RAMBLE REPORTS 2017
(click here for links to archive reports from previous years)
Darnaway - Friday 9th
After a break of over 5 years the Highland Disabled Ramblers
returned to the Darnaway Estate, south of Brodie, Moray. The
original trip in 2012 was notable for torrential rain, which made
the scooter riders very cold. It was my first outing with HDR; I
remember it well!
This time, the weather forecast was indifferent (at Dingwall) but it
turned into a fine summer’s day. As before, the instructions were to
meet at Brodie Castle for toilet facilities and then drive in convoy
to Darnaway, which is a private estate. Those of us in the vans went
ahead to the rendezvous point at the Moray Estate Office, where it
had been arranged we should park. The scooters were offloaded and we
all stood around getting cold waiting for the scooterists’ convoy to
turn up. Victor had my coat in his car so I was pleased to see him,
followed quickly by the convoy.
We set off in the brightening sunshine through the immaculate estate
and duly arrived after 2km or so at Darnaway Castle. Peggie gave us
a talk about the castle, which is strictly private. The castle is
actually a stately home built in 1810 on the site of various other
former castles. The rebuilding incorporated the old banqueting hall,
dating from 1450 which features the original ‘hammerbeam’ roof, one
of only a few such remaining in Scotland.
Peggie explained that the castle also contained a painting, kept
behind a closed door and rarely exhibited, of the ‘Bonnie Earl of
Moray’, who was murdered by Huntly of the adjacent Comyn clan. The
Bonnie Earl’s mother wanted to exhibit the picture publically to try
to recruit others to avenge the death of her son but this was
prohibited by King James VI.
Suitably chastened by these stories of such gory events, we
continued on our ramble around a large field to a picnic spot, said
to give a better view of the castle. The castle however was still
partially turned away and largely hidden by trees. Nevertheless, we
had a welcome lunch in the sunshine before continuing back to the
Estate Office to pick up the cars. Some of the party then went to
Brodie Castle for coffee and cakes before returning to Inverness.
should also mention that we had a visitor with us: Emilio from Cuba,
a colleague of Suzy, our membership secretary. Emilio spoke very
little English. We did try to speak to him but we had very little
Spanish, let alone Cuban. We thought Richard Castro might have been
able to help but no luck. We were supposed to meet up with Suzy and
her Dad but she didn’t turn up. She rang Emilio when we were on the
way home: We had been ahead of schedule and we had missed her. Sorry
Ramble at Rothiemurchus - Friday 22nd
Rothiemurchus must be one of the loveliest estates in the north of
Scotland. The terrain is lovely, the woodland (much of it a remnant
of the Caledonian Pine Forest) is spectacular and the views of the
Cairngorms are awe-inspiring. I just wish the weather could match up
to the surroundings sometimes!
We all met at the Rothiemurchus Visitor Centre to avail ourselves of
the facilities then proceeded to the parking area beyond the Caravan
Site where our hard-working crew had the scooters all ready for us.
The path had a good surface for scooters and walkers alike until we
got to the puddles. They were OK for the scooters but a bit wet for
the walkers and hadn’t been there when Martin audited the route
three weeks earlier!
We had lunch at a wet area where we sought the shelter of some trees
as there was a very cold wind. We then proceeded to Piccadilly, a
track junction well known to hill-walkers where we took a short
detour to the river and the Cairngorm Club Bridge over the Allt
Druidh. From there we followed the main path back towards
Coylumbridge and back to the car park.
I am not sure where other folk ended up but two car-loads of us went
back to the café at the Visitor Centre but couldn’t find a seat as
it was so busy. I was cold so went home, hence the abrupt end to
this report. (Actually I went home the back road to Grantown and
called in at the “1896” café in Boat of Garten which we have visited
before but it was full too!)
Thanks again to all involved in the ramble. The whole thing goes
without a hitch, thanks to their voluntary efforts. They are much
Aldie Burn Ramble - 6th September
The day started with ramblers and volunteers meeting for 10.30 in
the Forestry Commission Aldie Burn car park for the start of the
walk. Some members had made use of the toilet facilities at Asda on
the outskirts of Tain.
