Friday, 30 April 2010

A Day in Tobermory

The nearest town to Kilchoan is Tobermory, a 35-minute ferry ride away across the Sound of Mull. In winter there are three ferries a day each way, which is more than enough for the traffic, but this doubles in summer. Even so, passengers have been left behind at exceptionally busy times, and there is always the chance that the weather will change and the ferry cancelled.

For a visitor to Kilchoan, Tobermory is a great day out as, by any standards, it's an exceptionally pretty seaside town. The main part of the town is set round a bay, with steep slopes hemming it in and a small river cutting it in half. Part of its charm is the tradition of painting its seaside houses in a variety of colours; that this makes it so photogenic partly explains the success of the BBC series, Balamory, for which a phenomenal 254 episodes were made - so, for our young visitors, Tobermory is an essential destination.

For people relying on it for their day-to-day needs, it has limitations. There's an excellent dentist, a bank, a good hotel and some promising restaurants, and a pub that is worth a visit. The Co-op is the only supermarket but it's far too small, and its rival, a Spar store, has closed down this week. There is a bookshop, which also sells fishing tackle, a chandlers, and a good hairdresser, but the town's single greatest shopping asset is Browns, one of those almost-extinct, old-style hardware stores which sells everything, including, bizarrely, whisky.

My affection for Tobermory arises from its greatest product, Tobermory 10-year old whisky. This is such a lightly peated, friendly single malt it can be taken with your breakfast, but if you prefer something a little heavier, there are several other bottlings which go under the original name for the settlement, Ledaig, including one which retails at over £100.

The distillery, housed in gaunt and crowded stone buildings, is located beside the river, sharing its water with a hydro-electric plant. The business dates back to 1798 but it has a history of closures - its most recent re-opening was in 1990. Thank goodness it did survive, for the world would be a much sadder place without this little gem of a drink.

Wednesday, 28 April 2010


The hoodie, or hooded crow, is a common resident of the Ardnamurchan area. On a wider scale, he is found in western Scotland and Ireland - but not England - and across most of northern and eastern Europe. He was originally thought to be a subspecies of the carrion crow which is native to much of western Britain but is now classed as a separate species, Corvus cornix.

The hoodie is a survivor, an omnivorous scavenger who eats anything from carrion to insects to the eggs and young of other birds. He's an intelligent bird: for example, if he finds a crab, sea urchin or sea snail such as a whelk, he flies into the air with it and drops in onto a rock, repeating the process until the shell breaks. This activity has been closely studied by scientists - who obviously have little better to do - who discovered that crows lift the shell to an average height of 5m before dropping it, and tend to drop a shell more than once, persisting until it is broken, rather than selecting another shell. If you doubt this research, local hoodies can often be observed doing it on the rocks round Kilchoan Bay.

If the hoodie confined his depredations to wild animals he would probably be accepted but he's persecuted as a killer of lambs. When a lamb is first born and helpless the hoodie goes for its softest and most vulnerable parts, its eyes, pecking them out. If they're not killed, the lambs are left horribly mutilated.

Monday, 26 April 2010

West Ardnamurchan Vintage Photographs

A reminder that Iain MacDonald runs a superb site on which he is collecting vintage photographs of West Ardnamurchan. The number of pictures has increased hugely, as has the help he's had from people identifying the places and people in the photographs.

This picture was taken from the Ormsaigbeg road looking southeastwards towards Kilchoan Bay and the slipway, with Ben Hiant in the distance. In the foreground on the left is Craigard, where Mary-Jane Scott (nee MacPhail) lived for many years. Mull View is the white house in the centre of the picture with the Ferry Stores to the left of it.

The West Ardnamurchan Vintage Photograph site is here. Many thanks to Dochie Cameron for this photograph.

