I hope you’ve all had a lovely Christmas, however you chose to spend it. Due to restrictions around social gatherings and travel, we had a Merry Christmas for two. Not quite the same, but we made the most of it, cooking turkey and all the trimmings. I made my special tiramisu trifle (for me as Bruce isn’t a fan of Amaretto) and we enjoyed some smoked salmon, this year in the form of brunch with scrambled eggs after a chilly morning walk.
I think my parents made more of a Christmas effort than we did! Well done Mum and Dad; I wonder if that was due to the novelty of cooking their own Christmas dinner for the first time in many years?
Christmas dinner (Round 2) was delivered to the in-laws – meals on wheels style – then home to relax for the evening.
Today saw a thaw in the icy conditions from yesterday, much to our delight. This permitted summer greens on the golf course (for him) and a good day on the trails for me. Only a few short icy sections, easily avoided, I was very happy to get outside. So happy that I even ran Kingshill, first time in a while.
Cobwebs blown away, Boxing Day dinner beckons. The Prosecco is open – just for me. Merry Christmas one and all!
One of the more remote munros in the Glen Carron area, Maoile Lunndaidh required a bike in to make life a little easier. Best laid plans, we parked up at the Forestry Commission car park at Craig before crossing the road and then the railway line. It never ceases to amaze me when in rural Scotland how you can just cross the railway line with nothing more than a sign reminding you to look out and listen for trains!
Safely across, we then followed a good track for our ‘bike in’. This was 5.4 miles in total and required a fair amount of pushing, my legs not being that used to being on the bike, especially with the added weight of a rucksack on my back, hiking boots, and flat pedals rather than SPDs.
Despite the walk breaks, we managed to reach the forestry plantation where we’d leave our bikes within the hour, this confirming it was quicker than walking all the way in. We stopped to chat to a family who were heading for some neighbouring munros, subject to the dogs getting across the river. I told them about Munro Moonwalker’s exploits with his friend’s dog, Scoop, and left them to ponder this further. If you’ve no idea what I’m talking about you’ll need to read the book!
Going up: steeply!
Our route guide had suggested a steep, pathless climb, but I’m not sure either of us fully appreciated what lay ahead. Thanks to the earlier rain leading us to set off late morning, the ground was rather boggy, and we plowtered through the mud, squelching as we went.
Having crossed the An Crom-allt, the real ‘fun’ began. The route guide suggested heading straight up over the heather, the gradient easing around 800 metres. This meant climbing around 400 metres. To add insult to injury, part way up the climb the heavens opened and the rain came on. Fantastic! A nice chilly downpour just to complete the experience. Thankfully it was relatively short-lived!
The ascent was very steep and I was less than comfortable, conscious that although grassy it was a long way down if I slipped. There was little choice but to keep slogging on, gaining height bit by bit. When Bruce finally stated that we had reached 770 metres, I burst into tears! Thankfully he missed this as he’d have had no idea what was ado with me, not sharing my trepidation of height. It’s irrational, I know!
Maoile Lunndaidh: the summit ridge
Approaching the ridge, having dried out nicely in the wind, another rain shower approached. A quick decision was made not to don the waterproofs as the previous one had passed over without too much discomfort. This was a big mistake! The spots of rain very quickly turned to hail, blasting us from the side and stinging greatly as they pelted our legs and faces. The shower also lasted a little longer, long enough to ensure that the trousers were completely soaked through and my feet also suitably squelchy!
With no great desire to linger, we crossed the summit ridge, passing the cairns, and pausing only for photographs of the surrounding area. I didn’t even bother looking into the coire, mainly due to the strong gusting wind, afraid I might end up in it if I stepped too close, instead allowing Bruce to be my eyes with his camera.
