Xmas 2020

Boats cancelled.  Lockdown tomorrow.  Oh dear.

October 2020

So, end of the season.  It's scary how quickly it's gone.

Anyway.  Loch Garbad.  Extensive tree felling.  The walk from Eas Mor Waterfall up to the loch is now almost totally in the open - no forest to walk through until the final 100 yards before the loch.  On the one hand, the views are better.  You can now look down towards Pladda and the Ailsa Craig.  On the other hand, walking through the devastation of a felled forest is never pleasant even though the path is still excellent.  Once you get within 100 yards of the loch, everything is as it has been for decades.  Hopefully it'll stay like that for a while.  In addition, the trig point is still in unfelled forest - for now.

Cnoc na Dail to Auchranie.  Forest road extended into the forest just before it becomes a small path.  However, road goes off to the left then stops after a few hundred yards.  Also, the route I take through the felled forest just before that point has become very over grown with saplings.  There's a forester's path at the point that makes part of the short journey through that difficult area much easier (but still not that easy!)

Glenashdale.  The zig-zag path up to the Giants' Graves has been reopened following work to repair erosion.  IMO the biggest culprit was the trail bikes that used the path as a challenging downhill.  I don't blame them as I'd have done the same in my younger days.  Anyway, large boulder 'steps' have been set into the path to redirect rain water.  The unfortunate thing for the downhill riders is that it's now far too dangerous to race.  Hopefully this path'll last a while.


September 2020 - ALREADY

I haven't added a lot of news but then, it's been a strange year.

Things are improving but certainly not back to normal (and may never be).

On the Clauchlands.  The forestry road that skirts the hills to the north has two forestry type roads leading off.  These roads were built a year or two ago.  I took a run up this morning to see if they'd been extended (I'd hoped that they'd join up - No such luck).  The first road is just over 1/3 of a mile and ends at NS025:343.  And the other (which begins at NS035:341 and extends about 1/2 mile to NS030:343.  This 2nd path isn't great.  It also has another path that leads off at 90 degrees to the woods at NS034:344.  

I've started on a 2nd edition of "Lesser Known Hill Routes".  I doubt if there'll be a lot of changes and most will be tidying up.  Reckon it'll take me most of next year.


July 2020

It's hard to believe that we've reached July already.

We're easing out of lockdown and the world is beginning to wake up (I hope).

Forestry work has continued on the island, which is fine.  Bracken has continued to invade and cover paths, which is not.

You will hardly recognise the area between Brodick and the Cnoc na Dail  carpark.  The forest has disappeared and the paths are no longer forest walks.  But hey, it was forestry plantation.  Perhaps now, more indigenous species will grow.

The Clauchlands has also seen more forestry work as has the track at the end of the forestry road that skirts round the Sheeans.  The forest road still goes to NS010:320 but a section of forest has been removed from the firebreak that leads through to the Sheeans making it all that much easier.


May 2020

Still in lockdown.

North Ayrshire asked me to do another video, this time about being a lighthouse keeper.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=suGhtT9dm5I


April 2020

Video about Arran by me.  On North Ayrshire Library's YouTube website: 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t3jv0aI_hmE

Have a look.


March 2020

Strange times.  Everything now closed down due to Corvid-19.  No more talks for the duration.  Can't even travel for walks with Alfie so no more updates.  Fingers crossed matters resolve soon.


The book talk went really well.  My sincere thanks to Susanna for organising and hosting the event.


Article in The Banner.  Advertising the talk on 11 March.  Whilst the Brodick talk will definitely go ahead, the talk in Saltcoats library on 20 March is beginning to look a bit shaky due to Coronavirus.

February 2020

Poster for 1st library talk.

Book now out and available for purchase.

The official launch date is 1st March with the first public event on Wednesday 11 March  at 7:30 in Brodick Library.  The second event will be held on Friday 20 March at 14:00 in Saltcoats Library.  An hour of listening to me - what could be better?  (BTW - That was a rhetorical question).


January 2020

Happy New Year!

AND there's a new book!!!

I've completed and had published Arran: Lochs and Lochans.  Well, the actual publishing date is 1 March 2020 but that's pretty much done and dusted (fingers crossed).

I've seen the printed book and am very pleased with the product.  Same size as Lesser Known Hill Routes and it also has the 'soft touch lamination' which makes it feel great.  Also same price.

Exciting times!


October 2019

Well, the season’s pretty much finished and the island is closing down for the winter.  It means that most of my walking will be low level and sheltering from the rain – oh well!

It’s been a good year and to crown it all, I’ve finished the new book.  Arran – Lochs and Lochans.  I intend publishing next spring.  Just got to finish off the editing and make changes where they’re advised.

Hope everyone has a great Xmas and new year.  Look out for more updates starting next March.  I’m off to hibernate!

Oh, one last update.  The path that goes up to Glenashdale Falls by the southern route is now open.  However, be prepared for a bit of a shock.  The old path through dense forest is now through a totally deforested area. 

I'm sure that in a year or two it'll look better but at the moment it's a bit sad.  it certainly opens the gorge up and if the Forestry Commission do the same to the northern bank, the whole area will be unrecognisable. 

Oh well, progress or regress, opinions will differ.


September 2019

Hawthorne

The path that I noted as being very overgrown has been (to an extent) cleared.  It’s still pretty muddy but it’s no longer a trek through dense undergrowth.

Brodick Castle paths

The route from Cladach that goes off to the left of the Goatfell path after a couple of hundred yards is STILL closed – after over a year.  Maps show the path as being called Easceanoch but I’ve always known it as the Cnocan Gorge path.  It’s still possible to get to the gorge from further up the Goatfell path but it’s a bit more awkward if you don’t know the area.  Very poor from the National Trust.  The path is closed from its start, up to the bit that crosses the tarmac road. 


August 2019

The Book.  17. Brodick Hills.  Page 77.

