Since the 5th August I’ve been in Scotland, doing a variety of things in a number of different places. This is probably the longest I’ve spent back in Scotland since moving to London, and it is probably also the longest I’ve spent away from London too.
I must admit that I haven’t really missed city life at all, I’ve missed people but not the location. Maybe the fact that being mainly on holiday affects how much normal life is missed, switching off from the day to day drudgery but also forgetting the things that make somewhere great.
So where have I been? First off, after a pleasant sleeper journey north, I had a brief stop at home prior to meeting up with Andy & the rest of the boys for his stag do at Belladrum festival.
I must admit that looking at the lineup in advance didn’t fill me with enthusiasm, but it turned out to be a great weekend on all fronts! Musical discoveries (The Burns Unit, Beth Jeans Houghton) and old favourites (King Creosote, Divine Comedy doing My Lovely Horse) coupled with good food, interesting Q&A & debate sessions, guid banter and a vast quantity of alcohol (we had finished our vast supplies by Saturday lunchtime) made for a good time.
The last week has mainly been spent in and around Balmacara on the west coast of Scotland, near to Kyle of Lochalsh, and a part of the world that I’ve not fully explored previously. The main reason for being there was to stage a two day orienteering event, the Purple Thistle, part of the ethos of which is to take people to places they’d never otherwise get to visit.
In orienteering terms Balmacara is well off the beaten track, at least two hours away from the main orienteering clubs of Inverness and Speyside, neither club is ever likely to bother attempting to stage an event there. Too costly. Too much effort. I don’t know quite what the reasons would be, maybe just a lack of ingenuity, but we somehow make it work in remote areas and attract a decent crowd.
Me, my fellow planner Duncan, and a couple of friends roped in to help us out, were all that was needed to put on what was regarded as a tough but enjoyable event. We had over 200 competitors from across the UK, with some from further afield (Japan, Spain, Switzerland) making the effort to take up the PT challenge. People took the event in the right spirit, being low key & laid back, and despite the tough courses came back smiling having enjoyed the technical terrain & stunning scenery.
Holidaying on the West Coast
Afterwards, I headed back home for a night to see my Ma on her birthday, then had a few days back on the west coast on actual holiday!
Holiday for me often means activity, so Eddie & I went running up hills and put some good miles in on the bike, the highlight of which was the Tour de Applecross.
This was a 101km trip, over the highest road in Britain to Applecross then round the north of the peninsula. The main climb (626m in 10km) was tough, but not too bad despite the rain. However the descent was scary to say the least! I found the climbs on the rest of the route were far tougher, unrelenting ups and downs over ridges meant we climbed a further 800m or so, and I came pretty close to the wall for a while. Some more food perked me up tho, and Eddie & I nailed the final 20km at a good pace to finish in 4:45.
They do a cycle race over a similar, but longer, route which takes on the monstrous climb and the loop round the northern section of the peninsula. Not overly into road cycling races but this looks like one I might have to try and take in at some point, especially as they close the road off for a few hours which would help on both the climb and the descent!
Aside from cycling and running, we generally chilled out, caught up on sleep, ate well and watched lots of tv & films – mainly about cycling teams taking on le tour. I’d heartily recommend both Overcoming, about Bjarne Riis’ Team CSC at the 2004 Tour de France, while similarly Hell on Wheels follows the Deutch Telekom team during the 2003 tour. Quite contrasting films, and teams, with Hell on Wheels being more entertaining viewing, following a good natured team and some interesting characters, while Overcoming shows the difficulties faced by a team of top pros financed and managed by a former champion.
And back home
Back to London, back to reality, although more trips to Scotland follow soon enough though, with Andy’s wedding and the Park World Tour in September…