Cruising Loch Ness

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After steam trains on Saturday, we decided to take to the water on Sunday! Nigel loves boats, and Jacobite Cruises do an afternoon trip along the Caledonian Canal and into Loch Ness.

001We boarded the Jacobite Queen on the outskirts of Inverness after lunch. It is a lovely boat, well set out inside, and with plenty of places to go outside too.

The first excitement was going through the lock. The drop was only a couple of feet, but it was fun!

PhotoELF Edits: 2015:04:19 --- Save - Overwrite --- gamma; crop; resizeThe banks of the canal were mainly tree-lined, with many different varieties of tree, something I am not used to! I loved the different shapes and textures.

003Some were in bud and other were in flower.

PhotoELF Edits: 2015:04:19 --- Save - Overwrite --- crop; resizeAnd the gorse was in full flower everywhere!

PhotoELF Edits:2015:04:19 --- Save - Overwrite --- crop; resizeOnce through the lock we came to the place where the canal and the River Ness part. It was very odd seeing water on a slope!

PhotoELF Edits: 2015:04:19 --- Save - Overwrite --- crop; resizeNigel was enjoying the trip, sitting happily in the sun while I took photos.

007We passed a variety of big houses – I particularly liked this one – a late Victorian ‘folly’ built all at once to look as if it had been built in stages over the past 4 or 5 hundred years!

PhotoELF Edits: 2015:04:19 --- Save - Overwrite --- crop; resizeThe waters of Loch Ness are cloudy, due to the peat in the water. You can actually see the brown tinge in the wake.

008Jacobite Cruises run two boats at present (number 3 is joining the fleet in the next couple of months) and we saw the other boat doing a different trip, only on Loch Ness itself.

009The trip we were on took us as far as Castle Urquhart, about half way along the loch on the northern shore.

PhotoELF Edits: 2015:04:19 --- Save - Overwrite --- crop; resizeWe stopped to let some folk off for a visit and were joined by the other boat for a short spell…

PhotoELF Edits: 2015:04:19 --- Save - Overwrite --- crop; resize… then we turned and started the homeward journey.

013Back through the lock….

PhotoELF Edits: 2015:04:19 --- Save - Overwrite --- resize… and past some pretty expensive-looking boats…

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(And no, we didn’t see the monster, but if you want to know who thinks they have see here!!)

The Strathspey Railway

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Yesterday was glorious! Fabulous weather and a steam train. What more could anyone want? I have seen the Strathspey steam train sitting in Aviemore station on several occasions, but have never been on it. The railway runs from Aviemore through Boat of Garten to Broomhill, and is usually pulled by a steam engine. Strathspey Steam Railway  001The route is scenic, with lovely views. For the first part of the journey it passes through areas of open birch forest, with paths for both walkers and bikers. PhotoELF Edits: 2015:04:19 --- Save - Overwrite --- gamma; resizeIn these photos, it looks as if the birches and willows are still leafless, but in fact closer inspection shows that the catkins are nearly over and the buds have broken open. PhotoELF Edits: 2015:04:19 --- Save - Overwrite --- crop; resizeThe mid-way stop is at Boat of Garten. Here the old DMU (diesel multiple unit), which is used regularly on the line, is kept. PhotoELF Edits: 2015:04:19 --- Save - Overwrite --- crop; resizeThe journey then continues to Broomhill, where the engine comes to the other end of the train…. PhotoELF Edits: 2015:04:19 --- Save - Overwrite --- resize… to run backwards for the return journey. PhotoELF Edits: 2015:04:19 --- Save - Overwrite --- crop; resizeWe were now in the front carriage. All have been lovingly restored to British Rail days and were so shiny the reflections were perfect! PhotoELF Edits: 2015:04:19 --- Save - Overwrite --- resizeThe engine hauling our train is an ex-GWR 2-6-0, built in Swindon and rebuilt in Aviemore, as plates on each side of the front show: Strathspey Steam Railway  008We had enough time to get out and investigate the engine, as everyone should. I was travelling with Steve and Nigel (who enjoyed it thoroughly, but who didn’t want to smile for the camera!!) PhotoELF Edits: 2015:04:19 --- Save - Overwrite --- gamma; crop; resizeThe cab was shining almost as much as the carriages. PhotoELF Edits: 2015:04:19 --- Save - Overwrite --- resizeThe children got to go inside if they wanted to – what a waste – kids get all the fun and don’t remember it!! Running back to Aviemore, there was plenty of steam on the gradients. PhotoELF Edits: 2015:04:19 --- Save - Overwrite --- crop; resizeAnd the views of the Spey with the Cairngorms beyond were beautiful. PhotoELF Edits: 2015:04:19 --- Save - Overwrite --- gamma; crop; resizePhotoELF Edits: 2015:04:19 --- Save - Overwrite --- crop; gamma; resizeWe also passed work on the line – much of it is, at present, single track, but they were doubling it in places. PhotoELF Edits: 2015:04:19 --- Save - Overwrite --- crop; resizeThe whole trip took about 90 mins. It would have been good fun whatever the weather, but the blue, blue skies made everything even better!! Strathspey Steam Railway  015