Saturday, 24 April 2010

A Hard Walk to Garbh-dhail

Much of West Ardnamurchan was once covered in trees but it must now be one of the most tree-less places in Britain. By contrast, the north shore of Loch Sunart, along which the road to Kilchoan runs, is one of the few places in Scotland where the original thick, temperate oakwoods still survive. That the woodland has gone is further evidence of the large population this area once supported.

One of the few places where the original woodland is still visible is at Garbh-dhail. It can be reached by walking south from the Sonachan Hotel but we approached it from the northeast, from the Kilchoan-Achosnich road. On our way we passed Lochan an Aodainn (the lochan of faces), with the craggy heights of Beinn na h-Imeilte (the hill of many stream) beyond.

It was hard walking across heather and bog dissected by numerous small streams which have dug themselves into narrow ditches in the peat, ideal places to fall and turn an ankle. To our south loomed the dark lump of Beinn na Seilg (the hill of hunts).
As we neared our objective, the view opened up to the south, across the woodland that leads down to the Sonachan, and across the valley to the tiny crofting hamlet of Achosnich. The islands of Muck and Rhum lie in the distance.

Finally, we looked down into a sharply-defined valley which cuts south, coming out at the Sound of Mull some four kilometres away. This has formed along the line of a fault which runs radially out from the old volcanic centre. And in the bottom of this valley nestle the woodlands of Gargh-dhail.
The walk was done in good conditions, during dry, winter weather following several sharp frosts. Please note that there is no mobile signal. Total distance about 5km. A map showing the area is here.

Thursday, 22 April 2010

Ardwalkers Trip to Eigg

Ardwalkers (Ardnamurchan Walkers) began about four years ago when six friends got together to do some serious walking round and about Ardnamurchan. The original six were John and Philippa Dove, Dave and Jenny Kime and John and Sandra Evans. In later months the were joined by numerous other keen walkers who go out on their trips each fortnight. To celebrate the one hundredth walk a trip to Eigg was arranged and on Tuesday 13th April a group of sixteen very cheerful folk traveled to Mallaig and boarded the Calmac ferry to Eigg. Upon arrival at Eigg our luggage was transported to Glebe Barn Hostel where we were to stay for two nights. We walked from the pier to Glebe Barn where after settling in and taking lunch we took a walk to the village of Cleadale - a truly beautiful place.Upon returning from our walk a great evening of food, wine and malt contributed by all was enjoyed along with some wonderful stories. The following morning was the real reason for our expedition and we were blessed with the most beautiful weather. The walk to the Sgurr was mostly dry with just a few wet patches to cross, lots of stops were taken to photograph the breathtaking scenery and we eventually arrived on top of the Sgurr at midday where after lots of photographs we ate our packed lunches. Some took the very steep way down whilst three of us returned the way we had come up. After cups of tea and showers we dressed up for our night out and were picked up by the islands minibus which took us to Lageorna restaurant where we had a splendid meal. The following morning, another beautiful day, some walked to the graveyard at Kildonnan then back to the pier whilst others walked to the Massacre Cave and the Lairds House. Returning to Mallaig in the mid afternoon we all reflected on a truly memorable trip which will remain in my mind forever as I am sure will be the same for the other fifteen members of the party. Thanks must go to Dave and Jenny for the hard work they put into arranging this trip. By Sue Cameron

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Mingary Castle - 3

If there was a Viking fort on the site of Mingary Castle all evidence is lost. The main sections of the present fortification’s curtain walls and the NW entrance doorway were built during the 13th century when Ardnamurchan lay in the lordship of the MacDougals of Lome.

At the battle of Bannockburn in 1314, the MacDougals sided with the English against Robert the Bruce. Angus Og MacDonald, great-grandson of Somerled, the man who had first united Norse and Scot, supported the Bruce. As a reward, he received, amongst other lands, the territory of Ardnamurchan and the castle. However, he chartered it to his younger brother, Iain Sprangach (the Bold), the founder of the Clan MacIain of Ardnamurchan.

