Did you all have an enjoyable summer? I know … where did it go?
I certainly feel that time is moving rather quickly. It’s good to be kept busy and have goals to work towards, but we all need a bit of quiet time and live in a way that makes us happy. This year I’ve been trying to take a step back with some parts of my life to give me more calm times like this.
Autumn is upon us here in Scotland. It’s such a colourful time of year that I love. The crisp fresh mornings, watching the trees transform, adapting to their changing climate. Even though it can be cold it’s so easy to wrap up warm and refreshing to get outside and brave the elements.
In memory of Karen Garmon, my peaker friend
After I posted this story I received some sad news. My peaker friend Karen Garmon from Springfield, USA, sadly passed away on Sunday 30 September 2018. She was disagnosed with stage four metastatic pancreatic cancer this year around spring time.
I strongly felt that I should add a new part to this post. It seems to be the right place to talk about it. Whilst my original post below is about fun, happy days out with my other two peaker friends, stories can be sad as well.
I met Karen through My Peak Challenge (MPC) and Outlander at the Scotcon event in Edinburgh in September 2016. We were waiting in a queue for our meet and greet photo with the Outlander actors and both spotted that we were wearing MPC pins.
I think I said something like “you’re a peaker!” or “my peak challenge!” We gave each other a hug. Karen had tears in her eyes and I asked if she was okay. She said yes, she was happy, but I really didn’t know why she felt teary.
We were excited to get our photo taken with the Outlander guys. I was inspired that she’d travelled alone to Scotland as her own peak challenge. She loved Scotland and our history. She told me once that she wished she could find herself a handsome, kind Scot and she’d move over here. I assured her she would.
This is a photo of Karen with John, MPC coach, at the Scotcon event. You can see she is proudly wearing her MPC pin.
We both sat beside each other at the meet and greet table. She was so relaxed and good at asking the actors questions getting the conversation going, especially with the dashing Graham McTavish. After the meet and greet I didn’t see much of Karen at the event, it was busy. She met many peakers and made new friends that day.
See the lovely ladies below with Karen on the far left.
We followed each other on social media and occasionally chatted on Facebook Messenger. She asked for my address to send me the Entertainment Weekly magazine with an Outlander feature. A second one followed too. It was so kind of her to think of me.
I returned a few gifts too. A calendar with Scotland’s islands and the Scots Magazine with an Outlander feature. She said when she visits again she’d love to climb a mountain with me. I replied that I’d love this and also to show her the Isle of Arran. I knew she’d love it.
When she told me about her illness I never expected things to progress so quickly and feel sad I never got to chat with her recently. Our last online chat was in June 2018. Anytime we chatted she always came across strong and fighting all the way to stay here a little longer.
Karen was a Managing Editor for Ozarksfirst.com at KOLR10 and Ozarks Local News. She was committed to her work and continued to work from home during her illness. She worked right up to the Friday before she sadly left us. KOLR10 remember Karen on their website.
Even though we didn’t know each other well, we connected because of My Peak Challenge and Outlander. I love that you can meet a total stranger and become friends in an instant. Karen recently asked another peaker friend if she could scatter some of her ashes in Scotland.
I will miss her. She was a kind and caring lady to me. I will always think of you Karen, especially when I’m outdoors and in the Scottish mountains.
Sending lots of love and hugs to her family and friends 💙
You might have read about my peak challenge here on my blog. I’ve been part of this inspirational group for my third year now.
I wasn’t sure at first how to write this post. I met up with two online friends from My Peak Challenge (MPC) this month, something I haven’t done in a long time. MPC meet ups happen a lot in Scotland and all over the world. I just didn’t seem to find the time or energy to go to these.
I’m going to write about my two peaker meet ups and where we visited. These are places I’ve already blogged about, but it was fun sharing Ayrshire with my peaker friends.
Run peaker run travelling flag
As well as being part of the MPC private Facebook group, there are lots of individual Facebook groups as part of MPC. Just search for the word Peakers in Facebook and you’ll see a wonderful list of Peaker groups. Wow, I didn’t realise there were so many!
