Carn Dearg and Sgor Ghaibhre!

A wake when we wake kind of morning, but knowing we need to get on the road. Surfaced around 5.45 bleary eyed, a few aches and pains from not being in our own bed and in the camper van. A cold September night needing more clothing than needed during the day.

We camped at Blair Atholl Castle, a place to rest our heads and mainly to save us the long drive. Yet we still had an hour drive to go, single lane, winding roads that follow the loch. We see a heard of deer and startle a stag. Both majestic and very scary especially if we’d come across them in the middle of the road.

We make it to the crossroads I was aiming for around 7.30ish. There’s one guy and another couple setting off. The couple setting off are down the road already heading to the station. The single guy, has a Brompton bike, in his shorts very light rucksack and wafer thin cagoule. Also looks like he’s slept in his car. He’s away already, a quick hello. We feel well and truly late to the party despite the early start. I wonder one day if I’ll be the guy who sleeps in the car park without amenities, good to go at first light.

We stick to our routine, our muesli, coffee, boots….sky check, rucksack load. Check the van, and start. My wife gets a good head start on me as I faff with the Garmin that sits on my bike. There is a good 7 miles to go and last thing I want to do is make a fatal wrong term. Eventually I get the thing to work and I catch her up. The cycle a great track…definitely not suitable for a Brompton bike….but he’s made it to the first ford well before us. We see it stowed behind a rock.

Leaving the bikes at this point isn’t our route and I do a double check on the map….hmmm. Straight up from here which makes sense and fair play to him in terms of steepness. My route though is the one that got away, the one from Corrour station, more a gradual hike up. We want something from the well trodden path. We hit a couple more Fords, thankfully nothing like the first where I had to jump and lift the bikes.

We make the connection with the original route for 10, 10:30.

It’s boggy, I feel my boots are already laden with water within the first 15 minutes. The small path is more a little stream with little avoidance of any damp by having bog either side. It’s part of the walking, I get on with it and breathe. The mist is swirling and it’s going to be one of those days where it’s unlikely to lift. Another day of not seeing the tops. We stop for our first roll just after 11, a rock of requirement presents itself. We are close to the top, and can feel the wind getting stronger. The egg and smoked salmon roll in the dry is a both a spirit and energy booster that we needed.

The first Munro, Càrn Dearg is in the bag around 11:30 and it’s a great top. Folk have a made a real effort with the cairn! There is no view to stick around for and we crack on. A mentle nod to myself that if we make it for 2 at the next one, we will be winning the day.

It’s a gentle walk down to the 750m above sea level mark, before the climb starts again. We get moments of visibility. A glimpse of what we could of won. A pocket of space in the clouds. There’s a call for another roll about 100m from the top. I suggest another 20 mins before we do and we carry on making it to top for what feels like 1.30pm. We finish our rolls, pleased with progress.

Amazed to hear voices coming up the way from the opposite direction. It feels like they are more amazed to see us, than us them. They haven’t seen a soul all day. We exchange stories for a couple of minutes and then leave them to top.

Our pain starts there, quickly we discover the route down is pathless. Either lots of heather or boggyness. I try to shave off the route, cutting corners here and there, my watch getting grumpy with me. There is no path anyway so taking an as the crow flies kind of approach. Fortunately the river we have to cross has enough boulders above the water to hop across. The short cut could have been costly! Then a long flat walk before finding a path that takes us back to the bikes.

Amazingly we meet the party we saw on the 2nd top. A slight hobble on one of the walkers and I feel for her as my knees are twinging away. Ten miles uneven mountain walking can do that to you. They still have a good forty minutes and we have a good fifty minutes of cycle along with 3 fords and the hours drive.

Dinner isn’t booked, but we hit the Athol arms around 18:30. It’s busy and we are just grateful there is someone to take care of us. The menu feels a little large, a jokey vernacular that supposed to appeal to the tourists. I take the special, Venison burger which fills a hole.

A good day out, despite the weather.

These Munro’s are in the middle of Rannoch Moor, and as there are no roads in the normal starting point is Corrour station. Which we attempted in April. Blue sky one day, only to be thwarted by snow the next! We got them this time though.

The #WeekendCoffeeShare is an informal weekly link-up hosted by Natalie the Explorer that serves as weekly heart beat and sort of of a mind-dump. Helps me reflect on my week, with a list of achievements, thoughts and rambles normally whilst drinking a beverage probably listening to music.

BBQ Season and Ben Lui

Monday Morning and the body is sore, evidence of a full weekend. It feels like I should be going into work for a rest!

