Sunday 31 December 2017

A Borders Christmas

To the Borders for Christmas. Berwickshire and Roxburghshire. Frost and snow and a black wind out a blue sky, cosy homes with crackling fires overlooked by craggy castles.

Fatlips castle on a crag above Denholm, Roxburghshire:

The days after Christmas we climbed Rubers Law. We started in the village of Denholm, parking by the green, a single rugby goalpost for practice.

Above the village a muddy, but frozen track led to a forest, from where we could see our objective: Rubers Law, a miniature peak rising 340m above the village.

The snow deepened and we made our first snowballs of the year, before climbing to a stand of trees with a magical outlook over Teviotdale.

From the top The Cheviot came into view and the whole range of snowclad Cheviot Hills on the southern horizon, marking the border with England.

What a glorious place to be! If this would be our last decent walk of 2017 (it wasn't - we also went to St Abbs Head) then it was a cracker to end the year on.

Descending Rubers Law:

May 2018 bring you much joy and interest: I certainly intend that to be the case for me.

Saturday 23 December 2017


You know what Scotland is world famous for? Rain. And where does rain come from?

  • Wispy beards smeared across the stratosphere
  • Fluffly fleeces gambolling across blue skies
  • Great billowing sky cathedrals
  • Smothering grey blankets of cloud
  • Dark curtains parting for shafts of sunlight

I once asked a visitor from South Africa what they best liked about Scotland. Her reply? “Clouds.”

It’s hard to believe (because it almost never happens in Scotland), but perfect sunny day followed by perfect sunny day for days on end eventually gets boring.

It was photographer Colin Baxter who introduced Scots to the concept of clouds as a thing to celebrate rather than moan about. Before him photo books of Scottish landscapes showed a country of blue skies and sunshine, something that spoke more of the accepted standards of photographic merit (and the photographer’s perseverance with the weather) than of the beauty - or reality - of the landscape.

We've moved on. Today, films can include scenes where you can’t even *see* the landscape and yet be considered inspiring and iconic.

Source: Eon Productions

So if you are fed up with bright sunshine beating down on you day after day and crave a change... you know where to come.

Saturday 16 December 2017

A Winter Corbett

What a long period of fantastic weather we have had this winter! Cold and dry, each weekend has sparkled - even if only for a few hours each morning. (If you wake up in winter and it's sunny, my dad used to say, get out straight away! You can always do your day's other tasks in the afternoon, when it has clouded over. His wisdom has proved itself time and time again - see if you don't now notice it yourself).

I realised I hadn't climbed a new Corbett all year. Time was running out. Where would it be? If I had a companion it would be Beinn Trilleachan by Loch Etive, a fjordside hill with stimulating views. If I was going solo it would be Ben Vuirich, which on the map looks like one of the most arduous small hills in the Southern Highlands. From Blair Atholl a long estate track leads to a horrendous 3.5km bog trot. This would be even more difficult - if not impossible - in deep snow.

I went solo.

But what I found was so much better than expectation.

Above Edradour:

The secret was that I did not approach from Blair Atholl - the route described in the guidebooks and so the route everybody takes. Instead I looked for a route that would minimise time trudging over bogs and approached from the south via Gleann Fearnach. Like my idiosyncratic route up Creag Meagaidh, it was deserted and enjoyable. I'm not sure why more people don't go this way.

Beinn a' Ghlo from Gleann Fearnach:

Heading up, I passed beautiful Glenfernate Lodge, owned by former Conservative minister David Heathcote-Amory, the tracks of hundreds of mountain hares in the snow. Buzzards flew above and some chilly-looking sheep grazed a riverside pasture.

Above Gleann Fearnach lie thousands of acres of grouse moor, and the going became tough. The ground levels out and paradoxically becomes much more arduous due to the peat hags that have to be negotiated. I kept my mind on the steeper, easier slopes ahead, each step taking me closer to the top, treating it as a metaphor for life. At least the snow wasn't as deep as it could have been.

Loch Loch from the upper slopes of Ben Vuirich:

In an increasingly cold wind, a raven watched me stop and take a drink out my flask of tea. If I broke an ankle here and failed to crawl down again, this would be the bird that pecked my eyes out. I made sure of each onward step.

To Glas Tuleachain and the hills above Glenshee:

The top was freezing, big Beinn a' Ghlo dominating the view north, the flowing white curves of Glenshee, a glimpse of the oddly-named Loch Loch, Shiehallion prominent in the distance, and Ben Vrackie above Pitlochry a shaggy, Trossachs-like gathering of knarled ground. 

Ben Vuirich summit:

I returned happy, listening once back on the track to personal development audios on my mp3 player and waving to a stalker on a quad bike as he drove past - the only person I saw all day.

Sunday 10 December 2017

Happy Birthday! 500th Post

Happy birthday! The Loveofscotland blog is 500 posts old. I started it to give impressions and poetry from around Scotland. It was intended as a more frequently updated companion to, an online tour of Scotland that does not really change (and badly needs another update). Below is a link to a map where you can see every post in the blog:

The most popular post is The Driest Town in Scotland. The least popular? Pretty much any with poems. There’s hillwalking, historical, and just general out-and-about posts, and as the quantity of posts has dried up, the style has become drier, more terse.

When I look around my space, I see chatty blogs giving a tourist-centred view of Scotland; I see blogs about hillwalking or canoeing that inspire awe and envy; I see political blogs that I avidly read but don’t really get involved in; I see some amazing one-stop portals like Undiscovered Scotland; I see lifestyle and fashion blogs featuring la dolce vita.

So here’s the thing. What would you like to see more of? Not poetry, that is obvious from the stats. But the general out and about posts, the outdoorsy posts, and the historical ones vie with each other in the top 50.

Is there anything about Scotland you wish you knew, but maybe didn't even know you didn't know...?