Sconser

Smoking can damage your health.  I have always known this.  On Boxing Day 1968 I was heading south on the old Derby Ring Road, destination Mallory Park for the annual winter race meeting.  I never finished the 180 mile round trip from Altrincham.  Distracted by my attempts to light up while at the wheel, I didn’t see the approaching roundabout until it was too late.  The only route was straight across the middle.  The high kerbs squared off the front wheels of my sky blue Mini (6428 VR), pushed back the subframe and cracked the front windscreen.  My pride and limited reserves were severely damaged.  I was seventeen and lacking the necessary powers of concentration.  Two more lesser incidents the following year finally drilled the message home – keep you mind on your drivin’, keep you hands on the wheel.

Now, ‘older and wiser’, I think nothing of driving 750 miles over a weekend except the incentive has changed; once it was racing circuits, now it is golf courses and in this instance, Sconser on the Isle of Skye followed by Traigh near Arisaig.

The Isle of Skye Golf Club sits next to the sea overlooking Raasay, the island with the haunted bridge and Calum’s Road.  To the north of the course is the Skye to Raasay ferry and at its southern end, Sconser quarry.  I like to imagine explosions from the quarry mid backswing and shrapnel peppering the second green. It has all the right ingredients for Golf in the Wild – the friendly but unpretentious clubhouse, empty fairways, well kept greens, mountains and the salty sea air.  The occasional midge is a price worth paying. Look up the hill from from the first green and the main road disappears; the clubhouse appears to sit alone in a mountainous landscape, the perfect illusion.

The differing filter effects reflect a very changeable day:

The first ... The first ... Towards ... The Raasay Ferry...

The following day’s weather was less mixed, more consistent – rain and wind. Nevertheless, we were determined to enjoy the Traigh Open and in a determined fashion we did. Many thanks to www.scottishgolfbytrain.co.uk for sharing in the highs and lows of Golf in the Wild at Sconser and Traigh.

The view from ... The view from the 2nd ...

Weekly Photo Challenge: Cover Art

This is the opportunity for some self-promotion, so apologies 😛 . This is the cover of my recently published book, Golf in the Wild Consistent with the challenge, the image is “intended to echo a particular character of the subject matter, an essence that words fail to capture with simplicity”.  The view is from the third green of the glorious Traigh Golf Course near Arisaig.

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This is the first independent review from the October issue of the Killin News:

Golf in the Wild – A journey through time and place” by Robin J. Down

“This book exists because of Killin. It was here in 2005 that the idea of solitary golf in wild places was first born.” ( Chapter 4 Killin)

This is a newly published book and as a non-golfer I found it a surprisingly enjoyable and easy read. Written with humour and candour, it should appeal to a much wider audience than just the golfing fraternity. With descriptions of wonderful ‘wild’ courses, on which the golfer can test his or her skills (or lack of them!), the book encourages you to take the journey and to step off the well publicised golfing route map. It could even tempt the non-golfing household to enjoy the delights of a touring holiday in north Northumberland and Scotland and may just persuade others to abandon the hassle of airports and their annual golfing jaunt to Turkey, Portugal or other such popular destinations.

This book is much more than about playing golf. It takes you on a journey through time, wonderful landscapes, the fascinating history of the places where the courses are located, the author’s life and the various characters in his family, and his passion for fast cars and those who were lucky (or unlucky) enough to race them. The golfing journey begins at Allendale, Northumberland and ends at Durness, in Sutherland, having taken you on a route north via courses such as Selkirk, Bishopshire, Killin – to which a whole chapter is devoted, Craignure, Traigh and Gairloch. A great tour to undertake even without the golf clubs and the book will, hopefully, encourage new visitors to all the destinations that are mentioned.

It is a book you can dip in and out of and should inspire every reader to do a bit of exploring. Copies, priced at £8.99, are available in Killin at The Old Mill and at Killin Golf Club or may be bought directly from www.golfinthewild.co.uk.

