29 July 2008

Another Scottish Evening

Richie P spraying dirt on one of the berms.

The weather has eventually turned here in Perthshire. Over the last couple of days we've had blistering blue skies and tremendous heat, but today we woke up to a heavy Scottish downpour and the day didn't really improve much after that. Work was finished by five and the evening meal wasn't that much later. Two of the guys I work with here were talking of heading up into the Craigvinean Forest, which is little more than a stone's throw away from our Archery ranges to shred the downhill track that previous employees had whittled in the wooded hillside. I'm not much of a biker, but I headed up anyway to pass some of the evening away. Instead of handlebars in my hands I held a camera and pointed it at the bikers tearing up the berms and jumps as they descended through the woods back onto site. What I've concluded from this evening was my camera wasn't really quick enough to get really good downhill shots and biking ain't that dissimilar from boating.

Good lines, stay safe and see you on the wet stuff...

PS. I've been given a day off on Sunday, which just happens to coincide with a release on the Tummel. If your in the area and fancy a paddle let me know. Cheers :-)

28 July 2008

The Long Road to Oban

Yesterday Jemma and I had the day off and on Friday night we couldn't think of anything to do. I had the urge to visit Oban, which I've visited before on a family holiday to Loch Awe two years ago. Oban is a hundred miles west from Dalguise, where we work so it was a fair way to go just to visit so a road trip was in order. I wanted to visit Kilchurn Castle at the tip of Loch Awe on the way and I guessed there would be some other touristy places en-route. I followed up this brainwave by not actually telling Jemma I had our day off planned, but instead just said it was all sorted and left it as a surprise.

We left on Sunday just after half-eight. I had the route to Oban planned and just worked on the basis that if I saw a nice sounding brown sign - they're the touristy ones - and it wasn't to big a detour off our route we'd pay it a visit. The first sign of interest we came to was for the yew tree at Fortingall. This yew tree is the oldest known tree in Europe with guesses at it being over 2000 years old. On from here we hit Killin and the Falls of Dochart. Being a kayaker I had to give this a scout and through this stumbled on the burial place of the MacNab Clan chiefs on a large island in the middle of the river. On we headed, Oban getting ever closer, still Jemma didn't know our final destination. Our next stop was Loch Iubhair, which is just outside Crianlarich. This loch was absolutely perfect and we had a break from travelling with some stone skimming across the loch.

Jemma at Loch Iubhair.

On we went, passing Loch Awe and with it no sign of the castle at Kilchurn. From reading pages on the Internet I presumed there would be one of them handy brown signs to follow, and therefore the castle would be easy to find. How wrong was I. We did however stop at Dumstaffnage Castle, which is on the west side of the Connel Bridge and just outside Oban. This was the only tourist attraction we had to pay for all day and we spent a good forty-five minutes looking around the castle and chapel before moving on to our final destination.

Looking out on Dunstaffnage Castle.

Oban was just as nice as I remembered it. We spent a good few hours just pottering around the busy streets enjoying the clear blue skies, hot weather and the stiff sea breeze. We had dinner from one of the many local fish stores besides the Caledonian MacBrayne ferry terminal before we eventually headed up to McCaig's Tower to enjoy wonderful views out over the Sound of Mull and the surrounding islands.

McCaig's Tower with the Oban Distillery in the foreground.

Looking out over the sea to Mull from the tower.

We eventually headed back on our journey. On passing the Connel Bridge on the way into Oban Jemma had expressed a wish to cross it. So we did on our return journey. I was just going to head back over the bridge once we had crossed it and make headway back home. However, another little brown sign popped up for Ardchattan Priory so we followed this, had a look around, and then carried on our way. Kilchurn Castle was still on my list and so on seeing it from the road I started looking for signs to the castle. Again there were none, I stopped once or twice, but started to give up hope. When we reached Dalmally I turned off the main road in the hope of a sign. There was still no sign. I started to drive in the general direction of the castle and gave up hope on this single track road out of Dalmally into the middle of no where. However, on cresting a hill, the road stopped and to the left of us was a monument in memoriam to Duncan Ban MacIntyre, a famous Scottish poet. This was a great find.