Mingary from the CalMac Pier

John MacDonald of Islay inherited the lands from Angus Og, but he sided with the English puppet John Balliol in the war against David II, the Bruce’s successor. When David returned from exile in 1341 to reclaim his crown, he confiscated some of John of Islay’s possessions, granting Ardnamurchan to Iain Sprangash’s son, Angus MacIain. For the next 300 years it was to remain in the hands of the MacIains.

The first written record of the castle dates from the reign of James IV, when the King occupied it in 1493 following his destruction of the MacDonalds’ power as Lords of the Isles. The then Lord of the Isles, John MacDonald, forfeited his lands to the King and left to die in Inverness, but the MacIains, having sworn loyalty to the young King, kept Ardnamurchan. The King was back in 1495, when the MacIains assisted him in putting down a rebellion by Donald MacDonald of Lochalsh.

In the years that followed, the Ardnamurchan MacIains reached the peak of their power and influence. This crest, courtesy Thomas Steifer, is the MacIains': the ship is significant, for much of their power depended on Mingary Castle's control of the Sound of Mull.

Monday, 19 April 2010

Kilchoan Scrufts

We are being spoiled in Kilchoan with the lovely weather at the moment and today was no exception.
It was the day of Kilchoan Scrufts and all the children turned up with their pets. The small pet category had Guinea pigs and gerbils and the larger pets were all dogs except for a beautiful little lamb called Springer owned by Katie.
All the kids had fun trying to get their pets to impress the Judge, Mr David Cash, who had asked them to show off their talents in siting, giving a paw and any other tricks they could do.
Alex the spaniel was very impressive as he gave 2 paws and did a little dance and some how Breeze the Labrador did a roll over trick, never before seen by her owner.
The highlight of the afternoon was the fancy dress pet category.
Well Done to everyone for making an effort to dress up their pets. 3rd prize went to Dizzy the collie who was a Ballerina, 2nd prize was to Peggy the gerbil as a police woman and 1st prize went to Zac the Labrador as Captain Zac Sparrow. All the other pets outfits were great too and none of them seemed too bothered about being dressed up.
The money from the entry fees will be given to the Kilchoan Children's Party Fund.
Gael Cameron

Sunday, 18 April 2010

The Northern Lights

You don’t need to travel to Lapland to see the Northern Lights. Although a very rare occurrence, they can be spotted in Ardnamurchan, and one particular experience of them still remains a vivid memory.

I hadn't lived in Kilchoan for long when I was woken in the middle of the night by my Dad. He explained the Northern Lights were out and got me out of bed. One thing which is lovely in a village like Kilchoan is how if someone spots something exciting and unusual, they ring around other people with similar interests. So, wrapped in a blanket to help prevent me getting cold, I stood outside my house at the Ferry Stores looking up at the most eerie sight. The Northern Lights weren’t just above us, they were shining down all around us. Changing from green to pink, the light was not from the north at all, but like a misty spotlight. Being young, tired and incredibly freaked out, I hid back indoors after what was probably only five minutes of this extraordinary experience.

We haven’t seen this magnificent sight in many years because sunspot activity, which causes the lights, has been low. But I look forward to a night that we get a phone call to look outside at the Aurora Borealis again. Next time, I won’t be running inside and hiding.


Photo taken at Tromso, courtesy Osopolar on Wikimedia Commons For anyone interested in email alerts of sunspot activity, join AuroraWatch here - also super photos.

Friday, 16 April 2010

Google Map

View Larger Map

This is taken from Google maps and shows a close-up view of the fields at the back of Grianan croft in Ormsaigmore. At the centre is the chambered cairn of Greadal Fhinn (see Diary entry of 29th November for details of this Viking-aged structure).

Around the cairn can be seen evidence of the intense farming activity that once supported a far larger population than this area now holds. There are the parallel lines that mark old lazy beds, there are walls, the rectangular arrangement of some suggesting either byres or small houses, and there are other structures which are difficult to decipher.

