Plans 2018

Now that we’ve got the first office week of the year out of the way it’s time to start adding some detail to the plans for the not-in-the-office weeks of the year.

Somewhat usually I don’t have a big Arctic or Antarctic trip in the diary for the next year (at the moment), instead the recent turn-of-the-year aspirations revolved around spending more time on Shetland and making in-roads into my Landranger Project.

I made gestures towards both of these aspirations this week.  I booked the ferry to Shetland for next weekend and I ordered another batch of Ordnance Survey Landranger maps to add to the collection.

This latest batch of OS maps had an island focus and as I unfolded the maps I also found myself looking at the CalMac website trying to figure out a logical journey (or more likely, journeys) through the islands.  

In the Outer Hebrides the route is pretty obvious (the only real decision being whether to travel from south to north or vice versa).  Long long ago (June 2006) I crossed from Oban to Castlebay on Barra then drove slowly north via causeways and ferries until I got to Stornoway before going back across the Minch to Ullapool.  

The Castle in Castlebay, Barra
Isle of Harris / looking across to Taransay

I’ve only been back to the Outer Hebrides once since then (in 2014), this time getting the ferry from Uig on Skye to Tarbet on Harris (where I spent several wild nights in a tent around a couple of day trips to St Kilda - and I mean wild in the wet and windy sense!) before jumping back on the ferry to the Skye and the mainland.

Beaches, South Harris
MV Hebrides, Uig Bay

Next time it probably makes sense to drive south through the Outer Hebrides and then come back via either Tiree, Coll and Mull or via the Small Island (Rum, Eigg, Muck and Canna).

At the moment I can see half-a-dozen geographically obvious island groups to explore (or re-explore). (i) Lewis, Harris, the Uists, Benbecula and Barra, (ii) Tiree, Coll and Mull, (iii) Rum, Canna, Eigg and Muck, (iv) Islay, Jura, Colonsay and Gigha, (v) Skye and (vi) Bute and Arran.  Hmm, the Landranger project seems to be evolving into a how-many-islands-can-I-visit project. Maybe this bit of the project would be easier if I had a boat rather than a car. 

And that’s before I set off exploring either Orkney or Shetland.  Shetland, I hear you cry, aren’t you always there?  

Yes, But!

There are still some of the Shetland Islands I’ve not been to yet - and others I’ve only been to once. 

Weather permitting, more on winter on Shetland next weekend. I hope.

Edinburgh, January 2018

It’s always a good idea to start the year as you mean to go on - so to start 2018 we filled the car and headed North.  This time going up to Edinburgh to be tourists and to celebrate our 30th Anniversary.

When we’d booked the trip we had pictured it being cold, clear and sunny - with the hope of seeing some sunshine on Leith (where we were staying - in what had been the Leith Sailors' Home) and maybe even some snow on the ground.

We did see a little bit of sunshine and even a little bit of snow on the hills outside Edinburgh, but the ‘cold, clear and sunny’ bit didn’t really pan out - more ‘warm, wet and grey’.   

Weather not withstanding we did have a fab few days being tourists in Edinburgh and catching up with family and friends there and across the new bridge in Fife.

The Royal Botantic Garden and Edinburgh Zoo are always worth visiting - and at this time of year the Christmas Fair in Princes’ Street Gardens is excellent fun (even/particularly if you limit yourself to more sedate rides).

Leith Harbour at Night - MV Fingal under restoration
Sunshine on Leith
On the Big Wheel (did go on this one!)
Flying High over Princes Street Gardens (didn't go on this one)
Penguin Spotting at the Zoo
Senior Penguin - Sir Nils Olav
Have reservations about some of the experimental breeding programmes.
Snow on the Pentland Hills