Chanonry Point

Before heading home from our last van trip, we visited friends in Inverness and in the morning, had a walk to Chanonry Point. It sits on the Black Isle at Fortrose with Fort George which we visited in 2019:

on the opposite shore. We parked some distance away from it and walked down to it. The lighthouse was designed by Alan Stevenson and first operated in 1846. It was automated in 1984. The point is well-known for being a good spot to see dolphins but we were not fortunate to see any on our visit.

There is a memorial stone to Coinneach Odhar who was known as the Brahan Seer close to where he was brutally killed.

He lived in the 17th century and is said to have been from Lewis or Kintail. The seer was said to be able to predict the future by looking through a hagstone: a pebble with a hole in it. He worked at Brahan Castle near Dingwall which was home to the Earl and Countess of Seaforth. He was boiled in a spiked barrel of tar which was said to be punishment for witchcraft but was actually for seeing Countess Isabella’s husband’s infidelities in Paris. We wandered around, noticing some ruined cottages

and what looked like former ice-houses with the gorse in full bloom.

The former ferry pier dates from the 1700s and a ferry ran from here until 1935 because it is the shortest crossing point over the Moray Firth.

We then made our way on the coastal path which runs alongside the golf course.

There is a campsite nearby but we did not stay there in 2019 on our tour of this part of the country for some reason.

Round Britain: Invergarry to Fort William

On our last night in Invergarry I watched the sun disappearing behind the mountains.

We set off in the morning across the bridge over the River Garry on the A82 towards Fort William.

A little further on is the road to Invergarry House Hotel. The ruined remains of Invergarry Castle should be visible from the grounds. Prince Charles spent a night there on August 26th 1745 after the battle of Culloden. It was laid to waste by the Duke of Cumberland a few days later. We continued down the side of Loch Oich. The Great Glen Way runs along the other side which was a reminder of when we walked it from Fort William to Inverness in May 2010. At Laggan Locks the Caledonian Canal links to Loch Oich to Loch Lochy.

The road runs along the edge before turning inland. Some of it runs on or parallel to part of General Wade’s Military Road. It was constructed in the mid 18th century by the British Government to try and bring control and order into parts of the country involved in the 1715 Jacobite uprising. At the junction with the B8004 to Gairlochy is Commando Memorial erected in memory of those who died in World War II. The Commando Basic Training Depot was established nearby at Achnarry Castle. It was unveiled by the Queen Mother in 1952.

Nearby is a tribute garden and a place to scatter ashes.

There is still some snow on the top of the surrounding mountains.

At Spean Bridge we stopped for a coffee at the Bridge Café and then drove on the A82 again in parallel with the railway. At one point we passed an almost derelict building which had a notice saying it was the Great Glen Cattle Ranch. Apparently, it was established in 1945 by Joseph W. Hobbs, an entrepreneur who made and lost several fortunes in Canada before returning to Britain after the great depression to prosper in the engineering and whisky trades. He bought Inverlochy Castle in the mid-1940s and began transforming tracts of barren moorland nearby into prairie style cattle grazing. The shelter was made of poured concrete and painted yellow originally. We then passed the Nevis Range Ski Centre access road and drove through Torlundy, a signpost to Happy Valley and the Ben Nevis Distillery before entering Fort William. It is very different from when I worked at the Belford Hospital for a couple of months in late 1984 and when we arrived on the Caledonian Sleeper to walk the Great Glen Way in 2010. We settled into the Glen Nevis Campsite and met up with some friends who now live in Corpach for a meal.

The next morning, we walked up Glen Nevis. Not far from the campsite, across the road from the youth hostel is a bridge with views downstream

and up the Nevis Water.

One of the paths up to the summit of Ben Nevis starts here. On the west side of the road is Nevis Forest, a large coniferous forest under the care of the Forestry Commission.  The West Highland Way passes through it (we walked it in 2009) before it joins the bottom of the glen road and enters town. Glen Nevis Estate which has 1000 acres owns the campsite and its restaurant & bar, self-catering accommodation and has been the location for a number of films including Braveheart. They have a herd of pedigree Highland Cattle which we saw at a distance. Nearer to the road were some sheep.

They have numerous signs saying no camping. We walked as far as the lower falls which is almost 3 miles from the campsite.

