Kananaskis

At Kananaskis Village

Kananaskis Country, south-east of Banff National Park, is an area we had not explored on our previous visit to the Canadian Rockies. This time, we enjoyed a stay at Kananaskis Village – basically, Delta Lodge and a few attached businesses. Originally developed for the 1998 Winter Olympics, it was later chosen to host the G8 Summit in 2002 for its get-away-from-it-all ethos – what world leader could complain at being surrounded by scenery like the above?

The main hike we did here was a lovely trail round Upper Kananaskis Lake, starting at the Upper Lake parking lots at its south-east corner.

Upper Kananaskis Lake near parking lot

From there, we crossed Upper Lake Dam (both Upper and Lower Kananaskis Lakes are now reservoirs).

Upper Lake Dam

We continued round the lake drinking in the views:

On the north shore, the path began to climb above the trees –

View from north shore

– ending in a huge boulder field, dazzling in the sun.

After picking our way down through this, we encountered rivers and falls as we made our way back along the west shore.

Two final panoramic views – as we neared the parking lot we could see people out on the lake enjoying the boating life.

I admit my feet were sore after this walk – our first of the holiday and yet, as measured by Fitbit, the longest of all at over 30,000 steps (although there wasn’t much climbing: we did much steeper hikes later on).

A last word on Kananaskis Village. There are two routes in and out.  On the way in, we took the long way round – the unsealed Smith-Dorian Road via Spray Lakes.

On the way out, we stuck to Hwy 40. When we woke up that morning it was pouring with rain, but by the time we got out onto the highway this had cleared to leave a pleasing mist over the mountains. I also include what I think is the only picture of our hire car, a Nissan Rogue, which served us well for three weeks.

Where were we headed? Into British Columbia’s Glacier National Park. Nostalgia is involved. In the meantime, I’m linking this visit to Jo’s Monday Walks. She takes us to Northumberland this week.

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Arran – the walks

Machrie Moor

Moss Farm Road Cairn

The trail to Machrie Moor Stone Circles is an out-and-back walk of 4km. Before we got to the main event, we passed Moss Farm (above), the burial cairn of a powerful person who lived about 4,000 years ago, and Fingal’s Cauldron Seat (below), named after the legendary warrior Fhionn / Fingal.

Fingal’s Cauldron Seat

We stepped through a gate just beyond this onto open moorland and the sight of five separate stone circles – the tallest standing stone is over 5m high.

Kilpatrick Preaching Cave

A coastal walk took us to the well-hidden Kilpatrick Preaching Cave. After the Highland Clearances in the 19th century, when the Earl of Arran evicted many of his tenants to make room for more sheep, local people showed their disapproval in the only way they could by rejecting the Earl’s choice of minister. The Preaching Cave provided a suitable meeting place for the congregation. A sad story, but a beautiful setting.

String Road Viewpoint

Returning to Brodick on our last afternoon in Arran, we crossed the island via the String Road (B880) from which a short trail led to a beautiful viewpoint. Ayrshire was just visible on the horizon.

And behind us were beautiful mountain panoramas.

The next morning, we took the ferry back to the mainland while hoping to return to Arran soon.

Linked to Jo’s Monday Walks – today she’s taking us to Bolton Abbey, and her cyber-companions are walking all over the world.

Budapest: Margaret Island and Óbuda

Yes Pub

I knew before we arrived in Budapest that it had been formed in 1873 from the cities of Buda and Pest which lie on opposite banks of the Danube. What I didn’t know was that there was a third settlement involved: Óbuda (Old Buda) which, although largely modern these days, still had a historic town centre. One morning we set off to walk there.

Our route took us from our hotel in Pest to the Margaret Bridge (Margít hid). On the way, we were amused by this pub sign – has the campaign for Scottish independence now reached Hungary?

Margaret Bridge is slightly V-shaped with a spur in the middle onto Margít-sziget, or Margaret Island, walking the length of which gives access to another bridge leading to Óbuda. Like many places we’ve visited at this time of year (it was early March) the island was still gearing up for the tourist season – nothing had been planted out yet in the gardens, and there were several diversions to avoid repairs which were being made to the roads and footpaths. There was still plenty to see though. I made a friend.

I don’t know who he is, but later in the week we saw a photograph of children playing on the same statue in the 1960s, so he’s been there for a while.

