Scotland – Day one

I had occasion to spend a weekend in Scotland which was awesome as they have the laws up there to support wild camping. Check out the Scottish Outdoor Access information.

Id flown into Edinburgh before but this was my first time driving on my own. I had about 48 hours to get stuck in.

The first night my intention was to get to the Galloway forest park due to the amazing starlight photography Id seen. Its an area known for its low light pollution levels. Unfortunately it was cloudy when I was there so I didn’t get to see much of the night sky.

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I saw quite a lot of campers as I traversed the roads through the park. Family’s in tents and individuals. It was quite busy actually. There was also a lot  of traffic and the issue became finding a spot out of the way that would be safe for me to park and pitch.

Safety was a concern because the open access rules means everyone knows you will be camping here. Its not some inaccessible highland, its a big park with roads running through it where people drive to spots and then camp nearby. I stopped my car at one spot and went down the hill 10 yards to check out the area and a guy drove past, stopped, reversed and got out of his car. I was already walking back to the car as he was looking through the window to see if there was anything worth nicking. I coughed loudly enough to let him know I was there – he didn’t look at me or say anything he just immediately returned to his vehicle and we both drove away in opposite directions at the same time.

In the end I followed a logging road up to the summit of a hill where a lot of logs had been stock piled. It was the end of the road and also an ugly industrial scene. So I went back down the road a while till I came to a nice scenic spot with a place to pull in and park the car. I figured it would be a safe spot as if there was nowhere to go via the road then surely there would be less traffic? This proved to be untrue 😉

It was a lovely spot with a treeline on the edge of a lake.

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There was an existing fire pit so I had no qualms about starting my own fire.

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There was a couple of nice trees right next to the shore that were perfect for my hammock;

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And there was a great view from the hammock too

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I was lucky with the weather. There was no rain and the clouds cleared up in the early evening – it was warm and sunny. This I had not expected for Scotland! I got a bit of a tan…

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As a consequence I didn’t set up the Basha, besides I wanted to see the stars at night. I had my 3 season bag and British Army Goretex bivvy bag with me if it got wet. I used the Vango Aero Standard self inflating mat to insulate the underside of the hammock.

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As the sun got longer and the fire got bigger the scene and colours changed constantly. It was very beautiful. There were no bugs out – or if there were the fire kept them at bay

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At one point a convoy of cars pulled up and stopped. They all got out and looked at me as they discussed matters between themselves. As far as I could make out it was the lad’s birthday and the family and friends had come out to camp and have a party. He seemed dismayed as it sounded like he’d been to all his usual spots and this was the last one he knew of that might be available (like I said it was busy!) I felt so guilty I was about to pack and leave when they all just drove off… so I stayed.

I continued to enjoy the colours as I got dinner underway.

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Using the BCB cook kit as intended – boil in the bag food then use the water for a brew. No mess, no cleaning. Dispose of the waste on the fire;

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As the evening wore on the brew made way for the sour mash 🙂 (nb the cans in the picture where not mine and I made an effort to tidy up when I left).

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Time to get the head torch ready before dark

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As per Lofty Wiseman in the SAS survival hand book I always put my batteries in with one turned the wrong way to break the circuit. This stops the torch from accidentally being turned on in your bag and draining the power source;

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As the night drew in I decided it was time to attend to another important function of the camp

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By which I mean the Latrine! I have a tiny fold up trowel I use to dig a hole that can be filled in afterwards. Its better to dig the hole before you need it I’ve found 🙂 Place the hole near a tree so you can hold onto the tree as you squat over the hole (and thereby miss the clothing around your ankles!). Its a fact of life and in the middle of no where the facts of life require more thought than at home. Certainly only a heathen would do their business in such a way that others might have to deal with it in future. The trowel was next to useless. One of these days I’m going to get an entrenching tool! Digging sticks are a waste of time. Also there were millions of spiders in the grass. They had massive white bodies and even as you walked hundreds of them would run out from under your foot fall. I wouldn’t want to ground dwell here.

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It was getting dark and the whisky was gone…. so I had to use my hip flask 🙂

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It was about this time that I heard a load of screaming and tires tearing up the road. It sounded like a big gang of people making a right noise… and they were heading right for me! It occurred to me that sitting at the end of a single lane – dead end road hadn’t been the best idea as I now had no where to run to!

It took about 30 seconds for me to untie the hammock and get my kit in the boot of the car and I hovered with keys in hand listening to work out what to do.

After a while I realised they had stopped some way down the road and seemed content to make their noise down there. I decided they were just out for a good time and I should stop worrying about it. Besides drinking and driving is not a good thing – which is something to consider when wild camping – once you open the bottle you are pretty much commuted to whatever happens.

So I set the camp up again and got into bed. I stayed awake as long as I could watching the sky to see the stars but I couldn’t see much due to the cloud cover. Oh how I long for a night time camera setup…

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I woke up once about 5 as the mat had moved beneath me and I was cold. If you read my post about underblankets you’ll understand that this is something to be aware of with hammocks. I took some snaps of the early morning sky and then fell asleep again

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It was a very warm night and maybe it was the highland air – or the vast quantities of JD! but I didnt wake till 1400hrs!!!!!! Ive never slept that well camping before.

This  wasn’t a great thing as I was actually awoken by dog walkers. Seems my off the beaten track spot was actually a very popular walking spot. It made me wonder how many people had walked past me as I snored and how lucky I was none of them had nicked my kit or car or had a go at me. Lucky they weren’t all like the guy who checked out my car the previous evening. lucky will only get you so far though…

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It was a balmy afternoon though – very warm and peaceful

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It was time for the (ahem) “morning” brew. No point building the fire so I deployed the bushbox folding stove. Its a great little stove that you can use with hexi tabs/gel or a trangia burner. Or , as in this case, as a stick stove by making a small fire with twigs and some cotton wool in petroleum jelly to catch a spark and get it going.

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When its new I found it hard to assemble and dissemblance because the way it was machined meant it seemed to get jammed on the joints. But once you get it right and use it once its easy to put together right because the sides of the panels that face  the fire become blackened. The only downside is when you’ve finished you wont be able to touch it to pack away for a long time as it retains heat for ages.

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I spent some time taking in the scenery and then broke camp (and filled in the latrine!) I picked up all the rubbish left by previous people (adhering to the open access rules!) and left. But its not hard to pack when your car is 100yds away 🙂

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There was an enormous bug on my car as I left

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On the way out I followed the road to Culzean castle (which I’ve been pronouncing wrong apparently)

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It was excellent – I was so lucky with the weather, west coast of Scotland and I felt like I was in St Ives!

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It was a great place to chill and try and work out where to sleep on night two.

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