Chris Bowness Landscape: Blog en-us (C) Chris Bowness (Chris Bowness Landscape) Wed, 11 Jul 2018 22:31:00 GMT Wed, 11 Jul 2018 22:31:00 GMT Chris Bowness Landscape: Blog 120 68 Midsummer In Scotland our weather is usually cloudy with plenty of rain - May and June of 2018 have been very different with clear skies and temperatures up to 30C.

Being so far north, we are actually lucky to be surrounded by sea as the sea warms the land and prevents extremes of temperature. The tradeoff, however, is lots of rain and lots of wind. Some years, the seasons all meld into one, with cold winds and rain in the summer and colder winds and rain in the winter - All the time it is a gloomy, grey and overcast.

Here is a typical video of when I climb my local hill, King's Seat Hill in the Ochil Hills - You can see why I always pack a raincoat and my dog has his ears pinned back...

It can be quite depressing actually, no matter what time of year, I've found myself in a raincoat, wearing gloves and wondering where I can find some shelter to have some lunch. The only bonus from our typical weather is the changeable light... 

2018 though has been exceptional so far, people here will remember this weather that people in more southerly climes take for granted. Today as I write, 28th June, it has been 31C today. Everyone I meet has their heads up, they are smiling, not with their heads down hurrying to their destination, this is a different place when the sun shines, people can stand and talk for starters...

I've always enjoyed our bright summer nights, but until now, I've never realised just how bright we have it in mid-summer. With the clear skies though, I've seen it in the raw and it is magnificent - I've taken many pictures which illustrate our midsummer nights, here are a few.

00:30 19th June00:30 19th JuneI was lying in my bed and when I noticed the light sky, I grabbed my phone and took this picture - it was 00:30 in the morning. Midnight 23rd JuneMidnight 23rd JuneThis is looking North down my street. In summer the sun sets in the West at 22:00 and you can see its transit from west to east on the northern sky before it rises again at 04:30. 23:30 22nd June23:30 26th JuneThis is the view from my sitting room as I write this post.

The last picture was taken as I wrote this. I love the light nights, it is uplifting. The sun sets in the west after 22:00, it stays twilight and this travels northward (the view from my window) and by 04:30 it has travelled round to the east where the sun rises again.

It makes up for the dark winter nights when the sun rises at 08:40 and sets at 15:40 - usually it is cold and cloudy as well so it feels like you are living in permanent twilight. This video below was just 4 months ago and it illustrates things differently - I like the winter too for the challenge and excitement, but the bright warm nights are my favourite...when we get them.

Winter in FalkirkMarch 1st 2018 - the view from my window.



]]> (Chris Bowness Landscape) bright midsummer nights scotland Sat, 07 Jul 2018 23:45:00 GMT
Glen Affric Glen Affric is a beautiful glen of ancient Scots Pines and soaring mountains. I'd been there before, but it was time to revisit.

Having a long weekend available, I decided to take a drive up to Glen Affric in November, for a couple of nights wild camping and to take some pictures.

It's a four-hour drive from me to get there with a further two-hour walk to the end of Loch Affric where I knew from my previous visit that there was some good ground for camping.

After leaving the car park and crossing over to the south bank of Loch Affric, I marched along the path seeing evidence of electrical cables being installed into the side of the path. As I reached the burn that runs towards Affric lodge, my heart sank. The raised bank to the east of the burn had been excavated for a hydroelectric scheme. I'm sure that the ground will be reinstated, but it will never be the same as when we camped here in 2015 when we awoke after a cold frosty night to a glorious sunrise.

Glen AffricGlen AffricEarly morning in Glen Affric after a cold night It seems that whatever I find beautiful and take photos of, whenever I return I am always saddened by the relentless march of civilization, no matter how well-intentioned.

Hydro Scheme at Glen affricHydro Scheme at Glen affricThis is the compound for the hydro electric works. I took a picture of a sunrise just at the edge of this location just a few years earlier. Hydro electric works at Glen AffricHydro electric works at Glen AffricThe picture above was taken from the edge of this location just a few years earlier.

After taking a photo of the temporary depot near where I'd taken the photo above, I marched on with a heavy heart towards my destination, hoping that I’d make it before nightfall. It had been raining but as I neared my destination the clouds cleared the hilltop revealing a fresh dusting of snow, the first of the year, so I stopped to take a picture in the fading light.

Glen AffricGlen AffricFirst snow of the year has just landed.

As I cleared a rise to finally see my destination, I could see a tent had already been pitched by the loch. I could also see a new addition to the landscape, a small cabin and the occupant of the tent was sitting on the porch of this building eating his dinner.

I descended from the high-level path down to the lochside and approached the cabin to introduce myself.

I found out that my fellow camper was Stan, a young man in his twenties from Belgium who was walking the Affric Kintail Way. We spoke for a while before I pitched my tent and made my dinner.

We spoke about this new (locked) cabin in which porch we were sitting to cook our dinner and escape the rain showers. This cabin had not been here the last time I had passed and although I didn't like the new addition to the landscape, I was being a bit hypocritical as I was using the bench in the porch to keep dry as I cooked my dinner.

Cabin at Loch AffricCabin at Loch AffricAn owl was making great use of the porch and had made an awful mess!   Cabin at Loch AffricCabin at Loch AffricStan takes down his tent

The porch was also a well-used shelter by a local owl as evidence of the owl’s regurgitated meals was all around my feet. The fact that the owl was getting the best use of this cabin gave me some consolation over its appearance in this wild landscape.

After a while, Stan produced some whisky and offered it to me. Never being one to refuse a malt, I chuckled to myself as I'd intentionally left the house to escape booze and have a dry weekend. It never ceases to amaze me that wherever I go thinking that I can escape booze. It is always there waiting for me, willpower is the only escape ultimately as hiding from it in the landscape doesn't work.

Stan and I sat on the porch well into the night, sipping his whisky and talking as the clouds cleared and the moon rose over the wind stirred Loch Affric. It was a pleasure to spend the evening talking to this good-natured visitor from Belgium.

After a great night's sleep in my tent, I awoke and made my breakfast on the porch of the cabin. I shared some coffee with Stan who enjoyed a hot drink as he had been living off water and whisky travelling lighter than me.

After breakfast, Stan packed up and headed off to his next stop, Camban bothy, whilst I left my tent pitched and headed eastward on the rough terrain at the shores of Loch Affric to get some pictures.

The rough ground was slow going and the time ticked away quickly. I got to a beautiful location to take pictures, but the sun had taken a long time to clear the surrounding hills and the light was harsh. I headed back to my tent.

Walking along the banks of Loch AffricWalking along the banks of Loch Affric   Loch AffricLoch AffricOn the banks of Loch Affric

After lunch I packed my tent and headed up Glen Affric to Strawberry cottage, taking pictures as I went. At the cottage, I decided to head eastward along the North side of Loch Affric to find a suitable location for the next nights camp.

Winter ColoursWinter ColoursGlen Affric Glen AffricGlen Affric

The terrain is rough when you leave the path, the heather is deep and it was difficult to see a suitable spot to pitch a tent. This is tarp and bivvy country where it is probable that a suitable spot beneath the old Scots pines could be found, but with a tent suitable flat ground was difficult to see. It's slow going too off the path, so don't plan to find a wild camp spot in a hurry. It will take me a good few more visits to better know this place and my jaunt around the loch over two days is too fast to get to know anything.

Glen AffricGlen Affric   Glen AffricGlen Affric

I couldn't see an easy spot to camp so I kept walking. Around sundown, I reached my car in the car park with its "no overnight camping" signs. Some people had found a good spot to camp nearby, but there was no room for me, so I jumped in my car and drove home.

I will be back with my tarp next winter and this time I will take my time to explore and enjoy. This is just one glen and there is so much to see and to photograph, you could spend a lifetime here.

Glen AffricGlen Affric


]]> (Chris Bowness Landscape) affric camping glen loch photography scenery scotland scottish wild Sun, 24 Jun 2018 21:17:54 GMT
Skylarks in the Ochils My wife is frustrated... It is not for the reason that you (the reader) will have immediately thought, at least I hope not, but the reason for my wife's frustration is due to her having a garden that has never been finished.

My wife married a walker- that's me. This walker loves to be out in the countryside and gardening, where the layout is made to be aesthetically pleasing, rather than just growing some vegetables is something that I despise. I love raw nature where man's hand has not had an influence, this is rare even in empty Scotland, but I can still find places where I can at least pretend that this is the case.

After having been to bothies for the last few weekends, my long-suffering wife has been hoping that I could get out and finish our perpetually unfinished garden. She did not, however, bank on me having harboured ambitions over the winter to get out after work in the summer and walk my local hills enjoying the bright nights and twilight walking.

I have half-heartedly had to do some night time gardening in May but in the beautiful warm weather we have been gifted in early June, the garden can do one... I'm going walking.

Wednesday night on 6th June 2018 was a beautiful day, I got home from work and then had to drop off my wife at work. I was then free to grab the dog and set off for an evening jaunt up King's Seat Hill in the Ochil hills. I had walked halfway up, then I spied a herd of cattle near the Spitfire memorial. This was new to me and with my dog, I thought it safer to turn around as sometimes cattle can take aggressive exception to a dogs presence in their vicinity.

Cutting my walk short, I ambled back down and instead was able to concentrate on the many skylarks on the way. The skylarks burst from the grassland, fly up high in the sky and sing their hearts out, as they sing they sometimes flap their wings rapidly and other times they simply glide before they diving back into the grass from whence they came, abruptly ending their song. Between King's Seat Hill and Bank Hill, they were particularly active and I recorded their song on my phone. Unfortunately, I cannot figure how to embed it onto this blog page, so I post this video of me listening to the Skylarks during another visit.

Listening to the SkylarksKing's Seat Hill, Ochil Hills, Scotland

With the sound of the Skylark in my ears, I descended down into the Glen of Sorrow. Play the above clip and look at the pictures below and you will see the sights and hear the sounds of the Ochil Hills.

