A number of months ago, I tweeted the producer of a podcast, commenting that their Gaelic hillname pronunciation needed a bit of work. Fast forward a few months, and I find myself at the top of a Munro with a microphone in my face, and said producer quizzing me on hillnames, Gaelic and lots between.
Mountain started life in November last year, created and hosted by journalist and producer Christopher Sleight. I’ve been giving Chris help in his pronunciation of Gaelic placenames and hillnames for a few different episodes of the podcast.
Back to the hill in question. Beinn Dòbhrain is a well-known and easily accessed Munro, off the West Highland Way in Bridge of Orchy. From the road heading north, it rises to an almost perfect triangle, just asking to be climbed. For Gaelic speakers, it’s best known as the subject of Moladh Beinn Dòbhrain, a praise poem by a renowned Gaelic poet, Donnchadh Bàn Mac an t-Saoir. It was written over 200 years ago, but the descriptions of the landscape and environment are as fitting as they ever were.
There can’t be many places where you can take a poem and follow the path of the poet exactly as described. We did just that a couple of weeks ago, Chris, myself and my partner Paul. The sun shone, there were no midges and the views were fantastic. I don’t know the first thing about radio or podcast production, so it was a pleasure getting an insight to how it all works. I do know now that it is deeply nerve-wracking being recorded, and it’s essential to have both moral support (thanks, Paul!) and a patient producer (thanks, Chris!).
You can read an extract from the poem, both in Gaelic and an English translation, on the Scottish Poetry Library website here. The podcast hasn’t been published yet; I’ll post again when it’s live.
Walk Highlands have a route up and down the hill here.
A few weeks ago I took a trip home to the mainland for a much overdue visit to see my family. I was lucky enough to grow up on the Black Isle. A verdant peninsula right at the foot of some of the Highland’s most incredible scenery. It’s a great place to be, and the weather was in our favour all weekend.
My partner was also up visiting so we took the chance of having the car (new car owners and drivers – the novelty of getting places under our own steam is still very exciting) and headed north and west to Wester Ross. Stac Pollaidh was calling, and we answered. It was a glorious day.
Stac in Gaelic means a steep cliff, a precipice. Pronounched stach-k with the -ch as in ‘loch’ – nice and gentle. A stack, as it is in English. And Stac Pollaidh is quite a stac, too, standing proud of the surrounding landscape. It was fantastic walk to the top, steep but with views which opened out step by step. We followed the route recommended by Walk Highlands – a fantastic resource if you’ve not used it before. After the walk you’ll have earnt yourself some tasty treats from the West Coast Deli – our new favourite place in Ullapool. The best hot drinks either of us have had in a long time.
Please note these photos were not taken my me but my partner. Please do not use them without his permission – get in touch if you’d like to do so.
I have but two weeks left on Islay. As a result the next couple of weeks will be met with packing, tidying, and trying to see some final sights for the first time or indeed the last time.
An inevitable part of leaving Islay is packing up the belongings I took with me and those I’ve amassed since being here (far greater in number than I care to admit). One item that’ll not be leaving Islay with me are my beloved old walking boots. These were given to me as a birthday present in 2006. They’ve seen me through excavating thousands of years of human detritus in Wales, East Lothian, Skye, Mull, Uist… They’ve seen me through walking hundreds upon hundreds of miles in just about every corner of Scotland, climbing hills innumerable, and every holiday or day trip I’ve been on in the past 7 years.
Having been subjected to every weather imaginable, a few too many submerges in seawater and countless bogs, as well as clumsy wielding of spades, trowels and mattocks, they have long since been rendered not-fit-for-purpose. So, out they go. They have served me well and these photos are for posterity as much as anything. I hope their successors can serve me just as well. Forgive the unnecessary emotional attachment to a pair of boots, but I’m sure any walker or hiker will appreciate the singular role that a good pair of boots plays.
Yesterday I took a trip to Bridgend woods. It will likely be the last time I get the opportunity to visit this patch of lush, verdant trees so I took my time and made the most of it (this may or may not have had anything to do with the next bus not being due for hours). Either way, it was lovely and unexpectedly quiet. The leaves have started to turn so I know that it’s nearly time to leave. When I arrived on Islay the leaves had already mostly fallen. Mixed feelings on leaving here, but I’m sure I’ll come to that again anon.
Housekeeping note: this site is being tidied up over the next wee while too, so please forgive any glitches in the meantime.