Helen Rose Hillwalking and Outdoors Diary

Photo: Frances. The West End of Glasgow is not known as a mecca for hillwalking – although there are a few steep inclines within its boundaries . However a fair population of folk living in the West End have a passion for the outdoors and many of our city dwellers nurse ambitions about conquering the Munros.
Few are more committed than Helen Rose, who shares her hillwalking experiences in Scotland, Ireland and elsewhere….

Danube, Austria. February 2019

Helen Rose Outdoors Diary

River Danube Locks

The second part of the Danube river cruise was in Austria. Throughout its length the Danube has locks like a canal. In the region of Vienna there is a braided river system on a floodplain and since the 17th century there have been efforts to control the Danube, mainly to provide flood protection. The excavation of the “New Danube” commenced in 1972, with excess material used to construct the 21 km long “Danube Island” between the Danube and the New Danube. However, over time the water table was found to be decreasing and damage was noted in the foundations of bridges and other heavy structures. Similarly the riparian Prater woods were beginning to show symptoms of dehydration. Freudenau Hydropower Plant was constructed and is situated in the centre of Vienna and the Danube Island is a much visited recreation area. It was strange to pass through high sided walls on our river cruise ship. Obviously the ships are designed to a maximum width.

Dürnstein and Melk

It was Sunday morning when we called in at the pretty village at Dürnstein. Following a quarrel during the Crusades in the Holy Land in 1192, Richard the Lionheart was held prisoner here by Duke Leopold V of Austria . The mighty castle where he was held high above the town is now in ruins. Dürnstein lies in the heart of the rich Wachau Valley wine growing area and we walked past the vineyards with their autumnal colours. The stroll in the village lanes brought us to Dürnstein Abbey with its stunning ice blue Baroque Tower. The abbey was founded in 1410. The village houses were beautifully maintained, often with paintings on the arch above the front doors.

We continued cruising to the town of Melk where there is an enormous, honey coloured Abbey standing high on a rocky bluff. It was founded in 1089 but reconstructed in the Italian Baroque style early in the 18th century. Melk Abbey has been a monastic school since the 12th century – it has a world renowned manuscript collection. The abbey church is a riot of colour with much stucco work, gilding, marble and fresco painting beneath a monumental cupola. It also contains the tomb of St. Coloman, an Irish immigrant, murdered on his way to the Holy Land as they thought he was a spy because of his strange appearance. Out of remorse the local people made him a saint.

Salzburg and Linz

The next port of call was Linz which has interesting cathedrals, the old and the new, the latter being the largest cathedral in Austria. However, we only passed through Linz on the bus for a day trip to Salzburg. On route we had a glimpse of the Alps.

Salzburg is best known as the birth place of Mozart. We had a walking tour including the Mirabell Gardens where some Sound of Music film scenes were shot. We walked to the Mozart Museum based in the house where Mozart was born. He played the piano at three years old and became a composed aged 5.

On visiting Salzburg Cathedral, a Baroque Cathedral founded in 1611, there was a choir of girls singing which complemented the beautiful interior. Unfortunately, there is a dark side to the town as large crowds of local people welcomed Hitler and the Nazis on a square adjacent to the cathedral, all apparently happy to celebrate the Anschluß (the annexation of Austria to Germany in 1938).

Vienna

Our last port of call was Vienna. We previously visited Vienna on a city break some time ago and I remember being impressed by the number of Breughel paintings in the Kunsthistorisches Museum and also seeing the building, redesigned by one of my favourite artists Hundertwasser. We had a morning city walking tour to marvel at the Rococo architecture and St. Stephens Cathedral with its coloured tile mosaic roof, is a must see in Vienna. The grandeur of the Hapsburg Empire remains. We were fortunate to see the Spanish Riding School Lippizaner Horses on their way to their morning practice at the Old Hall. The Spanish Riding School in Vienna is the only institution in the world which has practiced for more than 450 years and continues to cultivate classical equitation in the Renaissance tradition of the Haute École. The horses almost dance.

