Category: Hiking

Hiking and photography in Scotland Oct 2019

Juls, our daughter, and I, participated in a seven day photography, walking holiday in Scotland which commenced on 12th October 2019. The photographs therefore not only tell the story of the travel but also include some where I am trying to be artistic.

Days 1- in the Cairngorms National Park

Juls and I flew to Inverness the day before and stayed overnight in Aviemore so that we could meet the group at 10h00 at Aviemore Station. The group leader was Alastair Goodridge. The other participants were Heidi, Helen and Louise.

We drove in a minivan to the nearby Glenmore Forest Park and wandered on a circular route through the area including the Abernethy National Forest Reserve. The area was beautiful and autumn colours were appearing. There were plenty of photographic opportunities. Alastair was knowledgeable about photography but waited for us to seek help from him. The walking was slow and easy. We stopped to eat our packed lunches.

Mid afternoon we drove down to near Kingussie and explored the ruins of the Ruthven Barracks. The barracks are the best preserved of the four barracks built in 1719 after the 1715 Jacobite rising. Set on an old castle mound, the complex comprises two large three-storey blocks occupying two sides of the enclosure, each with two rooms per floor. The barracks and enclosing walls were built with loopholes for musket firing, and bastion towers were built at opposite corners. The barracks were destroyed by Jacobites following their retreat after the Battle of Culloden in 1746.

We then checked into Coig na Shee Guest House for two nights.

Day 2 – Mist above Newtonmore and a waterfall in Glen Feshie

We were up before sunrise and drove up a hill to take photos of the early morning mist above the town. I then walked down to the cemetry in the valley.

After a late breakfast we walked in Glen Feshie and practiced photographing a waterfall

We returned to Ruthven Barracks to photograph it at sunset

Day 3 – Insh Marshes and Highland Folk Museum

In the morning we walked in the Insh Marshes

Afterwards we explored the Highland Folk Museum

Day 4 – relocation to west coast

Today we relocated to the west coast of Scotland, past lochs and mountains and through the town of Strathpeffer. It was an amazing sunny autumn day.

We boarded a RIB at Gairloch and travelled two hours on the sea to Shieldaig from whence we will be exploring for the next three days.

Day 5 – Loch Torridon and Bealach na Ba

We spent the morning walking on the shore of Lake Torridon

In the afternoon we drove up a mountain pass, Bealach na Ba, to some wonderful views.

Day 6 – Beinn Eighe

Beinn Eighe is a complex mountain massif about ten miles from Shieldaig. It forms a long ridge with many spurs and summits, two of which are classified as Munros. Heidi did not hike with us today which left me as the weak link. We hiked for about two hours up a valley. I realised that i was holding the rest of the group back so I left the group and returned to the car park. They continued for another two hours to an amphitheatre behind the mountain. We returned to Shieldaig for hot chocolate.

Day 7 – Coulin Estate and back to Inverness

We walked for several hours, at a very easy pace, around the lakes of the Coulin Estate. This was a lovely way to end a very rewarding week.

The last three days had the most gorgeous weather.

Alastair has been a very good guide. He knows the areas where we have walked well and understands the environment. He has allowed us to find our way with our photography but has been available for, and been completely competent to, provide help and training. He has been sensitive to the needs and fitness of the group. He enhanced the trip.

Alastair dropped us at Inverness Airport in the afternoon for our flight back to London, after a really wonderful week.

Green Mountain Trail

I hiked the Green Mountain Trail in the Elgin Valley near Cape Town from 18th March to 22nd March 2013. The highlights of the trail are:

  • 4 hiking days
  • 57kms
  • 1,200m height gain over the 4 days
  • 60% on jeep track
  • 50% on or near cultivated land: 50% in nature
  • 40% on private land
  • 2 guest houses
  • 5 wine tastings

This is a well organised, luxurious trail with relatively long distances over easy terrain. There is a wide diversity of flora and many birds close to cultivated land.

The group comprised nine of us with most of the party in their sixties:

Bill and Pat are Britons who have been expatriates for most of their working life and are now swallows between Cape Town and the south of France.

Jane is a Briton who has lived in many places in the world and has now settled in Cape Town.

Judy is an American who has lived in many places in the world and has now settled in Cape Town.

