Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Turnberry and its ruined castle

I did go down to the sea this weekend, just to make sure I wasn’t missing anything by not going out in my boat. It was left at home and I donned my walking boots rather than my wellington boots. I went to Turnberry on the Ayrshire coast simply because I had never seen Turnberry castle and wanted to get a photo or two of it for my collection.

Normally if I’m in the area, I park the car at Maidens and walk along the shore into the grounds of Culzean castle. This time I parked the car at the Turnberry carpark and walked along the shore in front of Turnberry golf course towards the lighthouse. It was a very blustery day and even the golfers were few and far between. However at over £100 for a round of golf, I can understand why.

This part of the shore was empty of dog walkers too. I had the beach to myself.

Well ... except for a handful of seagulls who thought it safer to wade in the water than risk flying in the wind.

Watching the waves break on the shore I was very glad I had left the boat at home. Call me a wet blanket if you must but I was feeling sea sick just thinking about bobbing about in a boat in those conditions.

I headed for Turnberry Lighthouse as I knew the castle was not far from it. This photo is taken from the tee on the famous Turnberry Lighthouse hole.

The Lighthouse is built on the site of the ruined Turnberry Castle. There are only a few ruined wall left marking the outline of the castle.

The castle belonged to Robert the Bruce’s mother and although its not definitely known if Bruce was born here, he certainly lived in the castle as a child. In 1307 the English captured the castle while Bruce was busy watching spiders wave webs in a cave. Later in life, around 1310, he ordered the castle to be destroyed to prevent it falling back into English hands. It was never rebuilt.

One reconstruction of the castle shows that there was a harbour on the seaward side. From the harbour, you could enter the castle through a portcullis and gate at this point. There was also a cave that may have been part of the castle dungeons.

After exploring the ruins and getting my photographs I headed back along the shore towards the hotel. It was still too windy for even the English golfers.

Not a person or boat was to be seen anywhere. I decided to go home to watch the TV and dream of summer.

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Skye and Elgol shore

If you keep on the Elgol road until it ends you finally arrive at ..yup ...you guessed ..Elgol :-D

Its a small fishing hamlet complete with pier at the entrance to Loch Scavaig. Photographers come from all over the UK to try to capture the Black Cuillin vista as the sun sets. The interesting and varied rock formations on the shore add foreground interest and no two nights ever look the same due to the different cloud formations over the mountains and the lighting effects caused by the disappearing sun. I too have stood shoulder to shoulder with the rest of the snappers, snapping frantically until it is too dark to see the sea.

Below are just a few of my attempts at trying to capture the feeling of looking towards the dark hills of Mordor as Sauron and the Nazgul search in vain for the ring.

I did manage one painting too..before I got sick of the sight of the same view night after night ...

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Skye and Camasunary Bay

A little further along the Elgol road from Bla Bheinn, is a lovely walk across the moorlands to the remote Camasunary Bay. The bay is situated on the northen shores of Loch Scavaig and nestles in the eastern side of the black Cuillin. The start of the path is near the car park at Kilmarie and weaves its way westwards over the hills.

The first glimpse of the Cuillin from the path, with Camasunary Bay below, makes the effort of the walk very worth while.

To the north is an access ridge leading to the top of Bla Bheinn. This route is a bit more exposed than the “tourist route” wich I ascended in my previous post.

The while house is now a bothy for use of hikers and climbers who venture into this remote part of the island.

Looking south from Camasunary across Loch Scavaig towards the islands of Soay and Rum.

It was my walk to Camasunary Bay that inspired this water colour painting. I filled my jar of water for mixing the paints from the burn that flows into the loch. I cant get more inspired for a watercolour painting than that :-D

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Skye and Bla Bheinn

With the recent gale force winds still putting the wind up me about going out in the boat, and the coming weekend's weather still looking unsettled, I have decided to continue my blog journey around the beautiful Island of Skye.

I stopped my last Skye posting at Torrin on the road to Elgol so the next post must be of Bla Bheinn or Blaven as its more commonly known. Many think it is one of the most scenic mountains in the UK and I have to agree, especially when seen across Loch Slapin. Its also a fine mountain to climb, standing at 928m above sea level. I have yet to see the views from its summit but the last time I went up it, I almost saw the scenery.

