Tuesday, 24 June 2008
Having now finished my coastal walk, I have produced a calendar with 36 images of Islays' beautiful coastline. It cost quite a lot to print the calendar, so I'm having to charge £8 per calendar and £2 P & P. £2 of this goes towards the work of the Marine Conservation Society, the charity for which I was raising money during my walk. To buy or view images of the calendar, please visit www.beckydrewpictures.co.uk.
Tuesday, 6 May 2008
It seemed fitting to combine my fortieth birthday with the very, very, very last stretch of my walk! It was niggling me that although I had walked up the Big Strand from the south and from Laggan to the beginning of the Big Strand from the north, I hadn't actually crossed the River Laggan. So with a bottle of Lambrusco, a birthday cake, some willing, wellied friends, and a camera on tow, we set off on a glorious May day for the momentous crossing - only to be faced with a very high tide and consequently very deep river. We watched as a cow swam across. Not having come prepared for such endeavours - I did the only thing possible to do - I wandered up to the precarous swing rope bridge and cautiously made my way across - on my own! Such bravado! No-one else dared to follow! OK, OK, so that might not be quite true. I didn't allow them to follow because as soon as anyone else set foot on the bridge, it swung even more! The daring feat accomplished, we sat and enjoyed our celebratory drink. Despite not being able to get our feet wet, we enjoyed this grand finale and I would like to thank Ray for taking photographs (still to be uploaded) and for testing the depth of the water (!), Julie, Cho and Lizzie (the dogs), Fiona Hyslop, Christine and Fiona and Heather MacGillivray for joining me.
Tuesday, 29 April 2008
Golden Eagle at Glen Astle
THE LAST STAGE!!!
I took advantage of the dry spell we have been enjoying and set out on my last stretch of coastline, having arranged with james Macaulay for a lift back to Glen Astle. What would I find today? The weather was glorious as I walked along the track past the two lochs. I heard (and saw) Grasshopper Warbler - such a welcome and joyous sign of spring. There are a few ruined buildings here - poignant evidence of a community in times past and I paused to reflect on this as I wandered round the old mill.
This is a glorious walk with hills, loch and history - and then THE CLIFFS. Those wonderful cliffs which make up the tortured coastline of The Oa. This time they were even more wonderful than usual because as I approached the north side of Glenastle, the massive form of a Golden Eagle swooped beneath me. It looked even larger than usual. I watched in awe as it joined its mate and they both soared effortlessly round the Bay before one flew off and the other perched for at least 3 minutes on the opposite side of the bay. Laying low and peering over the precipitous cliffs, i cursed myself for not bringing my zoom lens - what's an extra bit of weight when faced with views like this! Finally it lifed those heavy wings and flew towards me as I clicked away, breathless with excitement. I had never had such close views of this magnificent bird before and felt truly privileged.
Elated, I continued my walk and looked for somewhere to eat lunch. At times I was only a few feet away from the edge of the cliffs and then without moving inland, I would be a hundred foot or so, such is the nature of this indented coastline. I settled at Bun an Easa and looked through my binoculars at some deep caves and listened to the incessant song of the Skylark as I munched my sandwiches.
A few Razorbills flew off at my approach as I continued further north and east. I don't recall having seen Razorbills perched on Islay's cliffs before, but maybe I'm just getting forgetful! As the unmistakeable form of Soldier's Rock came into view, so did the rain, quite surprisingly. I had been enjoying T-shirt weather all along. The silhouetted form of a young couple peering over the edge of the cliffs also came into view. Having donned waterproofs, I approached them and we walked together for a while. They were from Brussels and had never been to Islay before - or even Scotland! Before bidding them farewell, I complimented them on having found such an exquisite part of our coastline.
By the time I reached Kintra, I was still elated, but ever such a little soaked to the skin with the heavy showers and even hail which apparently had fallen on The Oa and nowhere else! James arrived at the gate at the same time as I did and I clambered into the car with many a tale to tell. Many thanks for the lift. This is definitely a section of the walk I would like to repeat. Did I save the best till last? It certainly seemed like it today!
