Sgurr a Mhaim and Scurry ower The Devil's Ridge

As I went to pick up Mrs B’Dass at 4.15pm I was wishing I’d said I was too busy. After all, they’re used to me saying that - whether anyone believes me or not is neither here nor there.

As we met Curly and Lady N, it was recording 27 degrees in Fort William - at 4.30pm. N had misinterpreted Curly’s message suggesting "an evening walk - no running." The no running part was because Sgurr a Mhaim is so steep that even Mrs B’dass is fine with not running up it. N had envisaged a stroll by the river and an early night - a slightly different kind of evening.  By the gate through the deer fence higher up the lower slopes I was feeling dizzy and extremely uncomfortable after about 30 minutes of ascent. Curly had meandered and chatted as if it WAS a stroll by the river but I’d put so much effort into appearing fit that I was feeling sick. We waited for N and Mrs B’dass. N was experiencing some discomfort too, so we encouraged the other two to continue their exchange of pleasantries without us. Funnily enough,despite the steep gradient, ravaged breathing and heat, we couldn't quite resist conversation but the reduced pace was a relief and as we got our feet and breath into the same rhythm I no longer felt that the task was too great. I haven't done any exercise that doesn't involve being attached to the end of a vacuum cleaner for at least 2 months - probably 3 - and each year I do get a little older. There was no pressure from the 2 companions above but it just felt better to let them make their own easy pace which was an entirely different pace from ours, which was merely about ensuring that the motion was upwards. But they were happy to wait and in this warmth, there’s none of the accustomed shivering as the sweat cools. It was a walk of about 4 parts. The first was to the summit....


The mountain is famously topped by quartzite that looks like snow from the distance.  It was a long time before we even saw this.


As my companions assumed power positions, discussed gin and ice that lurked in houses far below and firmly out of reach, I couldn't quite keep my eyes off stage 2 of the walk....

The Devils Ridge - described as "airy" in the guide books.  There was just no point in my hanging about and putting off the inevitable so I headed off myself.  I knew we were destined for stage 3 - the wee lochan nestled between this mountain and Stob Bhan, on our way down the hill.  


If only I could survive that far.....


At one particularly unnerving point, I heard guffaws of laughter and a shout encouraging me to stand up to make a better photo.  I didn't even look back.....




 From the Sgurr a Mhaim side it’s not such a frightening start (though bad enough) and I met 2 mildly unnerved young German men slithering down a rocky section on their bottoms as they glistened with sweat - heat or fear, I couldn't say, but probably both. I laughed and said I wasn’t loving it either. They said it was a little discomforting and the biggest issue was not knowing what was coming next or how long it was going to go on for.  With a sympathetic grin, I pushed on without considering the optional reassurance of female companionship - fear is a lonely place!!!!  I couldn't believe how long it took them to catch me up but my fevered breathing suggested that panic had leant wings to my feet (or rather my knees.) There didn't appear to be any panic in the rear guard.


 Lady N said she was pretty nervous, but she hid it well - so much more dignified than myself.

 Finally we got to the 3rd stage. The lochan. It was freezing, stony and alive with tadpoles so there was a fair amount of screaching echoing around the hillside. But there was no way these women were not getting submerged.


It's a gradual process...


Are they or aren't they?  You'd have to be hanging around, high in the hills, late on a summer evening to find out.

 I had to get in there too, despite my allergy to anything that makes me feel uncomfortable. But then there is always that magical photo opportunity. Otherwise, why get out of my narrow comfort zone?



It was time for Stage 4 - the long and winding descent as the sun set.


There's no need to hurry on a lovely mid-summer night.

20180630-36387734_10216894520223592_1599616107893751808_n (1).jpg


 We came off the hill around 10.30pm all of us feeling a sense of something special, I think. Such a feeling came from a little adversity (or a lot depending on whether you were at the front or the back) and good companionship, along with truly majestic landscape. I’m so glad I resisted my very very strong temptation to say no to the invite. As time has gone on, it has become easier and easier to say no. But I’d forgotten how deeply a little effort nourishes the soul. (Various levels of effort are available. No terms and conditions apply).

