Sunday, 24 June 2012

Ullapool to Stirling the Pretty Way

It was a wet start to the day so we didn't hang around in Ullapool.

We decided to go via Loch Maree and Torridon. Unfortunately the clouds stayed low so the views weren't great.

By the time we reached the Eilean Donan Castle it had brightened enough to encourage me to get the camera out and run a few shots off. The only ones of the day.

A quick stop in Fort William was the last stop before Stirling.

Home tomorrow.

Saturday, 23 June 2012

Orkney to Ullapool

It was raining all morning in Stromness on Orkney so it didn't look good for photos.

Fortunately it had brightened up by the time we reached the Old Man of Hoy. The camera was already set up with the 150mm lens ready for the shot (equivalent to 75 on 35mm or full frame digital cameras).

The sun came out just as we passed. The ferry wasn't the best viewpoint for taking the shot but it's still interesting.

The only other shots were of Ardvreck Castle ruins near Inchnadamph, north of Ullapool. My 3rd visit here but still no sunshine and blue sky.

Tomorrow we head for Stirling, home Monday.

Friday, 22 June 2012

Castle in the Rain, Palaces in the Dry

The weather was the worst it has been all week. Heavy rain at times and clouds all day.

We started with Yesnaby Castle, not a real castle but a sea stack (rock pillar just offshore) just south of Skara Brae.

We visited here on Sunday with blue sky and calm seas. Today we had 25mph winds and high tide so I hoped for some waves and white water around the base of the stack.

Unfortunately the wind was blowing offshore so there were no waves at all. I took a couple of record shots in heavy rain and returned disappointed to the car.

The rain continued for a few hours as we drove around, eventually parking in Kirkwall as the rain stopped.

To start with it was dull so I left the camera in the car and went to the pub for a pint of St Magnus, a reasonable pint.

It was a brighter after the pub, or maybe it was just the effect of the beer! Photos of the cathedral, Earls Palace and Bishops Palace followed. The last shots were sunlit, albeit fleetingly.

Tonight was our last night on Orkney so most of us had dinner together at the Stromness Hotel before transferring to the Ferry Inn across the road. Dark Island was back on after a 5 day absence so all is well with the world!

Sorry, once again I forgot to take photos on my mobile to illustrate this blog. You will just have to wait until my films are processed and I find time to scan some of them. 33 rolls of Ilford FP4 120 taken so far.

Cliff Walk and a few Photos

A grey day was forecast so we decided to go for a walk along the coast from Skara Brae to the Kitchener monument on Marwick Head and back. That's a walk of about 11 miles.

Not too many photo opportunities but I did run off 3 rolls of Ilford FP4 120 film. First stop was a sea stack called the Spord. There was a bit of light and the Old Man of Hoy was just visible in the background. Lots of Sea Pinks on the sea cliffs to add to the foreground of some shots.

Then we came upon some fisherman huts built over 100 years ago and recently restored.

Marwick Bay was interesting with a tidal pool between the shore and a band of rock. A Red-Breasted Merganser was swimming on it along with Eider ducks and a few waders.

From here we walked steeply up to Marwick Head and the Kitchener monument. So many birds on the cliff face. Mainly Guillemots but also Fulmars, Kittiwakes, Razorbills and a few Puffins. Lots of predatory Skuas about too, both Great and Arctic.

There was a good shot of the cliff and monument with a large stone slab and Sea Pinks in the foreground.

We sat watching the comings and goings of the birds for quite a while, especially the Puffins.

Then it was time to retrace our steps back to the car in the gathering gloom. There were a few spots of rain as we neared the car but we made it back before it started in earnest.

So, despite the dull day I still managed to take a few good shots.

Still no Dark Island in Stromness. Everywhere has run out! I'm meddling through on other brews in the meantime.

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

The Old Man of Hoy and Dive-bombing Skuas

Today was a walk day. It was also forecast to be sunny all day; an orange filter day with Ilford FP4!

We decided to go to the Orkney island of Hoy, which is where the only high hills are in these islands.

We caught the first ferry at 7.45am and had arranged a minibus to take us the 4 miles to Rackwick Bay.

From here the walking started, 3 miles to the Old Man of Hoy, a 450 ft sea stack. This was easy walking on a good track all the way to the Old Man.

Lots of viewpoints for pictures of the Old Man.

Then a walk over a saddle on a ridge. The Great Skuas were here in force and dive-bombed us as we walked through. It was rough walking across tussock grass and heather and steep down to the track.

A couple of miles and we made it to the pass. Here I left the others, passed through another Great Skua area with yet more Dive-bombing and climbed Ward Hill (480m), the highest hill on Orkney. Just 40 minutes to the top from the pass. The views from here were spectacular.

At the bottom I spotted a pair of Red Throated Divers on a small lake. Hadn't seen any for quite a few years.

The last bit was back to the ferry and Stromness.

The Ferry Inn was still out of Dark Island so I had a few Doombars instead.

The picture is of the Hoy Hills. I forgot to take many photos with my phone so just this one to give an idea of terrain.

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

2000 Year Old Orkney Village and Whale Skull

A dull day today until late afternoon then it was spectacularly good.

First job was for Jan to sort a ferry trip to Hoy and a minibus to take 8 of us to the start of our walk tomorrow.

Once sorted we visited the 2000 year old village of the Broch of Gurness. Very impressive ruins considering their age. Shame it was raining.

The highlight of the day followed lunch; a private tour of the Orkney Brewery. Red MacGregor, Golden Amber and Wayfarer were sampled. All on good form, as one would expect.