There is a lane that continues further on alongside Nevis Water with several paths up to the surrounding mountains. Nearby, on either side of the river is some native woodland; a project funded by Rio Tinto Alcan and Glen Nevis Estate. Native trees and wildflowers have been planted and a currently protected from deer grazing. We walked back down the road.

We will be returning home after visiting some friends in Inverness but will restart our journey in May.

Round Britain: Balmacara to Invergarry

Waking up early in Balmacara, we saw a hooded crow wandering around the site, looking for food and heard some noisy bikers passing by. We left to continue along the A87 passing through Kirkton which has a shinty pitch, Auchtertyre, Nostie, Ardelve and into Dornie which sits where Loch Long meets Loch Alsh and Loch Duich. Loch Long Bridge is a rather uninspiring concrete construction.

Just over it we pulled in near a pier where there were views across to the Eilean Donan Castle

and where I heard the first cuckoo of the season. There was the usual array of fishing tackle on the pier.

The road continues along Loch Duich, passing by Inverinate before arriving in Kintail. On the hillside just before the River Croe runs into the loch is St Dubhthac’s ruined church and Clachan Duich burial ground.

The path into the churchyard is named Kevin’s Way after a local 19 year old who was tragically killed. There is a memorial stone dedicated to him.

The war memorial is situated further up the hill

Over the bridge we had a coffee at The Pit Stop at Kintail sited next to the side road to Morvich. Afterwards we had a forage in the shop behind which has an amazing variety of goods from grocery and off-licence, crafts, antiques, gifts and much more As we re-joined the A87 it began to rain. At the head of the loch there is a dead fishing boat. At Shiel Bridge the road then runs up Glen Shiel with the Five Sisters on the left and The Saddle on the right. There are various memorials to the 10 June 1719 battle during the Jacobite rising. They were defeated by the British. It was too wet to explore more closely.  The snow was still on top of the mountains.

The rain had eased as we descended a little past Loch Cluanie which has a dam as part of the hydroelectric scheme. The A87 turns south and after passing Loch Loyne, we entered Lochaber and descended on a winding road to Loch Garry.

We had lunch at a view point before continuing alongside the loch to Invergarry.

A little early to get into the campsite we stopped off just south of the town near a farm which had several Highland Cattle.

There was also a boat sailing along the Caledonian Hotel.

We settled into Faichemard campsite which is situated in a forest above the town. The pitches are very spread out and it is quiet.

Our pitch was next to the pond.

and we had a visit from a mallard duck.

He returned the next morning for some food, a preen and a sleep. A hooded crow also came for a drink. After breakfast we walked into town for the papers. The River Garry runs just south of the road through town. The children were back at the primary school after the Easter holidays. The parish church had floral cross in front.

The heritage centre and café were shut unfortunately but we walked back along the riverside path.

Round Britain: Lochcarron to Balmacara

We awoke to a very sunny morning in Lochcarron and set off on the A896 round the head of the loch where the River Carron enters it. The A890 runs through Strathcarron over the level crossing near the station and down the other side of the loch along with the railway.

Attadale Station is near Attadale House and Gardens which you can visit. There is also a car park for anyone wishing to do any of the walking trails up the glen and on the surrounding hills. The road and railway then passes through a concrete tunnel which acts as an avalanche shelter and is then surrounded by coniferous forests. Stromeferry boomed when the railway arrived in 1870 but its importance diminished when the line was extended to Kyle. From a viewpoint in the forest above the town you can see Strome Castle and North Strome.

Just past Stromeferry we took the minor road to Plockton. It passes through some small communities including Achmore, Craig, Duncraig station and into the Balmacara Estate. The Estate spans the Kyle peninsula and since 2000 has been under the care of the National Trust for Scotland.

Plockton was a planned village developed in the early 1800s by Sir Hugh Innes for fishing and to house the crofters cleared from better agricultural land elsewhere on the estate. Life for them became very hard and Plockton was once known as baile nam bochd, village of the poor. There is an open air church site which arose after the disruption of the Church of Scotland in 1843. The Free Church had no place to worship and met outdoors. We entered past the station, the High School (where children from Applecross go to and like my high school in Callander, there is a hostel for those who live along way from it) and the primary school before parking down near the waterfront.

After a coffee we had a wander around

before picking up the minor road which runs to Kyle. It passes through Duirinish which has a station, Drumbuie, over some hills, through Erbusaig and Badicaul before entering Kyle of Lochalsh. After stocking up with supplies we drove over the Skye Bridge for the first time (our last visit to Skye was so long ago the bridge had not been built). There were good views from the other side.

