Archive for April, 2010

Carron Valley – Trail centre

So the trails at Carron Valley have had a make over. Me Spad and Chae had gone up in the winter and battled around in about a foot of snow, so we didn’t get much of a feel for them apart from sliding around on our backsides. However me and Spad headed out yesterday morning and were pleasantly surprised with the work that’s been done. The main climb up remains the same although it’s a bit more worn in and chattery than it used to be and in my opinion all the better for it. Surely nobody goes mountain biking to experience smooth, clinically man made, easy trails do they? This part of the trail feels more natural than it did before, much impart to the hard winter I expect. The first highlight of the re-vamp is the descent of Eas Dubh. The trail has been built up with new berms which are fast and flowing; they lead you into a series of ever increasing rock drops the last one being about 1ft high. This last drop spits you onto the Kelpie staircase which is a pretty steep rock ladder. This has been resurfaced so is no where near as rough as it used to be. However with traffic and erosion it will soon roughen up again. This section is excellent now. It flows together as a whole and when attacked with some speed you literally skim the rock on Kelpies drop. The rest of this section is unchanged apart form the extra speed you carry through from the first section and it has roughened up somewhat too. The loose gravelly, shale is good for mastering on the edge grip and although the switch backs don’t flow very well, they are certainly good for sharpening slow speed cornering skills. The rest of the main trail is mainly unchanged apart from the ever present forces of erosion which have made everything more challenging and better fun. The runway, freeride area has had some excellent tweaks. Every jump has two of three different lines ranging from rolling to ft drops. Non of the drop offs are huge but big enough to get a wee shot of adrenalin on the go. There are some great wee kickers, doubles and tabletops. This part of the trail really is extremely well built, the flow is impeccable and the speed at which it can be ridden is eye watering. The whole run is short but it’s good fun to do lap after lap as each lap you do builds your speed, confidence and ability. Despite all the negative chatter on the forums about the re-vamp I have to say I think the trail builders and the community (that help run the complex) have done a excellent job. Highly recommended.

Here’s the trail map.

Milngavie – Dumgoyne MTB Video

Well myself and JD have done this bike loop a fair few times now. I start from close to the Clyde Tunnel and cycle up to Milngavie to meet Somhairle, then we go up through the many possible routes of Mugdock park. Exit the park at the north west side and head up forest track towards the fast downhill and Dumgoyne distillery. Then back along the otherside of main road back through strathblane to Mugdock park again. You can usually do it in about 3 hours (thats including the sly pint and a peperami in Strathblane), although on this occasion it took almost twice that time due to stopping and planting video cameras everywhere. Anyway its a route with many possibilities so its usually different every time… well worth a try.

Still Wintry in the Mountains

While for most the Winter might be considered forgotten, high up in the corries the winter climbing continues. Being north facing and the highest of Scottish mountains, Ben Nevis is famous for late season action where climbing continues into May most years. Having not managed a climb on the Ben this season, Mini and myself were pretty keen to get out and so with a warmish forecast we left Glasgow at 2am to beat the thaw.  The conditions looked rubbish on the drive up, the climb up Green Gully was good, and at half 11 it was fantastic on the summit.

On the BBC

Simone one of the High-8 members has stuck an article up on the Beeb website about her first Bothy trip.

Milngavie – Dumgoyne loop.

Me and Spad have been out on the Milngavie – Dumgoyne route a few times since the weather got better. In an effort to get the miles in for the few races we’re going to do this year, we’ve found some great wee technical bits in the woods to break up the pedalling. Some of the small tracks that splinter of the main route (west highland way) are brilliant, difficult and very natural. On these splinter routes the going is technical both and down which certainly keeps you on the edge of your ability, it’s great when you clear something you floundered on before. There is one super fast downhill to Glengoyne distillery, which has some great rough sections and compressions where you really feel the effects of g-force. The route back from dumgoyne to strathblane is a bit of a pain, as it’s full of gates. Once in Strathblane there is an obligatory stop at the Beer garden – we saw a ufo pass over twice when we were there this week. Then there is a pretty long climb out the back of the village up the Cuilt Braes and the you turn left into the woods at the top, this part is a bit of a grind but good for the form and in the daylight it’s got pretty cool views to the west. Then it’s back into Mugdock for loads of rad wee bits of singletrack. There are a million different ways you can go here and most of them are pretty good although one of the best downhills has been bike proofed with strategically placed kerbs. Hmmph! The descent we like the best is at the south end of Mugdock Loch just past the buildings down the side of the wee burn. It’s a real highlight with steps, bridges and jumps. Mugdock is great for just skittering about. None of the trails are very long but some are great craic. We took the video cameras out with us last time so a video is to follow, above are video stills from my GoPro.