I’d started to chill following the soaking, so stopped to put on a cosy layer under my jacket, swapping wet gloves for dry, and adding my Tuffbags to keep me really cosy. We managed to dry out in the gusting wind, so waterproof trousers were added for extra insulation too. One thing that did so well today was my new jacket, a Mountain Hardwear bargain from Wiggle. I was very happy with the way it performed in the rain.
Going down: boggy underfoot
Heading off the ridge, we followed a slight path to begin. It was unclear and disappeared at times, leaving us following the Garmin route and our noses to get back to the plantation.
As it transpired, we took our own route, heading more directly towards Glenuaig Lodge and Bothy than we should have. This incurred an extra couple of water crossings, one where we created our own stepping stones to avoid getting too wet as the water was flowing well, another where Bruce decided to lie down (ok, he slipped); there’s a reason why he’s made to go first!
Snack Stop at Glenuaig Bothy
This Bothy is tiny! It may be like a tardis inside, but from the outside it appears like a wee shed! Not one to bank on having space if ever in these parts.
We stopped outside briefly to get rid of the waterproofs before the bike out, and have a quick energy boost. A Mars always tastes so much better outdoors.
A short walk back to the plantation and we reached the bikes. Bruce rode off enthusiastically, leaving me in his wake. My legs took a wee bit of time to warm up, less than impressed with any effort requiring me to stand and pedal, so I got off and walked up the first tiny incline.
Thankfully they eased back into it and despite riding into the headwind it became easier as we went on. Seeing the average mph on my watch and knowing that I was faster on the bike than walking gave me the momentum required.
Typically though, yet another shower appeared. We had just reached some conifer trees so stopped to allow the worst of it to pass, the wind strengthening as the rain blew through. Moving again as it eased off it was hard to determine whether I was getting wet by spray off the trail or rain from above.
It was with great delight that we reached the level crossing once again, signalling our return leg complete. If I’m honest, this is not a munro I’d rush to do again. It was hard won, definitely Type 2 fun, and a tough day out!
Neither of us can quite remember when we last did this circuit, our guess being around 2012. We’ve since done Carn an Tuirc individually, but not the whole round. Today, being yet another forecast of clear skies and sunshine, seemed the perfect opportunity!
Parking in the big car park by Glenshee, sadly the cafe remaining closed, we set off around midday, later than usual; however, I am on holiday and the forecast looked like the afternoon into evening was set to be the best part of the day.
The initial warm up involved walking along the roadside verge to head back downhill to the parking area at Carn an Tuirc. We had to do this at either end of the day, so figured the start would be the best option. It’s always a little soul destroying finishing a hill day with a slog along the road.
Carn an Tuirc
I’d forgotten what a boggy mess parts of this path are. Wearing my old comfy boots seemed a good idea on a dry day. However, as we made our way up the path and hit the boggy section I began to question my judgement. Nothing too serious though and the feet stayed dry so all was well.
The path up is pretty clear, becoming steeper as you progress. Towards the upper section the option of going straight up or veering right and then taking an easier stroll up the ridge was offered. My legs ruled and opted for easy. Hindsight is a great thing. I’m not convinced this was the best option as we ended up crossing stones and boulders to reach the summit.
However, we made it safely and found that the shelter cairn was large enough to accommodate physical distancing while sharing with fellow walkers. The first lunch of the day was consumed.
Cairn of Claise
Leaving Carn an Tuirc, the next munro was visible in the distance, across a grassy plateau. There was no significant change in altitude, making for an easy ‘bag’ of completing the circuit for the first time.
We barely paused for breath here, such was the ease of passing from one to the other.
Again, the terrain was grassy and easy allowing good pace between the second and third munros of the day.
A second lunch was enjoyed on Glas Maol, taking in the fine views ahead, Creag Leacach looking large and impressive on the horizon (despite being the smallest of the four munros on the circuit).
The final stop of the day looked a little intimidating until getting up close. The path between Glas Maol and Creag Leacach followed a dyke, passing a cairn at Bathach Beag that indicated our descent route for the return.
