Category: life

Quick and Dirty Backpacking

Inspired by Fiona’s talk of backpacking trips, and with an evening and following morning off work, I decided to head off on my own little adventure while the weather held.

Finished my days work at 2.30pm, so headed home to stuff some essentials into a haversack. With a vague plan to walk over to Goats Water and camp below Dow Crag I set off.  It was 5pm by the time I reached Tilberthwaite, and started uphill.

From Tilberthwaite I headed up the path to the top of Weatherlam. Sun on my face all the way, the reward -  views over the Langdale Pikes and Crinkles in the distance and views down to Greenburn. Next, Swirl How the days highpoint. From here the vista opened out to the Duddon Valley, Harter Fell and the Scafells.  Then a left turn and along to  Brim Fell and Coniston Old Man.

Sunset Summits

The fells are magic at this time of night; deserted apart from me and two runners, and the light is amazing. Being high up watching the sunset over the lakes as the sky around Scafell turns red and the mist starts to form in the valleys – just amazing.

Sunset over Scafell and Grey Frair

Ended up camping at Goat Hause rather than dropping down to the tarn. Didn’t really want to leave that view, and I found somewhere flat with running water.

Morning and waking up to views over Dow Crag (I think I have a crush), time to walk down to Coniston, and head home ready for work this afternoon.

A quick and just a little bit dirty backpacking hit – soul food indeed.

Hebrides Itinerary

Some workings on how a Outer Hebrides trip might work.  I’m going on the conservative side with timings (10mph) assuming that we’ll be stopping to look at views and history.  Lots of folk seem to do it in 3 or 4 days, but i guess some of that is taking most direct route rather than scenic route, and maybe not going up to Butt of Lewis, and back down again.

Approaching MalacleitApproaching Malacleit by Richard X, on Flickr

Day 1

1. Train to Oban

Trains to Oban go via Glasgow. Need to be in Oban by early afternoon.

2. Ferry Oban to Castlebay (Barra)

Timetable: summer-barra–oban-castlebay . Most days the ferry seems to depart mid-afternoon and  get in late at night 8.30pm (4.5 hours)

Maybe stay on Vatersay? or maybe cycle to near ferry if light and conditions allow..

Day 2

1. Cycle Barra

It’s 8 miles from the ferry port  at Castlebay to the ferry port at Ardmhor via the east coast of the Island.  9 miles via the west coast.  (1 hour aprox)

2. Ferry off Barra

There’s 4 ferries a day from Ardmhor; 9.25, 11:10, 15:45, 17:30 . Would be good to get first one. (the sailing to Eriskay takes 40 mins)

3. Cycle Eriskay to South Usit

3 miles from Ferry to South Usit across the causeway.
35 miles up the island of South Uist.

(4hours aprox)

Day 3

1. Cycle Benbecular

a) The long way round – 11 miles, by the main road

b) Up the main road – 7miles

(1 hour aprox)

2. Cycle North Uist

a) the long way round (west coast) – 32 miles

b) the east way – 23 miles.

(3 hours aprox)

Day 4

1. Ferry from North Uist to Harris

Timetable: north-uist-and-harris (berneray-leverburgh)

Four ferries a day, either up early for the 7.15 or later for the 10:25

(takes 1 hour)

2. Cycle Harris

1. Cycle 50 Miles up Harris – a few different routes depending on how feel.
would be good to make some dent on the next days miles too.

(5  – 6 hours)

Day 5

1. Cycle Lewis

Cycle up one side of Isle to butt of Lewis – then back down the other side to Stornaway,
70 miles – 7 hours

Day 6

There used to be a coach that took bikes between ullapool and inverness, but no longer running. Seems the only way with bikes is to ride.

1. Ferry Stornaway to Ullapool

Ferry Timetable: Stornaway > Ullapool

Seems to be 2 a day, most days. Either up early for the 7am – or there’s one at 13:50 takes 3 hours.

2. Ride Ullapool to Garve

Along A835 is 32 miles with 450m of ascent – approx 3 hours.

3. Train – Garve to Inverness

Trains at 13:39, 16:14, 18:50 (check up to date times nearer time)

4. Train Inverness to Home

train back to edinburgh/carlisle


Freedom of Scotland Travel pass;

  • covering Train and Ferry. and some coasches
  • 4 days unlimited travel out of 8 consecutive days £114
  • Valid from Carlisle.


Crazy Guy on a Bike | Magic of the Outer Hebrides of Scotland
Paul’s Cycling Trips (with 2 Hebrides trips)
Book: Cycling in the Hebrides: Island Touring and Day Rides (not released until 15th May 2012)

Alpine Daydreaming

Mont Ruan, originally uploaded by <<<...Buddhamountain....

A dear friend bought me “Trekking in the Alps” for Christmas. A nice glossy summary of 20 classes routes. But where to start?

