Thursday, 28 May 2009

Skywatch Friday: Cycling Project - glacial erratics

Somewhere along the top of Scotland (it's all getting a bit vague by this time, as I don't know this coastline and my son was busy with the hard business of cycling - and besides there aren't too many place names around) the Cycling Project came across these glacial erratics. It was the summer of glaciers for my son - in July he visited the Mont Blanc glacier in Switzerland on a geography field trip.

See other skies at the Skywatch Friday site.

Monday, 25 May 2009

Scenic Sunday: Cycling Project - along the top of Scotland

Having cycled up and down the steep gradients of the North West coast, there was a bit of a reward in slightly flatter terrain along the top edge of Scotland. This deserted beach is en route from Scourie to Durness. The background to the trip is here.

Visit the Scenic Sunday site for more scenic shots, some of them actually posted on Sunday.

Thursday, 21 May 2009

Skywatch Friday: Cycling Project - 11.12 pm

Not quite 11.12 pm yet, in this first shot. This is only 9.55 pm. After a hard day's cycle to Scourie, what better than to spend all the long Northern evening on the beach. Glorious freedom, to sit and take shot after shot of the setting sun. This next one is taken at 10 pm.

And then to the serious business of toasting marshmallows over a driftwood fire.

The fire glows red as the light fades.

Here's 11.12 pm. No reason to go to bed on these glorious May nights.

Photos taken by my son on his S3 Cycling Project. For other skies around the world visit Skywatch Friday.

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Cycling Project - single track

En route to Scourie, and the road has shrunk to a single track. The diamond-shaped sign shows where there's a passing place. Big enough for two cars to pass - a bit of a problem if there's a lorry, even a small one, or a car towing a caravan.

After a zig-zag slog uphill, there's a reward of a view down a sea loch.

Cloud shadows chase over the hills. The patch of yellow is gorse in bloom, which I discovered from a North American blog today is an invasive weed there.

Photo credits to my son, on his S3 Cycling Project.

Monday, 18 May 2009

Cycling Project - Clachtoll to Scourie

Clachtoll Bay with tropical blue and green shades in the sea, before starting on the switchback 49 miles North to Scourie.

The background to all this cycling stuff is here at the start of this mini series.

Sunday, 17 May 2009

Scenic Sunday: Cycling Project - mystery mountain

My son took no photos on days 5 and 6 of the Cycling Project trip. Day 5 was a deceptive 36 miles from Ullapool to Clachtoll, but if you know that corner of Scotland you'll know that there are some extreme gradients on the road. (It's also the corner of the world to the south of which Tolkein situates Middle Earth in the map at the front of Lord of the Rings). Day 6 was a rest day spent sea kayaking off Clachtoll.

So for my first Scenic Sunday post I'm reduced to posting a scenic but nameless mountain from Day 4. My son doesn't know ('I just took the photo, Mum'), and although I know mountain outlines such as Suilven and Canisp and the Torridon range, I'm not so good on the rest. Could it be An Teallach? (Pronounced Ann Challoch, with the first 'ch' as in 'church' and the second a soft 'ch' as in 'loch'). Clarification welcome!

See more Scenic Sunday shots here, including mountains with names.

Thursday, 14 May 2009

Skywatch Friday: Cycling Project - secret beaches

Day 4 of the Cycling Project, and a glimpse of Gruinard Bay and its secret beaches. The main beach is on the right, and if you enlarge the photo you can see the the others. Pink sand, all sorts of shells, and at this time of year no people. The sky looks rather summery - in fact it had been hailing a few minutes before.

What my son didn't take a photo of was the pleasant island lying out to sea from the bay. Pleasant and for many years deadly - Gruinard Island was deliberately contaminated with anthrax spores during a World War 2 bioweapons experiment. Decontamination is now meant to be complete, after much spraying with formaldehyde and various test flocks of sheep being landed on the island.

Day 4: Poolewe to Ullapool, 50 miles.

Other skies, with and without hail, are at Skywatch Friday.

