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Posts Tagged ‘Scotland’

My mum is a tremendous cook and so when a request for baking came round for Breast Cancer Awareness month she was my first port of call.

“They are complicated!” mum warned when I asked for her famed Mallow Fridge Cake recipe.

“But there’s only four ingredients and no baking?” I urged.

I am still cleaning up after putting a batch together!

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Much less hassle was the caramel coconut slice…

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Both were gratefully received and sold alongside other donated goodies to raise money for a great cause.

I was also able to get a day’s fishing on the Garynahine Estate waters. The river was stunning with great pools holding a large number of wonderfully conditioned Salmon. I went with Mike Sullivan who basically does everything I love doing only exponentially better! Not only does he like canoe and kayaking but has written the definitive guide to the Outer Hebrides along with two friends. Like me Mike also climbs, unlike me his first accents can be found in national climbing guides. While in the tackle shop hopefully searching for a fly to help pull in a good-sized trout from the lochs I have visited I noticed a picture of Mike holding a cracking fish of several pounds that won him ‘fish of the month’.. What makes it worse is that he is also a really nice guy who has helped keep me right since arriving on the Island and managed to sort the fishing at Garynahine Estate for us. I’m sure you can imagine how the day turned out for Mike and I!

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The weekend itself has been fantastic…certainly one of the best since arriving on the Island. I met a writer on Friday night who had recently moved from England which led to an opportunity to explore some of his work on the Saturday morning. The writing was very good and was interspersed with small Polaroids from his travels, great stuff!

After that I met up with a few other members of the Canoe club and paddled out towards the mouth of the Creed from Cuddy point.

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Fortunately we had been practicing assisted rescue earlier in the week as a wave caught me off balance and before I knew it I was swimming.

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I also managed to do a bit more cooking outdoors which is something I’ve been able to do a lot more of since arriving here (see langoustines on the beach and the hammock trip for example)

My love for the outdoors is matched only by my love for food. Although I am happy to do the austere outdoor trips where I survive on thin shavings of leather from my hiking boots in order to stay light (well almost), I like where possible to dine just as well as I would indoors. And because this is the setting…

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…you end up eating meals which can’t be beat!

What made it more special was the opportunity to use the most beautiful bothy as a base.

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The starter was vegetable pakora with a light raita. I was aware that hot oil might not be an aroma to everyone’s taste and so these were prepared on the cliff just below the bothy.

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The main event was a butternut squash risotto with sage and pine nuts. Unfortunately the camera’s battery died before I could plate it up but the preparation was almost as wonderful as the finished dish.

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I’m not sure if you’ve seen the original Total Recall (I haven’t yet seen the remake)? Well I feel a little bit like Arnie in the sense that this life I am currently living is one I dreamt about for so long and a few extremely specific elements of ‘the dream’ may still come to pass (things that I have yearned for since a wee boy) and it does make me wonder if it is really happening or just something I may wake up from at any time.

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I love sleeping in a hammock. It’s nice getting rocked to sleep by a gentle wind and being able to look at the night sky as you drift in and out of sleep. I also love sleeping in a hammock because you usually need to be near trees. This weekend I spent some hammock time in a pine forest that sits in between Harris and Lewis…

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For those who would prefer a video account of the trip please have a look at the video below…please don’t be put off by the still that YouTube has selected for the video, the content is suitable for all!

Last weekend I had probably the best Mexican food I have ever had at a dinner party. It left me wanting more and so in addition to the overnight trip I also wanted to put together some decent Mexican food, preferably cooked over an open fire.

The plan was quesadillas for the first night followed by huevos rancheros for brunch the next day. However first thing was to explore the forest to find a nice spot to watch the sun rise from my hammock in the morning…I let my head rule my heart and so passed this hammock island by…

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I settled for the spot below (this was taken the following morning):

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The quesadillas the previous night were delicious, particularly when washed down with some chilled Mexican beer…yes that is a tray of ice in the background!

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The night in the hammock was pretty special. I had initially been a bit disappointed about the cloud cover as I had been hoping for a repeat of the Uig star-gazing extravaganza but in a strange way the clouds actually enhanced the sky views. Every so often there would be a break in the clouds which would give you a passing glimpse at the constellations that were otherwise hidden. I find that when given an unrestricted view of the star I gravitate towards either familiar constellations, the brightest stars or satellites. Having a small moving window encouraged me to focus intently on parts of the night that I’m quite sure would have normally passed me by.

I was treated to a stunning morning which was calm but also still cloudy enough to allow the sun’s oranges, pinks and purples to complement the shades of the heather and rowan trees.

