Sunday, 30 October 2011

The Great Glen

Hi all,
After eating a welcome and tasty evening meal at Banavie, on the side of the Caledonian canal, we decided to take the dog for a walk before returning to our B&B at Torcastle. We took a B road which would take us in a circular route along the Great Glen to Gairlochy. On the way we stopped and gave our dog a walk along an almost deserted road where we enjoyed brilliant views over the Caledonian canal and beyond to the peaks of the Nevis range of mountains that dominate the area. We eventually arrived at Gairlochy and turned right towards Spean Bridge. Here we stopped for a while and admired the Commando memorial and more spectacular views. The memorial, made from bronze, was place there in 1952 in honour of the Commandos who trained in the area. I guess the SAS have taken over the dreams of young boys nowadays, but when I was a lad, my mates and I all wanted to be Commandos. And so we returned to the B&B; we had come a long way from Stafford and it had been a long day.

The following morning we awoke to some nice weather and indulged ourselves in a delicious full Scottish Breakfast. This would set us up for our journey up the Great Glen where we would skirt the shores of three Lochs on our way to Inverness. Not long after setting out we came to the first, Loch Lochy where the views were lovely in all directions. So too were the views along the banks of the smaller Loch Oich which is the home to the village of Invergarry. Loch Ness, is a place that that springs to the minds of a lot of people when they think of Scotland and I was looking forward to seeing it for the first time. However, it didn't quite live up to its reputation. It was wide and long, and the views were nice, but it couldn't compare with most of the scenery we've seen in Scotland. Anyway, we stopped for a while, had a cup of tea and scanned the water just like all tourists. No, we didn't see Nessie, it must've been the monster's day off.
Eventually, we reached Inverness where we turned left and struck a course due north on the A9. We crossed the spectacular bridge that spans the Beauly Firth and another that crossed the Cromarty Firth. We stopped and had a picnic lunch, gave our dog another walk and then carried on over the Dornoch Firth to Loch Fleet where we turned left to try and find our lodge which was somewhere near Rogart. We followed the directions as supplied by the booking agent and soon found ourselves winding up a very narrow mountain track. We were beginning to wonder if we'd made an error in navigation untill we crested a brow in the road and saw our lodge perched wonderfully on the hillside.
We were soon inside and marvelling at the view from the lounge window and balcony. The picture in the holiday brochure didn't do it justice and neither can any of the photos I took. The view however, did have a downside; I like to have a good read in the evenings when we are on holiday, but, the book I took with me was almost untouched. Every night I would sit by the window with my binoculars and gaze at the Golden Eagles soaring along the slopes of the mountains on the opposite side of the valley.
Even our dog Buzby enjoyed the view.
Here's just a quick reminder that you can find out more about me and my books by clicking here.
If you would like to see some of my pyrography work or my wife's paintings please click here.
I also have a shop on where I sell pyrography at discounted prices
please click here.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Glasgow to Torcastle

Hi all,
In my last post about Scotland we had just left Glasgow, so today we will continue our journey towards Rogart. Today's post will take us from the outskirts of Glasgow to our B&B at Torcastle, just beyond Fort William.

It never ceases to amaze me just how quickly one escapes the clutches of Glasgow when travelling north up the A82. One minute you are surrounded by imposing high rise buildings and then suddenly, you are smelling the sweet air that drifts down off the Trossachs. The road as far as Tarbet which is situated about three quarters of the way up Loch Lomond is a good one. It follows the shoreline for most of the way and there are lots of picnic spots overlooking the Loch. It was now lunch time so we stopped and ate a couple of delicious sausage sandwiches that my wife had made the night before.

Full of grub, we carried on past Tarbet and beyond the end of Loch Lomond to Crianlarich, which borders the very remote Ranoch Moor. The countryside in this part of the world is awe inspiring and it sets the traveller up nicely for the spectacular that is Glen Coe,

where huge mountains roll down to a thin ribbon of road that winds through the valley. We stopped half-way down Glen Coe, got out our flask and drank in our surroundings along with a nice cup of tea.
Eventually, we arrived at Loch Linnhe
where we turned right and followed its shores up to Fort William. The photo above is of Loch Linnhe, with my wife and our dog Buzby, who is, more sadly than I can explain, no longer with us.