I note in para 3 that, “…you can cut across to NS006:361…”.  This is certainly correct, BUT; a better alternative, if the bracken etc is difficult, is to follow the conifer wood (with it on your left hand side) to NS003:363 where you’ll find a path which turns into a forest road and ends at the String road opposite the graveyard.

This adds about ¼ mile onto the trip but it saves times and a lot of effort.

Loch Tanna

Another of the most popular walks is becoming overgrown.  It’s bad enough having to fight through bracken but the whins are taking over.  The rest of the walk up to Tanna hasn’t changed – unfortunately.  It’s still very wet in places.  It reminds me of what the Glenrosa path used to be like.

Loch na Davie

There might be a well signposted path and it might be well advertised but if anyone decides to do the 3 mile walk, they should be prepared for head high bracken, a disappearing path and a path that metamorphoses into bog.  Like the Loch Tanna path, this one also reminds me of what the Glenrosa path used to be like.

Hawthorne

The path that runs from Whiting Bay to Hawthorne farm and then to the Lamlash to Glenashdale forest road has deteriorated in places.

The stretch that runs from the end of the farm road and up to Hawthorne is quite overgrown.

It is still passable but only if you crouch at parts (fine if you’re only 4’6” but horrendous if you’re 6’4”).

 

July 2019

Corrie Fhionn Lochan

The path up to the lochan has been improved in places.  It's still the same steep walk but the work done has helped combat erosion.

HOWEVER.  The first section now suffers very badly from the ever present problem of bracken.  The half mile between Thundergay and the ford over the burn sees the horrible plant 6 foot high!

Sannox

The forest on the hillside above the Fallen Rocks was cleared during 2017.  The paths that had gone through the forest were obliterated.

But now - WELL DONE THE FORESTRY COMMISION!

The paths have been reinstated to as near as they were before.  Granted, they are no longer 'forest' paths but hey, a few more years and they will be.

Dougarie

The so-called path is possibly the worst path I have ever come across.  It was created by Dougarie Estate so as to bypass said estate and not worry the gentle killers - I mean guests, who pay to kill deer and have privacy as they go about their gory business.  

OK - Down I come from the soap box.  The important thing here is the path.  It has never been good but it is now appalling.  Rocks and boulders have become loose and dangerous.  6 foot high bracken TOTALLY covers much of the path.  Mud on sloping path sections can lead (has led) to falls down steep sides.  Briar crosses the path as does gorse.

I say that it is possibly the worst path because a commercial body took it upon themselves to deny people their right to roam (under Scots Law) by raising many many PRIVATE notices and telling walkers to 'GO THIS WAY'.  Under vicarious liability surely Dougarie will be responsible should anyone be injured due to their actions.  Hopefully they'll get sued should this happen.

June 2019

For Information:  If you use Google maps, the position format is Latitude / Longitude by Degrees + or -.  I use the British National Grid because that’s what our maps use.

Co-ordinate transformation tool from Nat Grid:  https://www.ordnancesurvey.co.uk/gps/transformation/  (NB - You may need to cut and paste this link into a new tab)

North Glen Sannox

Path has been greatly improved.  Attracting many additional visitors.  Making easier access to Sail an Im and the ridge to Caisteal Abhail.

Beinn Nuis

Path towards the top has been created.  Makes it a much easier climb (last time I was up here was about 5 years ago and there was no path then).

Dyemill

Further logging has changed one of the routes to the derelict cottage at NS029:285.  The path on the left that starts at NS026:283 and used to go immediately into the forest is now going through cleared forest.  Consequently, you need to watch out for the trail that takes you down to the cottage.

It won’t be such a problem coming from the other direction though it will be a bit of a shock when you come out of the forest more quickly than expected.  Yep, it’s all change!

 

May 2019

Clauchlands

Previous reports noted that there had been considerable logging on the Clauchlands.

The loggers have created a couple of new paths (but they are cul-de-sacs).

The first path can be found if you go anti-clockwise from the car park and don’t ascend to the top of the hill but continue down past the wee path that leads up to Dun Dubh.  At the bottom there’s a large lorry turnaround space and there’s a path that goes off to the right (at the time of writing there’s a tree blocking the path but it’s easily got around).  The path is about ½ mile long and eventually ends with no further access possible.  There’s another path that leads off this main path about 1/3 way along but it also ends abruptly.

Continuing along the main forestry road, the second path can be found.  It is closer to the car park and again, off to the right.  This one is a bit shorter but again ends with no further access.

The above makes it seem a waste of time to explore these paths but it isn’t.  not only do they add to a great walk but they also give a different perspective to the northern mountains.

BTW.  Don’t think when you’re at the end of the first path that you could make your way over the devastated forest to the main forest road.  You can’t.  Don’t attempt it (unless of course you’re as daft as me).

 Dyemill

The path up to Meallach’s Grave has been there for a long time.  It’s also always been a dead end (no pun intended).

However, the path now continues upwards.

It looks as if mountain bikers have created this new path.  It’s narrow but easy to negotiate.

Follow it up and after about a quarter of a mile you’ll reach the forestry road that was built last year and which extends from the main forestry road up through what’s left of the forest to dissect the Urie Loch hill path.

When the path from Meallach’s Grave reaches this new forestry road, go left and meander the half mile down to the main forestry road.  Left again and another downhill takes you back to Dyemill.

This is effectively a new route up to The Urie.

 Glenashdale Falls

Seriously heavy logging.  Much of the forest around the falls is a scene of devastation.  Not very pretty.

The south route up to the falls is closed and it looks like it will be until the end of August (this year).

Consequently, on the south path, you need to ascend to the Giant’s Graves then carry on up to the forestry road.  From there, follow it round to the north path that descends to South Kiscadale.

It’s still possible to get to the falls; just needs to be the long way, if you’re coming from the south side.


April 2019

Loch Garbad 

Half way between the Eas Mor waterfall and Loch Garbad there has been considerable logging and a forestry road crosses the path twice.  The forestry road was laid during March.  Access is still ok.

