Sunday, August 13, 2006

Speyside Way

I hadn't done a long distance walk since the Great Glen Way back in May '05, so I was very keen to get another one under my belt. Scotland has five official long distance walking routes, of which I have now done three. This time it was the Speyside Way which covers a distance of 65 miles from Aviemore to Buckie, and more or less follows the route of the River Spey until in joins the sea at Spey Bay. The Speyside region is famous for its whiskies (Glenlivet and Glenfiddich among many others) though admittedly I didn't touch a drop on this trip!

This was probably my most ambitious schedule yet, covering the 65 miles in only three days. The last two days in particular were tough going, with 11 hour days and very sore feet, so after a meal and a pint I was ready for bed. That said, completely worth it. A great combination of beautiful views, physical challenge, and brilliant company. They say a picture is worth a 1000 words...

Day One: Aviemore to Grantown-on-Spey (17 miles)

Through the woods near Boat of Garten
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Sheep farms approaching Grantown
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Day Two: Grantown-on-Spey to Charlestown of Aberlour (23 miles)

Several sections of the trail follow the trackbed of the old Strathspey Railway, and many of the old stations have been restored, including this one at Cromdale.
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Another section of the old railway, just past Ballindalloch.
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Day Three: Charlestown of Aberlour to Buckie (25 miles)

Spectacular views of the Spey and surrounding valley after climbing beyond the treeline near Ben Aigan.
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The old vine-covered stone staircase making the descent into Fochabers.
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Where the Spey meets the North Sea at Spey Bay.
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Very happy to see this after 25 miles!
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Thursday, August 10, 2006

Russian Futurists + Peter Bjorn and John @ Nice N Sleazy

Hadn't seen them since 2002 back in Toronto, so I was pleased to see that the Russian Futurists would be playing Glasgow promoting a new compilation CD to introduce them to the UK market. Fun set - nobody does low-fi synth pop better.

I'd bought these tickets simply to see RF, but since that time headliners Peter Bjorn and John have picked up quite a buzz on the strength of their catchy as hell single Young Folks. Didn't know what to expect really. Most of their set sounded less like their single and more like Twice Removed era Sloan (which is a good thing!). Great tunes - looking forward to hearing the album.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Antrim Coast and Derry

One of the advantages of bringing the car over on the ferry of course is that we were able to see a bit more of what Northern Ireland has to offer.

From Belfast we drove to the North Antrim coast. As the pics hopefully show, the coastline is absolutely stunning. Above is the view you can get after crossing Carrick-a-Rede, a rope bridge 30m above the sea, to Carrick Island.

A temple on the grounds of Downhill which overlooks the sea. We could see Scotland on the horizon.

The Giant's Causeway: naturally formed rock columns by the sea. I much prefer the legend - that giant Finn McCool built the causeway to get to Scotland in order to fight his Scottish equivalent.

Downhill beach as seen from the clifftops.

After a few days on the coast, we arrived in the walled city of Derry. Many old pubs to be found including one where we finally got to sample some proper Irish folk tunes (fondly known as fiddle-dee-dee music)

Walking along the old walls, you can see the same contrasts as you see in Belfast. Some areas prosperous and modern or filled with cosy wee pubs, other areas burnt out with sectarian graffiti. No surprise that evidence of the Troubles remain here as Derry is where Bloody Sunday took place in 1972.