On the cliffs at Mangerstra

The weather on the Wednesday of my Hebrides trip wanted to remind us that we were in the Western Isles! We woke to grey skies and as we drove over the peat moorland that covers the interior of Lewis we were battered by the rain. We were heading for Uig, the largest and most sparsely populated district of the Isle of Lewis (not the port on Skye where we’d boarded the ferry the previous day) for a walk along the cliffs near the small village of Mangerstra.

We parked up near the small Abhainn Dearg (Red River) Distillery. Established in 2008 it was the first legal whisky distillery in the Outer Hebrides in almost two hundred years.

We didn’t have time to visit, but booted up, donned our waterproofs and set off up the road

After a couple of kilometres we left the tarmac and headed down a track that took us towards the Mangerstra and the cliffs beyond.

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After a short climb we were up on top of the cliffs. The rain had eased off as we walked close tot he edge taking in some pretty spectacular views

The geology was dominated by Lewisian Gneiss, one of the Earth’s oldest rocks

After a while one of the party spotted a curious little structure close to the edge of the cliffs.

We climber down and had a look inside.

The bothy was constructed by John and Lorna Norgrove, of the Linda Norgrove Foundation which was established in October 2010 in memory of their daughter Linda, an aid worker who was killed during an abortive rescue attempt after she was kidnapped in Afghanistan.

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The view from the window of the bothy.

The bothy is an original memorial to Linda in a very spectacular location and can accommodate up to 3 people overnight. For us it was a welcome shelter as a rain shower swept in.

As the rain eased off we carried on along the cliffs for a while before stopping for our sandwiches, sheltering behind rocks as another heavy shower swept in.

As we were eating some of us spotted something in the sky – a large bird with wings that resembled barn doors. It was a Sea Eagle (also known as a White Tailed Eagle). We watched it as it swooped across the sky before disappearing further along the coast.

After walking a little further along the coast we cut in land across the peat moor, joining the track that took us towards the village of Mangeresta

Looks like one of the locals has had a little mishap!

an original design for a water pipe from a spring in the hillside

We passed through the village and carried on along the narrow road heading back towards where we’d parked up. The party started to split up and I found myself at he back with Ria, the Dutch member of our party, as we were taking in the views. Suddenly we spotted a shape in sky the distance. A Sea eagle, perhaps the same one we’d seen before. We stopped to watch and Ria produced a pair of binoculars from her pack. After a while a second one appeared! We stopped for a while to watch them swooping through the sky close to the coast. The rest of the group, further along the road, missed out.

Carrying on the cloud appeared to be starting to clear and the Uig hills, which had previously been largely hidden by the low cloud, became visible.

After a while we descended back down the hill towards the minibus, taking in the views of the white sands of Uig beach.

We dumped our packs in the back of the minibus and John our guide suggested we might want to walk over the beach while he drove the minibus further along the coast where he would meet us.

It’s another spectacular beach with a vast expanse of golden sand. It has a particular claim to fame as it was here that the Lewis Chessmen were discovered in 1831 by Malcolm MacLeod, a local crofter. The 78 intricate individual pieces made from walrus ivory and whale teeth had probably been carved in Trondheim in Norway during the 12th century. Nobody knows why they ended up here.

Malcolm’s family were soon “cleared” from their homes and he ended up selling the chessmen for £30 – a lot of money for him but a paltry sum for such exquisite objects. The majority ended up in London in the British Museum, with a small number in Edinburgh. A small number have been loaned to the museum in Stornoway, and we were able to see them later in the week.

Unfortunately we didn’t find any pieces as we walked across the beach. A pity as the last time one was sold after it was discovered in a drawer in Edinburgh, it went for  £795,000. A bit more than Malcolm received.

The tide was out so there was a vast expanse of sand to cross. I was interested in the rock formations. The geology of Lewis is dominated by Gneiss, one of the oldest rocks on the Earth, formed up to 3 billion years ago.

John made it easy to find him!

We returned to the minibus and drove back over to Stornoway where there was time to shower and take a short rest before heading out for a very decent curry at a local hostelry.

Sunset on the cliffs at Whitburn

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Last week I was up in the North East with work. An intersting project for my second, part time academic job! I used this as an opportunity to visit some of my relatives up there and they were kind enough to put me up (and put up with me 😉) for a couple of days. I drove up on the Monday planning to arrive before sunset. As it happend I got there quicker than expected so decided to stretch my legs and get some fresh air after a long drive.

I parked up near Souter lighthouse and strolled along the cliffs. During the walk the sun began to set and I was treated to a glorious sky lit up red and gold, reflected in the sea. My photos, snapped on my phone, don’t really do justice to what I saw.

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A walk along the cliffs

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The forecast for Tuesday predicted that after a reasonable start it would be a wet and windy afternoon. I was up early (as usual!) and decided to get out for a bracing walk along the cliffs to the south of Whitby before the weather changed. I managed to persuade my son to acompany me, be he soon lost his enthusiasm and turned back half way through the walk.

We crossed over to the East Cliff and climbed up the 199 Steps circumnavigating the graveyard with views over the sea and towards the Abbey ruins.

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We joined the coastal path, which is part of the Cleveland Way route, and which would take us along the cliffs

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Passing the Abbey
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There were other people walking along the path, probably making their way to Robin Hood’s Bay. That wasn’t my plan. I’d walked from Robin Hood’s Bay back to Whitby last time we stayed here. I could have carried on walking the route in reverse this time but I’d decided to turn around at the lighthouse, which is about a third of the way to Robin Hood’s Bay and retrace my steps and get back to Whitby before the rain came in. I actually think the best views are gained walking towards Whitby.