Ochil Hills ScotlandWhitewhisp hillThe Ochil Hills Scotland

The Glen of SorrowThe Glen of SorrowSetting sun in the Glen of Sorrow, Ochil Hills, Scotland

SunwashedSunwashedthe Glen of Sorrow, Ochil Hills, Scotland

The Glen of SorrowThe Glen of Sorrowthe Glen of Sorrow, Ochil Hills, Scotland

As I continued my descent into the sunlit Glen of Sorrow, the sound of the skylarks in the grassland behind me faded away to be replaced with the calls of crows and of sheep. As I descended into the gorge of Dollar Glen, these sounds were again replaced with the roar of water cascading over waterfalls.

My abandoned walk had only lasted about an hour and a half, but I got much more out of it than I could than sitting in my garden listening to the noises of a town with its noisy engines and the low rumble of distant traffic.

I love walking. My garden will just have to wait a little longer.





]]> (Chris Bowness Landscape) glen hill king's ochil of scenery scotland scottish seat skylarks sorrow Sun, 10 Jun 2018 19:50:40 GMT
Behind the Picture: Breezy Buchan Pictures contain so many memories, simply looking at one image can open a door to many things that would otherwise be forgotten

The image below reminds me of a place I lived in the 90's - It's called "Breezy Buchan".

Breezy BuchanBreezy BuchanTaken at Buchan Ness lighthouse Boddam, Peterhead Scotland

The above image is a scan of a film print, taken around 2000 on a return visit. I worked in the village of Boddam between 1993 to 1997, having moved there after completing my engineering apprenticeship. I look back with fond memories of the people I worked with. I remember the engineer's mate, Billy, who was near retirement when I arrived, he had lived in Boddam for the majority of his life, since he was a boy, but he was not born there, so some villagers didn't consider him to be a local. As a fresh faced young man in his twenties, I learnt a lot from the engineers assistant, as he had seen it all in his forty years - he was the best tradesman that never was...

I remember the morning ritual of Billy going to the local papershop in Boddam in the works van, where Billy would take ages catching up with the day's gossip with the shopkeeper, a lady in her late 70's. I remember going to look at the shelves whilst they talked and I came across a stainless steel vacuum flask - it's price was written on a label, 9d...that flask had been there at least 25 years as decimal day, the change from the "old money" of shillings and pence to the much easier decimal money of pounds and pence occurred in 1971.

As an outsider from Fife, a place renowned for the locals having a strong accent, Boddam and the much larger town to the north, Peterhead (where I had moved to) was a major challenge for me to understand people, as the locals have a much stronger accent than anyone else in Scotland; it is unique. They are very hard to understand to a visitor and this youtube clip of a local man reciting his great poem about the lovely Boddam, gives an idea of how challenging this soft and musical accent can be to a visitor.

I quickly learned to understand this accent, known as Doric, but it took careful concentration to pick up. I remember figuring out that a male is called a "loon" and female is called a "quine" and after that I eventually tuned in to what was being said. Understanding Doric is not like riding a bike however, I remember going to Peterhead several years after I had left and again, I didn't understand what people were saying to me.

The village of Boddam and Peterhead is dominated by the sea. Fishing was of great importance to this area for centuries and it still is. It is almost always windy here on the cold North East coast of Scotland, which is closer to Norway than it is to London. Billy always used to laugh at me moaning about the weather and he would tell me "you're in Breezy Buchan now, get used to it!". Whenever nice weather was forecast, the morning would be warm and sunny and then on the horizon the mists would boil up on the sea and move inland, it would turn into heavy fog leaving the area cold and dark, whilst the TV news would report that the rest of the country was enjoying exceptionally warm weather. 

The other thing I remember about the fog is the foghorn, which blew its warning day and night until the fog cleared. The foghorn was located in Buchan Ness light house, which was to the left of where I took the above picture. When I lived in Peterhead the lighthouse had an electronic foghorn, which I could hear 3 miles away lying in my bed in Peterhead - it took a while to get used to that. The electronic foghorn was seemingly quite polite compared to the old compressed air foghorn that it replaced. The previous foghorn had the sound of a surprised cow mooing and the locals had named it the "Boddam Coo".  It was far deeper and penetrating than the electronic tone that replaced it and although I'm sad I never heard it, watching the video below of a fog horn blowing at another lighthouse, Portland Bill in Plymouth, I'm probably glad I didn't have to try and sleep through it...

The above video taken from youtube, was taken during a foghorn requiem, where the foghorns were serenaded to music, to celebrate their retirement. Nowadays the coast is silent on foggy nights and the sailors are much safer due to the convenience of global positioning systems.

I still have contact with one of my old workmates who lives in Boddam with his wife. He took me under his wing when I moved there and they attended my wedding. A long overdue visit to Boddam is required to catch up with them. 

It will be good to visit here again.


]]> (Chris Bowness Landscape) boddam breezy buchan coo fog horn lighthouse ness peterhead Fri, 25 May 2018 23:01:00 GMT
Significant Insignificance A short story...

As Chris drove to the dentist his mood was dark, he had £4 in his pocket and £12 in the bank - £16 to last until the end of the week until payday. His credit cards were maxed out and he just had to make do with what he had and hope that nothing unexpected would occur.

His problem was that he needed to go for this dental appointment, but he wasn't sure if he had the money to pay for any work that might be done that day. He had a broken tooth, he had left it long enough because of his fear of the cost. His mood was dark as he parked the car. His fear of being unable to pay for the treatment was clear in his face as he glanced in the rearview mirror.

He got out of the car and Chris, with his face like thunder, through fear of potential embarrassment,  attempted to cross the busy road to the dentist's surgery.

“Hello there, how are you”? A slim man who was well dressed in a red long jacket had stepped in front of Chris. Chris was taken aback. “I'm fine thanks”. The man had a simple face that radiated happiness, he was in his late 50’s and bald. The man reminded Chris of Stan Laurel of Laurel and Hardy fame. The man smiled at Chris and asked: “And your name is”? “Chris” Chris replied, “my name is Chris”. “My name is Gary”, said the man as he removed his mitten, after removing the mitten with great care and attention, he offered his right hand for Chris to shake, Chris paused for a second and then shook Gary’s hand. The reason that Chris had paused to shake Gary’s hand is that Gary had a perfectly shaped hand, but it had no fingers, just a thumb. Gary’s hand was like the mitten Gary had just removed and he offered his ‘flesh mitten’ to Chris to shake. As Chris shook the hand, it felt softer more squeezable than a normal hand as fingers are hard and bony.

Gary looked closely at Chris as he offered his hand with no fingers, he knew what Chris was thinking and the symbolism of removing his mitten and showing his hand to Chris under the pretence of a simple handshake was intentional.

“Nice to meet you Chris”, said Gary as he withdrew his hand and carefully put his mitten back over his mitten shaped hand. “Listen Chris,” said Gary, “you wouldn’t happen to have a couple of pounds to give me for a cup of tea and my bus, would you”? Chris panicked inside, he needed the money for the dentist, he was so scared of not having the money to pay for the treatment and now this!

“No I’m sorry Gary, I just don’t have the money to spare right now”, replied Chris. Gary smiled “no problem my friend, just in case you did have some to spare, no worries at all”. Gary walked off with a smile and a wave leaving Chris to attempt to cross the busy road to reach the dentists.

Sitting in the dentist’s waiting room, Chris reflected on this chance encounter with Gary. It was somehow significant. He thought about his situation with money and how it was affecting his happiness, he was constantly preoccupied with worries about the lack of money. Chris pondered this for a while as the wait to be seen by the dentist was a long one.

Chris thought about the significance of Gary appearing, during an insignificant moment as he tried to cross the road worrying about money. The thought came to Chris that he should have given Gary that two pounds, just do it, stop worrying, everything will be OK. The machinery of the universe is whirling around he thought, galaxies collide with galaxies, planets circle suns, moons circle planets. Giving someone £2 is insignificant in the big scheme of things, they can get a cup of tea and their bus, which is also insignificant to the universe, but significant to them. Not having money to pay the dentist immediately is insignificant, as long as you pay them when you can, Chris reasoned.

Chris resolved that he should have given Gary that money, despite his fears. It would be alright. Chris resolved that if he saw Gary when he left the dentist and he had the money, he would give that £2 to Gary.

Chris sat in the dentist's chair with his mouth open as the dentist prodded about. It was just another insignificant workday to her. “Yes said the dentist, we will have to remove this tooth. We don’t have time to do it today, but we can make an appointment next week?” “Wes” said Chris with his mouth open, “yat ll oo”. It is always hard to speak to a dentist during an examination.

Chris was elated, he was paid at the end of the week and he would be able to pay for the dental work on his next visit. He thought again of Gary and knew that he should have given Gary the money, as everything had worked out fine. Although he had resolved to give Gary the money, Chris knew that he was also unlikely to see him again as it was now an hour since their paths had crossed.

Chris left the dentist and navigated across the busy road towards his car. After crossing the road Chris glanced back and there was Gary, who had just walked around a corner and was walking towards the dentist's surgery. Gary looked over the road at Chris and gave him a smile and a wave. “Hello Chris” shouted Gary cheerily as he walked briskly past the dentists. Chris waved back with a surprised smile. Chris looked at the busy road he had to cross, he looked at Gary walking away briskly, he thought about his car parked just meters away.

As Chris climbed into his car, he felt the pound coins in his pocket jangle. He never gave Gary the money, he was too reserved to cross the busy road and chase after Gary to give him his £2 for a cup of a tea and his bus.

“What the hell just happened there”, said Chris to himself as he started the engine. Chris pulled away in his car to start his journey back to work to continue another insignificant day at the office.

]]> (Chris Bowness Landscape) insignificance life real short significant story unimportant Sat, 12 May 2018 19:54:59 GMT
A tribute to Tor Wood Torwood is a small village outside Falkirk, it is named after the wood that borders the village, Tor wood.

