Skye Episode 2, Part Deux

One of the great things (for me at least) on Skye was the amount of daylight hours. By May sunset is already at around 10pm! Which meant we  could fit a lot more into the day.

So having already experienced the micro climate of Waternish Point, dried off, downed a cuppa and scoffed some Viennese biscuits we took a trip to Dunvegan. The centre looked like it'd seen more lucrative days, but it was interesting enough and we found a shortish walk  called the Two Churches Walk.  This pleasant and interesting walk finishes by the ruin of St Mary's church built in 1682 and well worth a browse. With still more time before sundown we explored more of the Dunvegan area and found the Coral Beaches walk. A really lovely walk to end the day. An easy going but very enjoyable walk along Loch Dunvegan which resulted  in spending a considerable time sitting and watching a number of inquisitive seals; a beautiful end to our second day.

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Skye Walker Episode 2: Waternish in the Snow... ish

Cow and calf near waternish point, Skye

The expression ‘micro climate’ is something synonymous with conversation about British weather. I’m sure I’ve used the phrase myself it but I will never use it in the same way again after our Waternish walk.

We set off reasonably early (reasonable for a holiday) with  the warm sun on our backs, bright blue skies ahead and a bounce in our step, triggered by word that previous walkers on this route had recently caught sight of a basking shark from Waternish Point.

We followed a track either made for or made by the farmer’s quad bike; the origins of the track becoming more unclear as we encountered impromptu homemade bridges over various bogs, crevices and other obstacles. The cliff side farmland we passed through was vast and largely wild, with some of the largest cows I’ve ever had to nervously pass!

The walk to Waternish Point seems to be very much a 'wing it' walk. As you move away from the quad bike trail, there doesn't seem to be a distinct footpath, and judging by the few other ramblers we noticed, everyone found their own path to the point - which was great, if not at times a little disconcerting!

Upon reaching the point, which overlooks the Western Isles, we sat down for some lunch and watched a common seal hunting among the rock pools below us. Having been absorbed and mesmerized for sometime by the seal, we happened to glance up and notice a thick, dark, grey, Independence Day sized cloud hurtling towards us! We promptly got up and raced off, in the vain attempt to make it back to the car being before enveloped in whatever was brewing on the now not so distant horizon...

About half way  through our rush to shelter we started to feel and hear the inevitable pitter patter, and within seconds a gust of wind slammed a torrent of 45 degree rain at our backs. Within minutes this turned to hail, then sleet and then to snow! As we neared the end of our journey, cold and damp, the snow eased and blue skies suddenly appeared. By the time we made it to the car we were pretty much dry. It was one of the more surreal walks I've done, that's for sure! As the Byre was on the way to Dunvegan (our next destination), we took a pit stop. A nice hot brew and more Viennese sandwich biscuits than necessary and we were off! Dunvegan and more to follow in Episode 2, part deux!

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Skye Walker Episode 1

Loch Long, Scotland

Much like popular opinion of George Lucas' revisit to his cult classic space saga, there isn't a great deal to write about our late-ish arrival on the Isle of Skye.

After a gorgeous but rather long drive, the highlight of which was a sighting of two wild red deer stags, we arrived in the sun soaked village of Stein. Here, The Old Byre, a small self-catering cottage overlooking Loch Bay, would be our home for the next five nights. The small but deluxe split level cottage came with everything we could want, including a small bunny that came out everyday to play on our front lawn.

We were greeted with a large cup of tea, more homemade biscuits than I should have partaken of and a friendly natter with the owner next door. Then we dumped our bags and headed straight out, only too aware that this day might be the only one when the sun showed its face!

Our first exploration on Skye involved walking down and checking out the local - the appropriately named Stein Inn, a friendly and charming pub that sits right on the loch and is a popular place to sit in hope of sighting the elusive Sea and Golden Eagles. If you are not so lucky, the very tasty Red Cuillin (Skye brewery) available on tap offers a great consolation!

And that is as far as our first Skye ramble got really! Watch out for episode two though because the second day was epic!

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Rombalds Moor, from the other side

Woods, wooded area, sunlight, rombalds moor

I had wanted to give a more detailed account of our walk on Rombald's Moor. Though I envisage sighs of relief from friends and family as they read this opening line; I had hoped to give a more, or moor (that one's for CB!) descriptive account of the walk that started in Riddleston, that took us past lambs just hours old, of the beams of light that pierced through the densely wooded... err.. wood, as well as the astonishing aerial display from several lapwings as they tried to divert a red kite (the bird of prey) away from their nesting area. I even wanted depict the delights had from the pint of Black Moor, brewed by Goose Eye brewery in nearby Keighley which was supped in the Crown Inn, Addingham and wasn't bad!

Alas though, I'm off to Skye in a couple of days and do not have time to spend on such a whim! However, I imagine after 8 days wandering round the famously scenic Isle, there will be no end to the drivel making it's way onto this site; so remember this gift of briefness when you wade through the swamp of waffle in the forthcoming posts!