Back on the Kyle side we continued on the A87 down the side of Loch Alsh where there are several viewpoints and eventually arrived at Balmacara. The road into the village is opposite Balmacara House and runs to what is called the square. There is a pond in the centre

and among other things: a visitors centre and an art gallery which we had a look in. There is also an old mill which they are trying to raise funds to renovate. Reraig campsite is just a little further on and we settled in. In the field next door, a shinty match was under way. It reminded me of while on my first medical house job in Inverness in late 1984, Saturday evenings would be busy for A&E with shinty facial injuries. Unlike hockey where you cannot lift the stick above your shoulder, you can in shinty.

Round Britain: Applecross to Lochcarron

After two days of torrential rain, we awoke to sunshine and set off on the next leg of our journey. We drove north along the coast road. Our first stop was at Sand, also known as Mod Butec by the military who have erected this sign on the entrance road.

There was also a sign saying that this is a no drone zone. The sand is very red and a complete contrast to the white sand we will see later this year in Arisaig and Morar.

The military establishment is up on the hill

and there is also a ruined croft.

The road continues past a couple of disused quarries and a small waterfall before the small communities of Lonbain and Kalnakill. There is then a viewpoint which looks towards Rona

and Raasay with Skye in the background.

We continued on past Cuaig, The Croft Wools Gallery and Fearnmore which has several modernised houses and some ruined crofts. Further on there are conifer plantations. Arrisa is a little larger than some of communities we have passed. We then reached Kenmore and the Applecross Smokehouse. Just before Ardheslaig we had a  brief shower. The road runs along the side of Loch Sheildaig and down here, the sheep have had their lambs. After Doire Aonar and Kinloch, we saw a sign saying that this was a red squirrel re-introduction zone. We stopped at Sheildaig to see if we could find a newspaper but had no luck.

The shop in Applecross has not had them since the pandemic. Back on the A896, towards Lochcarron we drove back past Tornapress where we had turned off a couple of days ago to attempt the Bealach na Ba. Looking towards it today there was still some snow on top of the mountains.

We entered Lochcarron

and settled into the Wee Campsite which is situated on the hill behind the main street. Just at the bottom of Croft Road is a garage and behind it is a heap of tyres with a cat sitting in the middle

We found the newspapers and other supplies and then I set off on a short walk along the grass verge towards the head of the loch

and then back along the waterside where I found a fair amount of sea glass.

Round Britain: Applecross

On our way to recommence our coastal tour we spent a night at a certified location next to the Inchbae Lodge Hotel at the foot of Ben Wyvis, just north of Garve in the Highlands.  Garve sits on the Black Water on the A835 just past Loch Garve. Although we arrived in sunshine and blue skies, the amount of lichen on the nearby trees suggest it is frequently wet.

This did happen overnight and we left in rain the next morning. Back in Garve we took the A832 west through Corriemoillie, Lochluichart, the Grudie power station and Achanalt. The road runs parallel to the railway line to Kyle of Lochalsh. We had had to stop at the level crossing on our way into Garve the day before when the two-coach Scotrail train passed through.

There is a lot of mostly coniferous woodland alongside the road. We stopped at the Midge Bite Café for a coffee in Achnasheen. It was busy with even the police coming in for take away snacks. After that we took the A890 down Glen Carron. There was another level crossing at Balnacra. When we halted at Lochcarron for supplies, the sun was trying to peep through the clouds.

Heading to Applecross we passed Loch Kishorn. The loch is 80 fathoms deep and was used to build exploration platforms for the North Sea oil fields. It began in the 1970s and employed 3,000 people at it’s peak. It since declined but is now known as Kishorn Port and Dry Dock and undertakes work for the renewable energy sector, decommissioning oil and gas and aquaculture.

The Bealach na Bà (pass of the cattle) at 626m is the longest steep hill of any classified road in the UK and the steepest road in Scotland. It runs over the mountains to Applecross and is about five miles from the start in Kishorn to its end.  The road was built in 1822 for stalkers to use on the Applecross Estate and was the only road into the town until the coastal road to Shieldaig opened in 1975. It meant that Applecross was one of the most isolated communities in Scotland. Before that the Bealach na Ba was a gravel road and even the CalMac mail boat had nowhere to dock because there was no deep water quay so a rowing boat had to ferry passengers and goods on and off the ship which lay off the slipway near Milltown. We got almost to the summit when it started to snow heavily. The snow gates were open but some people had got stuck so we had to reverse back to a wide bit in order to turn round and descend to take the alternative route. On our way down we pulled in to a passing place to allow the gritter to come down. Apparently, someone got stuck up there overnight. The rain returned and continued for most of our first night in the Applecross campsite. The following morning, we set off in the one dry hour to explore.

