Witches’ knickers …

… and other monochromes, from a walk between Portmahomack and Tarbat Ness lighthouse.  To get here, head for Inverness, cross the Kessock and Cromarty Bridges, follow the A9 north, by-passing Invergordon, until a turning right is signposted Fearn and beyond.  We are here because of golf, a ‘research’ trip for Golf in the Wild – Going Home – golf doesn’t get much wilder than this.

It is also a fine place to stay regardless of the golf: Known in Gaelic as ‘Port MoCholmaig’ or St Colman’s Port, Portmahomack can trace its roots back to 800 AD. Today, this pretty fishing village is well-known locally for its picturesque setting. The only village on the east coast of Scotland that faces due west, Portmahomack can enjoy spectacular sunsets. And because it is situated in an area of the Highlands renowned for its low rainfall, the village doesn’t suffer with those pesky West Coast midges! – http://www.portmahomack.org/

A remarkably flat landscape for much of the road towards the tip of the peninsular, the landscape was purpose-built for aerodromes.  More than seventy years after the end of World War II, there is much evidence of the decaying infrastructure that supported RAF Tain.  It is also prime farmland, more reminiscent of the Great Plains than a land steeped in ancient Pictish history.  There are the inevitable too-yellow fields of oil seed rape but also, acres given over to potato crops, much of which ends up in crackly packets of Walkers Crisps.

Once you reach the coastal village Portmahomack, the landscape roughens up such that the golf course is anything but flat which makes for a thoroughly entertaining 10-hole layout at the top of the village. Golf was first played here in 1894 and the current club established in 1909.

Portmahomack even has its own Carnegie Hall which, by happy coincidence, was playing host to Lizabett Russo on the night we arrived.

These photos ignore the golf as I am honour-bound to occasionally entertain the Good Wife/part-time caddie with walks that don’t include greens and fairways:

Witches’ knickers

A shed

Wide open spaces

Oil seed rape.

Tarbat Ness Lighthouse.

Tarbat Ness Lighthouse.

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Whitby

Bram Stoker spent a great deal of time in Whitby and at the Royal Hotel.  It is said that while looking out of from his window at the Royal he found his inspiration for Dracula by watching a large black dog leaping from a ship that had run aground on the foreshore.

We have his room – the foreshore is visible, the wind is howling; there are any number of black dogs straining on reluctant leads in the sideways rain.  The staff all have Transylvanian accents; the steaks are a touch too rare.  At breakfast we are joined by the undead.

The Dracula convenience store – late night shopping only

Whitby attracts the Goth community and it is easy to understand why – not just the Dracula connection but that very Victorian, very black material, Whitby jet can be found everywhere among the narrow streets and cobbled alleyways. It is a Hammer Horror film set with perfect backdrops – the steep, steep steps to St Mary’s and the ruined Abbey lording it over the town.

Despite this, it is also a place of romance, light and poetry.

West Pier – Whitby

Last of the light – Whitby

Things Passed Away

In lapis, dun and grey, heave, swell and gale
are stilled; the whispering mast and shingle-roar
silenced.  Small boats of larch and oak and prayer
take on the storm with slender oars and straining sail.
Umber and ochre beget beast and bale,
the harvest art, the scythe, the brooding moor,
and, as lowering clouds advance upon the shore,
the lover waits, the mother saves the veil.

But soon, beyond these whelming cobalt seas,
young men will reel, mistaking smoke for fret
and blasted shells for raining ore or jet,
seeking dolphins as they to darkness yield.
Then, painting dark on dark when life has ceased,
charred bones become ivory-black and stain the field.

Jane Poulton
March 2015.

The Cross, St Mary’s, Whitby.

Over the rooftops and houses

St Mary’s Whitby

Romeo, Romeo, I’m your Juliet
I’m the pot of gold that you haven’t found yet
And I’m here, right here

The Fratellis

Happy, smiley, people – in the rain at Whitby

Kyle of Lochalsh

My room is beneath the first ‘L’ in Lochalsh and I am sat at the adjacent window, to the front, looking out on the Kyle as I type this post. If this was a postcard, I would scratch “I am here” in BIC biro.

The Lochalsh Hotel

It is now all too easy to pass by this hotel – once adjacent to the Isle of Skye ferry, it was at the centre of things as all vehicles bound for the island queued for anything up to five hours, but never on a Sunday. This little gem from Alan Whicker and the BBC Tonight programme, November 1964:

Sat at this window on April 24th 1973, I would have seen a dark blue Mitchell Van Hire, 18cwt Bedford CF, board the Skye ferry. The driver, dressed in a too-long purple jumper knitted by an earlier girlfriend, a pair of too-wide flared jeans, a straw hat and Mexican sandals made from old car tyres, we were heading for Glen Brittle and perfect Spring sunshine. How things have changed. The road now sweeps across the Skye Bridge, I have arrived by train, it is February and it is wet and very windy. It is an odd time of year to come to the Highlands.

Inverness Station – the Kyle of Lochalsh train

Arriving at Kyle of Lochalsh

I have always wanted to travel the Inverness to Kyle of Lochalsh railway, along with the Mallaig and Wick lines, some of the world’s most scenic railways. Up to end March it is possible to travel anywhere in Scotland on ScotRail for £17 return once you have purchased a £15 Club 50 card.

There was one slight flaw to my cunning plan – the journey north from Inverness was in complete darkness. I might as well have been travelling on the London Underground. Nevertheless, the journey south, tomorrow, starts at 12:08 so the landscape will be revealed in all its glory – assuming there is no mist.