We saw the ruins of a Franciscan Church from the 13th century, and a chapel with a Romanesque tower dating back to the 12th.

There are also ruins of the Dominican Convent inhabited by St Margaret of Hungary (1242-1271) after whom the island and bridge were named in the 19th century.

Margaret was the daughter of King Béla IV who vowed to bring her up as a nun if Hungary survived the Mongol invasion. When it did, he consigned her to the convent at 9 years old. What a father! She seems to have made the best of it by curing lepers and performing other saintly deeds as well as, allegedly, never washing above the ankles. Eurgh! Although she was beatified soon after her death, she didn’t actually become a Saint until 1943.

Other attractions include two thermal baths and an outdoor theatre, all probably very busy in the summer. Behind the convent sign above you can see an Art Nouveau water tower peeking through the trees, and below is the Japanese garden.

Árpád híd at the far end of the island is just a big modern road bridge, so we strode over that as quickly as possible to reach Óbuda which, as I said, is largely modern but still has some attractive historic buildings.

The town square houses several museums, one of which is dedicated to Imra Varga who created the sculptures with umbrellas below. This time it was John’s turn to make friends.

As I’ve observed before, Budapest is fond of its outdoor sculptures and statues. The signpost amused us – 2336 km to Stirling which is not far from us. I wonder why they chose it?

This statue is Pál Harrer who initiated the founding of Budapest. It’s good to see him honoured.

We had a quick lunch in a café but didn’t linger to visit any of the museums. John had a plan – he wanted to visit a cave. The hills to the west of Óbuda have a network of caves formed by rising thermal waters, two of which are open to the public. We set off to walk to the nearest, Pál-völgyi Cave. I have to confess I was a bit grumbly here, as the walk was not very interesting: uphill through residential areas. Also, I was far less keen on this idea than John was. I’d read the description of the cave in the guidebook which mentioned 400 steps and a 7 metre ladder. Steps I can deal with, but I wondered where this ladder would be taking me.

In the end, I needn’t have worried. Although not all that spectacular, the cave had some interesting formations and fossils.

The ladder wasn’t too bad – you can see me disappearing up it, feeling glad that it didn’t look like the other one pictured which, I’m assured, is there for illustrative purposes only.

From the cave, the walk back to Margaret Bridge was all downhill, thank goodness. This time we stopped to admire its sculptures – and to rest my weary feet.

By the end of that day I had done 31,744 steps! This was our longest day in Budapest by almost 10,000 steps, and my longest ever since I started wearing a Fitbit in February 2016. The only other time I have cracked 30,000 was hiking the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River – I didn’t expect to exceed that in a city. All in all, I feel totally justified in linking this to Jo’s Monday Walks. She’s in sunny Portugal again this week.

Deer Mountain

View from Deer Mountain
View from Deer Mountain

Rocky Mountain is a very busy park! By the time we got ourselves out in the morning, and that wasn’t very late, the signs for the car parks at the popular Bear Lake Trailhead were already indicating full. We headed for the Deer Mountain Trailhead instead.

Climbing Deer Mountain is a 6 mile round trip and you end up at over 10,000 feet. Before you get too impressed, I’ll confess that you actually start around 8,900 – but some of it is very steep, especially at the end. My knees didn’t like that section one little bit.

Here are some views from the way up.

Just before the summit we stopped to get our (well, my) breath back and I made the acquaintance of this little guy. I think he was begging, but I didn’t give him anything. Too many titbits is probably what made him so bold, and animals should not be encouraged to become dependent on humans for food. But he was cute.

On Deer Mountain On Deer Mountain On Deer Mountain On Deer Mountain

Pressing on to the summit, we could see right back down to our hotel on the edge of Estes Park.

Then it was time to retrace our steps, stopping for a quick picnic on the way.

In the afternoon, we took the one-way gravel Old Fall River Road which winds uphill for 11 miles and 3000 feet to Fall River Pass. The short trail at Chasm Falls made a pleasant stop on the way.

At the pass, we had a very welcome hot coffee at the Alpine Visitor Centre – it was cold up there and still had pockets of snow. Information boards told us more about the road which opened in 1920, and until 1932 was the only motor route across the park. Then it was replaced by Trail Ridge Road, our route back down.