This area isn't unusual. All along the coastline from the entrance to Kilchoan to the last croft in Ormsaigbeg, there is clear evidence of intensive farming.

The area of Ormsaigmore shown lost many of its inhabitants during the Clearances, when it became part of the local estate. It was later returned to crofting use, but only three large crofts were created.


Thursday, 15 April 2010

Volcanic Activity

This morning my parents left Kilchoan on the 8am bus to Fort William for their holiday in Jamaica. They were due to catch a flight later today from Glasgow to Gatwick, but of course, have had to hop onto a train instead due to the Iceland volcanic eruption.

This eruption helps to remind me of the old geology lessons my Dad used to give me when we first moved to Ardnamurchan and went walking in the hills. When you stand in Achnaha and look around you, you can tell that you're in the centre of what was a huge volcano. If it had still been a volcano today, it might have done more than just halt British flights!

More information about Iceland's eruption can be found here:

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Spring Continues...

The lambs are still arriving, this little chap being the first of twins, born just after midday yesterday. The weather is perfect for lambing but the late spring has meant that the new grass has been slow to appear.

With the chill of this morning's dew still lying across the land, this enterprising young man found a warm spot in which to enjoy the early sun.

And the Hebridean Princess came to anchor just off the Ormsaigbeg shore early yesterday evening. She was still there this morning, along with the first yacht of the year in Kilchoan Bay.

Tuesday, 13 April 2010


This photo of a common lizard comes from Geoffrey Campbell who runs an excellent website which describes marinas, chandlers, slipways, jetties and other shoreside facilities of interest to leisure sailors. It's here.

The lizard was basking in the sun on Geoffrey's windowsill in Kilchoan. The lizard clan seem to have thrived through this unusual winter: we've seen several over the last few weeks.

We've also had a number of recent sightings of sea eagles, and two golden eagles were reported flying along Ormsaigbeg yesterday midday.

Another Day on the Beach

We took our family visiting from Suffolk down to Sanna yesterday for a few hours on the beach.

That's us - if you can find us - with Ardnamurchan Lighthouse in the distance.

One of the party went swimming. She said it was.... refreshing.

Monday, 12 April 2010

A Day's Work at the School

From Gael Cameron:

On Saturday morning, 10th April, the weather was glorious and the sun shining as the local children and their parents headed down to the primary school with wheelbarrows, spades and rakes in hand. The jobs for the day were to clear out the storage sheds and take part in some landscaping.

Some of the parent, kids and the primary teacher Miss McLuckie started emptying the sheds of old desks, chairs and toys which were of no use. They carried them to the dump trailer, kindly parked nearby by Davie. Some parents went down to the site of the proposed Playpark where piles of woodchips were left from the clearance of that site last year. They shovelled them into bags until the tractor turned up to collect larger loads and ferry them back to the school. Other parents and some of the children had started to dig out a pathway starting from the newly slabbed area at the school entrance down to the garden area at the back. The aim here was to create a pathway where the children could avoid the mud, thus preventing them from messing up the school carpets or going home at the end of the day with very muddy trousers.

Once the pathway was dug out, the woodchips were barrowed, shovelled and raked into place. A final flutter of grass seed along the paths edge finished the job off nicely. Everyone worked really hard on such a warm day and the end result looked great.

Miss McLuckie was very impressed, and Jon from the parents council extended a big "Thank you" to all those who came out and lent a hand.

Sunday, 11 April 2010

A Day on a Deserted Beach

We drove over to Branault yesterday evening about 8.30, where we were greeted by a glorious sunset over the northwestern tip of Ardnamurchan. At this time of year our evenings are stretching later and later, so quickly that the difference each evening is almost visible; very soon it will be light all night.

The red sky last night rightly predicted a fine day today so, with the tide low at 11.30am, we walked to our favourite beach on the north coast. On our way we passed the abandoned village of Plocaig, this view looking along the houses towards the gaunt massif of Meall Sanna. Whenever I pass this village I imagine the women sitting on wooden benches in front of the stone croft houses watching the children play on the grass. Now, the village is completely deserted.