I’m also a member of the Run Peaker Run group. I joined when I was running regularly last year as I was training for two half marathons. It’s a motivational place for peaker runners all over the world. Back in 2017 I also joined to be part of the Run Peaker Run travelling flag where it would travel the world to over 100 peakers.
The flag’s mission: When you receive the flag, sign it, take it out on a run, walk or hike, have fun, take photos, post to the group, then pass to the next peaker.
My running training hasn’t been going well this year, so when I was messaged to say the flag was on its way to me from Germany it gave me a boost.
Sabine, a lovely peaker from Germany passed the flag to me, sending lovely gifts as well. We all send a gift from where we live to the next peaker. Isn’t that so kind.
The flag arrived just at the right time as I was planning to meet my peaker friend Ria that week on the Isle of Arran. It was perfect that we could both share it.
Isle of Arran with Ria
Ria is from the Netherlands and was visiting Scotland this month. She loves Scotland. I first met her in May 2016 when we joined a group of peakers to hike Schiehallion mountain. Myself, Alan, Ria and Anne hiked together and conquered this mountain in hail, wind, rain, sunshine and rainbows. We then also met on a Bloodwise charity walk at Pollok Park, Glasgow in August 2016.
As part of her trip here this month she was staying on the Isle of Arran. Ria missed out last year walking the Arran Coastal Way with us, so this was her chance to explore the island. To be able to share my favourite island with her was a real treat.
I sailed on the 7am ferry for a day trip. Rather than going straight for breakfast I stood out on deck as the ferry left Ardrossan harbour. I was the only one there. Twas very windy and Arran was hiding in the clouds. The island that appears and disappears.
We met at the new ferry terminal in Brodick. I was so excited to see her again. Even though we’d met twice before, we still didn’t really know each other very well. I was keen to hear if she’d enjoyed her stay on Arran.
I was happy to hear she did and would like to return. Whenever I recommend a place to visit I always worry that people don’t have a good time. When our weather is being mischievous it can hide all the beautiful landscapes.
We’d planned to walk the Glen Rosa circuit in Brodick, but dark clouds were sitting low, hiding any chance of seeing the mountains in the glen.
We decided to drive round the island. I wanted to show Ria some stops along the way that she might enjoy if she visits again. I don’t know the whole island as well as the Arranites that live there, but I try to keep finding new places when I visit. I wish that one day I will live there too.
After hugs, we started our trip around the island. We thought in the afternoon we’d try the Glen Rosa circuit if the weather had improved.
Our first stop was Corrie to show Ria Doctor McCredy’s red sandstone bath. Isn’t it amazing! This was the first time I’d ever saw it empty. Of course, I had to walk down those steps. It was pretty deep as you can see. A great photo opportunity with the travelling flag too.
The bath was carved in 1835 by the doctor who would treat his patients with seawater therapy. I think he was on to a great thing there. Our aching muscles need a bit of salt now and then. I’ve always wanted to sit on the edge and dip my feet in. The next time I will.
Sannox was next where I showed Ria the starting place of the stunning walk up Glen Sannox. We then stepped across the stepping stones towards the coast. This is part of the Arran Coastal Way. The water was high and rushing fast across the stones. Wet feet again.
We didn’t follow the trail far, just stopped off at the beach.
North Glen Sannox
North Glen Sannox is a picturesque place to start a long day’s hiking into the Arran mountains. We only walked five minutes to the bench today. For anyone who is not able to tackle long hikes, this short walk will give you the next best thing.
We didn’t stop at Lochranza as Ria had already explored some of this area.
Although there is no facilities in Imachar, the rocky beach is amazing to see. I first saw this beach walking the Arran Coastal Way with another peaker friend Anne. She loved this place too. I’d never have known to stop here if I hadn’t walked the coastal way. It’s so easy to just drive past.
I’d still love to wild camp here one day. Explore the rocks, sit and actual read a book, listen to the sound of the waves and then hopefully a beautiful sunset.
