Turning 30...

Comment

Turning 30...

So its been a productive week, delivering another wedding with one more to go by the end of next week. As my attention starts to wander towards October and the adventures/camping I have planned before my birthday! My wife says this is just my way of dealing with turning 30!  She's (always) right. Of course planning such escapades requires a fair deal of online delinquency or as I prefer to call it, research!  I have decided to drop the idea of making this an Amazon adventure (already) after realising quite quickly that I was essentially turning an adventure into a dreary shopping exercise and what ever way you cut it, that's no fun. As I have always been someone that thrives on working with what you've got, I am now focussing more on where I am going, as really all I needed to purchase was a sleeping bag, decent sized rucksack and perhaps a lightweight cheap tent so thats what I have just gone and done. After a fluke of googling I got a nice Berghaus freeflow 40 Litre back with attachments for £66 (normally £115), a -5C rated sleeping bag for £50 on eBay and the bargain of the week was a used North Face Stormbreak 1 tent weighing in at a svelte 1.5Kg for £60. So that challenge is done and well under budget of the £200 I had set.

Now the distractions are out the way Lets get looking into places to travel to!

1. Isle of Scarp

Screen Shot 2017-09-17 at 23.25.14.png

Top of the list, the uninhabited isle off the west coast of Harris, just behind Huisinis. A friend of mine took a boat out there a few summers ago and waxed lyrical upon it. From what I gather you can hear dolphins and whales come in to shore at night and make themselves at home. I have always had a great interest in abandoned spaces as invariably they carry with them troves of stories and secrets. However the issue I have is transport to the island, as desperately as I want to spend the night here, my former kayak instructors words echo in my mind 'never go out with less than a party of 3' and that just wont do as I want to experience the absolute isolation that only Scarp can offer. This one might need to sit on the back burner for a while till I can source a decent safe boat to take me across.

2. Old Man of Storr (Isle of Skye)

The Old Man of Storr - Isle of Skye

The Old Man of Storr - Isle of Skye

Visited once before fleetingly but was somewhat spoiled by the endless trail of litter bug tourists, hopefully the less than desirable Autumnal weather of Skye will drive most of them away enough for me to get a decent photo this time! I have a fondness for Skye as for me it was like the gateway to the Outer Hebrides before I moved to Lewis and it bothered me I never had the time to mooch around there. I had taken a good solid day in May this year to explore Talisker's Distillery and the famous, now infamous, fairy pools. Infamous for the tourists being more numerous than the midges! 

3. The Bonnie Bonnie Banks (Loch Lomond)

The Summit of Ben Lomond - Loch Lomond and the islands in background

The Summit of Ben Lomond - Loch Lomond and the islands in background

My home district, believe it or not, I have never really camped out here, mainly because, well, I lived there! I always went camping away to places like Loch Earnhead or Loch Awe. Camping for me is about getting away from everyone and everything, as obvious that seems, many campers often just cant bare to be too far away from creature comforts and civilisation. I plan on leaving civilisation and filling every inch of my shiny new rucksack with creature comforts, such as whisky! (perhaps I may bestow some of my limited knowledge of whisky on the way?) I placed this last as it's almost as though the time has passed for me to go camping at home given the local authority have essentially all but imposed a camping ban by introducing new by-laws prohibiting wild camping in most of the national park, which is a bit disappointing for me as a local boy. On the other hand from a few videos I have seen on youtube, it almost borders on irrelevant because it doesn't appear anyone is enforcing it and if anything the very behaviour it was intended to deter has only continued. A video by Youtuber Andy Park shows other campers acting somewhat irresponsibly. It has to be done though, I can't turn 30 having never woken up to my Loch!

(I have but not in a tent, FYI)

Comment

Comment

Amazon Adventure Kit List

WARNING - This one is quite wordy!

After agonising over what kit I need versus want for my mini photography adventures across the Hebrides I have now compiled a list of equipment I have managed to narrow it down to a core of products I have all found on Amazon (and 1 on ebay).

To start with I will list off what I already own which is the very basic boots, jacket, trousers & waterproofs. It's worth noting that I am a huge fan of our local outdoor wear shops such as the Crofters and the fisherman's co-op in town so if and where I can I will be checking these places first however, nowhere in Stornoway sells the type of back packing tents I am after so this is where this wee Amazon only challenge began and of course, anyone who uses Amazon to shop will know, its very hard to stop!

1. Gaiters! (Budget £20) - Often overlooked piece of walking equipment, was given a pair to try by my friend Duncan while hiking through Eishken in South Lochs, who knew such a simple piece of kit would make such a difference! Found a pair of Berghaus Gore tex Gaiters for £16.20 Normally £45, Bargain!

2. Backpack (Budget £50) - from my research I should be looking at a 35+ Litre bag and I don't want to go super huge 60 Litre so 35-40L would be ideal. I really like these Jack Wolfskin ACS 38L Bags found an Amazon Warehouse deal at £48 Normally £90-100 (think there might be a mistake in this as it looks like a 26L) and Berghaus Remote 35  at £48 (Normally £75). Above this Berghause Freeflow 35 at the upper limit of my budget at £61.52. I've found this is one of 2 areas (the other being sleeping bags) I am not willing to compromise on for comfort reasons hence the big name brands (not something I normally care about). But having used some of these brands before I know I should be comfortable on my hikes.

