Newsletter > Newsletter archive > October 2015

October 2015


Tracking the Highland stalkers
We have just returned from a wonderful week in Strathglass, the home of three of the most beautiful of the Highland glens. The most famous is Glen Affric, a long remote valley bounded on all sides by high mountains, while the neighbouring but less well known glens of Cannich and Strathfarrar have their own special attractions. Glen Strathfarrar is reached by a private road with a limit of twenty five visiting vehicles a day, so you have to arrive early to be sure of entrance. Your reward is stunning scenery and a great big dose of tranquility.

Once reasonably well inhabited all three glens were depopulated during the contentious Highland Clearances of the 18th and 19th centuries. The tumbledown remains of isolated crofts and settlements can still be seen. The emptied land found a new use with the establishment of sporting estates and the hillsides were carefully tended for the cultivation of grouse. Many of the tracks and footbridges are maintained to this day to provide access for deer stalking. Transport is often still by hill pony - we saw a couple of hardy ponies with guns slung across their backs being led down to Loch Monar in Glen Strathfarrar, assisting a shooting party from Monar Lodge.

Unlike England and Wales, Scotland has a right to roam and so all these tracks are accessible to us ordinary folk, although it is courteous and indeed sensible to keep out of the way of stalking parties. It's possible to clamber through heather and over rocky outcrops to the highest summits but there are plenty of easier routes using the paths followed by those hunting, shooting and fishing. You can read more about stalking tracks in the Highlands in this month's chapter from the Pathways book. It's a fascinating tale of how humans have shaped some of the wildest areas of our country.

A seriously luxurious stay at Eagle Brae
During our trip we enfolded ourselves in sheer luxury in one of the pine lodges at Eagle Brae. Built in a secluded patch of woodland a few hundred feet above the Strathglass valley, these lodges are really special. Crafted out of massive Red Cedar logs in a Norwegian style they are incredibly warm and comfortable, helped in large measure by underfloor heating and huge glazed windows. In the evening we watched deer wandering by and a young stag come and lounge in a pool just a few yards from our door.

You can read more about walking in Strathglass and Glen Affric and about Eagle Brae in our report. Having never visited this part of the country before we found it a real eye-opener - it is renowned as one of the classic parts of the Scottish Highlands for good reason. The welcome at Eagle Brae was second to none and the opportunity to indulge ourselves in our very own Highland lodge left a big smile on our faces. Read our report

Pathways book out in Kindle edition
If you can't wait while we release the chapters of our Pathways book on the website you can now read the full text on Kindle. The publication includes all twenty chapters of the book, charting the history of our paths and tracks from the earliest processional routes through smuggling and packhorse trails to the leisurely park walks and seaside promenades that sprang up during the industrial revolution.

The Kindle edition doesn't have all the lovely photographs of the original hardback but to counteract that it only costs £1.99. It's in the Kindle Store on Amazon so you can simply download it to your device in the normal way. Search for 'Pathways Stewart Rudd-Jones' and you'll find it. A paperback edition is also on its way - we are just waiting for the proof edition to come all the way from the printing works in America. Once it's approved it will be available for purchase, but being real paper it is inevitably more expensive than an electronic version, probably around £7 including delivery.

Walking with a Camera in the Alpujarras, Andalucia
March 5 – 12 2016
Discover the rugged beauty of the Spanish Sierra Nevada through a lens.  This week of walking and photography is based in the spectacular Alpujarras (the southern slopes of the Sierra Nevada).  Deep gorges, terraced hillsides, clouds of almond blossom and majestic snow-capped peaks make this a superbly photogenic area, and one that is unspoilt and completely unforgettable.

Your guides will be Stephan Walby, a keen walker and photography tutor at West Dean College in Sussex and Anne Hunt, owner of Casa Ana, the lovingly restored 400-year old guest house that will be your base for the week. 