Looking down Loch Awe from the memorial tower.

After exploring this we got straight back on the road, briefly stopped at the Green Welly Stop - it was shut - and carried on through the late afternoon only stopping once more in Grandtully for some pizza at a lovely little bar. We arrived soon back at Dalguise just before half eight. It had been a full twelve hours since we'd left site, we had explored a lot of historic Scotland on the way to Oban, we had a fairly cheap day out and thourghly enjoyed ourselves, I had driven 199 miles, but we still didn't get to Kilchurn Castle.
An t-urram thar gach beinn
Aig Beinn Dòbhrain;
De na chunnaic mi fon ghrèin,
'S i bu bhòidhche leam…

Honour beyond each ben
for Ben Doran;
Of all I have seen beneath the sun,
the most glorious…
Moladh Beinn Dòbhrainn (Praise of Ben Doran), Duncan Ban MacIntyre

Good lines, stay safe and see you on the wet stuff...

20 July 2008

Pogo Sticks, Ducks and Paddling

Yesterday was my day off so naturally I headed off site. First of all we headed to Perth to pick up Jemma's new Sweet Rocker kayaking helmet. The one that's red with dragons as well. Two of the four have names. We still need to name two of them. Suggestions on a Post Card. She also bought me a travel Pogo Stick. Once the quick shopping trip had come to an end we headed north to the Stanley section of the Tay.

Trying out the Pogo Stick before getting ready to paddle.

The actual time spent on the river was short lived. We paddled upstream from the cars to a small grade two rapid where I messed around a while before heading back to the van. After a while we moved on down to the wave where I surfed for a while before heading back to the van to play on the Pogo Stick and throw a ball around.

Playing on a wave at Stanley.

Good lines, stay safe and see you on the wet stuff...

07 July 2008

A Scottish Summer Evening

Reaching out. Soloing one of the overhangs at Craig-ne-Hey.

The Tay valley has seen some good weather of late. This evening for example I sat out for a good two hours just enjoying the sun whilst site was refilled with a fresh load of kids. The other Saturday at lunchtime when the weather was particularly good plans were made to head to the local crag for a bit of a climb, sun bathe and BBQ. Needless to say the weather had turned by the time afternoon sessions had finished and we had all been fed.

Still we managed a few climbs and a small BBQ before the weather became truly awful and we had to pack up and run as the rain started beating down. The climbing was good, nothing exceptional. I did some bouldering at the bottom of the scree field before making my way to the main crag for a bit of a soloing session on some of the routes found at Craig-ne-Hey. It was a good night. The next night I planned on making a pilgrimage to the Tummel, which is one of the classic Scottish summer paddles. Unfortunately I found out I was working that night. Oh well. Maybe another time.

Good lines, stay safe and see you on the wet stuff...

03 July 2008

The Scottish Summer

Staff boats lines up on the slipway at the Croft-na-Caber.

Well for the past two days I've been working up at Loch Tay, where PGL holds one of it's only water sports sessions for kids who visit Dalguise. It's quite an easy day really, and it's a nice session to be on. It's made even better if, during the dinner break you can get a bit of sun bathe is as well, but only when the sun makes an appearance. Today it did, so we managed to catch a few rays. Yesterday the weather wasn't as great but still a few members of staff got out for a wind surf in their lunch break. It's been a good few days and it was rounded off just nice with a cheeky paddle down the rapids at Grandtully before racing back to site for some Cornish Pasties and chocolate doughnuts.

Paddling the rapids at Grandtully was the first time Roger the II had seen white water and it had also been the first time for me in a while. It was a nice jaunt and it was good to get back on moving water in a boat which is somewhat familiar to me. Things are good.

Good lines, stay safe and see you on the wet stuff...