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Kilnave Chapel & Cross

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Kilnave Chapel sits at the north-west corner of the island of Islay, near the end of a narrow and potholed road along the west side of Loch Gruinart. It's worth the drive: there can't be many more splendid settings for a chapel than this, with the Paps of Jura visible in the distance across the wildfowl-rich sea loch. The chapel probably dates from the late 1300's or soon after, with its name a corruption of "kil-Naomh", or holy church. There are great views out of the jagged east window, while in the other direction the profile of the 3 metre-high Kilnave Cross fills the doorway. This has somehow survived whatever the weather's thrown at it since the 8th century, though any carvings are heavily weathered or covered in lichen. A sombre tale finishes setting the scene: in 1598, dozens of Macleans were burned alive inside the chapel by the MacDonalds during the battle of Traigh Gruinart - the result of a land dispute between the two clans.


Name: Kilnave Chapel …

Walk: Takin' a lichen to Castle Dounie

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Acres of dark forest cloak the hills above Crinan. South of the village the landscape seems devoid of all human activity apart from forestry operations; the lichen covering every bough with a rich tapestry of fur is a sign of exceptionally clean air. This region hasn't always been uninhabited though: go back a few thousand years though and the north top of Creag Mhòr was the site of an iron-age hill fort, now called Castle Dounie. Views from the rocky remains are fantastic, taking in Islay, Jura, Scarba and large swathes of coastal Argyll. It may have been our imagination, but we even thought we could hear the savage roar of the Corryvreckan Whirlpool, out of sight about 7 miles away. Let us know if you experience the same thing.


Name: Walk: Takin' a lichen to Castle Dounie ★★★☆☆
Length: 7 km / 4 miles
Ascent: 260 metres
Main summits: Creag Mhòr north top (175 metres)
Points of interest: Crinan; Castle Dounie
Start / finish: Car park at Crinan Harbour, G.R.: NR 784942 ///stew.glad.…

Ski: Lecht 2090

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With a dozen lifts clinging to both sides of the roller-coaster Lecht Pass between Donside and Tomintoul, Lecht 2090 has some of the best beginner areas of any of Scotland's ski centres: gentle, sheltered from the wind and close to the excellent Day Lodge and café. The steeper slopes on the right of the piste map are also worthwhile, so in good conditions all abilities can find enough to do. Lift-served vertical is short and a top height of under 780 metres makes the runs vulnerable to thaws, but the grassy terrain doesn't need deep cover and historically The Lecht has been a good bet for early-season turns.

Scroll down for a more in depth guide.


Name: Lecht 2090★★★☆☆
Location: Summit of the A939 Lecht Pass, G.R.: NJ 247129 ///fond.depending.sofa
Day lift pass (2017/18): £30 (adults), £15 (children)
Equipment hire (2017/18): £22 (adults), £12.50 (children); discount for booking equipment and lift pass together.
Average season (snowsports): December to March, conditions permitting

D…

Lecht Pass (A939)

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The Lecht Pass can probably lay claim to being the snowiest main road in Scotland. At 780 metres above sea level, the surrounding hills are low by Highland standards, but the 650 metre-high pass almost reaches the very top of them: an ambitious place to build a road, there's no doubting that. The tarmac rises as abruptly as a roller-coaster out of Cock Bridge on the southern, Aberdeenshire side with a 20% gradient and sharp bends (we're usually too terrified to take photos of this bit). The road then barrels across heather moorland at a high level with great views, before dropping slightly into the glen holding the Lecht 2090 ski centre. Pop into the day lodge here for some amazing pictures of the pass at its bleakest: walls of snow several metres high on the sides of the road. The descent into Moray on the north side of the pass is equally steep, but with an absence of sharp bends it doesn't feel so intimidating. Thinking about adding it to your itinerary? Consider it as…

The Bicycle Tree

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Are you sitting comfortably? Once upon a time, a young man from Brig o' Turk left his bicycle leant against a sycamore tree before going to fight in the First World War. Whether he returned is unknown, but the bike was left abandoned and, over the decades, the tree swallowed up the frame and carried it up into the air inside the trunk. At the same time, the tree consumed iron parts from an adjacent blacksmith's spoil heap, apparently including an anchor and a horse's bridle. Now we're a bit sceptical about taking the whole story as gospel, but there must be some truth in the tale. Parts of the bike still clearly protrude from the trunk alongside other metal implements: a strange sight indeed, and one that was awarded protected status in 2015. The tree is not signposted, but you can find directions below. Of course, if you come by bike, be careful where you leave it!


Name: The Bicycle Tree ★★☆☆☆
Location: By minor road to Glen Finglas, just north of Brig o' Turk, G.R…

Walk: Ben A'an - mountain in miniature

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Is there a more perfect Scottish "mountain in miniature" than Ben A'an? Overlooking the romantic waters of Loch Katrine, this rocky peak must be one of the most climbed in central Scotland, and for good reason: an excellent path, short distance and 5-star views from the diminutive summit. The main route up has recently reopened after a few years of closure due to deforestation, and the landscape during the ascent looks a little bare while the trees regenerate. But at least that allows better views across the glen towards Ben Venue.


Name: Walk: Ben A'an - mountain in miniature ★★★★☆
Length: 4 km / 2 miles
Ascent: 340 metres
Main summits: Ben A'an (454 metres)
Start / finish: Car park (with charge) on A821 2 miles west of Brig o' Turk, G.R.: NN 509070 ///cute.crumple.decency

Route: Car park - Ben A'an - return by outward route
Terrain: Excellent path throughout, often steep.
Wildlife today: Tame robins in the car park (and on the car!) looking for food.
Weather tod…