I drove through the village of Torwood with a heavy heart. I usually drive through here with fondness, thinking of all the walks and explorations I've had in this wooded area. This time I was sad as the trees were being harvested.

From what I could see from the road, it is selective harvesting, but it is dramatic. Where a mature open coniferous forest stood, there is open space littered with wood debris. I thought of the time I saw a red squirrel there, of the photos I took in this area, now all gone. As I sit surrounded by modern mass-produced woodchip furniture, I understood why, the trees are simply money, but I don't ever want to like the consequences. I think of the scene in the Lord of the Rings films when the Orcs are cutting down all the trees to manufacture arms...I wonder if our pursuit of profit has made us collectively like those Orcs.

As a photographer I see lots of plantations, all regular shaped intensely planted so the forest floor is black and lifeless. These plantations are everywhere and ugly too, spoiling many fine landscapes. They are all being cut down it seems on an unprecedented scale, leaving an even uglier ground behind that heals slowly.

Torwood is a plantation too, but it was different as it was loosely planted and the trees were big. I could be there in twenty minutes, from a large population centre and disappear into an environment that made me feel much further away than a mere twenty minutes.

After a time of following the paths, I eventually got bold enough to leave them and explore the forest and its many beautiful scenes created by the old trees that got crowded out by the fast-growing conifers and killed by the lack of light.

Tor wood has a history in the 2,500-year-old Tappoch Broch located at the highest point. It also has the 16th-century Torwood castle nestling at the back, the Seat of Clan Forrester. Torwood is also mentioned in history for the battles of Bannockburn and Falkirk - Seaward the Dane passed through here in the 10th century in pursuit of Macbeth.

This place has mystery too in the blue pool of Torwood and it has a sinkhole that gets slightly bigger at each visit. How much better can a place be to not be cherished and preserved.

Torwood Blue PoolThe mysterious Torwood Blue Pool  

Tor wood is wonderful and I can only post my pictures to try and illustrate the joy my many visits to it has given me. I can only hope that the harvested areas are replanted and that the developers are kept at arm's length from this prime real estate.

"They hang the man and flog the woman that steals the goose from off the Common, but let the greater villain loose who steals the common from the goose".

Torwood SunshineTorwood SunshineIn amongst the trees at Tor wood, near Falkirk. This part of the forest has now been harvested. Beneath the Falling TreeBeneath the Falling TreeBeneath the Falling Tree, Torwood, Scotland The FallenThe FallenFallen Tree in Torwood The Light OasisThe Light OasisThis grove of moss coloured trees draws one out of the dark wood into the light of the clearing. Taken in Torwood Scotland. Treebeard?Treebeard?This tree stands in Torwood in Central Scotland, it was obviously dead when I took this picture, having been crowded out of the light by the surrounding pines. Still it had character and the little face on the side hinted at a smile.

Soft FootstepsSoft Footsteps Falling DownFalling DownFallen Trees in Torwood near Falkirk in Scotland TorwoodTorwood

The Non ConformistThe Non ConformistTorwood Scotland

Lean on MeLean on Me Tweedledum and TweedledeeTweedledum and TweedledeeTweedledum and Tweedledee - Two trees in Torwood, Falkirk Scotland

Here is a video made from one of my dog walks in Torwood:

]]> (Chris Bowness Landscape) blue broch castle mystery pool tappoch the torwood Wed, 25 Apr 2018 21:29:33 GMT
A trip into Knoydart I was knackered, my legs were aching, my back was aching too from the heavy rucksack. I was so glad to have finally arrived at Barrisdale.

I took my rucksack off outside the Barrisdale bothy and I had that now familiar feeling of “floating” that you get when removing a heavy burden from your back. I so sympathise with donkeys...

It was May 2014 and we had just walked the eight or so miles from Kinlochhourn to Barrisdale. This was my first camping trip for many years and my friend Bob had lent me his tent, backpack and various other essentials. Being the very recent ex-smoking couch potato that I was, the eight miles were not easy. Apart from boat or helicopter, the coastal path we had walked is the only (easy) way to get here from the east and it is a bit of a roller coaster going up and down small hills. The four hours it took were not enjoyed.

The path to BarrisdaleThe path to Barrisdale

Unpacking the tent that Bob had lent me, I had realised why it was so light. It was like a canvas coffin that needed careful negotiations to enter and exit. Sitting up inside was impossible. We made our evening meal in the bothy and had interesting conversations with the rest of the people who were camping and bothying here. I never said a word, as the interesting tales of various exploits were without comparison with my own experiences. It was great to just sit and listen.

Finally, it was bedtime and I settled into my tiny tent. I am not normally claustrophobic, but for a few seconds, I had that uncomfortable closed-in feeling after zipping up the tent. In my snug accommodation, I was expecting to have sore legs in the morning due to my day's exertions and my lack of fitness.

In the morning I awoke fresh with no aches and pains. I have since learned that you only ache after physical exertion when you afterwards sit in comfortable seats such as a car seat or a couch. Living outside and not being able to slouch prevented me from feeling sore. Maybe a lesson for us all there.

After breakfast, it was time to climb. Bob had already climbed the highest Knoydart mountain Ladhair Bheinn on his own, so he wished to climb Luinne Bheinn and Meall Bhuidhe - I was happy to go anywhere…

We headed off, leaving our tents pitched full of the non-essential items so that our backpacks were less of a drag. It was a long climb up to Mam Barrisdale, the top of the pass to Inverie, we then came off the path and “followed the fence”, a route that Bob had read about that skirts up the west side of Luinne Bheinn. Luinne Bheinn (meaning sea swelling hill) is the Gaelic name of this hill and many people have anglicised it into “Loony bin”- I was going to find out why.

Bob Walking away from the Nam Barrisdale pathBob Walking away from the Nam Barrisdale path

On our way we had met a couple who were going to tackle the Luinne Bheinn ridge head on, they told us they had booked their dinner table at the pub in Inverie for 7:30 pm. They had a lot of ground to cover over the two mountains back to their destination and took off at an impressive pace to meet their deadline - I do wonder if they made their booking as I certainly wouldn't have!

Inverie is the only village on Knoydart, it is notable as not being served by any roads, only paths and we were standing on the main one. This village is dependent on boats for their connection to the outside world and standing on Nam Barrisdale is the closest I have come to visit. The hotel there, the Old Forge, lays claim to being Britain's remotest pub and anyone I have spoken to who has visited it, recommends it - the seafood is always mentioned.

Looking West from Luinne BheinnLooking West from Luinne BheinnTowards Inverie on the coast. We started the steep climb following remains of an old metal fence, of which mostly the small metal poles remained, most poles were bent or missing, claimed by the passage of time.

The steep slopes of Luinne bheinnThe steep slopes of Luinne bheinn

It was hard terrain and I marvelled at the people who had taken the time to build this fence, with all the heavy materials required. The fence was old and I wondered how they would have bought them here - I thought again of my trip to Barrisdale and again I felt sorry for the Donkeys.

We stopped during the climb for some breathers and I took the opportunity to take some pictures looking towards Inverie.

Standing stones on a ledgeStanding stones on a ledgeWe rested on this ledge on the side of Luinne Bheinn before continung onward to the summit. It was a steep climb and it was with some relief that we eventually reached the top of Luinne Bheinn and settled for a spot of lunch. After lunch, we decided to venture to the east of the mountain for some views and I took more pictures from the top.

Looking down on Barrisdale from Luinne BheinnLooking down on Barrisdale from Luinne Bheinn

Back of BeyoindBack of BeyoindLooking over to Sgurr na Ciche from Luinne Bheinn in Knoydart Barrisdale from the top of Luinne BheinnBarrisdale from the top of Luinne Bheinn Luinne BheinnLuinne BheinnLuinne Bheinn is a steep sided mountain in Knoydart and is quite hard to get to! A lot of people call it loony bin instead of it proper name! There is a man standing at the RH side, he is just a little speck. The Rough Bounds of KnoydartThe Rough Bounds of Knoydart

Bob took this video, I'm in it at the start...

Standing on Luinne Bheinn in KnoydartCopyright Robert Brown 2014

We had met about six people up to now on this lovely May weekend and among the people we spoke to was a young woman in her twenties who was tackling the Mountains of Knoydart on her own.

After some exploration and speaking to another walker who suddenly “popped up” on the ridge edge that we were standing on, it was time to decide whether to continue to Meall Bhuidhe or to go back. As we discussed this a tiny figure stood on the summit of Meall Bhuidhe - they were very far away and that settled it, we were going back.

Meall Bhuidhe from Luinne BheinnMeall Bhuidhe from Luinne Bheinn

For the descent, we were going to follow the ridge as we did not fancy the steep route that we had used to climb up. Looking down the ridge, my face was ashen, the ridge was steep and it went on and on. We started downwards with Bob descending nonchalantly, whilst I jerkily shuffled downwards feeling uncomfortable with the situation in which I found myself. Bob got further and further ahead as I picked my way down, trying to keep three points of contact between my legs and walking sticks with the steep slope.

As a child and teenager, I would casually climb cliffs and heights did not bother me. I even climbed Maiden’s Rock in St Andrews as a 13-year-old, I was on my own then and just decided to have a go. I remember there being a tricky bit going up, so I tried hard to remember the moves required so I could reverse them going back down. I succeeded, luckily.

Now as a man in his 40s, whose main experience since his youth was sitting at a desk, my head for heights had long-deserted me so I was now going through a crisis. We finally reached some flat ground which was a huge relief for my knees and my newly realised fear of heights. As I looked ahead, Bob was reversing into place to clamber down something, he said something to me then disappeared from sight. As I reached this new obstacle, I looked down and (as Bob told me later) I turned milky white. My head for heights had a new challenge, this was a simple scramble, it was an earthen cliff with rocks sticking out, a simple case of clambering down a few easy footholds and handholds and then step off to my right to terra firma, no problem. There was a problem though for my Acrophobia, the problem was that the earthen cliff was above a much bigger drop, maybe 20, maybe 100 metres, it did not matter, all I knew was that it was a long way. I had found the loony bit of loony bin.

