(click here for links to archive reports from previous years)


Peggie’s Quiz - 20th  February 2020

Despite miserable weather, wind and rain, a good turn out of enthusiastic participants arrived at Greyfriars church hall for Peggie’s Quiz, preceded by soup and sandwiches lunch.

After lunch had been consumed Elspeth gave us a brief news update on Vic who is now living in Tewksbury. Vic is to have two cataracts operated upon and is optimistic this will improve his vision. We miss his exuberant personality at our events!

The group divided up into three teams of more or less equal size which amounted to us remaining at the three tables we had been sitting at for lunch! We gave ourselves catchy names such as ¨Oh Help¨ and ¨The A Team¨ and proceedings started.
5 or 6 rounds of 10 themed questions. Themes such as Scotland, General Knowledge, Animals and Nature, Geography, Film and TV.

A scribe was chosen within the team to write out answers and after each round the answer sheets were swapped between teams for points scoring.
Each team had a Joker Card and if we thought a particular round was going to be our best score we were allowed to ¨play our Joker  card in advance of that round, and any score we gained for that round would be doubled!!!

Peggie got to her feet and the first round began... Geography..... I am so glad the rest of the team had good memories or we would have only gained 2 points if it had been left to me!!  However the themes and questions during the entire quiz were so diverse I was able to contribute one or two correct answers.

With a 2pm time limit to work to we completed the quiz and after re-counting of scores manually, mentally and on the calculator, ¨Oh Help¨ were declared the winners ... but it was neck and neck!!!!!

Our thanks to Peggie for another thought provoking and fun quiz.

Suzana Fry


John and Rosemary’s trip to New Zealand - Talk on 24th January 2020

Because Inverness Cathedral has the most Northerly peal of bells in the Northern Hemisphere then Dunedin NZ must have the most Southerly chimes. John being a most ardent bell ringer and traveller said to Rosemary ‘We HAVE to go and see’.

So these intrepid travellers set off on their 11,597 mile trip of however many hours! The excitement of travel can be dulled a little after a whole day in a metal tube at 550mph!  A bit surreal!

Not able, or remember, or need to follow their 5 week trip exactly, there were highlights which stood out. But bell ringing with his Kiwi pals must have been very special. And for Rosemary to find the Mosquito plane that her father piloted during the war was absolutely amazing. Very special.

And of course there was the sightseeing. The wonderful variety of landscapes and spectacle that NZ has to offer. The photos were a pageant of reminiscences for me as we moved from place to place - Pancake rocks, Moeraki boulders, Tane Mahuta the giant Kauri tree, the puffs of steam and geysers of Rotorua, Huka Falls, the traffic of Auckland. However I did not experience being cut off by landslides, or the amazing trip on the rail car, or the glow worms, but I did experience a minor earthquake where the kitchen table started rattling.

Thank you John and Rosemary for all the effort you put in to bring us a flavour of that wonderful country in pictures. We look forward to your next trip - Antarctica? Virgin Space Travel? I’m sure you’re up for it!



Christmas Lunch at the Lochardil Hotel -  Thursday 5th December 2019

Another December and another HDR Christmas Lunch - and very good too.

It was lovely to see so many folk there although we were missing some weel-kent faces. It was good also to see folk we hadn’t seen for some time and great to keep the friendship going.

Martin and Elspeth welcomed us and brought us up-to-date with HDR news, some of it not so good and cards were passed round to send sympathy to Suzy on the death of her Mum and to wish Victor well after his stroke.

I don’t know about you but my lunch was spot on. I had the salmon starter, the turkey and the cheesecake, all delicious. And the service was good and unobtrusive so many thanks to the Lochardil Hotel staff.

What a raffle! There can’t have been many folk who didn’t win a prize. Thanks to Rosemary and her helpers for running the raffle, to those who donated prizes and to City Mobility who also swelled the prize tables. I think I remember hearing £84 was raised for our funds!

Afterwards it dawned on me that we had all left and nobody had done a vote of thanks so may I say now a big THANK YOU to all those involved in organising a lovely day.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you all.