The views from Trail Ridge were stunning.

Trail Ridge Road

Trail Ridge Road

Trail Ridge Road

We were really sorry to have only one full day in Rocky Mountain, but the next day we were off to Denver  – and we were really excited about that.

Linked to Jo’s Monday Walks where this week she takes us on a stroll around Lucca.

Fife Coastal Path

Inn at Lathones
Inn at Lathones

Between Christmas and New Year we stayed a few nights at the Inn at Lathones, just outside St Andrews, with the intention of walking a few stretches of the Fife Coastal Path. It’s our third time at this historic hotel where we enjoy the cosy atmosphere and good food. This time, we had a room in the Old Forge with access to the deck overlooking the farmland at the back. This would be lovely for sitting out in warmer weather but not in December – however, it did mean we always had something to look at.

Day 1 – Crail to Fife Ness

On our first full day, we headed for Crail, a traditional fishing village with a 17th century harbour.

Although we’d been to Crail many times before, we had never taken the path to Fife Ness which we now set out to do. Near the edge of town, we passed the 16th century doocot (used to harvest doves for meat), then a children’s playground and a very large caravan park. After this it became more interesting as we entered the Kilminning Coast Wildlife Reserve where seabirds, such as shag, eider, cormorant and guillemot can be seen.

Some colourful cottages appeared above us, then we rounded a corner to the lighthouse at Fife Ness – a squat building rather than the usual attractive white tower.

Fife Ness is the most easterly corner of Fife. Its harbour dates from the sixteenth century and was used for fishing until the end of the eighteenth. It was then converted into a sea beacon construction yard, hence the circular grooves in the stone, and lightships were also built here to guide shipping before the lighthouse was constructed in 1975.

The next part of the path skirted a golf course, and then we came to Constantine’s Cave. Local legend has it that King Constantine I (one of the early Pictish Kings) was killed in this cave following a battle with the Danes in 874.

At this point we decided we had gone far enough and retraced our steps back along the coastal path.

North Berwick Law and the Bass Rock were just visible across the Firth of Forth.

In Crail, we took time to admire the buildings before heading back to the hotel.

We were particularly impressed with Penman the butcher’s Christmas window!

Day 2 – St Andrews and Pittenweem

The following day, we didn’t do so much walking. John’s cousin, Lindy, lives in Anstruther and they kindly asked us to lunch which we thoroughly enjoyed. Beforehand, we had a quick stroll around St Andrews.

Afterwards, we visited Pittenweem, Fife’s only working fishing harbour, and the site of a cave used by St Fillan in the 7th century. The light was already starting to fade when we got to the harbour.

It gave the buildings a pleasing glow.

We saw several decorated bicycles – but only one decorated bench.

As we climbed away from the sea, it got darker and darker.

By the time we walked back down past the cave it was very dark indeed.

And the harbour looked even more beautiful with the lights shimmering in the sea.

Day 3 – Dysart to West Wemyss

On our last day, we decided to stop in Dysart, a Royal Burgh dating from the 7th century, to walk the coastal path to West Wemyss. The old Harbourmaster’s House, on the deliciously named Hot Pot Wynd, now houses the Coastal Centre Exhibition and the Harbour Bistro. Great – a coffee before we started. Wrong! Despite the notice outside, and having looked at the website before we left, the place was closed. This was 31st December so not a public holiday. I know a lot of places close for the whole period between Christmas and New Year but some information would be nice. Shame on you Fife Coast and Countryside Trust!

Undaunted, we spent some time wandering round the harbour. Donald Urquhart’s Sea Beams represent the colours of the sea at different times and in different lights.

The start of the walk took us along the shore past the 13th century St Serf’s Tower and the restored Pan Ha’ red tiled cottages, then up Hie Gait.

From Dysart the path climbs to the Frances Colliery memorial and preserved winding gear, testament to the former importance of the coal industry in the area. The colliery, with so many others, closed in the 1980s.

From Blair Point you can look down on West Wemyss.

From here, the path takes you past a walled chapel garden, the private burial ground of the Wemyss family, and some pretty mosaics.