Bob was standing below looking up at me, he was maybe only 5 metres away. He repeated what he said to me earlier, to “not go down holding my walking sticks”. I obliged by throwing them to him; I didn't want to go down at all! I stood for a moment trying to think of an alternative, like a magic helicopter to appear and rescue me. I realised that there was no alternative, I took a deep breath and backed towards the drop so I could hang my feet over and start the scramble. It was no problem, I told myself, easy footholds, easy handholds, just lower myself down a couple of footholds, keep three points of contact and then step off...

Being a photographer I always insist on carrying my heavy tripod everywhere, even though I seldom use it. Bob had tried to discourage me from taking it on this expedition and he had even offered me a lend of his nifty lightweight and pocketable tripod. I stuck to my guns though, that tripod seemed too light, so if I wanted to bracket shots, it might move and the photo would be more difficult to process. So I strapped the tripod to the side of my backpack and I carried it with me, refusing to acknowledge the extra weight as being a contribution to my pain.

So there I was, clinging to footholds above a big drop and about to turn and step to safety. As I turned, my tripod, strapped to my pack, caught on the cliff and prevented me from turning. Bob looked all of sudden very concerned and stepped forward, but unable to help. By this time luckily, my fear had passed and I was 13 again. I simply clung on with only the one arm and managed to use the freed-up arm to move the tripod around the snag and then step on to safe ground. “I did warn you about that tripod”, Bob said. I agreed by nodding my head vigorously and I took one last look back at the big drop before we continued on our way. After my close encounter, the remaining steep descent was no longer of concern to me.

Around this time the young walker we’d met earlier caught up with us and overtook us, we finished the descent to the top of Nam Barrisdale only to find her there retrieving her backpack which she had hidden to ease the weight on the climb up Luinne Bheinn. We started to talk to her and she explained that she had spent the night in a tent on Ladhair Bheinn. She also explained that she had dropped her rucksack down a very steep slope of Ladhair Bheinn when she had taken it off to retrieve her map to navigate. In this remote country losing a rucksack with all the essentials in it is pretty serious, luckily she had managed to negotiate the steep slope to retrieve her rucksack, but her stove and some other items had come out of the rucksack and had continued their fall into an irretrievable place.

This walker (I never got her name) accompanied us back to Barrisdale where she too was going to camp and we offered her our stoves to allow her to cook her food. This confident young woman impressed me with the gumption and self-assurance she had to make this trip on her own. I was twenty years older than her and I was scared to come here on my own... Seeing the enjoyment she was having in roaming free in the hills, I was kicking myself for wasting 20 years of my life and not doing this, what I loved, earlier. This was the moment when I decided that I would go walking more regularly and I would stop being scared of being out alone.

Walking up Nam BarrisdaleWalking down to Barrisdale

We reached the campsite and bothy at Barrisdale and it was pretty busy, being the bank holiday weekend. As we sat in the bothy making our lunch many other walkers joined us. After dinner, we once more crowded in the bothy and listened to more tales of their exploits in many places like the Skye Ridge and other long distance walks. I was again impressed by the richness of the stories and the good humour and camaraderie of these people, who love the outdoors. Eventually, however, it was time to sleep.

In the morning we started to pack up after breakfast. Our temporary companion was first to pack up and say her goodbyes, I watched her leave Barrisdale with admiration for her and a bit of sadness for myself, having wasted my fittest years, my 20's and 30's, sitting on a couch with a fag in my mouth. We eventually started the long walk back to Kinlochhourn and as we left it started to rain. The rain got heavier and it hammered it down for the entire walk back. We reached the car soaking, but elated, the walk back had been much easier for me physically than the walk there and I’ve since found that after 3 days walking, it starts to get easier.

This was the first time I had been on a multi-day trip since my early twenties. I was in my mid-forties now and had suddenly remembered what I’d been missing. I’ve not looked back since and as I age, I hope that there are a few years of fitness left for me to enjoy more of these adventures. Knoydart was the kick-start that I had needed.


]]> (Chris Bowness Landscape) barrisdale bheinn bothy camping climbing inverie kinlochhourn knoydart luinne munro nam scotland Sat, 07 Apr 2018 13:50:32 GMT
Wild camp on Saline Hill Saline Hill is a small hill in Fife and it doesn't look much, but it is worth a visit as it commands excellent views of the surrounding countryside.

Having been a number of weeks since our last outing, I had decided that I wanted pictures of the Ochil Hills and my initial thoughts were finding a spot to camp near Powmill, where the views of the Ochil's are excellent. Looking at a map though, this plan was scuppered as the choice of camping spots seemed sparse, as this area is working farmland.

Looking further south to the hills surrounding Powmill, I eventually decided on a visit to Saline Hill, as this hill looked the most viable for the considerations of easy parking in the village of Saline and open space with woodland in which an undisturbed wild camping spot should be found.

It was an easy trip and we set off mid-afternoon for the short journey to Saline. We parked up and walked through the village before heading up a farm track towards the hill. We didn't go straight up but skirted around Saline Hill, following a path marked on the map that took us through a field of newborn lambs. As we negotiated the muddy terrain and gates and fences, I started to see the Ochil's clearly in the distance.

The Ochil HillsThe Ochil HillsThe Ochil Hills from Saline Hill I realised that the viewpoint here diminished the Ochil's as they were a bit too far away for a dramatic picture, but we carried on regardless as it was a nice day and the wild camping is always something I enjoy, view or not. Eventually, after having to negotiate an electric fence (we jumped!), we reached the forest near the top of Saline hill and Andy eventually identified a good camping spot. The ground was very uneven and wet so I was glad that we found somewhere suitable.

It was time to pitch our tarpaulins, I had recently bought one for myself and I relied on instruction from Andy on how to pitch it to suit the current location.

Pitched TarpaulinsPitched Tarpaulins We pitched the tarpaulins like a tent, using our walking poles to hold them up. I am now a fan of a tarp (tarpaulin) as the options they give you means that you shelter in lots of different ways to suit the terrain and conditions, whilst with a tent, you only have the option that suits the design of the tent. The drawback of a tarp though is insects, where the highland midge will have free open access to feast on you, whilst tents at least have insect mesh. Insects were not to be a worry here though as it was still early spring with an overnight frost forecast.

After we had taken care of arrangements, it was time to eat a nice paneer cheese curry, which Andy cooked, then it was time for the obligatory drinks, that help make the adventure more fun. We sat on fallen tree trunks and stayed up quite late under the cold moonlit sky with streetlights of the surrounding towns glowing brightly below us.

Camping in the woodsCamping in the woods Andy woke me early morning pointing to the red sky and I'm glad that he did, as I had set my alarm for sunrise forgetting that the clocks had changed and my alarm would have been an hour late! I gathered my gear and headed to the top for some pictures of the golden sunlit landscape.

Knockhill from Saline HillKnockhill from Saline HillFife, Scotland

Early MorningEarly MorningEarly morning on Saline Hill Morning GloryMorning Glory After the sunrise, it was my turn to cook - a good Sunday morning fry-up. We then packed our stuff, leaving only flattened grass behind and we headed down the south of the hill, to walk back to Saline via a different route.

Saline Hill is a place I have driven past countless times with barely a glance. Now after a night of wild camping in a wood of remnant Scots pines, whilst taking in views of the Ochil Hills and Forth bridges, it is a hill worth visiting and the other hills in the area now have my attention.

Remnants,saline, hill, scots, pines, scotlandRemnants of Scots pines blasted by the wind on Saline Hill.Saline hill Scotland    The view from my tentThe view from my tentWild camping on Saline Hill

The Forth Bridges from Saline hillThe Forth Bridges from Saline hill

]]> (Chris Bowness Landscape) camping fife hill ochil saline scotland sunrise wild Sun, 25 Mar 2018 22:09:41 GMT
Go for a Walk Die with memories, not dreams. Go for a walk.

KintailKintailAfter leaving Camban mountain bothy, we walked the final few miles of the Affric Kintail Way. We were confronted with this wonderful scenery on our way to Morvich. I heard someone once say that "Life happens whilst you're planning something else" and this is very true. You are sitting hoping for something to come about so that your life will be better and whilst you wait for your 'chance', the clock ticks. Time is life's currency and it makes paper money look irrelevant. Waiting for the lottery win or the big break to make things change might one day happen, but regular walking is where the stories can begin now and they are the stories that you never bothered to imagine. 

Back of BeyoindBack of BeyoindLooking over to Sgurr na Ciche from Luinne Bheinn in Knoydart Sitting at home you are entertained by the various media sources and you are fed countless stories and nightmares, you consume them and they fill your head with other peoples adventures. Simply by walking, I now have my own stories of adventure, the overwhelming majority of them are good, some not so, but they are mine. 

I have spoken to many people who when they found out that I was a regular walker have asked me to take them to our local hills. They are scared to go on their own, I was once too. We are like birds in a cage, scared to leave the cage with endless good reasons why we should stay inside it. The most dangerous thing about walking is the journey in the car to the starting point, just like the car journey to work every day that no one ever gives a second thought. Better to have lived a little... Start off with simple walks and work up from there, that's what I did.

Lonesome TreeLonesome Tree I have walked in nature now for many years and being in nature is therapeutic. The exercise is therapeutic, during the course of a long walk your mind clears of all the faff of everyday life and for a while at least, you feel free. There is another effect from regular carefree walks in nature that I never expected - nature reaches out and touches you. You may laugh at this statement, but I don't care. The Japanese word Yugen best describes this experience, explained simply, Yugen is "an awareness of the universe that triggers an emotional response too deep for words". Forget teachers, wise men and fancy ideologies, nature is where the action is.