Ness Islands - Friday 1st November 2019

We all met up at the Inverness leisure centre car park and only just had chance to say our “hello’s” when the vans turned up, a short trip for the drivers this time!  With only 6 riders this time out although showing off 2 new buggies, we set off towards the Ness islands.

These islands are a truly tranquil spot in a busy city, a haven for joggers, dog walkers, tourists and, of course, us!  We were rewarded at various spots with information about events that had occurred here in the past, apparently many Scottish country dances were held here.  We continued winding our way around the islands then carried on to the Greig street pedestrian bridge back over the river.

Elspeth pointed out where Highland Council were going to spend a lot of council tax payers hard earned cash on an art exhibit on the river side, mixed reception from our group!  We started making our way back down the riverside, stopping at the green fisherman’s hut, where we (and the dogs) got a warm reception.  Stopping here for lunch, we were rewarded by a heron sitting in a nearby tree keeping an eye on us, many ducks in the river, often joined by 3 dogs!

We wound our way back to the car park via Whin park (no dogs allowed!), weather stayed dry until the last leg of the tour fortunately.  Several people then decided to continue conversations over a coffee in the Botanics cafe.  A good time had by all, and many thanks to all the helpers and people behind the scenes.

                                                                                                    Viv & Trevor


Evanton Woods - Monday 7th October 2019


All our scooters were in demand on Monday 7 October when we had a ramble in the Evanton Community Woodland which, in spite of showery weather, was very enjoyable. The mixed woodland, much of it fairly open, covers some eskers, or glacial deposits, which give a rolling mixture of hills and valleys.

We started from the public car park and went up past the former chapel to the cabin, the log building which forms an education centre and a meeting place for users of the Woodland; it was built by local labour from local materials and provides a good refuge in inclement weather - luckily we didn’t need to use it.
From there we took the good paths to the pond and over a couple of burns which we crossed on ramps skilfully deployed by our resourceful volunteers. Lunch was eaten in a pleasant clearing, and the raffle was drawn, hastened by the onset of another shower which luckily was short. The mature beech trees were just changing colour and were a lovely sight. The ground was fairly muddy under wheel and foot but we didn’t have any problems.


When we returned to the cabin area we were photographed by Woodland staff and some of these pictures were shown at the Woodland Trust AGM that evening; some earlier photos of HDR members in the Woodland were used on the vibrant new posters just produced, so we have had some welcome publicity.


We are lucky to have such a pleasant area of woodland in our vicinity and are grateful to the staff and volunteers who work to maintain and improve it.



Culbin Forest - Tuesday 17th September 2019

All gathered at the large Wellhill car park at the entrance to Culbin Forest and made use of the excellent toilet facilities. The weather was a bit cold for September but we set off in good spirits - 8 folk on scooters and a goodly number of volunteers. We welcomed Steve, a friend of Ruth’s, a new volunteer for the day.

Our first stop was by the ‘gravel pit’ pond whose water level was greatly reduced compared with previous years, but we hope still alive with frogs, tiny fish and insect larvae. Elspeth pointed out near the path the leaves of common wintergreens and creeping lady’s tresses, specialist pinewood plants.

Soon we were on good paths winding among the sand dunes which were stabilised during the 1900s by planting pine trees, now covered with mosses, lichens and heather. The whole forest extends from the outskirts of Nairn to the Findhorn estuary and is managed by Forestry and Land Scotland (formerly Forestry Commission Scotland) for timber production, wildlife and recreation. There is a network of tracks and paths and we were following the waymarked ‘Hill 99’ route.

After a series of short ascents we reached the top of Hill 99 with its wooden steps leading up to a viewing platform, at present closed for repair. There’s no way the scooters could have scaled the structure anyway, so we imagined the views over the forest from the top! Here we stopped for our picnic but didn’t linger long due to the cold wind. However this hadn’t deterred a few families on foot or bike enjoying the forest experience.

Continuing our circuit down through the dunes we spotted several ant hills, not so active in the cold weather. On one of the bends Stuart somehow veered off the wide track on his scooter, too quick to be stopped immediately. His scooter came to rest by a pine tree a short way down the bank. Fortunately he was none the worse for his adventure.