West Wemyss originated as a planned town for workers on the Wemyss estate. At one time, it was one of the most important ports in Fife, trading in coal and salt with the Continent. It is certainly picturesque, but was almost deserted and once again everything was closed despite the local pub being listed on the coastal path information boards as a “Welcome Port”. We’d had a large hotel breakfast, so there was no danger of starving, but the wind was biting and somewhere to warm up would have been nice.

There was nothing for it but to turn round and head back to Dysart where The Man i’ the Rock was able to serve us a late lunch. After a quick look around it was back in the car and home to Glasgow for New Year.

I love this part of the coast: beautiful views, historic towns and villages with some industrial history thrown in. We’ll be back. In the meantime, I’m linking up to Jo’s Monday Walks. She’s in another of my favourite places this week, the Yorkshire Dales, and her cyber friends are walking all over the world. Please take a look!

Dollar Glen

Dollar
Dollar

One of our favourite outings is to the small town of Dollar in Clackmannanshire, from where we walk up Dollar Glen to Castle Campbell. We did this most recently in December 2016. Unfortunately, since the last time we visited, the hotel bar in which we usually ate lunch has closed – the horror! – but we found a more than adequate substitute in the Bridge Street Kitchen – hooray!

Suitably fortified, we made our way past some chain saw carving and up West Burnside.

Just where the footpath to the castle begins there is a small museum in an old mill building. In all our years of visiting Dollar we have never been in – until this time. It’s a fascinating collection of information on local history staffed by friendly volunteers (an extensive chat with one unearthed three mutual acquaintances). I was particularly interested in the section on Lavinia Malcolm, a woman I had never heard of but who was the first woman town councillor (1907) and the first woman Provost (Mayor – 1913) in Scotland. We noted that we must have walked past a plaque on her former home and decided to look out for it on our way back.

After the museum, we climbed up the Glen past this intriguing money mushroom – I’ve seen money trees before but this is a first – to the point where we could look back on the view you can see in the post header. Castle Campbell soon loomed over us.

We had spent so long in the museum that the castle was about to close by the time we got there, so we passed it by and returned down the other side of the glen. The lights had come on by the time we got back to Dollar making it look very festive.

As hoped, we found Lavinia’s house and memorial plaque.

My favourite kind of walk – countryside and history combined! For more walks of all kinds, pop over to Jo’s Monday Walk for a wide choice of topics.

Glasgow canal walks

Forth and Clyde Canal at Maryhill Locks
Forth and Clyde Canal at Maryhill Locks
The Forth and Clyde Canal runs very close to our house and we love it for a Sunday afternoon stroll. We have three choices – east, west or the spur that runs into the city centre. I’ve already written about the spur (here) so this post will cover the east and west walks we took in November. Now, you will probably guess that the photograph above does not show Glasgow in November! That was in June, but it’s the only time I’ve ever seen boats going through any of the canal locks so I wanted to include it.

Let’s walk east first. We join the canal at Maryhill where there used to be interesting, if not infamous, buildings above its banks such as the Glasgow Magdalene Institution for the Repression of Vice and Reformation of Penitent Females. Yes, really! Shockingly, this only closed in the late 1950s after a number of inmates escaped, leading to an investigation into their (mis)treatment. Today, the site is covered in houses with a golf course on the other bank, so nothing very picturesque. The camera only comes out when we reach Lambhill Stables.

The Stables were built around 1830 when horses pulling barges were the main means of moving goods along the canal. Today they have been restored as a community facility with a café, heritage displays and a garden. The Stables are closed on Sundays, but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing to see. First, there is the memorial to the Cadder Pit Disaster of 1913.

A stroll round the garden results in some unexpected sightings. A robot in Lambhill!

Through a gap in the hedge at the back there are good views towards Possil Loch and the Campsie Fells.

Back on the canal towpath, we walk a little further then turn into Possil Marsh and Loch nature reserve – though there is so much marsh that we don’t actually see the loch again, as the track can only go round the very edge of the site. We do see, through another hedge gap, the splendid entrance (James Sellars, 1881) to Lambhill Cemetery and the plaque to commemorate the Possil High Meteorite which fell nearby in 1804. (This photo is a cheat, taken from an earlier walk. I couldn’t make the writing on the plaque legible, even in close-up, so I thought you might as well have a long view with the bonus of John).

It gets dark very early in winter, and the sun was setting as we walked back home.