Ever since I was wee boy I wanted to go to Tiree.  You could say that all the Scottish Islands have a unique character of their own, but Tiree somehow sits apart from the rest; it gets an usually high level of sunshine for Scotland, is fed warmer water by the Gulf stream and, because it’s low lying, the wind sweeps over it unhindered from the Atlantic.  This and an ambundance of fantastic beaches all the way round the island makes it a fantastic place for surfing and windsurfing, attracting a maverick surf crowd and giving it a kind of Hawaiian-esque atmosphere to the place.  It regularly hosts the Tiree Wave Classic and was the venue for the World Cup Finals 2007.  The island’s hostel must be a great place to be in high season.

There’s more to it than just surfing though.  A highlight for me was running out to Hynish, where you can see out to the famous Skerryvore lighthouse, built around 1830 by Alan Stevenson, one of a prolific family and father of Robert Louis Stevenson of Treasure Island and Dr Jekyl and Mr. Hyde.  The lighthouse was an ambitious project at the time, the tallest lighthouse in the country, it remains impressively perched on a rock 10.5 nautical miles out to Sea.  We couldn’t get someone to take us out, that’s for next time.

Over the Campsie

So I’ve been cramming myself into the spandex and hitting the road in the hope of clawing back a decent level of fitness. I had planned to head out over the Campsies for ages, I have driven over the road quite a bit heading to the Carron Valley for mountain biking and had always thought the road would be great on the road bike. I was not disappointed, the climb was fantastic with a slight tail wind. The intial 1/4 mile is pretty steep but it soon levels out as it traverses the southern slopes, the surface is good and the climbing is steady and easier than it appears from the valley. After the viewpoint the road steepens a little with the surface becoming a little more pitted as the road winds up above the burn. It’s at this point that you feel like you have managed to escape civilisation, once the climb tops at 333m there is a bit of meandering across the tops, it is peaceful and has a wild feeling despite the usual evidence of human ignorance in the form of plastic and wrappers strewn along the roadside. The descent starts gradually but speed soon reaches high levels, the road surface near the top is excellent and there are some great sweeping corners, even a wee chicane over a narrow bridge. Once you hit the northern slope the road surface deteriorates pretty quickly, so a sharp eye has to be kept out for pot holes and ruts as speeds reach well over 30 mph. The sharp corners have plenty of warning and you can really rail them if you ride in the middle of the lane, you’ll be going so fast nobody will over take you any way. The normal cycling space is full of subsided edges, pot holes and cracks so offensive road positioning is a must if you’re going to attack it at speed. The bottom of the descent is a joy; rough, unpredictable and full of tight and steep corners, even a couple of hairpins. You are spat out on the flats on the way to Fintry and you can dig into a big gear and crank out 30+mph, TT style. Usually I would just carry on along this road but it was closed beyond Fintry for resurfacing. So I had to take a sizeable diversion round to Balfron, which seemed annoying at the time but turned out to be pretty good fun. Hairing along the singletrack roads that link all the farms together was classic. Almost a bit of cyclo cross the state the road was in, having to hop great holes and skittering round the corners on swathes of gravel. A big slice of millionaires shortbread in Balfron gave me the boot up the crotch I needed to get home and I despatched the main road home with heavy legs, and aching shoulders. The back roads had been fun but had taken a toll physically.