On return to the ship, we had the afternoon free so I decided to visit the famous Ferris wheel at the Prater Leisure Park. The Weiner Riesenrad is a 64.75 metre (212 ft) tall Ferris wheel at the entrance of the park and is one of Vienna’s most popular tourist attractions. Constructed in 1897, it was the world’s tallest Ferris wheel from 1920 until 1985. The Wiener Riesenrad was designed by British engineers and constructed in 1897 by an English engineer. However, my interest in it lay in the fact it had been featured in the film, The Third Man where a haunting tune is played on the zither as Harry Lime meets an old friend in one of the cabins while the wheel is turning. The tune can be heard on various recordings on Youtube.  It is known as the Harry Lime Theme and was recorded in 1949.

The cruise was magical and maybe I will go back and finish the journey along the River Danube to the Black Sea someday.

Contact me at helenrose52@hotmail.com

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The Danube. Hungary and Slovakia. January 2019.

Helen Rose Outdoor Diary

River Cruise on the Danube

River cruising only gives the traveller a taster particularly of cities and time on shore is limited. However, it is very  enjoyable drifting along past settlements and watching people on the banks. The cruise was from Budapest, in the eastern part of the river, to Linz on the west near the German border.  Coming from the UK, which is of course an island, I am always surprised at the many countries in Europe with different languages and cultures sitting so close to each other. Travel between them, whether by boat or train, is very easy.

The source of the Danube is in the Black Forest in Germany and the river flows from there to the Black Sea.  It is 1,785 long miles and passes through ten countries. The river formed the border of the Roman Empire and has been steeped in history for over two thousand years.

Budapest

We flew from Edinburgh to Budapest and travelled on to the river boat on the Danube. We had immediate access to our cabin as the boat had not sailed the previous week due to low water levels. These levels had been a problem throughout the summer and autumn due to a drought and lack of water flowing into the river. It was the last cruise of the season and we were very lucky it went ahead – although there were some adjustments to the ports of call.

Buda and Pest were originally Celtic Settlements then Roman. The history is very colourful having been invaded by Mongols and an Ottoman stronghold. Budapest was formed in 1873 from the two cities on either side of the river. It has many palatial buildings and baroque churches and towering above everything is Buda Castle rebuilt in the 17th century. Hungarian is possibly the most complex European language and said to be very difficult to learn.

Buda-Cafe

Budapest has many hot thermal springs although we did not have time to partake of them. In 1849, the Chain Bridge was opened linking Buda and Pest and it is still the oldest permanent Bridge across the Danube. After a city tour we managed to spend time in the Great Market Hall where the street food such as Hungarian Goulash looked and smelled delicious. This is the land of paprika made from capsicum annuum peppers, which were on sale in the market. There is a thriving café culture and we visited a cafe in Buda with a 200 year old Cherrywood counter.

Esztergom

Esztergom-Basilica

About 40 miles west of Budapest lies Esztergom, which was the capital of Hungary until the mid-13th century when the royal seat of King Béla IV moved to Buda. It was the main residence of the rulers of Hungary until a thousand years ago. The ruined royal palace is overshadowed by the magnificent domed Cathedral. This Renaissance basilica was consecrated in 1856 and is over 320 feet high. I climbed to the top on the spiral staircase which afforded wonderful views over the old town to the River Danube and beyond. The basilica is the biggest building in Hungary and the country’s largest church with capacity for 8,000 worshippers. It houses the largest painting in the world on a single piece of canvas – the Assumption of the Virgin by the Venetian artist Grigoletti.

River-from-Esztergom

Hungarians or Magyars, as they call themselves, are not Slavic and their origins are believed to be from the Ural Mountains in present day Russia. After leaving Budapest we continued up river on our very comfortable cruise ship to Slovakia, a new country for me.

Bratislava

We stopped at Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia since it gained independence in 1993. In the past this was the capital of Hungary. The historic old town is a delight with a town hall dating back to the 14th century, the medieval St. Michael’s Gate, many Baroque Palaces and the narrowest house in Europe. It was rather wet the day of our walking tour so it was difficult to capture in photographs the picturesqueness of the town. The main square is Hlavné Námestie where you can find the Town Hall and the Maximilian Fountain, featuring a statue of Knight Roland from 1572. Roland was a popular and iconic figure in medieval Europe with its minstrel culture.

