The Hermit of Treig – a great documentary about Ken Smith, who has lived alone off-grid on the shore of Loch Treig for the last 40 years. Incredible for his hardiness and indefatigability, I was fascinated with his thorough approach to record-keeping and the daily admin of being a hermit. (Not currently available on iPlayer but it has been repeated a few times).
The story of Clarion Clubhouses, founded by socialist organisations for the benefit of walkers and cyclists visiting rural areas. Found via a Guardian article about the last Clarion House in Lancashire, which I would very much like to visit.
Slow Ways – help create a national walking network.
Piel Island – a tiny island in Cumbria off the coast of Barrow-in-Furness – is looking for a new ruler. For reasons that have become slightly hazy, the licensee of the Ship Inn, Piel’s only pub, is crowned the King or Queen of Piel.
The ‘coronation’ ceremony involves sitting on a throne and having beer poured over their head.
Piel is a tidal island, and can be reached by ferry from Roa (at times).
At low tide, it’s possible to walk across the sands (careful now).
For a small island, it punches above its weight with one substantial ruined castle, one thriving pub and one row of very solid-looking houses.
When we visited, there was a great display in the Ship Inn, full of historical artefacts.
If you like to get away from it all, it might be worth a shot.
Thought I would squeeze in another island while the weather is still decent. Off to Rothesay we go.
Rothesay is the main town on the Isle of Bute. It is easy to get there from Glasgow by train and as a bonus, you get to go through Wemyss* Bay Station, one of the most beautiful railway stations in the UK.
Get off the train and go down the adjoining walkway to get the ferry (operated by CalMac). The scenic crossing through the First of Clyde takes around 35 minutes.
Bute is one of the easiest islands to visit, because it’s so accessible. Get off the ferry and you’re right in the centre of Rothesay. The Esplanade has a lovely vintage seaside feel.
There are all kinds of shops and odd things to look at. Sadly, Zavaroni’s, home of the Top Hat (an ice cream cone with a Tunnock’s snowball squashed into it), and the Victorian toilets were both closed.
This little gem was still open – I was taking a picture of the shopfront, thinking it had long closed, when the owner came back from lunch and gave me a wee look inside. He said he’ll be closing up at the end of the year.
How can you compete with young guns like Wesley Snips?
After that it was time to head home again, with a beautiful view of all the Victorian villas along the shore and a plan to see more of Bute on my next visit.
They were a while ago now, but what I did on my summer holidays was go to Oban (a town on the west coast of Scotland) with the goal of getting to as many Scottish islands as possible. Getting to, and staying on the islands has been pretty challenging this year – getting to the big islands was pretty much out of the question, but there are lots of small ones that are easily reachable from Oban or nearby.
Number 1: Easdale Island
Easdale is one of my favourite places on Earth. Home to the World Stone Skimming Championships, it is relatively easy to get to, and can be walked round in a day, or an afternoon depending on how much you want to see.
It is one of the Slate Islands – a chain of small islands in the Inner Hebrides, and is pitted with deep pools made from disused slate quarries.
The island is car-free – residents have wheelbarrows instead.
The small 10-people ferry runs regularly from Ellanabeich, which is also a pretty wee place.
The crossing takes about 5 minutes, and it is not possible to book it (there’s usually no need).
I’ve just spent a week on the Isle of Harris, in the Outer Hebrides. It is a very striking place, full of beautiful beaches and remote, rocky landscapes. Also home to Isle of Harris Gin, with its beautiful bottle, and Harris Tweed (of which more later).