And here are the Pics....

Sticks and Stones, Oh... and Some Sheep!

sheep overlooking ilkley, ilkley moor

Sounding like something out of a good Indiana Jones movie (when Harrison Ford was the young one)... A hunt for the 'Swastika Stone' on Ilkley moor seemed like the perfect Sunday adventure for a couple of  lazy morning ramblers.

The Swastika stone is thought to be either Bronze age (like many other stones found in the area) or Iron Age and there's some ambiguity over the stone's meaning too, although in a number of ancient civilizations similar designs are thought to relate to the sun. The stone is located a relatively short walk west of White Wells Spa Cottage, which has had accessible baths since 1703, was instrumental in giving Ilkley its Spa town status and has reported visits from the likes of Charles Darwin. The stones are such a short walk from here (a couple of miles I'd guess),  we decided to extend our walk. I say 'stones' because there are in fact two Swastika stones. One is a Victorian replica which actually helps pick out the pattern of the considerably fainter original sat just behind.

Our walk continued past the stones, past Panorama Reservoir and onto Hardwick House farm, where I got momentarily obsessed with some very photogenic sheep! From the farm we walked down until we reached the River Wharfe where we followed the Dales Way back into Ilkley town centre. Nature on the walk included numerous encounters with curlews and red grouse, which seem to occur on many of our Yorkshire walks, and we also caught sight of a tree creeper.

We finished the day at the Cow and Calf Hotel with an enjoyable pint of Leeds Pale Ale but  before making our ascent to the watering hole we stopped off to refuel. The Vintage Tea Room on Wells Road is an original, friendly and very well done tea room with irresistible homemade cakes and a list of speciality teas longer than my photography equipment wish list (which is larger than a News International legal bill!). A cream tea for two was just what was needed to make the final steps on our Ilkley walk!

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Winter Walk and Fine Ales in the Dales

Walkers at trollers gill, Yorkshire dales, wharfedale

Having double checked the handbrake, twice and debated leaving the car in first, I tentatively made my way to the back of the 45 degree angled parked car to put on my boots. It wasn’t until later we realised there was actually a car park  in Appletreewick which we could of used.  This oversight was probably due to the excitement of  embarking on our first Dales walk: The walk we had originally planned to do in “Perils of Coffee” (A lovely walk round Burey in Whafedale).

Appletreewick is a village in the Yorkshire Dales and is pronounced “Aptrick” by locals. The locals also boast of Sir William Craven, described as the village’s own Dick Whittington, having left the village for London to make his success and ended up becoming Lord Mayor and sheriff of London before returning to Appletreewick.

The walk begins along the bank of the river Wharfe and the sun starts to thaw my rather chilled face, I realise what an awesome picnic destination these banks would make in the summer months.  As the walk develops a diverse range of  landscape and terrain is experienced. One minute a rocky valley the next a small picturesque village with a population no more than 30.

Highlights of the walk include a derelict resevoir called Skyreholme dam, which used to supply water to a paper mill and Trollers Gill  which involves clambering over a rocky stream for a mile or so before an obligatory investigation of a rather large cave entrance; could this be the hide out for the spectre hound of Craven. Dare you to go in! (umm… please note: I take no responsibility for anyone who does themselves a mischief from taking up something I say in jest and that may not actually be the opinions of the writer: insert any other appropriate legal jargon here).

This is walk that is steeped in history and intertwined with folklore. Having the Ramblers Yorkshire Dales guide by David Leather really helped add context to the conveyor belt of lansdcapes and really bought the walk to life.

On completion of the walk we stopped in the Craven Arms for a pint of Black Witch,  Moorehouse brewery.  The pub was so inviting and charming we stayed for a pint of Cruck Barn (Brewed by the Craven Arms) and in case you’re adding up the points, CB stuck to the tea before driving us back on a scenic journey made all the more beautiful by warm glow of two fine ales in the system!

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She's at it Again...

This little animation was taken from one of our last walks in Appletreewick, Yorkshire Dales. It was a really great walk, my fav of the year so far, new post and pics to follow soon!

CB dance, animation

Saltholme... a Home for Cool Owls

Saltholme rspb wetland centre

Hot Cappuccino, warm cheese scone and some chocolate fingers. If only every walk could start that way! The RSPB Saltholme cafe is something to behold; with its vast Robocop visor-esque windows that allow people to sit down in the warm, eat, drink, watch nature and photograph all at the same time... I'm pretty sure this is my Dad's idea of heaven! However as a photographer, the cafe feels a little like two big blokes standing either side of you at a urinal... Intimidating lenses every direction you turn!

Having plucked up enough courage to get my camera out of my bag (not in the sense of the previous euphemistic metaphor) and remove myself from the cosy warmth of the cafe, I joined Caroline and her family who had somehow got ahead of me. I say somehow, getting distracted and falling behind isn't an uncommon trait.

