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17 October 2014


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So IB has run its course. Oh well, good while it lasted. Thanks to all you bloggers and others who have left comments over the past few years. It's been fun. Anyway, I intend this to be my last IB posting. so lets go out on a high note.

We had a geology class field trip on Saturday to Fionnphort and Ardalanish to look at the ross of Mull granite. Now I know we have been there before, I have blogged it and so on, so I wont repeat myself. Just a few pics.

As many of you will know, I am not one for hyperbole. Words like "wonderful", "incredible" "fantastic" and "amazing" are not part of my lexicon. As a dyed in the wool presbyterian Scot, I prefer the "Aye, it's not bad" "It'll be fine" or "it'll do, I suppose..." sort of approach. Not so much pessimistic as plain and simple "feet on the ground" realistic.

However, the weather on Saturday was so good, that I am almost, almost I say, tempted to use that sort of terminlogy. It really was a classic winter's day. White peaks piercing an azure sky, just a slight breeze, stunning clarity - the sort of day it just feels good to be alive.

Some pics to show what I am on about:

Iona Ferry, Fionnphort, lots of granite. Looking towards Eilean nam Ban and the Bull Hole.

We had a short trip to the Tormore quarry then back close to the shore. Iona looked very close:

We stopped near Bunessan to get some pics of the view over to Ardmeanach:

Ardalanish was next on the list of places

Near the farm, looking over towards Ben More

Ardalanish Bay, one of the nicest places in Mull and great fun for geologists. One of the first places I ever visited, way back in 1979

Heading back up the road, as the light was fading, Ben More and the Cioch looked Alpine

And as the sun set in the west, its time to say a final "Thanks and wish you all well"

James (MM)

PS: I have a half completed sort of blog on Wordpress. The address is This was set up about a year ago, but never properly used. I will almost certainly be using this now that IB is to be closed. Maybe see some of you over there JW
Posted on mountainman at 10:28

Snowy Hills

I was working at Carsaig on Saturday - weather was nice, cold, north wind blowing, but the air was nice and clear and some of the hills looked great. Ben More and the Cioch had a nice early dusting of snow.

I didnt have a lot of time to go exploring - this work business keeps getting in the way.... but anyway, I managed an hour or so up on the high ground just south of Glen More near the Craig quarry. Craig quarry itself is a great place to go exploring if you are a geologist - great for seeing gabbro up close and personal.

Anyway, the hills around this part of Mull have lots of gabbro in them - not as impressive as the Cuillin of Skye, or even the Rum hills which are also gabbroic in characte, but these Mull hills have their own special "feel" to them

In my previous blog entry, I mentioned a little hill called Cruach Doire nan Cuilean , near Kinloch and how the views were good from it. Anyway, I didnt have time to go to the top, but the lower point is called Caigeann Doire nan Cuilean That's where I took a stroll. Caigeann is a great Gaelic word - it can mean a couple, a pair, as in yoked beasts, or a rough mountain pass, as in this case. One of my Gaelic tutors used to be very fond of it. I believe that in Tiree it is used to mean "a few"


And I saw no-one either. Another bonus when you need some space. Been a hectic week. Here are the pics all taken from the Caigeann!:

Looking over to Ben Buie - the sunshine filled the glen with light.

Another view over to Ben Buie. Note: the forestry here is quite thick, the ground is boggy, the tussocks are man-eaters. Oh and there are fences as well. High ones. Oh yes, had to wade the river as well.....

Now, here's the good stuff. Ben More and A'Chioch, 'neath snowy raiment as the late W A Poucher would have said.

This is just a close-up of the summit of Ben More and the narrow ridge on the right hand side connecting it to A'Chioch. A narrow scramble in summer, slightly more interesting when plastered in snow....

This is the hill Cruach Choireadail with Craig cottage below.

A quick saunter down the main road (you can see it in the pics) and it was back to the car and then back to Tobermory.

Note to students: Class as usual on Monday night - hopefully the next field trip will be soon, maybe even next weekend. Iona if the weather is very nice, otherwise it 'll be Carsaig or the Ross of Mull.