Brodick to Lamlash (high path or low path)

Considerable logging.  Restrictions on the high path.  devastation on the low path (but no problem with access)

Fairy Glen 

Between Brodick and Lamlash.  Roots of Arran Woodlands.  The trees that define the structure of the circle of life (think that's what it is) have grown up a bit.  The structure now looks a bit 'leggy'.  The whole area is still a bit weird but I guess that's ok.

Clauchlands - Considerable logging but paths are again fully open.  There is a new path and a new forestry road on the north loop on the Clauchlands.  However, neither go anywhere.  They are interesting detours but you'll have to return the way you came.

Urie Loch 

A forestry road has been created running from the forestry road that runs between The Dyemill and Kilmory, up through the forest, crossing the Urie Loch path.  It's at a right angle and the forestry guys have made sure that access from one side of the new road to the other is clear and will be no problem.


I HAVE DECIDED THAT INSTEAD OF WRITING A 'BLOG', IT'D BE BETTER TO WRITE 'NEWS'.  BY 'NEWS' WHAT I MEAN IS, THINGS THAT HAVE AN IMPACT ON THE BOOK; SUCH AS CHANGES TO ROUTES.  COMMENTS ARE MORE THAN WELCOME.

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

22/4/19

What an Easter!  Best weather I can remember for many years.  Ran up the Clauchlands with Alfie this morning. 

An afternoon walk from Blackwaterfoot to The Preaching Cave totally knackered us.  Alfie found lots of horse poo and I found that a ducking in the sea was the best cure available.

4/4/19

Loch a' Mhuilinn.  One of the hidden gems.  Behind the distillery.  Literally 50 yards behind.  If you ever go to the distillery, for goodness sake set aside half an hour to see this smashing place.


2/4/19

A bit like below in that it's another day, another loch - but again, a number of lochs.  

At the top of the Boguillie on the way to Lochranza, if you look up to the left there's what is noted on most maps: 'Clachan'.  Along with the tag there are what looks like lots of wee lochans.  A fascinating place that clearly (to me) has the feeling of human habitation.  I'll write in more detail in the book.

One of the wee lochs at Clachan.  Alfie giving it the once over.

29/3/19

Another day another loch - well, a number of lochs.  

Started with one I called Cul nan Creagan lod.  A wee piece of water but in a fantastic setting.  

Then it was off to Loch nam Faoileag.  An absolute bugger to locate.  It would only be by luck you could find this one - either that or close attention to GPS!

Got there eventually - with GPS.

Not a pretty loch and not even in a nice setting.

I could see Loch Nuis 1 mile in the distance but that was a bit too far for what I had planned for the day.

I also came across another close to the top of An Tunna (near the trig).  This one was a lovely wee lochan which made the climb up from Cnoca' Chlochair worthwhile.

The photo on the right is Alfie considering and then agreeing with me that the journey to Loch nam Faoileag just wasn't worth the effort!

28/3819

Loch Cnoc an Loch today.  Never been here before.  A bit difficult to reach or even plan a route.  However, finished up not too bad.  Nice wee loch and not one you're likely to meet anyone at.

Alfie examining the clarity of the loch

20/3/19

It appears I have sold an ebook.  I get a whole £2.77 - Wow!

10/3/19

Had a little toddle to Reservoir Cnoc na Cachlaidhe and Reservoir Druim na Maoislich.  These will appear in new book.  An interesting pair and they look nothing like any reservoir I've seen before.  The one below is Cnoc na Cachlaidhe.  Both look to be perfect for wading birds.

1/3/19

Now, why can't I take photos like this -

Loch na Leirg

Taken by my pal, Andrew Walsh, who owns Aran Active in Brodick.  What a view!

1/2/19

Carnegie library, Ayr.

23/1/19

What a beautiful morning.  Very cold but worth it to see Arran like this - 

Not the best of photos but I'm sure you can see what I mean.

17/1/19

Book now available from all Ayrshire libraries.  This includes a copy held in Brodick Library.

10/1/19
I noticed today that the book can be bought online from the Book and Card Centre in Brodick.    https://www.bookandcardarran.com/product-page/arran-lesser-known-hill-routes 

8/1/19
Book will also soon be available from libraries in South Ayrshire.

3/1/19
Book available for lending from North Ayrshire Public Libraries - including the Brodick library (I'm pleased about that).

1/1/19
HAPPY NEW YEAR!
Nuff said.

21/12/18


Book now available on Amazon as an ebook.  I've never been keen on a book such as this being viewed electronically but who am I to judge.  

I had a look at what it would be like on a phone and tablet and it looked better than I'd expected.

I think it'd take quite a while for me to become accustomed to viewing a walking guide via a phone but then I am quite ancient!

It's a young person's world afterall.



12/12/18

Brilliant news!  Book will be available in North Ayrshire libraries from early in the new year.  Doesn't mean much in the way of cash, in fact it probably means absolutely no cash whatsoever. 

The way it works is as follows:  A sample of libraries (currently 4 from Scotland) provide data on the books lent over that year.  The British Library collects the stats and makes a calculation based on the data being factored up to represent the nationwide lending.  This means that if a book is borrowed once and that once is captured statistically, then the extrapolation factors the 1 borrowed copy up by many hundred percent.  Phew! 

Since North Ayrshire libraries are not one of the chosen for the sample, then it makes no difference whether or not the book gets borrowed. 

Oh well, it never was meant to provide succour in my old age.  I'm just pleased that it's there :)

24/11/18

... and, with one of the other classes

I've been asked about the story of Alfie rolling in the poo and have copied it to this site.  It can be found under the tab, "Excerpt", below the actual excerpt.  Just scroll down - enjoy!

20/11/18                                   

Great day at Girvan PS.  When I arrived, two pupils took me on a tour round the school.  I just wish I had had their confidence at that age - they were great!

Then it was on to three talks to three classes.  All of the children were absolutely fantastic.  They were more attentive than most adults and contributed more than I had dare hope.

Always in the past it had been groups of adults I spoke to.  This was a new experience but one I'd be happy to repeat.

The kids especially liked it when I spoke about Alfie.  I told a (true) story about ONE of the times he decided to roll in deer poo.  They loved it!