A couple of weekends later, we set off west to walk another section of canal. Once again, it’s quite built up but there are times when you can pretend you are in the country. Not when you see a Saltire-painted tarpaulin and Nessie on the opposite bank though! And a curious cat who probably has as little idea about what is going on as we do.

It’s also easy to link up a canal walk with the River Kelvin Walkway. Here’s one we did in October, taking in the Botanic Gardens and its Arboretum.

Finally, you never know what you might come across on the canal. One of my volunteer “jobs” is leading walks from Maryhill Health Centre (aimed, for example, at people giving up smoking or finishing physiotherapy) and sometimes we have pop-up artists. Below, you can see members of the delightful Joyous Choir living up to their name and a small ceilidh band. Shortly after this picture was taken we danced The Gay Gordons up and down the towpath which prompted a certain amount of curious windae-hingin’ (hanging out of windows) on the adjacent Maryhill Road. It was fun!

This post seems to have got out of hand and strayed away from the original east-west walk! I kept thinking of more to add. Expect more rag-bag posts in the New Year as I clear out photos and ideas that didn’t get used in 2016. Linking this one to Jo’s Monday Walks. Her latest is about Roker Beach and Park where I spent many happy hours as a child.

A walk round Overtoun Estate

Overtoun House
Overtoun House
Overtoun House was built in 1862 for James White, a wealthy industrialist, and stayed in the family until 1939 when it was bequeathed to the people of Dumbarton. In the past it has been used as a maternity hospital and a film set, but since 2001 it has been run by the Christian Centre for Hope and Healing. Since my last visit a few years ago, a weekend tea room has opened in the house and the Forestry Commission has greatly enhanced the paths around the estate.

We did a figure-of-eight walk, returning to the house in the middle for lunch. The first loop took us past the Welcome Cairn to a viewpoint where we could see Ben Lomond one way (just visible over John’s shoulder) and Dumbarton Rock and Castle the other.

Descending back towards the house, there was an area with wooden sculptures – maybe for children to play on? I don’t know: on this cold, November day there were no children around to demonstrate. The autumn colours were lovely.

Overtoun Bridge, visible on the left in the first picture below, looks picturesque but has an unpleasant history. Since the 1950s or 1960s numerous dogs have leapt from the bridge at the rate of about one dog per year, falling 50 feet onto the waterfalls below. In 1994, a man threw his two-week-old son to his death from the bridge, because he believed the child was an incarnation of the Devil, and then attempted to jump himself. Well, we made it across safely and popped into the house for lunch in the beautiful Angel Room. I can report that it was very good and very cheap – the best chips / fries I’ve had in a long time. (Don’t judge me on the chips – it was a cold day and I needed fuel.)

The second loop was less photogenic. It took us down, allegedly, to a waterfall, but there were so many trees we could barely see it. Can you spot it lurking in the first picture below?

Arriving back at the house again, John amused himself taking some shots of the stone ornamentation while I shivered.

It does show what a splendid pile it is though, doesn’t it? Linked to Jo’s Monday Walks. She has the most fabulous Christmas lights this week.

Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River

Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River
Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River

Yellowstone’s Grand Canyon runs for about 20 miles, but the best part is around Upper and Lower Falls (109 and 308 feet respectively), very close to Canyon Lodge where we were staying. We spent two full days hiking the various trails around the rim.

Day 1

We started with two short, steep trails which each dropped 5-600 feet from the North Rim to overlook Lower Falls. We managed to climb back up the first one without stopping, and were complimented by a young man as follows: “Wow! I don’t want to make any judgements about age, but my kids’ grandparents couldn’t have done that!” I wasn’t sure whether to be flattered, or to be insulted that he obviously thought we looked too ancient to manage such a feat. I think I’ll stick with flattered…

Brink of Lower falls
Red Rock Point
Artist Point and Point Sublime Trail

From Red Rock Point, we drove round to Artist Point on the South Rim. The trail from here to Point Sublime displayed the multi-hued rocks of the canyon to perfection.

Ribbon Lake Trail

We then followed the Ribbon Lake Trail – lots of bird life here.

My Fitbit measured over 30,000 steps that day – the first and only time this has happened!

Day 2

On our second day in the Canyon, we returned to Artist Point and hiked a loop, taking in the South Rim and Clear Lake Trails, which provided an amazing variety of scenery.

