Glencoe 24-26MAY19

I’d planned a trip to go walking in Glencoe for the late may bank holiday but the weather wasn’t looking promising. However a wet camping trip is a chance to practice resilience.

I wanted to be on the road as early as possible so prepared the van the night before and thus it was just before 7am I was pulling out of the street and into the rush hour carpark of the bypass.

Once onto the motorways and A roads to Glencoe I made good time. There was a quick stop for a photo on the way into the Glen.

View from entrance to glen

And then I was at the car park at the foot of the walk about 9:15am. The plan was to climb the two peaks that form Buachaille Etive Berg.

I got 1km into the walk before realising that I’d forgotten my walking poles. Given that this was a steep climb I wasn’t about to continue without them so it was back to the van and then a restart.

I was a long uphill slog to the first peak and since the weather wasn’t brilliant (not raining but then entire Glen was in the clag) I didn’t tarry and headed down to the middle of the saddle for some sandwiches.

View up south peak
Cairn between peaks

Then it was on up the north peak on a steep scree filled slope. Again not much to see at the top but as I was coming down it was clearing so I got some photographs.

View down glen from north peak

Back at the van it was time for a quick bite then onto the campsite for the weekend. The weather had really cleared by this point and I was able to pitch up in bright sunshine.

I settled down to make a dent in all the reading I’d brought with me.

Saturday dawned and the weather forecast was really not good. Heavy rain starting in the morning and then on for basically the rest of the week. In anticipation of this, I pulled on the waterproofs and headed out on a walk to the nearby village of Ballachulish. A craft shop, crafts and things was the first stop and a mug was picked up that will do me very nicely for work.

After the village it was back the way and then into the Glencoe visitor centre. I watched the film for a bit then picked up a fridge magnet to add to my collection and a Baby Nessie tea infuser that will go with the mug.

It was raining quite a bit now so back to the van and settled down for more reading and listening to music. One advantage of getting away to places like Glencoe is the limited mobile coverage means Internet surfing is curtailed and you can get peace and quiet to get on with other things. Of course I picked the weekend the Prime Minster quit..

It rained all night and Sunday morning it was still chucking it down so packing up was done in the rain and everything, awning, loo, clothes were damp by the time I set off. Then it was through the clag and mist of the glen and onto the main road home. It did brighten up as I drove south and in an absolute micky take by the weather gods, the sun was out and bright when I reached home. That did mean that I got everything dried quickly.

Bad weather is part and parcel of camping and while I don’t welcome it, it just is and there is no point getting angry or wishing it away. Instead welcome it and treat it as a way to display resilience.

Of course, I’m still hoping for sun on my summer holiday.

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Cragside House and River Breamish 4MAY19

I had been wanting to visit Cragside House for some time. As the home of the inventor Armstrong it is claimed to be the place where modern living began. It was the first house to be lit by hydro-electricity.

I decided to make a weekend of it and booked an overnight stay at a nearby Caravan Club site, River Breamish. And with that, it was off early and after a quick pit stop for diesel, I was on the A68 south. The road was pretty much straight there once onto the A697 thought the last few miles were over some very steep (and 3rd gear) hill.

The sun was shining as I pulled up though it was still chilly. I got the hiking boots on and headed for the water wheel and power house. The Powerhouse is a truly impressive piece of Victorian engineering and was obviously built to last as much of it looked used but not old. The powerhouse also had some interesting interactive displays on how it all worked. So there was some entertainment to be had pumping water.

The water wheel wasn’t working so from there it was on through the grounds to the Iron Bridge, rock garden and a wonderful view of the house.

Stone Bridge in the Grounds
Iron Bridge
House from Iron Bridge
Rock Garden and House

The house was open at this point so it was into the interior and a look at how life was lived in the most modern house of its time. One point that grabbed me right off was that this was the most homely stately home I’ve ever been in. Most of them seem very austere and not somewhere you could imagine people living. This on the other hand looked like the people had vacated it and left as is. The reception room and gallery were really the only places with that for-show look. A special mention must be made of the fireplace in the reception room. This was carved into the rock that the house sits on/beside.

Fireplace
Fireplace

The house contains many pieces of fantastic engineering. Besides the electricity, with so much water pressure available, other parts of the house like the lift and kitchen accessories were run hydraulically.

The day was still bright as I left the house so I set off on a lovely 6 mile walk round the estate. There was hail and rain for about five minutes but it was a great way to round off the visit.

Back in the van it was 30mins up the road to River Breamish and my home for the night. The site was pretty full and I ended up on a grass pitch which I’m less fond of but I settled down and got some music going.