Thanks go to the teachers at the school and of course, the kids

Me in full flow

10/11/18

Speaking about Book Week Scotland at Girvan Primary on 20th.  I'm also to talk about my book.  I've spoken to many groups of adults -but kids!!!  Exciting times!

27/10/18

Last day before clocks go back and first day of frost and icy puddles.

What a beautiful day.  Photo of Alfie, at the top of the Clauchlands, at 8 in the morning, at Linda's seat.   Frozen toes, frozen fingers but feeling great.

17/10/18

Brodick Bay from the Clauchlands.

What a pity that Goatfell had a wee hat on when I snapped this one. 

It was a glorious morning at the top of the Clauchland Hills.  It was made even better when I discovered that all of the forest roads were now open.  They'd been closed for logging since spring which was a bit of a nuisance, especially since the book describes routes around the hills.  Anyway, all are now open and to the north of the hills it appears that there are a number of new paths being created by the Forestry Commission.  I ran a few of them with Alfie and whilst they were very muddy in places, they have the appearance of semi-permanence (if that's not a contradiction).

The Clauchlands have to be one of the jewels in the Arran crown though just at this moment there's a tiny touch of tarnish (check the alliteration :) ).  Whilst the hills can still boast Dunan Mor, Dunan Beag, Dun Dubh, Dun Fionn and various standing stones, much of the lower slopes are now devastated and look more like a nuclear accident than a beauty spot.  There's no doubt that logging leaves the land desolate but from experience, a couple of years and the 'bounce back' is quite remarkable.

Having said all of that, it's a joy to wander up these hills and the views are still amongst the best.  Really, not to be missed.

1/10/18

3rd print of book.  Beginning to think I should have just got them printed in China.  Huge difference in cost per book but with a minimum order of 1,000 it was always too much of a risk.  Also, I reckon it'd take 4 to 5 years to sell 1,000 and I expect to have updated to a 2nd edition by then.

21/9/18

Rotten, stinking cold.  Two weeks of misery.    

At least I still managed to get out and about a bit - with Lesley guiding my fevered steps!

The pic on the right is a wee bridge over the Merkland burn.  Feeling as horrible as I am, this makes it so much better.

The bridge is 'closed' at the moment for a bit of tree cutting - or something of the ilk.

Can't understand why these paths are so deserted.  They must be amongst the most beautiful on the island.  Perhaps it's better this way and they remain quiet.  I suppose 'quiet' means; no litter, no vandalism, no people - just 'quiet'.

Long may it last!


10/9/18

Full of the cold!!!  Feeling pretty miserable.  Fortunately Lesley on hand to take Alfie out.

But, moans aside, book continues to do well.  Now being sold from Brodick Post Office.  In addition, Johnston's Marine Store sold out and needed more books.

Looks like a reprint needed before Xmas.  I won't be issuing a new edition just yet - perhaps next year!

19/8/18

What a difference a day makes!

Allt Lagriehesk, a tributory of the Monamore burn, a trickle yesterday a torrent today.  Still a great walk round Dyemill this morning.

And talking about yesterday; yesterday I got another sighting of a slow worm.  We'd wandered up the forestry road that's off the road that runs from Glaister Bridge to Machrie.  Came to a clearing where there were a number of old corrugated tin panels lying.  I lifted one and found about a dozen voles scampering away from me, a solitary toad going somewhat slower, a couple of ant nests ignoring me totally and the slow worm, taking things - slowly.  I very carefully let down the tin panel so as to disturb the fauna as little as possible.

I reckon I could find a route starting from this forestry road, through the forest to Loch Nuis and the trig point.  Need to have a go at this next year.




OK, so, this is a slow worm... honest!







15/8/18

After many many years, at last we've had a wonderful summer - apart from the clegs of course.  But then, what would summer be in Scotland without something to moan about!  As we travel quickly in time towards autumn, we've been exploring the paths of Merkland Wood (just north of Brodick Castle).  Great wee paths.  The paths were closed for ages, in fact, years, for upgrading.  Well worth the trip and perfect for trail running.

Alfie's new hobby is attacking every hole in every tree that he comes across.  In a wood such as Merkland, this creates a slight problem - we don't tend to get very far very fast!  Occasionally he stops and raises a paw in the traditional Springer manner indicating a hole of special scientific interest.


There are more than Alfie interest holes in the wood.  World renowned sculptor, Tim Pomeroy created these spiral sculptures.  They look very impressive in the setting which is in a small clearing at the end of an offshoot path. 

And the trees themselves are awesome.  Enormous Scots pine, oak and beech make up most of the giants.  Much of the undergrowth is rowan, alder and birch.

A lot of work has been done to remove the dreaded roddie but I can't help thinking it's a bit of a losing battle or at the very least a 'Painting the Forth Rail Bridge' type task.

Whatever, it's another Arran gem.


7/7/18

Wonderful.  Went for a run up to Urie Loch.  No midges and not too many clegs though I still managed to collect a few bites. 

About 2/3 of the way up I discovered that the Forestry had built a road across the path.  Creates no problem as the hill path is clear at the other side of the road.

Almost no mud on the way up - which must be a first.

Once at the loch I wandered round and again, for the first time I managed with dry feet.
                                                                                                                                                  Me looking very pensive.

On the way back down I decided to explore the new forestry road and took it when I reached it.  It comes out where I expected, on the main forestry road.  It's a pretty good route to take on the descent as the views are pretty good; across to Holy Isle and north to the Goatfell range.  Wonderful.

27/6/18

Last year a small hydro scheme was built at the top of Benlister Glen.  I took a run up last year but it wasn’t complete, even the access road was in process.  So I decided to explore.

I didn’t take Alfie with me because I knew that there were lots of sheep. 

It’s a long drag from Benlister; 2.5 miles up a steep dirt track that’s only suitable for 4X4s.  from the middle of the village it’s just under 4 miles.