South Rim Trail

From Artist Point we set off on the South Rim Trail. As we walked along the canyon edge, we could see the North Rim viewpoints we had visited a few days before – Red Rock Point and Brink of Lower Falls.

 

Just before we reached the falls, we came to a diversion at Uncle Tom’s Trail.

Uncle Tom's Trail
Uncle Tom’s Trail

Now rope ladders would have been beyond me, but steps I can manage. I won’t pretend that I wasn’t completely out of breath by the time I got back to the top though!

We continued along the South Rim past Upper Falls before re-joining the road at the Wapiti Lake Trailhead where we had our picnic.

Clear Lake Trail

From the other end of the trailhead, Clear Lake Trail led off and the scenery changed completely. First, there was an open meadow to cross.

Eventually, the smell of sulphur assaulted our nostrils and we emerged from a small patch of forest to find the hydrothermal area of Clear Lake with acid-bleached driftwood and boiling mudpots – a complete contrast in its desolation.

Eventually, we met Ribbon Lake Trail again and had the same walk back to Artist Point as on Day 1. It seems no-one can resist photographing the canyon walls.

Yellowstone surprises round every corner. In this small area we encountered painted cliffs, waterfalls, meadows, sulphurous lakes and boiling mudpots. Could it get any more amazing? Well, maybe it could – next up, Mammoth Springs! In the meantime, this post is linked to Jo’s Monday Walks. Hop over there for blue Portuguese skies and a selection of other cyber-rambling.

Grand Teton National Park

The Tetons from Mormon Row
The Tetons from Mormon Row

In the 1890s, ten early settlers built their homesteads along Mormon Row – today, still no more than a gravel road just inside Grand Teton. We’d read that the view of the mountains from here was superb, and so it proved. On our first morning in the park we drove out there – it’s also a popular cycling route. A small collection of pioneer cabins and barns remains which are much photographed: I love the way the roofline of the oldest and most dilapidated echoes the peaks.

From Mormon Row, we headed to Teton Village, home of Jackson Hole ski resort and thus furnished with various methods of getting up high without actually climbing. We took the aerial tramway up Rendezvous Mountain. The first picture below shows the tram coming back to base – you might have to enlarge it to see the man sitting on top (to the left of the wires). Totally scary! The second photograph is our view back down as we travelled up the mountain. Inside the tram in our case.

Many people got out, checked the viewing platform, and headed back down. Not us! We had three trails to do. The first, Top of the World, was a simple loop of less than a mile round the summit. It was chilly up there – definitely hang-on-to-your-hat weather – but we warmed up afterwards with coffee and waffles in Corbett’s cabin.

From here, we decided to hike down the 2-mile Cirque Trail to Bridger Restaurant where we could take a gondola back to Teton Village. We had an audience!

You might think this was easy because it was heading downhill, but the last picture in the gallery shows quite a large ridge in front of the peak which we had to climb up and over. You might also think that when we saw Bridger Restaurant coming into sight we would head straight down to its terrace for a refreshing drink. Well, we took another uphill path to reach the 1.5 mile Casper Ridge Loop which turned out to be a real highlight. This adorable marmot posed for ages and the two mule deer didn’t seem shy at all. (I think they are mule deer, and I think they are different – it could just have been the same one following us!)

Finally, we descended to the café and had that reviving drink before heading back down to Teton Village via the gondola.

On our second, and final, day in Grand Teton we took another hiking trail to Bradley and Taggart Lakes. This 6 mile loop had, once again, wonderful views of the Tetons.

After our hike, we took a drive through some of the rest of the park to see as much as we could before leaving the next day. We admired the Cathedral Group:

Cathedral Group
Cathedral Group

And stopped at Jackson Lake by Signal Mountain Lodge. That’s not cloud to the right, but smoke from a large berry fire in the north of the park. This was going to cause us problems the next day….

Jackson Lake
Jackson Lake

Finally, we saw our first herd of bison. Even if they were behind a fence (cunningly omitted from the pictures.)

Our constant refrain held good here too – “we want to stay longer!” – but this was tempered by our excitement that we would be in Yellowstone the next day. Would it live up to expectations? What do you think!

Linked to Jo’s Monday Walks.