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All things hiking Holidays blogs and reviews

Arran 2023: Highlights

Arran delivered in spades for our guests this year. We had an amazing week at a stunning cottage in Blackwaterfoot, despite the logistical nightmares of organising the trip this year which included ferry hiccoughs galore.

Andy and the guests explored some stunning geological features and coastal walks and despite having been over to Arran before (more than once) we still found new spots to explore.

Below are the posts Andy made on Facebook summarising the fabulous days out they had.

EXTREME CLIMATE CHANGE!

A mini mountain range within a mountain range!
Glacial? No no no!
……well a little bit.
This is the result of when Scotland had a wet tropical climate! Organic acids from rotting vegetation attacked the feldspar in the granite, either side of the vein.
The ice age did the rest in removing the degraded granite.
This same chemical etching is also responsible for the very rough surface and rounded form of many of the boulders on the Cairngorm plateau, as well as what appears to be well sorted gravel that lies between!
#Scotland #wilderness #walkingholiday #visitscotland #visitcairngorms #geology #geomorphology #arran #isleofarran #cairngorms
Arran - mini mountain range

Glorious week on the tranquil Isle of Arran

The Kildonan Dyke Swarm – the finest example in the world!

Remember 60 million years ago when North American was wrenched from Europe?
Well the resultant thinning of the crust saw vertical sheets of molten rock (dykes) injected up the fracture lines!
The dykes have been more resistant to the sea’s battering, as have the backed margins (on which Tina stands) of the surrounding softer sedimentary rocks!
A common site on Scotland’s west coast and testament to the huge amount of volcanicity that took place as the North Atlantic started to open up!
#geology #visitscotland #scotland #arran #isleofarran #hiking #walking
Glorious sunset tonight looking out to the Kintyre Peninsula. #visitscotland #WildIsles #walkingholiday #hikingholiday #scottishhighlands
Glacial rebound… boing said Zebedee!
The raised beach on which Gregor and Looi stand is a common feature of Scotland’s west coast.
Although sea levels have risen by about 100m since the last ice age, the land has risen even more (and still is!) as it buoys back up as a result of the weight of ice being removed!
The sea cliffs are now left high and dry.

Highlands of Scotland: summary of a month of walking tours during a pandemic

In Scotland, there are plenty of walking tours.  However, when you join Scot Mountain Holidays –  it’s more than just a walk. It’s more of a complete adventure which will hopefully give you a sense of place and belonging. Not only do we feast on stunning mountain views, but we’re also treated to some spectacular, colourful and sometimes dainty looking wild flowers; and unexpected wildlife encounters.

Always bear in mind that September is also harvest month. In normal, times no doubt there would be church services to give thanks. Though we can’t do that this year, we have still been treated to some of the best of nature’s bounty (see images in slideshow).

This year we’ve picked loads of chanterelles and boletus mushrooms plus we’ve been able to find not 1 but 3 cauliflower fungi. It’s also a spectacular year for plums (from the garden) – and apples but they need a wee bit more time on the tree. Berries have been good too. Andy had brought back wild blueberries (blaeberries), wild cranberries (linganberries), juniper berries and cloudberries (highly prized in Scandinavia)

Though wildlife is not the focus of the walks Andy has led this month, he has some close encounters including 2 capercaillie and 2 black grouse down Glenfeshie. Unfortunately no pictures though to back up reports of the sightings.

Of course the dinners we’ve had this month have also been a highlight for everyone, but we’re usually too busy enjoying them to take pictures. We’ll try to add some in next month so you get a more complete picture of the trips and what makes them so special to the people who join us.

Here’s a sample from just this month of all the delights Andy has come across while out in the hills.

With thanks to Mala, Joanne, Valerie, David and Gareth for the excellent company this month.

  • walking holidays Scotland

VISIT HEBRIDES: A HIGH TIME IN HARRIS!

