For a small town, Comillas has much to interest without sinking to the depths of themed parks, experiences or visitor centres.  Most of the information boards are solely in Spanish which is also fine by me – I can admire things for what they appear to be while idly scratching at my many mosquito bites.  I don’t do in-depth analysis or consideration of other cultures, I struggle to keep up with my own. Suffice to say that Comillas is a quite spectacular place with some very fine old architecture and not too much of the modern, at least not at its centre.

On the headland above the bay stands Antonio López y López, the first marquis of Comillas; condemned, like Nelson, to spend eternity atop a stone column – he has the better view. Ubicación, ubicación, ubicación.

These variations on a theme were taken at different times across the same day – the cool winds above the bay relieve the itching😉

Monumento ...Monumento ...Monumento ...

Pushed …

I have time on my hands, life has slowed to the pace of a snail.  I am not good at doing nothing.  Consequently my blog output has suddenly risen and playing with the camera occupies a large part of the day.  This is not necessarily a bad thing – life back home is always too full.  Here in Comillas the opposite applies.

Days start too slowly – we skip mornings, arrive ready prepared for siesta time and finally hit the streets early evening.  I could not do this for long, it feels like a life wasted but for a short time it is fine.

I avoid using flash – it has limited range, it is intrusive, it does nothing for facial features and the strong shadows are unnatural.  As the light fails, the answer is to push the X100s to ISO 6400, change the white balance to incandescent, switch the film simulation to Provia Standard and then fade into the background.

Once captured, the images are cropped and the levels adjusted in Photoshop CC. ON1 is used to convert to black and white with a basic green filter, a minor vignette applied and a border added.  Then a final dabble with sharpening, levels, brightness and contrast in Photoshop finishes the job.  And, the real trick in all this? – remembering to reset the camera to its standard settings.

On the Run, Phoning HomeThe Fountain and Church Door were taken out and about on the streets of Comillas last night.  It keeps me amused and out of trouble🙂

On the run ...Evening in the square ...The fountain ...Iglesia de S. Cristobal ...




This gallery contains 7 photos.

The narrow-gauge FEVE railway meanders across Spain’s northern coast between Bilbao in the Basque Country and Ferrol in Galicia.  Narrow-gauge it may be but this is no museum piece, the rolling stock is modern and clean and the trains run … Continue reading


My good lady and best friend has been angling to go somewhere warm.  These last few years I have taken her to the Arctic Circle in winter (minus 30 in Kirkenes), Lapland, the Inner Hebrides, the Outer Hebrides, the northwest and northeast of Scotland and various narrowboat voyages across middle England, renowned for its equatorial climate😉  For penance I find myself in northern Spain, Comillas in Cantabria to be precise and very warm it is too.

A short slice of holiday life – a couple of hours after our arrival we walk down the steep track from the gîte to the town centre.  Within a few hundred yards Pam finds a plastic driving licence lying on the ground and the strangest of things – it is mine, even though I have never passed this way before!  A miracle say I.  No says my beloved – that was the ‘angel of found things’ lending a helping hand, it was meant to be.

Of course if my fine lady hadn’t dropped it in the first place (on a wander looking for the gîte) and the ‘angel of careless hands’ hadn’t been asleep on the job, none of this would have been necessary – in the interests of a peaceful and serene existence, all of this goes unsaid.  Maybe this explains everything:

Asleep on the job ...

From Iglesia de San Cristóbal we walked to the seafront and at the small port peer over the harbour wall to find a raging white water sea.  I think I am going to like it here:

White water ... White water ... White water ... Coastal walk ...
In the evening there are still stragglers on the beach, reluctant to let the long day close.
“In the reprieve at the end of the day, in the stillness of a summer evening, the world sheds its categories, the insistence of its future, and is suspended solely in the lilt of its desire.”
Barry Lopez, Arctic Dreams.

Yes, my thoughts are still fixated on the north😉

The long day closes ...

The Flying Scotsman

In an earlier post I confessed to a youth spent hanging around sooty stations and sheds, inhaling steam, writing down numbers and underlining entries in an Ian Allan Combined Volume. Traces of that boy in a school cap, grey shorts and Clarks sandals remain.  For the last couple of weekends the Flying Scotsman has been travelling through Hexham on excursions to Carlisle; of course, I had to go and pay my respects.

I last saw this engine in steam at Doncaster when she was still in service; it would have been around 1961, a few years before she was sold to Alan Pegler.  Now she is pristine but in 1961 she was in standard BR livery, soot black and filthy.  Majestic she may be but I have fond memories of the days when not just the engines but the entire railway infrastructure was grubby, down-at-heel but workmanlike.

The first image, dated 14th August 2016,  was taken at Tyne Green on the opposite side of the tracks to the golf course.  The second image, dated 21st August 2016 was taken between Fourstones and Newbrough, on the track and crossing that used to lead down from Bull Bank:

Steaming through ... The Flying Scotsman ...