The only ‘fly’ in the ointment was the cloud of clegs - yes, clegs – not midges.  The bu***rs simply wouldn’t leave me alone.  Even with long running pants, long sleeve tee, gloves, hat and buff covering neck, mouth and tucked under cap, I STILL got bitten.  Of course, clegs are horseflies and horses have pretty tough hides so my thin running gear is no match for the vicious cleg bite.

However, great views all of the way up.  Holy Isle, Benlister Glen, Ross Hill and Sheeans.  And if I’d just thought about it at the time, I should have returned by way of the Ross Hill.  There are actually two hydros – a slightly smaller one is about 500 yards before the larger.  At just over 1,000ft, I reckon it’d be a fairly simple jaunt across to the top of the Ross which is lower at just under 1,000ft.

Anyway, I didn’t and returned through the clouds of clegs.

It took me two hours to cover the 9 miles from home and back but that included stops for photos and short detours to investigate things I thought were interesting.

5/6/18

Weather has been spectacularly good.  Met up with a couple of pals and had a wander round to the King's Caves.  I'll need to have another wee trip to spend more time going round the lochan and take some better pics.  It looks pretty marshy but then if Alfie's with me (which he no doubt will be) that'll suit him fine.

Only problem is the midges... and the clegs... AND the ticks!

21/5/18

Well, suppose I shouldn't complain.  Just seen results of Goatfell race.  I was 3rd >60.  Should've hung around for prize giving as there was a prize for this.  Oh well, never mind.

Looking forward to Saugh hill race down in Girvan on Sunday 3rd June. Nice wee short one!

19/5/18

Goatfell hill race 2018.

This was my last Goatfell race.  The old body won't put up with it any more.  2 hours 15 minutes is my slowest ever but that doesn't bother me.  What does bother me is how I felt during and after.  Not tired and not particularly sore - but ill.  Reckon it's too much for an old guy of 63.  I've had a pretty good running career so can't complain.  All good things etc etc.

Short hill races will be fine for the next year or so but no more middle distance races such as Goatfell and it's been a good few years since I managed a long distance hill race.  Dreading just being a spectator but hey-ho, I'm still breathing!


17/5/18

Last long(ish) run before Goatfell.  Cladach back to Lamlash by way of Auchranie path then forrestry roasd.  About 7.5 miles.  At NS012:336 there's a great viewing point.  Lesley has always said that if we suddenly come into millions of pounds (unlikely) she'd love to build a house there.  I'm sure you can see why:

The view to the north.



..... and the view to the south






Well, I certainly wouldn't disagree with the views.  If I could just win the lottery... oh, wait a minute... I think I'd need to buy a ticket... nah, think I'll just stay poor.


17/5/18

Lovely morning

Lovely Lamlash

 . . . . . .   Alfie

(only kidding pal)





8/5/18

AAAAARGH!!!  Mistake in book.  I said on pp143 that Ben Chonzie was most easterly munro.  It isn't!  The most easterly is Mount Keen.  I've been up both and simply got mixed up.  Stupid me.  Many thanks to Dave P. and apologies to everyone else.

1/5/18

Not such a good day today but managed a few miles around Cladach.  Purple Flowered Raspberries (Salmon Berry) now in flower.

30/4/18

The past few days have been glorious. 

A wee wander up the Clauchlands.

26/4/18

Beautiful evening.

Especially after such awful weather.

21/3/18

Alfie and me took a run up to Urie Loch this morning.  Not as muddy as expected.  Constant drizzle.  Couldn't see from one end to the other but a smashing run.  Also, they've begun tree felling around the path.  Hopefully it won't cause any problems.

20/3/18

New terminal opened today.  Not impressed so far.  The 6pm boat that I was on took much longer than it would have at the old terminal but then maybe that's just teething.  Then there was the walk way...  OMG.  Awful.  Oh well, just need to get used to it.  It's not going away.

17/3/18

Meallach's Grave.  Haven't been up there for ages.  It didn't seem to be too badly overgrown.  However, still in desperate need of TLC.  We in Scotland just don't seem to be capable of TLC when it comes to our heritage.  Pity.

Found a geocache which when opened, spewed out more water than is healthy.  Consequently, I couldn't add name ort details to the diary.  Again... Pity.

Seems we don't do geocache very well either!


11/3/18

Beautiful day.  Ran up Sheeans with Alfie.  Wish I'd taken a camera.  Lamlash Bay was as calm as a millpond and Holy Isle looking great.

10/3/18

Words can hardly describe!

9/3/18

What a beautiful day.  And it's quite warm.  Hopefully spring is now arriving.  Coire Fhionn Lochan.  then up over the bealach to Lodan Ruadh.  Terrific!

23/2/18

Got an email from Claire at The Book & Card Centre in Brodick.  Sold out!  Looking for more stock  Brilliant!

20/2/18

1st book sold direct to customer via bank credit transfer.  Very easy and straight forward.  I got an email via the 'Contact' form on this website, got back in touch via email with transfer details, transfer then completed and book sent out.  Cheapest, quickest and easiest method by far.

11/2/18

Brilliant website:     ShipAIS

10/2/18

Goatfell Hill Race 2018.

The race is on 19 May and I've managed to get an entry this year.  I missed last year because I was too late and it was full just a week after opening.  Always been a favourite race of mine but I doubt if I'll ever break 2 hours again.  Noticed that Andrew Walsh of Arran Active is running again this year.  I'd like to get within a few minutes of Andrew but reckon age is a big barrier.  Serious training needed I think.

Whatever happens, I should be in the top 10 of the male >60.   -   Ahem, there are only 6 in the category!

25/1/18

Crazy stuff! - Just found the book advertised for sale on a Swedish site called Bokus.  It's on sale for 197Kr.  That works out at just under £17.50  Seems a bit of a mark-up even with additional postage costs.  Needless to say, no one's been in touch from Sweden!

Also, started work on a 2nd book.  At the moment it's called Arran - Lochs and Lochans.  No actual content yet written but that won't happen till weather improves and I can toddle off to the first of them.  I've identified 25 but that includes some bodies of water that aren't actually named.  I've got the general lay out and I'll be aiming for around 100 pages.  ETA?  Perhaps 2020 if it all pulls together.  Watch this space!