We came out to a greatly improved scene, sunshine and spectacular clouds.

The last stop of the day was near the Brough of Birsey. A whale skull mounted on a stake.

Bright sunshine and streaky clouds behind the skull with an orange filter gave a very dramatic shot. I kept the land out of the shot so it was just a skyscape. It worked from both sides; sunlit and into the sun as a silhouette. I needed to be a contortionist though as camera had to be close to the ground.

Fish and chips and Orkney Dark Island while watching England play Ukraine in Euros; torture.

Rooney just scored, things are looking up!

Monday, 18 June 2012

Scapa Flow, Sea Cliffs and Stone Circles Before Breakfast

Another great day on Orkney.

I looked out of the window a bit before 7am and saw clouds building in an otherwise blue sky.

It looked good for pictures so I rushed out and was taking photos 7 miles away at the Ring of Brodgar a bit after 7.30am.

The sun was a bit intermittent but the sky was great. By 8.15 am I had the shots and the first bus arrived so I moved on.

The Stones of Stenness were just a half mile down the road and the sun was shining so I stopped. I took a couple of quick shots then the sun disappeared for 20 minutes.

Just as the sun came out so a convoy of cars parked on the road by the Stones. A group of people got out all carrying cameras and tripods, a photography course had arrived.

I waited a few minutes for the sun, took my photos and left. A bus arrived and parked on the road behind the Stones so time to pack up anyway.

Back for breakfast.

We met up with the others and headed for the Churchill Barriers, a remnant of the war. These blocked the channels around the natural harbour of Scapa Flow of Orkney.

Photo stops followed at the Italian Chapel, Hoxa Head battery and Mull Head. A bit dull at times so not too many photos.

Mull Head was interesting, walking on the path across the moor we were dive-bombed by Great Skuas; needless to say we beat a hasty retreat!

We also saw an Arctic Skua at close range, it was on the nest just 20 yards from the coast path. Lots of Fulmars, Black Guillemots and a few Razorbills too. Quite a change from the usual Peak District birds.

Bit of bother with the accommodation. The owner has double booked part of the property resulting in our good friends Rob and Annie moving to an apartment a 10 minute walk away.

I suggest you avoid booking into Stenigar self-catering apartments as talking to the manager this seems to be a regular occurrence.

It's after nearly 1am and still daylight! It starts to get light again at 1am.

Sunday, 17 June 2012

Orkney Sea Stacks and the Stone Age

We made it safely to Orkney yesterday after a smooth crossing from the mainland.

Checked out the Dark Island in the Ferry Inn and watched the Euro football.

Today we headed for Yesnabey for a coast walk. Bit of surprise to see and hear dozens of motor bikes in a scramble bike event. Impossible to get away from the noise. Found Yesnabey Castle sea stack a short walk from the car. Bit dull but managed some shots. Shame about the old climbing ropes left in place, hanging from top to bottom, spoiling an otherwise natural scene.

Next stop was Skara Brae, a 5000 year old Stone Age village. Difficult to photograph in black and white but jolly interesting.

The Brough of Birsay was next and this was where the sun came out. An old monastery and lots of birds. Fulmars, Kittiwakes, Guillemots, Puffins, Black Guillemots and lots more.

We finished the day with some stone circles. First was the Ring of Brodgar. Almost 40 standing stones in a large circle close to a lake with hills in the background. Blue sky with white fluffy clouds so time for the orange filter.

Just time for one last location, the Stones of Stenness. Still blue sky and clouds (6 pm), right next to the road and no people. Three large stones 12 to 15 feet high and 3 smaller ones.

Well lit from side facing road and good shots into sun from other side too.

Finished at 6.30pm, 12 rolls Ilford FP4 for the day, hopefully some good ones.

After a quick change it was down to the Ferry Inn. Just one pint and I had drunk them out of Dark Island. Maybe I should have let them know I was coming!

It's almost midnight and still pretty light outside; strange!

Friday, 15 June 2012

Inverness Pub Crawl

Today was a rest day after all the travelling yesterday. We stretched our legs with a walk along the canal and river before heading into the town centre.

First stop was the Castle Tavern, a very welcoming pub opposite the Castle. The River Leven Dark got me off to a good start, followed by Cairngorm Wildcat. Both in good form.

From the Castle we headed down to Blackfriars and Suilven from the An Teallach brewery. A bit hoppy for me.

Our stop in Blackfriars also coincided with a shower of rain, good planning!

From here it was a bit of a stroll to the Clachnaharry Inn, back near the canal. Inveralmond Independence was on, also a bit hoppy for me.

No photos, grey and damp all day, but a good start to the trip, about 7 miles in total.

Off to Orkney tomorrow.

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Scotland Trip - Kirkhill in the sunshine

After all the rain recently it's nice to see the sun as we arrive in Kirkhill near Inverness.
We are staying with our good friends Mick and Kay, along with friends Brian and Maf, Rick and Glenn. Another 2 arrive tomorrow and we meet a further 3 on Orkney on Saturday.
Tomorrow is a recovery day for my bad back and we will walk around Inverness and the Caledonian canal and check out the odd pub or two. Saturday we drive north to Scrabster to catch the ferry to Orkney. Then we have a week based near Stromness. I will be taking some photos of the standing stones and the coast. Fingers crossed for nice weather!

Saturday, 2 June 2012

Knebworth House Show Day 1

We are coming to the end of the first of 4 days at the Craft and Design show at Knebworth House.

Dull but dry earlier, sunshine now.

Here are some images of the show ground and our stand.

Knebworth House, our stand, some of the show marquees, the house and Saxon village at the show.