The night was cold but I had the heater set to come on in the morning and as the day dawned bright and early I was off home after a lovely trip away. 

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Ready for Adventure 2019 13APR19

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been getting the van ready for the 2019 touring season. I’ve got all the pot, pans and dishes out of storage to clean, I’ve put the camping clothes through the wash and today I picked up the van from it’s MOT and service. 

A couple of hours were spent cleaning the inside, putting the mattresses back in the roof bed and generally getting things ready. All that remains is to put a few items in and we’re ready to go. 

One thing different that I had to do this year was pick up a new gas cylinder. Californias use Camping Gaz 907 bottles which are not as common in the UK as the Calor ones are ( the reverse is true on the continent ). So seeing as the van needed a bit of a run after the service, it was down to the Go Outdoors in Berwick Upon Tweed. They had the necessary cylinder to swap over and I managed to pick up a boot tidy as well for not much money which has helped organize the space at the back under the bed. 

The van is ready, the weather is improving and now is the time to start planning some adventures. 

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Loch Leven 26MAR19

It was time to dust off the hiking boots and get some walking done. I’d been planning to walk round Loch Leven since the beginning of the year but Monday was the first confluence of good weather and time.

Even though I had the day off, I was up at stupid o’clock and on the road at 7am. Straight into slow moving traffic on the bypass. It was doing 30-40mph till the Calders junction but once onto the motor way it was up to speed and a pleasant journey to the parking spot. Total journey was under an hour. And I got parked next to a camped Cali.

The sun was out but it was chilly as I started round the loch and right off there was the ornamental sauce gate to see. A runner passed me by on his way round as well bu I had the place to myself. first part was through some woods and there was silence broken only by natures sounds. Striding out into the quiet had a stilling effect on the mind and I could gradually feel myself relaxing into the walk.

The first half of the walk was away from the loch, through woods and reed beds but soon I reached a beach at the north end and spent some time taking photos.

Loch Leven
Loch Leven
Loch Leven
Loch Leven

I got some amazing shots from this end of the loch and was very lucky with the weather and sunlight.

It was getting busier and warmer now so some layers where taken off and it was time for a detour to see Burleigh Castle. Not a large castle by any standard but free to see and worth the trip

Burleigh Castle
Burleigh Castle

A bit further round and it was into Kinross proper and the visitor centre for Loch Leven castle. This was shut as the boat to the island the castle is on runs only in the summer. I quite fancy seeing the castle but the boats they had tied up looked a bit on the small side.

Continuing on my way, the last stop was the RSPB bird sanctuary at the south end of the Loch. After a perusal of the shop I took some time to view the birds. I had no idea what I was looking at but the telescopes were cool.

And finally it was back to the van. 24KM and 5 hours later I was back. I felt good having done the walk. A bit sore but it was fantastic to get back out and on my feet. Lunch was eaten sitting on the van’s step then it was home. A great day out and hopefully a precursor to more walking.

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Arbroath Abbey and Signal Tower Museum – 232MAR19

I’ve always wanted to visit Arbroath to see the famous Abbey and with a day off from work and reasonable weather promised it was time to take a day trip north. 

Setting off at a reasonable hour, it was a basically straight road with dual carriageway pretty much the whole way there. The only real hold ups came when navigating the many roundabouts in Dundee along the A90 and A92. 

But most of the time was spent cruising along at 70mph listening to some fabulous tunes. The choices this time were Lunatic Soul’s “Walking on a Flashlight Beam” and The Sons of Kemet’s “Your Queen is a Reptile”. Both thoroughly recommended. 

I got lucky with the parking, stopping the van on the harbour shore. From there it was a quick walk up the hill to the Abbey. I was there pretty much for it opening and had the place to myself. There is a visitor centre which tells the story of the construction of the Abbey and the part that it has played in Scottish history. From there it was into the ruin itself. There’s only a little left of the Abbey but enough to imagine the splendour of the place.

Arbroath Abbey
Arbroath Abbey

The sun was shining though there was a chilly wind blowing. With the blue-sky peeking through, this made for some interesting photo opportunities.

Arbroath Abbey

There was also some sonic exploration as the Sacristy is mostly complete and has an amazing 5 second echo. I spent some enjoyable time listening to that space. 

The abbot’s house is quite complete as well but only the under croft is accessible. This has more information on the construction of the Abbey as told through the life of an apprentice stone mason. 

The Abbey’s main claim to fame is as the creation place of the Declaration of Arbroath. A letter sent by the nobles of Scotland to the Pope at the end of the wars of independence. There is a room in the Abbey that tells the story of the writing of the declaration and tells of the impact that it had.

