I'm writing about my life and my interest in nature and photography. Please feel free to leave a comment.
このブログは、私の生活と趣味 （自然と自然のフォトグラフィー） のこと書きます。
Unless otherwise stated, all photos on this blog are mine!
I can also be found on the forums at Amateur Photographer
Also here →Flickr
Books / Films
Camera / Lens
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This time we can look at two of Scotland's most northerly mountains, Ben Hope (927 metres / 3040 feet) and Ben Loyal (763 metres / 2509 feet). Scottish mountains over 3000 feet are known as 'Munros' after Mr Munro, who first listed them. Mountains between 2500 feet and 3000 feet are known as 'Corbetts.'
Travelling from Tongue, we followed the A838 across the Kyle of Tongue. The road rises up quickly into desolate moorland, known as the Moine. Geologically this area is very special - from the Moine across to the west coast and down to Ullapool the land has been designated a 'Geopark' - but as I know next to nothing about Geology, I'll not go into detail. ;-)
Atop the moor is a ruin known as Moine House. This was built as a shelter for travellers, as the journey across this exposed land was never easy, not even after the road was built. In 1907, James Hall said that rather than shipping convicts to Botany Bay in Australia, they could be sent up here instead. Clearly the place had a reputation for harsh conditions. The road was constructed in 1830 by sinking foundations into the boggy land. At a few points you can see that even the modern road is sinking slightly... You can just see the gables of Moine House from the Tongue Youth Hostel. From Moine House the view is quite stunning, taking in Both Ben Loyal and Ben Hope:
Continuing over the moor, the road starts to drop, offering jaw dropping views of the hills and mountains spreading down to Assynt. The road then drops steeply into the hamlet of Hope. Hope sits at the end of Loch Hope, and as the name comes from a Gaelic word for bay, you can start to imagine the layout of the area. A small road is on the left, signposted for Altnaharra. This is the road which leads to Ben Hope, and the Dun Dornaigil broch. Initially the area is very much like Perthshire, with farms, the loch and Ben Hope in the background:
The very pleasant (albeit single track, unclassified, and not newly laid) road takes you alongside the loch, all the way past Ben Hope, and around to Altnaharra. The scenery varies quite a lot, initally farmland, then more typically Sutherland (rocks/sheep/heather) then open plateau, before finally going through wooded areas as you reach Altnaharra.
There is a car park clearly marked with the start of the easiest walk up Ben Hope, and there were already several cars in it as we drove past at around 10am. As it is the furthest north of the Munros, it is a popular final climb for people who attempt to climb all the Munros. I had hoped to walk up it during our holiday, but the weather wasn't ideal, as the top was mostly in cloud, even when the lower slopes were clear. I'll have to start my Munros another time. We continued down to the Dun Dornaigil Broch. Brochs are unique to Scotland, and are fascinating buildings. The picture below explains more about the buildings:
You can see the Dun Dornaigil Broch in the following pictures:
Actually, although I was going to write about Ben Hope AND Ben Loyal, I'm going to do them seperately - this is long enough already!!
People often ask me at work - "Where should I go in Scotland, what should I see?" I always reply, "How much time do you have?" Time is the most valuable thing in any trip to Scotland, as whilst the distances aren't great, the travelling times can be considerable. Case in point, our recent holiday to the far north - Sutherland to be precise.
On a good day you can be in Inverness 2 1/2 hours after leaving Edinburgh (by car). If you leave at 9/10am, then expect to be in Inverness for lunch. The easiest way to get there is to cross the Forth Road Bridge (paying £1 for the toll) and head up the M90 to Perth, where you can pick up the A9 which will take you right up to Thurso. But then Thurso isn't really the kind of place you'd pick as a destination... ;-)
From Inverness you can go one of several ways to reach the best bits of the highlands. You can go south west and explore Glen Affric, west for Beauly and the remote glens that way, north west to Wester Ross and Ullapool, or pretty much north to Tain in Easter Ross. Tain lies on the Dornoch Firth, which you can cross by following the A9 (all the way to Thurso, if you really wanted to). If you chose to do that, you would pass Dornoch, Golspie and Brora before reaching Helmsdale. From Helmsdale you could take the little road (A897) through Forsinard to Melvich on the north coast. However, the best route (my favourite!) is to avoid Tain (nothing personal, just the way the alternative road goes) and head past Balblair on the B9176. Turn left onto the A836 and head through Bonar Bridge, past Carbisdale Castle (now a youth hostel) and arrive in Lairg.
Lairg is a vital town in the north - it is known as the Rome of the Northern Highlands (as all roads lead to Lairg). Get on the wrong road here and it's a long way back...
