Walk to the American monument on Islay

The American monument

Originally uploaded by Mr_Chips

An excellent short walk of about an hour on the cliffs to the American monument perched on the cliff tops. Warning – do not attempt this walk in the mist as it easy to walk off the cliff tops!
Park in the car park on The Oa peninsula. You can see the monument on the cliff tops ahead but this is a triangular walk. Walk down the track and turn left round some houses. You get a good view to your left over the coast line and a large waterfall down to the beach. The track gives way to a path that is well signposted through some metal stiles. If you can’t see the signs through the mist you should turn back now because it will too dangerous to continue. You soon reach the cliff edge and turn right to follow the edge along. Eventually you climb up a little way to the large monument commemorating a ship wreck in the First World War.
The path back is well trod and goes direct back to the car park.
On this walk you should look out for choughs with their red legs and beaks and unusual cry.



Jura Cottage

Originally uploaded by Mr_Chips

A short ferry ride from Islay, Port Askraig takes you to the entirely unique island of Jura. As the old landing craft pulls up at Feolin you are entering a new and exciting world.
Jura means ‘the island of the deer’ as the population of red deer out numbers the 200 inhabitants and you may be lucky enough to spot some on the winding road up the East coast of the Island.
Jura House is the first point of interest but we didn’t have time to look round on this visit so this is a good excuse for going back.
Further on is Craighouse where we had cosy pot of coffee at the Craighouse hotel. This is the main town and there is plenty to do for the photographer. The little harbour is a delight and with the paps of Jura behind the town it makes an excellent landscape subject.
The Jura shop is a friendly place to stock up on supplies before heading north up the single track road. Also stock up on whisky at the distillery, I think its one of the best.
A little warning on Jura if you have just come up from London or one of the big cities. It is a slower pace of life here. People greet you and want to talk to you. Don’t ignore them like you do in London but take an interest and you will enjoy your time on Jura.

Jetboil system review in the Yorkshire Dales

Yorkshire dales

Originally uploaded by Mr_Chips

In a recent expedition to the Yorkshire dales, helping out on a Duke of Edinburgh Gold trip, I tried out my new Jetboil system. It’s fast, its efficient, it’s compact. The 1L beaker holds the burner and gas cylinder. It all fits together and self lights. Due to the cosy cover and heat distribution system it boils the water fast. I loved it on this trip where I would wake up and put on a brew to make a nice cup of ruibos tea.
We had extreme weather – sleet, snow and rain. The going was tough but the tough just got going leaving me sitting drinking tea and contemplating my excellent lightweight tent and cooking equipment.
There is a larger saucepan which is jolly handy for cooking up dinner and uses the same burner. It has a non stick surface so after we made our tuna fish curry I left it soaking and in the morning the residue just lifted off. Both the beaker and the saucepan have a neoprene cover that helps keep them warm and saves fuel. There are a variety of other accessories on the jetboil.com website.
Highly recommended. You can buy one at the Ymzala Book Shop

Rose and Crown, Saunderton, Buckinghamshire

We went on The Times offer of a £10 menu. Apparently this is good place for food but this restricted menu perhaps wasn’t a show case of the best. I was still tired after a week back at work on the back of an exhilarating camping trip to Yorkshire. Sleet and snow were the norm and I hadn’t really recovered so as the evening went on I spiraled down into listening and not talking.
However, the swede soup was one of the tastiest I ever had, only spoiled by the idea of ‘crusty bread’ which was just blotting paper from the supermarket.
I had sausages and mash which was just that with a tasty gravy. The pudding was a delight – cheesecake with summer fruits. Quite rich but satisfying after a hard days work.
There was no ruibos tea – why do restaurants not supply this? So I had a pot of ordinary. It would be interesting to go back and try out the normal food. For £10 this was good value but nothing much to blog about.

Whisky galore!

Whisky galore!

