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Tuesday, 9 October 2012

A reignited love affair with Scotland

Aonach Beag, Scotland. Wild camp, dawn view
Truly mystical view from Aonach Beag last Sunday morning. Simple breathtaking.

It's been 8 long years since I've paid the great outdoors of Scotland a visit. I've come close to heading up there not so long ago but poor weather put that idea to bed and I headed off to the Lake District instead. However, recently I was approached by London based 4Ps Marketing an SEO Agency to produce them a video featuring an event they were doing for charity.

Around 30 of them plus guests and clients were to attempt to ascend the UK's highest peak, Ben Nevis - and conduct some inspirational speeches concerning social media and marketing ("Is the distinction between Online/Offline marketing obsolete?") to those invited and whom volunteered to come along. All monies were to be raised for The Children's Society

It transpired to be one of my most memorable trips for a job I've ever done. Not only were the folk I met a fantastic bunch of people to hang about with, but the speeches were really quite interesting from a bystander's point of view - and of course I got to enjoy some of Scotland's finest scenery.



On the latter, I'll be the first to admit my crime of not having visited Scotland more often in the past. Much of that has of course been down to my work and other commitments. Even so, I've never once pitched a tent on a single Scottish hill.

Now, I'm not one to head out on a strict plan when it comes to my work. I adapt to the prevailing weather conditions to make it favourable with what I wish to capture on camera. But for this trip? It was a fixed date due to the event - even so, I was a lucky, lucky man.

Aye, I encountered the odd shower and even dreaded clag, strong winds and snow. But in the main it was generally good. Besides, it's the weather that really makes our landscapes look at their most dramatic.

My first night was spent in the Fort William Backpacker's hostel due to arriving rather late in the day. I ended up sharing a dorm with some great lads from Germany, Poland, New Zealand and Brazil! Despite the somewhat poor English we used to converse, it made for an enlightening and heart warming evening.

One thing the lads picked up on and adored about the UK (and in this case mostly Scotland) was the true sense of wilderness one can find on the mountains and in the glens. And furthermore how our ever changeable weather promotes this sense of isolation and accentuates the beauty of the landscape.

Bearing this in mind, it's predominantly the latter observations that I'll take with me from my visit to the Fort William area.

I know some may well ridicule me for saying this, but I mean every single word. I thought I saw some world class scenery in the Alps in August but I can honestly say, bar the real high places and the glaciers there - none of it has a patch on Scotland in my opinion.

Sure, the mountains are not the highest and much of what we see has been shaped by man more or less over the millennia - but I've yet to see such beauty on such a large scale with my own eyes. And best of all, within a day's travelling distance for most UK residents.

The sheer scale and drama I encountered en route to the Highlands, or while camping out or walking on the summits and in the glens was truly breathtaking.

I'm not ashamed to say, one morning I was close to tears at the awesome drama that revealed itself before my eyes while camping on Aonach Beag. The view was EPIC! And while I pottered about in the sub-zero temps with my camera and coffee in hand, I had the pleasure of observing and hearing the calls of many stags roaring in the glens below.

Peak after peak rolled out onto the horizon to all points of the compass. I had no phone signal, there was little in the way of tracks, no stone walls, fence posts - just a very real sense of wilderness on a scale I've honestly not encountered before. It was thrilling! And the very thought of that morning still moves me now as I type.

It's addictive. And I hope to return to Scotland soon. Even if it's for pleasure and not work. Every one I encountered was friendly and helpful, the local ales were superb and getting out and about was really quite easy by public transport (though you may have to walk far to catch a connection of some type).

I could waffle on and on, but I'd be venturing into the realms of poetry - and I guess that's why so many have been inspired and moved to put into words the sheer beauty of the Scottish Highlands. But as usual, I'll leave you with a series of photos to view and a short video I did of the camp I've described above. Of course, none of it does the scenes I recall any justice at all. Quite the opposite.

You need to immerse yourself in such places on many levels. But what I will say before I sign off, is this.

We really, really are a lucky nation to have such a diverse and accessible range of landscapes within the British Isles. It may have been a long time since my last visit to Scotland - but this short trip has not only rekindled my admiration for the place but also exploded my passion for the landscapes, peoples and cultures for those north of the English border. I simply cannot wait to head on back when ever that will be.

It was quite simply - mind blowing.....




