Archive for the 'scotland' Category

Postcards from far way part 6

We pitched the tent for maximum view though it is unfortunately a tad exposed to the wind.

At 2am the wind was blowing a gale and the slightly loose bit of the tent was flapping almost loudly enough to completely drown out sparky’s snoring. Though only almost, he still broke through on occasion.

This would never have happened if simy was here – he knows how to put a tent up proper. it’s all rectilinear and even tension on the guy ropes.

I got a crap night’s sleep. That about covers it.


Woke to a blustery cold morning but still barely a cloud in sight. After a leisurely cuppa and an improvised brekkie we headed for the hills up the highest peak in the Cuillins on the advice of the bloke in the shop who said it “wasn’t too bad”.


I figured that directions up a mountain aren’t quite the same as those you need to find the nearest filling station and so I bought a map just to be sure. I’m always more comfortable when I have a map.


We rocketed through the first 500m to the loch at the base of the ridge and enjoyed a lovely lunch of churizo and stale bread.


The next bit is known as the great chute which is basically an exceptionally slow river of shale that the mountain slowly ejects from the split rock through the repeated process of freezing and melting.

Climbing up this is 2 forward and 1 back which is all a bit discouraging and a little bit disconcerting when it’s at a 45 degree angle.


The view was worth it. The view is always worth it. The ridge itself was simply petrifying. It has been literally years since I’ve done any ridge walking and I’d forgotten the dizzying sense of scale it gives you.

Sgurr alisdair (could be a sigur ros song) stands at 993m and looks across to the appropriately named inaccessible pinnacle which we could see nutters with ropes attempting to scale.


It was now that we realized that getting up is less than half the battle getting down is where the tricky bit really comes.


Ridges start as shale slopes that become increasingly steep as you ascend. To become near vertical just at the ridge itself. It makes them relatively straightforward to traverse but a real nightmare to get off.


We (wisely) laid up and descended down the way we came. Which turned out to be a lot more fun than we thought cause when you’re descending it doesn’t really matter if the ground you’re standing on gives way. In fact that’s just what you want. It ends up as a (less than) controlled slide down the mountain. Lots of fun.


By the time we reached sea level again the legs were like jelly. Bring on the endorphins.

There is still something wonderful about a good shower when you haven’t had one for a few days. When your face and hands are a bit burnt from the exposure and all your muscles ache.

Tucked up in the tent full of BBQ and chocolate, listening to sparky chortle intermittently to Puckoon. I’m ready for a night of blissful unconsciousness listening to the new Anathallo.

Here’s hoping.

Postcards from far away part 5

Woke to the view of the harbour in Portree and a quality brekkie and a sit on the pier reading Volf.


Drove to the north west of the island (yesterday was the north east) stopping for photos of the sweeping moors and old churches while listening to page cxvi.

Skye is a pretty big place, geographically anyhow, despite the fact that all the people seem to live in Broadford or Portree.


The north west seems to be one of the more deserted areas and more than anywhere seems to remind me of NZ – and let’s face it all this is an attempt to get back there.


We stopped at Dunvegan where the Mcleods had murdered the Macdonalds in huge numbers in 1550. They attacked by surprise while they were all in church. Not that one group were heathen and the other Christian. Both were Christian be they still murdered each other. Maybe there’s a common denominator that’s not religion running through all these. We seem to be able to do horrible things to each other no matter what our creed.

There are memorials to all this on the penninsula. A reminder that whole communities once inhabited this place before it became the dominion of the sheep.

People lived and died here on the western most parts of civilisation. They lived and brought up their kids overlooking the western isles knowing that the clan divisions may bring their downfall at any point.

What would they think of us?


Me and sparky sat in the ruins of one of their houses and held our own communion service. Here at the end of the world we broke bread and wine (or biscuit and whisky) and had a few readings from the gospels and declared the joy and hope of the resurrection. CHRIST is risen, hallelujah.


Here at the end of the world I recommit myself to the faith, the hope and the glory. To the great story that I find myself in but yet do no comprehend. I do not often know why I stick with it. I keep thinking of the quote from the disciples that “where else o lord would we go”.

Here at the end of the world I acknowledge my brokenness and struggles, the immense sense of loss that accompanies everything I do these days.

Here at the end of the world I find the tears and the laughter that will take me home.


By this stage the sun was out and determined to make up for it’s absence over the past few days. The windows were wound down. The sun roof was open, the sunny tunes (unsurprisingly I only have about an hour or so of these on the iPod) were on. I was stopping every 5 mind or so for photos of the rapidly approaching mountains.

The Cuillins are truly spectacular. Huge, ridged, stony mountains that seen to explode from the earth.


They fill me with me with awe and fear in equal measure.