Bye for now!


PS: Just another interesting Gaelic aside: On the map, near where I was walking there is an area of land, completely surrounded by rivers. This area is called "Eilean a Chlarsaire" - the Harper's Island. Must be a good story behind that one..

Posted on mountainman at 22:32

All change on the weather front

Ah well, good while it lasted! Looks like the weekend forecast isnt great. Anyway, I had a nice trip to Iona the other day, and coming up the side of Loch Scridain and Glen More on the way back, the scenery was really rather nice! Heres just a few pics - hopefully we'll get more of this sort of weather again soon.

Ben More and A'Chioch from near Pennyghael

And a closer in view

These hills are Cruachan Dearg and Corra Bheinn - fine peaks with lots of nice geology up there. Maybe see it here some day. Both peaks are the same height, according to the map (and if you were looking at this blog at the weekend you would have noticed a deliberate error... Cruach Chorradail is a bit fuerther up the glen!)

This little peak is called Cruach Doire nan Cuilean - great views from up there - havent been up for ages, Time, time, time....... where does it go?

Right then, geology class - we'll be looking at this sort of stuff in a few weeks time. The hard dark rock is a gabbro (the Ben Buie Gabbro) and it is absolutely shot through with thin veins. The rock is seriously rough - you get a great grip on it!

The gabbro is really obvious from the roadside - it is very dark and knobbly looking. The Cuillin of Skye are made of gabbro of course, but they are seriously pointy hills in comparison to the Mull ones. Both areas are actually quite similar geologically - but still very different in many ways. That's what makes this whole west coast area (and I say that as a dyed in the wool Cairngormer.....) so interesting.

More fun soon!

Posted on mountainman at 14:50

Autumn Sunshine

The weather on Friday was really rather nice - there is nothing to beat a crisp frosty morning then lots of sunshine falling on a landscape of autumn colours. Perfect weather actually for gazing at a computer screen most of the day, fighting with trojans, viruses and other such horrors.....

Anyway, I was out at Calgary on Friday lunchtime - the bay looked great. Here are some pics:

The classic view of Calgary Bay - a shell sand machair - still very popular, even in late October!

A couple of residents, not so fussed about the view!

Looking across to the old pier. Note the volcanic dyke running down towards the pier - quite famous that one - its been used to provide one wall of the now roofless shed near the pier

Looking out towards the headland - you can see the raised beach quite clearly here - it is like a level platform all the way round the bay.

Another view, this time taken from further south, on the road towards Treshnish

On Saturday, it was off to the hills proper for some exploring, geologising and other such pranks. The weather wasnt so bright, but it was very still. At Loch Uisg near Lochbuie, the reflections were mirror-like:

Looking across to Creach Bheinn

Looking towards the west end of the loch

And at the end of the day, I got this almost monochrome shot of the sun going down:

So that was that! Geology classes are now in ful swing and hopefuly the first field trip, probably to Ardmore , will be next Saturday. So if any of you students are reading this, look forward to seeing you there. Full details at the class on Monday evening

Bye for now

Posted on mountainman at 09:47

The Colours of Autumn

It was back to the Cairngorms at the weekend - just a short break, but a great time of the year to see the place. Autumn is really nice in Strathspey - the birches in particular are impressive. However, the weather wasnt exactly great over the weekend - dry for the most part but "blowing a hoolie" most of the time!

Anything "up high" was out of the question, but the great thing about the area is that there is a seriously good network of footpaths through the native pine forest so there are a lot of low level alternatives.

Here are some pics, just to give a feel for the place:

Loch an Eilein, looking towards the castle on the island

A close up of the castle

Autumn colours and the loch

Looking across Loch Gamhna (just next to Loch an Eilein)

I spent a bit of time on the shore of Loch Morlich - always a favourite place - native pine forest and the high corries of the Northern Cairngorms behind. However, the wind was so strong that the loch looked more like the sea than an inland stretch of water...

Carn Elrig (The pointy hill) across the loch

Kinda threatening looking, isnt it?