Out for dinner with friends on Friday, a celebration of them being married for 25 years and our long friendship throughout. We catchup up on the kids, their successes and next steps. We talk through our plans, our holidays our dreams our woes, putting the various wrongs to rights. . It’s a late one, and despite needing the sleep, the natural body clock kicks in and we wake at 6 as per usual!

Saturday and it’s sunny again, the run of good weather is un-heard of. The garden is parched, we’ve not had rain for what feels like weeks and last weekend saw me bring the BBQ back to life. I know I’d put it to bed in a clean state….but after a winter out in the yard it felt like it needed another going over. I hate cleaning the BBQ!

It will be put to good use today, my son has his got his pals coming round at four for a BBQ. Not sure what the lure is over cooking outside, when we’ve got our kitchen right beside us! Maybe it’s a strange primal instinct, perhaps where man needs fire! Something about bellowing smoke and the abandon in which you can cook lots of things at once.

Before that though the messages need to be done, and I need to think of something for my wife and I that isn’t just meat on top of meat. I offer up the Portobello loop, our Saturday cycle, errands included (the butchers and fishmonger on the high street). This time with a flask, a takeaway scone from the beach house. Amazingly the benches are free, the wind is our friend in that moment no one wants to hang about. We watch the waves and the world go by.


We are back for lunch, armed with an Arbroath smokie, which takes me a good 10 mins to remove any trace of bones despite a clean removal of the back spine, a little butter in a pan, a couple of eggs and then the broken fish. Heaven.

The BBQ goes well, I start before they arrive, aubergine, peppers, courgettes, A little mint, honey and goats cheese. I didn’t need to know about that winning combination! I do a little extra for the salads during the week.

I get the boys out the way first, sausages, chicken thighs that have been marinated in a little curry paste and Greek yoghurt. A burger, some sliced cheese. We leave them to it, sit at the bottom of the garden, something cold in hand and a few nuts. The sun is not to be wasted.

A piece of Tuna and a decent Steak which is shared between us. Combined with the grilled veggies, a lemon and herby chermoula. Followed by a bowl of fresh strawberries, we feel blessed for a Saturday evening.

Sunday and we are up early and out the door by 6am. We are hitting the mountains in the hope the dry weather means the river is low. The Munro we’d marked down for bagging has mention of the river that needs to be forded and something that should not be done in spate. The irony of the motorway signs on the way up mentioning a yellow warning, with heavy rain being due is not lost on us!

We arrive in the carpark around 8.30, there are spare boots left here and there, a sign of previous fording perhaps. The road had followed the river up valley and my mind is in the space that it can’t be that bad. Fortunately it’s about 100m from the car par and although we’ve brought our wellies, a five minute check, the river is clearly parched and an easy call to make that we don’t need the extra footwear. Breakfast done, it’s time to get going. The crossing was a breeze, and the tunnel aside for needing to get low for my rucksack also not a problem. A steady climb from then on in. Through the trees, the air full of fresh pine and bright green new shoots.

Ben Lui, from the River Crossing

It feels a little odd to drive 2 hours and then to put oneself through such physical hard ship, the climb, the screaming on the muscles due to the steepness. It’s here though where I realise, I put demons to bed and square off that we are not here long, the mountains have been here a while and will be for a little longer.

Ben Lui – Climb
Compulsory Selfie in the Clouds – Made it
It’s neighbor Beinn a Chleibh – Lunch awaits at the top

It’s not too sunny, with lots of cloud and although not a great view, it’s atmospheric and perhaps a good thing we can’t see the drop. Add to that it’s not too hot. As we come down the other side we catch people sweating buckets, as the cloud cover disappears. The cost of starting late, and getting the views. Just one of those typical weather days in the Scottish Mountains. We got our picnic on the 2nd summit dry and in good spirits. Another two in the bag.

The #WeekendCoffeeShare is an informal weekly link-up hosted by Natalie the Explorer that serves as weekly heart beat and sort of of a mind-dump. Helps me reflect on my week, with a list of achievements, thoughts and rambles normally whilst drinking a beverage probably listening to music.

Munro Kershaw

Heading into NoWhere, tunes in my head

Last weekend I was taken back, what feels like yesterday to me, maybe forty years on paper.

Originally it was meant to be a small village in the highlands just minutes from my fravourite campsite. The chip shop that owns a marquee at the back, hosting events, local gigs for the surrounding scottish bands. In this case, I’m not sure how I first heard, it might have been the flyer in the chip shop. It might have been the feed in facebook, and at first I couldn’t believe it. An 80’s pop icon, not just any though, he was my 80’s pop icon. My first album on cassette, maybe even my 2nd album on vinyl. I couldn’t believe it, Nik Kershaw, with his band an intimate gig At Blair Athol.