Finally we made our way safely along a main track to the car park after which some folk went for coffee and cake at Brodie Castle tearoom for a warm up.

A big ‘thank you’ to all the van team and other volunteers who make these outings possible.



Loch an Eilein Ramble - Wednesday 28th August 2019

Having arrived early at the Rothiemurchus attended car park, Elspeth spoke to the friendly staff to confirm that all parking fees normally charged had been waived for today’s ramble, together with a collection of maps and information leaflets. We were then directed to a large car park away from the normal tourist traffic to park and unload the scooters.

After making full use of the Loch an Eilein visitor centre we gathered for a short history talk by head ranger Matt Kirkwood. He explained how things had changed during the Grants’ 450+ years of ownership. In the past the main income was timber, cattle, hunting and fishing, whereas today it is tourism. Matt finished by wishing us all an enjoyable day.

Martin welcomed all 23 of us, making a special welcome to Juliet & Hilary, long time members of H.D.R who had not been out with us for some time.

Once on our way the wind started to get up and at one point my hat blew off and thanks to Elspeth it was retrieved from a deer fence. Over the years tourist numbers have increased around the loch, no more so than when you approach the ruins of Alexander Stewart’s castle about 100 yds from the loch shore. History has it that he burnt and plundered Forres and Elgin because the Bishop at the time took his wife’s side in a family matter.

It was evident while rambling that some of the mighty Scots Pines had succumbed to the ravages of time, be it disease, wind or lightning.

Normally the ramble route would circumnavigate the loch, but a weak bridge at the end of the loch put a stop to scooter access, so at the halfway point it was decided to stop for lunch. Time for Rosemary to produce the raffle tickets for the ramble raffle. So far the weather was being very kind, mind you more than one person noticed that the body temperature was dropping while stationary. Incidentally close to our chosen lunch area is Loch Gamhna and Thieves Road used by cattle raiders for 100s of years. It was the practice of land owners to leave a very small number of cattle tied up to trees for the taking, hoping that the larger herds would be left untouched.

After lunch it was time to retrace our footsteps and back to the parked vehicles. On the way, Martin’s dog Holly enjoyed a romp or two in the water, to the surprise of the ducks. Weather wise the day was just perfect with enough wind to keep away the beasties encountered in wooded areas. It was a different story going home as Aviemore was awash.



Abriachan Ramble - Thursday 8th August 2019

The ramble started at the Abriachan Forest car park reached by a short journey along a narrow steep road from the A82. Many members will recall the talk in March this year from Suzanne Barr on the history of the Forest Trust. It was an opportunity for us to meet again with Suzanne as she kindly agreed to accompany us on our ramble around the forest paths. Keeping us informed of the work being undertaken to ensure the forest remains open for all to enjoy whilst maintaining an income to ensure that in the future the Trust does not have to rely on charitable funds to continue the ongoing work within this very successful community owned woodland area.

The weather forecast was promising rain and as our ramble progressed we all appreciated the cool but at times sunny morning and no rain! As we rambled we were given the opportunity to visit the replica Bronze Age Roundhouse even allowing scooters to be inside and experience the darkened world of our ancestors. We travelled further and visited the bird hide, wild life pond and on to a mosaic with faces on the trees for us to seek, find and marvel at the skill of using wood so artistically.

Suzanne explained how all constructions involved local groups both young and old continuing the initiatives of the Trust to ensure all are included in the development, conservation work and future facilities of the trust. We met families enjoying the tree house and the fire pit area where the smell of the wood smoke gave us all reminisces of the warmth an open fire provides.

As we rambled on visiting the latest addition of a poly tunnel and crops including sweet corn and courgettes, Suzanne invited us into the classroom and provided tea and coffee with biscuits for us to enjoy with our lunch. After lunch with the weather still dry we rambled again leaving Abriachan Forest appreciating the history, wildlife and diversity of facilities for all from the cycle trails to the all abilities trail we had learnt about and enjoyed during our visit.

                                                                                 Janet S.