We set off along the Beechwood Trail towards the bay and the glen.

The name Applecross is derived from Apur Crossan and has nothing to do with apples.  Crossan is the river that flows into the bay near the monastery site.

The small church was built on a monastery at Clachan by the Irish Saint Maelrubha in 673 who sailed over from Ireland in his curragh. Sadly, in 794 and 795 the Vikings destroyed it. Saint Maelrubha is said to be buried here but which grave is his is unknown. The remains of an old chapel are in the graveyard at Clachan.

The church building here was constructed in 1817.

The nearby Heritage Centre is unfortunately only open in the afternoon. We walked back along part of the beach enjoying the views and then along the Beechwood Trail.

Here there are four Sweet Chestnut trees which commemorate four trees in Applecross which are linked to various stories. Superstitions meant that no-one was to cut them down and they had to be left to die naturally just after World War Two.

The Applecross Trust was set up in 1975. They own 64,000 acres of the Applecross Estate that used to belong to the Wills family. They contributed £5,000 towards the setting up of the community filling station 2010. They manage farming, conservation, tourism etc – replacing commercial Sitka spruce timber with native broadleaf trees. 250 people live in Applecross and many still work in fishing and crofting. There are many more paths and trails to explore with ancient remains but heavy rain continued so we had to give up and apart from a meal in the Applecross Inn, will have to shelter for the rest of the day.

A voyage around three islands in the Forth

The Scottish Seabird centre in North Berwick run a number of boat trips from the harbour. We joined them for their voyage round three of the offshore islands; the Lamb, Craigleith and the Bass Rock which takes 90 minutes. Waterproofs and life jackets are provided. Fortunately, the day we went was very still and quiet in the East Beach.

We met our boat in the harbour.

The first island we visited was the Lamb. The small uninhabited island is home to cormorants, guillemots, puffins, kittiwakes, fulmars and herring gulls.

Ownership of the island traditionally lay with the feudal barony of Dirleton. In 2000, Brazilian businessman Camilo Agasim-Pereira bought the title and with it the island. Then, in 2009 it was bought by Uri Geller, who claimed it was the hiding place for a hoard of ancient Egyptian treasure. This theory was based on the fact that the layout of the islands of Lamb, Fidra and Craigleith seems to mirror the layout of the pyramids of Giza. From the Lamb you can see Fidra.

We then headed over to Craigleith which is visible from our house and is also is home to many sea birds.

In the 1990s it was home to 10,000 pairs of breeding puffins. But numbers reduced dramatically due the invasion of a non-native plant: Tree Mallow (Lavatera arborea) which grows up to nine feet high. It choked the puffin burrows and preventing the birds from nesting and rearing their chicks. To tackle this problem, the Scottish Seabird Centre set up a project called SOS Puffin in 2007. Work parties of volunteers make regular trips to Craigleith and the neighbouring islands of Fidra and the Lamb to cut down tree mallow. So far over 320 work parties have made regular trips to the islands to keep the tree mallow under control. This has largely been achieved. The northern half of the Island is now largely free of tree mallow, having been replaced with grasses, allowing puffins to breed again and numbers to recover. We saw some in the water as well as on the island.

The Isle of May which we visited in 2019;  was visible in the distance.

The last island was the Bass Rock. I have photographed it several times from various points on the shore:

 but this was the first approach by sea. It has the world’s largest colony of northern gannets although numbers dropped last year due to avian flu. At this time of year, they are getting their nests ready for laying and we saw a few bringing sea weed back for them.

We sailed round the island

past the caves and the lighthouse.

The ruins of the fortress and the old chapel are on the rock. We then left the Bass Rock and returned to North Berwick harbour via Seacliff

Tantallon Castle

and Gin Head.

A new mural in North Berwick

The new mural sits on the wall of the old pier in North Berwick Harbour.