Tweedledum and TweedledeeTweedledum and TweedledeeTweedledum and Tweedledee - Two trees in Torwood, Falkirk Scotland My blog is a testament to my enjoyment of the outdoors. I enjoyed some of my stories so much that I have wanted to write them down. I have experienced being buzzed by bats in a forest at dusk, I have been in a surreal total whiteout in the clouds, I have walked through swirling mini-tornados of ice crystals in the winter and I have peered out of my frosty tent on a cold clear night and been awestruck at the depth and distances of the universe above. It is a privilege to see these things and if you’re not getting out, you’re missing out.

The Isle of SkyeThe Isle of SkyeThe Isle of Skye from the The Storr





]]> (Chris Bowness Landscape) benefits confidence happiness nature stories therapeutic walking yugen Fri, 09 Mar 2018 04:36:38 GMT
The Lairig Leacach in Winter I had arranged with my friend Andy to spend the night at the Lairig Leacach Bothy on Friday night, go to Staoineag Bothy on Saturday and then head for home on Sunday. No problem I thought, a bit of snow will be a bonus too! There was much more than a "bit" of snow... 

As we reached Spean Bridge early afternoon, I was starting to worry. The weather all week had implied snow at high-level. I could see the tops and they were full of snow, I was worried I could make the usual place I park my car at around the 200m contour, up the rough track from Coire Choille Farm. Reaching this spot, I needn't have worried as the snow line started just up from where we parked.

Looking up at the snowy hills it was proper dressing up time, gaiters on, gloves, just a pity I also had a 10kg bag of coal to strap onto my rucksack. The bag of coal reminded me of my first ever visit here, which I also visited with Andy, back in June 2016. It was a beautiful day then, today it was full on winter. I have however visited the bothy around 8 times since then, so I was confident of the route to take over the Lairig Leacach to the bothy.

We headed up the forest track and it quickly became an issue that my fitness was lacking, I had no reserves and with the 25kg on my back, it was hard going. By the time we reached the gate at the end of the forest track, it was knee deep snow and the Lairig Leacach pass ahead looked glorious. We passed a group of people at this point, a family, who had decided to visit the bothy and were on their way back - We had footprints to follow at least.

The Lairig Leacach in WinterThe Lairig Leacach in Winter As we headed up the pass, I kept stopping for a breather, I was in a bad way with no stamina. As we neared the small gorge below Cruach Innse, the sky was grey and the rain had started. I struggled on through the rain and wind hoping to reach the ford, knowing that it is always further from the gorge than you think. Eventually we reached it, but it was hidden beneath the deep snow so we walked right over it, with only my memory of the surroundings to realise this. Shortly after we stopped for a breather, the land and the sky were the same colour and if we weren't in a narrow mountain pass and instead on a plateau, then navigation would have been an issue... I took this video of our situation.

The Lairig Leacach in Winter

This break allowed me to reflect on my situation. I had set off in bright sunlight, but on the way up the pass, it had turned into rain and strong wind. The wind was much warmer than expected, so I kept on my "soft" gloves that are not waterproof. I realised that the gloves were soaking and I also realised that my fingers were numb with the tips feeling swollen due to my tight grip on my walking sticks. The effort of moving with a heavy pack through difficult terrain, with the complacency of knowing that you weren't too far from the destination was making me careless. As I moved my fingers to help to restore the blood flow, it was painful. I noted this for future use - Make sure the winter gloves are easily accessible.

Lairig Leacach in winterNear the Watershed of the Lairig Leacach Lairig Leacach in WinterLairig Leacach in Winter

I asked Andy to take a turn with my pack as I was knackered. I put on his pack (it made no difference) and we soldiered on through drifts past the watershed, some so deep that we doubled back to find a different route. I had checked my GPS at our recent stop and knew that we had just 1.5km to go, but we were at the highest and snowiest part of our journey. It was starting to get dark. The usual journey of 1.5 hours had now taken 3 hours and we still had to get to find the bothy. Following the footprints, I also saw the base of Stob Ban, where the trees beside the burn that flows past the bothy were visible, they are higher up and in the deep snow, their black branches could be seen. I knew that you have to walk past the bothy to reach these trees. The light was fading fast.

Lairig Leacach in winterReaching the Lairig Leacach Mountain BothyThe light was fading, but we had found it.

We had just avoided a snow drift and walked over a rise. And there it was, the Lairig Leacach Mountain Bothy in the fading light. I was mighty relieved to see it. We opened the door and I took off the rucksack and enjoyed that floating feeling of getting rid of a heavy pack. I went outside and took a photo of this welcome refuge. As I took the picture, Andy stood at the door. 

The Lairig Leacach Mountain Bothy in winter snow driftsAndy at the door The Lairig Leacach Mountain Bothy

Now that we had made it, Our first challenge was water, it was time to melt snow as the nearby river was missing underneath. Once the snow was melted in sufficient quantity and the water problem has been solved, it was time to party - not the kind of party that folks do in the cities, that involves music, dancing and electricity, this party involves gas stoves, food, drink and a nice warm fire. The music is provided by the wind, the fire is the TV and light show. Conversation is the order of the day in the bothy, no electricity, just two friends who have known each other since they were boys talking about life in general. We were 8km from the nearest house with no phone signal, but we had coal, we had booze, we had food and all was good with the world. I wonder what I would have thought as a rebellious 15-year-old if I had known that I would be sitting in a snowbound bothy in the Central Highlands with my friend Andy, 33 years in the future? I would like to think that my 15-year-old self would have been pleased.

The Lairig Leacach Mountain BothyMelting Snow by the fireThe Lairig Leacach Mountain Bothy    Lairig LeacachThe Bothy TVAt the Lairig Leacach

I had a fantastic sleep and slept right through to 8 am. During the course of the previous day, we had agreed that carrying on to Staioneag would not be wise. The main reasons were distance and lack of knowledge of the terrain under the deep snow, where a 5-meter gorge is not on the map and the snow was managing to hide them. It was quite mild and the snow bridges formed were becoming less trustworthy. We knew that if we stayed another night at this bothy also, we would get cabin fever as we would quickly run out of coal and booze and wandering about in the deep snow was not an option that we fancied.

So it was time to do my joint MO duties for this bothy and write a list for all the things that require attention in the coming year, there is quite a list, but apart from a couple of more urgent things, most are cosmetic. I also spent some time taking some photos of the situation in which we found ourselves.

Lairig Leacach Bothy in winterLairig Leacach Bothy in winter

Lairig Leacach bothyWhere the footsteps endWithout snowshoes and good knowledge of the terrain ahead, we decided it was not wise to continue on past the Lairig Leacach bothy. Inside the Lairig Leacach   The sleeping quartersThe Lairig Leacach Bothy

We left the bothy a little before mid-day. It was feeling warmer and the snow was less firm so we were breaking through it sometimes up to our waists. It was tough going. On the plus side, it was a lot brighter so the scenery could be seen.

Lairig LeacachHeading for HomeNear the Watershed of the Lairig Leacach

The Lairig LeacachThe Lairig Leacach

Finally, after three hours we had made it back the car. It had taken 3 hours without the coal and I had again struggled - my lack of fitness needs some attention! Disappointed to have cut the trip short, I was reassured that it was the most sensible thing to do. My long weekend of adventure had been reduced to just one night, but in that deep snow I had experienced enough adventure for one weekend.

]]> (Chris Bowness Landscape) adventure bothy central conditions deep highlands lairig leacach mountain scotland snow winter Sat, 24 Feb 2018 09:33:51 GMT
Crawford Priory Crawford Priory, despite its name, is a ruin of a stately home located in Springfield, near Cupar in Fife, Scotland.

Built in the 18th century this building was never a priory and a great account of the history of this building, together with historical pictures can be viewed at the blog of Alex Cochrane.

I first shared pictures of this place when I was a member of Flickr. One photographer had commented on my photo as to how he remembered visiting this building as a child in the 1970's with his grandmother. He described that the building was being closed at the time of his visit and that the furniture was being sold. He remembered visiting the top floor and he described how the ceiling was painted navy blue with gold leaf stars to resemble a night sky.

Now, 40 years later, all that remains of the interior rotting wooden rubble on the ground, with only the walls remaining. It is amazing as to how quickly a beautiful building like this can disintegrate. I have visited Crawford Priory on several occasions and I share my pictures below.

Crawford PrioryCrawford PrioryThis fast disintegrating ruin of a stately home is located in Springfield, near Cupar in Fife, Scotland.

Crawford Priory DoorwayCrawford Priory DoorwayAbandoned Crawford Priory near Springfield, Cupar. This buildng was abandoned in 1970 and is now a total ruin.

Crawford PrioryCrawford PrioryCrawford Priory near Cupar in Fife

Crawford PrioryCrawford Priory

The House of Forgotten DreamsThe House of Forgotten DreamsCrawford Priory, Springfield near Cupar in Scotland

Using a couple of open source images and the day to night technique, I was able to have some fun with the images I have captured of this spooky image. The picture below is called "The Witches Mischief".

The Witches MischiefThe Witches MischiefA shot of Crawford Priory combined with some open source images to get the best of this spooky ruin.

]]> (Chris Bowness Landscape) abandoned castle crawford crumbling cupar gem hidden priory ruin scotland spooky springfield Thu, 08 Feb 2018 21:15:50 GMT
The Woodland Shelter "Sleeping in the woods on a Saturday night!" - There are no rock songs that I know of containing these lyrics...

I have known my friend Andy since our early teens. I remember even back then, Andy was into his outdoor pursuits and it has taken me about 30 years to catch up with his hobby. We had recently decided to spend a night in a local forest, where we would erect a tarpaulin for shelter then sleep below it. Any teenager looking at us would see a couple of old men who should know better (our partners think that also!), but for us, apart from it being simply fun, it's also useful practice for when we do go on long walks. There is no point on walking 15 miles into the countryside only to discover that you are unable to set up camp for the night. That would be stupid.

So, for the purposes of research and practice, we packed our things and headed off to Devilla Forest where we could hopefully find a secluded corner where nobody could see us. We had important things to test out, The tarpaulin and bivvy bags that Andy had brought and the wood-burning stoves that we had both brought.