The day had started overcast and rain was forecast so we all readied
ourselves for whatever the weather was going to throw at us. We met
with Tina our guide for the day. Tina is remembered by many of us as
HDR treasurer in days past, before she moved locally to Hilton of
Cadboll so a good opportunity to catch up on news and enjoy her
Tina knows the area well and took us out onto well made up paths and
roadways within the Forestry Commission managed woodland which is
mainly pine but some areas particularly by the burn have a number of
native deciduous trees. Crossing a substantial bridge over the burn
we headed up on to a broad track that is a right of way and cycle
trail to Scotsburn.
We travelled up to the ‘Dog Graves’ which is situated within a
wooded area off the main
track, and where dog walkers often place
their own departed dogs’ collars on top of
the gravestone which is a
fitting memorial to a dog who played an important part in World War
Our route continued with a short stop for lunch and a close look at
a variety of fungi that Elspeth had collected along the way. We
rambled back onto a different path, following the burn to the small
ponds and picnic area. A conversation with other walkers enjoying a
brief spell of sunshine and we all returned to the car park without
the need for our wet weather gear. Many members stopped off for tea
and cake at the Tomich restaurant before continuing homewards.
Seagull Trust Cruise - Friday 1st September 2017
What bliss to cruise on the Caledonian Canal in calm, sunny weather!
water level was unusually low which meant that the wooden ramp from
the jetty to the tow path was at a rather steep angle. Then we had
to board the boat down a short, even steeper metal ramp, making it
extremely difficult for the two wheelchair dependent passengers.
However, we were all looked after superbly by the men of the crew.
At 10:30 Highland Cross Seagull embarked from the Twin Jetties on
the seaward side of Tomnahurich Bridge with seven members of
Highland Disabled Ramblers aboard. We were immediately offered a
welcome cup of tea or coffee and plenty of biscuits. Sid was
playing his guitar and singing soothing songs as we passed along the
First we passed through the Tomnahurich Swing Bridge which has to be
timed as it is only opened for boats every half hour. After
as far as Dochgarroch we turned back. To my
astonishment I spotted a magnificent painting of the Loch Ness
Monster on the stonework of a weir which I had missed the first
Back through the swing
bridge we passed and on to Caley
Marina. Valerie, a member of the crew, pointed out where the
Seagull is moored at night. She also told us that Caley Marina
actually pays for the mooring as well as the fuel for the Seagull
Trust Cruises which is a charity founded in 1978
Turning once again, all too soon we were back at the Twin Jetties.
In Two hours we had covered 4.5 miles. Getting two wheelchairs back
up the ramp to the towpath was a Herculean effort requiring the
assistance of several strong people but ‘all’s well that ends well’.
big thank you to our brilliant crew and to HDR for organising the
Contin Forest - 8th August 2017
came to Contin Forest when we had a ramble there on 8 August - it
didn’t rain, the sun shone, it was warm enough for shirt sleeves,
and the light breeze kept the midges at bay - quite an amazing day
for this erratic summer.
followed the main wide gravel road up to the high spot above Rogie
Falls, and some ramblers took the path down towards the Falls and
had their picnics there, but the majority found a large parking area
with plenty of tree trunks to sit upon. It was pleasantly warm and
we had a leisurely lunch break, with plenty of chat.
our Chairman, who is a retired forester of the Forestry Commission,
gave us a most interesting short talk about his final job before he
retired. He had the remit to assess the Highland forests around
Glenurquhart for both their commercial and their amenity values, a
major undertaking which only somebody with his wide familiarity with
the forests could have undertaken. This enabled plans to be made for
the future exploitation of the forests - the plans were subsequently
frequently modified, he said, as circumstances changed.
higher parts of the road there were lovely views towards the west,
including Torachilty; the clouds were gathering on the hills but
still it remained fine and mostly sunny where we were.
On the way
home, some of us enjoyed tea/coffee and cakes at the Station Cafe in
Strathpeffer, making a pleasant and sociable ending to a good
outing. Many thanks to the organisers and drivers and carers who
make these rambles possible.
Nethy Bridge - Thursday 20 July 2017
After meeting at Nethy Bridge Visitor and Community Centre and
unloading the scooters in the rain, we set off in single file along
the road. Then we turned off into Dell Woods, part of Abernethy
National Nature Reserve, on a new all-abilities trail. Alison, an
RSPB Community Ranger, was our knowledgeable and highly entertaining
guide. We passed a feeding station, set apart for birds and red
squirrels to feed. Alison caught sight of a family of bull finches,
but we were rather too noisy to see anything. Alison also said there
were capercaillie in the NNR but we were not likely to see any of
them, either. Blame the sound of the scooters rather than our
Alison explained the difference between the bilberry and the
cowberry, identified by their slightly different leaves. It is not a
good year this year for either of them, whereas last year was much
better. She also explained the possible origin of cuckoo-spit!
