Mormond Hill

Mormond Hill (Scottish Gaelic A’ Mhormhonadh, meaning the great hill or moor) has been on the to-do list for a number of years now. The distinctive white horse, made from white quartz placed on the side of the hill, and the numerous disused satellite dishes and masts on the hill, remnants from Cold War NATO communications, have long attracted my attention but, for some reason, we have just never gotten around to walking the route. Until, that is, today!

Looking out the window just before 6am, the weather looked favourable for an ascent of the hill and Leanne, Harris and myself got ourselves ready to make the most of the final day of the weekend.

We were only slightly deterred by the unexpected rain en route, but thankfully it did not come to much. The skies may look fairly ominous in the photos and we could see rain showers off in the distance but we thankfully avoided anything more than very light drizzle. The sun even came out for us, typically, as we were about to finish our walk!

Parking at the top of Hospital Brae in Strichen, we utilized the instructions available online from This got us as far as the White Horse and the Hunter’s Lodge at the top of Waughton Hill and we then headed over to Mormond Hill, where the various antennae and communications satellites are located. Unfortunately, these could only be viewed in the distance thanks to a fence and padlocked gate but, regardless, it made for a very enjoyable walk.

I will admit to being slightly concerned at the presence of cows and, in particular, at the signs warning of the free roaming bull but, other than one particularly inquisitive cow, they left us to our own devices and there was no sign of the bull.

Thankfully the many sheep on the hill were much quicker in clearing a path for us. Harris certainly appeared to enjoy seeing the sheep, cows and rabbits, before falling asleep en route to the second peak.

The white horse, which I am sure used to look whiter than it does today, is definitely better admired from afar. Up close, it’s little more than a lot of strategically placed rocks and it’s difficult to appreciate the overall picture.

Finishing our walk late morning, we stopped off at The Lodge in Strichen, enjoying a rather fine lunch. Leanne thoroughly enjoyed the fish and chips, I had a lovely fish platter, and Harris fairly enjoyed his kids meal that consisted of a number of elements including sausage, fruit, and a yoghurt. Well worth a visit at the end of any ascent of Mormond Hill.

Note: If only I had read the content of ‘Mormond Hill (inc. Waughton Hill)’ online at Walk Highlands beforehand, I would have known to persevere at the top of Mormond Hill for a better look at the antennae and communications satellites!

Daily Record – Ultra Runner Sets Astonishing Record For Gruelling 90-Mile Race Along West Highland Way

Paul Giblin’s recent West Highland Way Race 2014 victory and new course record is nothing short of amazing and it’s good to see both the event and Paul’s achievement get some mainstream recognition, in the Daily Record (29th June 2014).

What’s more, it’s a really good, descriptive article that charts not only Paul’s achievement but, also, mentions the various sections of the West Highland Way Race and gives an idea of just how much of an undertaking it is to participate in the event.

“A RUNNER has smashed the record for racing Scotland’s most famous long-distance path, the West Highland Way. Paul Giblin finished the gruelling 95-mile trail race in just 14 hours, 20 minutes and 11 seconds. He took an amazing 47 minutes off his previous best time when he also won the West Highland Way Race last year. Paul, 36, from Paisley, said: ‘I still can’t believe it. It hasn’t really sunk in yet. But I am really pleased with the result.'”

Note: Paul Giblin’s achievement has also been picked up on by Runner’s World:

Rothiemurchus Holiday, June 2014

We’ve been back from our Rothiemurchus holiday a few weeks and are already eagerly anticipating our next stay there at the beginning of August but here, finally, are some of the highlights of our week away.

We added a couple of days on to the beginning of the holiday with a stopover in Elgin, making the most of the sunny weather at the lovely Silver Sands Beach in Lossiemouth, before travelling through to Inverness and on to Urquhart Castle, Harris’s first visit to Loch Ness and the Castle.

From there, we headed on to Aviemore and on to our final destination in Rothiemurchus, where we met up with Leanne’s family.

Location wise, this has to be one of my favourites. Staying in the Spey Lodge, just off the B970 Aviemore to Insh road, our ‘back garden’ led straight on to some awesome forest trails – rocky and rooty, just the way I like it!

We soon had a swing and slackline set up in the ‘garden’, making the most of these throughout our stay. Harris in particular spent a lot of time on his woodland swing.

The main seating and dining area of the Spey Lodge, located in an almost circular element of the building, looked out over the forest, challenging the enormous projector/tv for attention of an evening. It’s certainly one of the best views I’ve had from accommodation before.