The walk follows the Allt na Dunaiche burn and heads for Coire Uaigneich before becoming a steep slog up the rocky outcrops that form the mountain summit.
Allt na Dunaiche with Blaven in the background.

The burn has some lovely waterfalls and after a long walk back, many people find the cool water very soothing on weary feet. That is the main reason I never drink from the burns when I hill walk.

Although the path becomes very steep on the rocky slopes, there is no great feeling of exposure as the path keeps about 20 meters away from the cliff edges.

This view is make from four photographs joined together to make a panorama of Loch Slapin. Another 20 meters forward and there is vertical drops of around 1000 feet back into Coire Uaigneich.

Eventually the path offers a fantastic view to the west looking towards Sgurr nan Gillean on the Black Cuillin with Marsco in the mid ground. There is a short scramble up a rocky chimney just after this view to gain access to the summit.

Sadly, on this visit, thats where the cloud started and I finished my walk in the mist. I still kept 20 meters from the cliff edges though.

Finally I found the trig point which marks the summit. It just looks like any other. When the mist is down, there are no great views to be seen anywhere.

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Quick Update

As a quick update, I have not been caught at sea in any more force eight gusts since the loch Etive trip, simply because I have been a lazy landlubber for the past couple of weekends. The recent weather, with all the rain and strong winds, has not appealed to my fair weather boating notions.

Last weekend, I stayed warm and dry by letting the creative side of my nature float to the surface again and dipped my brush in watercolours to do this painting. It was inspired by the frozen waterfall photographs I took at the House of Bruar back in December and previously posted on the blog.

I hope to continue the blog shortly with my photographic journey around Skye . .until the weather improves and I can get the boat launched again

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Vin Rouge and the tarpaulin tent

Last summer I had an enjoyable two weeks touring the north west of Scotland and visiting such remote sea lochs as Loch Laxford and Loch Hourn. I slept in the car and ate the fish that I caught in the sea and the shellfish I found on the shore. I’m hoping to do similar expeditions this summer perhaps by touring the Outer Hebrides.

In preparation for the better weather arriving I have been busy footering around with the boat. Ask any boat owner and they will tell you that half the fun of owning a boat is footering with it, so I’m no different. It certainly passes the time when the weather is not so good for going to sea.

Call me a big woman if you must but I had to learn how to operate a sewing machine to make my latest modification. I turned a tarpaulin that I had lying around into a tent cover for the boat. It clips onto the boat's existing “lift at the dot” fasteners in the same position as the original boat cover fixtures so I didn’t have to alter the boat. A pole is then fed through a sewn “pocket” in the tarpaulin and stretches from cuddy roof to top of outboard engine.

Assembled, the tent has more head room than the back of my car or a small hiking tent. The centre thwart (seat) in the boat easily comes out by unscrewing the wingnuts that now replace the original nut and bolts, giving eight feet of floor to sleep on. Im now making up some duck boards so my lilo can keep off the wet floor if it has been raining during the day.

Im looking forward to exploring the remote lochs during calm spells of summer weather, anchoring in quiet bays, setting my lobster pots and sleeping overnight on board the boat. Who knows... I may be lucky and awake to a lobster breakfast :-D

Saturday, 7 May 2011

Loch Etive and riding the waves at Bonawe Narrows

Leaving the beach at Rhuba Bharr, I turned towards the head of the loch where it meets Glen Etive and the car park at the old pier. I had read there was a new pier built to ship lumber down the loch by boat rather than use the large wood transport lorries on the narrow single track road. I hadn’t seen another boat all day but was enjoying the solitude and nice weather.

I passed one of the old ruined piers where I presume the Victorian steamships stopped en route for Glen Etive. There was no regular land transport to Glencoe in those days so tourists came by boat from Oban. They then transferred to horse drawn coaches before being amazed by the rugged beauty of Glen Coe and the surrounding wilderness.

The hills close in and start to get higher as the loch narrows. I loved the winter colours still on the hills with the spring green trees in the foreshore.

The wind started gusting a bit and the waves started to form again as I approached Beinn Trilleachan.

The Trilleachan slabs are a favourite exposed route for rock climbers visiting the area. They certainly look very steep and impressive from the sea.