We crossed over a lovely new wooden footbridge and, again, we were
too noisy to hear the gentle babbling of the Duack Burn. Everyone
stopped and gathered round by a corrugated iron shed to hear
Alison's story of Willie Steel's Mill.
The rain began to come down even harder as we made our way back
beside the River Nethy, so we were glad to be welcomed into the
Visitor Centre with tea, coffee and chocolate biscuits. There were
nearly thirty of us, eating our picnics, getting to know new ramblers,
chatting with old friends and looking at the exhibits and displays.
Alison was taking lots of photos of us and so there might be
pictures on the Visitor Centre website.
Nairn riverside and shore - Monday 3rd
It was rather windy and chilly for
July as we all gathered at the Nairn harbour car park. There were 7
scooters booked but all 10 were brought on the ramble so that some
volunteers could take turns at having a shot.
We headed on the excellent path beside
the river, and discovered from the display boards the possible
origins of the name ‘Maggot’ given to this area. Then under the
main road, and into the woods where it was more sheltered. We
enjoyed the dappled shade of the trees and the woodland plants
including sweet cicely, recognised by its aniseed scented leaves. We
also saw lots of the tall Himalayan balsam with its pretty pink
flowers. Sadly this is an introduced plant and is very invasive.
After the flowers have faded, the seeds pop out and scatter very
readily, often carried along rivers to reseed the banks farther
down. Another ‘alien’ plant we saw which is very common along Moray
riversides is the giant hogweed.
The sap in its stem can burn the
skin so is a danger especially to children playing by the
riversides. The local authority and conservation groups are
attempting to eradicate this harmful plant.
The path opened out to fields on our
left where ‘contented’ brown cows with calves lay chewing the cud.
The grassy verge plants, including cow parsley and red campion were
admired while a blackcap flew across the path to the shelter of the
trees. We had to turn around at the Firhall Bridge as the path
beyond becomes too narrow for our scooters. We stopped for our
picnic lunch at a pleasant clearing by the river, a tranquil spot
apart from our happy chatter of voices.
Retracing our route back to the
harbour, we went for a stroll along the prom as far as the ice cream
café. The cold wind persuaded us to turn back and take refuge in the
two cafes above the harbour, one group to Basil’s and the other to
the newly refurbished Sundancer.
All agreed it was a good varied
ramble. Our thanks once again to the van drivers and walking
companions for making possible this lovely day.
Dava Way Ramble - Tuesday 20th June 2017
(Part of The Moray Walking Festival)
Another lovely ramble through a beautiful part of agricultural Moray
– helped immensely by lovely sunshine! We met at Edinkillie Hall,
Dunphail where once again we were allowed to use their Disabled
Toilet. People are just so kind to us so thank you, Dunphail.
The last time we visited Dunphail we turned south along the Dava Way
towards the Edinkillie viaduct where we learned quite a bit about
the Forres to Grantown Railway – the old track being the basis for
the Walkway and Cycleway to Grantown. This time we turned north and
followed the track for about 2 miles. The sun shone, folk chatted
and we admired the countryside in general and the many wild flowers
in particular. We saw foxgloves, cuckoo flowers, speedwells and
orchids to name but a few and we also saw some garden escapees such
as a lovely yellow lily. We seem to have a lot of keen photographers
in our company so maybe sometime we should have a slide show,
We crossed the access road to the Dallaschyle wind farm where the
windmills were turning lazily in a lovely breeze – just enough to
keep the midges at bay. We eventually turned back south again then
took a small detour to a lovely spot for lunch overlooking the
hamlet of Logie. We then made our way back to the car park at the
hall from where a number of us made our way to Logie Steading – a
lovely watering hole. Some of us even sat outside in the sun while
we indulged in drinks and the lovely baking.
Thanks go to the willing volunteers who all make the rambles
possible, especially those who deal with the scooters. Special
thanks to Wilson Metcalfe who led our walk on behalf of The Moray
Walking Festival. He is so knowledgeable about the Dava Way and the
surrounding countryside and adds to the ramble immensely. Thanks
also for strimming the grassy bit otherwise our walk would have been
a bit shorter!