Auchagallon Stone Circle
We drove past a few villages, then the next stop was Auchagallon stone circle that sits above Machrie Bay. Ria had already been to Machrie Moor to see other stone circles and the tall standing stones. She loved it.
Auchagallon stone circle dates back to around 2,000BC. It’s not really known exactly what it was used for but thought to be the burial place of an important person. One thing for sure is that it’s peaceful. You can hear the sound of the waves and gaze across a stunning coastline looking towards the King’s Cave.
We didn’t stay long and I didn’t get any photos this day, but this is one from another visit this year. The grass wasn’t very green in the summer because of the unusual warm weather we experienced. It just shows you that we do need the rain to maintain our lush green grass.
King’s Cave Circuit
We reached the parking area for the King’s Cave circuit and decided that we would walk this one. The rain had been coming on and off in heavy bursts as we drove round the island but it was clearing up.
I’d walked this full circuit for the first time earlier in the year with another friend. You can also reach the King’s Cave walking from Blackwaterfoot along the coast.
The circular walk is a beautiful mix of woodlands and coast, around 5km (3 miles) and it took us about two hours. This included a few long stops.
This photo of the woodland trail is from my last visit. When Ria and I were walking here the dark woodlands had white mushrooms and red toadstools scattered everywhere. It was like a fairyland and we both agreed that this was where they lived. I wish I’d taken photos.
We chatted along the way, with so much to catch up on, but also stopped a few times to listen to the peacefulness around us.
We soon heard the ocean with the views opening up as we walked along the cliff top. Drumadoon Point was ahead, once home to the remains of an iron age fort. There’s also a few standing stones on top. I read online that the cliffs are around 60 million years old. Whoa!
Please stick to the path here, don’t venture into the bracken near the edge of the cliff. There are caves below and there could be gaps and large holes. I’m usually the first to venture into the unknown, but when I was in one of the smaller caves below I looked up to see a hole with bracken covering it. The hole looked big enough to fall through. This really made me think about where I step in future!
We soon reached sea level and clambered over the slippery rocks towards the sea. This is the best place to see all the caves from afar. Quite impressive! These caves are known as a raised beach, caused by Arran’s own Ice Age. When the glaciers melted, weight loss caused the land to rise. It’s interesting to think that the land we were standing on was once under water.
We walked into the first set of caves. Free room with beautiful sea view:
😍 Listen to the sound of the ocean 24 hours a day
🤔 Could be drafty, but wrap up warm and you’ll be fine
🌌 Stargazing on a clear night
🌊 Morning dip optional
🌙 No facilities, bring only what you need
👣 Leave only memories and footprints
This was exactly what I was thinking standing in the cave looking out at the ocean. What an experience it would be to camp here. It looked so beautiful in the daylight, but maybe at night time it would be different. I remember I thought the same about camping on Goat Fell, then at night it was wild and scary.
We entered the gate to the King’s Cave. This is one of the many caves that’s thought to be where Robert the Bruce hid in 1306 after being defeated in battle many times. He watched a spider spinning its web, failing, but it kept trying, never giving up. This must have been his inspiration to try again.
The King’s cave is the deepest and more sheltered. I think I preferred the cave next door though. Maybe this one for winter and the other one for summer?
After the cave we left the beautiful coast and enjoyed hiking up the other side along the cliff top back into the woodlands. On a clear sunny day you can sit on this bench and enjoy the coastal views.
We stopped to say hello to the forest troll. Ria could see it too. Can you?
We drove all the way back to Brodick without stopping, thinking that we might have time for the Glen Rosa circuit. It was around 3pm with low cloud still lingering when we returned, so we went to the Douglas Hotel for some tasty macaroni cheese and a coffee.
I’d planned to get the 7.20pm ferry home, so after eating we had some time left to take in a shorter walk. The Fisherman’s walk in Brodick was short and I thought I could take Ria to the Brodick standing stones.
The tide was high with most of the path being flooded. This was the first time I’d experienced this amount of water here. We waded through regardless.