Highlights include learning how to shoot big landscapes whilst following the ancient Moorish footpaths, mule tracks and silk routes of the Alpujarras; a day exploring medieval Islamic architecture in the historic city of Granada, with expert guide; discovering the secrets of successful sunrise and sunset photography in the mountains; visits to the bars and bodegas of the area’s famous white mountain villages and sampling the best of local cheeses, hams and wines; and last but not least, exceptional gourmet dinners provided by Casa Ana’s phenomenal chef Wes Somerville.

For more information please contact Anne Hunt from Casa Ana at info@casa-ana.com or visit the Casa Ana website.

Walking with a Camera
- Price from €1185 including all tuition fees, 7 nights B&B, 5 lunches/picnic lunches and 7 dinners, wines, excursions, local transport, transport to and from Granada and guides
- The price does not include flights or airport transfers
- Group numbers are small so we advise early booking

Walking on ‘the moon’ – in Tenerife
The 'Camino de Chasna' was once the main trading route connecting the south of Tenerife with the north via the vast crater of El Teide. Today, this ancient track forms part of an extensive network of footpaths which allows walkers to explore some of the weird and often surprising landscapes of this remarkable volcanic island.

On Inntravel’s new walking holiday on Tenerife, To the Top of Spain, sections of the 'Camino de Chasna' are followed as it winds its way up through pine-clad slopes to reach the spa village of Vilaflor, once the retreat of Victorians seeking respite and tranquillity amid the pine-scented air and hot natural springs of the area.

From here, there is a unique and fascinating area to explore on foot – a series of surreal rock formations known as the Paisaje Lunar, sculpted from volcanic cinders, stones and ash by half-a-million years of sun, wind and rain into fantastical shapes.
 
But the undoubted highlight is the chance to walk over the dramatic rim of Teide’s vast crater and across more ‘lunar landscapes’ with an option to take the cable-car and walk up to the summit of El Teide, Spain’s highest peak, for awe-inspiring 360-degree views.

For more details on Inntravel’s walking holidays in the Canary Islands, see www.inntravel.co.uk or speak to their expert team on 01653 617034.

To the Top of Spain
- Self-guided hotel-hotel walking holiday
- Prices from £670pp, inc 7 nights’ B&B accommodation, 5 dinners & 2 picnics, detailed route guides & maps
- Flights extra (direct from several UK regional airports)
- Available now to 18 December 2015 & 9 January to 31 May 2016

Monocle madness?
For the last couple of months David has been experimenting with a novel way of reading maps and text on his mobile phone while in the outdoors. No doubt like many who need glasses to read small print and see details on OS maps, David finds ordinary specs a bit of a nuisance. It's not so much the glasses themselves but having to take them in and out of their case, often for just a few seconds while a position on the map is confirmed or a bearing taken.

Monocles have had a pretty bad press. At best you can look like a Victorian pastor or industrialists, at worst you are reminded that they were the favourite eyewear of certain German WWII commanders. The advantage, however, is that you can hang a monocle around your neck, whip it out for that quick check of the map and slip it back again. If you do it quickly enough no-one will notice and you can avoid the ribaldry of your companions.

Does it work? Well yes. The brain compensates very cleverly for only seeing clearly through one eye, so it's great for switching quickly between reading a map and looking at the landscape. The downsides are that the monocle isn't in a case so it can get a bit smeared - sorry, but there's no pleasant way of putting this - and the lens can pop out of its frame if you press on it with a rucksack strap (it does pop back in again easily enough). We got one from Monocle Madness for £25, who sell them with a natty turquoise cord. It would be very interesting to know if anyone else has tried one and how they found it. For David the jury is still out....

Our expanding National Parks
News just out is that two of our National Parks are expanding their boundaries. The Lake District National Park is growing by just 3% but the Yorkshire Dales National Park will be nearly a quarter bigger by this time next year. The Yorkshire Dales park is taking in a large area to its north west, including the Howgill Fells, the beautiful Mallerstang Valley and one of our favourite hills, Wild Boar Fell. Within the Upper Eden Valley the fantastic limestone pavements of Orton Scar are also being brought into its remit.

As residents of the area it's pleasing to see recognition of its special status and it would be nice to welcome more visitors to these great fells and valleys. There's information about walking in the Upper Eden on Kirkby Stephen's Walkers are Welcome website.