Blue-Church

At times it was like bing in a fairy-tale –Bratislava’s most appealing art nouveau building is St Elizabeth Church and I managed to visit it. St Elizabeth Church is completely blue with blue majolica tiles on the lower exterior and painted on the upper parts of the walls. It was closed but I peeked in through the metalwork and the interior was also blue.

The street sculptures in Bratislava were also very amusing –the one I particularly liked was of a man emerging from a man hole in the pavement!

This is only part one of the Danube Cruise and next month part two will be about Austria.

Contact me at helenrose52@hotmail.com

 

Danube, Austria. February 2019
The Steeple. Lochgoilhead. December 2018

The Steeple. Lochgoilhead. December 2018

Helen Rose. Outdoor Diary

Tempting Fate

My last visit to this area was seven years ago when I broke my leg in an accident coming down from a col on the other side of the village. I was concerned at returning to the same area to climb a hill with the same club and with the same people who helped me at that time. I did not need to worry as we had a lovely day out climbing a small mountain with magnificent views all round.

When we arrived in Lochgoilhead by a tortuous single track road for 15 miles, I looked over to the other side of the village and up to the hill by the waterfall where I had slipped in mud but here I am seven years later still walking up hills! It was a lovely sunny, bright day when we set out on the walk so the effort of climbing the hill would be rewarded with magnificent views.

Lochgoilhead

Lochgoilhead in Scottish Gaelic is Ceann Loch Goibhle and is a village on the Cowal peninsula in Argyll and Bute in the Southern Scottish Highlands. It is located within the Loch Lomond National Park and is widely considered to be one of the most beautiful areas in Argyll and in Scotland as a whole. The area has been inhabited for over 10,000 years, with the original name for the area being Kil nam brathairan. There are Neolithic remains in the area, including nearby cup marks and a well-preserved corn kiln. The area is associated with the history of Clan Campbell, who drove the Lamonts from the area in the fourteenth century.

Lochgoilhead used to be an important stop on the route between Glasgow and Inverary, as travellers would arrive by boat and continue by coach to St Catherine’s, where they would board a second boat to cross Loch Fyne. You can travel from Dunoon but it is also a single track road.

It is a lovely, sleepy, little village on the shores of the loch and surrounded by hills. We noticed a lot of fragments of mussel shells on the ground and Gerena told us they were caused by the birds dropping them on hard surfaces to crack them open to reach the mussels. Loch Goil is a sea loch. The area is ideal for adventure and we met a group of children who had been out on the loch kayaking and were about to go scrambling on the Steeple rocks and then abseiling.

The Steeple

From sea level to the summit of Steeple Hill is 1,236ft. This can be a bit of a scramble in places so it is not to be underestimated. We walked to the back of the village and took a well-defined path gradually climbing for less than an hour until we reached a scenic spot for morning refreshments. Kathleen had been busy in the kitchen and had lovely chocolate brownies to share with hot drinks from our flasks. This is what I love about walking groups, the camaraderie and being with likeminded people. We put the world to rights on our walks and support each other.

From the stop we continued on the path which was muddy due to recent heavy rainfall and stopped regularly to look around at the view as we did a circular route. There was some downhill before we approached to the final top of the hill which had a wall of rock on the front. We continued round to the shoulder to take an easier route to the summit where we were rewarded by views all around and to distant hills and lochs.

We descended by a slightly different route which eventually took us off the path and through tussocky grass. Care had to be taken as there could be holes in the ground with deeper mud. In winter, there are shorter daylight hours and we have to ensure we are back before darkness falls. The walk took over four hours including breaks and was very enjoyable.

On returning to Lochgoilhead, we went in to the Goil Inn for refreshments. The barmaid was extremely efficient and managed to pour pints of beer and make tea at the same time. I have praised her on Trip Advisor. Also, thanks to Gerena for organising the walk. Contact me at helenrose52@hotmail.com

The Danube. Hungary and Slovakia. January 2019.
Berwick on Tweed Again. November 2018.

Berwick on Tweed Again. November 2018.

Helen Rose Outdoors

Ramblers Weekend

I was last in Berwick on Tweed seven years ago but was limited in walking as it was not long after I had broken my leg. This autumn I went with the Glasgow Ramblers and we had a great weekend with good, sunny and dry weather. It was well organised by Bobby and Ian, who had taken the time to recce all of the walks. Berwick on Tweed is in Northumberland, north east England just over the border from Scotland. The town is surrounded by Elizabethan Walls.