At the base of the mountains beside a gravelly beach lies Glenbrittle camp-site. Which has jumped to number one in my all time favourite camp site list.


Huge soaring mountains in the background, a sweeping sun lit bay in the foreground. Camp Volvo was established. We didn’t even need the awning I’d designed for the car. When I planned this trip this type of campsite was what I had in mind.


I finally got to try the portable BBQ that Morsies had bought me for Christmas. Despite needing 4 firelighters to get it started (the consequence of leaving my charcoal sitting out the back of at john’s all winter) it cooked up a storm accompanied by some coffee, some red and the chorizo sausage I bought in Inverness.

By now it was only 7pm and I hadn’t even started the Sunday times.

The sun sets and leaves us campers surviving by the glow of propane and the shelter of the nylon. This may be British summer time but I am currently wearing a hat and 7 layers on top and 3 pair of trousers. I am exceptionally cosy it must be said. That in itself is kind of satisfying.

The Cuillins raise their intimidating profile in the background. Weather permitting we’ll have a go.


Middle class heroes


Getting a bunch of mid-twenties professionals together in the same place at the same time for 3 days in a row is impressive enough. Getting near 30 of us together for a weekend to Scotland is even more so.

Originally planned as a stag do, it became more of an anti-stag-do for reasons I’ll not go into but it did provide us all with a fixed date and tickets for a major international sporting event. We booked all this in August. Perhaps that’s the only way to get us all together by planning six months in advance.

The only other real time we get together seems to be either weddings, when we’re all dressed quite nicely and behave rather dignified and polite and also when we stay in wee Phil’s house in Donegal and we live on our jammies and insult each other at close quarters. You need the variety really.

img_0092Due to quite remarkable forethought and planning (praise and glory to dear Jose, G and the conspicuously absent Office) 24 of us ended up on the same flight and picked up at the airport by the mighty Raymond (there was of course a Sparky inspired version of Raymondo sung to the tune of Abba’s Fernando…) in his fun bus. Staying in what i can only consider a rather posh hotel in the very centre of Glasgow overlooking George Square. It must be posh, Fred Elliot from Corrie was staying there.

I don’t mean to be harsh on Glasgow as a city, only being there a very brief period of time but to be honest George Square seemed to be the most pretty bit of it. But i stand to be corrected.


The focal point of the weekend was a decidedly poor Ireland beating Scotland at Murrayfield. Despite the cold and long beer queues it was a quality day out. My ticket was in a different stand from the others but fortuitously put me beside a good mate, a kid who work shadowed in A&E a few weeks ago, a girl from the year below me in medical school and a guy i used to climb hills with. All independent of each other but all within 2 rows.


Beyond the day-trip to the rugby we weren’t particularly adventurous, staying in the hotel all evening and having a lovely meal and some lovely whisky, and some even more lovely conversation. Cause we don’t all get together that often we are undestandably insular when we are together.

My lasting memory will be a conversation about the evolved role and position of the human reproductive system. Bert’s justification for the grouping of the waste disposal system with the reproductive system (which has always seemed a tad odd to me) was that it was good to keep all the “occasional activities” in the one place. No Victorian prudery here eh?

In the morning spent so long sitting in the one seat reading the Sunday Times that I briefly developed a pressure sore.

I got through 200 pages of Churchill (quote of the day, on declaration of war on Japan – “some people did not like the ceremonial style, but after all when you have to kill a man it costs nothing to be polite…”) It was certainly a laid back day.

Home with vague plans for next year (having had a group trip two st. paddys’ weekends in a row it is now a firmly established tradition to be maintained in perpetuity) involving cruisers on lough erne or an isolated cottage in the highlands. An established tradition would be most welcome.

We all grow older, and change in lots of ways. We are no longer banter hungry students (though we all remain banter hungry and some even remain students). We are the white collars of society – these people do all kinds of cool things that make me proud even to be in there presence.

There is a (much welcomed says I) increase in couples in the group and a wonderful comfort (at least I think so) in the relationships amongst that horrible created divide between couples and singles.

We are a lot more forgiving and gracious than perhaps we used to be. The usual bit of getting older and realising how important we all are to each other, with the accompanying fear of how easily we could all lose each other.

I think back on what has passed in the interim year for me and it does not generally make for a pleasant read – everything has changed. I am certainly not who I used to be, in most ways not in a good way, but perhaps I am not the one to judge that.

Being surrounded by so many who I know and  love and who know and love me throws your personality and change into sharp relief. It is smothering. In the nicest, most important kind of way. I find the group/social situation difficult and painful in so many ways, though at the same time I would not miss it for the world.

I regret to say that I am better company in the written word than in person.


August 2022