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Cycling Project - en route to Poolewe

The long straight road belies some of the taxing gradients on the route. We re-traced the route by car later that summer, and were impressed by the endurance the group must have shown.

This is Day 3, from Kinlochewe to Poolewe - an up and down slog of 25 miles.

See the Cycling Project explained.

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Cycling Project - Slioch

Day 2 and the cyclists were amongst the hills. The peak in the shot above is Slioch, 981 metres, which stands above Loch Maree. The loch apparently has its own monster, related to the one in Loch Ness. No sign of it when the Edinburgh group passed by - it probably had more sense than to show itself.

Edited to add: Day 2 - Contin to Kinlochewe 32 miles
For what the 'Project' is all about, see the first post here.

Monday, 11 May 2009

Cycling Project - the Kyle line

My daughter left today for two weeks of hillwalking on the West coast of Scotland. One of the unique features of my children's school is this two week period in May every year when the whole year group in S3, or the 14-15 year olds - all 230 of them - are split into small groups of about a dozen and go off into Scotland's wild places, with 3 or so teachers per group. No bookwork, no science-project-homework-on-the-side. Just physical endeavour, some of it pretty challenging. The prosaic name for this experience is 'S3 Projects'. It's based on the philosophy of the Scottish-born American environmentalist John Muir, who wrote "I only went out for a walk and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in."

Because I want to stay as close to the progress of the seasons as possible, I'm not going to post her photos when she gets back - I'll do that at the same time next year. Instead, I've got a guest photographer for the next two weeks - my son, who kept a photo record of his Project 3 years ago. This involved cycling a 450 mile circuit from Inverness up the North West coast of Scotland, along the top, and then back down to Inverness. They camped for the most part, with the occasional luxury stay in a Youth Hostel.

So here is a nameless station, on the first day of cycling. It's on the railway line from Inverness to Kyle of Lochalsh, the mainland terminus for the Isle of Skye. My son can't remember what the station was called, and I can't quite read the sign in the photo below. It could be Achanalt. Anyway, the group hit one of the many quiet times on the line.

(edited to add: Day 1 - Inverness to Contin, 18 miles)

Those passengers waiting on the up line (or is it the down?) get a more robust waiting room.

Sunday, 10 May 2009

Farm in the village

Just off the main street and square in my home village, and right behind the church, is a farm steading. The large building with the boarded-up doors is where the cattle were kept on winter nights and in bad weather. I remember as a child going past in the snow and hearing them lowing and shifting around in the straw. In summer house martins build in the eaves and swoop down into the courtyard.

It's been several years now since cattle have been kept here, and now I hear that the steading is to be pulled down. Nothing can remain the same, and the concept of farm buildings right in the centre of the village is an outdated one, but it always seemed special to me to have cows next door to the church on one side and the post office on another.

Friday, 8 May 2009

Deer at Little Loch Broom

A line of deer grazes on the shores of Little Loch Broom, in the Western Highlands, with sea mist rising from the loch. The mountain is either Sail Mhor or Meal Garbh - sorry to be vague!

See other Skywatch glimpses here.

Monday, 4 May 2009


While the big people are out working with the real thing, the small people dream of the day when their turn will come.

I've got used to taking photos in the city and in the country, but here, in my home village, I felt extremely self-conscious. I didn't dare position myself right in front of the house where I might be seen from the window - or even worse if the door opened suddenly.

Sunday, 3 May 2009

Sowing - big time

Out for my early morning walk when we were visiting my Dad on Speyside a couple of weeks ago I came across plenty of farming activity. This monster was sowing carrots. The land on the river valley floor is rich and fertile, but it wasn't always so peaceful. A few hundred years ago (in 1296 to be exact), King Edward I of England, known as the 'Hammer of the Scots' because, well, he kept trying to conquer us, stayed the night in the castle on the hill. You can just see the only remaining wall between the modern houses and the trees on the skyline. His army bivouacked on the plain below - right about where the tractor is.

Now it's just spring ploughing and sowing.


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