An impressive Historic Scotland property, the Abbey is well worth a visit. And on from there it was back down to the harbour and the Signal Tower Museum. 

The Signal Tower Museum

The Signal Tower Museum tells the story of the Bell Rock lighthouse. It details the problems that the Bell Rock gave, known so far back that one of the Abbots of the Abbey placed a bell on the rock to be rung by the wind and waves so as to warn ships giving the reef its name.

It took the loss of HMS York in 1804 to prompt the construction of a proper lighthouse on the Bell Rock. The museum includes the stories of the keepers of the lighthouse until it was automated in the late 1980s. They also have one of the sets of rotating optics used and this is on display working. 

After the signal museum, it had brightened up further and though cold in the wind, it was warm in the sun and the van was a very pleasant place to have lunch overlooking the harbour. After lunch, the parking clock ran out so it was time to hit the road and head south. 

A good day’s visiting and a couple of interesting things seen. The Abbey especially is worth a visit. 

Some more Pics

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Forged by a challenge

“What would have become of Hercules do you think if there had been no lion, hydra, stag or boar – and no savage criminals to rid the world of? What would he have done in the absence of such challenges?

Obviously, he would have just rolled over in bed and gone back to sleep. So, by snoring his life away in luxury and comfort he never would have developed into the mighty Hercules.

And even if he had, what good would it have done him? What would have been the use of those arms, that physique, and that noble soul, without crises or conditions to stir into him action?”

Epictetus

We all face many challenges in our lives. And one of the responses to these challenges is to wish them away. To feel aggrieved that there has been an intrusion into our lives of something unexpected.

However, what if we were to welcome the challenge?

Epictetus’ quote above concerns the making of the great hero of legend, The Demi-God Hercules. He only became who he was truly meant to be by being faced with great challenges and overcoming them.

We too are presented with challenges every day. Some small and some not so small. Some are simple to overcome some are almost impossible. Some are trivial and some so large that they threaten the whole of our being.

Of course, one element of the challenges we face are that they are often much larger in our minds than they are in reality. There is no problem so bad that thinking about it won’t make it worse.

As much as we wish, we won’t have an easy life, problems and challenges present themselves all the time. So flip the thinking around. Relish the challenge. See it as an opportunity to prove yourself and a crucible in which a better you is forged.

What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

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Memento Mori

“You could leave this life right now. Let that determine what you do and say and think”

Marcus Aurelius

I was at an exhibition in the Royal Scottish Academy last week while there, saw a very powerful work. It consisted of nine black glass panels, each of which had the picture of a smartphone engraved on it. On the screen of each smartphone was a skull. Below the panels was an old iPhone with a skull engraved on the screen and the title of the work “Memento Mori”. Remember that you will die.

Like all the best art, this got me thinking and has stuck with me in the week since I viewed the work. Imagine how we would act if, every hour on the hour, our phones stopped what they were doing and told us that we were mortal.

Time is the most precious thing that we own. Yet it is the one thing that we treat often with total indifference, spending it like it was an infinite resource. Hours are whiled away doing nothing. Plans put off. Meetings with friends postponed.

Yet there is nothing that I can do to stop the passage of time. My life on this Earth is finite and limited. Furthermore, I have no real control over when I might leave this life nor knowledge of when that might happen. I could walk out of the Starbucks that I’m sitting in and be hit by a car. Or I could live to 100 before succumbing.

Should I spend what limited and unknown time I have in pointless arguments that never really reach a conclusion or browsing the internet for no purpose other than demanding that someone entertain me? Should I put off contacting friends and family? Should I say yes to every call on my time, handing over control to others?

“How long are you going to wait before you demand the best for yourself and in no instance bypass the discriminations of reason? You have been given the principles that you ought to endorse, and you have endorsed them. What kind of teacher, then, are you still waiting for in order to refer your self-improvement to him? You are no longer a boy, but a full-grown man. If you are careless and lazy now and keep putting things off and always deferring the day after which you will attend to yourself, you will not notice that you are making no progress, but you will live and die as someone quite ordinary.”

Epictetus

Memento Mori is a call to action. If I can hold that thought in my mind then I can follow Marcus Aurelius’ command to let it determine my every thought, word and deed.

I can spend my time following my passions, doing the things that I enjoy and spending my time with those I care about.

And as Epictetus says, I can this day start the process of self-improvement. In each moment I can make a conscious choice to spend my time in a way that improves me or the world around me. Perfection is not an end goal but a journey, a moment by moment process of choices that move towards a better me.

And then, by living this way, I can leave this life at the moment that fate appoints satisfied that I did my best.