These enclosed beaches were our destination, and we spent a good part of the day on them, soaking up the sunshine. In all the time we were there, we didn't see another soul even though, when we returned to the Sanna car park, it was full. Ardnamurchan has so much space that, even on a 'busy' day, people literally lose themselves in it.

In a bay a little further on three grey seals were, like us, basking in the sun. We were pleased to see them: we've seen far fewer seals this winter, although we spotted three playing in a small inlet along the shore of Loch Sunart the other day.

Saturday, 10 April 2010

And now.... Heatwave

Fifteen degrees in the shade and only a slight breeze - it has suddenly turned so hot that, for some, it's exhausting. For others the year's work has only just started: this mother produced her triplets late yesterday afternoon.

This neat little croft house is Lag na Lion, Flax Hollow, the photo taken today. The green of the new grass is clearly visible on the hillside, and much appreciated by the new mothers, though much of this end of the village is covered with last year's dead bracken.

My family's reaction to wall-to-wall sunshine was to take the kayaks out. With the tide falling the waves were bouncy enough to be fun but, as it turned, there was a noticeable drop in the state of the sea.

The winter behind us has been unusual in so many ways - not least that we thought we were going to weather it without a power cut. Many of us have generators at the back of our houses ready for these occasions, and they are in use several times through a normal winter; the worst outage lasted three days. But, at nine the night before last, the system reverted to type, with some 440 homes cut off from Glenborrodale westwards. Most were back shortly after eleven but, with the fault in a transformer down the far end of the village at Coilum, Ormsaigbeg stayed off until shortly after three yesterday morning. When asked, the electricity board blamed 'aging equipment'.

Friday, 9 April 2010

Peacocks & Martins

The signs of spring seem to start as a trickle: a lesser celandine; the first primrose; a pair of pied wagtails. Now, suddenly, they're becoming an avalanche.

We found this peacock butterfly in the grass by Trevor Potts' campsite. It's the first butterfly of the spring, and he seemed drunk with the excitement of it, getting up to flap a few wobbly feet before crashing back into the grass. Yet he was in beautiful condition after a winter hidden in a crack in a tree or a rock crevice, all ready to mate and produce the first caterpillar brood of the year.

Then - even more exciting - as we were walking along the road below Meall mo Chridh, we spotted sand martins flitting low over the marsh grass. They usually beat the swallows and house martins back here by a few weeks, but there have been reports of the first swallows already.

Some of our sand martins nest in the small quarry on the Sanna road, just up from the fire station. There's a vertical face with a layer of sandy soil just below the peat, with several of their brood holes in it.

These little birds, a mere 12cm (5") long, have just made a 5,000 mile flight from their winter quarters in southern Africa. Many have died on the way, their tiny, desiccated corpses scattered across the sand dunes of the Sahara. They've come so far - yet they manage to navigate their way back to the same holes they left in the autumn of last year.

As we arrived home we were reminded that some of our most spectacular wildlife stays with us all winter when a sea eagle flapped lazily across the croft land of Ormsaigbeg.

Thursday, 8 April 2010

News of Sounds

An entertaining day in the Sound of Mull today. At lunchtime we had the following ships passing before us: two of the Northern Lighthouse Board's ships, Pharos (left in picture) and Pole Star, the salmon farm supply ship Ronja Skye (right in picture), a whale watching boat out of Tobermory (centre), two fishing boats, the Kilchoan-Tobermory ferry Loch Linnhe, and the two Royal Navy patrol boats which ran up the Sound on Saturday. To add to the fun, a Royal Navy Sea King, which had flown across the face of Ben Hiant a little earlier, came up the Sound and passed almost directly overhead.

For those of you who remember Mary-Jane Scott, there is excellent news.

