Friday, 19 October 2018

The Hills Behind Gairloch: Walking in Scotland Part Three. . .

Day 4 of our trip was definitely my favourite walk and just another example of how you don't have to be bagging the munros to get the gorgeous views.  I'm afraid I don't have the names of every little hill we climbed in this circular walk but I can tell you that we started from the village of Gairloch and An Groban was definitely one of them ( possibly the first one, but alas, I was so busy taking in the scenery, I wasn't pay attention to our guide).  There is a very good website here that provides more information about the area if anyone is keen to explore these hills.

The start of the walk is along a very manicured touristy path that takes in a waterfall. But shortly after, you are at the foot of the first hill.

Again, the colours were stunning and you don't have to climb far to see the sea.

Once up, there is a landscape of wonderful little lochans and bumpy hills. If you've ever climbed Haystacks in the Lake District, this is a very similar terrain and height.

Just look at the colours in this rock!!!!!

And could there be a more spectacular view? You have all the big, mighty Torridon hills in the distance and in the foreground, these majestic, rocky outcrops, surrounded by intense orange bracken and above and below moody skies and watery shadows.  I was just in awe at the beauty but also the emptiness of it all. Not a soul to be seen.

We walked from lump to lump in a circle - they may all look close together, but there is a lot of undulation and distance involved.

And finally from the far side, we got a lovely view of Loch Maree.

We then scrambled down and returned via a path that skirted this larger lochan. 

It was a fabulous walk - about 7 miles in total and I would do it again in a heartbeat.

Friday, 12 October 2018

Colour Inspiration: Walking in Scotland Part Two. . .

Day three of our Scottish holiday brought sun and promising weather.  We had to leave Ullapool and travel to the Torridon area so our walks were a bit shorter.

We first went on a river/gorge walk following the Cuileig river which is used for hydro-electric power.

Climbing out of the gorge after viewing several lovely waterfalls, we emerged onto the moors and took a scenic path back.

Then we headed off onto the North Coast 500 road which curves its way south along the coast. Near Gairloch we stopped off to stretch our legs and have a beach walk.  I absolutely love the beaches in Scotland; there is no better place for colour inspiration.  Gairloch Beach proper is quite popular with tourists, but our guide knew just where to stop on the highway, park the van and lead us through an obscure path to a lesser known and just as beautiful part of the beach.  Even the walk towards the water was gorgeous with the hillsides covered in autumn hues. I love the orange bracken against the purple heather with this almost minty green dancing before it.

And here is the deserted beach, just waiting for us.

Just look at the strata of colour in this one section of rock!

Before heading for our hotel, we just had time to stop for an hour at Inverewe Gardens, where ironically, we got completely drenched in a sudden downpour. It was the wettest I got during the whole holiday.

But it has one of the most vibrant lily ponds I've ever seen.

Our base for the next few days was right on the banks of Loch Maree. So peaceful and beautiful with the water just lapping on the hotel's backyard.

The next day was my favourite walk of the whole trip and deserves a post all on its own.

Friday, 5 October 2018

Nothing to See at the Top: Walking in Scotland Part One. . .

We've been home a few weeks from our Scottish hiking holiday and it's been busy so I am only now just getting around to posting some photos from one of our favourite parts of the world.  We split our holiday week between a few nights in Ullapool, followed by a sojourn on the banks of Loch Maree in the Torridon area, several miles south.

This was the view from our hotel a little way out from Ullapool on the shores of Loch Broom. So peaceful and beautiful.

You can see Ullapool in the distance, just jutting out in front of that range of gorgeous mountains.

The first two days of our trip were the worst, weather-wise, especially in terms of rain. Our first walk was up Cul Beag, a very steep climb over varied terrain (there is no path). You start climbing from the moment you leave the van (which you can see just parked on the road below) and essentially don't stop until the top.  The day was not looking good. It was raining at this point with low cloud.

But the theme of the walk was certainly autumnal - the moorland was just covered in the most intense, rich hues of every shade of  orange and rust you could imagine, although mixed into this natural carpet were greens, yellows, purples and reds too.  Below, we're about two thirds up and you can just see the summit in the cloud.

And a stunning view to the east of us with the promise of maybe some sunshine for the top.

This next photo below is looking behind us as we took a quick break before the summit.  Alas, it was not meant to be. The weather in Scotland can change every five minutes. By the time we got to the top, we were engulfed in thick cloud, there was absolutely no view to be seen and worse of all, the winds had really picked up and we were being blown every which way.  It would have been too unpleasant to try and wait for a clearing so we headed down.

And on the lower slopes, we were at least able to see again.

So we got to the top, but no view. Still - that orange!!!!!

Day Two: Our objective - the mighty An Teallach.  We had wanted to climb it two years ago when we were in Ullapool but the weather didn't co-operate.  It's a mountain that we could see from our hotel window and it dominates the landscape as you drive towards it.  It usually features in hikers' lists of top ten favourite mountains to climb, mostly for the view at the top. At least that's what I'm told.

It was looking good as we started up. And at least there is a discernible path.

Not looking so good about two hours in.  And that's not even the summit that is in the cloud.

