Three Weeks of Scotland – Part One

Sit back and relax. We were three weeks out there, so this takes a few lines, couple of pictures and hell of a lot of sitting muscles. So hang on.

Landing. We landed on Dover on a misty Saturday morning. Hit the road, on the wrong side!!! And found out that just about every third Londoner had had the idea of getting away of the city to spend a long weekend somewhere else. Whehee.

First stop of the day was in Windsor, where we were meant to meet my childhood friend, who I had not seen in a long while. We were sitting in the middle of the jammed ring way, all happy and seriously late. The very moment we had accepted our faith of being stuck, and started to think that it isn’t so bad bad, our cars navigation system decided to stop and have a holiday. Not funny. We were there, with not too much ideas on where we needed to go to and of course right that moment also the traffic starts to move, so not too much time to find any solutions. Luckily our navigator restored itself after an hour or so, and live could go on.

In Windsor there was a lot of chatting to do, it happens if you don’t see a person for over a year. We also got to experience the wonders of British kitchen. The Waffle might have a few words to say about that. We had to go, there was things to see and places to be in the Lake District. In one of the maps we had spotted a nice looking roman road crossing a nice looking valley, that was where we were planning on camping the first night.

Streamish trailish things. We found the valley, just a bit north of the Coniston village. Next to the road there was a small river, dozens a little waterfalls and a lot of nice, smooth green spots to park the car and assemble the camp right next to it, perfect! Though I must admit it was cold.

Evening, Valley, Lake District

Car, camp and the evening blue.

 

We woke up into a chilly morning and prepared for our first hike in the UK. Plan was to go up a hill and then come down on the other side. Our map had a strong opinion that there was a clear trail, even a bridle way, there where we were going.

Lake District, marsh, trails

Trail or a stream? Ho figure.

Reality, it doesn’t always match the maps, that we got to notice. Where there should have been a trail, there was a swamp (how can you have a swam on a hillside??), and an occasional stream, which were surprisingly easy to misjudge as trails. Trail or not, it is rather simple to get up, just keep your direction about towards the peak and do not get eaten by sheep. There are plenty of sheep, everywhere.

Lake District, bridge, hiker

That day we did a nice ridge walk, climbed a peak and wondered around a few valleys. We also noticed, that the memo, that told the Roman soldiers to build serpentine roads in Italy and all over the Europe, that did not reach UK. The roads there go straight up and then back down again.

18592074059_1fa744f763_bLake District, roads

The beach holiday. Next day we moved from the heart of Lake District to the coastal side, somewhere in between Ravenglass and Skinburness. Yes, sometimes the names of the villages can be rather peculiar.Beach was just a pit stop on our way to Buttermere. It ended up being surprisingly beautiful.

Isle of Man, beach

We camped at the dunes and spent a nice evening and a sunny day. I loved cooking in the dune and watching the sun go down behind the Isle of Man.

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We left the beach behind and headed back to inland towards Buttermere. Objective was to climb up Grasmoor to look at the world from that angle.

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Grasmoor was mainly a very pleasant ridge walk added with easy walk down a steep valley. And of course a few sheep and a splendid (I love that word, splendid!) view.

Grasmore, trail, Buttermere

Up up to Scotland.  Buttermere was our last stop in England. We moved from there towards our first breakdown moment, the Galloway forest park. You must understand that we were quite tired when we started to get closer to our next camping area.

Galloway

Our navigator guided us to a narrow and winding road, where some local nutcase was practicing his mainland driving and almost killed us. Add to that the arrival to the forest park, where there was hardly any forest left. Someone had harvested nearly all of the park away. We were seriously disappointed and then as a cherry on top, it started raining into an already damp night.

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We had also been together all the time in the same car, tent and trail nonstop for a few days. So the rain, and the harvested forest. That pushed us over the edge. I blamed the Waffle for everything, clearly his fault that it was raining, and world hunger. Waffle did not for some reason agree with my judgement. So there we were, going to bed grumpy, cold and vet  A decision was made on sleeping the next night in a hotel.

Arran. No hiking happened in Galloway, we headed off to the coast again, to Ayr. Had a bit of whisky and beer, went to bed and found ourselves from the Isle of Arran the next day. On Arran you really start to understand that you are on an island. The weather changes every 5 minutes from sunny to pouring rain and of course the sea is everywhere.

Arran, Goatfell, weather

The highest peak of Arran, Goatfell, was constantly inside a rain cloud, so we decided to skip climbing it and went to the southern side of the island to spot some seals.

Seal spotting was a failure, but we managed to enjoy the surrealistic blue of the sea and the company of some friendly cows. The colors over there are overwhelming, as well as the contrasts you can see everywhere. And it is really easy to get to, so if you ever are on the move somewhere on the region the island is for sure worth visiting.

Loch Long. We were shipped off of Arran and headed up north again, passed Glasgow and headed for the shores of Loch Long.Beautiful old forests around there. And a nice waterfall. We thought it would be really nice to camp next to it.

 

In theory it might be. But large amounts of water flowing rapidly downhill causes quite some noise. We explored the area a bit, walk to the shore and found a few wild looking rams and ruins and moss and seaweed and flowers and all such things. and absolutely nobody around. That is something I truly like, and often miss from Finland.