Mary-Jane was renowned for the chickens she kept. They were such a feature of Ormsaigbeg that Michael MacGregor, a local photographer who produces the most lovely postcards, produced one which showed them scratching around in the dust in front of the Craigard byre and across the road. They were expensive chickens: Mary-Jane charged £5 if you ran one over.

Yesterday, this new, noisy bird appeared at Craigard. He's a very fine rooster, a pedigree, and his owner has promised him a number of wives to keep him company. But, be warned: inflation has struck here too - running him over is costed at £15.

Lastly, the Diary very much appreciates the comments people make. They are moderated before being posted and, so far, only one has been rejected - it had a link to scantily clad ladies in Taiwan. But one of the most recent, from Nigel Mackenzie, relates to an entry several weeks ago in March, and gives a link to his music. I thoroughly enjoyed the sound, so the link is here.

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Kilchoan Shore Clean Up

Report from Geoffrey Campbell

The Kilchoan Clean Up team got to work on a blustery Bank Holiday and gave the foreshore and road a thorough Spring clean. This year's effort was earlier than usual and the litter wasn't hidden by the irises on the foreshore which helped to boost the haul. There was the usual mixture of material from the sea: odd boots; a flipper; rubber gloves and fishing paraphernalia along with a haul of crisp packets, beer cans, a lot of Strongbow cider (one can unopened) and countless plastic bottles and tubs.

Many thanks to all those who pitched in to help. This year we were joined by 6 pickers from Belgium working the shore west of the shop, clearing many bags of rubbish and skirting around the dead seal.

The clean up ended with the traditional pint and sandwich in the Kilchoan House Hotel where we enjoyed the satisfaction of a job well done.

Next year's date is pencilled in for Easter Monday 25th April. See you there.

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

The End of the Great Walk

Update from Gael Cameron:

The final stage of the West Highland Way from Kinlochleven to Fortwilliam (14 miles) started with heavy showers. This section makes use of an old military road that eschews the sea level route along Loch Leven and Loch Linnhe.

Hughie was able to meet the walkers at the 7 mile point, with his final offering of tea and home baking provided for the trip by May and Liz. All the lads were very grateful for the extra sugar boosts along the way.

The final stretch was a bit of rough walking through forestry plantations until they saw the huge bulk of Ben Nevis. They descended into Glen Nevis down a forestry road, then walked alongside the River Nevis. About one and a half miles from the end they passed a massive boulder on their left called Clach Comhairle the stone of counsel.

The wives, children and friends met up at the finishing point and walked along the road to Glen Nevis to meet the lads coming in and spur them on to the finish. We were delighted to see them all safe and sound, and they were delighted as the end was very much in sight. The children greeted them with congratulations, balloons and big hugs - and Scott was greeted with the promised haircut.

A huge "Thank You" goes to all of them for this great achievement and all the money they have raised for our cause. We are well on track to reach the funds we need to build the Playpark and create a place where everyone can remember our beautiful wee boy Caleb.

A map of the route is here.

Monday, 5 April 2010

Seagull Weather

Half a dozen gannets appeared around midday, diving for fish in the bay and soaring on a stiff southerly wind which gusted to Force 8 at times and brought occasional, stinging showers. The seagull family, and these birds in particular, are one of the few that seem to enjoy this weather.

We haven't seen gannets all winter, and they are always occasional visitors here, even though their nesting grounds are off the west Scottish coast. But, when they do arrive, they're fascinating to watch. They're big birds with a wingspan of almost 2m (6ft), yet they suddenly plunge from a great height, vertically, into the sea, seizing a fish before bobbing back to the surface; and, within minutes, they're in the air again.

During the summer they dive on the shoals of bait fish which are forced to the surface by predators below. The fact that they are so active suggests that the fish are already in the Sound, another indication of Spring.

The Dedication of a West Highland Walker

This is Scott, one of the men walking the 96 miles of the West Highland Way in aid of the Kilchoan Playpark Fund.

Scott will be raising several hundred pounds for the fund, in part by taking a bet that he wouldn't shave or cut his hair during the 101 days leading up to the event.