Monday, 17 March 2008
I made the mistake of thinking it was going to be a nice day so set off bright and early to fill in this gap. There are a lot of new houses being built at Kilnaughton so the road is tarmac for further. I parked at the end of the tarmac stretch and walked the very familiar stretch to Port an Eas, one of my favourite beaches. The day had begun to cloud over slightly but the rain held off until I reached my destination. I wasn't exactly sure if i'd know when I'd 'joined the gap' but the burn that runs into the sea at Inveraval is a good landmark. There are a couple of beautiful waterfalls here. The water had also begun to fall from the sky and I got soaked on my return journey. It wasn't really a day for photos but I'll attach this one where I am looking back at Port an Eas.
Thursday, 14 February 2008
At last!!! The forecast looked good for the weekend and so I phoned Chris and Sandy Taylor and asked if they fancied coming with me on this stretch. Yes, they most definitely did.
They brought Andy and Rachel, so I was in the company of three doctors and one medical student - useful if anything went wrong!
We parked at the beginning of the track to Glen Astle and walked past the Old Manse and Lower Coillabus towards Ballychatrigan. Here, at a silhouetted ruin, we carried straight on towards the coast instead of following the path towards the farm and Stremnishmore. We followed the burn and an old, grass-covered wall instead.
They day was delightful - no sun yet but not cold and no rain. The ground was wet but not as wet as I had feared. I felt very excited to be exploring new territory and we all gasped and ahhed at each new vista that opened up before us as we made our way west. Plenty of small beaches, each with the usual medly of flotsam and jetsam.
At Stremnishmore we stopped for a snack (with the tantalising promise of home made soup to keep us going!) We climbed Beinn Mhor and so closed another gap of coastline. The sun came out and shone over the weirdly shaped Dun Athad. We made out the distinctive shape of a pair of Golden Eagles hovering with carefree ease over its summit.
Rather than go back the way we came, we continued to Upper Killeyan and followed our noses to the smell of very welcome soup! Next time i'll follow the same route to ballychatrigan and then turn left instead of right. Then i'll only have the Glen Astle stretch to do. Yippee!!!
Thursday, 17 January 2008
Oh dear! I'd better go and find out what their proper names are - Loch an t-Sàilean to Loch a-Chnuic.Another of those - looks easy on the map stretches but, as with most of the east coast, believe me, it isn't! Ages ago I had asked Fiona Middleton, wife of land owner, George Middleton, if she would accompany me for this stretch and we finally set off on Saturday 12th January to do it. There having been two Loggerhead Turtles recently washed up on Islay's shores, we scoured the storm battered beaches for 'bodies' but, fortunately, didn't find any. The tide was quite low, enabling us to cross briefly to Eilean Imersay before cutting across to Kildalton House for refreshments before setting off on the more arduous section of the walk. Yes, we missed out some nooks and crannies, but the last time I attempted this difficult section I had to make a hasty retreat as the coastline is impassable. The path from Kildalton House to Knock Bay is now largely overgrown with rhododendron but we bravely fought our way through bush, brier and bog to the small bay. Just to make sure we also walked this tiny sandy bay before retracing our steps to the road and the car.
Friday, 11 January 2008
Granny Rock, near Machir Bay
The 'gravewood' at KilnaveThis was another 'niggly situation'. I knew I had done most of the coastline from Ardnave to the head of Loch Gruinart, but that there was a tiny stretch inbetween Ardnave and Kilnave that I hadn't done so, just to be on the safe side, I did the whole stretch again - yes, all one mile of it! (or there abouts). My younger brother, Tim, and my parents were here for Christmas so Tim and I walked this short stretch of coast and mum and dad came to meet us at Kilnave in the car. We took the obligatory photos through Kilnave chapel window and decided this would be a good place to rest in peace. Lots of old gravestones here, but the most interesting is the 'gravewood', a grave marked with a carved piece of inscribed wood. Nice! Later we discovered that a Loggerhead Turtle was washed up at Ardnave on 29th December. We did this walk on the 27th December and the circular walk round the peninsula on the 30th December and didn't see anything! Typical! The gaps are closing up but those two longish stretches on The Oa loom heavily on my mind. I had arranged a walk at the beginning of this month, but the weather wasn't suitable. Weather providing, I'll close up another short gap at Kildalton Estate. Here's Granny for you, Armin!