Drumnadrochit Ramble - Saturday 3rd June
We set off for our ramble from the car park in beautiful sunshine,
firstly along pavements in Drumnadrochit, but were soon going along
a track, up a slight but quite long incline, through community
woodland where, because of the shade, many bluebells were still
In the days when James Grant owned the estate he collected and
planted a number of non-native species of trees, including sequoia,
which are now enormous in both height and girth. To the left there
were good views of the countryside, through the trees.
Amongst the trees were a number of very large bounders, each
weighing several tons. These are known as glacial erratics and date
from the ice age.
We came across several small groups of local volunteers digging
drainage channels at the side of our path.
Eventually we came to a new bungalow on the right, where once stood
a large mansion. This fell into disrepair and was blown up by the
army, but some of the stone rescued from the demolition was used to
build the wall around the bungalow.
On looking to the left we could see the relatively new school in the
distance. Just before we got back to the road we stopped and Graham
our leader told us how much forestry had been felled on the
hillside, in some cases exposing ancient hill forts.
We arrive back at the church hall where it was time for our
sandwiches, and tea, coffee and delicious cakes provided by the
ladies from the church. While we were eating our sandwiches we saw,
through the window that it was pouring with rain. How lucky we had
been with the weather once again.
Pamela Lemon, one of the church ladies, gave us a brief talk about
her charity ‘Kids of Kolkata’ which is giving BoiSand water filters
to many families in that area to provide them with clean drinking
water. Members were happy to give donations to this worthwhile
We had the AGM, after which we all set off home after another
Alan & Kath
Uath Lochans, Inshriach forest, Kincraig - 10th May
There were 15 of us rendezvoused at the Loch Insh Water Sports
Centre on a cold and windy morning. After making use of their
toilets we shared cars and drove to the forest entrance where I
thought we’d meet the van team for the start of the ramble. Sadly I
had mistaken Martin’s description of the entrance location, so no
vans there. Fortunately the Forestry Commission ranger Lucy put us
right and we all met up.
Once on the scooters we headed along a good track through the open
pine and birch forest, noting signs of squirrel activity from
nibbled cones. We spotted many wild spring flowers including wood
anemones and celandine, and listened to the birds singing, the males
protecting their territories from incomers.
We then continued on a narrower path, just wide enough for the
scooters, to our first sight of one of the lovely Uath Lochans.
These are ‘kettle holes’, formed after the Ice Age when the ice
melted and had no outlet for the meltwater. Lucy told us that there
is little wildlife in the lochans as they are too acidic from the
surrounding peaty ground.
We stopped for our picnic lunch overlooking another of the lochans
and enjoyed plenty good chat. We continued round a loop before
picking up the main track back to the vans, enjoying glimpses of the
Monadhliath hills still with the odd small patch of snow.
We all reconvened at the Water Sports Centre for tea/coffee and
cakes. By now the weather had become warm and sunny so some of us
sat on the veranda watching groups of youngsters trying their first
taste of canoeing and sailing. There was lots of screaming and
Our thanks to Martin for leading the ramble, Lucy for her local
knowledge and Victor, Nigel and Sid for driving the vans and
distributing the scooters; also to all the volunteer ‘walkers’
without whom we couldn’t run these rambles safely.
Beauly River Ramble - Tuesday 11th April
It was great to start the rambles
again after our winter break. We had a good turnout despite the
rather cold and blowy weather. It was fine most of the time but we
still had to dodge a couple of showers.
Our route took us from Beauly Toll
along a private road owned by Lovat Estates which cut across one of
the large meanders in the Beauly river just before it becomes tidal
at Beauly. The road was a good surface for the scooters and apart
from a few range rovers (goin’ fishing) and the postie van we had it
pretty much to ourselves.
The road took us past lovely large
fields which the farmers were preparing for the first crops of the
year. There were also banks of gorse and roddies just coming into
bud We also went past the remains of an Estate fish farm where the
smolts used to be reared to stock fish farms in the area. Now long
since closed. We went down to the river and managed to go
alongside the water on a track for a wee while before the track
became too stony and rough and we turned back.
At the water’s edge we came upon a
wooden fishing hut. We felt we’d stumbled on a real live Goldilocks
and the 3 bears’ story. Some of us went to investigate the hut.