Fellow outdoors blogger, Martin Rye from Summit and Valley had been quite persistent I pay Aonach Beag a visit and camp up there. I was unsure thinking Aonach Mor may afford better views - well, the sort I was seeking of Ben Nevis as it happens. In the end, we were both right even though I reluctantly opted to camp on Aonach Beag. It's nearby brother, did offer better views of The Ben and it's north face but Aonach Beag did reveal some epic views. Some of the very very best I've seen - anywhere. So, I'd like to thank Martin for persistently arguing with me to head up there instead of where I was choosing to go. It was indeed the right call.

The following photos are a mix of what I took on a compact camera and my DSLR.

Glen Nevis, Scotland
A nice view of Glen Nevis as I made my way up the flanks of Ben Nevis.

Glen Nevis, wild camping
The ever changing weather revealed differing scenes of the same hills.

Scottish Highlands, stag
Look at this handsome fella. I wished I took my powerful zoom lens on the trip. I'd have loved a closer pic.

wild camping, Meall an t-Suidhe
I chose to spend the night up Meall an t-Suidhe

Fort William, Scotland
The weather was constantly changing. I was in and out the tent all the time with my cameras!

Rab Latok Ultra Bivi, wild camping
For this trip, I took along the Rab Latok Ultra Bivi.

Rab Latok Ultra Bivi
It's a single skin shelter, ideally designed for high altitude dry climes. Even so, I'm giving it a go this winter.

Scottish Highlands, Mamores
The Mamores were looking rather enticing on this trip too. Perhaps another day.

Loch Lochy
It was certainly a mean and moody day out. Here's Loch Lochy under brooding skies.

Wild camping
I didn't get to enjoy a fine sunset. But the night sky wasn't too bad at camp later on.

4Ps Marketing
The following day, I hooked up with 4Ps Marketing and got to work on their video. They had in fact passed me earlier
that morning on their way up Ben Nevis. Consequently I stood around for 5 long hours waiting for them to return and
me to crack on with some video!

Loch Arkaig
Feeling a little worst for wear after spending the previous evening in the pub with the 4Ps team, the following day involved a hard long slog up the flanks of Aonach Mor to reach where I hoped to camp the night.

Ben Nevis from Aonach Mor
True enough, the view from Aonach Mor towards Ben Nevis was a good one. The tiring, sweating slog up was worth it.
It got rid of my hangover anyway!

Scottish Highlands, wild camping
Despite the overcast skies, the views were sensational.

Ben Nevis, Scotland
View of Ben Nevis summit and the CMD Arete from Aonach Beag.

It was while setting up camp on Aonach Beag I heard what sounded like a cross between a stag roaring and a red grouse. It was then I saw this feathered friend. Any ideas on what bird this is?

Latok Ultra Bivi, winter
Temps were as low as -7c just before dawn. It was certainly a cold night!

Dawn from Aonach Beag
The clag lifted a little to reveal a superb sunrise from Aonach Beag.

Temperature inversion
Slowly but surely the cloud began to break up. 

Rab Latok Ultra Bivi, wild camping Scotland
What a superb view from camp, eh? Out of this world stuff.

Scottish highlands, dawn
I couldn't have wished for a better morning to enjoy from camp.

Rab Latok Ultra Bivi, frost camp
The sun was struggling to melt the frost on the shelter. The air temp was still sub-zero up here. Winter is coming!

Scotland
Not long after, I packed up and made my way over the hills and down to the glens below. I had a long walk ahead of me.

Scottish wilderness
The sound of stags roaring reverberated around the glens below.

terrybnd
Looking somewhat dishevelled, I eventually reached Steall Falls. I was now making my way up Glen Nevis to Fort William. I was already tired. Exhausted even. The previous rough ground I encountered was hard going and that was 7miles and I had at least another 6 miles to go (but mostly on tracks).

Glen Nevis
Despite my aching limbs, Glen Nevis made for a beautiful stagger back to Fort William.

The Glen itself has much to offer the casual walker. It's a stunning place.

I enjoyed this view from The Ben Nevis Inn. It made for a happy end to the day, despite the walk a little further on
to find a room for the night in Fort William. A superb end to a varied and interesting trip!

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About Me

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Terry Abraham
Outdoors filmmaker who wild camps to capture the landscapes at their very best. Also a blogger, photographer and gear tester.

I've been known to write from time to time and am a big fan of real ales.



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