Fort William looked very nice and I am disappointed that we didn't have time to explore it. It was now late in the day and we needed to book in at our B&B and have a bit of a rest. We easily found the B&B in the small village of Torcastle and once we'd sorted ourselves out, we went out for an evening meal. We hoped to find a nice village pub and that is exactly what we found in Banavie, a small village situated towards the bottom end of the Caladonian Canal. In fact, the pub was right on the side of the canal next to Neptune's Staircase, which is one of its wonders. Neptune's Staircase is a set of 8 locks that are part of the total of 29 that raise the water levels as it travels up the Great Glen. Below, you can see a picture of the Canal with Ben Nevis looming in the background.

The Caladonian Canal was engineered by Thomas Telford and built to provide a short cut for ships travelling around the north coast of Scotland. The canal links several lochs, including Loch Ness, on its 62 mile journey from Inverness on the east coast to Fort William in the west. The canal took aproxiamately 17 years to build and was completed in 1822. It was a terrific feat of engineering, but sadly, it never fulfilled its potential. By the time the canal was finished, ships had become much bigger and couldn't fit through the lochs.

I'll leave this post here because I think we have gone far enough for one day.

Here's just a reminder that you can find out more about my books by clicking here.
You can also see some of my pyrography work by clicking here.

Finally, you may interested in checking out a website called Folksy. It is a website where crafty people can sell the stuff they have made themselves. There are some great things on there at very reasonable prices.

I have set up a shop on to sell some of my pyrography work and to get the ball rolling I am offering some of the items from my website at a discount on Folksy. Here is the link if you would like to take a look.

Monday, 17 October 2011


Hi All;
Today we are setting off to the last destination on our tour of Scotland and this time we will be going way up north to the village of Rogart. Below is a picture taken on the road to Rogart complete with rainbow. You will probably notice that the photos from Rogart are not as good as normal. The reason is that they were taken with an old-fashioned film camera, so sorry about that, but I'm sure you'll still get a feel for the place.

It was going to be a long trip, so we planned to stop at a B&B near Fort William to break up the journey. However, before we go dashing off to Rogart, when I was writing this post I was reminded of some trips to Scotland, which I did on a professional basis.

I did some subcontract work for a chap who dealt in machine tools, presses lathes and the like. Anyway, in the course of this business we would drive from Stafford to Glasgow; do the business in the factory that we were visiting, which usually took about 5 hours, and then I would drive back to Stafford again. I did all the driving because my colleague had a medical problem that meant he could fall asleep at any time; I didn't fancy going arse over tit on the M6 motorway, so I kept a firm hold of the wheel.

It was funny when I think about those trips. We were both in our late fifties and neither of us in the best of health. He had a serious medical problem, as I just mentioned, and I was recovering from a heart-attack. We set off at 5am and stopped for breakfast in Morrisons on the outskirts of Glasgow. We needed food, not just for sustenance, but because we didn't want to take our medication on an empty stomach.

Perhaps you can imagine the scene that was undoubtedly caught on Morrisons CCTV more than once, and I bet it left a smile on the face of anybody who saw it. When we arrived at the store it would have only just opened and the car park would be almost empty. I parked the old grey Mercedes in one of the disabled bays outside the store then we went in for a big Scottish breakfast. We always enjoyed the breakfast and it set us up for the day. Once we got back to the car my friend would sit in the passenger's seat with the door open and take out a syringe which he would use to inject his medication into his stomach. Meanwhile, I would stand at the side of the car and get out the jar of tablets my wife had prepared for me. I would put the jar of the top of the car then get out a bottle of water which I would use to take a succession of tablets. Given our ages and the state of our health I think we did well to drive to Glasgow, do some work and then drive back all in the same day.

Thankfully, my wife and I found our trip to Rogart was much less hectic, we took it at a leisurely pace and at that time I was blissfully unaware of the heart attack that would come a couple of years later.

I always thought that my Scottish holidays didn't really start until I'd negotiated Glasgow, and so it was on this trip to Rogart that we found our spirits lifting as we tootled up the A82 towards Loch Lomond and our B&B which was waiting for us at Fort William.

I don't want to rush the second half of the journey so I will leave this post here with a picture of a small loch near Rogart.

Here's just a reminder that my new book A Staffordshire Boy: Tales of Fishing and Other Fun is now available from the usual place. For more details about it and my other books please click here.

My pyrography collection is also growing, if you would like to see some of my work please click here.