Loch Fleet National Nature Reserve - Friday 19th July 2019

Loch Fleet National Nature Reserve is managed by Scottish Natural Heritage.  It is the most northerly estuary on Scotland’s east coast - a large tidal basin with sand dunes, mudflats, coastal heath and pinewoods.  The sea once reached almost as far inland as Rogart until 1816 when Thomas Telford built the Mound Causeway which acts as a tidal barrier.

I was in awe of our van drivers, Richard and Vic, as they efficiently manoeuvred the vans into the limited parking area at Balblair woods. 

We were fewer in number than usual as some members had cancelled due to a poor weather forecast for that day.  There were three spare scooters!  However, in spite of the forecast it remained pleasantly warm and dry and there were no midges.

The trail from the car park is through the pine wood which was at its summer best with a wide variety of vegetation.  Fungi growth was prolific and Elspeth drew our attention to a chocolate coloured bolete mushroom with its spongy underside instead of gills.  It is apparently edible!  Dainty creeping lady’s tresses and the rare one-flowered wintergreen had popped up through the woodland floor inviting us to admire and photograph them.

Excitement rose when an osprey was spotted flying above the trees and the nest was pointed out not far away.  We might have stayed there all day had lunch at the hide not beckoned.  We continued until the trees gave way to the shore and revealed an attractive wooden structure from which one can observe the mudflats in comfort.
It was low tide when we were there and nothing of interest was seen in the immediate vicinity.  Cormorants and ducks were spotted through binoculars but no seals or otters.

After lunch we continued along the trail expecting to get closer to the water’s edge.  We came to a house where gravel on the driveway made it difficult for the scooters and they had to be pushed out onto a grassy path beyond.  However the path didn’t seem to bring us any closer to the water and after a while we turned round and retraced our steps. 

On the return we again stopped to watch the osprey and observe the nest which apparently has three chicks in it.

A big thank you to our leader, Elspeth, and our fantastic van team, Graham, Ron, Richard and Victor.  A thoroughly enjoyable and interesting day was had by all.




Auchteraw, Fort Augustus - 1st July 2019

This much anticipated ramble in a beautiful part of the Great Glen took us deep into Auchteraw Wood which is part of an extensive forest between Glen Albyn (or The Great Glen) and Glen Moriston to the north.

Martin, who spent much of his working life here with the Forestry Commission, explained that this forest, around Fort Augustus, was the first to be planted in 1919 providing additional employment for local crofters and so was celebrating its 100th anniversary. He also informed us that, since 1st April 2019, forestry had been fully devolved to the Scottish Parliament and the Forestry Commission had been incorporated into a new body - Forestry and Land Scotland.

The ramble followed a track through impressive stands of tall and straight Scots Pine, Norway Spruce and European Larch till, in a clearing, we could see a deep looking stretch of the River Oich and, beyond it, the Caledonian Canal.
Before rejoining the tarred road to return to our start point we passed a fine looking Log House, built by Canadian foresters in 1980 and available for holiday rental.

Despite the poor forecast we only had one
shower and our lunch stop, by a new micro hydro scheme power house, was enjoyed in full sunshine. Rosemary held her fundraising raffle and the goodies on offer were won by a beaming Peggie.

On the final leg along the road we saw bonnie blooming bell heather and other wild flowers which were attracting bees and butterflies; Elspeth suddenly got very excited too when she spotted a pancake-like fungus at least six inches across.

It had been another successful ramble through countryside new to most of us and many vowed to return to explore further the river and the Iron Age fort on Torr Dhuin which gives its name to this peaceful part of the woodland.



Glenmore to the Green Loch - 11th June 2019

On Tuesday 11th June we set off from the Glenmore Visitor Centre to ramble to the Green Loch. The plan was to ramble through beautiful forest, admiring the wide views and the splendid trees, to eat our lunch in the sunshine by the sparkling waters of the Lochan, and to return, replete and contented. It didn’t quite work out that way.

We left the visitor centre in a light drizzle and trundled along paths with rather frustrating cross-cut drains. Oddly (there must be some sort of technical reason) all the drains ran diagonally rather than straight across the path; not much of a problem for us, but they looked absolutely lethal for all the cyclists we encountered. Drop a front wheel into one of those and you’d be catapulted into the undergrowth!