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Adventure planning time again 20JAN19

The 2019/2020 handbooks for the Camping & Caravanning Club and the Motorhome & Caravan club have dropped through the postbox so planning time for more adventures.

Part of the joy of campervanning, especially in the winter when not much camping is being done, is the planning of the year’s trips. I’ve already got a few things booked including my summer holiday trip but it makes for an entertaining winter evening, thumbing through the books, seeing the pictures and wondering where the van will take me in 2019.

I’d like to travel a bit further afield this year. Over the past couple of summers I’ve done large trips in the van and I now know that it is a comfortable motorway mile munching machine. A bit less composed on the twisty countryside stuff but once up to 70 on a main motorway the van purrs along and with some tunes going it makes for a very pleasant trip.

So time to plan and dream about upcoming trips.

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Dundee 12JAN19

With the goal of getting out in the van more and getting a lot more travelling done, it was up early and off to Dundee for a day trip.

The road was straight (M90/A90) then down the A85. I did get a bit lost and ended up missing the car park I was aiming for but ended up in a better one that was totally empty. So no problems parking.

The first port of call (no pun intended) was the Discovery Centre and the RSS Discovery

RSS Discovery

This is a ship that spent 2 years in the Antarctic ice surveying and exploring before a life of scientific voyages. The Discovery centre told the story o the expedition south along with the details of the ship’s construction in Dundee.

The ship itself had been modified since the Antarctica voyage and was missing its engines. However there was plenty to see on board and lots of details about the how the crew would have lived on the voyage. The quarters were cramped and one interesting feature is that there are no port holes on the side of the ship. This was to give the vessel strength to survive when trapped in the ice.

Next along the banks of the Tay was the V&A Dundee

V&A Dundee
V&A Dundee

This is an impressive building with an even more impressive space inside.

V&A Dundee interior
V&A Dundee interior

Lots of the building is given over to education about and the preserving of, Scottish Design. The permanent exhibition is not that large but had the MacKintosh Oak Room set up as it would have been when first installed in a tea room in Glasgow. This was worth the visit alone. Other items of design were on display and it was quite an eclectic collection.

Continuing along the river was HMS Unicorn. This is apparently the third oldest ship in the UK and is a frigate from the early 19th century. It had been converted to a drill hall at some point in its life so the top was roofed over and the masts were gone but the lower decks were set out as they would have been in its life as a warship. I enjoyed my visit but it was hard on the back and head, they seemed to have been a lot shorter in those days.

Last up on the visit was the McManus Gallery and Museum. This is a fairly typical city museum with the family silver on display as it were. However they did have some artefacts from NCR and DMA Design and a very good portrait exhibition so worth the visit.

There were a few other things I thought about seeing but I was on the clock for the pay and display parking so it was back to the van pausing only to see the Desperate Dan and Oor Wullie statues.

Desperate Dan and Minnie the Minx
Desperate Dan and Minnie the Minx
Oor Wullie
Oor Wullie

Started out on the road home just as the rain came on so result there. I really enjoyed my trip and saw some fabulous stuff. Might head back at some point for any other exhibitions at the V&A and to see the Dundee Contemporary Arts centre.

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Out Walking 5JAN19

On New Year’s Day, I managed to get out for a walk, climbing Arthur’s Sea, walking along the canal and then down the Water of Leith. It was the first real walk I’ve done in ages and it was 20Km of pure joy.

I had forgotten the simple pleasure of striding out along a path, of climbing a hill to see the top or of sitting eating lunch outdoors watching what goes by.

I’ve been doing so much running of late which basically means training and more or less sticking to a strict schedule that I’ve not been able to get out for a walk for a year or more. My hiking gear has been feeling somewhat neglected of late.

Running, while I find it a meditative act, is an inward looking exercise. I’m focused on my form, my breathing, my pace and often how much longer I have to go before I can stop. I don’t see what is round me. I’m also pushing myself so often I’m really quite tired.

Walking is a more expansive act. I’m moving at a slower pace, though still working for it, and can look around and see the landscape that I’m passing through. I hit a rhythm and settle into a stride. My legs carry me along in an easy fashion and I’m begin to feel part of the scenery that I’m passing through.

There’s also time for photography, another much loved but somewhat neglected pastime. The light was fantastic from the top of Arthur’s seat and I got a few good photos at the top and then on the canal.

Salisbury Crags & Castle from Arthur's Seat
Salisbury Crags & Castle from Arthur’s Seat

The bonus of that is of course, see what you managed to shoot when you get home. Here’s what i did get.

So, time to spend the year on foot, traversing the paths of the country and capturing it all on (digital) film. Sounds like a good recipe for 2019.

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