After a 30 minute walk into the forest, we decided on a spot that we thought was relatively secluded and it was time to set up. Andy unpacked the gear whilst I unpacked a can of lager! Andy set up the tarpaulin whilst I provided the support of taking pictures and drinking from the aforementioned can...

Andy sorts out the tarpAndy sorts out the tarpWhilst I take pictures!

After a short time the tarpaulin was strung from two trees and pegged down, It was then time to put the ground sheets down, blow up the airbeds and put the sleeping bags within the waterproof bivvy bags. It was raining, light drizzle and the weather forecast that morning had forecast light rain at 3 pm and then only 10% of rain after 4 pm.

Bed for the nightBed for the nightIt was not forecast for wind or rain...

Settling into my corner of the shelter, I was able to see my view for the night, it was a fine view. The rain continued past four o'clock and continued as it got dark. It was not windy at least so the rain was falling vertically and our shelter was keeping us dry. I have consistently found that if there is a small percentage chance of rain in a Scottish forecast, it is going to rain! 

The view from our shelterThe view from our shelter

In the twilight, it was time to test our wood burning gasification stoves. The idea is that you put a few twigs in them and they will produce enough heat to cook your food. As they are self-contained metal stoves, they do not blacken or heat the ground where a campfire leaves an ugly scar. We selectively searched for fallen twigs that had not been in direct contact with the ground, but they were still wet from the rain. Andy gave me one of his magic home-made firelighters and the twigs caught fire easily.

It quickly became apparent that the stoves were like smoke machines. The smoke they gave off was incredible for the few twigs that were being burnt. There was only a slight breeze and the forest downwind was filled with an amazing volume of smoke. This concerned me as if a resident on the outskirts of the forest were to see this, they might call the fire brigade and our stealth forest-camp would end in farce!

Luckily though, once I stopped adding twigs (these stoves are greedy) then the smoke abated and the remaining twigs quickly became charcoal. At this stage, the gasification and cooking could begin. I managed to cook my super noodles and chilli using this remaining wood and I realised that like the full-size stoves I've used in the past, these stoves need to be used a few times so that you can understand how they work. More practice is needed before I can deliver a verdict, but the stove has potential as it is light and would be a useful back-up to a gas stove on multi-day trips.

Once the food was eaten, it was time for a few drinks and to chat about life in general. Mid-evening we did see a few head torches going through the woods and a couple of people actually passed quite close by, we were sitting without lights on as our eyes had adjusted to the low-level light. The people passing by were twenty metres away so we probably blended in quite well as they carried on their way.

Eventually, it was time to sleep and I had a warm night in my bag. The intermittent patter of rain on the tarpaulin made it feel even cosier as I looked out into the forest from my bed. Around 7 am we got up, made breakfast and packed up, leaving no trace of our stay except for some flattened ground. It was an enjoyable night, a bit different certainly from a usual Saturday night...

The one thing that I have learnt is that forest ponds stain your skin. I had used the water from a nearby pond to wash out my cooking pot and had dipped my hand in it when scooping out the water. The pond was brown coloured from the dead pine needles and leaves in it. When I got home, no matter how much I scrubbed, my fingers on my left hand remained a funny shade of yellow, I had to go to work like that and I may have inadvertently discovered a free way to get a fake suntan - just go into a forest and roll in a pond...  

New Fake Tan discoveryNew Fake Tan discoveryIf you dip your hand in a forest pond, it comes out a different colour!




]]> (Chris Bowness Landscape) bivouac camp devilla forest tarpaulin wood Mon, 22 Jan 2018 21:46:27 GMT
A Walk in the White Stuff "I fancy a walk tomorrow", Bob shouted over his garden to me. "Me too," I said, "have you seen the snow up the Ochils?" I asked, "yes," Bob said, "let's go".

Heading For Ben CleuchHeading For Ben Cleuch

I am lucky to live near to the Ochil Hills. They are only a 30-minute drive for me and I can then be standing 700 metres in the crisp snow 90 minutes after leaving my car. In the winter, this means that I get to walk in snow, where around my house, a little above sea level, snow seldom settles.

Bob had suggested that we climb up Wood Hill. We could then do a circular route over the highest Ochil Hill, Ben Cleuch, that stands at 730 metres. I agreed and suggested that we come back down The Law on the other side - the shortest circular.

We set off late, 10:30 am, a luxury when the hills are so close. Even with a sunset at 3:30 pm, we had plenty of time. We started the ascent of Wood Hill. As we climbed on the steep slopes beneath the Caledonian pines, I stopped to take some pictures.

Wood HillWood Hill   The Ochil HillsThe Ochil HillsLooking North from Wood Hill

At this point we could see the snow at the top of Wood Hill. The snow didn't look much and it still seemed far away, but we struggled towards it regardless. At the 475 metre mark the snow was well in control and looking around, we realised how much of it there actually was. We could see for miles and the Ochil hills looked like they went on forever in a winter wonderland.

Beyond Ben GengieBeyond Ben GengieStanding on Wood Hill looking Northwest.

Walking on the snow, I was quick to forget the brown and green land that we had left behind. We were now in a sterile land of bright white with a blue sky. All was good with the world and it was fresh and clean, with only old fences to remind us of man's impact on this land.

There was a well trodden snow path on the final slope up to Ben Cleuch. It was as busy as I’ve ever seen it here. Everyone passing by was smiling and commenting on the beautiful day that we were sharing. We stepped off the well-trodden snow path as we ascended to let people by. we walked a few steps on the solid snow before breaking through up to our knees. The path formed by the many walkers had made the going easier, but my lazy legs were feeling it regardless.

Ben CleuchBen Cleuch At the summit, there was a slight breeze that made it quite chilly on the exposed skin. We decided to keep moving and I pulled over my face mask as we headed off the summit. This earned a comment by a man passing the other way… “Feeling cold are we?” Well, the fact was that I was as warm as I would have been sitting in my house and I wanted to keep it that way! Some people can walk about in thin layers and be a hero if they wished! I like to enjoy the hills whilst remaining warm, why make it an ordeal?

After the top of Ben Cleuch, we decided to head down at the Law and below us, we could see the Central belt of Scotland. It was brown and green and dirty, an affront to the bright sterile white in which we stood. I could see the steam billowing from the refinery at Grangemouth. The power station at Longannet looked small and the Kincardine Bridge was but a toy. A fire in a woodland billowed smoke to further add to the grunge below us.

Beyond The LawBeyond The LawLooking over Grangemouth oil refinery, Longannet Power Station and Kincardine Bridge, from Ben Cleuch

It was now time to leave our pristine world of white and blue. We had to descend down the kneecap popping 600m of the Law into the dirty world below. As we left the snow line, I looked back up the and could barely conceive the perfect world above me that I had left.

Heading Down to BrownHeading Down to Brown I was now back in the imperfect world of brown and green which, like it or not, is the world in which I live.



]]> (Chris Bowness Landscape) ben bridge cleuch from grangemouth hill hills kincardine law longannet ochil power refinery station the view wood Wed, 10 Jan 2018 23:54:23 GMT
Hogmanay  The late Harry Keen, who was a dear family friend, recalls his memory of New Year as a child in early 20th Century Edinburgh.

Auld ReekieAuld ReekieThis ariel picture of Edinburgh was scanned from a family book called Wonderful Britain by JA Hammerton, printed in 1920. Hogmanay,

In the Scots it means, the last day of the year or, a gift given to children on New Year's Eve


the very word conjures up a mixed bag of images, from when I was a child growing up in Edinburgh, right up to the present day. I suppose that as we get older, the celebrations of yesteryear grow in grandeur and gaiety, as our memories get dimmer. Strangely enough, my memories of Hogmanay celebrations of the past are very vivid in my mind and I can remember who and what relatives appeared first at the door after the bells. Which Auntie used to get drunk the quickest and who would eat the most Black Bun and who would be the first to get up and sing.

When I was a child, I remember what great excitement there was in the house prior to Hogmanay, My Mother was (it seemed to us kids) always baking and cleaning one thing and another. She would start days before, making and cutting the sausage rolls and shortbread and lots of other goodies, one of which was the Ne'er day Cloutie Dumpling, with the silver threepenny bits in, wrapped in waxed paper, which we couldn't touch on pain of death, they were for the Hogmanay.

Then on the Hogmanay, she would take all the bedclothes and our clothes, in an old pram, up to the washhoose in Simon Square, just above the Deaconess Hospital in St Leonards, Edinburgh. She would then give them a thorough cleaning. I remember these old wash houses with their big wash tubs and the drying racks which used to come trundling out of the wall. The steam and the noise, and of course, the chatter among the women.

On that day, the house was cleaned from top to bottom, the fire was cleaned out, the grate was polished with black lead and then the fire was relaid, ready to be lit after tea time. From the start of the year, after the 1st of January, my mother would put money away in a drink club at a Grocer's shop. All year until the Hogmanay when my Father would go and collect the booze for the festivities.

This was a trip to the other side of town and sometimes we were allowed to go with my father and help him lug the booze back on the bus. We were thrilled to travel on the bus as most times we had to walk everywhere. Father and my brother George and I would collect it in the thick paper bags and struggle to the bus stop with it, being warned constantly "dinnae drop that bag mind". Once on the bus we would go upstairs to the front while my father sat in the back and smoked.

From the front of the bus, we could see other fathers carrying their paper bags with the festive bottle or two peeking out of the top and kids like us helping..

Once the house was clean and ready for visitors, we, the children would be washed, scrubbed and put into clean clothes, dared to get ourselves dirty and told to play in the bedroom while my mother made all the sandwiches, cooked off the sausage rolls, sliced the Black Bun and broke the shortbread. She then got all the glasses ready, set out most of the bottles of Whisky and Beer and then she got herself ready to greet the New Year.

It was the custom in our house, when the clock was about five minutes to midnight for my father to go outside. He carried with him, a piece of Shortbread to make sure we would have food in the house, a bottle of Whisky to make sure we would have something to drink and a lump of coal to ensure we would have warmth in the house all the year.