Once you’ve been out on a trip like this you realise we’re pretty lucky in the Weeg. It is possible to escape the city with ease, although it’s tentacles stretch out socially, nature claims the land back pretty readily. The hills around are superb; mini alps and despite a few heed the baws on the road you can escape to beautiful, challenging places with a little effort. Here’s the map of the route if you fancy the challenge? It’s a great ride…

World Class

Being Scottish it’s easy to get the impression that Scotland is the small country that’s always lagging behind everyone else.  Well, if your thinking about football, or most of the TV sports you’d be right, but take the time to scratch through the façade, and a different picture emerges.  The hills, glens and waters of Scotland play host to some truly world class experiences with recent years seeing outdoor sports rise to new levels of popularity.  Ironically while a majority sit glued to TV screens watching Scotland getting gubbed at the football, in the mountains many of the hardest mixed climbs in the world are being put up.  Indeed, there are many fields in which Scotland makes original contributions on the world stage, be it in Sea Kayaking or Mountain Biking.  The wonderful thing, is that the landscape which provides a great amphitheatre to these great challenges and achievements, is accessible to all, and in fact the very best experiences often aren’t the most technically difficult.  The more I experience the classic days out the more I realise how lucky we are.  What has again reminded me of this, is a recent Sea Kayaking trip round the Oa Penninsula of Islay, a day long expedition lead by Douglas Wilcox, who is currently putting together book of Sea Kayaking trips off the west coast of Scotland which be be published in the forthcoming year.

Season sketches

As my enthusiasm for the cycling season grows I have found myself sketching bikes and riders like an obsessed adolescent. These are the results, hope you like?


Lobster Bothy (but no lobsters)

Ahead of the bothying season we made it out for a warm up:

About High-8

High-8 is a loose gathering of like minded adventurists who document first person, on the ground experiences with words, photos and film. The hope is to form a rough guide to outdoor adventure sports in Scotland and provide a warts and all, honest representation of what we find. No sport is excluded from mountaineering and mountain biking to gorge walking and kayak all are welcome and encouraged.


If you want to share some of your adventures just drop as an email and we'll register you on to the system.


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We have compiled a list of usefull weather forecasts to help with planning trips. This list is designed to work on mobile phones, so it can be used when out in the wilds. Signal willing of course...

The Code

The Country Code, which most of us learned in school (and we probably haven't read since!), was updated in 2004 when it became the Countryside Code. Here's the updated version:
  • Be safe - plan ahead and follow any signs
  • Leave gates and property as you find them
  • Protect plants and animals, and take your litter home
  • Keep dogs under close control
  • Consider other people
In Scotland, where there is a more general right of access, there also exists the Scottish Outdoor Access Code:
  • Take responsibility for your own actions
  • Respect people’s privacy and peace of mind
  • Help farmers, landowners and others to work safely and effectively
  • Care for the environment
  • Keep your dog under proper control
  • Take extra care if you are organising a group, an event or running a business.
There's obviously a lot to to be learned from these - it's amazing how many people get out to enjoy the countryside but are still happy to leave it in a mess. Even with the recent updates, the Countryside Codes seem slightly outdated when considering the wider issues involved when lots of people get out into the countryside. Some places just can't handle high volumes of people, no matter how they behave and publicity, no matter how interesting or well-done , has the potential to attract lots of people to an area. Blogs including video, pictures or words, form part the the wider media which could easily contribute to tipping the balance, and so we as bloggers have to consider the implications of what we decide to post. Can the place we're writing about take more people, and if not, it might be wiser to leave maps, place names or grid references out of posts. In Scotland, the Mountain Bothies Association has been careful to protect the location of some Bothies due to mis-treatment and, in some cases, even malicious vandalism. That is not to say they would not advocate people using them - in fact, a well used, maintained and loved network of bothies exist, and the MBA as an organisation is there to encourage this. Some bothies are busier than others but generally it is the less remote places which are more susceptible to abuse - something which might be worth considering when deciding whether to post information. It must be said, in most cases it's obvious what should or shouldn't be publisiced, but it's worth taking these considerations to mind.

Please note: The Code is constantly being revised and added to. If you like to add something login in to the discussion on the forum.