Wednesday, 30 November 2011

The Trossachs and Loch Katrine

Because Loch Katrine is in Scotland, it is not always lovely blue skies. In fact, more often than not, the cloud is down on the hills. I still enjoy cycling round the loch in those types of days as the sense of silence and solitude is greatly magnified in the mist.

The road is quite hilly around the Portnellan area but you do get some nice views of the loch from here, assuming the mist is not too thick.

Jutting out into the Loch is the old grave yard of the McGregors. Of course Rob Roy McGregor is not buried here. His bones were put to rest at Balquhidder which is not far over the hills as the crow flies but a fair journey by road.

The water level in the loch has been raised by the water board on three occasions, and on each occasion the engineers had to protect the graveyard by walls and raising the level of the island.

Just before reaching Glengyle,there is another old boathouse on the loch side. The days of numerous boats are long gone as water sports are discouraged on the loch due to it being the main Glasgow City reservoir.

Glengyle house stands on the site of the croft where Rob Roy McGregor was born. Without doubt, he would have known every inch of the area but the present day loch may not have been familiar to him as the water levels have been raised by dams.

Rounding the north end of the loch offers some fine views along its length.

Finally the road reaches Stronachlachar where there is a pier and a cafe. From here, after a coffee, you can either return by boat if you have timed it right, or do as I do and cycle back the way you came.

There is something magical and almost Victorian about cycling round the loch in the off season when the many tourists have long departed and you are left alone with your imagination.

Monday, 28 November 2011

The Trossachs, Loch Katrine and Meall na Boineide

I have always been attracted by this view of the steep rocky slopes of Meall na Boineide from the sheep sheds at Portnellan on Loch Katrine. I often wondered what it would be like trying to scramble my way to the top.

If Im not inspired to paint a view, I will often explore it to find all its possibilities. Eventually, one day I stopped and studied the hillside and decided to see if I could get to the top. The deep ravine between the rocky flanks looked like the best line of attack.

I parked the bicycle out of view behind the sheds and started up a rough track to find the best approach to the hill. The track took me round the back of Meall na Boineide which looked just as steep and rocky as the side seen from the sheds. My mind was made up, it was onwards and upwards through the ravine.

The grass was steep and I am glad the bracken had long died back. Im not sure how easy it would be fighting through it in summer time or how slippery the grass would be if it was wet. However it is certainly possible on a good day. At one point I had to scramble up a little waterfall , but it was no more than two hand holds in height then I was past the crux.

Looking back down the ravine, I was a little disappointed with the lazy haze. Im sure the views over the loch would be great on a clear day.

At the top, I now had clear views over an un named valley I had never seen before and then onto the south face of Stob a Choin. This was Rob Roy country and I imagine he knew every inch of these hillsides. He was born at Glengyle which is only a mile from here.

My curiosity of Meall na Boineide was satisfied, now everytime I pass the sheep sheds, I know its possible to get to the top via the ravine and Im happy to continue on my way without stopping.

The Trossachs and Loch Katrine (continued)

If anyone was wondering where I have been and why I have not posted for a while, it is because I was on “garden Leave” at my work. I thought garden leave was supposed to be "take it easy time" and unwind before finishing for good, but nope, for me, it was not to be. It feels like the company wanted me to dig their garden before leaving, which I did because I was always a conscientious worker. Im no longer a worker as I left at the weekend and now for the first time in many a year I think Monday’s are wonderful :-D

To get back on track, I will continue with my photographic tour of Loch Katrine.

Sadly, autumn has not turned to a bleak wet winter but there was the odd nice day before the mist descended. After passing the boathouse, there are one or two unusual trees beside the loch side. I was attracted to this view with Ben Lomond in the Background

So I painted it too

Try as I might ..I just couldn’t get an inspirational composition from these old trees, so they are a picture yet to paint.

Ben Lomond looks lovely across the loch with a little sprinkling of snow on its summit.

As do the Arrochar Alps from this view point.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

The Trossachs and Loch Katrine

A little further along the loch is a small point jutting into the loch where there are a couple of benches and picnic tables.

The views from here are lovely especially on a clear sunny day. It was this view that inspired the following painting.

Looking back to the road and picnic area from the end of the point.

From the point is a view across to a small boat house.

Where there is a very scenic beach of pebbles.