I’m Going to London Book Week!

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As many of you know, part of my day job is writing books. And as many of you also know, I set up Northern Lace Press to publish Centenary Stitches.

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Through Emergents, a Scottish grant-awarding arts organisation, I have been given a place at the Indie Authors Fair in Foyles on Friday. I am taking copies of Centenary Stitches with me, and the prototype of Exploring Shawl Shapes, my next book.

Shawl Shapes CoverThis will be a different event for me, as I will be sharing space with other Scottish indies who write fiction. It is the first time I will have done a non-knitting event, and I am looking forward to it.

The other people on the Emergents’ stand are

Orla Broderick with her book The January Flower

Max Brossin with his book Bloody August

Flora Kennedy with her book The Wild Folk

LG Thomson with her book Boyle’s Law

John AA Logan with his book The Survival of Thomas Ford

Angela M Formby with her book Syrian Coffee

If you are in London on Friday, 17th April, between 4.30 and 7.30, do come to the 6th floor of Foyles bookshop. The Fair is free to the public with a drinks reception, goodie bags etc. You will be able to look at (and buy!) Centenary Stitches, and see the new mini shawls book before anyone else.

And you will also have access to some great fiction too!

(For a complete list of who will be represented see here.)

Mountains

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One final post of photos from my holiday in Switzerland. These are a selection of mountains and snow pictures I particularly like.  A couple have been cropped, and a couple have been adjusted for contrast, but most have simply been resized.  All are colour photos.

Enjoy!

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Wengen

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I have talked about the places round Wengen, but not about the village itself. So, better late than never, here are some photos of the place!
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There are no cars in Wengen, only a few electric vehicles. This is the main street, with my hotel, the Sunstar, on the left. The back of the hotel looks over the Lauterbrunnen valley to the mountains beyond. This is looking straight ahead from my balcony….

PhotoELF Edits: 2015:04:01 --- Save - Overwrite --- crop; resize… and two days later, this is looking right from the same spot.

PhotoELF Edits: 2015:04:01 --- Save - Overwrite --- resizeWengen is on a ledge, nearly 2,000 feet above the valley floor. The sides of the valley are almost vertical.

PhotoELF Edits: 2015:04:01 --- Save - Overwrite --- gamma; crop; resizeThe ledge is not flat, however, and the village is on a considerable slope.

PhotoELF Edits: 2015:04:01 --- Save - Overwrite --- gamma; resizeOne advantage of this for skiers is that there is a ski path right into the heart of the village, seen here in the foreground.

PhotoELF Edits: 2015:04:01 --- Save - Overwrite --- gamma; resizeBehind the village the rock rises almost vertically again, up another 2,000 feet, to the Mannlichen range. This shot was taken from the other side of the valley.

PhotoELF Edits: 2015:04:01 --- Save - Overwrite --- gamma; crop; resizeZooming in, the Sunstar is visible (boxed) and the station is on the right of the photo, about a minute’s walk from the hotel.

PhotoELF Edits: 2015:04:01 --- Save - Overwrite --- shape; resizeBetween the hotel and the station, on the main street, there is a paved area which is used for various events throughout the year.

PhotoELF Edits: 2015:04:01 --- Save - Overwrite --- gamma; crop; resizeSome flags are flown all year,, but in the summer there are even more.

PhotoELF Edits: 2015:04:01 --- Save - Overwrite --- gamma; resizeRight in the centre of the village is the cable car up to the top of the Mannlichen range.

PhotoELF Edits: 2015:04:01 --- Save - Overwrite --- crop; resizeAnd this is the view down to the village from the top.

PhotoELF Edits: 2015:04:01 --- Save - Overwrite --- crop; gamma; resizeParts of the village are very old.