Approx 1/2 mile of trail took us out onto the main Rothiemurchus to Milton Cottage route, opening up a number of different walk/run options. Taking a right immediately took us out at Lochan Mor, also known as ‘the Lily Loch’, and a further 1/2 mile walk/run led to Milton Cottage, itself approx 1/2 mile from the entrance to Loch an Eilein. As you can imagine, Loch an Eilein became our ‘local’, hosting a number of runs and walks.

I’ve often wondered where some of the small trails that lead off from the main Loch an Eilein circular lead to and took the opportunity to explore, ending up off in the hills above the loch. On our final day, we walked to Loch an Eilein and followed the unmaintained path around Loch Gamhna. It’s arguably got a better view than Loch an Eilein and the path is mostly ok. It’s a shame that it isn’t maintained, to avoid those few occasions where you do find yourself ankle deep in mud lol!

By the end of the week, I had taken a number of new trails that, in turn, led on to old favourites, adding to my local trail knowledge and coming together nicely to form longer walk/run options.

We also did a number of our regular walks, including The Green Loch, Lochan Uaine, which we extended to include a visit to the Ryvoan Bothy, our regular circuit of Loch an Eilein, and Farleitter Crag and Uath Lochans.

For all the years we have been coming to the Cairngorms, I can’t recall having seen so much pollen pooled loch side before, adding a colourful yellow element to the photographs.

Having long admired the Duke of Gordon’s Monument (erected in 1840 in memory of the 5th Duke of Gordon), we finally ascended Torr Alvie, passing the amazing Waterloo Cairn en route. Definitely a walk we will be doing again and well worth it for a stunning view of the Cairngorms.

I’ve seen us spending 14 days in the Cairngorms and get 13 days of torrential rain so we were really lucky to have decent weather, occasionally very hot, with very little rain. Our final day saw us blessed with temperatures in the 20s, leading to a busy Loch Morlich that started to resemble the Mediterranean as people flocked to the ‘beach’!

Finally, if you are a fan of real ales, the Cairngorm Brewery, located in the Dalfaber Industrial Estate, is well worth a visit, to sample the lovely ales, to purchase supplies of your favourites, and to take the tour (2.30pm daily – book before going).

Counting down the days until our next visit – only 6 weeks to go :o)

West Highland Way Race 2014

95 miles in under 35 hours with 14,760ft of ascent. It’s that time again, the weekend of the West Highland Way Race. Registration will just be starting in Milngavie in preparation for the 1.00 am start on Saturday morning.

Thinking back to my own West Highland Way Race, in 2012, I wasn’t too nervous at this point. I was all too aware that I was about to step (run) into the unknown, covering some 40 approx. more miles than I had in any race up to that point. Up until June 2012, my longest race had been The Cateran, at 55 miles.

I think, more than anything, there was a sense of relief, firstly, that I had shaken off the Achilles injury picked up only 6 miles into The Cateran less than a month before the WHW Race (I still finished – not finishing my final ‘warm up’ race before WHW Race would have been too big a psychological blow) , and, secondly, that things were, after so much anticipation and build up, finally about to start.

My West Highland Way Race journey started many many months before, from the day I entered the ballot back in November 2011, through to the email just before Christmas telling me I had a place, through the many months of training and racing that led me to the start line of the race in June 2012.

Little did I know just how much of a battle I would face to finish the race. That’s all well documented (links below) though I will caution that it makes for fairly gruesome reading.

Suffice to say, that weekend was one that I will never forget, the weekend when I not only joined the West Highland Way Race ‘Family’, but did so in the face of such adversity – Most definitely a defining weekend in my life.

Hopefully, everyone running the race this weekend will have a considerably smoother journey. The weather conditions appear to be more favourable than those encountered in 2012 but then the weather is just one element of the overall experience.

All the very best to everyone running and, especially, to my good friend Ian Minty, who supported me on my own journey in 2012.

Had it not been for the presence and support of Ian, I very much doubt that I would have continued past the 50 mile point of my journey, when, beset with projectile vomiting and explosive diarrhoea, I hit an all time low.

I did aim to return for a second goblet in 2013 but parenthood got in the way and continues to prevent me from training at the level required. However, I wouldn’t change that for the world and, hopefully, I will be back for goblet number 2 in the not too distant future, hopefully with my young son Harris playing some part in my support team :o)

West Highland Way Race 2014 Links

West Highland Way Race 2012 – My Journey