Saltholme is a great place to take a walk. Obviously there's visitors who take their sport seriously, but everyone is friendly and it seems very good for families. We went for a short stroll really, rather than a walk. The conflicting landscapes where the industrial North meet the resilience of nature is humbling to witness and stirs up a range of responses. There really is a super abundance of wildlife. We were lucky enough to see a short eared owl on several occasions as we walked around the wetlands, which for me at least was pretty exciting!

I really loved my visit Saltholme Wetland Centre, I think it's a fantastic introduction to wildlife walking and would recommend it to anyone. I'm certainly going back, but maybe with a bigger lens!

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Perils of Coffee

Country road, walk, burley in wharfedale, west yorkshire

If you're anything like me, you'll know just how dangerous 'popping out' for a coffee is. My most recent coffee excursion led to a browse around Waterstone's (or Waterstones as I believe they are re-branding themselves). Anyway this 'browse' led to the purchase of £30 worth of OS maps and a rather cool book on Yorkshire Dales walks. No wonder I got an espresso maker for my birthday!

The following morning I woke up like it was Christmas, all excited about doing a new walk in the Dales from our new book, using my new OS map. Caroline was more like the parent at Christmas, who would like just five more minutes in bed and wishes the kids would go and quietly entertain themselves with their new pressies. Anyway a quick wash, a round of toast that barely touches the sides and we were off! Or so we thought. It seemed the car didn't share our enthusiasm for the Yorkshire Dales, so 10 minutes into our journey we had to turn back and book the car in for a check up.

Luckily due to my premature, or arguably immature, overexcitement it was still relatively early. Remembering that we had been given an AA Walks Around Leeds and West Yorkshire book for Christmas we started hunting through the walk cards looking for a walk that was relatively accessible on public transport. We found one that started and finished at Burley in Wharfedale train station.

The walk begins on Hag Farm Lane leading up to and through the farm, over some fields that offer the residing sheep lush panoramas and on through a variety of gates that remind you that you still haven’t burnt off as many of those festive calories as you would have liked.

The highlight of the walk is Burley Moor. This relatively busy heath provides some great views, even on a hazy winter’s day (is that a Simon and Garfunkel song?) with low thin cloud you could still take in the sights. We took a moment as we crossed the moor to take in the scenery. There were plenty of different paths that offered interesting diversions and investigations. Pretty soon the moor quietened down as people went off exploring their own routes. We came across a beautiful icy stream cutting its way through the hillside, which was particularly fascinating. The walk then took us back onto a B road and a country lane, and then over some pretty lowland fields that we’d previously been looking down on.  We eventually ended back amongst some pretty impressive houses that surround Burley in Wharfedale station.

This was a very enjoyable walk, not too short and not too long with some lovely scenery and a good mix of terrain. Typically my keenness to photograph EVERYTHING meant we missed the hourly train by 5 or 10… But with every cloud… Rather with every missed train there is usually a good pub and Burley in Wharfedale is no exception, we headed into the village where we went to the friendly Red Lion Hotel for a pint of Midnight Bell from Leeds Brewery while resisting the mouth-watering specials on the board!

A wonderful end to a day that began rather ominously.

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Tax Relief at Kirkstall

Kirkstal Abbey, leeds, yorkshire, abbey, ruin

And so it happens every year, that familiar feeling of anxiety, so far removed from just a few weeks ago. With a sharp intake of breath I hit submit on the HMRC self assessment form and utter a quick prayer. A rush of doubt and worry floods in momentarily, followed by annoyance. I decide to go out for a quick walk before Caroline got home.

Kirkstall is a 15 minute drive away, and I had only ever passed through, so I jumped in the car and set off. Parking in Kirkstall Abbey Walk, I went for a quick stroll around the ruins. The Abbey was founded around 1152 and occupied by self-sufficient monks and nuns (Cistercians), later to be disestablished by Henry VIII. It was also a popular subject for many painters including JMW Turner.

The eclectic range of structures that play home to a large number of birds are pretty impressive. Although skeletal, the ruins retain enough form to make it easy to imagine the Abbey in all its glory some 800 years ago. Having wandered through the Abbey ruins I went for a very short stroll along the river Aire that runs alongside. I was struck by the stillness of this section of the river as it approaches a weir.

The river bank stroll felt very similar to my amble round the abbey; while there were elements of unquestionable intrigue and beauty, they were slightly marred by the actions of visitors who possibly feel little attachment to the area, leaving obvious signs of disrespect. Not that this would put me off a revisit, it just made me wonder what could make people feel so disconnected from this environment.

Not long after and it was time to go home, get dinner on and pour myself a glass of Hob Goblin (Wychwood brewery) and I realised that all thoughts of the evil self assessment had drifted away.

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