But when the walkers reach Fort William tomorrow, they will be practising their shearing skills - on Scott.

Sunday, 4 April 2010

West Highland Way - Easter Sunday

Update from Gael Cameron:

Today's walk was from Bridge of Orchy to Kinlochleven. Weather very dull this morning, not the beautiful sunny day we had here in Kilchoan. They arrived at Inveroran at 10ish for coffee with Hughie and Jordan and then moved on to Kingshouse arriving there in time for lunch.

The Inveroran to Kingshouse section - 9.5 miles (15.25 km) - is one of the most exposed. It's wide open all the way down to Kingshouse. After a good mile along the way, the track is good, but a little broken up in places. Considering it was laid in the 1700s that's not too bad at all. The route follows the old Glencoe road for three miles, running parallel with the A82 as far as Altnafeadh, after which it leaves Glencoe and strikes north, climbing the Devil's Staircase to the col. They tackled this at approx 2pm and were surprised to have reached the top after 35 minutes. The long, gentle descent to Kinlochleven runs along the edge of some wild moorland scenery stretching out to the Blackwater reservoir to the east, looping across the shallow valleys of Choire Odhar Beag and Choire Odhar Mhor before coming alongside the service track to the reservoir. It was 5pm when they saw the beautiful sight of Kinlochleven. Spirits were high - perhaps slightly delirious. A map of today's walk is here.

The end is in sight and I get the impression it is eagerly awaited.

Easter in the Sun

A beautiful, sunny day today with a gentle northerly breeze, so we walked up over the hills to the west of Fascadale. Fascadale is on the north coast of Ardnamurchan with stunning views across the Minch to the Inner Hebridean Islands of Muck, Eigg, Rhum, Canna and Skye.

On our return I took this photo looking down into Fascadale Bay, of a family enjoying an Easter break in the Highlands. Wow! Who needs the French Riviera or the Caribbean?

The house is one of those available for rent from Ardnamurchan Estate.

West Highland Way Walk

Progress Update from Gael Cameron:

The walkers had a tough last few miles on Friday night, knees were causing a lot of bother. A welcome camp site with facilities and a bar awaited them at Inverarnan - the Drovers Inn was just too far to move on to. They had a reasonably sensible night, hitting the tents about 10pm. Lots of rest needed for the next stage.

Inverarnan to Bridge of Orchy was yesterday - Saturday's - walk. Rain was the main pain as they headed towards Tyndrum and then along the hillside path near the railway track to their destination, Bridge of Orchy Bunk House. The lads arrived there at 4pm yesterday evening, pretty good going to reach the 60 mile point. Jordan walked another 10 mile stretch so he has now totalled 20 miles so far, very impressive for an 11 year old. Warm showers, a bed for the night with dinner and breakfast included was a very much appreciated treat.

They are all doing fantastically well, making the families and friends at home extremely proud.

A map of yesterday's route is here. The walk is in aid of Kilchoan Playpark Fund, website here.

Saturday, 3 April 2010

Archer & Smiter

HMS Smiter (right) and HMS Archer passed CalMac's Clansman in the Sound of Mull at lunchtime today. The navy ships are fast patrol boats, but both of these have been assigned to university training, with Smiter based at the Neptune naval base in the Clyde and Archer in Aberdeen.

Archer, P264, and Smiter, P272 were part of the first batch of Archer Class patrol boats, built in 1985 and displacing 54 tonnes; they're 20m long and capable of 20 knots. We spotted Smiter first, obviously killing time in the mouth of Loch Sunart, but flying a large white ensign at her masthead. When Archer came up the Sound to join her she too was flying a large flag; it was difficult to distinguish but it may have been the Scottish lion rampant. Shortly after they met, they hauled the flags down.

Meanwhile, on shore, quietly, spring continues with the appearance of the first violets, tucked against a dolerite outcrop on the hillside above Ormsaigbeg.