She is due through Hexham again tomorrow so I will mount the Yamaha and seek out another viewing angle. My whole life has been a landscape with machines.

Dusty roads ...


The Rest

This seems such a bad idea that it is hard to believe the proposal has gained any traction. It has echoes of Trump’s infamous Aberdeenshire golf course.  According to The Herald newspaper,   ‘Plans to build a visitor centre overlooking the old Military Road at the rest and Be Thankful, have received the backing of motorsport legend, Sir Jackie Stewart … The proposed Rest and Be Thankful Heritage Project would celebrate the road’s link to Scotland’s rich motoring history. The centre is planned to include a cafe and arts spaces within a contemporary building.

I have had a lifelong passion for the motor racing of the 1950s, 60s and 70s having witnessed many of the great drivers of the period in action, not least Sir Jackie – they have my undying admiration.  Equally I have a passion for the wild places of Scotland.  By all means celebrate Scotland’s rich motoring history but surely not at the expense of the glorious unspoiled Glencroe.  No matter how sympathetic the architecture, this is a commercial venture in a wholly inappropriate place.

While researching Golf in the Wild I made several trips to Inveraray via Glencroe and on every occasion I stopped at the summit of Rest And Be Thankful to admire the fine view down the glen and imagine the magnificent men in their racing machines ascending the old road.  Some acknowledgement of recent history would be welcome, an information board or even a replica of the Race Control shed at the summit – if I remember correctly, the foundations still exist.  The rest of Rest’s story can be told elsewhere.

This is a short extract from Golf in the Wild:

Circling Arrochar, the top of Loch Long and passing the old torpedo testing site, the road heads north west up Glen Croe. For centuries this route has been known as the Rest And
Be Thankful. The road has its origins in the Jacobite uprisings when General George Wade recommended establishment of military bases interconnected by Highland roads such that troops could be moved quickly and conveniently between locations to quell any local uprisings.  The General’s Inspector of Roads, Major Caulfield, first surveyed the route in 1743 and by 1748 the road over the Glen Croe summit was completed by troops from the 24th Regiment who erected a stone seat with the legend ‘Rest And Be Thankful’. The remainder of the road down to Loch Fyne was completed in 1749.

016-Rest and be Thankful postcard-B&W-WordPress

The modern day A83 eventually replaced the original single track highway at the end of the 1930s and as you drive along the south western flank of Ben Arthur, stretches of the original route can be seen below on the floor of the Glen. Whilst the modern version ascends gradually by cutting a route along the mountainside, the original delays the steep ascent to the last. This had glorious consequences.

In 1949 the Royal Scottish Automobile Club (RSAC) used the final one mile ascent of the Wade-Caulfield route to establish the magnificent Rest And Be Thankful hillclimb, an event which continued almost uninterrupted for another twenty years. Jackie Stewart describes this place as ‘the cradle of my life in motor racing’ (Winning is Not Enough, the autobiography 2007), first as a spectator, watching his elder brother Jim compete in his Healey Silverstone and later, in July 1961, as a competitor in a Ford powered Marcos. Stewart has fond memories of these times, ‘the public address announcer shouting out the names of the drivers and their cars and all their split times and his voice would echo down the Glen and I used to sit there wide-eyed enjoying a spectacle as thrilling and exhilarating as any young boy could imagine, hardly daring to blink’; and so in the shadow of Ben Arthur began the drive to fame, fortune and the career-long dance with death and tragedy.

From the A83, the old road looks innocuous but in that last mile it rises over 400 feet creating a hill climb as challenging as any in Europe. Archive newsreel from the 1950 event projects a diverse array of machinery, mostly pre-war and pre-conformity, the only design constraints being the imagination. Dennis Poore in the monstrous flying Pegasus bi-wheeled 4.5 litre Alfa 8C-35, Raymond Mays and Ken Wharton in ERAs and Basil Davenport in the skinny GN Spider, all forward and trust in the Lord, a seriously strange but effective device dating from the early 1920s where the driver appears to sit astride the car in homage to its cyclecar origins. All arms and elbows, they attack Stonebridge, Cobblers and the Hairpin with true grit, determination – and no protection.

In July 1958 Jim Clark competed here in both a Porsche 1600S and a Triumph TR3, finishing first and second respectively. On his way home he called on his friend Jim Stewart at Dumbuck Garage where his younger brother Jackie raced out of the house eager to see this rising star. It would be 1962 before they were formally introduced at
Charterhall and from that moment their lives were intertwined, until that fateful day at Hockenheim on 7th April 1968.

The hairpin ...

This final image shows the hairpin prior to resurfacing in April 2012.
Many thanks to Maurice1948 on Blip for highlighting the story from The Herald.