11/1/18

Pretty poor weather the past couple of days though before that it was wonderful.  Very cold and frosy with a good covering of snow on the mountains.

Today though looks like this -

Heavy, heavy mist!

4/1/18

Email from The Scots Magazine - WOW!

They want to include the book in their March issue.

Really pleased.  Also, couldn't be a better time to get it into the mag.

3/1/18

Just ordered a new camera online.

No longer will I be producing poor quality amateurish photos.

Now I'll be able to produce high quality amateurish photos.

Ok, it's a start.

1/1/18

And a Happy New Year!

Pity it's also a wet new year - a torrentially wet new year.

Oh well, at least from this low point things can only improve - hopefully :)

25/12/17

MERRY XMAS!

Goatfell on Xmas day.

21/12/17

At last!  Received the rest of the 200 books - no, wait a minute... SEVEN SHORT!  Oh dear.  Contacted the company - oh so sorry - will sort immediately... but forgot to take my details.  Hmmm.  Oh well, at least I'm getting plenty of typing practice as I write to them yet again.

Anyway, I now have a stock of over 150 books which should be fine and cover me for spring.  Here's hoping it goes as well in springtime as it has for Xmas.

16/12/17

What a beautiful day!

Mild, no wind and quite sunny.  We travelled over on the 9:45to deliver more books to The Book and Card Centre.  I'd almost run out but fortunately I received a print delivery yesterday.

Also popped into Arran Active.  It appears that a number of folk have been impressed - mainly with Alfie.  Next thing, he'll be wanting royalties.

Walked to Cladach.  Arran Graphics was open but unfortunately, no Graham.  Nevertheless, it allowed me to leave some books.

By the time we got back for the 4:40 Alfie was exhausted.  8ish miles for me and Lesley but about 50ish for him.

Yes, what a beautiful day!

15/12/17

Books arrive - ONLY 75!!!  125 short.  Company sorry and will send out the rest today. 

11/12/17

SHOCK, HORROR - GOATFELL HAS DISAPPEARED!!!

Amazing how different the panorama appears when a snow covered Goatfell has white cloud in the background.

5/12/17

So far, at least 70 sold.  Exact numbers depend on the sale or return terms with 2 of the Brodick shops.  Made 1st Amazon sale - they don't half make thing difficult - and costly.

Ordered another 200 books.  This time from a company called 'Print My Book'.  Hopefully the quality will be as good as those from last printer.  Decided to change printer because 1st printer hiked their prices up by a whopping 30%.  It makes everything less viable.  However, providing quality is OK, these 200 should do the whole of 2018 (mind you, I'd be happy if I needed more).

Also discovered that I had to register as self-employed!!!  Penalties for failing to register mean I'd be daft not to.  I reckon most folk would get away with it but since I'm issuing invoices it's not worth the risk.

1/12/17

The book is now on Amazon after multiple hoop jump.  Not a clue how much their fees are other than it'll be quite a lot.  Also discovered that Ebay fees are higher than expected.  Oh well, still make a small profit.  So far, I've sold at least 64 copies.  If I sell another 100 I should break even. 

Beautiful day today and the mountains look spectacular.  Snow topped Goatfell with Nuis, Tarsuin, Cir Mhor and Mullach Buidhe in the background - smashing!

25/11/17

So far, so good.  4 sold through ebay and a further 6 via Hannah (daughter number 1).  Hannah did the cover design so she's been terrific - if I ever need a manager.....

Horrible weather and I needed to bath Alfie yesterday as he'd made friends with a pooh left by A.N.Other.  Oh the joys.

Had a few spare hours so had another go with Amazon.  Not sure if it's worked.  Noted as being currently unavailable but not sure if this is a reflection on the official publication date (1/12/17) or an error on my part (or Amazon's).  Just need to wait and see.  Big fees and have had to add an extra 50p onto price to make it viable - no wonder Jeff Bezos is the world's richest person!

18/11/17

Made deliveries to all bar Arran Graphics who were closed (bad planning on my part).  Dropped off books to The Book and Card Centre and got photo taken with book - then a chap bought the first copy and asked me to sign it - wow!  Slightly embarrassed, a bit surreal - very pleased.

16/11/17

Books arrived.  All looking good.  Tried to list on Amazon but got really annoyed at the number of hoops I had to jump through so gave up.  Listed on Ebay without much difficulty.  Now just need to find a good day to go over to Arran and deliver 72 books.

15/11/17

It's on its way.

Email from printer telling me that the books will be delivered tomorrow - pretty quick!

Fingers crossed now that all will be ok.  Worrying time.....

13/11/17

1st snow of the year.  A good covering at the top of Goatfell and the other high mountains.

ISBN registered with Nielsens and barcode registered on the international barcode database.  Getting these registrations sorted was a bit of a task - but got there in the end.  I didn't know what a BIC code was and I didn't know the type of Worldwide Rights I should have - Phew!

100 copies ordered from printer.  72 copies earmarked for Arran outlets.  The rest will be advertised on Amazon & Ebay. 

7/11/17

All 4 outlets on Arran will take book.  Excellent feedback from Andrew of Arran Active.  He's helped a lot and I've made some changes - eg front cover / price / etc.  These were matters also raised by Lomond Books who also said they wanted to stock book.  However, their wholesale price was too steep for me (60% reduction - I'd make a loss).  Pity as that would have got book into iCentres, Calmac and stores such as Waterstones.  Oh well, I'd rather shops on Arran benefited anyway.  Now just need to decide when and how many copies of book I need to getprinted.  Everything else sorted.  ISBN is:



28/10/17

Visited 4 outlets on Arran.  In 2, the owners weren't available so I left a book and covering letter.  In the other 2, both were happy to stock book.  So, the book will be available in at least 2 shops on Arran.  The 2 are, Inspirations of Arran; and the other is, The Book and Card Centre.