Monday, 14 November 2011

The Trossachs and Loch Katrine

I never weary of seeing Loch Katrine. Everytime I visit the place, I see it in a different light or mood. These photographs will help to illustrate my point. They were taken a few weeks earlier in the season that the last posing I made, and were taken from virtually the same places. Yet they have a completely different feel about them.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

The Trossachs and Loch Katrine

I normally park the car at the eastern end , where the harbour is, then start cycling around the private road on the northern edge of the loch. Its around twelve miles to Stronlachlachur where I then cycle back the way I came. Its an energetic journey as its full of ups and downs but it is well worth the effort, especially on a lovely autumn day. Here are some view all taken for within the first mile of the car park.

The road is private but cyclists are allowed to use it. It can be quite hilly so a full return journey to Stronlachacher is only for the fit.

Ben Venue towers over the south east end of the loch. Its steep slopes prevented the road from being built right round the loch.

The loch can be quite narrow at parts near the eastern end before it open out into its full width.

A couple of islands reflect on the still water just before the loch starts to open out.

The autumn trees add a splash of colour to the south bank as the loch starts to get wider.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

The Trossachs and Loch Katrine

I guess I am lucky in that I live in the Trossachs and without doubt, it is a photographer's paradise. There is no need for me to travel far to see the beauty of Scotland, its all around me. Over the next day or so, I hope to show you why I say the Trossachs is such a beautiful part of the country

One of my favourite places to visit either by foot or bicycle is Loch Katrine and there is nothing better than to see it early in the morning, before the wind wakes up and ripples the water surface.

These photos were all taken at the harbour where the Sir Walter Scott and the Maid of the Loch tie up to take tourists a trip down the water.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Caithness, Keiss and other small harbours

Another fine Caithness castle ruin is the one that stands on the cliffs just north of the village of Keiss. It was built in the 1600’s by the Earl of Caithness but was abandoned in the 1700’s because part of it’s walls collapsed when the cliff broke away into the sea.

The Earl then built the newer Keiss Castle further inland away from the crumbling coast line and it is still inhabited to this day.

Although there is not much in the way of sea lochs or islands along the north east coast of Scotland, there are plenty hidden coves, bays and harbours for small boats to find shelter in. Keiss boasts a lovely little harbour and historic harbour house.

Lybster is another small fishing harbour and has a distinct lighthouse marking its entrance.

Staxigoe, just to the north of Wick is another one of numerous shelters from the cruel north sea when the winds blow.

Although the north east coast is very exposed, there appears to be no shortage of small boats making use of its little harbours, and it is a lovely area to explore. If I have some free time next summer and there is a settled spell of weather, perhaps I will explore it further in my small boat

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Caithness and Castle Grinigoe

Caithness has many old castles dotted along its coastline but my favourite one must be Castle Grinigoe just to the north of Wick. The ruined castle built from Caithness slabs is like many others in the area but its the location that makes this my firm favourite. It stands on an outcrop of the sea cliffs beside a very unusual shaped sea stack.

I tried to visit it both at sunrise and at sunset to try and photograph it in dramatic lighting conditions but they didnt materialise. However, I found that by converting one of my day time shots to Black and White captured the mood that I was after.

To save me some typing .. I "stole" some of its history from this web site

Castle Sinclair Girnigoe was the home of the Sinclair family, Earls of Caithness. The dramatic ruins are gradually falling into the sea, and its perilous position on steep cliffs make it a castle that should be visited with care.

Girnigoe Castle was built around the late 14th to early 15th centuries on a rocky promontory, and was defended on the landward side by great ditches, spanned by drawbridges. The main feature of this castle is a three or four storey tower house, probably completed towards the end of the 16th century although there are the remains of 15th century buildings beneath it. During a period of redevelopment at the castle in the early 17th century, George Sinclair (4th Earl) obtained an Act of Parliament to change the name from Castle Girnigoe to Castle Sinclair. However it appears that the two names became associated with different parts of the castle leading to the impression that there were two castles on the site.

The Campbells of Glenorchy briefly occupied the castle after emerging victorious from a battle with the Sinclairs. In 1680, George Sinclair of Keiss, who later became the 7th Earl, removed the Cambells by force, partially destroying the castle in the process.

In recent years the ownership of the castle has been returned to the Earls of Caithness, and is listed as the official seat of the Earldom. The castle is currently maintained by the Clan Sinclair Trust who are working to preserve it.