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Although I was happy to use my gas burner for dinner given that an open fire would have been a bit irresponsible in and around the campsite I selected, I was keen to prepare breakfast using a more traditional approach. From the campsite I made my way down towards
Loch Seaforth hoping I would come across a good supply of driftwood and a rocky area where I could prepare the huevos rancheros and ‘Navajo’ flatbread…I wasn’t disappointed!

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I like the pace of ‘camp days’, where you have the time to cook and eat properly rather than having to eat quickly so you can cover the distance between different legs of a longer journey. A case in point was the flatbread which not only enhanced the breakfast greatly but were enjoyable to prepare and let settle on the warm stones around the fire. As you can see from the pictures below I used Quail’s eggs. This is not as frivolous as it may sound and were used purposely instead of chicken eggs because of the speed at which they cook. Getting huevos rancheros right (I.e. not too dry, eggs poached just enough to ensure a cooked white yet running yolk) is hard to achieve on an open fire and so using Quail’s eggs you are more likely to avoid the difficulties associated with the unpredictability of hot coals.

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I have to say the end result was fantastic! The flatbreads had taken on a smoky quality from the driftwood while the depth of flavour from the huevos rancheros was exquisite. I served it up alongside homemade salsa, guacamole and soured cream…wonderful!
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For those readers who are in a hurry this video is a 4:30 version of the blog below…

The week started off with an excellent talk by Doug Scott as part of the Harris Mountain festival. It is amazing to hear of the climbing feats of Doug and others of his generation, particularly when I have been known to wobble up a VDiff laced with gear! Doug also spoke of the work he had done in Nepal around education and improving the standards for the guides. It is certainly worth having a look at his website. Having spent last weekend on the mainland I was keen to make the most of this one. Already inspired to get out on the hills after Doug’s talk I had my mind made up to Bivi somewhere by the star filled sky I had to stop and stare at as I drove back from Tarbert to Stornoway. It is a pity the my camera doesn’t really capture the night sky that well because it was simply breathtaking.

Fast forward to Friday and I am once again beside myself with excitement at the prospect of getting out. I had promised myself that during the week I would have packed and been ready to go as soon as I got home…a broken promise later and I am stuffing things into my pack trying to get on the road by 7:00!

I decided to combine a couple of walks described in Richard Barrett’s Walking in Harris and Lewis over in Uig. One of the reasons for this was that following a school visit to Sgoil Uig (Uig primary school) I was mesmerised by the turquoise ocean and stunning hills that surrounded the school. Here is the route and where it is in relation to me.

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Route from Stornoway to Uig

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The hike

Even through I wanted to get out on to the hills as soon as I could there were once again vistas that forced me to stop the car and explore…

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I had a number of other enforced stops on my way out to Uig including two rams that decided to have a battle on the single track and a heavily pregnant highland coo that wasn’t moving for anyone!

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The upshot of the delays was a hike started in the dark…

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I find hiking in the dark, especially alone, quiet surreal. The scenery changes completely and you get to appreciate the outdoors through another lens…

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I try as much as possible to walk without the aid of artificial light, not for any mystical or environmental reason, but simply because your approach to the walk changes. You walk more slowly and deliberately, particularly on the heathery hills that will trip you up if you move too carelessly. I also find that I discover ‘paths’ in the dark and I’m fascinated as to whether in fact they exist or are simply my mind playing tricks on me in the dark. I am inclined to think that it is the later given the other tricks it gets up to on night hikes! The combination of deer grunts, owl screeches and fleeting grouse had me imagining all sorts as I ambled up the hillside.

I made a Bivi beneath some rock cover but close enough to a steep edge that meant I would have a stunning view to wake up to in the morning…

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As I said in the video my favourite part of a Bivi is the anticipation of having your bones warmed by the rising sun in the morning…a feeling heightened by coffee and toasted Banana Soreen!

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The great thing about bivvying is that it takes no time at all before you are packed and ready to go.

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The first stop for me that morning was a hill loch that seemed from the map to be a promising trout loch…I wasn’t disappointed

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The walk itself took in a number of summits (Naideahal a-Muigh, Laibheal a Deas, Laibheal a Tuath and Cracabhal) which provided awe-inspiring views..

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Summit cairn of Naideahal a-Muigh

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Summit cairn of Laibheal a Deas

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Summit cairn of Cracabhal

I didn’t actually make the summit of Laibheal a Tuath as I was distracted by some visitors…

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The walk was sensational but quite long and by the end I was fantasising how great it would feel to be walking barefoot along a sandy beach…

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…luckily such a vision is readily made into reality in the Outer Hebrides…

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The breaking waves makes me think it won’t be too long until i’m back for a visit with my surfboard.

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