Here’s some photos I shot from the top of the cliffs – some taken going out and some coming back.

Looking back towards the Abbey and the harbour
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The cliffs are very friable and are being rapidly eroded by the North Sea. I could see several diversions of the path inland since my last walk along here.
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Approaching the lighthouse. It’s been converted into a couple of holiday cottages – a dramatic place to stay.
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Just south of the lighthouse is a foghorn
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I don’t know whether it’s still operational but I wouldn’t want to be staying in one of the lighthouse cottages if it was.

I turned around just after the lighthouse and headed back along the path towards Whitby. On the way I decided to divert down the cliffs to Saltwick bay. The tide was receding revealling a good stretch of fine sand.

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The last time we holidayed in Whitby we’d been fossiling here and without making any real effort I picked up a couple of pieces of ammonite and could see fragments of fossils in some of the larger rocks.

Returning to the cliff top path, with the tide going out remains of a wrecked boat were revealed

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It didn’t take me long to get back to Whitby. I called into the bookshop (I just couldn’t help myself) and made a purchase and stopped off at a couple of shops to purchase some supplies. The cloud had been coming in during my walk and it started to rain quite heavily, but fortunately I wasn’t far from the cottage.

I spent the afternoon taking it easy and catching up on some reading, drinking tea and eating cake! But in the evening we’d booked a table in the Magpie cafe on the harbour which is renowned for it’s fish and chips and other seafood. Last time we were here it was closed as there had been a fire, but it had been renovated since then. It’s very popular and although we’d booked a few days in advance could only get a table fairly late in the evening.

We had a very enjoyable meal.

I started with a plate of oysters
My main course – hake wrapped in parma ham served with muscles
I’m afraid I couldn’t resist the banana bread and butter pudding with custard – several shots of insulin required!

After eating the rain had eased off so we walked along the harbour, climbed up to the Whale bone arch and made our way back to our cottage

A walk along the cliffs

Last Monday, before setting off on the long drive home, we took a couple of hours to go for a walk on the cliffs north of Whitburn near Souter lighthouse.

The lighthouse opened in 1871 and was the first in the world with an electrical powered lamp. It was decommissioned in 1988 – but not before the foghorn kept me awake during my first visit to Whitburn, when it operated throughout a foggy night, while we were staying at J’s auntie’s house (the house where she was born!).

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Battered by the sea and the elements, the cliffs are eroding, a process being accelerated by climate change. Since we were last here, sections of the coastal path have been diverted due to safety concerns

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The cliffs are home to sea birds, including Kittiwakes, Fulmar, Cormorants, Shags and Guillemots.

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To the south of the lighthouse, the coastal path descends and there is access to a small cove known as the Wherry, a popular local recreation spot in the past when fishing boats were kept in and launched from the cove.

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There’s a lot of history in the area. Although today the coast between Whitburn and South Shields are owned by the National Trust the top of the cliffs is a pleasant lawned area not that long ago they were dominated by industry with a coalmine (Whitburn colliery) lime kilns and a railway running along the top of the cliffs. There’s no sign today of the mine, (where my wife’s grandfather used to work) but the old lime kiln just over the coast road still remains as a reminder of the industrial past.

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The Marsden Banner Group have some good information on the history of the colliery and the village on their website.

Porth Dafarch

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Several times of year, for my work related trips to Ireland, I dash down the A55 across Anglesey to board the ferry to Dublin at Holyhead. I never get the chance to see much of the island other than what I can see through the car windscreen. Holyhead isn’t a pretty place. It’s very much a working town without much work available, and that shows. Last week I was staying at Anglesey Outdoors, a campsite just outside Holyhead and it was something of a revaluation. After I’d checked in the campsite and settled into my Pod (I was “glamping”, I’m getting soft in my old age!)

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as it was a beautiful evening I decided to have a wander out to the coast, which was only a short distance away at Porth Dafarch. Arriving at the beach I had a wander along the cliffs. I’ll let the photos speak for themselves.

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A walk along the cliffs from Robin Hood’s Bay to Whitby

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We’d been wanting to walk along the cliffs from Robin Hood’s Bay back to Whitby during our recent holiday. Unfortunately the weather hadn’t been particularly promising. But on the Friday the forecast was for sunshine until the evening, so we laced up our boots and took the bus the few miles to Robin Hood’s Bay and set out along the coastal path. It was easy walking at first but we soon had to negociate a series of “ups and downs” along the cliffs.

Looking back shortly after setting out.

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A short distance along the route we came across this “rocket post”. Devices similar to this were used by the coastguard to practice rescuing shipwrecked sailors. Rockets were used to fire ropes across to stranded ships.

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It was a beautiful day, if a little windy. There were great views of the cliffs ahead and the sea was a beautiful shade of blue.

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“Scars” could be seen under the water. It was high tide but these rocky selves that make this stretch of coastline potentially treacherous for shipping would soon be revealed as the tide receded.

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Looking out to sea.

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Moving along the coast

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This must be the shortest lighthouse I’ve seen.

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A cliff face of Kittiwakes

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A short distance after the lighthouse we passed this disused foghorn station. I wouldn’t have liked to be walking past when this was blasting out.

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Carrying on the cliffs

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Getting closer to Whitby. We passed the bay where we’d been foddiling earlier that week.

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The Abbey came into view

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Looking down to the ship wreck we’d walked past during the fossiling trip

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Whitby harbour came into view.

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Getting closer to the Abbey

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We finished the walk with tea and cake in the YHA café next to the Abbey.

An enjoyable walk of about 8 miles.