ISBN ordered and should be with me in the next day or so.  Having an ISBN means I can put book onto Amazon.

Looked at printing prices and got a bit of a shock.  Prices have gone up - dramatically!  I queried them but they were correct.  This means that any profit will be very small indeed.  But this projecthas never been about money.  If I get anywhere near breaking even, I'll be content.

23/10/17

Visit Scotland also use Lomond Books so just have to wait and see.

Off to Arran tomorrow for a week so hopefully get round to visiting the outlets I hope to get book into.

ISBN is essential (even Amazon now insist on ISBN) so I'll get that sorted next month.  Reckon I'll have things sorted out by end of month when I can at least have book advertised onAmazon.

11/10/17

Wrote to Visit Scotland and Calmac.  Visit Scotland who run the Information Centres (iCentres) asked me to forward a book to them to have a look at.  Calmac told me that they only deal through their distributor, Lomond Books.  So I wrote to Lomond Books who also asked me to forward a book to them to have a look at.

Sample books sent off.  Now just have to wait and see.

1/10/17

A few very minor changes to be made to book ie spacings on front page and changing some metric measurements that were missed, to imperial.

23/9/17

Terrific!!!!!  Got the books on Thursday and they look pretty good.  As good as I'd hoped and much better than expected.  Print is good and spacing excellent.  I will therefore proceed to the next part of the plan,  ie offering them to various outlets to see if they'd be interested.  Here's hoping.

15/9/17

Well, It looks like I've got there - or not as the case may be.

I sent off the finished PDF files to the printer on the evening of the 12th but they were rejected for technical reasons.  I sorted things out and sent them off again on 15th.  I then got an email from the printer telling me that the photos were of too poor a quality and it would effect the look of the book.  The printer recommended only using professionally taken photos.  Not a lot of chance of that.  I told them to go ahead with what they had.

So, 25 books due to be delivered on wk beg 25th.  If quality is poor, it's finished.  If quality is acceptable, I may go forward with the next stage which would be passing out samples to retailers to gauge interest.

Fingers crossed.

12/9/17

Another month passes.  However, a lot has been accomplished during this time.  I have finished the book and it has been proof read.  I've renamed this site from Alex McKay to Alex Drain (on advice from various people).  McKay is my middle name.  I've also found a printer who may not charge the earth.  I hope to have 25 copies printed in the first instance.  Watch this space.

12/8/17

At long last.  Final two trigs done.  All 20 routes already finished.  First steps to publication completed.

Still not sure how feasible publication will be but the journey has been great so who cares about the destination.

Beinn Tarsuinn trig was incredibly tough.  There's not a great deal of climbing but the ground that has to be negotiated is at best - difficult.  It varies between very wet and treacherously boggy.  It's very tussocky with potential leg breakers every step.  Once into the forest at Beinn Tarsuinn, finding the trig is a nightmare.  Without GPS I'd have given up.  Even with GPS the trig is invisible from anywhere further than a few yards.

But all done nevertheless.  Some photos on my Facebook page: Alex McKay - see photos above and link to Facebook page.

19/7/17

It may have been some time since I last blogged but I haven't been idle.

I'm down to the last couple of routes then it's proof reading time, final touches and print.

Tomorrow I hope to do Beinn Tarsuinn.  Not the Beinn Tarsuinn next to Beinn Nuis nor the Beinn Tarsuinn that overlooks Blackwaterfoot but the Beinn Tarsuinn above Loch Tanna.  Confused?  Yeah, me too.

My final route will be the last two trigs.  Beinn Lochan combined with yet another Beinn Tarsuinn, this one being above Loch Nuis.  Possibly the most difficult and longest.  I need a good day and plenty of stamina.

11/5/17

It's been beautiful weather and the hills are as dry as they get.  Having said that, there are still very wet areas and the burns are still pretty full.

The view from the path up from Cnoc na Dail car park.

26/4/17

Brig in Lamlash Bay.  It arrived last week and stayed a night. 

It then returned on Tuesday 25th and left 26th. 

Don't know its name but it's a lovely boat.

Often get unusual vessels in the bay. 

The viking ship from Corrie usually berths here.

Frequent naval boats visit.

A bit more sinister - nuclear subs can be seen sailing down the Clyde - sometimes with only the conning tower visible!



Often wondered what this is. 

Always been meaning to climb up and have a look. 

It resembles some sort of pithead workings. 

However, when I blow it up I see that it's simply weird rocky outcrops. 

Keep a lookout for them next time you're in Glen Rosa. 

As you walk up the glen, the bulk of Glenshant Hill is on the RHS. 

The outcrops are around 3/4 of the way along Glenshant Hill.  Interesting!

15/4/17

Completed the Cnoc Leacainn trig today. Only 3 miles in total but a tough wee route. About 1 mile of very steep uphill. Never requires hand work but so steep that the downhill return is worse than the climb. Great views and well worth the trip.

14/4/17

Easter.  Island very busy.  Additional sailings from CalMac.  Long walk for me and Alfie at Shiskine on forestry road.  managed to miss crucial path and added 3 miles to trip - in pouring rain!  For interest:

Starting at bottom of forestry road near old & new graveyards (NR 920:304). Round trip of 6 miles. Follow forestry road. 1st 2 miles are uphill. Then 1 miles descent to bridge. Cross bridge at 3 miles (NR 953:305). Continue on forestry road. ½ mile uphill to NR 942:297. Faint path on RHS – off forestry road. Sharp descent (may be muddy) to burn. Cross burn (no bridge so may get wet feet). Steepish slope up to forestry road and 1 mile back to start.

Providing you can find the path that comes off the forestry road, this is a pretty good wee walk.  Well worth the trip.  In the past I'd only gone as far as the bridge as the route up Beinn Bhreac and subsequently Ard Bheinn goes from there.  This is also the place where the hill path to Glenree starts.  The path is vary faint at some parts and disappears at others - take a map and GPS.  Also, ensure robust logistics.

