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Glen Affric

Stayed at Culloden yesterday, but didn’t bother with the battlefield attraction. Eleven quid is a rip off.

So headed to Glen Ord Distillery for a tour and a tasting which was very informative. For some reason that place is hard to avoid, we’ve past it three times now completely by accident. So rude not to go inside.

In the evening we drove into Glen Affric, alleged to be the prettiest of Scotland’s Glens. We couldn’t see much on arrival other than that the water was very high after the recent rain. We wild camped and then went off a walk around Loch Affric which was probably one of the most scenic of walks so far. Like walking through a postcard picture. Stunning.

The walk made even more entertaining by having to remove shoes and roll up trousers to wade through a ford, swollen by the rains. We’d tried for 20 minutes to find an alternative but no luck with the volume of water. So knee deep in bloody cold water if was, either that or retrace 6 miles of steps.



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Fury

On a persistently damp day, we decided to do something slightly different – in fact very different. We went to the cinema. It must have been a while since we’ve been because we were a little shocked at the cost of tickets, but hey-ho.

We opted for something that the big screen would do justice to, and plumped for Brad Pitt war flick, Fury. The tale of a U.S. tank crew in the final months of WWII, battling through Nazi Germany. The objective is unclear, other than a desire all round to kill as many Germans as possible, with a particular hatred for the SS.

Large parts of the film are shot within the tank, cramped home to 5 men. One is a rookie, who doesn’t particularly want to be there, trained only in brandishing a typewriter, but somehow deployed to replace a recently killed team member. Other more human periods of the film take place in brief rest periods between conflict.

The pace of the film was good, rarely a dull or out of place moment, but a somewhat tried and tested formula, perhaps except for the ending, which I shan’t spoil for you.

Worth seeing on the big screen, although I don’t think I’ll make the effort again soon unless it’s a film that truly does require a big screen, as the cost didn’t really justify the benefit over the small screen.



Pants

Investment advice: The past performance of pants is not an indicator of future performance. Pants may go down as well as up. You may have less pants than you started with, or you may lose your pants.



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Cairn Gorm

Trying to take advantage of a good weather day, we headed into the Cairngorms and up to the ski area. Not that there is any snow, nor do. We have ski kit on this trip, but there are still hills to walk.

A dry day, but a stiffening wind as we set off up Windy Ridge towards the summit. Right in the face as well, so we had to stop at the mountain railway cafe for a coffee and cake to warm up.

But then upwards was calling, even though the summit was disappearing into the clouds. The top was a little short on visibility, good job there were plenty of cairns as way markers, but the clouds would occasionally part for a view down towards Aviemore. We opted to do battle with the elements and headed for a jaunt around the horseshoe rim towards Cairn Lochan.

Mostly free of any view, which was a shame, and a constant 30-40mph wind in the face for a couple of miles, but once on the downward slope and the return go the van, we were more sheltered from the wind and back out of the clouds.

We even had a close up encounter with a Grouse, who looked way to confident for his own good, refusing to take off as we approached, and just trotted along a few years I front of us for quite a while. We both thought he had quite short, fat, hairy legs really. For a Grouse.

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Findhorn Foundation – Spiritual Eco Community

Forgive the radio silence for the last few days, but in coming to the east coast to avoid the worst of the rain hitting the west coast, we wound up at Findhorn, checked in and dropped out, so to speak.

Findhorn was established in the 60’s as a community for spiritually minded people. What started with a caravan on the edge of sand dunes has developed into a community of some 300 people, living consciously, striving for sustainability.

We took the tour on Monday and learn about the history and ethos, and enjoyed a lovely chat with our fellow tourees over coffee and cake afterwards. We say out a wet day on Tuesday, and then on Wednesday decided to do a Short Term guest experience. This means you can live as other members do, take part in a helping out with community chores such as cooking or tending the gardens, and be rewarded with two cooked meals shared with other community members. Unfortunately we couldn’t join the kitchen crew as we wanted to as there was a youth training workshop, but instead we got directed to the Homecare Nest. This meant cleaning duties!