We veered away from the dyke slightly, crossing stony, bouldery ground. On the way back we chose to stay closer to it and found the path easier. The hill proved much less intimidating up close, instead appearing like the easy walk it is, and we quickly found our way to the summit cairn, meeting again the folks we’d met on the first munro of the day.
Returning today we were able to retrace our steps before descending from the cairn at Bathach Beag to skirt around Glas Maol. Previously when we did this route there was snow so we had to take an alternative route which led to a long slog back up the road.
Today though, we initially retraced our steps taking the line along the dyke.
We then followed a narrow single track path along the side of Glas Maol, finally leading us onto the Meall Ohdar ridge and down into the ski area where we encountered the ski tows and slowly zig zagged and traversed the ski area until we descended back to the car park. The final descent reminded me of coming off Cairngorm some years ago where I slipped on the grit, landed on my bum and sat on my walking pole, bending it out of shape! I was therefore glad to come off the path onto the grassy side and arrive at the car with poles intact!
Although not necessarily the most scenic of munros, on a gorgeous day they gave us what we needed.
If I’m honest, at times I’m starting to get a bit fed up of the ‘lockdown’. Being back at work after the ‘holidays’ where I enjoyed having lots of free time, I’m now working 3 days from home / 2 days in school. While some semblance of normality is good, it’s frustrating not being able to see family and friends and having no concept of when this may be feasible. The daily routine is now all too familiar and there are limited possibilities to do something different.
On the other hand, I do consider myself fortunate to have a beautiful garden to enjoy and the good health required to escape the confines of home to enjoy the outdoor spaces close by. I appreciate that not everyone is as fortunate.
Yesterday we took our old singlespeed bikes out for a change. We followed the usual route around Hazlehead and Countesswells, not certain at the outset whether Kingshill would feature. In the event we were pleasantly surprised by our burgeoning bike fitness and decided to give the aforementioned hill a bash. Riding clipless pedals, once you’ve committed you keep going – or fall off. My heart was thundering by the time I reached the top with every ounce of weight required for the final couple of pedal turns. Bruce advised that next time I should try zig-zagging towards the top as it makes the effort easier; either that or falling off less hazardous!
Sunday is usually Social Sunday – a large group of friends meeting up to run the trails. Sadly, for now this can’t happen, so today was anti-social Sunday instead. I love the Countesswells trails and have enjoyed riding them, so today decided to change my route, find a couple of shortcuts to Hazlehead and hopefully make it over to Countesswells.
I was well prepared with my running pack – gloves, leggings and a base layer plus water and a snack – very conscious that I need to be self sufficient at all times. The lack of people on the trails today surprised me; certainly at the start of the Hazlehead parkrun course there appeared to be far more people walking on the golf course than anywhere else! It was a pleasant surprise to bump into a familiar face along the way and good to enjoy a socially distanced chat.
Continuing on, I reached Countesswells, my favourite local forest. Knowing that we’re all missing our Sunday runs I enjoyed a leisurely pace and frequent stops to take photos to share.
We have a few points along the route where we’d normally regroup. The selfie spot is where we always have a shared photo! Nobody else in sight today!
I decided against Kingshill as the loop adds a couple of miles and my legs aren’t quite up to that distance at the moment. I clocked up 12 miles overall and that was quite sufficient being my longest run since lockdown.
Running back along the usual route, I enjoyed the swooping trails, reminiscing fondly of previous runs in company. Heading back to the car park I took in a couple of new paths to avoid the main trail, somewhat lumpy and rutted, the result of forestry works prior to lockdown.
The final climb of the day led back up towards Hazlehead. Here I met a familiar Metro man, flying down the track; the opposite of me as I plodded my way back up on increasingly weary legs!
Although there were a couple of rain showers, I was fortunate in being sheltered. The lack of rain saw the trails as dry as I’ve seen.