PhotoELF Edits: 2015:04:01 --- Save - Overwrite --- gamma; crop; resizeChalets have been build all over the place over the years, making use of what flat, or less steeply sloping, ground could be found. There are only a couple of ‘rows’ of buildings in the centre; the rest of the houses are joined by winding paths.

Wengen 015The train is the main way up from the valley. All the goods needs by the village are brought in this way. During the day there are passenger trains, but late in the evening goods trains run up and down.

PhotoELF Edits: 2015:04:01 --- Save - Overwrite --- crop; gamma; resizeWalking along the paths brings some interesting sights. This is the garden of one of the hotels. It is G guage, and trains run here on weekends in the summer.

PhotoELF Edits: 2015:04:01 --- Save - Overwrite --- gamma; crop; resizeBut I love being there in winter. It is the quintessential Swiss village, and one I love going back to!

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Up the Mannlichenbahn

ways to get down from Mannlichen

The Mannlichen is the range of mountains behind Wengen. They are not hugely high, but they are covered with very skiable snow slopes, and so there are various ways of getting up there! The simplest is straight up by cable car, starting about 50 yards from the door of my hotel. But I like trains.

So I first went up to Kleine Scheidegg, and then caught another train down the other side towards Grindelwald. The weather was glorious and the scenery very pretty.

001 way down to GThe weather was good enough to have the windows open on the train, so it was easy to take photos!

002 way down to G with trainAs we neared the bottom of the valley, the effect of the sun in melting snow was very visible. The south-facing slopes had much less snow on them.

003 G valleyLeaving the train at Grund, I walked over to the Mannlichenbahn. This is a 4-man gondalbahn going right up to the top of Mannlichen, taking 30 minutes for the journey.

005 looking down gbThe first part of the journey up is over farm land, then it is through the trees. Apart from the slight him of the wires, all you can hear is the sound of running water, and looking down, you can see streams through the trees.

006 streamIn the slightly more open areas, the sun casts shadows on the snow – this is trees, their shadows and a pylon reflected in the car window….

007 looking down….and this is a bit higher up, once out of the main forest.

008 tree shadows and EigerIn summer this whole area is alpine pasture, and in amongst the trees and ski slopes there are real farms with housing for the cows over the winter.

009 real farmOnce above the tree line there are huge areas of skiable snow.

010 ski tracks and gbThe top of the gondalbahn is on the top of the ridge….

012 top of gb…. with views all round.

013 gbAnd where there is sun, there are deck chairs (at 5 CHF per time!)

014 chairsThe view down to Wegnen is breath-taking. The drop is shear, going down 2,000 feet…

015 L valley and Wegen from M…with another 2,000 down to the floor of the Lauterbrunnen valley.

016 Lauterbrunnen valley from MTurning further round on the same spot, the view is of the Eiger and Wetterhorn.

017 Wetterhorn and Eiger from MOr you can look nearer to hand and see the Tschugger with some of the vast area of snow round about. The dots are skiers….

018 Tschuggen and snowThere are two ways to get back down to Grund. Guess which one I took!!

ways to get down from Mannlichen

Up to First

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That is the mountain range, not the position! Wengen is on one side of the Mannlichen range, with the Grindelwald valley on the other, and beyond that is the First range.

001 First range

To get there, it is a case of taking the train to Kleine Scheidegg and changing to the Grindelwald train, which had been packed with skiers coming up, but was almost empty going down.

002 train with skis

On the way down, I noticed a deer on the edge of the a stand of trees.

003 deer

Once in Grindelwald, it is a 10 minute walk through the town to the gondelbahn. Then up and up.

004 bort station

The gondolas hold six, but by timing it right, I got a car to myself. Travelling is so quiet….

005 cable cars at top

… and high up you cross a snowy wilderness.

006 snow

From the top you look over the valley to the Mannlichen range and the Eiger. Kleine Scheidegg is also visible…..

007  notated mountains

… and you can also see the train tracks going up past the Eiger.

008 train line

Grindelwald’s mountain is the Wetterhorn, which came and went in cloud as I watched.

009 Wetterhorn peaks in cloud

On my way home, the cloud had cleared, and the sheer sides of the mountain were very obvious.

012 Wetterhorn
The North Face of the Eiger was also very clear. It is never in sun, but the light was showing up all the cracks in the rock.

011 north face
012 eiger lump

The light also showed up some of the chair lifts used by skiers….

013 chair lift

… as well as little details close to the track.

014 tree stumps