He would wait for the bells to chime midnight to be the houses first foot. On the last stroke of the Bells, he would ring the doorbell, my mother would answer the door and he would wish all in the house, a Happy New Year. He would pour a Whisky for my mother and any other adult in the house at the time. We would get a glass of Vimto or Iron bru and we would all wish each other a Happy New Year.

It was after Hogmanay that we kids received our presents. We would only have a stocking on Christmas morning. My parents celebrated the New Year rather than Christmas, as a lot of Scottish families did and it was a bit strange to us to see other kids with presents on Christmas morning instead of New Year's Day.

During the early hours many people would come to the house, bringing with them their bottles, usually a half bottle of Whisky and the party would start sometimes lasting for days.
When we kids became teenagers we would go up to the Tron Church down from the Castle and gather there. Here we would often try to hit the clock by throwing an empty bottle at it. We never did of course but it was good fun to try.

We would wait for Midnight when we would kiss all the girls, who would let us, wish each other a Happy New Year and drink from each others bottles. Then we would First Foot everyone we could think of.
No one ever had their doors closed, anyone could walk in and join the party as long as they had a bottle in their hand.

On New Year's Day itself, relatives would join us in a Ne'er Day Dinner which was always my Mothers 'Red Broth'. This was a mixture of Scotch Broth and Tomato Soup, followed by the Roast Pork, Roast Tatties and the Cloutie Dumpling. Oh, what excitement if we found a silver threepenny bit, it was ours to keep and spend.

The Table was read and once again, the drinking and singing would go on to the sma' hours.

I remember when I was in the army, the Scots would volunteer to stay in camp to do the various guard and cookhouse duties over Christmas and let the English go home so that we could be home for the Hogmanay. It was our festive season - Christmas didn't mean very much in the way of celebration except as a remembrance of Christ's birth. We didn't attach to it the same festive spirit as other nationalities did.

Those days have gone now. There is not the same, I would say, reverence, if thats the right word, paid to the New Year's Eve, Hogmanay celebration. There is more of a disco-type atmosphere, more and more people are celebrating in Discos and clubs, especially the young ones. But then, there were fewer clubs as we know them today, and definitely no discos. Dance halls like the Palais in Fountainbridge or Fairlies down the Leith walk were the meeting places for the youngsters. The old style of celebrating at home and in each others homes has gone, except perhaps with the older ones like myself.

I still clean the house on Hogmanay morning, and my American wife marvels at this but never tries to dissuade me. I still have the Shortbread and Black Bun and make the sandwiches, though more often the stuff is bought from the supermarket, except for the shortbread which is still baked by myself

In fact on Nee'r day itself the tradition in our house is that all the family come over to my house and we have Curry, lots of it, in fact about 11 or 12 different ones with the Sambals and various rice dishes. This has been our tradition for many years, ever since I left the Army and settled in Blairgowrie. The husbands and wives of my children have come to love it as much as we do.

There is no longer a fire grate to be cleaned, central heating and gas fires having taken over, but still in the older folks homes, there is that reverence for the Hogmanay that cannot be extinguished. We can sit by the fire and think of Hogmanays past listening to the last stroke of Big Ben echoing out of the radio, instead of the Television. I can still hear my Father's knock as he chaps to come in to first foot us My Mother's soft voice as she says, "There's yer Faither at the door". The singing as the revellers come up the stairs. The shouts in the street of "Happy New Year" and the chorus of "Auld Lang Syne" being sung in every household in the land, from Croft to Big House.

At that special time of year all we had were friends, no enemies. We loved one another, as long as we were all Scots and still sober, although others like the English were welcome at that time of year.

We were a' Jock Tamson's Bairns, whatever else we were at other times of the Year.


It's seeven oclock, get up an' aboot 
There's lots tae dae, too much a' doot 
Get the weans washed an' oot tae play 
It's the thirty first, it's Hogmanay

Get ben the hoose and strip the bed 
An' see an' get the table read 
Get thon hurley oot o' sight 
Fir later oan, it's Hogmanay night

Thirs soup tae mak', an' Bun tae bake 
Yer Grannies bringin' a Stottie Cake 
Thirs Shortbreid done an' packed away 
Fir it's end o' year, it's Hogmanay

Rake the fire, tak the ashes oot 
An' dinnae scatter them a' aboot 
Keep them off o' the landin' flair 
Fir it's yer Mithers turn tae dae the stair

Ging doon tae Dilworths' 'am gonnae need 
Twa plain loaves an' a pan o' breid 
A' dinnae want nane fae yesterday 
It's gotta be fresh, it's Hogmanay

Get the sausage meat oot o' the press 
An' mak sure yez dinnae mak a mess 
There's the booze tae get, "is yer Faither away"? 
Cos the nichts the nicht it's Hogmanay

Ah've goat nae time tae dae yer tea 
Ging tae the chippy jist doon the street 
Pies an' chips 'ull juist hae tae dae 
Fir it's nearly end o' the Hogmanay

The tables set, the fires a' lit 
Yer Faither ye ken is aye first fit 
Sorry son, whits that ye say? 
Oh help ma boab, it's near end o' day

The hoose is clean, sandwiches made 
You bairns 'ull juist hae lemonade 
Get doon the street fir yer Auntie May 
She'l want tae be here fir the Hogmanay

Noo, a' things ready fir fowk tae come in 
Fir neebours an' wir kith an' kin 
They cam fae a' the airts this day 
Fir abuidy's hame fir the Hogmanay

Yer Faithers here, the bells have rung 
An' auld lang syne has juist been sung 
A Guid New Year tae a' I say 
It's January first, an' New Years Day

Sae lift yer gless, mak sure it's fu' 
An' heres a toast fae me tae you 
Tae young an' auld, fae far an' near
Hae a Happy, Healthy, Guid New Year"

"Hogmanay" by Harry Keen © 1999

Footnote: Harry volunteered to write this article and poem for my then website in 1999, which I published as a newsletter for the millennium.  Harry sadly passed away in 2015 aged 83, so I thought it right to again share his wonderful memories.

]]> (Chris Bowness Landscape) 20th black bun celebrations century dumpling early edinburgh hogmanay magical memories new poem stootie year Wed, 27 Dec 2017 14:59:00 GMT
Winter Camping "Whatever the question, the answer is always more booze".

This was the reply from my friend Andy to my text about the -4°C weather forecast for Saturday night. We were going camping then and it was December with the coldest weekend of the winter so far now predicted; our families and friends were all laughing at us. We parked in the picturesque town of Dollar and headed up the narrow gorges of Dollar Glen. Passing Castle Campbell on the way, the path eventually opened out into the Glen of Sorrow and we followed the burn upstream, looking for a nice camping spot.

The path that runs alongside the burn was icy in places and care was needed to bypass the worst of the icy slopes, as there are some quite unhealthy drops into the water below.

We decided to camp around the 325-meter mark before the glen narrowed and steepens. We found a good spot with plenty of room for our tents. Andy had bought a hammer which really useful for driving the tent pegs into the hard soil. I had a drink of water out of the Burn of Sorrow and as soon as it was in my bottle, ice started to form - very refreshing. Camping in the Glen of SorrowCamping in the Glen of SorrowA nice spot at 325 metres

After dinner was finished it was time for a few cheeky drinks. We stood beside our tents in the cold starlit night blethering about things in general. When the booze was finished, it was time to sleep. I put on a full face balaclava and slept in my clothes, all of them, including gloves. If it had been wet, I had a down jacket packed away as a backup. My camping mat is an Alpkit Numo and although it is sold as a 2-3 season mat I felt that it protected me well that night from the frosty ground. My sleeping bag is a 2°c bag and I supplemented it with a down quilt. This combination kept me cosy and in the morning my watch was showing a temperature of -3.8c inside the tent with the air outside being -4.9c. The tent was coated with frost, both inside and out.
  winter campingA frosty tentCovered with ice both outside and inside -3.8C inside the tent.It was -4.9C outside, according to my watch.  

My stove had let me down even though I had slept with the gas cylinder in my sleeping bag, it was lukewarm coffee in the morning until Andy fired up his stove. I should have bought my hex burner as back-up.

I went and took some pictures in the shaded glen whilst Andy had breakfast. The Glen of SorrowThe Glen of SorrowFirst light hits the Ochil hills whilst a lonely tree in the Glen of Sorrow remains in the shade We packed up and headed down the Glen of Sorrow. Walking down into Dollar revealed all the trees to be white with frost, it was quite beautiful. Reaching my car at 11 am, the car's thermometer revealed that it was still -4°C in the bright sunlight. I wondered then on the accuracy of my watch thermometer.



]]> (Chris Bowness Landscape) camping frost glen hills ochil of scotland sorrow tent winter Tue, 12 Dec 2017 22:07:18 GMT
Buffalo Systems Special 6 The Buffalo Special 6 is a “smock” and not a jacket. Whatever it is, it is the best piece of outdoor clothing that I have bought.

For three years now, I have headed to the winter hills wearing a Buffalo Systems Special 6. This is a picture of me wearing it on Beinn Fhionnlaidh in 2016.

Christian ClimbingChris ClimbingMe walking on the slopes of Beinn Fhionnlaidh. This photo was taken by Robert Brown © 2016.

So what is special about a 3-year-old smock? In that picture above, there is only one thing between my bare skin and sub-zero conditions. It is the Buffalo Special 6 and it works.

I am no gear reviewer, but I have just spent a weekend camping at Loch Affric when it was approx. 1 or 2°C (not far below the snowline) and it was raining. I was wearing the Special 6, which is not waterproof. The smock gets heavy when wet and it was all that I was wearing, but I was still warm - it is quite remarkable.