If you want the best views you'll be continuing on the A836 through some open land. Just keep going striaght and you'll arrive in Tongue. Just 240 miles from Edinburgh, but another world altogether. Time? Having stopped in Inverness for a leisurely lunch, it is now around 5pm. 34mph average, and a clear run in fact. Still, not to worry, as you have (if you are well organised and on the ball) already booked Room 4 at the Tongue Youth Hostel. You can check in and relax.
What's to see? The view is as follows...
That's Ben Hope, Scotland's most northernly 'Munro' in the second picture. It is just across the Kyle of Tongue (the water you can see in the first pic) from the 'Queen of Scottish Mountains' - Ben Loyal. You can see this superb mountain (2509ft) from the window too.
Here's a picture of Ben Loyal, to whet the appetite for the 2nd installment of the holiday report: Ben Hope and Ben Loyal.
I've decided my blog needs a major overhaul. I don't know how long it will take. I don't even know what I'm doing! For the time being, it will be very plain, like a blank canvas for me to play around with.
The other thing I intend to do is to write a bit more, something like a guide to Scotland, based around places we have visited and pictures we have taken. So instead of featuring all the usual things like Edinburgh Castle and Eilean Donan, you'll see sheep in the middle of nowhere and some cottages off the beaten track. Of course, as we live in Edinburgh, there'll be a 'My Edinburgh' flavour too, snaps and info about places in Edinburgh which we enjoy, which might not be very well known, or might be famous.
Watch this space!
I like it when you get home home and find that a picture looks even better on screen than it did on the LCD.
Taken using the Super Macro Mode on my Olympus Mju Digital 600.
The slides are really rather good. The scanner isn't quite up to the dynamic range, and seems to have a colour balance issue, but having done a quick tweak or two, the results (as above) are, I believe, very good for 20 year old equipment.
All of the pictures can be seen here - work in progress
I have struggled to find any information about this lens anywhere on the internet, in Japanese or English. The references I do find are more Minolta fit than Pentax fit, and there seems to have been 75-200 and 75-210 versions too. If anyone knows something about Ozunon (in general) or this 70-200mm f3.8-4.8 Pentax K mount lens, pleas eplease get in touch.
Thursday is the day I expect to pick up my slides from the Isle of May. I'll be scanning them and putting the best online. The excitment is killing me! Will the colour be natural? Will the rarely-heard-of Ozunon 70-200 deliver acceptable results? Will the shop do a good job of developing the film?
I'll know tomorrow.
Yesterday we went up to Perthshire again, and were able to watch some Ospreys feeding their chicks. Here's a short video taken on the digicam through a scope in the hide.
As I was wandering around the internet, I chanced upon this commercial for Yoichi Single Malt Whisky (a Japanese whisky, made in Hokkaido). Click here To watch the commercial, click on the brown box under the four images (which says "watch the commercial" in Japanese.
Now, it's a nice enough commercial, but the funny thing really is the choice of music. 'Amazing Grace' is something anyone in the world could recognise, so I can understand why they went for it. I can even see a line of thinking of taking the best natural ingredients, and by God's/nature's grace (depending on your personal viewpoint) being able to create a warming drink to see you through the long Hokkaido winters. However, and it is a big however, didn't they realise the cultural background to hymns such as Amazing Grace?
Amongst so many Christians in the 19th and 20th centuries particularly, there was a push for temperance and abstinance, which in part led to the prohibition in America. Amazing Grace was exactly the type of song the campaigners sung, thinking often of the grace which saved people from a life of alcoholism. A little research might have helped here.
Still, I suppose there wasn't much chance of the irony being noticed, as Japanese (as a language) uses the same word for both 'cynicism' and 'irony' (and also 'sarcasm' if I recall correctly).
Yesterday we went to the Taste of Edinburgh event. It's the first time it has been held in Edinburgh (there are also Taste of London, Dublin, Birmingham, Bristol etc events), and was based down in the meadows, a short walk from our home. You can taste many of the signature dishes from Edinburgh's top restaurants, including Restaurant Martin Wishart, The Tower, Skippers Seafood Bistro, Fishers, Forth Floor, David Bann and Duck's.
Also on display were local producers and farmers, and a range of corporate types who add nothing to the show except revenue. Hmmm. There were tastings for whisky, beers, and cheeses (etc) and demonstrations from some of the best known TV chefs in the country. We saw Jean-Cristophe Novelli and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall (of River Cottage fame). Here's a pic of Hugh in action.
All in all, a great day out, and we brought home not only information about good products, but also two punnets of the best Scottish strawberries I've ever tasted.
In an unusual turn of events, we actually have our holidays planned in advance this year! Currently the events stand as follows:
Late June: Isle of May day trip for puffins, and some walking in the Pentlands/Borders.
Early September: Tongue (Sutherland) for 3 nights. Getting to know the area better, rather than doing the whole north coast as we did last year.
November: A week in a cottage on Skye. We haven't booked yet, but will do soon. Regardless of the weather, it should be a nice way to spend a week.