Round the corner towards the golf course the sun broke through again. Definitely a couple of seasons in one day.
From here, it was pretty much all downhill to home. Mixing things up, I headed along to the halfway point of the Hazlehead parkrun course before turning down towards the park. Staying off road for as long as I could, only in the final mile or so was I back on pavements.
Looking to the Future
A beautiful run and a reminder that friends are never far away! Roll on the day that we can be social on Sunday once again.
Today was a stunning day. We’ve been truly blessed with the weather thus far during our ‘confinement’, and it was a joy to be out on the trails again today.
Riding out from home, it’s not long before we reach Hazlehead. I love being able to ride across to Countesswells, a favourite running route ordinarily. I’ve managed to the old ‘stables’ but the full route is a step or two (several miles) too far.
On our social Sunday runs we have regular stops to allow everyone the opportunity to regroup. One such stop is our ‘selfie spot’, so in keeping with tradition Bruce and I have taken pictures there on the couple of occasions we’ve been out.
The solitude of the trails is remarkable with so few people out. The car park closed, people are welcome only if they can get there under their own steam.
Home and showered I reflected upon the day thus far and decided to look back on previous years to see what I’d been doing then. Way back in December 2014 I decided to start keeping a journal of things I’m grateful for, noting three positives each day. These are often small, relatively insignificant things but the reflection provides some clear light at the end of each day, all the more so during life’s tough times.
Here they are with some annotations along the way:
15th April 2015
1. Relaxed morning in Keswick (Easter holidays – I wonder if it was raining; ‘relaxed mornings’ don’t usually figure in our hols!)
2. Lovely walk with Bruce & Rob (Rob is one of Bruce’s friends and I recall he’d driven some way to join us for a walk)
3. Post walk beers and chat
15th April 2016
1. Last 3 Wainwrights: Ling Fell, Sale Fell, then on to Binsey! (I should clarify that these were the last 3 Wainwrights of OUR holiday; still a long way to go overall!)
2. Home – although I enjoy being away I’m always happy to be home again.
3. Chat with Mum & Dad
15th April 2017
1. parkrun fun as Run Director
2. Nuart walk around Aberdeen with Bruce followed by a visit to CASC
3. Dinner catch up at Dizzy’s with Elaine, Heidi & Jacq – we need to get together when this is all over, although with one in USA and Dizzy’s sadly no longer standing we’ll need a new venue.
15th April 2018
1. Social run (Quite possibly around the trails we did today)
2. Coffee at Cognito – a post run tradition and a place I’m missing very much right now!
3. Trip to Stonehaven for ice cream – probably Aunty Betty’s; I’ve since discovered E Giulianotti (up the hill from the Square) that does equally good ice cream and has less of a queue!)
15th April 2019
1. Happy boys after the holidays – Easter holidays are a moveable feast. One of the joys of working as a teacher is that the kids are generally happy to return; you can’t fail to be swept up in their enthusiasm.
2. More fudge sold – this was part of my fundraising efforts for the London Marathon last year.
3. Sarah – home to a clean house. I work full-time and am a part-time ‘athlete’. What more can I say?
Have you found any small pleasures during the ‘lockdown’? What are you grateful for?
The message from Government has been very clear this week – stay at home. Even work now involves being at home and that’s surprisingly been okay. One upstairs and one downstairs, meeting for coffee or lunch; the day runs pretty much as normal.
Where I’ve struggled a little is with the one form of exercise per day (outside the garden). I’m torn … I’d love to run, but I also feel that for the sake of us both I need to walk with my husband, enjoying some semblance of normality amidst the turmoil of life outside our own little bubble.
Exercise Once A Day
Running has taken a back seat. I envy those that have been able to unearth their seldom used treadmill, previously only used to hang washing or fill the garage. However, I’m being quite pragmatic about this situation. I’ve come through the very brief phases of being upset and angry and have accepted that this is how life is. For the greater good of everyone we’re all making small sacrifices, grateful to those that are making the most impact in society right now – the NHS and everyone else on the frontline be it in our supermarkets and local shops or on the streets supporting with day to day maintenance in essential services such as the often forgotten posties, delivery drivers and refuse collectors. We appreciate you! Stay healthy and safe.