Waves on the loch

More waves!

Last port of call was the famous "Lochan Uaine" in the Pass of Ryvoan, just a short distance from the Glenmore Lodge outdoor centre. The water is a beautiful blue-green colour (hence the name) supposedly because the fairies washed their clothes in it.....

The beautiful green of the loch

And the classic view of the loch, looking north.

Bye for now!

Posted on mountainman at 14:07

Knoydart Again

I had been to Knoydart in May for a few days so it seemed like a good idea to have another look - the forecast wasnt great but I needed to get out and get some exercise so I headed off last weekend.

Even managed to combine the trip with some IT work in Ardnamurchan!

The weather was actually remarkably dry in as much as it didnt rain a great deal. However the ground underfoot is pretty soggy. On the Monday as I was leaving the weather improved dramatically and it seems to be set like this for the rest of the week. How's that for timing eh?

Managed a few pics on the way back which you can see below

A typical Knoydart river after heavy rain!

Sgurr Coire Choinnichean - a very fine peak that rises above Inverie

Geology time: a glacial erratic boulder of gneiss (probably Lewisian ie extremely old) sitting on Moine schists and psammites (very old)

More geology: a rather fine quartz vein running through the schists - that's Inverie in the distance

A sunny Monday, looking across the bay

Another view across the bay

On the way back from Mallaig I managed to get some nice pics of various beaches:

The sands at Morar - remember "Local Hero"?

Beach near Arisaig

Same beach from another viewpoint

Looking out to sea

Finally, not far from Mull, here is Camus nan Geall in Ardnamurchan - a really nice spot.

And now a week of great weather beckons. Think the camera might be busy...

Bye for now!


Posted on mountainman at 08:13

Final Geology Trip

Well hello again, how's it going?

We had our last geology trip, at long last. Reason I say "at long last" is because this particular trip was supposed to happen some time ago. It was actually part of "Autumn 2007" night classes.... honest!

Anyway, we went off to Ulva for the day to look at , guess what - yes! Basalt Columns! It wasnt a big group but all quite jolly and I think everyone enjoyed it.

This blog post here is really just to say thanks to everyone, hope you all enjoyed the course and I've really enjoyed it as well. So thanks to you all!

Next Geology course will be starting on the 6th October and will run until December. That's the plan anyway.

Right, here are some pics of the Ulva trip. You've seen ones like this before, but hey, I'm a geek, I love my basalt columns...

Columns with obliging students for scale...

A closer in shot

From a high perch looking down...

A view round the corner

Down below, looking up

And another similar "up" view

This piece of wood had a very definite "Viking" look to it...

An almost monochrome view across Loch na Keal

Until the next time!

Posted on mountainman at 09:55

Beautiful late summer weather

I realise I havent blogged much over the past couple of weeks. Problem is, the weather hasnt been great and I havent really been anywhere or done much that is worth mentioning.

Must say, I dont really care for July and August - Winter and Spring are my favourite times of year. However having said that, I was out a couple of times this week in the Loch Buie / Loch Uisg area having a look at the rocks. The geology in that area is great and the scenery is spectacular. Plus, it can be quite quiet, even in the busiest months, so for a solitude lover like myself, it comes high up my list of favourite places!

On Thursday, it was a work trip to Loch Buie with a stroll along the beach at lunchtime:

Laggan sands - deserted!

The beach at Laggan again and some old knarly trees

Ben Buie

Sgurr nan Gobhar from the shore

Creach Bheinn and Lochbuie House

So that was Thursday. On Saturday it was back to the area for some rock exploration. Weather was great.

Above Loch Uisg, looking east

Looking west from the same point

Some of the rock I went to look at - a "layered gabbro". Although it is an igneous rock that solidified at depth, it shows layering like a lot of sedimentary rocks. The same stuff is found on the beach at Loch Buie

The pebble beach at the head of Loch Uisg with Creach Bheinn behind

An arty shot, looking into the sun over Loch Uisg

So that was that. Geology classes and field trips will be starting up again soon. More details later!