Trekking in the Alps, a Cicerone GuideI’m quite fancying the Tour of Mont Ruan. There’s dinosaur footprints and no guidebook. It’s also 5-6 days so doable in a weeks holiday maybe?

There’s long term goals of Tour of Mont Blanc and HRP also in my head, so this might be a good introduction.

The good news, there’s a website, the bad it’s in French. This seems to suggest 4 stages, so I guess the summit side trips make it longer.

Let the research begin!

Random Touring Bits

Some random bits from my 2011 tour of France, and Northern Spain.

Camping in France

There are a lot of campsites in France – but about half of them shut at the end of September, some more shut at the end of October, and yet more shut mid November (after the 11th November bank holiday). Not very many open all year.  Confusingly some campsites remain open – but not for tents, only for caravans. It’s not often you can’t find an open site – but sometimes it takes a bit of planning.  When you do find a site, you’ll probably be the only person in an actual tent.  Autumn camping in France seems to mean campervan.

Some trees are too thick to tie a bike to, Tree provision is a big pitch consideration.

Because I often didn’t plan on wildcamping (i do like a shower after a day in the saddle)  it was always a bit of a last minute decision. Usually meaning i didn’t have enough water to re-hydrate and cook. Sometimes i just ate prince biscuits and drank tea – sometimes i cooked then work up dry mouthed.  Better planning and more water carrying capacity might be the way forward.


I did manage to spend the first month with reduced and painful mobility in my right shoulder- no idea what caused it – but I think maybe sleeping on it. It went away again though.

The only medicine I used was anti-fungal cream and 2 tablets of ibuprofen.

Towards the end I  lost some feeling in the fingers on my right hand – they would be tingly at times- and numb at others.  It took a week to feel my little finger again.  All OK now though.

It’s probably a good idea to carry a first aid kit.

Bike Bits

I love my bike.

I intended fit a kick stand before I went, but never got round to it.  I’d still quite like one. (…but)

It’s a good idea to write the code that corresponds to your wheel size on the back of your bike computer – then you’ll know it when you reset your computer trying to change the time.

I also love my non-puncturing tyres.

My saddle kept coming loose near the start – I took it to a man with dead long allan keys and he sorted it.  Pigeon French and gesticulating was involved. He didn’t even charge me.

My bike is a boy magnet.  (I am not)


on The Road

Hills are the best bit.

I took a week off to go bouldering in Font, apart from that I took 4 days off, for sightseeing more than rest. Generally I would cycle about 80km a day – although a few days i just did 50km.

French and Spanish drivers are nice to bikes.  Merci Beaucoup! Gracias!

A woman said to me “if you can do this, you can do anything“. I hadn’t though of it like that, but I liked it.

Loire Valley

The Loire valley is very geared up for cycle touring, in much the same way a railway is geared up for trains. The Loire à Vélo touring route goes sea to source, or vise-versa. It’s well signposted, its largely on quiet roads, or off road. Better yet the Loire valley has really bought into the route, tourist attractions all have bike parking, much of the accommodation has bike friendly certification,  apparently even the trains have special bike carriages.  You can imagine that in summer it’s rammed. I avoided that by going in October.

The Loire is famous for châteaus and wine,  so in some ways it’s not the kind of place you’d expect to find me; I don’t like wine, and nobility bores me quickly.

What I loved about the Loire was the quality of light.  The rivers mirror surface bounces this light around making everything seem a little ethereal.   The Autumn nights were cold, and come morning mist would rise off the river like smoke.  Mid mornings were still cold, but the mist’s  gone, instead the blue sky is everywhere.

Loire Barge

Cold clear mornings on the mirror of the Loire

“The river, a constant companion” is one of the route’s strap-lines, cheesy, but an unparalleled navigational aid. (We’ll neatly sidestep the day I got lost and cycled of the edge of my map; I was looking for a more challenging route – I found it.)  The Loire is a companion with a lot of character. Languid, and indulgent. The area isn’t cheap- it feels firmly aimed at the middle class traveller, there’s no backpacker circuit in evidence.  I was mainly camping, where sites were open, and these where generally nice three and four star sites.  Meals were of excellent quality – but prices also seemed notch above average. The harsh exchange rate no doubt exacerbating perceptions. All in all very sophisticated.


More great reflections

I did check out a couple of the many Loire châteaus. On a rest day in Azay  le Rideau I visited the Château there. The palace is small and neat and both above and below stairs life is exhibited. Oak beams in the roof are like the innards of a ship.  The same afternoon I visited the troglodyte peasant village down the road, they cut their homes  and livestock shelters into limestone banks, complete with refuges for when raiders where sweeping through.  Its good to see both sides of the coin.


There's a lot of Châteaus in the Loire. This one is Azay-le-Rideau.

The other château I visited was retirement home of Leonardo de vinci, Clos Lucé. The main theme here is the man, and his inventions and discoveries – reproductions abound in various sizes – could have done with a bit more interaction I reckoned though; of course I want to play with them, who wouldn’t?