Today I opted to run on a rather beautiful day. Looking ahead we appear to be blessed by a spell of dry weather here in Aberdeen. This makes me happy!
I contemplated the Deeside Line but decided to assess numbers before going along. There were a few folks walking so I opted for the streets instead.
Heading down towards the riverside I ran through the back of the RGU campus, not a soul there, and discovered a wee path along the River Dee that I didn’t know existed. Again, I met a couple of people, stayed well away, and decided to go back onto the pavements, the path too narrow to pass comfortably.
I found myself in Duthie Park having taken the south side path along the river. I was amazed how quiet the park was; it’s very apparent that people are following the ‘rules’.
The park is beautiful right now with flowers in bloom. I enjoyed taking photos as I went, taking pleasure in the small things, something we all need to do right now.
Leaving the park I again opted for the south side of the river to make my way home, avoiding the handful of Sunday strollers on the riverside itself.
No idea what the week ahead holds, but I’m happy with the way things have gone thus far. There’s so much outwith our control at present that all we can do is focus on the little things. I’ve seen lots of kindness when out today: people smiling, waving from across the road or sharing a friendly word. That’s what is important in life: cherish it.
It’s been a challenging week for everyone. Sunday has always been the social run, Saturday is for parkrun. Neither have happened this week. Yesterday was tough – it was upsetting not being able to go and meet with my running friends; today, however, I’ve got a more positive take on things.
The day started with a phone chat for Mother’s Day. Again, it’s sad not to be able to see my mum and give her a hug. Hopefully that’ll come later in the year. For now Mum, consider yourself virtually hugged!
Out on my run, I opted to take my camera in order to share some of the beauty that unfolded on route. The day was stunning with clear, blue skies, and it was a pleasure to be out in the fresh air. This is the new normal for me: taking even more pleasure in the little things in life and appreciating them fully.
The first joy was the flowers in the garden, beautiful miniature daffodils that have just popped up over the last week.
Continuing up the road, there are a few colourful pots outside the local church. I thought of Mum while taking these pictures – virtual flowers to go with the virtual hug!
Up the road I passed by Walker Dam, stopping to say hello to the ducks and seagulls! They were definitely more up for social interaction than any humans I passed today.
Passing the Hazlehead parkrun container I smiled – it’s so lovely and bright! A reminder of happy times past and in the future.
The trails were quieter than yesterday. Small family groups, some couples, and a few solo runners or walkers only. I love these trails and while sad to not be in the company of friends, I’m grateful to be out; I’m fit, healthy and able to enjoy them.
Along to the turning point of parkrun …
I was rather excited to see a little robin bobbing around, pausing to watch it for a while, hoping it would come closer for a photo shoot. Sadly when it did it was more intent on giving a rear view!
Out of the woods and across Countesswells Road, I stopped to say hello to the horses.
Further round I cut off on Craigton Road taking a shortcut down the trail to Cults. This used to be a short but fun singletrack section on a biking route we occasionally enjoyed; unfortunately someone decided to build houses and change the track, so unless you fancy playing ‘chicken’ on the bike it’s not quite the same.
Onwards, there’s a wee path along the burn that meanders round the back of the Cults Hotel. Then across North Deeside Road and it’s onto the old Deeside railway line. I was quite delighted to be back onto my old stomping ground. With the dark nights over winter it’s been a while!
Finally, with the need to add on a few more miles I popped up to Johnston Gardens, a beautiful garden and a small haven of peace in the midst of the houses.
An enjoyable run, relaxed pace and taking in the scenery.
Where did you run or walk today? What pleasures have you found this weekend?