Not only was it unlocked but it was still warm from the wood burning
stove and had a current newspaper on the large dining table. No
bears appeared so some of us took the opportunity to warm ourselves
back up before our return journey.
As always the ramble required a cup of
tea and a bun to round it off so a lot of us went to Munro’s Garden
Centre near Munlochy. Very good it was too and as a bonus I was
able to buy the plastic trugs in which to grow my seed potatoes
which are now on their way to giving me a great crop!
and demonstration on Bellringing - Tuesday 21st March 2017
The guest speaker at our last indoor meeting this winter was Mr
Michael Neale. Mike is the Tower Captain and Steeple Keeper at the
cathedral in Inverness and he talked to us about bell-ringing.
He explained that the cathedral bell-tower has ten bells with
heaviest, the tenor, coming in at a little over sixteen
hundredweights. Bells are made of bronze and even the lightest bell
at the cathedral, the treble, is over four hundredweights. The bells
are hung in such a way as to make it possible to ring changes on
them and that is the sound that we can hear on Sundays and on
Ringing the changes means varying the order that the bells ring in
according to a set formula. For example one can ring ‘rounds’ by
ringing all ten bells in order – 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10 and one can
also create a pattern by ringing them in ever changing sequences –
rounds then 2,1,4,3,6,5,8,7,10,9 then 2,4,1,6,3,8,5,10,7,9 then
4,2,6,1,8,3,10,5,9,7 and so on.
Due to the physical limitations of the machinery that allows a
ringer to make a heavy bell sound, it can only move one place in the
order at a time, but it is still possible to build up highly complex
patterns of bells using very simple formulae. To ring every possible
variation that a formula (called a method) can allow can take some
hours, and ringers find it very satisfying to achieve a faultless
rendition of a method.
There are many different methods and they all have names. A ringer
will have many different methods in his or her memory as they are
not difficult to remember – just like the finest mathematical
formulae each one elegantly expresses a simple truth.
Mike also brought along a mini-ring of bells that he assembled.
These worked by activating a program on a computer to make the sound
whenever anyone pulled the ropes. One or two of us tried them out.
It was an interesting talk and Mike finished by expressing the hope
that the next time any of us heard the bells we would remember it
and know what we were listening to.
Peggie’s Quiz - 21st February 2017
Unfortunately our speaker on Bell Ringing scheduled for this date
had to cancel at short notice due to illness. We were delighted that
Peggie was able to fill the bill by bringing forward her quiz to
this date. We organised ourselves into 5 (or was it 6) teams to
answer questions on topics ranging from ‘Musicals’, ‘Centuries &
Decades’, ‘Sort of Science’, and ‘Castles’. Much brain searching and
hilarity ensued as we tried to come up with the most likely answers.
An added feature this year was a Joker card that could be played
during one of the rounds, doubling the score for that round. Two
teams tied for first place, having lost only a few points. Those of
us who didn’t excel still enjoyed the event and learned some useful
Many thanks to Peggie for her ingenuity in thinking up a new set
of questions - her knowledge knows no bounds!
"Dolphins" by Charlie Phillips - 24th
It was lovely to see everybody yesterday at the start of another
year for Highland Disabled Ramblers with at least one new face
joining the group. Welcome Barry.
The soup and sandwiches were tasty as always and the chat as folk
caught up-to-date was noisy! Martin had good news for us on the
financial front with 2016 being a good year for fundraising. Thanks
go to all those involved in that fund raising. The blue “Meteor”
scooter has been put out to pasture in Drumnadrochit after giving
many years of service to the club and a new replacement has been
purchased. Jane Bryant, for one, is sorry to see it go as she liked
the controls on the Meteor!
We then went through to the Church for a wonderful slide show and
commentary. Charlie Phillips has been studying the dolphins and
other animals in the Moray Firth for many years and has just
published a book of photos of these “charismatic” animals. The book
is called “On the Rising Tide” – the answer to the question he is
most frequently asked – “What is the best time to see the dolphins?”
His slides were astonishing, funny, informative and beautiful. His
commentary was interesting, humorous and full of insight into the
dolphins and a lot of the other animals inhabiting the inner Moray
Firth and beyond. He really knows his stuff. At the end of the talk
he answered many questions from the audience then signed books.
Thanks to him for coming to talk to us.