Oddly enough I couldn’t get anyone else interested! So I came up with my own plan, I’d camp literally 5 minutes away, enjoy the evening and then bag a couple of Munro’s by myself. This feels like 3 years ago. The whole pandemic thing kicked in and played it’s part. Then it was supposed to be last year. I still followed through on the camping and got the Munro’s in. Amazingly though, it still stayed postponed, a new date arranged and then disaster the venue changed. No longer a 5 minute walk from the campsite, a different place some 20 minutes down the road. The Pitlochry town hall. On the plus side, still going ahead on the downside new accommodation plans required. Pitlochry full of guest houses, B&Bs and hotels not a problem. Even a YHA which I opted for in order to keep the price down. Option of taking my own food, great kitchen a dining area. An 8 minute walk to the town hall. In the end no biggy.

So in the end in the strangest of places, I got to a concert for an artist whose album I purchased some forty years ago using a record token my uncle had given me for my 11th birthday. An amazing couple of hours, a remarkable experience that bridged the passage of time, connecting me with my cherished musical memories. Even playing the song that started off that first album, transporting me back to that long since gone record store in Kendal high street where you could listen to an album before you bought it.

I hung around for little bit and even got to meet him, he could have been any guy, but having seen him perform some of those cherished songs for 2 hours it was a night to remember.

The day after I was up bright an early in order to tackle the 2 out of the six Munro’s I couldn’t quite face after completing 4 from the year before. I’m glad I hadn’t tackled them, bit of a beast of a day. A quintessential day in the mountains, starting all moody and misty where it gradually disappeared and I was rewarded with a mixture of wind and sun. A 15k cycle in, followed by a 16k hike that took in the mighty Ben Alder and Beinn Bheoil.

Food wise, I was armed with mackerel sandwiches, all kinds of mountain bars and a soup for good measure. I made it back to the campsite, that id originally booked for the weekend and made a really simple beef bourguignon with rice from one of those pre-cooked pouches.

I did have big plans for the write up of this adventure, and I don’t feel I’ve done it justice. I came back with so many aches and pains. A week at work, that saw 10+ hour days as we brought a project close to fruition, and with that we are already on to the next weekend adventure…….

The #WeekendCoffeeShare is an informal weekly link-up hosted by Natalie the Explorer that serves as weekly heart beat and sort of of a mind-dump. Helps me reflect on my week, with a list of achievements, thoughts and rambles normally whilst drinking a beverage probably listening to music.

A cheeky one

IMG_4044Coffee this morning is served in a flask, we are up 6am sharp to get a march on the day.  The mountains are calling and in this case its Ben Vorlich one of the Arrochar Alps

We hit the car park around 8:30 and it’s already full to bursting of about 30+ cars.  The car park used for a number of focus points not just our hill.  I’m stumped for a few minutes at the pay point, not accepting cards today which is frustrating in contactless world of COVID.  I haven’t had any coins for months.  Our emergency supply in the van is flush for once and a blessing.

Breakfast is an overnight soak of muesli with raspberries and blue berries and we watch the excitement as people are getting their boots on.  Good to see folk meeting with friends and there is a general jostle to get out on the hill.  Amazingly the toilets are open with plenty of hand sanitisers on tap.

We are off, opting for our bikes on a part way in.  It’s not far before we hit a steep bit and there is a friendly chap meeting my pace just walking.  We discuss plans and how this his first hill this year, just wanting to start with a cheeky wee one.  He’s heading up Ben Vane a neighbour to Vorlich.  I wish him well and then I decide to catch the boss up.

It’s not long before we hit the juxta position for getting off our bikes and just as we start the long slog the rain comes in and goes out and comes back again.   A brief glimpse of the magic that surrounds these hills, before it really came in.


After 2.5 hours we made the top with probably the quickest selfie in history.  About an hour into the descent it dried up allowing us to get a sandwich.   The bikes a welcome sight as we covered the last mile or so freewheeling.

With a nice kind of synergy, we passed the same guy we met going up.  With a cheery wave, we were all pleased with the goal being met for the day.

The sun shining in the car park and I’m reminded of the quote ‘Better a bad day on the hill than a good day in the office’.   My mind was taken to a different place of reflection and wandering.

The #WeekendCoffeeShare is an informal weekly link-up hosted by Eclectic Alli that serves as weekly heart beat and sort of of a mind-dump. Helps me reflect on my week, with a list of achievements, thoughts and rambles normally whilst drinking a beverage probably listening to music.