We passed the Reindeer Centre, but apart from piles of antlers awaiting conversion into no doubt expensive souvenirs there was no evidence of the animals. Past Glenmore Lodge, a big outdoor sports and activity centre, we began to emerge into more open country, with views through the trees to moorland and distant mountains. The drizzle stepped up a notch into light rain, and a chill little breeze joined in. Midsummer in the Highlands! But at least it kept the midges away – they were all sheltering somewhere, probably peering out at us and thinking we were mad. Holly, Martin’s Golden Retriever, decided she wasn’t wet enough and took to splashing through various streams.

There were some spectacular trees, including Scots Pines, as this is a region of ancient pine and birch forest, and in front of us loomed An Sidhean (The Fairies’ Hill), standing guard over the Green Loch. By the time we arrived at the Green Loch (and the water really is - guess what - deep green!) the rain was pattering down steadily and the breeze was stiffer and colder than ever. As were we all! It was a pity, really, as this is a beautiful spot and would have been just glorious in the sunshine! We clustered under the trees to eat, and Holly dashed madly from person to person trying to persuade us that Martin never fed her and she was on the point of starving to death.

We didn’t linger over our lunch, and set off back to the Visitor Centre. Elspeth ordered us all “hoods down and big smiles” for the camera! Just outside the Visitor Centre is a memorial to Norwegian resistance fighters who were based here during the Second World War, training in the forest and on the shores of Loch Morlich before returning secretly to Norway and carrying out daring raids against the Nazi forces. There were fresh flowers and Norwegian flags at the memorial.

We retreated to the cafe for hot drinks and eats, and Sandra was volunteered to tour the members and sell raffle tickets - we raised £28, which was good!

Even with the less-than-ideal weather it was a lovely ramble, and many thanks to Victor for organising us, and dashing round madly with ramps to get us across the more intimidating cross-drains. If only he’d organised more sunshine and less rain.                                                                                                                  Rosemary


Plodda ramble - 22nd May 2019

To get to the starting point for our ramble we drove along one track, winding roads and eventually arrived at Plodda Falls car park.

Before we set off Martin told us some of the history of the area when it was a private estate. Years ago wealthy and titled people from the south of England often came up to the estate to shoot deer. On one such occasion the owner offered the 20,000 acre estate for sale for £60,000. This offer was immediately snapped up by one visitor. A verbal agreement was made and hands were shaken. Although overnight the owner (in a more sober mood) realised his error, the visitor Lord Tweedsmouth made him keep to his promise, and consequently developed and managed the estate for many years thereafter.

After Martin’s talk we set off on our ramble from the car park. The track was good, mostly downhill, with very tall Douglas Fir trees all around. The height of those trees was emphasised when we came across one that had fallen down.  Apparently it was one of the tall Douglas Fir trees from this forest that was selected to form the mast of Scott’s ship the Endeavour. As well as the tall trees there were rowan saplings and even a holly, the seeds of which had obviously been brought in by birds.

We eventually went down quite steeply to the River Plodda to a lovely spot to eat our sandwiches, whilst being entertained by three dogs in our party, splashing around in the river and retrieving things thrown for them. After this we retraced our steps, mostly uphill back to the car park.

Martin was right - it didn’t rain!  A very enjoyable time was had by all, including the dogs!

                                                                                                                Alan & Kath


Newtonmore Folk Museum   Thursday 2nd May 2019


As a newly recruited member of the Highland Disabled Ramblers, I was asked by Elspeth (Secretary) to write an account of our latest excursion.


Please excuse my verbal ramblings, it has been a while since I've had to do anything like this and the trip to Newtonmore's Highland Folk Museum is only my second outing with the club. Anyway, I was really looking forward to the day out. I had visited the museum previously with my daughter and grandchildren and I'd loved every minute. Ever since, I have spread the word amongst my friends and have recommended it as a unique and fascinating place to visit within easy reach of Inverness.


