Monday, 19 June 2017


Everybody seems to be running races just now. Helen did the Norfolk 100 km ten days ago and had a great time . The race starts at  Castle Acre, follows the Peddars Way to the coast then continues on the  Norfolk coastal footpath all the way to Beeston  near Cromer . The hardest part was the 4 miles of energy sapping shingle  beach near the end. Last weekend my sister did The Wall; a 69 mile race from Carlisle to  Newcastle organised by Ratrace.It is the second time she has completed the race and it is one of her favourites as it is very well organised.
 During both races  it was extremely hot whereas here on the west coast of Scotland it has been uniformly cloudy, drizzly and even chilly. Obviously Scotland has the better climate for long distance running!
Below is a picture of the Buchaillie Etive Mor  (at the start of Glencoe) which I painted last week.
Buchaillie Etive Mor

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Recent Paintings

Sketch of  Loch  Arkaig
I haven't blogged for quite some time so here are some recent paintings. On the right is a quick sketch of Loch Arkaig. Below are two views of Loch Linnhe.We helped out with a race starting from the yacht club in Fort William  involving a sail across the loch and then a run up the hill and back before returning in the boats and across the loch.
Loch Linnhe

Sailing on Loch Linnhe

Sunday, 16 April 2017

WHW training

Last weekend I did the first 60 miles of the West Highland Way. By good fortune the weather was excellent. I started from Milngavie at 1pm on the Saturday. I felt very slow and regretted the weight of my rucksack . In addition to my sleeping bag, bivvy bag, sketching stuff, food, water and spare clothes I had bought along a wood gas stove and a kettle so I could brew up in the morning. There were lots of people ot walking and a few runners , some of whom were WHW race friends. Beyond Drymen the skylarks were singing and there were  primroses beside the path and tadpoles in the pools. It really felt like spring . Conic Hill was gorgeous with Loch Lomond  shimmering  in the sun beyond. I didn't stop for long at Balmaha but I did get a beer at Rowardennan. By then the beautiful evening was coming to an end.
Evening on Loch Lomond- painted from a photo taken last week
I continued on in the dark to the Rowchoish bothy where I decided to stop for the night. It is curious that both bothies on the Lochside are old byres -the adjacent farm houses having long since fallen down.Obviously the houses for the cattle were better constructed than the houses for the people. There was only one other person staying in the bothy and  he was already bedded down so I didn't get to talk to him. It was a cold night and I was glad of the spare clothes I had brought.
 In the morning I tried my woodgas stove which is meant to be able boil a kettle on a handful of twigs or pine cones . The theory is that if wood is heated it produces combustible gases. Once the wood starts burning in the stove the gases are channelled through the hollow walls to the top  where they ignite- it works more like a gas stove than a fire. It did function quite well until my kettle boiled and I managed to knock the whole thing over! Fortunately I had enough water and  fuel to start again .
Sunday started misty and cool but still dry. The kind staff at Inversnaid Hotel refilled my water bottle, they refused any payment saying that they filled about one hundred a day! I stopped at Dario's memorial book and wrote a message.
I always find I am slow starting on the second day and this was no exception . I did pick up after Beinglas Farm though and maintained a reasonable pace until Tyndrum. Here I stopped for a cup of tea before the final section to Bridge of Orchy. After a whole  weekend of fine weather it  started to rain. I was in a good mood from two days on the trail and didn't mind (especially as I was heading to the Brige of Orchy Hotel where the bar is always warm and snug) .
 I had a few hours to kill in the pub before getting the late train home. On the train I met up with Helen who was returning from a visit to see her parents; it was a nice end to great weekend on the West Highland Way.

Sunday, 26 March 2017

Snow and Sunshine

Dull day in Glen Nevis two weeks ago
Last Tuesday there were snow showers all morning and by the afternoon there were a few inches on our lawn. Quite a change from the dreary wet weather we seem to have had for most of the winter. A few days later I was checking the weather forecast on the T.V. when I thought that somebody had forgotten to put the graphics on the weather map - there was the outline of Britain but nothing else . Normally regardless of the weather in the rest of the country there is a patch of blue over the west of Scotland, indicating rain. This time there was nothing, but it was no mistake - we have been enjoying the most amazing weather and not a drop of rain over the last 3 days!
Sketch of Ben Nevis painted today.
 Yesterday I did the run from Bridge of Orchy back to Fort William.The combination of the recent snow on the mountains, the pure blue sky and  glorious sunshine was intoxicating. At Black Rock cottage the photographers were out in force snapping the famous view of the Buachaille Etive Mor, but for my money the best view was from the top of the Devil's Staircase. Having sweated up the steep path the mountains are arrayed all around. Just beyond that The Blackwater Reservoir came into view; a blue jewel set in brown hills drizzled with snow. It was one of those incredible days when one cannot believe one's good luck to be alive.
Quick sketch of Glencoe done on Friday

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Mixed Weather

Sunset at Arisaig

 The weather has been very mixed recently - some beautiful balmy days but then  some very wet windy, sleety days. Last Wednesday I did the run back from Bridge of Orchy. The previous week we took far too much kit so this time I went light - and of course the weather was really bad! Between Kingshouse and Altnafeadth there was a vicious stingy hail. After that it rained and rained. Finally after Kinlochleven it did stop but the wind was really strong and in my face. Still I had a really good day out and enjoyed the moody views of shifting cloud over the hills -when they weren't completely obscured by sheets of rain.