The gusts got stronger as dark squalls came screaming down the hillsides and ruffled the water. White horses began to form as the waves started to beak. They were only around a foot high at this time but I suspected that was because there was little room for them to form as I was approaching the head of the loch.

The boat sits high in the water and the wind was buffeting it about. The waves were breaking as its bow nodded into them and the spray started flying over the cuddy roof. I decided to turn around and head back down the loch. It was easy going with the wind and waves blowing the boat along. I was enjoying speeding along with the engine ticking over.

The waves didn’t affect the boat much when I was half way back to Taynuilt. They were slow moving and rolling nicely without breaking. The wind was fresh but steady. I was pleased to be in the boat rather than the inflatable as it would have been very wet and uncomfortable in these conditions.

As I approached the narrows at the quarry, just before Taynuilt, the wind started to blow quite fiercely. The waves were now around two to three feet high and travelling a lot faster. I realised the tide was now coming in against the wind and saw that the waters in the narrows looked white and confused in the distance. I kept going as I didn’t want to turn the boat side on in these conditions.

I opened the engine up so that I was travelling at the same speed as the waves as it seemed to steady the boat a little. Several times strong gusts of wind and confused water tried to knock the boat off course. I knew that if it turned side on to the wind and waves there was a good chance the boat would roll and I would be swimming so I concentrated on heading straight down the channel. Sometimes I had the throttle fully opened and the tiller turned hard over to stop the boat broaching. Needless to say I didn’t take any photographs as I had all my concentration on the waves and my set course. It the roughest part, I was comforted by the thought that several people were on the pier at the narrows and were watching the small boat surfing the waves. If the boat broached and rolled, I would at least be seen.

Then I was through the narrows and turning into more sheltered water at Taynuilt. I now know what force six gusts feel like in a small boat with wind and tide fighting one another. I hope it doesn’t happen too often. Tragically, it was in these conditions that a slightly larger fishing boat capsized at the head of the loch and one of the fishermen has still not been found :-(

The tide had a long way to go before it was in but I was happy to head for home. Recovery was quite easy. I winched the boat onto the trailer and then it was easy enought to push it on the flat of the low water beach. I winched it up the last steeper slope and I was home and dry.

I now know that when the forecast is for force six gusts .. to say at home .. its all a learning curve :-D

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Loch Etive and the calm before the storm

After seeing the seals, I headed back across the mirror surface of the loch to the north shore at Rubha Bharr. The sun felt lovely now the cold easterly wind had disappeared and I was full of the joys of spring as I leisurely motored at tick over speed.

Rubha Bharr has a lovely shallow beach and if the weather had been forecast for light winds my intention was to camp overnight at this spot. The forecast of force three winds with force six gusts had made me change my mind so I didn’t take any camping gear with me. However I did a trial at “double anchoring” the boat. This was to ensure the boat was far enough off shore so it didn’t become high and dry as the tide went out. If that happened, I would be stranded on the beach until the tide came back in as the boat is too heavy for me to move without a trailer. Here it is off shore.

I double anchored by throwing a first anchor off the back of the boat, about a hundred yards off shore. I then tied a buoy to the anchor rope and fitted a pulley to the buoy. I rowed towards the shore to set the anchor then fed a second rope through the pulley on the buoy so I had the boat on a loop of rope which I took ashore and tied off on a second anchor placed on the beach. To keep the boat off shore, I simply pulled one side of the loop and the boat headed for the buoy. To bring the boat back, I pulled the loop the other way and it came back to the shore.

I then stretched my legs on a walkabout without worrying about the boat becoming stranded on the shore. The tide was still falling.

I walked round the point to get a good view of Ben Starav. A gentle breeze started to ripple the surface so I didn’t get the mountain reflected on the loch.

The wild broom looked lovely and colourful yielding its yellow blooms. I had my lunch in this peaceful spot and was regretting not bringing my camping gear.

After lunch I headed back to the boat and took this photo of two swans enjoying the nice weather.

I didn’t realise it at the time, but it was the calm before the storm. I was about to find out exactly what force six gusts are like in a small boat. Sadly, I later read that the winds capsized another boat in the loch and one of its occupants lost his life :(