...

Balblair's stills just about tucked in:

After Balblair, Sonia and I parted company from the guys as we headed home, but not before a nice lunch in the very pleasant little village of Cromarty, which Sonia used to live near.  Plenty of unique shops and coffee rooms etc, certainly one of the nicest Scottish villages I've been to and again, recommended if you are in the area.  After that, with time to spare, we drove back to Aberdeen over the A939 passing through high town Tomintoul (and the excellent Whisky Castle) and then past the formidable Corgarff Castle all the time with a view of the Cairngorms as a beautiful bright evening closed the holiday well.

I'll take it for my servants! Colourful quarters in Cromarty:

Uni of Aberdeen's different field station:

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Orkney 2007 - Day 6

Saturday 30th June - Hoy

This was my favourite day of the holiday; a trip over to the isle of Hoy, the next biggest of the Orkney isles after the mainland.  Hoy takes its name from Old Norse in which it means 'high island'; an accurate description of this rugged island as it features the tallest sea stack (137m) in the UK in the Old Man of Hoy, the third highest and most vertical sea-cliff in the UK (335m) in St John's Head, and the highest point in Orkney (479m) in Ward Hill.

Sonia and I joined the guys on the car ferry from Houton to Lyness, a trip of some 45 minutes that requires booking in advance, and then up with them to Rackwick from which we began our day's walking, with the first target being the Old Man.  Sonia and I were then to continue on to St John's Head and the fine hill Cuilags before getting a passenger ferry service from Moaness to Stromness.  Meanwhile the guys hit the Scapa Flow visitor's centre before returning to the mainland and then meeting us later after our ferry.

A fair bit of a stomp was required to get you to the Old Man (just over 4 km from the car park) but it proved well worth it;  the Old Man is very impressive, even more so when you realise despite its seeminly impossible sheerness that not only do people come to climb up it but that the first ascent wasn't until 1966 when none other than Chris Bonnington managed it. Oh, and we saw puffins there too!

The full day's route in red, including our search for food!

As you can see, an awful crossing on the ferry:

Ward Hill from the road to Rackwick:

Looking to the hills from Rackwick:

The bay of Rackwick was fine enough:

Almost at the Old Man, the Stromness ferry shows up:

In all its splendour (for now), the Old Man:

Getting some puffin action:

The cliffs south of the Old Man:

And to the north:

Looking back from height showed its
precarious positioning even more:

Coming up on St John's Head:

An impressive crack in the cliff face:

Not a bad spot for a rest:

After the Old Man, Sonia and I went on alone in search of even greater cliff-action with St John's Head, a staggeringly huge chunk of vertical sea-cliff, the scale of which was hard to comprehend.  Indeed, if you looked closely at its base you suddenly realised that the little white flies buzing around it were actually sea-birds!  We spent as much time as we could here eating lunch in full view as fulmars flew beneath us, looking up questioningly.

Step away from the edge, St John's Head:

A lazy fulmar gliding to its nest:

And another, showing just how vertical that cliff-face is:

In panoramic splendour:

Fulmars however, I can cope with.  Next on our wildlife list as we headed toward the summit of Cuilags was the arctic skua, and a lot of them.  These ground-nesting birds are noitoriously protective of their nesting area and it later turned out that 12% of the world's population of this bird bred on Hoy.  By my rough calculations therefore, I believe that somewhere between 10 and 11% of all skua's anywhere attacked us on our little hike, which made things a little more eventful than the average Munro.  When I say attacked, I don't mean actual contact, but these are big and fast birds and there were scary enough for me to come up with the concept for a computer game entitled 'Skua Chick Soup'.  Let's just say it would likely come with an age-restriction...

Anyway, we eventually made it to the top of Cuilags and were rewarded with stunning views all around, including out to the wave-power experiment in Hoy Sound.  From here we could see Moaness, the isle of Graemsay, and over to the mainland as well as fine views of neighbouring hill Ward Hill.  Onwards there was just the small issue of a rather steep descent that unnerved Sonia somewhat, plotted kindly of course by yours truly.

Sonia ducks from advancing skuas:

Coming right at you:

On Sui Fea, getting ready for Cuilags:

Hoy Sound from Cuilags:

Graemsay and the mainland from Cuilags:

A more central shot of Graemsay:

Ward Hill and Sandy Loch from our descent:

Who the hell chose this way down??

Once down, we made our way over to The Hoy Inn, as directed by the many prominent signs, with my mouth drooling for a pint of anything cold and alcohol; a pink alcopop would have been welcomed!  Alas, cruelly, this establishment was no longer in operation and we were met by nothing more than an empty shack.  Deflated, hungry and thirsty we walked back up to the Youth Hostel in hope, but that was closed. We finally gave up and retired to the ferry waiting room, which itself didn't even have a vending machine!  In desperation, I even texted ahead in an attempt to try and ensure that at least a cold bottle of beer would await me in Stromness!  A thoroughly fantastic day, but make sure your supplies are well-stocked!!

One of those mocking signs for available refreshment:

Our saviour from the drinkless land!

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