After sleeping at the waterfall we thought that something a bit more silent might be in order. And since we were planning on climbing the Ben Lomond we headed to the shores of Loch Lomond.Which was a mistake, since the area is insanely touristic, and wild camping is forbidden. However we managed to find a nice little bond a bit further away, so out went the tent again. It was a cosy spot, with a nice view up to the slopes of mountains.

The Mystery Legs. There was another camp on the other side of the bond, a mysterious camper-van and a nice Scottish couple on our side of the bond. So we shared some beers, few stories and some local knowledge with them, went for a swim and dosed off for the night. Only to be woken up by The Mystery Legs.

So the morning came, we were waking up slowly in the morning sunshine, gathering the courage to wiggle out of our sleeping bags. But we got a visitor. A pair of legs, they asked whether we had seen the camp fire on the other side of the lake last night and on which side. We were wondering why on earth would someone ask a thing like that, but yeah, indeed we had seen a campfire and it had been on the right. The Legs were happy with that and they shuffled to the bushes.

We were left at peace and carried on making our morning coffee and thinking  about breakfast. About an hour later, the Mystery Legs return. He called us to help him. just to help him with something, somewhere. Without giving any indication on when and where and what kind of a help he might have required. Anyhow, we agreed on helping him right after the morning coffee. Legs seemed to be satisfied and wondered off again.

After those short conversations with legs, we drew the conclusion that the legs must belong to the Scottish guy sleeping in the tent close by, maybe they needed help in taking down the tent. But no. The Scottish people did not admit asking for help. Neither did the ladies of the camper-van. Hmm. So there had been a pair of legs running around the place asking for help,

Ben Lomond and the Scouts. We searched for the guy for a while, the camp on the other side was empty and the way there was blocked by a stream. So unfortunately the legs were left to handle it all by themselves. We headed off for our destination of the day, Ben Lomond. We had heard many good things about the mountain, moderate climb beautiful view and we had amazing luck with the weather as well, meaning clear skies and summery temperatures.

Apparently the new of a beautiful mountain had reached some other people too. The first part of the climb was basically walking in a steady stream of people, jumping over a few picnics and avoiding eye contact. We ended up half running up the hill, and completely running it down.

On top, I must say, the view is amazing. On a good day, you can see Ben Nevis among dozens and dozens of other peaks. And then there is the lake, scattered with islands underneath you. So if you do not mind walking on crowded paths, go there.

It was going to be stormy, or at least rainy night, so we thought that something sturdier than just a tent might be a nice thing to sleep in. Luckily Scotland has a nice offering of Mountain Bothies. They are huts, maintained by Mountain Bothy Association and just about anybody who manages to find them can stay in them for free. Really, people, check them out if you are going to Scotland! We had found one right at the shore of Loch Long, away from any major trails and roads and civilization. Off we went.

It was about 7 km hike from the parking spot to the Bothy, it was already drizzling a bit when we caught the first glimpse of the hut. We also saw a running child. then another. A few more kids running around in the bushes. And about 15 tents around the Bothy. Not necessarily the thing you want to see, after almost 20 km of hiking, and considering the fact that you did not take your tent with you. We were a bit scared that there would be no room for us, since so many tents were outside just waiting for the skies to open.

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As it happened, the kids were scouts and apparently learning survival skills, so me and The Waffle had the whole Bothy all by ourselves. It was an extremely nice evening, with fireplace and warmth. And the fun thought of those kids sleeping in the pouring rain.

Bothy, Scotland, Hut

Bothy at the Loch Long

I am gonna leave you all hanging in there. Next episode will follow soon taking you towards Fort William, Clen Coe and the Isle Of Skye!

 

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Hiking Through a Country

Be it Luxembourg, but we still managed to hike through a complete country. One might ask why you want to do a thing like that. Well, for us the meaning for this trip was to get a bit in shape before the hiking trip to Scotland. Luxembourg has a lot of hills and Scotland a few mountains, so we decided to start with the hills, and progress to mountains.

Border to border. So, how do you begin the hike through a country. Well, find a border, leave your car there, hop on to a bus and find the border on the opposite side, then hike back to your car. Simple. I do recommend you to pick a rather small country. Crossing Russia for example might be a little bit more difficult on foot. When jumping out of the bus, a slight feeling of being stupid is likely to occur; why on earth would you walk back the same distance you just traveled comfortably, sitting in a bus?
By the way, Luxembourg is really good at arranging public transport.

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Our hike started at Vianden, heading west towards the Belgian border, where our car was waiting for us. Distance was about 60 kilometers, which means crossing two complete topographic maps. We planned to walk it in about 3 days.

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A Hill! Luxembourg seems to be unable to maintain even levels of ground. So the hike began with a nice climb circling the castle of Vianden and off to the countryside. First night we threw our tent next to a little stream in a forestry valley. Got soaked during the night since it was raining and the tent happened to leak.

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So we left onto the journey of the second day, up and down a few hills. So massively green out there, all the valleys are filled with rivers and greenery.