Bye for now

Posted on mountainman at 18:11

Just some odds and ends

Been quite busy of late so not much stuff to report. The geology trips for my Bunessan class are finished now - many thanks to all of you - hope you got something out of it. I certainly enjoyed showing you around! There are acouple of pics just coming up

Also, there was a serious contrast in the weather between Friday and Saturday. The rain on Friday was something else - I had to travel down to Iona for the day and the journey was far from pleasant - parts of the road were seriosuly flooded..

Really bad news for the Bunessan Show. Afterwards it was easy to see that the show field was a mud bath.

But on Saturday afternoon, the weather was great - I was working most of the day but had a quick sprint down to Loch Buie for a wander. Pics to follow.

See y'all soon

PS: Barney, sorry to have missed you - I was away all that day. Maybe next year!

Basalt Columns in Ulva, two weeks ago - one of the field trips

A granite boulder looking rather out of place - ship ballast maybe? Who knows?

Another view of the columns from the shore

Serious amounts of water pouring off the hills above Loch Sguabain on Friday morning

On Saturday, Ben Buie from near Moy Castle

Moy Castle, covered in scaffolding as restoration work continues

Also near Loch Buie is this rock which is said to look a bit like Queen Victoria in profile.

Looking across Loch Uisg on a nice sunny Saturday afternoon

Posted on mountainman at 12:17

Back to Basalt Columns!

I was working in Iona the other day and after returning to Fionnphort, I was aware that the tide was actually very low. It was an ideal opportunity to go back to the leaf bed location at Ardtun and to check out the shore there - I had been meaning to do this for a while - the coast there is fascinating with the columnar basalt. And it is relatively easy to get to. With all the dry weather, the ground was quite firm and not too boggy.

I had been there with the students a few months ago - the location is actually quite a dangerous place - very steep, lots of slippy rocks and an awful lot of loose rock lying around. So take care if you go there!

The gully where the fossil leaves are found is called Slochd an Uruisg - the "pit of the goblin" Uruisgean (the plural) are part of Celtic folklore - there is a location in the Trossachs near Loch Katrine called "Coire nan Uruisgean" the corrie of the goblins". It gets mentioned in Scott's poem "The Lady of the Lake" eg

"For Douglas, to his promise true,
That morning from the isle withdrew,
And in a deep sequestered dell
Had sought a low and lonely cell.
By many a bard in Celtic tongue
Has Coir-nan-Uriskin been sung
A softer name the Saxons gave,
And called the grot the Goblin Cave."

See, not just hard rock, hard rocks and stuff like that - you also get a bit of culture thrown in...

Anyway, I have blogged this trip before - you can find it in last years entries. It is here:

So here are some pics:

This is the sea stack at the foot of the gully. Looks like a big fist, rising out the sea (So does the cover art of the wonderful Rainbow album "Rising" but we all know what happens when rock music gets mentioned around these parts...)

Seen from the east, on the rocky shore, it looks very different. This part of the shore is only really accesible at low tide, hence this particular trip

This is from a bit further on - the basalt columns here forma sort of ledge or pavement - very straightforward to walk on, but you wouldnt want to fall in....

A close up of the columnar basalt terrace - I just love this stuff...

There is rather a neat cave here

Note the pink colour. Wild Freckle (a few weeks ago) had a pic on her blog of a similar thing in Staffa. I thought it might be a red bole or something like that, but having seen this close up, it appears to be organic - something pink that likes to grow in caves - can any botanist help with this one? The rocks in the cave are covered in it, but not outside. Sorry WF, need help with this one!

Looking over to Ardmeanach - always a satisfying view.

After exploring east of the stack, I decided to have a look at the west side. So whats the west side story here then?

Looking back towards the foot of the gully - the stack is on the left, there is a cleft in the cliff and its all quite dramatic

The stack looks different again from this angle. There is also a split right through it - maybe a small fault - you can see how it is eroded out to form a long thin window.

Final pic of the stack, seen from further up the cliff.

So that was that - just a short wee trip but one of the most fascinating corners of Mull. Be back soon!


Posted on mountainman at 20:16

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