Each work session begins with the team coming together to discuss the day and become ‘present’ for the task in hand. A short silent meditation and then off to work. We went off on different directions, met up again not long after for tea, then another short spell of work before lunch. Not exactly a hard day’s work. Lunch was shared with quite a crowd of other community members and a chance to chat with some of those at our table.

There is a wide range of ages and nationalities, many longer term guests on various training courses in the skills they make the community work, and it’s principles of Eco and sustainable living.

The afternoon to ourselves we went off for a walk along the beach before returning to the community centre for supper.

In the evening I went off to a lecture but Mel wasn’t interested so went back to the van. The talk, which I had to pay for, was by Gordon Buchanan who is a TV wildlife cameraman and presenter, who talked about his life’s work and more recent expeditions. Pretty entertaining and interesting, but I’m afraid I despise the style of TV he works in. Not his fault I’m sure, but I can’t stand what is science being dressed up as drama, all beat driven backing music and breathless voice overs trying to make it sound like some life threatening endeavour. As he illustrated it has its moments, but it’s nothing like the programmes portray. Bring back David Attenborough please!

What interested us most was the community of Eco-houses, a far cry from the early caravans and static homes that Findhorn started out with (and which largely remains but repurposed). Whilst we weren’t able to learn much about particular techniques, the mix of architecture makes your average housing estate look drab and lifeless (which it mostly is to be honest). Inspiring. Food for thought should we decide to go back into a house someday!

Time to move on, assuming we can avoid the weather. Into the Cairngorms to see the hills whilst trying to move back to the west coast. Wet weather forecast everywhere over the weekend though. Batten down the hatches!

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The Falls of Kirkaig and the Hills of the Assynt

After yet more inspiring during along the coast roads we stopped for a walk to the Falls of Kirkaig, a couple of miles along a glen following the river upstream. The path was rough but manageable, and the falls worth the effort alone, but the cherry on the top was by a walking another few hundred yards and creating a small hill to give a breathtaking view of Suilven and other peaks of the Assynt.

The sun kindly dipped below a band of cloud to set fire to the landscape whilst Red Deer wandered nearby, Stags bellowing across the hillsides, and is doing a merry little jig at the beauty of it all.

Scotland is quickly becoming our top place for its scenery.

On the other hand, we’ve now lost the best of the weather, at least for the rest of the week, so we have spent today retreating to the east and will lurk around Inverness until the weather improves. At least it’s dry here, although a bit on the windy side!

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The Waterfalls of Glas Bheinn

A damp start, but a cracking finish, one of the balmiest days so far. We headed out for a walk to Britain’s highest waterfall, Eas a ChĂșal Aluinn.

It has to be said, we failed, but had a lovely time. Given how fine the afternoon was turning out, we fancied a circular walk to return over Glas Bheinn, but realised that we were only making one mile per hour over rocky and boggy ground, even though the path was easy to follow. We crested the hill and got a good view across the valley to the falls, but decided given the daylight remaining it would be prudent to turn around and keep it short, rather than get stuck up a hill in the dark.

Still, a rewarding day out, and some fabulous views, especially of Quinag.

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Tarbet to Scourie

Another day, another walk. After a drive around a tiny, winding road following the coast, we arrived at Tarbet, from which you can, in the summer, get a boat across the bay to Handa Island, a bird sanctuary.

We opted for the walk over the headland to Scourie, despite the warning sign advising of its poorly way marked and challenging nature. We decided we were up to it.

Hard work though. Whilst the route was well worn and easy to follow you could see how easily you could get disorientated if the weather closed in. Only 6 miles but Mel has been nursing a bad back the last few days so we’ve been keeping the walks moderate.

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Sandwood Bay, Cape Wrath

Moving around to the west side of the Cape Wrath peninsula, we drove out to the charming bay at Droman, and then set off on a walk to Sandwood Bay, one of Scotland’s most secluded beaches.

We took the less travelled route on the way out, which ended up with about a mile of heather thrashing and bog hopping to join back up with the main path, but the walk all the better for it.

The views on the way we’re just lovely, and the beach itself pure white golden sands.

Back at the can and wildcamping by Dromen Pier for the night, we were treated to a lovely sunset to round off the day.

Travelling Through Life