It began when Elizabeth Vischer, a local from East Lothian, set herself the challenge of carrying out 100 beach cleans during lockdown. She collected 26,513 pieces of plastic from Longniddry Bents. Plastic waste is a huge threat to wildlife and the environment. Currently, only 20% of plastic waste is recycled. Julie Barnes, a local artist was commissioned to build a mural with the plastic waste. 33,000 pieces were used. After being washed, the pieces were laid out on a sheet of 1m squared paper then photographed and sorted according to type and place found. As this progressed, they decided to take studio photographs of all the items found once sorted which took three weeks. Some things had to be discarded either because they were too dirty or too bulky to form part of the mural. This included sanitary items, bags of dog poo, wet wipes, ropes, netting and stoma bags. Julie Barnes then sorted the kept items by colour and size before completing the eight  pictures that comprise the mural.

The Scottish Seabird Centre is very close to the harbour and has a free exhibition of the studio photographs of the sorted plastic.

It is on from 25 March to 25th June 2023. I was there shortly after it opened at 10am and it was very quiet. One thing the Seabird Centre is asking everyone to do is to remove five pieces of rubbish every time you visit a beach and dispose of it properly. Apparently, there are more than 5,000 bits of plastic on every miles of the UK beaches.

A Night in Kelham

En route to visiting my brother in Norwich we had a break in our journey for a night in Kelham. It is a small village in Nottinghamshire; northwest of Newark which grew up around a crossing of the River Trent. Very early bridges crossed the river upstream of the present one, somewhere near the church. Evidence of foundations of buildings have been found south of the church, which suggests that the settlement was originally in this area, and that a major flood may have forced a move to the present site. We stayed at the 18th century Fox Inn which is in the Brit Stops scheme. Members can park their campervans for free behind the inn and there is electric hook-up for £10. We had a delicious evening meal in the pub.

The name was originally spelt Kelum in the 12th century. In the 2011 census the population was 207; almost a half of that of Smallwood where we used to live. Currently, a large proportion of the residents are retired, with the younger people working in nearby Newark. Very little development has been allowed. Kelham has some interesting history; when King Charles I surrendered at Southwell in 1647, he was held at Kelham Hall by the Scots. An information board in the village shows the Scots encampment being situated on the other side of the river. The bridge over the River Trent was constructed in 1856.

It is wide enough to allow two cars to cross at the same time but larger vehicles have to wait until no-one is approaching from the other direction. The A617 is a very busy road running between Newark and Mansfield. There was an interesting notice about fishing.

Kelham Hall is a is a Grade I listed building sitting within 52 acres of park land. The original gate is on the main road in the village

but the current entrance is further down the road. The hall is hidden by woodland.

It has had several incarnations: including being the home of the Manners-Sutton family but was destroyed twice and re-built over time. The second rebuild was after a fire by Sir George Gilbert Scot in 1863. From 1903 to 1973 it was the home of an Anglican order of monks led by Father Herbert Kelly, who founded the Society of the Sacred Mission or SSM. They trained men for missionary work and later for the Church of England ministry. They were known worldwide as ‘The Kelham Fathers’. Father Kelly was responsible for the planting of the extensive collection of trees in the hall grounds, some of which have grown into excellent specimens. The grounds are now one of three sites designated by the ‘Men of Trees’ for memorial planting by individuals. The SSM cemetery is just outside the church wall. During the Second World War, the SSM were host to many military and civilian groups including some Texans. The first drilling for oil in the United Kingdom was in a field in Kelham in 1919 by Thomas D’Arcy. Small traces were found, but lack of money forced abandonment. He then went on to found a worldwide oil exploration company, returning to Kelham Hills in the 1940s to find oil and a small field was established. Later the Hall became the main offices for Newark and Sherwood District Council which was formed in 1973 and was available for weddings and conference but the company went into liquidation in 2021 and now has a new existence with new owners.

There is no shop but one house had a notice suggesting it had been one in the past.

The village is an old farming community which grew up as part of the estate to serve the lords of the manor of Averham and Kelham, providing employment for most of the inhabitants. Some families have lived in the village for several generations. The farms have amalgamated since the 1950s. The Hall home farm is in the centre of the village

and another one is closer to the edge.

The estate was used to develop the technique of growing sugar beet when it was introduced to this country during the First World War. The Kelham sugar beet processing factory was built in 1921. It is now known as the Newark factory and is one of the largest and most modern sugar factories in Europe. After a quiet night close to this busy road we continued on our journey to Norwich.