3. Sleeping Bag (Budget £60) - Not messing around here, it can get seriously cold here especially when you throw in the infamous Hebridean 'breeze'. To keep things simple I am sticking to one brand, Vango, they seem to be top of the searches and I trust their ratings are more accurate than cheap Chinese brands, they are a Scottish company too which is nice! The Vango Latitude 300 at £40 is one of the best price to warmth ratio I've found unfortunately there is a weight penalty coming in at 1.8Kg.

4. Tent (Budget £50-100) - This has been an absolute nightmare of a thing to research trying desperately to figure out needs/wants. Weight and shape have been the hardest things to balance. For windy conditions I have found one tent on ebay used Sitting at £39 + £6.99 postage its a sort of no name brand by Gelert 'Beyond by Gelert Meteor 2', rolls off the tongue doesn't it? I like this one for its semi-geodesic shape and 5000mm Hydrostatic head rating 2.7Kg it's a wee bit pudgy but for the price/performance it claims to offer I cant go wrong really, almost no info online about it though. Amazon has a few answers up its sleeve in the form of Chinese copy tents by Naturehike/WolfWise/Geertop. All the features of expensive tents but at a third of the cost! Different names but appear to be the same tents. The cheapest coming in at £54 WolfWise 1 person tent, claiming to be silicone coated nylon is only 1.8Kg! Up from this is a compromise of both the above from Naturehike the Cirrus 2 coming in at £120 its a bit high in cost but it offers that magic compromise. Nature hike have a few options all under 2Kg from around £70-120, the question is, would I trust it? Reviews are good and are actually copies of expensive MSR & Big Agnes Tents. Jury is out! The Vango Banshee 200 seems to be the most popular tent on the market and in budget but I'm just not too keen on the tunnel design, I can imagine it feeling like being buried alive. I need to sit up to eat so its a bit of a non starter for me.

5. Luxuries (Budget £TBC) - Vango self inflating mat £16 under 1Kg so I can live with that. Ground Sheet, I have read a space blanket makes a good multi-tool. Vango Inflating Pillow £6

 

So thats enough of that for one week! Next week the orders will go in!

 

Comment

Comment

Planning an Amazon micro adventure

For some time now I have been wanting to delve into the world of micro adventures, that is, wild camping trips that usually take 24hrs or so that can be done over the weekends/days off. What took me by surprise was just how popular this hobby is, I thought I had just come up with it while sitting in a tent a while back!

Typing in tents or camping into ebay or amazon and you get hit with tens of thousands of products, no doubt mostly inadequate for this purpose. So the question arose, where do I start? I grew up living for summer camping trips as a kid so I thought I had it sussed, get a tent, nice sleeping bag and away I will go. How wrong was I!? Having spent the best part of this week frantically researching backpacking tents and sleeping bags and figuring out what brands are worth looking at, I now know I know nothing. So I decided to make this a challenge, I would be flat out broke if I just went and bought what I thought I needed and would end up having to live in my £800 Hilleberg tent eating from an empty tin of cold beans. 

So now my Edmund Hillary self embodied image is shattered, time to get rational. Essential objectives are;

  • find nice places to camp to take awesome photographs
  • have a decent form of shelter that wont collapse at the first breath of Hebridean fury
  • source a backpack that will accommodate all of my required equipment
  • a sleeping bag that is warm enough but not too heavy
  • avoid carrying utterly useless gear i.e. Rambo knife, 4 burner gas stove etc... in other words keep the pack as light as possible.

Unfortunately, I am massively obsessive over everything, (I once spent 3 weeks researching the taps I wanted for the house) I don't plan on deliberately ending up in a survival situation so obsessing over which tent has the best hydrostatic head rating (waterproof-ness) or the sleeping bag that goes to -40C has been a bit of a waste of time again so my focus has shifted to cost and what brands are worth looking at given how much junk there is out there and this is where Amazon had the answer! Amazon warehouse deals, I buy lots of stuff from this part of their site to great success, However, this could become be a little restrictive so for the challenge I will allow myself use of ebay also. Finally my expectations versus reality has come back into balance. 

Budget set at £200!

Comment

Comment

New Years Fireworks

Discontent was expressed on social media on the run up to the new year celebrations in Stornoway, revellers were disappointed at the lack of the traditional fireworks display over Bayhead this year,. Fortunately, mother nature had a plan B in store as the town was lit in the green glow of an amber aurora alert!

Aurora over Lady Matheson's Statue, Stornoway


Comment

Comment

Vikings Come to Stornoway

Friday 11th, December 2015

It's that time of year again for the Christmas lights switch on in Stornoway. This year we were treated to a visit from the Vikings (of Shetland) and a fantastic fireworks display thanks to the Stornoway Amenity trust and the Stornoway Port Authority. The Vikings and the the Leodhasachs braved the cold and the rain for the march through the town to the eventual switch on of the lights.

Viking in Perceval Square surrounded by flaming torches.  2015 paulmcginley.co.uk ©

Following the parade, families and neighbours of the town were treated to a fantastic fireworks display over Cuddy Point and the harbour. In fact its was actually more like two fireworks displays! Following a short pause after the first barrage of brilliant fireworks lighting up the harbour you could have been forgiven for thinking it was all over, as many did. Then a few more minutes ensued, much to the delight of the children and of course the big children! A technical glitch perhaps? None the less, it added a little something to the show. Happy accident?

Small person atop their grown up for the best seat in the house. paulmcginley.co.uk ©

For some more images from the switch on of the lights, check out the gallery bellow.

Comment