9/4/17

Routes to the top of Goatfell: There are four routes to the top (excluding mountaineering routes where ropes etc required).
Route 1:- The tourist route (nuff said).
Route 2:- From North Goatfell. Accessed from Corrie, The Saddle or Mullach Buidhe. The only problem part is Stacach where you either go left, right or straight over. Left is easiest. Straight over is ok though there is a bit of grade 2 scrambling. Right is exposed with overhangs and not pleasant if you don’t have a good head for heights.
Route 3:- The spur between Glenrosa and Coire Chattan. This is ok during spring and late autumn when the bracken is at its lowest. During summer it’s head height. There’s a steep climb from Glenrosa up to Glenshant Hill which should be traversed on its western edge to the spur which accesses Goatfell without serious difficulty.
Route 4:- The spur between Coire Chattan and the tourist route. This is on your left as you ascend the tourist path. Don’t even think about it. No paths. Boggy. Very difficult ground. Hidden slabs and leg breaker ditches. As I said, “Don’t even think about it.”

30/3/17

The past week has been great weather on Arran and not only have I been able to cross off another route for the book but I've also been able to tidy up a few others.  Cioch na h-Oighe to Mullach Buidhe to Goatfell to Brodick.  Quite a day.  The pinnacles between Cioch na h-Oighe and Mullach Buidhe are awesome with serious exposure and accompanying danger.  Not for anything less than perfect weather. 

I descended Goatfell by the SSE spur as it's a route I've never done before and have never seen it described - now I know why.  Boulders, slabs, crevasses and boggy ground.  I've never descended Goatfell so slowly.  Won't do that again!

Clauchlands at their most beautiful.  It's a pity that the view is soon to be blemished by the addition of wind turbines on Holy Isle.

20/3/17

Weather beginning to improve.  Hopefully possible to get into hills in near future.  Yes, it's pretty much always possible to go up Goatfell or other well trodden paths but I mean OFF the well trodden paths.

Getting quotes back from printers.  Scary stuff.  Most quotes are in US dollars and with the current exchange rate, oh dear!  Still not a show stopper so onwards we go!!!

Wrote to Calmac - are they interested? 

17/3/17

Horrible day today.  Heavy rain till 10pm tonight.  So, had another look at book printing costs.  I noted in this blog on 20 January that cost would be arounf £2 per book on a run of 500.  That was on the basis of B&W.  I've since decided that B&W would be a mistake.  However, colour makes it MUCH more expensive.  Cheapest quote on 500 is £1,920 - ouch!  Presumably, printing in China would be cheaper but getting a quote is that bit more difficult.  I reckon I need a long trip into the hills to consider the options.

1/3/17

1st March and it's raining.  Not exactly a surprise but annoying none the less.  Low level walks only, but then, low level can be as good as the mountains.  So often I've been at the top of a mountain and seen nothing other than a few feet ahead.  Sometimes lower is better.

19/2/17

Following my discussions with George & John I decided to consider A6 size.  Problem is that it would mean a book where the font was cut down to size 8 and there would still be well over 200 pages.  For the moment I'll stick to A5.  I also decided to bring the colour version up to date.  Took me most of the day but got there.  I've introduced 'Version Control' to keep track of the different formats of the book as well as what the changes are.  I also added a map.  Not a definitive type map but a one pager of the island with numbers denoting where each walk is - approximately.

17/2/17

Out with a couple of pals the yesterday.  Talked about the book.  As expected, George muttered about words.  What he meant was, "This is not the sort of prose that would readily lend itself to formal report writing".  Oh good!

Actually, both were very supportive and it helped a lot being able to run things through with guys who know a bit about writing. 

5thFebruary - Another birthday passes for me and I'm another year older and another year slower and another year dafter perhaps.

But Arran is still beautiful.  A wee fall of the white stuff and the mountains are covered.  It's also a great time to get into them.  A few years ago Lesley and I decided to go up Goatfell in the snow.  It didn't look too bad so we left the ice axes and crampons in the car.  We also decided to go up via North Goatfell.  Not the best of decisions.  Half way around Stacach our route was blocked by snow that had compacted at a 45 degree angle.  With the choice between attempting a dangerous and foolish crossing using nothing but small depressions kicked by my boots or returning whence we came ..... of course we carried on!  Amid curses and threats of retribution from Lesley we eventually made it through.

And the lesson for the day?  Don't ever do as I do - only as I say.

23/1/17

Oh, what a learning curve.  URL - OK, we all know what a URL is but I only now know that URL stands for, "Uniform Resource Locator."  And, I need to know all about 'Metadata', which is: data about data, which is all about SEO (Search Engine Optimisation).  It's all a bit messy.

Uniform Resource Locator

Uniform Resource Locator

20/1/17

Slowly working on things.  Further research indicates around £2 per copy (on 500 copies) to get printed in UK.  China cheaper but more complicated and risky.  Factoring in ISBN numbers and other overheads such as sample copies and 'mark down' for potential sellers such as shops, the cost per book rises to at least £5.  And that's based on making sales.  Oh well, suppose I can live with those sorts of numbers and once I've finalised things I'm sure I can shave a bit off the costs.

Roll on the better weather when I can get into the hills without wondering if I can get out of them!

10/1/17

Ha!  Got this website up and running.  Wish I was a better webmaster (or whatever the correct term is).

9/1/17

I've been in touch with a book printer.  All very complicated.  Had to change margins and set book up as PDF; a hassle but managed ok.  Also looks like I have to buy ISBN numbers.  The actual techie details are also problematic - weight of paper / type of paper / colour or B&W / hardback or whatever - and so on and on.  Sometimes think that a simple ebook would have been best but I don't think my type of book really lends itself to e-reading.

7/1/17

At last.  Updated and proof read all routes in the book that I've completed to date.  Five routes still to plan, walk and write up along with three trig points.  Reckon that'll be no bother this summer providing weather isn't too bad.  Started to build website.  Quite time consuming considering I have to start from scratch, do all of my own research and be creative into the bargain.  Think I'd rather be out on the hills!