Gillean Ford

And this is the inside cover:

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(click on the images to enlarge)

Missing Ardnamurchan

We have been back less than a fortnight and I am missing the northwest already, perhaps this sunset begins to explain why.  It was taken on the old road between Arisaig and Traigh, at the small bridge just down from the Cnoc-na-Faire Inn at Back of Keppoch.  I have resisted all temptation to fiddle with this photo; no change of saturation, no upping the contrast nor dimming the brightness, you are seeing it exactly as nature intended, always assuming my Nikon captured it accurately (and everyone’s screen is calibrated the same, which they won’t be :-)).  Those familiar with the road will know there is a campsite at Druimdhu that protrudes into the bay but on this occasion I don’t think the silhouette of the campervans is too unattractive and who can blame them for wanting to be there:

Back of KeppochRed sky at night etc proved entirely accurate – the next day dawned glorious and we headed for Eigg and Muck.  That’s all folks! – just getting sentimental (click on the image to enlarge).

Travel theme: Pale

Travel theme: Pale:  These photographs were taken at Arisaig on the west coast of Scotland; the pale evening sky is still lit by a sun which has only recently dipped beneath the horizon.  A version of one of these images appears in the rotating header of this blog so will be familiar to some.

If I could paint I would paint this; if I could be anywhere else right now, I would be at Arisaig……or Plockton or Applecross or Achiltibuie – I’m easy, anywhere under these skies:

Arisaig Arisaig Arisaig

(click on images to enlarge)

The West Highland Line

The rail journey along the West Highland Line was a great success; the weather on the outward journey was near perfect, the trains ran on time and the scenery, except around Glasgow, was spectacular.  There was a major flaw though, as a photographic expedition it was less than ideal.  Taking pictures from a moving object is never to be recommended, add to this the grubby glass, the reflections from interior lights, the lack of opening windows and the opportunities to record the journey were few and far between.  In the end I resorted to Instagram and its various filters in an attempt to disguise the less than perfect results.  By the time we reached Arisaig the light was failing fast as the short day closed.  The Old Library maintained its usual high standards; anyone eating or staying will almost certainly be treated to Robert’s very fine Ziggy Stardust impressions on CD, in aid of his daughter, two year old Dawn.

(click on images to enlarge)

The Old Library ArisaigArisaig Post OfficeThe end of the day - ArisaigRemains of the day - ArisaigThe trip was all about the train journeys so after one night we returned by the same route only by the morning the highland weather had slipped into a more traditional costume.

Arisaig StationArisaig StationArisaig Station

Highland Railways

This week we are heading north by train on a remarkable deal currently available from ScotRail – Club 55 allows those of a certain age (the clue is in the title) to travel anywhere in Scotland for the princely sum of £19 return.  For the purposes of this exercise ScotRail have kindly extended the Scottish border south, such that we can start the journey from Carlisle – a Scottish Nationalist plot perhaps :-).  We are making the most of this opportunity and heading for Arisaig via Glasgow, Fort William and the stunningly beautiful West Highland Line, an outward journey of 256 miles. By contrast, the 39 mile journey between Hexham and Carlisle will cost nearly £17 – no comment.

The success of this journey will depend much upon the weather – I have visions of glorious snow covered vistas stretching far into the distance, ideally suited to a Nikkor 24mm prime; reality may be different, we shall see.  Regardless, it seems like a gentle adventure with the prospect of a fine overnight stay at the The Old Library come journey’s end.

This old postcard from great Uncle Charlie’s collection is a reminder of how Highland Railways were once the vibrant heart of a community.  Kildonan station is on the Far North Line which is on the eastern side of north Scotland stretching from Inverness to Thurso and miraculously, like the West Highland Line, it has survived the savage hand of Beeching.

The card is postmarked May 1907 and addressed to Montague Gardens, London where Uncle Charlie was in service – Am having a lovely time up here, needless to say it is much colder than in London.

Kildonan Railway StationAt the top right of the card is Kildonan Lodge, possibly where this card was sent from, assuming it is from one servant below stairs to another.  The arched bridge over the River Helmsdale remains but all else is gone: the two houses in the foreground, all of the station buildings and inevitably the level crossing gates.  The road is now unprotected from the railway but there is a profusion of signs which have nothing to do with safety and everything to do with transferring injury liability to the individual.

Interestingly, it is possible to catch a train from Carlisle at 07:56 and arrive in Thurso, via Kildonan, at 17:47 the same day, a return distance of 934 miles all for £19 – I think I know where we are going next!

Some pedantic notes:  a. The Lodges are at Suisgill and and not Sensgill as printed on the postcard (unless it is a Gaelic spelling) and b.  Suisgill Lodge is at least one mile north of Kildonan Lodge and therefore not visible.

(Thanks to JAD for digging out this postcard)