Just as on my first outing with HDR, the whole trip was so well organised and researched in advance. We arrived at approximately 10.45am and the scooters were ready and waiting with, of course, our trusty helpers making sure we were all au fait with the workings and comfortable seating of our scooters. Amazingly, there is no entrance fee at the Highland Folk Museum but any donations are gratefully received. My helper (my good friend Linda) and I set off immediately for the 17th century Blackhouses Village which is at one end of the 80 acre site. This village is unique and can be seen nowhere else in the British Isles. Elsewhere on site, there are over 30 buildings to be visited, including a 1920's Schoolhouse (with teacher!), Old Sweetie Shop, Café, Gift Shop, and a huge array of objects of historical interest. 


After our patrol through this amazing place (taking in the beautiful scenery and breath-taking views of the Cairngorms), we headed for our picnic lunch in the building Am Fasgadh. Am Fasgadh houses the museum's main collection of over 12,000 artefacts, which can be viewed by the public on prearranged tours.


Our visit ended all too soon with everyone having had a fabulous time. My warmest thanks to all those who contributed to a hugely successful day; the organisers, van drivers, helpers, and scooter riders. Not forgetting Anne and Ettta who persuaded me to join the group. The camaraderie amongst members at HDR is wonderful and if anyone reading this feels that they would like to learn more, details are on the website.


Thank you again for another great experience!                                  Madelyn




Drumnadrochit ramble & AGM 13th April 2019

We all arrived at the central car park in Drum on a lovely cool sunny morning. Notable absentees were our chairman Martin and other stalwart Peggie. Both had just had minor health scares with no apparent serious consequences, but had decided to relax at their respective homes. We all wish them a full and speedy recovery.

In Martin’s absence, our van team manager Graham stepped into the breach and led a very pleasant ramble above Drum. We trundled past houses, next to fields and into woods with some amazing huge conifers. In some places the going was rather rough but our trusty scooters and helpful volunteers ensured everyone negotiated safely. At various points Graham gave us interesting background on the history of the old Balmacaan estate which we were passing through.

Back at the car park, we all drove to the Church of Scotland Hall where we could eat our picnics. We were welcomed to the hall by ladies of the church, Maureen and Ann, who served us with teas, coffees and cakes. We are grateful to them for stepping in at short notice, as the usual ladies on duty were both unwell. Instead of home baking, the cakes were procured from Cobbs bakery in Drum. A collection was made by the members in aid of one of the church’s charities, Kids of Kolkata.

Then to the AGM.

In Martin’s absence, Elspeth presided at the meeting. Martin’s chairman’s report was read out by Graham, Rosemary’s Treasurer’s report read by Elspeth and Suzana’s membership secretary’s report by herself !  The management committee were ‘allowed’ to continue, with Ron, our new scooter manager, elected to join them.

Diana M. and Janet S. thanked the committee for all their hard work in keeping HDR functioning, allowing members to enjoy their scooter rambling in the outdoors. 

Detailed minutes and financial statement are available to members by request to the committee.



Talk on Abriachan Forest Trust - 22nd March 2019

We were pleased to welcome Suzanne Barr to tell us about the history and the current management and activities taking place at Abriachan Forest above Loch Ness. In 1991 the Trust was set up as a charity when the community of Abriachan bought the forest area from the Forestry Commission. The forest consisted mainly of lodgepole pine and spruce which were not profitable for the FC.

The Trust began to manage the forest by gradually removing some of the poorer trees to open up the area and make it more attractive to visitors. The Trust continues to manage the forest by selective felling and replanting with native trees. 

They obtained an agreement to allow public access to all of the area.  Over the years they have improved and put in new paths as well as two log cabins and a composting toilet. There is a children’s play area and tree house as well as reconstructions of a Bronze Age roundhouse and a shieling. There are now cycle trails and an all abilities trail.

As well as visiting school groups and the public, the Trust run initiatives to encourage those with special needs of many kinds to take part in conservation work and activities. They provide unique opportunities for those not catered for by mainstream education, and in return, their woodworking, art work and other products are seen by all visitors along the trails. The Trust can continue its progammes only by constant fundraising and seeking volunteers to augment the staff to help with the conservation and education work.

HDR has a visit planned to Abriachan on 8th August this year, so we look forward to enjoying a ramble through this unique forest area.