Originally uploaded by Mr_Chips

Going on a birdwatching and rambling trip to Islay brought out some long passion for Whisky.
There are eight distilleries on Islay and one on Jura next door which I have to say is one of the best for my taste. Each distillery has its own flavour and characteristic even though they use very similar water and peat resources.
Nowdays the malt is brought in from the mainland. Some of the more traditional distilleries have a proper malting floor where the malt is left to germinate – the insoluble starch turns into soluble sugars and then the maltings are smoked to arrest the germination. Cutting a long story short the malt is milled into grist and then mixed with water to form a mash. After fermentation the wash is transferred to the distillery stills for the distillation process. The shape of the stills is unique to each distillery and they are a joy to see. Large copper canisters with huge funnels.
The whisky is then transferred to oak barrels from America that have been used for bourbon or in some cases to sherry barrels. This is the maturation process where the whisky has a long rest and is then sold commonly as 10 year or 15 year old whisky. It takes on some of the characteristics of the wood in the barrel which also imparts a colour to the otherwise clear liquid.
The taste is peaty as one would expect. Peat is used in the malt smoking and drying process and also tints the water. Sometimes adding water brings out the flavours although many whisky geeks would sneer at the idea of adding water.
Touring around the distilleries is very interesting. They are unique buildings in prime locations and even if you don’t do the tours it is worth checking out the scenery.
My favourite is the Jura whisky which has a mild peaty flavour with a fine finish.

The Harbour restaurant, Bowmore – Isle of Islay, Scotland

Port Ellen rainbow

Originally uploaded by Mr_Chips

The restaurant is just off the quay and very tempting on a wild windy night on the Island. The view of open fires and congenial atmosphere beckons through the windows and the blue sign hanging above the door wafts too and fro in the night air. Once inside we sprawl over a comfy settee in the lounge and turn our backs on the harbour lights to see what’s going on inside. Two large family groups were making friends and chatting and with a couple of stellas in our hands we looked through the menu. I went for the mussels from Loch Etive steamed in white wine with saffron, garlic and cream(£6.95) whist Mrs Rambler went for the smoked salmon and cream fraiche with herb sauce(£7.50). I decided to stick with the fish theme and opted for the grilled Sea bass with olive oil, onion garlic tarragon and roasted peppars(£18.50). Mrs RR went for the scallops on a vegetable basket of celeriac puree on lemon and buerre blanc (£19.95). A half bottle of Muscadet sevre and maine 2005, Chateau de la penission(9.85) seemed the appropriate accompaniment.
Whilst we waited we looked at the Birds of Islay book nestling under the coffee table and admired the brilliant pictures within that I hoped to aspire to with my camera. The family group wished one of their number a Happy Birthday and as it was Mrs Rambler’s birthday as well we almost joined in.
After we finished our drinks we were taken into the compact dining room and I really enjoyed my starter. The mussels were tasty and although small there were plenty to satisfy as a starter. The sauce wasn’t too creamy either so a total success. The smoked salmon was strange as it came unusually as a slab and was a little disappointing.
My main course of sea bass was a hearty meal. There were generous tasty fillets that went well with the peppars and sauce. There were plenty of boiled potatoes served in a separate dish to accompany the fish. The scallops were also good and looked good on the basket of vegetables and the celeraic puree was delightful. I mashed some of the potatoes into the sauce at the end of the meal to make an excellent finish.
We were both rather full so although I was tempted by hot chocolate and ginger souffle garnished with strawberries and basil ice cream and other delights including a large cheese board we resisted. As we were next to the Bowmore whisky distillery there was also a range of coffee and whisky delights on offer but the problem of driving home meant that this too had to be shelved.

5 stars to the Harbour Inn although a little pricey.

Motorway service at Tebay, Cumbria, North bound

It seems odd to write about a motorway services but this place at Tebay is supposed to be one of the best in the country. The setting is stunning, nestling high up on the fells there are views all round and the cafe is sighted next to a lake where there are ducks to look at and if the weather is fine its good to sit outdoors.
This  time we decided to buy some home made products from the farm shop for a picnic. We bought some quiches but they were a disappointmnet. They tasted of nothing except salt even though they would have been tomato with courgette and spinach. So maybe I would advise on your next trip to Tebay stop at the cafe and enjoy the view.