1. Lonely Loch Errochty – Cameron McNeish reflects on the scars that man leaves behind on the landscape as he comes across the remnants of farm buildings alongside Loch Errochty, before being confronted by the dam at Trinfour.
  2.  Just a minute, Mr Naismith, can this be right? – Outdoor news website, Grough, is challenging  a century old walking rule. Naismith’s rule is used by most walkers to estimate the time it will take to complete a trip.  However, it always assumes we will descend quicker then we ascend a hill taking no account of steepness of gradient. Grough is exploring an aspect of hillwalking that many of us have thought about for a long time – steep descents can slow us down.
  3. Mornington Crescent (South Down Rules) – Obviously a fan of the panel game that beats all other panel games, Alan Sloman takes a wry look at place names in the South Downs. Warning – if you are not a Radio 4 listener this particular blogpost will make no sense at all. Thinking about it, even for many Radio 4 listeners, Mornington Crescent makes no sense at all.
  4. Trail Magazine are running their Homemade Mountain Movie Awards again this year encouraging amateurs to submit a 3 minute film with a hillwalking theme. You might not be tempted to take your video camera with you on your next expedition but you can take a look at some of the early entries on the website. I would recommend the trek on Mount Toukbal.
  5. Outdoor Blips is an American based outdoor aggregation site that has a fair number of UK blogs listed, many I hadn’t come across before. If you are looking for something a bit different some of the US sites highlighted are worth a look. Some of the sites focusing on the US National Parks have great photographs that make you long to be in the depths of Yosemite this summer.
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TGO Challenger Passes Through

How do you tell a TGO Challenger from a normal West Highland Way walker when they enter your Post Office? Simple, he will be wearing a big rucksack. The majority of West Highland Way walkers tend to have smaller day sacks as their kit is ferried from stop-to-stop by a luggage company. There is no such luxury for a challenger.

Also, they will be carrying a four and a half kilo parcel that needs to be posted second class and ask just out of interest how heavy it is. That was the scenario this morning as my first challenger appeared in front of the counter. A brief conversation established that he had been carrying most of the contents of the parcel and that he was heading to Montrose.

I told him I had been following some of the challengers on their blogs. When asked, I listed a few, Alan Sloman’s alcohol assisted journey and the excellent Postcard from Timperley. My customer agreed they were both good blogs. He then asked if I looked at Whitespider. I am afraid I never have and he looked slightly crestfallen at my response. It was only after his departure that I realised he may have been the blogger himself. If that is so, my apologies, I will make sure I have a look at the Whitespider this evening.

Update: I have just looked at the Whitespider blog. My intrepid challenger wasn’t the same guy, but thanks for putting me on to another great blog.

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Alex & Bob’s Blue Sky Scotland

After the last week of poor weather in the Highlands I sometimes wonder if it ever stops raining in my part of the Highlands. So the premise behind Alex and Bob’s relatively new blog, that it doesn’t always rain in Scotland, is welcome. They take the attitude that it may rain frequently north of the border but it doesn’t the whole country all of the time. More importantly there is often an East-West split where one side can be in brilliant warm sunshine and the other enveloped cold grey drizzle.

Basing their walking trips on the weather forecast, they are flexible enough to head in the direction where the skies are clear, or clearer. This commonsense approach has allowed them to miss the worst of the British weather. As they are not chasing the high peaks it means less well-known areas of Scotland are featured. Recent reports have included Knockdolian (a 265m hill in Ayrshire) and Great Cumbrae Island off the north Ayrshire coast. This is great approach for a walking blog, proving that you don’t have to go high to be impressed.

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The Editor of the Countryfile Mazine forum has taken up one of my previous postings on this blog to start a new discussion. If you haven’t already had a look at the Countryfile website take a look and whilst you’re there join the debate.


I’m a blogaholic and will spend hours wading through the musings in what I’m told is called the blogosphere or some such by techy people on the bleeding-edge.

Anyway, I followed a link on Papagenos’ profile to his blog and found this fascinating post on GPS handhelds and whether they will cause a drop in map sales.

What do you think? Will maps finally fall in the face of digital devices?

via View topic – Maps vs. GPS devices • Countryfile Magazine.

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Rambling on…

This new entry, from a fellow Highland dweller, to the outdoor blogging world looks set to be a great read. Already she has blogged about walking The Glyders and the Snowdon Horseshoe, with absolutely stunning photographs from the walks.

She sums up why more and more people are sharing their outdoor thoughts through blogs,

“These pages are a testament to my love for the countryside, particularly the hills, mountains, glens and lochs in Scotland. I’ll share details of my Scottish hillwalking exploits and other wanderings into the countryside.”

Additionally we have a promise that her “obsession” with wildlife will be shared with us as well. As someone who wants to learn more about the wildlife encountered whilst walking, instead of just aiming for the summit, I look forward to this part of the blog.

The results of a dilemma

I have been expanding my book collection over the last week with a pile of walking books. So imagine my dilemma when I received some unexpected Amazon vouchers earlier this week. What should I buy from the myriad of walking books on offer? Should I opt for some of the excellent photographic books available with stunning images of the British countryside and its fascinating flora and fauna? What about some practical books, perhaps some field guides that will help identify some of the flora and fauna? I would like to know more about the trees I pass or the butterflies flitting from flower to flower.

