Thursday, 28 August 2014

Summer snapshots - a daytrip to the west coast

Falls of Measach, Corrieshalloch Gorge
I think this was one of our favourite days in the summer.  We can't quite believe that we can visit such special places as Ullapool so easily - less than an hour in the car.  John has been planning for us to make a day trip since we first knew we would be moving!

The suspension bridge
 First stop was Corrieshalloch Gorge, meaning Ugly Hollow in Gaelic but I think it is pretty stunning.  I think we all did.  It is a National Trust for Scotland site and they maintain the suspension bridge, which was built in 1874 by Sir John Fowler (one of the chief engineers involved in the Forth Bridge), and the viewing platform.  The gorge itself was cut by glacial meltwater 2.5 million years ago.

I have visited in the past, the last time around 20 years ago when I was on a student hillwalking trip (I wasn't a cool and trendy student!)....but I think I found it far more impressive this time.  Perhaps having children to keep an eye on had something to do with my sense of perspective!

Viewing platform

Looking from the viewing platform to the suspension bridge

Next stop was Ullapool itself.  It is a real picture perfect little highland town, it couldn't really be in a more beautiful spot.  It was designed in 1788 by Thomas Telford for the British Fisheries Society when fishing became an organised industry at the height of the herring boom*.  It still operates as a small fishing harbour, and the main ferry point for Stornaway in the Outer Hebrides, but nowadays tourism is very important.

Normally we are religious about taking a picnic lunch with us, it costs a lot to buy lunch for us all.  But because this was John's special day we had fish and chips as a treat.  It was delicious, helped no doubt by the view of the harbour and the fresh sea air.
Cul Beag, Stac Pollaidh and Cul Mor

 Next stop was Knockan Crag.  This National Nature Reserve has some of the oldest rocks in Europe and the excellent interpretation tells the story of the role this site played in our understanding of key geological points - such as how rocks move from where they were formed and how older rocks can lie above younger ones.

The Moine Thrust is internationally famous - at Knockan Crag you can clearly see the much older and darker Moine schist lying above the lighter and younger Durness limestone.  Peach and Horne were the two mappers for the Geological Survey of Scotland who, in the early 1900s, worked out that tectonic movement explained the conundrum.

Yellow mountain saxifrage at home on a patch of limestone

Big steps for small legs

I'm sure we'll have many more trips west to this special part of our country.  I would love to explore some of the other sites in the North West Highland Geopark and the hills are some of the most dramatic you could hope to see and walk.  The main hills shown in the photos above are Cul Beag, Cul Mor and Stac Pollaidh.

I hadn't intended to write so much but I truly loved this trip and the places we visited and I found myself sharing lots more than planned.  I would most definitely urge you to visit if you ever get the chance!

* I don't know nearly as much as I should about the story of the herring industry in Scotland.  The boom in the early 1800s was fuelled by a government bounty of £3 per tonne to every owner of a boat of more than 60 tonnes and a further bounty for fish sold overseas.  Much of the industry was based in east coast towns and further north it offered hope for those suffering from the Highland Clearances.  I'm planning to re-read Neil Gunn's The Silver Darlings - a novel set in a north east fishing village and told through Finn and his mother Catriona. 

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Monday, 25 August 2014

Summer snapshots - cycling to Rosemarkie beach

Cycling to Rosemarkie Beach - another summer snapshot.  It takes us only five minutes or so to get there......along quiet roads, past the golf course and campsite, with the sea in view all the way. 

Our silly Susie hasn't taken to running alongside the bike very readily.  She started off pretty convinced that the bike was out to attack her.  But after several more trips, and some patience and encouragement, she is steadily relaxing and beginning to enjoy the run.....and I can stop gritting my teeth.  I don't find it at all relaxing to have a reluctant dog beside me given that I'm shepherding the three older children and desperately trying to make sure I don't topple my bike with Katie on the back!  I think the perseverance is paying off though and I can see us making this trip often.  Katie and I walk along too Rosemarkie too, after the others have been safely escorted onto the school bus, but I think we'll cycle sometimes especially if we have less time and want to be sure that Susie has had a good run.

In other news, the sun has returned.  Not with quite so much heat behind it but it is certainly very welcome!  I hope you are enjoying a sunny Monday morning too!

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Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Summer snapsots - Commonwealth Games

Hello, again!  Wow, that was such a good summer*.  Wonderful weather - we had so much sun and warmth (except this last week when we were cold and damp) - and lots of family fun. The big children are back in school today and I wanted to push myself back into posting here.  I do love my bloggy chats and spending time with the lovely people I have come to know through blogging.....and I treasure this little record of our family and my crafty goings-on too (my sewing has been rather stalled of late but I have big plans for the next few months).
So, in order to try a little catch up I thought I'd post a few Summer snapshots.  Starting, today, with the Commonwealth Games.  We were very lucky to get tickets for the athletics which we then topped up with badminton and rugby 7s. 
We love our sport in this family and our kids are lucky enough to be seasoned sporting event attendees.  I think they have all been along to events, rugby matches in particular, of various calibre from a very early age - I remember that Finn was just 14 days when he first 'watched' my brothers play one wintry October afternoon and Katie was a mere handful of days old when she accompanied me to watch Finn in a school event.  Consequently we were pretty confident that they'd take it all in their stride - and they did, we were so proud of them.  Long, long days with lots of walking to get to and between venues, noisy crowds and, for Katie, not much idea of what was happening except that it was fun to be with us all while shouting and cheering.  John and I get so much enjoyment from these family days, which I'm sure will be laid down as long-term memories.....we may perhaps, actually definitely, have seen more of the sport without the children but I doubt we'd have had such fun.  Who wouldn't enjoy looking back in the car to see their little zebra sound asleep after a tiring day?!
*  There is a decided nip in the air up here.  Fingers crossed it doesn't mean the end of warmth until next year!

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