Lowry Trail

We arrived on Friday afternoon and did part of the Lowry Trail. L. S. Lowry is mostly known for industrial paintings portraying  with matchstick people. He lived from 1887 – 1976 and painted mostly in Industrial Lancashire. However, he was very fond of Berwick and visited it from the mid-thirties until the summer before he died. He produced more than thirty drawings and paintings of the Berwick area. Copies of his work are displayed on easels at eighteen spots where they would have been painted in the town and surrounding areas. We visited a selection on the walk and it was interesting seeing the scenes he painted particularly the seascapes. On the paintings on land, he introduced his famous matchstick people. Incidentally, where we walked to the end of the pier to see a seascape, on an early morning walk one of our group saw a pod of dolphins playing in the water. They are regularly spotted there but alas none on our walk.

The Cheviot

The next day we set out to climb the Cheviot. It was a lovely sunny day but with a strong gusting wind. The Cheviot is the highest point in Northumberland at 2,676 feet (816 metres) and is only 2 kilometres from the Scottish border. It is the last major peak on the Pennine Way, if travelling from south to north. The Pennine way is 268 miles long starting at Edale in Derbyshire and ending in the north at Kirk Yetholm. The Cheviot walk started in the Harthope Valley and we walked along by the Harthope Burn. The path has become very eroded in parts due to landslides and we crossed the burn at least ten times. Burn crossing is not my strong point and I fell in once and had to walk the rest of the day with wet feet. I should have worn gaiters – I am always wise after the event!

We walked along the valley floor by the burn to almost the head of the valley and then climbed up the hill mostly on paths but steep in parts. The summit of the Cheviot is very flat. It is an ancient, extinct volcano and is covered with an extensive peat bog up to 2 metres deep. The Northumberland National Park authority have laid down stone slabs on the main access footpath to prevent erosion damage to the peat and to make the approach to the summit safer for walkers. We reached the summit but did not hang about in the strong wind. We descended by a different route to make it a circular walk.

St Abbs

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On the last day, we headed north in to Scotland just over the border to St. Abbs. St. AEbbe in the 7th century was an Anglian abbess and noblewoman. She was the daughter of AEthelfrith, the King of Bernicia and founded monasteries at Ebchester and St. Abbs. Northumbria was a kingdom of Angles in what is now northern England and south-east Scotland and was initially divided into two kingdoms: Bernicia and Deira. The two were first united by AEthefrith around the year 604. St. Abbs is a lovely little fishing village and we had a coffee there prior to the walk.

St. Abbs and Eyemouth Tragedy

On the morning of 14 October, 1881, the vast majority of the fishing boats on Scotland’s North Sea coast were tied up in port but skippers from Eyemouth, along with fishermen from other nearby ports including St Abbs, ignored the warnings and set out at dawn. By midday, they were in the teeth of a severe storm for which their wooden boats were no match. They fled for the shelter of the port but many never made it. Their vessels either overturned or were dashed on the Hurkar Rocks at the entrance to Eyemouth harbour. Hysterical women and children looked on helplessly as their menfolk were thrown overboard and swallowed up by the sea. To commemorate the tragedy, there is a small bronze sculpture in St. Abbs of the women and children looking forlornly out to sea.

St. Abbs Head

St Abbs is on the coastal path that runs from Berwick on Tweed north to Cockburnspath and is 48 kilometres long with dramatic clifftop scenery. We climbed up from St. Abbs on to the dramatic cliff tops looking out to sea on this circular walk. We looked for dolphins and sea birds but only saw some eider ducks bobbing up and down in the choppy water. Although it was sunny, it was still windy. We walked along the contours of the cliff tops and admired the rock formations. At the lighthouse on St. Abbs Head, we had a break in the sunshine before walking down and around the Mire Loch, through the forest and back to our starting point.

A great weekend and special thanks to Bobby and Ian for arranging it. Contact me at helenrose52@hotmail.com

The Steeple. Lochgoilhead. December 2018
Stormy Dundee. V&A Museum. October 2018.

Stormy Dundee. V&A Museum. October 2018.

Helen Rose Outdoors Diary 

Dundee .