 

visit Hebrides

Stunning remote wilderness scenery

Scot Mountain Holidays put a new trip together this year (2013): an exploration of Harris and Lewis.  As usual, this was very well planned and the logistics carefully thought out. We departed their base at Boat of Garten, picking up clients at Aviemore and Inverness stations, before driving to Ullapool. There we boarded the ferry to Stornaway, for which we arrived in plenty of time.  On the crossing, there was time to admire the receding scenery of the northern mainland mountains and the approaching islands silhouetted against the setting sun, as well as to enjoy a meal on board. From Stornaway we then took an interesting drive down to Tarbert, our base for the week in some well-equipped holiday cottages.

The beginning of the hiking

Andy had prepared a very varied itinerary, a pleasant blend of hill and coastal walking, with visits to many places of interest. As always, he was a mine of information on the geology, the geography, the flora and fauna and especially the bird life.  Among other species, we saw lapwings, golden plover, cormorants, gannets fishing, a Great Northern Diver and, of course, at least half a dozen eagles ….

visit Hebrides

Beautiful white sand beaches of the Hebrides

The rest day

On the midweek ‘rest’ day, we had the opportunity for a scenic drive around south Harris. We visited a prehistoric standing stone and also a visitor centre. I was intrigued to discover why Lewis and Harris have separate names, even though they are one landmass. In former times, there were no roads through the hills forming a barrier between the two, so all the traffic had to be by boat around the coast, effectively making them separate islands!

We also discovered that the island has become something of a haven for artists and photographers. There are quite a few studios dotted around, often with hospitable cafes! For the botanist, the coastal scenery is much enhanced by the ‘machair’ wild flower meadows.

Other points of interest

There is much of interest too for the historian: the famous prehistoric standing stones at Callanish, an Iron Age ‘broch’ (chieftain’s house) in a well preserved state, and more recently the ruins, mainly just a chimney, of a former whaling station; there is even a present-day indication of long-established customs in that many people still cut and dry peat for fuel!

 

I have so far not mentioned the hillwalking, which can be very challenging even though the hills are not of the highest, due to the dearth of paths and tracks, giving one a real feeling of pioneering. And:

 

“These mountains don’t know they’re 2000 feet high, from the rock

Of the summit, where the clouds cling, down to the lap of the loch.

In their mist shawls they crouch, silent, by the side of the glen,

Indifferent to Man and the measures of men.”

 

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Even dedicated ‘Munro-baggers’ would find much to enjoy here, since the terrain is very rugged, the ascents are often steep and one usually starts from sea level. Coupled with the remoteness of the island, this means that we encountered few other walkers during the week.

A highlight

Probably my favourite ascent was that of Tiorga Mor. After an interesting walk up the valley track, we turned on to the mountain shoulder. This gave some superb walking up ‘boiler-plate’ slabs, with occasional delectable little scrambles, to the summit ridge.

From the top, we had extensive views over many islands, including Taransay (of TV’s ‘Castaway’ fame) and even St Kilda on the far horizon. Looking down on the white sand beaches and the turquoise sea-shallows it made me think of Greece, another country which I love. From the summit, we turned north to traverse Tiorga Beag and eventually started to get increasingly dramatic profile views of the north end of Sron Uladale; this is of particular interest to those of a rock-climbing bent, as it is the largest crag overhang in Britain.  Some brave soul has even jumped off the top with a parachute!

The complete picture

Complementing Andy’s expert and informative guiding was the magnificent cuisine produced by Rebecca. After a substantial breakfast, we had a wide choice of fillings for our sandwiches. We assembled our own lunches with the fresh home-baked bread. On our return to base, we enjoyed the famous ‘Cake-o-Clock’: refreshing tea and home-made cake, before the excellent evening meals.

 

visit Hebrides

Apart from the main scenic delights, there were other intriguing little sights for those of a whimsical turn of mind:

a well-maintained tennis court miles down a single-track dead-end road, probably the most remote such facility in Britain, if not the world; and an optimistic ‘For Sale’ sign in front of a derelict cottage

 

On the return ferry there was of course sadness at leaving this unique place, but also compensation in the approaching views of the northern Scottish mountains across a sun-smeared sea.

Conclusion

Overall, this was a very interesting and enjoyable trip, underlining the Scot Mountain Holidays slogan: “A Sense of Place and Belonging” It is an expedition well worth repeating.

 

Mick Wansborough  June 2013

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