Scottish Trad Awards - Gaelic Singer of the Year

When my friend Roberto came over from Dundee for a few days in October (he originally comes from near Algeciras in Southern Spain), we took a road trip out to Mallaig, calling in at Glenfinnan to watch the steam train pass by and to watch the waves when we hit the west coast at the smaller viaduct that you drive under.  A trip out west isn't complete without a wander through the sand dunes to Camusdarroch beach and on the way home we put some music on and sang at the top of our voices.




As Roberto and I can't sing in Gaelic, we chose the Robert Robertson song in the link below. It seemed a good idea to introduce Roberto to Scottish music via his Scottish name sake and as he is a bit of a romantic,  the rather cheesy video is right up his adopted Scottish street, as dancing with a Highland girl where the skies reach out for miles was all he wanted to do after our trip........

Scottish Trad Awards - Instrumentalist of the Year

Saturday nights used to see my sister and I taking the floor in a small space in the house, listening to the radio and trying to squeeze in Canadian Barn Dances and Gay Gordon's.  A generation later the cheery voice of Robbie Shepherd has been replaced with the cheery voice of Gary Innes and without doubt, a gentle, gradual modernisation of Take The Floor.  A Lochaber man down to his ex-shinty playing toes, he won the above title of 2017.  Below is a video taken from the drivecam on his homeward bound journey on the A82 at it's most iconic point, to his own tune of The Road to Lochaber.  I get a little travel sick, so if you do too, you might need to stand back from the screen, or just listen. (to the sister who used to whirl about to Robbie Shepherd - you'll need a sick bag.)

The 2nd video is his song-writing - not his winning instrumental skills - and the voice of a further winner of this years awards.  But I love the song and the video as although one might not call it a romantic part of highland life, it's an undeniable part of the culture, which links people up and down the highlands, the lowlands and even across the world and to my mind, that IS part of the romance of a strong connection between people.  Even enemies on the field, are linked by their playing of the game. That's the essence of the song and the video also features Gary.

Someone will need to write The Caman Woman as these women are a whole other level altogether.............

Scottish Trad Music Awards

I don't claim to know much about music but bopping up and down to fiddles, accordians, pipes and drums started when I could sit up in my big, well sprung pram in Ayrshire.  My mother told me that she had a request played for each of her children on the radio and asked them to play anything overwhelmingly Scottish to suit the baby.  Pestering my mother on family holidays to take me to the weekly pipe band marching through a contributing Highland town was the norm - and much to the horror of my granny I developed an enduring love for Andy Stewart.  As I sat with my face glued to the television when he was performing, I remember being shocked when a large tattie appeared across the screen.   My granny had nipped through from preparing the tea to back up her view that he had a face like an old tattie and was offering me the chance to make a comparison.  Dancing the night away at the Kyle of Lochalsh Hotel when I was 19 it dawned on me that a dream had come true.  When Andy sang about The Dancing in Kyle he sang "there was Mairi and Duncan and Morag and Calum".  I knew then that I was meant to dance in Kyle.  The Incredible Fling Band played the night away and the names of local villages that I passed on my way to the dance were there in that song of my Ayrshire childhood - Inverinate, Dornie, Ardelve.  I grew up thinking the Highlands was the most romantic place in the world and the stirrings of that deep held romantic view are easily brought to the surface - by the humour, warmth and support of its inhabitants but most of all, by the music.

The Trad Scottish Awards 2017 were held in Paisley last night, and without having to look closely at the results, it's clear that there is a strong Lochaber contingent amongst the winners.  So I thought I'd post a piece of music each day for the next few days to provide a wee flavour of something very special.

Event of the Year was won by A Night For Angus - a celebration of Angus R Grant's life.  My heiland husband has always had a much finer and more select love of Scottish music and Shooglenifty was a big favourite.  He knew Angus, who grew up in Lochaber, and was in awe of his fiddle playing.  He managed to get tickets to the event at Celtic Connections in Glasgow and it was the most enthralling evening.  Below is an exert from the full video of the event.  250 to Vigo is my favourite song and I sometimes put it on and dance round the kitchen when no one's in.  It starts slowly and builds to the most lovely, uplifting crescendo of positivity.  In this video there is quite a long tribute to Angus from a Galician artiste - in her own language - but love and respect seems to pour from her and when the players pick up the tune again, it backs up the love - and romance.