In the end, I opted for the following three books to join my ever expanding and unmanageable library of books. This library only ever seems to grow despite my attempts at thinning it.

The Grahams (A Guide to Scotland’s 2,000ft peaks)

Andrew Dempster. Published by Mainstream Publishing

I didn’t buy this because I have any desire to "tick" the 224 Grahams but as a useful reference book for many hills that you cross or pass on your way to ticking off all the Munros and Corbetts.

White River

Jamie Whittle. Published by Sandstone Press

This is a newly published book that has received excellent reviews for this debut author. It details a trek along the River Findhorn from the mouth to the source and then the return journey by kayak. It appeals to me because I know the area well having lived in Morayshire for a few years.

Scotland’s Far West – Walks on Mull and Ardnamurchan

Denis Brook and Phil Hinchcliffe. Published by Cicerone

The Ardnamurchan Peninsula is only a short car ride and ferry journey away from where I live. I have visited many times but seem to spend most of the time in a car rather than walking. The two walks I have done, to the Corbett – Garbh Bheinn and to the Silver Sands are both excellent. I wanted to explore this quiet, remote area of the West Coast and this book will give me the perfect excuse.

The books all arrived this morning and already I have been skimming through them, dipping in here and there. Book reviews will follow.

The hills according to…

One of the features I enjoy reading in Trail Magazine is the "Hills according to…." item where each month they ask a notable hillwalker or mountaineer for their thoughts on time spent in the hills. I have often wondered how I would respond to each of the questions, I am unlikely to be ever considered a notable hillwalker so this my only chance to set down my, "Hills according to…"

What was your earliest mountain experience?

Probably as a child on holiday in Wales, with my parents, looking out at the vast scary bleakness of the Brecon Beacons from the warmth and comfort of our car.

When were you most scared?

During a trip to Ben More on the Isle of Mull, this was my first walk in real Scottish winter conditions. I had been out on mountains in crampons and with an ice- axe before but the weather had always been pretty benign. On this trip we had to tackle gale force winds, at times zero-visibility and intense cold. Even the old-timers in the group agreed that it had been an epic trip. I was only scared because it was the first time, I would happily repeat the day again because of the sense of achievement when we got back to the youth hostel.

When was getting lost your fault?

I never seem to get really lost, just slightly off track! It is normally a result of me being pig-headed and not following what the map and compass are telling me.

Tell us about your most treasured bit of kit.

It has to be the humble map. I can spend hours looking at and reading a map, learning new things about an area, trying to visualise the landscape and dreaming of adventures yet to come.

How do mountains feature in your life?

They surround me. The village I live in is surrounded by mountains, on one side the Mamores and the other Garbh Bheinn and the Glen Coe mountains. In the distance we can see the hills of Ardgour and Morvern. I am always looking up thinking I wish I could be up their now or wondering what it is like up on the tops. It saddens me that may residents have never stepped foot on them or take the beauty around them for granted.

Are you fit enough?

No. Although my strength and stamina, in particular, improves with every day spent in the hills.

What’s in your lunch box?

Cheese and ham wholemeal rolls and Tunnocks Caramel Wafer bars. Oh, and cherry tomatoes, completely pointless I know but I love their taste.

Who would you like to climb a mountain with?

My father. Being one of three sons it was always difficult to spend time alone with him. It would be great to talk with him away from other distractions. However, I would never convince him to go up a hill with me.

Which is your dream mountain?

It has to be the Cuillins in Skye, I like the look of razor edge ridges and canine like summits.

Your biggest challenge so far?

Resisting the temptation to stop ill-prepared strollers who think that it is fine to go up a mountain in jeans and trainers with no other equipment. So far I haven’t given anyone a piece of my mind. My wife would be extremely embarrassed if I did.

What’s your most expensive piece of kit?

A North Face tent used only once, so far.

Where would you most like to be now?

In the Dolomites. I love Italy and would like to do some real walking there as well as trying out the Via Ferrata.

What’s the worst thing about walking?

Deciding where to walk. There are so many hills and routes in the United Kingdom, let alone overseas, that I am desperate to explore.

What does the first post-walk beer taste like?

Never as good as the second.

What does a wild camp smell like?

The great outdoors.

What scares you?

The afternoon strollers who head out into the hills in jeans and trainers with no rucksack and no other equipment. They then expect mountain rescue to bail them out of trouble when the going gets tough.

What does getting to the top feel like?

A mixture of wonder and achievement.

The most important lesson you’ve learnt?

Trust the map and compass.

What’s the naughtiest thing you’ve ever done?

I can’t tell you that. I can tell you we were both young!

Going up or coming down?

Definitely going up. My knees complain a lot on the way down and I am always concerned they will eventually declare UDI from my body and go and crawl under the nearest rock.

GPyeS or no?

I have a GPS used mainly for tracking my walks for later reference. The only time I use it for navigation is to get a grid reference if I am not sure of my exact location. Otherwise I rely on the map and compass.

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