Friday, 14 October 2011

A Staffordshire Boy

Hi All,
My apolgies to those who are awaiting my next post about my tour of Scotland, but I've been working my fingers to the bone finishing and publishing my latest book. Although this is my fifth book it has taken much longer than the others to write. I started the process in 1999, so it's been on the road for 12 years.

The actual title of the book is, A Staffordshire Boy: Tales of Fishing and Other Fun, which I guess gives a clue to its content. It covers the years of my childhood from the mid-fifties to the mid-sixties and charts the things young boys got up to in the countryside before computers and ipods were invented.

I know lots of people have written their childhood memoirs and almost as many have concentrated on misery. I had a good childhood and I hope this book provides some balance by not only being interesting, but also giving the reader a good dose of entertainment. I came from a large family, lived in a council house and my dad kept Joules Ales in business, but hell I had a good time.

If you want to know what lads in Seighford got up to in probably the best decade since the war please click here to find out more

Normal service will be resumed on the tour of Scotland in the next couple of days, when we will be going way up north to Rogart.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Clock This

Hi all,
Just a quick up date on the pyrography front. Last week I said I'd show you a picture of the clock I was working on. Well it took longer than I thought, but here it is.

I'm pretty proud of my efforts considering I've never done a clock before and the design is all mine. For my next project I'm going back to doing some boxes because they are much quicker to do.

If you would like to see more of my pyrography work please click here.
If you would like to see more about me or my books, or just read some fun stuff, please click here.

PS My wife Terry Anne just finished a beautiful painting of a cockerel, so I have added it to my pyrography site for you to see.

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Hollow Mountain & Angus

Hi, our last day holidaying at Lock Awe had arrived all too soon, but at least the sun wasshining. We decided to stay local on out last day because of the long journey back to England the following day. We skirted around the eastern end of Loch Awe and followed its shoreline towards Taynuilt. However, before we left the loch we arrived at our first destination, Hollow Mountain Visitor's Centre, which is perched on the side of Loch Awe, below Mt Ben Cruachan.Angus Gardens
Hollow mountain is an electricity generating station that is buried 1 Kilometre under ground. The generators are powered by water and there are guided tours to see the vast caverns that house the huge turbines. My wife and I are both wimps, we don't do heights and we certainly don't do underground, we leave that pleasure to moles and troglodytes.

We amused ourselves for a while by checking out the exhibition and and the gift shop and then went into the cafe for lunch. The views from the window as we waited for our food were nothing short of spectacular. We were at the northern tip of loch Awe and here it was so narrow the trees and fields on the far side were in sharp focus. Not only did we have a great view, but we also had some entertainment in the shape of a show off in a speedboat. The whole of the cafe was watching as he came flying down the loch cresting the waves like James Bond. As he reached the cafe he had to turn his boat because the loch was getting very narrow. Without slowing down, Mr Show Off flipped his boat into a left hand turn and started carving a majestic crescent through the water. However, this didn't go according to plan because the boat took on a mind of its own, it straightened up and ploughed straight into the trees on the far bank where to rapturous applause from us all, he sank.

When I say sank, part of his boat finished up below the water and he scrambled to the shore. I guess somebody must have called the the rescue people, but he was still there when we'd finished our food and left.

After enjoying our lunchtime entertainment on Loch Awe, we carried on to Angus Garden which are situated down a quiet lane about 2 miles from Taynuilt. The Garden were built in 1957 by Betty Macdonald in Memory of her son, Angus who was killed a year earlier in Cyprus.Below you can see a memorial bell which is very touching.
Entry to the garden was by honesty box and it was very quite when we were there. There are no shops selling ice cream, plants or compost. These are woodland gardens, and appreciated by those who like peace and quiet, so they suited us very well. We had a lovely stroll around a small Loch that took in views of Ben Crauchan and we were struck by the contrast. At the visitor's centre there was very busy with chattering people and one only had to look out of the window to be thrilled by suicidal speed boat drivers. Here in Angus Gardens there was serenity and it was where we would sooner be.View of Ben Cruachan from Angus Gardens
I'll leave you with a picture of Loch Awe taken by my wife Terry Anne, early one morning. It was taken from the veranda on our lodge before breakfast and I think it sums our holiday up perfectly.

If you would like to know more about me or my books please click here
If you would like to see some of my pyrography (burning lumps of wood with red hot poker)then please click here.