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It is rather beautiful and you find a lot of snails and really friendly cows all over the place. Actually, at the second camp we had a rather athletic and amusing herd of bovines as neighbors.

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Captain Slow. The next morning we woke up to the reality, that we will never make the walk in 3 days. Being out of shape, slow and running around with the camera after every possible thing. Snails, mainly. We headed on, towards the lovely little town of Esch-Sur-Sûre.  We finally met a few people, over a beer. They thought that we were rather insane. Hiking through a country. Also, after two days of hiking in warm weather without the opportunity to take a bath, well, you know.

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The Paradise. We walked on, on the side of the Lake Esch. Annoyingly close to the road, but luckily it never takes long for the trails to dive into a forest. We had been hunting for nice camping spots from the map and did find a nice looking bay at the Esch.

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We arrived, and the region was even better than we had dared to hope. It was a forest of oaks right at the shore with an amazing view. And of course plenty of deer had found the place too. One had left a decent sized horn behind for us. Yes, our souvenirs are sometimes oddish.

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That was our last night of hiking and camping on that trip. It is incredibly calming to sleep in the nature, at that point we could hear owls calling and probably a deer or two rustling around in the bushes. This is probably a spot where we will return, once the kayaking season is here.

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Luxembourg. I love that little country. It is somehow welcoming and everything is small. The villages are so tiny, that all the residents seem to know each other, and greet you when they see you. They take on strangers with friendly curiosity and are clearly proud of their domain. I am so happy, that we live only a couple of hour away!

Pssst. More snails can be found from here!

The Earlier Days

I am sorry if someone finds it irritating that I keep lingering in the events that already happened, but I do want to write all the dearest memories of the first months down. It is important to me.

As I mentioned, we are a lot on the move, we might have been at home about 3 weekends during the first 4 months. So I am going to bore you with some special picks from those trips. Not all of them, that would be a long LONG post.

LONG

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Les Hemmes. For some reason Waffle wanted me to see the small sandbox he and all his friends use as their playground. It is called Oye Plage and you can find it from the northern coast of France, somewhere between Calais and Dunkerque. My first visit there was on a particularly sunny Sunday, right after the Valentine’s Day.  This time we skipped the regular sport of kite buggying, instead we went walking. The tide was low, so it took a good half an hour to get from the dunes all the way to where the sea wanted to spend time that day. That is something hard to comprehend for a Finn. A beach so large that it looks like a desert. For some reason going fast on wind power on such a surface, does not feel too bad of an idea anymore.

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On that trip we also found quite some seals sun bathing on a sand bank. Those animals you just gotta love. Such curious blobs.

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The Easter Finn. Since bunnies are so last season, we got a Finn for the Easter. They bring Ruisleipä and Fazer and such things instead of eggs.

So I had my dear, dear friend from Finland visiting us. Oh poor girl. I don’t know if she knew what she was signed up for. We set off to a miniature Europe tour, visiting cities in Belgium. Driving through Luxembourg; Germany and the Netherlands.

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So we went and saw cities in rainfall and ate too much chocolates.

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Held our breaths in the valleys of Luxembourg and drove through some vineyards and churches in Germany.

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Wondered around a bit in the low lands of Holland and ate giant waffles at the seaside. Extreme relaxation for all of us. After that great trip, my working life over here began.

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During the visit, I got of course the chance to speak in Finnish again. You do not realize what a period of two months not using your mother tongue does to your brain. The languages are somehow returned to the factory settings, and something is broken in the process, my Finnish now has a weird, weird dialect.

Normandy. For a couple that is on the move a lot, we are extremely bad at planning. We just noticed on a Monday in April, that there is a long weekend coming up. We had no plans, until the Waffle remembered that we both actually wanted to visit Normandy. What a perfect destination for a long weekend!

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So in the end of the working week we bought a few maps, packed the car and headed for France. Thinking about the white cliffs. The nice thing about France is wild camping. You just go and throw out your tent and enjoy the most wonderful views nature can offer. We just basically picked a cliff, popped up the tent and camped, right at the edge of a cliff, listening to the sea and the screams of the seagulls.

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Normandy is an incredibly beautiful region. We spent a couple of days exploring only the coast. The white cliffs already offer a lot to see, all the small caves and arches and stuff. And the sound the sea makes when it moves the round rocks along the shore, magical. I also envy the local cows. On that trip we found also very very fine goat cheese and goat milk chocolate. Yummy! We also learned never again to buy cider from a goat farmer. They are apparently very able to mix the goats with the cider. Somehow.

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Last night of Normandy offered us probably an experience we will never forget. We were again staying in our tent at the seaside. We thought it would be a warmish night, around 5 degrees or so. We were brave enough to leave out our extra blanket. Also our mattress was feeling brave and decided to deflate. And the night was feeling brave and dropped below zero. Fun, right? In the morning we found the tent and our noses covered in a nice frost, not the nicest situation to wake up in.

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All in all. Yeah, those have been the most memorable trips of this spring, and now the summer is coming. So you will probably hear a lot about short weekend things.

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We just spent a few days hiking in Luxembourg, I love that country, and yesterday we returned from a long holiday in Scotland. So I wont be shutting up anytime soon. Sorry.