 We got two-thirds up and the winds again were so strong, it would not have been safe to continue.  We wouldn't have seen a thing anyways.  And so we headed down a different route into the valley.

It was still beautiful, especially all the unique colours in the stone.  We were so relieved to get out of the wind but An Teallach definitely still feels like unfinished business.  The good news is that while the wind still continued to be an issue for the remainder of our holiday, we did see more clear skies and had some fabulous walks which I will relate in two more upcoming posts.

Friday, 28 September 2018

September's Wool Adventures. . .

Whew - where did September go?

I've been here, there and everywhere on lots of woolly adventures and also a fabulous hiking holiday in Scotland.  Shall we start with the wool?

I love checking out new, independent yarn shops around the country. As with indie bookshops, each has its own personality, its own curated stock and friendly, knowledgeable staff. So when a friend from my knitting group suggested a Wales road trip to check two of them out earlier this month, I was very excited.

Our first stop was in Mold, a beautiful town that is quite near Liverpool but one I'd never had an opportunity to visit. It was market day and there was a wonderful stall selling the most glorious array of plants and flowers (I bought a few pots of lavender for the garden) and a lovely cafe where we fueled up on coffee and the equivalent of Welsh flapjacks.

Then it was off to Yarn O'Clock - a tightly packed shop full of wonderful yarns, books, needles and notions. I was really pleased to see so much British wool on display too.

I bought a skein of the most plump and squishy DK blend of BFL and Romney.  The wool is local and comes from sheep on the Llyn Pennisula (where I've gone walking in the past) and it's hand-dyed by Anne, the owner of the shop.  I also picked up a copy of Carol Feller's new collaborative project of designs celebrating ancient Irish history - Echos of Heather and Stone.  There are some amazing cabled garments in this book.

If you visit Mold, it's also well worth paying a visit to St. Mary's, built in the 15th century.  All along the upper moldings are hundreds of carved creatures, mostly looking like rats, but not exclusively.

It was then off to Betws-y-coed and Find Me Knitting which I think has one of the best logos for a yarn shop ever.

Again, it was another lovely space filled to the brim with yarn and supplies.

When in Wales. . . this skein of Cambrian 4ply had to come home with me.  I find I'm increasingly drawn to these dusky shades of purpley-grey.

Mid-September saw us off to Scotland for a hiking holiday (that will have to be another post!) but hmmm, I may just have managed to plan it so that I could attend the Perth Festival of Yarn on the way up.  This was my first time going and what a lovely event it was - lots of local vendors that I hadn't seen before, and just the perfect size to get around to all the booths within the three hours that we had before we had to catch our train to Inverness.

Despite my resolutions not to buy too much, I was in holiday mode and that's always bad for temptation.  Still, I'm really pleased with what I purchased.

I can't remember the booth now, but there was a basket filled with recycled Shetland wool which is frozen to remove any moth threats and then re-dyed.  I just loved the vibrant colours of the two skeins I picked up.

Black Isle Yarns gathers the fleeces from several local flocks around Inverness and they have such lovely, lovely yarn. I picked up these mini DK skeins which I think would work together in a pair of colourwork mittens or a yoke, and a skein of speckled dyed non-superwash DK.

And some super rustic, super sturdy Swedish wool from Midwinter Yarns.

I just love the rich tones of heather and I seem to be drawn towards deep mauves and purples this autumn.  Not sure yet what I will do with the set of gradient mini-skeins from J. C. Rennie, but no doubt I'll think of something.  And finally, the most exciting discovery was the launch of this North Coast Shetland Tweed yarn from The Border Mill.  All the colourways are named after favourite places on the North Coast 500 route which takes you around north-west Scotland.  The timing couldn't have been better - this was true holiday souvenir yarn.  As a preview to where I went, the colourways I bought were An Teallach, Torridon and Loch Maree. 

Here's a shot of their wall of North Coast - rich, luminous colours and as you can see, if you are after gradients you could pick and choose easily from this selection.  I love the packaging too and the labels with the map of this glorious part of Scotland. 

Here are a few skeins in the wild:

Finally on my way back home, I stopped off at New Lanark which is a World Heritage Site.  If I'm honest, I was a bit disappointed by the history on show; it felt a bit more like a theme park and there are other historical mills, such as Saltaire, or Armley Mills (both in Yorkshire), that convey a sense of the past in a less dumb-downed way. Having said that, New Lanark is located right next to the Clyde River Nature Reserve and I spent a couple of happy hours in the woods, wandering along the nature paths originally carved out by the Victorians to afford the best views of the waterfalls.  Imagine my surprise when a fellow walker stopped me as she'd recognized a sweater that I was wearing from ravelry.  I love bumping into knitters in the wild!

New Lanark was originally a cotton mill, but they do spin and dye their own wool now. I managed to pick up this enormous skein of mill end DK for a bargain.  That's nearly 1200g of DK or at least 2.5 sweaters. It's a lovely marled neutral with flecks of orange in it. I shall enjoy pairing it up with some complimentary colours.

Ahem, I know I've added quite a bit to the stash already and yet there's one more September trip to take this Sunday when I pop off to Yarndale in Skipton.  It's a big show and there will be a lot of temptation but I shall try my best to be restrained.