Monday, 2 January 2017

Memories of 2016

The turn of a year is a time to look forward to the possibilities and challenges ahead, but also to reflect on the year past. I've once again been very fortunate in having enjoyed some superb days and nights in Scotland's great outdoors.  As in previous years, I couldn't select just one memory from 2016 - so here are four.... :o)

A multi-day trip to Iona and the Ross of Mull was blessed with the most tremendous quality of light - the combination of brilliant sunshine and blue sky set off the pink granite, white sands and aquamarine sea for which the area is known.

Gorgeous beaches, stunning primary colours, a rich history and one of the best possible sea kayaking locations.......

...... and have I mentioned the colours?!

We were to experience colour in a different palette on another multi-day trip, a kaleidoscope of warm autumn shades - this one I'm still to write up on the blog.  The trip included one of the most perfect evenings imaginable; our friend Lorna put all our thoughts into a single quiet phrase - "Just look around us........this is the best place in the world..."

In the interests of balance, I've been out in some truly elemental weather too - rain of impressive intensity on the Moray Firth and a trip on Kintyre with Douglas which had just about everything in terms of weather plus an adrenaline-inducing crossing.....

There have been good days on the hill too, although perhaps not as many as I'd have liked - something to correct in 2017.

At a shade over 500 metres high, it isn't the biggest hill, but quite an undertaking if you happen to be at Primary School!  A day climbing Bennachie in the company of 55 small hillwalkers was one of the most enjoyable days I've spent on any hill.

But, if pushed for the single trip which is a stand-out of 2016 it has to be the first multi-day trip of the year.....

Over four days Mike, Douglas and I paddled around and took our boats over the island of Jura.  Spectacularly wild coasts, fast tidal streams, bothy nights and brilliant weather; this trip was a long-held ambition and it totally exceeded the high hopes I had.

It also included one of the most striking landscapes anywhere in Britain - and one that few people even know about - just a remarkable trip.

A huge and heartfelt thank you to everyone with whom I've enjoyed the outdoors in 2016 - from struggles in tough conditions to nights around the fire - the experiences are all the better for sharing with friends - Slainte Mhath and a very happy New Year!

Friday, 30 December 2016

A year of light

This year seems to have had great quality of light -  or perhaps I'm just noticing it more?

Certainly 2016 started with anything but light - the devastating flooding resulting from day after day of intense rainfall which inundated homes, destroyed infrastructure and altered the courses of some of Scotland's rivers.  The effects are still being felt and many residents across the country are still not back in their homes.

But after the rain.....

There's been light.  From huge Hebridean skyscapes and watercolour shades.... the warm colours reflected in an autumn loch......

From brooding stormlight......

To searing primary clarity...... the light has added immeasurably to being "out there".

There's been the glow of friendship; a shared love of wild places, and the intimate circle of flickering warm light around our camp fires.......

...there's been ghostly pale light of intangible, luminous beauty.....

..and the dappled warmth of a forest morning - welcome after a night of rain.

Then there's been the light at each end of the day; slow sunrises of staggering majesty over the Aberdeenshire farmlands of home.....

....and a whole series of pyrotechnic west coast sunsets

Solas in the Gaelic language -  in infinite variety light has been a thread - it truly seems to have been a year of light.

Monday, 26 December 2016

A belated white Christmas

Christmas Day 2016 in Aberdeenshire was one of the warmest on record - we saw an afternoon temperature of 14.5 degrees Celsius. It was very windy though, a tearing gale ahead of Storm Conor - and once the front had passed........

...Boxing Day dawned with something altogether more seasonal!  The mild air has been replaced with temperatures hovering around freezing.......

...and snow showers never too far away.  A white Christmas - belatedly.

Saturday, 24 December 2016

Happy Christmas

Wishing you peace, health and happiness wherever you may be this Christmas

Sunday, 18 December 2016

Pale shapes beyond the Pale

Whilst working in the north west of England, a Saturday afternoon with the promise of dry and bright winter weather tempted me to look for walking locations.  As the area was unfamiliar, nearby Delamere Forest looked a good place to start.  The bright sunshine and clear air at the coast were replaced by dense mist as I drove to Delamere, obscuring the sun but lending great atmosphere.

As expected, most of the trails were busy with families enjoying the dry conditions and escaping the madness of pre-Christmas retail pressure, and with dog walkers and cyclists.  It's good to see the forest so well-used, although there wasn't much of a sense of solitude.

Having walked the longest of the trails around the forest and its glacial relic lake, I decided to extend my walk to take in another trail which led up and over Old Pale, which as the name suggests was once fortified, as was nearby Eddisbury Hill.  Old Pale forms the highest point of the northern part of a long sandstone ridge above the Cheshire plain.

Seven counties are visible from the 176m/577ft summit, marked by a sandstone monolith surrounded by stones representing the seven counties.  On this misty day, not even one county was visible though!  A cloud sea just below the summit extended to the horizon in most directions, but offered an atmospheric descent....

Shifting mist brought trees in and out of focus; pale shapes looming from the grey and then disappearing again.....

A slight sinking of the cloud sea allowed the shapes of winter trees to stand out in sharp silhouette, all the more marked as I'd been in mist for several hours.

As the sun dipped towards the skyline the lowering rays made for a very atmospheric winter scene- a small effort to make time for a walk had been amply rewarded.