Bill, Pat, Jane and Judy have known each other for many years. Through her sister Judy knows

Peter and Susan who are widely travelled Americans living in Vermont.

Eberhard and Gabi are Germans who have been expatriates with Siemens for much of their working lives and are now swallows between Swellendam, South Africa and northern Bavaria in Germany.

Mike Wakeford is an experienced mountain guide and was our lead guide for the four days. The trail normally has different lead guides on the first two days from the last two days but on this occasion we were lucky to have Mike leading us all the way. He was the perfect guide – confident, sensitive, caring, low key with good knowledge of the flora, birds, geography and history. He was supported by Christopher for the first two days and John on the latter two days.  Warren, a potential stand in for Mike when he leads trips to India, accompanied us for the first two days.

Green Mountain Trail Map

Hiking day 1 is 18kms long with a height gain of about 500m and took us about six hours with another hour for lunch. Broadly speaking it is a gentle 9kms hike up jeep track and then a gentle 9kms decline. The hike starts on private land on the Twaalfontein Farm near the Theewaterskloof Dam and ascends the Groenlandberg to a point near the peak where we overlooked the Elgin Valley. The jeep track allowed Cha from Porcupine Hills to bring us a delightful lunch. The hike was in the core of the Kogelberg Conservancy managed by Cape Nature and ended on the R321 at the entrance to the Cape Nature Boland Hiking Trail. This is the hardest day, principally because of the distance. We were taken back to the guest house in a mini coach which was used whenever we needed to be transported.

Day 2 is 15kms long with a minimal height gain and took us about six hours with another hour for lunch and an hour for a wine tasting at the end of the day. We started on the R321 about 2kms from our end point on the previous day, closer to Grabouw. We hiked in the Elgin Valley on the slopes of the Groenlandberg which we had ascended the previous day. For most of the day we were hiking through private land in the fynbos just above the cultivated lands of three farms. Although the distance was less than yesterday it took us the same time because the route today was mainly on paths which were slower going than the jeep track of yesterday. This was an attractive route although one was always aware of the cultivated land close by. We passed through the Molteno Brother’s farm and then on to the Oak Valley Farm where Alison Green from Wildekrans Country House brought us a delightful lunch. Many of the party opted out at lunch and left with Alison. The hardy remainder then had a hot hike on to the Paul Kluwer farm and then on his farm roads through his crops and vineyards to the main farm buildings where we had a wine tasting.

Day 3 is 13kms long with a minimal height gain and took us about four hours. We started, where we had finished yesterday, at the Paul Kluwer farm and walked through his farm past the performance area and then past workers bringing in the apple harvest. Our route took us on to a forestry area that had not been maintained and was not very attractive. We finished by walking through the wilder parts of another farm before arriving at Wildekrans Country House for a swim before an alfresco lunch. This was the least attractive day because we were walking mainly on jeep tracks and mainly through cultivated land or failed forests.

Day 4 is 11kms long with about 450m height gain and took us about four hours. This was the best of the hiking days. We left Wildekrans Country House in Houwhoek and initially followed the old wagon trail towards Botriver and then turned on to a path that took us into the mountains. We were conceptually following the route of the N2 and could often hear the traffic, but this was the wildest part of the four day trail and I loved it. We eventually descended to the west of Botriver and arrived at Beaumont Wines. We were met by the owner, Jane Beaumont, who took us into her home, where we changed for a swim in the dam in front of her house before enjoying a wonderful lunch on her veranda. A wonderful way to finish the trail. The coach had picked up our luggage from Wildekrans Country House and then took us back to Porcupine Hills where we said our goodbyes and went our separate ways.

We had five wine tastings en route. We tasted Winters Drift wines from the Molteno Brothers on the first evening at Porcupine Hills. Alison let us taste Oak Valley wines at the lunch she brought us on the second day of hiking when sat in the shade and looked over the Oak Valley vineyards. A few hours later we had a wonderful tasting of Paul Kluwer wines which were accompanied by gorgeous cheeses. On the last night at Wildekrans, before dinner, we tasted XXX wines and the next day over a fantastic lunch at Beaumont we tasted their wines. Because of the terroir of this area the wines are principally white, with the occasional pinot noir and very few reds.

We stayed the first two nights at Porcupine Hills Guest House and the last two nights at Wildekrans Country House which were both very comfortable with great food.

This is a fun, interesting walk.