To fill in time on a damp day, I took the bus from Kyle of Lochalsh to Elgol and Glasnakille, on the west coast of Skye. I was one of three passengers throughout the entire trip. The bus stops at Elgol for tea with the driver, Gordon, and immediately the BBC news comes on the radio at 1pm, we must get back on board and head for Glasnakille. It is timed like an Apollo launch.

Gordon

It was at Glasnakille that I was joined by a local lady bound for Broadford – she described it as a ‘course’ day. The conversation flowed from there, covering such diverse topics as Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull who once lived in nearby Strathaird House; the clearances; education – up to eleven there is a local school but thereafter children must board at Portree, the only secondary school on the island; the high volume of traffic in the summer; midges – you just have to out up with them and, the dreaded camper vans. By the time we reached Broadford, I felt like a local. Gordon would be back at 15:22, on the dot, to take her home.

Kippford

According to Wiki:  Kippford is a small village along the Solway coast, in the historical county of Kirkcudbrightshire in Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland.

It is home to the most expensive properties in Dumfries & Galloway and is known as the Solway Riviera.  Well that’s news to me.  Riviera or not, it was surprisingly quiet even during Scottish schools’ half-term week.

Spend a few years on WordPress and there is the risk that posts become repetitive – the last time I was here was August 2014, staying overnight for golf at Colvend.  Four years on not much has changed – I am staying for two nights for three rounds of golf at Lochmaben, Cally Palace and Dumfries & Galloway.  More of the same sums up everything.

This time however, it was later in the year and the sun lower in the early evening sky.  The ‘Riviera‘ was lit with a golden light, captured on a Fuji X100F – last time it was the X100S – like I say, more of the same:

Staring into the light

On the jetty

The jetty, Kippford

Mudflats, Kippford

Reflected light, Kippford

From the far end of Kippford

Gemini at low tide

Danger – do not proceed …

Owning a motorcycle is like owning a dog, you can get into long conversations with people who would ordinarily pass you by.

The stop at Bellingham was planned – the Yamaha has a fuel gauge but its advice is at best vague.  It always pays to independently keep track of mileage and expected range – about 150 miles maximum.  This is particularly so when heading north up the A68 – without diversions there are no petrol pumps between Hexham and Jedburgh.  Hence the plan to fill up at Bellingham – a scenic diversion which worked well except my arrival coincided with a tanker delivery.  Within minutes the driver had expressed an interest in my bike and so the fifteen minute wait was filled with conversation.  The same thing happened later in the day when I made a brief detour to the Holy Island causeway; an elderly chap was keen to tell me all about the Vincent he once owned and wished he still did

I was heading for Haddington to the east of Edinburgh – first to collect some copies of David Shaw Stewart’s excellent Views from the Tee and then to meet my eldest for lunch.  Rather than retrace my steps I returned via the A1.  This is a longer route home but the northern stretches near the coast can be spectacular and the dual carriageway allows the cobwebs to be air-blasted from the Yamaha.  These are just some images from the day – a splendid 220 mile ride out in perfect autumnal weather:

Filling up the filling station, Bellingham

Haddington in autumnal sunshine

Robert Ferguson of Raith memorial – Haddington

From the causeway to Holy Island

You have been warned

On the causeway bridge

Another view from the causeway bridge

You don’t need a weatherman …

… to know which way the wind blows – Subterranean Homesick Blues, Bob Dylan, recorded on January 14, 1965.  According to english.stackexchange.com, the lyric was the inspiration for the name of the American radical left group the Weathermen, a breakaway from the Students for a Democratic Society. In a 2007 study of legal opinions and briefs that found Bob Dylan was quoted by judges and lawyer more than any other songwriter, “you don’t need a weatherman…” was distinguished as the line most often cited.

I mention this apropos of nothing other than I was at Traigh for their Open over the weekend and, as always, from the high points on the course, you don’t need a weatherman, you can see the weather coming for miles and there was plenty of it.

The view from the 3rd tee

The Clubhouse – the umbrella accurately indicates that the sun was only a passing fancy

Threatening weather

Not immediately apparent, but my bottom half is drenched 😦

The view from the 2nd tee

Looking back to the 2nd tee – Traigh Open 2018 – the essence of Golf in the Wild

While I am going off at tangents, I will make this not particularly original observation – to fully appreciate any music you must hear it in the context of its own time. This track and everything else on Bringing It All Back Home was a shining beacon of originality which inevitably fades with time and the production of more than 50 years worth of subsequent music. Nevertheless, I can still remember the excitement felt by that introverted 14 year-old as this album first emerged from the single speaker of the family Dansette. All the words are still inside my head.

The Friends’ Meeting House

In the sparsely populated land between Plenmeller and Coanwood Commons, on the edge of Garbutt Hill is a burn which flows north to feed the southern Tyne.  Across a stone bridge which leads to Burn House, tucked into a fold in the land is The Friends’ Meeting House.  Wandering these lost lanes on a motorcycle, it is surprising what you find.  According to the Historic Chapels Trust, “Coanwood Friends’ Meeting House was built in 1760 not far from Hadrian’s Wall. The almost unaltered interior is a rare and eloquent survival of historic Quaker layout and it powerfully evokes the silence of Quaker worship in this remote place, where the only sound is usually the wind and, in winter, the fast-moving burn nearby”.

I first found the chapel in April but did not venture inside, just assuming the door would be locked.  Earlier this week I returned to its simple, peaceful interior:

The Friends’ Meeting House

The interior

Quaker Faith & Practice

Ordnance Survey Leisure Map

A bit like dogs, motorcycles get you talking. A local, removing moss from the nearby stone bridge, was a disappointed owner of a Harley. The conversation moved from bikes to Chapels and the equally interesting, if more ornate, ancient Church at Beltingham set in the centre of the tiny village. This is where I will head next.

Opposite the Friends’ Meeting House – that large screen has been replaced.