I had a family visiting and we decided to go to Dundee and see the new Victoria and Albert Museum and possibly the Discovery ship. The day was particularly stormy but we made it to Dundee in gale force winds and rain. Dundee is a coastal city on the Firth of Tay estuary in eastern Scotland and is the fourth largest city in Scotland. Rapid expansion was brought on by the Industrial Revolution, particularly in the 19th century when Dundee was the centre of the global jute industry. This, along with its other major industries gave Dundee its epithet as the city of “jute, jam and journalism”. The discovery that the dry fibres of jute could be lubricated with whale oil to allow it to be processed in mechanised mills resulted in the Dundee mills rapidly converting from linen to jute. Among the smaller industries, the most notable was James Keiller’s and Sons (established in 1795), which pioneered commercial marmalade production. The publishing firm D.C. Thomson was founded in the city in 1905 and produced among other publications, comics such as the Beano. Dundee was said to be built on the ‘three Js’: Jute, Jam and Journalism. I do like alliterations!

Dundee’s regenerated waterfront has two nautical museums: ‘RRS Discovery’, Captain Scott’s Antarctic expedition ship, and the 19th-century warship, ‘HM Frigate Unicorn’. There is the excellent Verdant Works museum celebrating the city’s jute-manufacturing heritage and the McManus Art Gallery & Museum displaying art and archaeological finds.

V&A Museum

The V&A in London is the world’s leading museum of art and design, housing a permanent collection of over 2.3 million objects that span over 5,000 years of human creativity. The Museum holds many of the UK’s national collections and houses some of the greatest resources for the study of architecture, furniture, fashion, textiles, photography, sculpture, painting, jewellery, glass, ceramics, book arts, Asian art and design, theatre and performance. It is my favourite museum in London. They decided to open a new V&A museum in Dundee as Scotland’s first Design Museum and it opened in September 2018 following ten years of planning and building. Following an international architect’s competition, it was designed by a Japanese Architect Kengo Kuma.

While I am fine with the concept of building to look like a boat on the water, I have some serious concerns on the design and location. The great bulk of the building over shadows the RRS Discovery moored nearby on the river. The entrance to the building is small and there is a wind tunnel effect. On the day of our visit, it was stormy and a visitor was blown over in the wind and had to be taken to hospital by ambulance. The main door was closed and we had to exit by the staff entrance. There are obviously some design faults that need to be resolved but it is early days.

The outside looks like shelving of granite but can be grey looking on a dull day. By contrast, the inside is light and airy with plywood shelving floor to ceiling although the entrance is not welcoming with the reception desk around a corner. On the plus side, visitors can take in their own picnic although the café food did look good. The galleries are on the first floor and the Scottish Design Gallery included a dress which I found impressive as two figures were depicted in the design.

Charles Rennie Mackintosh

Within the Scottish Design Gallery, the jewel in the crown is Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s Oak Room, the painstakingly reconstructed interior of part of Miss Cranston’s Ingram Street, Glasgow, Tea Rooms which has been unseen for 50 years. It is a very dark interior and I nearly walked in to a wall! Charles Rennie Mackintosh (1868-1928) was a Scottish artist, architect, and interior/furniture/textile designer who had a professional influence on the development of the modern movement. He worked to create totally integrated art and architecture including the recently restored Willow tearoom in Glasgow.

Discovery

Discovery Point is home to RRS Discovery, made in Dundee and designed for adventure. The Discovery was the last traditional wooden three masted ship to be built in Britain. Designed for Antarctic research, it was launched as a Royal Research Ship (RRS) in 1901. Its first mission was the British National Antarctic Expedition, carrying Scott and Shackleton on their first, successful journey to the Antarctic, known as the Discovery Expedition. Unfortunately, due to the inclement weather it was closed to visitors.

Storm Ali

It was unfortunate that Storm Ali hit Scotland on the day we travelled to Dundee which was an experience in the winds gusting up to 100 miles an hour in some places. In some ways it enhanced the visit to the V&A museum as waves on the River Tay lashed the outside of the building. On the plus side, on returning to Glasgow the lawn was a sea of apples blown off the apple tree by the winds!

Contact me at helenrose52@hotmail.com

Berwick on Tweed Again. November 2018.
Algarve. September 2018

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