Peggie’s Quiz - Thursday 21st February 2019

We gathered as usual in Inshes Church for a soup and sandwich lunch followed by Peggie’s famous quiz.  This is always the highlight of the winter indoor programme.  It was even more special this year because we were able to welcome Peggy back after a hospital stay and period of recuperation.  Peggie somehow managed this time away from HDR to ensure the quiz was not disrupted in any way!  We divided into several teams decided by no more than where we sat for lunch so the size of team varied from 3 to 5 – all fair and square there then.  There were several rounds and each team could pick one round to play the team joker card for a chance to earn double points.  A definite advantage for the quiz is to have good hearing because then you are likely to hear the correct answer as a stage whisper from several tables at once.  It was good fun and we enjoyed trying to make the brain cells and memory work even if they were not always willing.  So thank you Peggie for a great afternoon’s entertainment.

Following the quiz Janet spoke about her job providing support services for the visually impaired.  She covers the whole of Highland and is based in the Eye Clinic in Raigmore Hospital.  Janet told us about the services and support she is able to offer and how to contact her.

As we welcomed Peggie back we also had to say goodbye to Nigel who is moving away from Highland.  Nigel has been a mainstay of the Van Team who all work hard to ensure the scooters are where they need to be at the beginning and end of our rambles.  So thank you Nigel for all your hard work and friendship over the last few years and we wish you all success in the future.

                                                                                                    Chris G.



Talk on ETHIOPIA - 24th January 2019

On Thursday 24th January we had the first of our winter meetings, and Elspeth gave us a talk and slide show covering her trip to Ethiopia in 2008. This is a country packed full of spectacular landscapes, fascinating wildlife and warm and welcoming people.

Elspeth visited as part of a small-group tour, about 15 people, with local guides. The tour began in the capital, Addis Ababa, a vibrant and bustling city, a curious mix of modern development and donkey carts. From Addis the group went north to Lake Tana, Ethiopia’s largest lake and the source of the Blue Nile. Lake Tana has a lot of islands, many with monasteries on them (over 60% of the population are Christian, mostly Ethiopian Orthodox.). A fisherman was paddling his papyrus boat, as his ancestors must have done for thousands of years. After that they visited a beautiful cataract on the Blue Nile itself, and walked down to its base. In the ancient city of Gondar they saw the walled fortress and palace compound, once the seat of Ethiopian emperors, with the immense 17th-century castle of Emperor Fasilidas.

The next destination was the Simien Mountains, a wild and rugged area close to the Eritrean border. This was bandit country, and armed guards were much in evidence, as well as Gelada Baboons, with their distinctive red “bleeding heart” chest patch. The baboons live in very large groups, and seem to enjoy posing for photographs!

On to Aksum, once the capital of the Aksumite Kingdom, and known for its obelisks, or stelae; they range from standing stones reminiscent of Callanish or Brodgar to huge and elaborately-carved obelisks. The 24-metre Obelisk of Axum was looted by Italy and shipped to Rome in 1937, finally being returned in 2005. The New Cathedral of St. Mary of Zion stands next to the old one, and was built in the 1950s. The small chapel known as the Chapel of the Tablet was built at the same time, and is believed to house the Ark of the Covenant, brought from Jerusalem by the son of Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, whose Palace is here. Admittance to the chapel is closed to all but its guardian monk – even the Patriarch of the Orthodox Church isn’t allowed in!

At Lalibela are the breathtaking rock-hewn churches. These are carved into the solid bedrock, their roofs level with the surrounding ground, each with a deep “trench” carved down and the church, carefully hollowed out, standing in the centre. They are world-famous, and rightly so, an extraordinary feat. There are 11 churches in all, and the Church of St George is generally considered the finest.

A final stop in Harar, a Muslim area with an ancient walled city packed with narrow alleyways and market stalls. Finally visiting an animal market where cattle and camels were traded, before heading back to Addis.

All in all it was a fascinating glimpse of a little-known country, and I think I wasn’t the only one wondering where my passport was by the time we returned to a chilly Inverness afternoon! Thank you, Elspeth.