Thursday when I was back at work was of course a beautiful day.
Sketch of the view from the West end  car park
Wet or dry at least the days are getting longer; I only need a head torch for the first ten minutes of my run to work . My i pod is redundant too because the birds are singing their hearts out.

Loch Lochy on a sunny day.
I was really pleased to notice that some Scottish pound  notes now feature a portrait of Nan Shepherd. Nan Shepherd wrote an excellent book on the Cairngorms called The Living Mountain . It is a book I would recommend to anyone who loves mountains - it is full of acute observations and lyrical passages. Her passion  for the high places sings out from every page.
Misty mountains at Glen Etive

Sunday, 5 March 2017

St Peter's Way Race

Recent view of the North Face of Ben Nevis
I went to Essex for the St Peter's Way Race last weekend. It is the second  time  that I've run the race both times with my sister. Part of the appeal of the St Peter's Way is that much of the route goes through the the area where I grew up, including some lovely Essex villages such as Purleigh and Tillingham. It ends at St Peter's Bradwell a beautiful 10th century church on the sea wall.
Two years ago when we last ran the race it was extremely muddy. Essex clay is very tenacious and hard to run through.However this year it was much drier and  I regretted wearing studded shoes . The weather was good too. In fact it was so warm that I decided to have a beer . The barman at the Bell in Purleigh refused to take my money and I really enjoyed my half of ale.

This weekend Helen and I ran back to Fort William from Bridge of Orchy. The weather forecast was poor, and  it started wet but actually the rain was mainly light and patchy. We carried much more gear than was strictly necessary not knowing what conditions would be like on the Devil's Staircase. There was quite a lot of snow at the top but it was warmer than we expected.

Today by contrast the weather was amazing. This morning I sketched Aonach Mor from our house.

In contrast the view from our kitchen is more often like this
View from our kitchen last Wednesday.

Sunday, 5 February 2017

Back to the West Highland Way

Had two good runs on the West Highland Way last week. Sunday started out looking  quite miserable -cold and  wet, but as the afternoon progressed it cleared up . As the first ( or last) section  of the West Highland Way is closed for tree felling I had to jog up the road to Lundavra which is two miles shorter than the normal way from Glen Nevis.
 Once  on the Lairig Mor I really enjoyed  the misty, moody atmostphere
. In Kinlochleven I paused for a tea. The view from the pub was amazing - the Pap of Glencoe silhouetted against a yellow and  orange sunset  and  both reflected perfectly in the still loch. There was enough daylight to get most halfway along  the Lairig Mor before I had to dig out my head torch.

On Tuesday I ran from Fort William to Bridge of Orchy . The forecast was bad and reality didn't disapppoint . It was really wet and windy on the Lairig Mor. Despite a good waterproof and  quite a few layers underneath I was soon wet through and  the strong headwind began to cool me. By the time I reached Kinlochleven I was frozen. However pot of  hot tea at the Tailrace Inn ( what a bargain at £ 1.40) and  putting on two extra layers of clothing sorted me out. I had reservations about carrying  on due to the severity of the  weather, but when I emerged from the pub I found  the  wind  had dropped and  the rain lessened. The next section to Glencoe was a delight ; the mountains wreathed in clouds,the rushing burns, the churring  of grouse for company, it was so good to be back on the West Highland Way.
At Kingshouse I took a quick look at the new cafe and  bunkhouse which looks quite smart. The main hotel is closed pending  a drastic refurbishment / demolition . From there it was up onto Rannoch Moor. Half way along  I met a walker and  we spent  a few minutes enthusing about the place. Even on a grey wet day it has a magic about it - being  totally surrounded by mountains and moorland . The only indication of civilization is the foot bruising cobbles of Telford's road which was built in 1803 and  apparently was the main road north until the 1930's.
I was quite tired when I reached Bridge of Orchy . I sat in the pub beside the blazing wood stove and  drank coffee. I rued my decision to have a dry January because a pint would have been lovely, shame it was the last day of  the month and not Februuary!
Helen was returning from a trip to see her parents so I was able to surprise her when I got on the train  home.

The two pictures on this post have no connection to the West Highlnd Way. I have been doing a series of simple landscapes with dramatic skies. The top picture is the coast near Arisaig, the bottom    one the fire road near Spean Bridge.