The Special 6 consists of a pile inner (like the fur on a teddy bear!) with a Pertex outer. The pile absorbs moisture (sweat) and your body heat pushes it away to create a warm microclimate at the skin, so even though the pile is wet, you are warm. The Pertex outer is breathable and disperses the moisture to the atmosphere. There is a video on Youtube of a man jumping in a cold lake wearing a Buffalo Systems smock and trousers. After 15 minutes of walking, he is again dry and comfortable. My own experiences in the rain, although not as radical, corroborates this.

Buffalo Special 6My Buffalo Special 6This picture shows the dark pile which goes against the skin. The Pertex keeps the wind off whilst allowing the smock to breathe and disperse moisture. Buffalo Special 6A Winter Selfie on the Ochil HillsWhilst I may not look particularly stylish, I have been standing up a Scottish Hill for half an hour in winter taking pictures of a sunset. Being comfortable in these conditions means that I can concentrate on taking pictures

I bought my Special 6 from Sports Warehouse in Edinburgh and I had gone to their shop to try it on. I am glad I did this as I left the store with a size smaller than I would have otherwise ordered online. For gear like this, it is important to get the right fit.

Since then I have worn my Special 6 on many winter trips up my local Ochil Hills. I have also worn it further afield to stay at bothies and on Munro's in winter. I have stood on a windy summit with a frozen water bottle and yet I have felt as warm as sitting in my house.

It is not perfect, there are draughts that have made me feel vulnerable in high winds on Munro summits. The wind can whistle up the gap between trousers and shirt, but it has never been a problem to affect comfort and there are straps to adjust the tightness around the waist. I do not wear the Special 6 trousers, so I am unsure if this is also a feature of the full system.

The Special 6 actually relies on draughts to keep you cool, it has side zips that open to let excess heat out. I have used these zips in sub-zero temperatures with a high wind-chill factor and you adjust them to stay warm. I find that the smock is too hot for prolonged climbing above 5°C.

The Special 6 does not come with a hood, but you can buy one. I have seen this hood criticised in some reviews and I can understand why. I use the hood with a beanie and snood(or scarf) around the neck. The hood also comes with a face shield and this protects my face from the winter excesses of wind and spindrift. The picture below shows me checking my watch with my face shield and ski goggles on. You can see why a beanie is necessary, but this combination works well for me.

Buffalo Special SixMe in my Special 6Checking the time on the climb up (Picture by Robert Brown © 2016).

My Special 6 also has its scars, I burnt it on a stove in a bothy and I have covered that with a bit of duct tape - it doesn't like fire! It also has paint on it from a bothy work party where I was too comfortable on a snowy April morning to care about the odd splash of masonry paint.

These scars give my smock history and mean that the Special 6 has served its purpose - It has kept me warm and allowed me to do things and avoid faff. After 3 years of usage in a variety of conditions, I am confident in its ability to keep me warm on multi-day winter trips.




]]> (Chris Bowness Landscape) buffalo experience review six special systems thoughts user Sun, 12 Nov 2017 17:21:06 GMT
Whiteout This picture is of my friend Bob, taking a video of the whiteout conditions in which we found ourselves.

The WhiteroomThe WhiteroomBob in a whiteout on Beinn Udlamain. The cloud closed in and suddenly everything went white. We stopped, I took a picture of Bob videoing the surreal scene. Luckily we knew where we were...

The whiteout in this picture was due to heavy cloud covering a snow-covered mountaintop. 

We were heading from the rounded summit of Beinn Uldamain when the cloud closed in. I realised that there was no distinguishing the ground from the sky. It is uncanny when everything is white, the snow and sky become the same. As you walk, you have no idea where your next footstep is going to land, you could step off a cliff.

Beinn UldamainBeinn UldamainNearing the summit. At the summit of Beinn UldamainAt the summit of Beinn UldamainThe cloud was starting to close in.

View from the topView from the top

This is where navigation is paramount. the compass and map become your best friends so that you can avoid the cliffs and get home. The whiteout can surprise you, so if you are not sure where you are, it is too late to find out once the cloud arrives. This whiteout lasted about 20 minutes before the cloud cleared. We got off easy as there are old metal poles on this mountain, the remains of an old boundary fence. We knew from the map that this fence line led to where we wanted to go. Each pole could be spotted in the distance through the cloud. It was easy to follow them and we got back to the car before the light faded.

Whiteout navigationWhiteout navigationThese little poles became an important navigational aid meaning that we could keep our bearing easily.   Cornice on A' MharconaichCornice on A' MharconaichA Cornice on A' Mharconaich, one of the A9 Munros

If we had got lost, we would have been returning in the dark. 

Fire and IceFire and Ice

Last lightLast light


]]> (Chris Bowness Landscape) bagging hill mountain munro navigation scenery scotland scottish walking whiteout Sat, 28 Oct 2017 20:18:18 GMT
Behind the Picture: Doggy Dreams The reason I like taking pictures is for the memories that they contain. When I look at a photo that I've taken, all recollection of that moment comes flooding back.

Below is another of these images that bring particular memories - This picture is called "Doggy Dreams".

Doggy DreamsDoggy DreamsDigger twitches and yelps in his sleep and it makes me wonder what he is dreaming about. This picture is composed of three images stitched together. It includes a picture of my dog, Digger, sleeping on the back of our couch. It also contains a picture that I took of our friend's Husky, Oscar, as well as a forest background.

Digger was fast asleep and he had been twitching and yelping whilst dreaming of doing doggy things. I wondered whether he was dreaming of being a wolf (his ancestor) running free in the forest; or does he dream of being a short legged Jack Russell tugging on his lead whilst walking on a pavement?

I know Digger, he will be running free.

Digger Sleeping on the Couch

]]> (Chris Bowness Landscape) art dog doggy dreams jack photograph picture russell sleeping twitching yelping Sat, 07 Oct 2017 12:04:14 GMT
Devilla Forest Devilla Forest is located near the small town of Kincardine, in Central Scotland. The forest, although managed, is composed of mainly Scots Pines and is quite natural compared to some densely packed plantations. The forest is also quite large for these parts and I have spent many hours exploring it with my dog and camera.  Some of these pictures can be viewed below. 

Amongst the trees

The PortalThe PortalThe Portal, Devilla Forest, Scotland

I enjoy wandering off tracks into the forest, you'll never know what you may find and I enjoy that adventure.

Abandoned graves

18th Century Gravestone18th Century GravestoneThe abandoned church yard of the Keith family mausoleum with its skeletal gravestones is quite an experience. It is hidden on a hill and takes effort to get to. It was worth it! This is where I first saw the writing on the stones "Memento Mori" which is latin for "remember that you have to die"...

There is an abandoned graveyard around Devilla Forest.  I won't use its proper name, as it's best left hidden amongst the undergrowth so that it can't be disturbed. The gravestones go back to the 17th century and the inscription "Memento Mori" (remember that you'll die) together with the carved skulls certainly makes for an interesting visit. 

Deep in Devilla Forest 

Deep In Devilla ForestDeep In Devilla ForestDevilla Forest Scotland

There are few areas of tightly packed plantations in Devilla Forest and this fire break made for a good photo opportunity. 


RhododendronRhododendronDevilla Forest in Scotland

This is one of my favourite pictures. It was only once I got home that I saw the face at the end of this tunnel, an accident of twigs and branches. This tunnel of Rhododendron leads to the 'Danish Camp', an earth mound that goes back to Roman times that was a place of encampment for an army of Danes that fought a battle near here, a few centuries ago. 


Digger in Moor Loch

Devilla ForestDevilla ForestDigger with wet feet

Digger does not like water, so this excursion was worth a picture.

Plague Grave 1645

In Devilla forest, you may eventually come across this grave and beside it, there is a sign nearby that explains why it is here. The grave sadly contains the remains of 3 young children, Robert, Agnes & Jeanne Balds, who all died of the Bubonic plague on the same day - 14th September 1645. The sign also explains that the grave is maintained by the "B&M kin" of the unfortunate victims.

The Keir dam

The first time I came across the Keir dam, it was a full open expanse of water. 

Rhododendron Flowers

At the end of May, the Rhododendrons at the edge of Moor Loch carpet the ground with their flowers. 

]]> (Chris Bowness Landscape) dam devilla forest gravestones keir kincardine loch moor photographs rhododendron scotland Sat, 16 Sep 2017 07:00:00 GMT
The Grey Cairns of Camster Working in Caithness for the week and having some time on my hands in the evenings, I decided to visit the Grey Cairns of Camster which were originally built around 5,000 years ago and are some of the oldest stone monuments in Scotland.

The Cairns have largely been reconstructed, but they are still a great place to visit. The bonus is that you can crawl inside them, which was too great a temptation for me to pass by. I started by visiting the biggest Cairn, the Long Cairn, which consists of two chambers.

The Long Cairns of CamsterThe Long Cairns of CamsterThe Grey Cairns of Camster, Lybster, Caithness

The doorways, if they can be called that, are only big enough to crawl inside. I started by squeezing in the crawlway to the right hand side chamber, but quickly retreated when I realised there was a big puddle halfway along, due to recent heavy rain. I then crawled into the left hand side chamber, which was much easier than the first. Once inside I took this video of the chamber and the crawl back out.

Inside the Long Cairn (LH)Camster Cairns I then followed the wooden walkway over the bog to the round cairn and I prepared to crawl inside, this corridor was lower and darker than the last.

The Round CairnThe Round CairnThe Grey Cairns of Camster, Lybster, Caithness In the video below, you can see that it goes dark for a minute once I am inside and all you can hear is me dragging myself along. Stick with the video though, as I turn the light on once inside. When this chamber was first discovered they found skeletons and bones inside of it. It was awesome looking at the large stones in the central chamber, knowing that they could have been placed there 5 millenia ago.

Entering the Round Cairn of CamsterA tight and dark squeeze into the central chamber, where I switched my light on to see. With Dirty knees I emerged from the tunnel and walked back to my car, I had videos, pictures and a satisfaction of having been lucky enough to visit these neolithic landmarks. 





]]> (Chris Bowness Landscape) cairns caithness camster lybster scotland wick Fri, 01 Sep 2017 07:00:00 GMT