We found the Brodick standing stones and the cloud lifted for a little while opening up the views of the Arran mountains. Near Brodick Castle, two stones sit in one field and a single stone in the opposite field.
We lingered around here for a while, watching the changing weather, taking photos and some video clips. You’ll see in my video below Ria and I having fun running towards the stones then magically disappearing … I think we both felt like young mischievous teenagers.
I love how the top of the stone in this picture looks a bit like the peak of Goat Fell.
Below is the single stone in the opposite field. It didn’t look much from a distance but when we got closer I was glad I walked up. It’s a smaller stone and it looked so cute to me sitting in a circle of grass with purple wildflowers.
When we came back a rainbow was floating in the sky. We shared rainbows on our Schiehallion hike too.
The sun was starting to set behind the mountains, and almost time to go home.
We spent 12 hours together touring the island and filled our time well I think. Our longer walks totalled almost 14km (8.5 miles). Exercising and socialising at the same time.
Ria is a beautiful and interesting lady and I’m happy to know her. I was sad to leave.
I made a short video of our day, mostly photos as I didn’t plan this:
Smugglers’ Trail with Errin
My next peaker meet up was with Errin from Idaho, USA, to walk Smugglers’ Trail in Ayrshire.
I’d never met Errin before. We were both married last year and chatted online about wedding stuff and I helped her with some ideas of where to get married in Scotland. We always kept in touch now and then.
I was excited to meet Errin and her husband Jason. They were here in Scotland for their anniversary and also walk the Edinburgh Kiltwalk. They had just returned from two nights on the Isle of Arran. The weather wasn’t great for their visit though and I feel sad that they didn’t get to see the island at its best. I hope they return.
We met at the South Beach Carpark in Troon at 10am, the starting area of the trail. I recognised Errin straight away when they parked. I jumped out of my car and it was hugs all round.
I thought we’d have the full day to walk the trail there and back again, but they needed to get back to Glasgow in the afternoon and get organised for going home the next day. Jason played some golf at Troon Links, then he would drive to Dundonald Castle to pick us up later.
I don’t have many photos of our walk as we were short for time. This was another fun peaker meet up. We couldn’t stop chatting! It was a really nice way getting to know Errin with lots of conversations on many topics.
I don’t what it is, but when I meet a peaker I always feel comfortable to talk about anything and just be myself. It must be the community we belong to and the magic of MPC to improve ourselves inside and out.
Errin said she really enjoyed the trail. She loves Scotland, its history, especially anything Robert Burns. I love her passion of the outdoors, herbs and trees. Being a park ranger at home she works outdoors a lot. What a brilliant job to have.
The trail has many points of interest that I showed Errin. You can see all these in my video below.
Jason was waiting for us at Dundonald Castle. Sadly, we didn’t have time to tour the castle. Jason dropped me back off at Troon, thank you. This is Errin and myself back at Troon beach.
We only had around three hours together but we really enjoyed each others company. We walked almost 12km (7 miles) so we got those steps in too.
Errin is a fun, friendly lady who I’ll definitely meet up with again. I felt quite sad when they had to leave so quickly, but I understand how tired they both must have been touring Scotland, trying to fit in everything and everyone. They’ve seen more of Scotland than I have!
You can watch the full Smugglers’ Trail in a video I made last month. I uploaded this to my Facebook page and it seemed to be very popular with the people of Ayrshire. Many were talking about walking the trail too and some didn’t know it existed. It pleases me that I’ve helped in some way sharing this.
My next adventure is a 10k trail run. To be honest I thought I wasn’t going to be able to take part this year as I mentioned my running has slipped a lot. I’m enjoying cycling when I can, and I love walking and hiking. I think I’m kiddin myself I’m ready for this.
Then I thought just recently, peaker style, just do it! If I need to walk some of it, then that’s what I’ll do. The trail run is in the Speyside area, so I hope to explore whilst I’m there. Autumn will be blooming so that will be nice. At the last minute we booked a camping pod and we might even try a night car camping. We’ll be freezing I bet …
I’ll let you know how it goes. Fingers and toes crossed I get through it.
Thanks for reading.