Tag: inspiration

Why I Love the British Coast in Winter

Bamburgh castle

This weekend, I decided that I love being by the sea in winter, and being in the mountains in summer. You’re probably thinking that sounds quite strange. Don’t I want to be in both places in summer and tucked up in a blanket with a hot chocolate and a book in winter? Well yes… and no*. You see, despite it being rather wintery outside (for once there is actually a scattering of snow to accompany the doomsday headlines of a Siberian arctic blast hitting the UK), I still want to be outside.

But don’t most people want to go to the seaside in summer? You know, when it’s actually warm enough to bathe in the sea and sit around in a t-shirt building sand castles? Well, yes. Which is one of the reasons I’d rather go to the beach in winter. The same beaches that are full of people in summer are barren, windswept places to be in winter.

I’ve just come back from a long weekend in Northumberland. I walked for miles and miles along stunning sandy beaches and rocky coastline and saw only a handful of people. The wind blew me along, hail occasionally battered my face and it was bitterly cold. Dark clouds hung ominously low in the sky, the sea crashed against the rocks and sunlight fought its way through the chinks in the clouds to shine spotlights on the landscape. It was so beautiful it almost hurt.

And, though the British weather is notoriously fickle, you don’t get the same experience of the coastline on a balmy summer’s day. That feeling of being bound up with the elements, of bearing witness to the force and power of nature as the waves smash into the coastline and the wind whips the sand into a hissing snake that winds its way around your shoes. It’s the way the sky and sea change their mood within hours or even minutes. It’s the exhilaration of not just witnessing nature but being part of it.

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve had some wonderful days out in the hills in winter. When crisp snow blankets the ground and the sun shines down from a blue, calm sky, it can be amazing. But I’ve also frozen my butt off on a number of occasions and had the odd winter climbing experience where I’ve been very grateful to get down to a hot shower. Because when the weather turns, it’s not so fun. The mountains in winter are beautiful, but they’re also a dangerous place.

Of course, anywhere can be dangerous if you’re in the wrong place at the wrong time. Nature is a wild and unpredictable beast and that’s part of what makes it so magical. I rarely venture into the sea and have a very healthy respect for the ocean. And while I’m more at home in the mountains, this means I’m better able to judge when it’s going to be an enjoyable day to head to the heights and when it makes more sense to stay at home.

But what if you could put the best bits of both worlds together? If you could stand with a beautiful coastline on one side and towering mountains on the other. Do such places exist? (Is that a rhetorical question?)

Yes, they do. (And yes, it was.) Places such as the northwest coast of Scotland, the Isle of Skye and parts of north Wales. And these are some of my favourite places in the world.

Red Point Beach

*Just for reference, curled up with a hot chocolate and a good book is one of my absolute favourite places to be in winter. After I’ve exhausted myself on a good run outside of course. 😉

5 of the Best Mountain Challenges in the UK

Best mountain challenges in UK

The Cuillin Ridge – one of the UK’s toughest mountain challenges

If the grey days and dark nights are draining your motivation for getting outside, then you need a challenge! While we may not have the towering snow-capped peaks of the Alps, the UK has a surprising range of mountain challenges for everyone from casual weekend walkers to skilled mountaineers and fleet-of-foot fell runners.

This isn’t a comprehensive list but if you’re after for some inspiration or itching for a new challenge, why not book in one of the UK’s best mountain challenges for 2018…

Yorkshire Three Peaks

The route linking the ‘Yorkshire Three Peaks‘ of Pen-y-ghent, Whernside and Ingleborough is an ideal first mountain challenge for fit walkers. The route starts and ends in Horton-in-Ribblesdale and is 24 miles with 1,585m of ascent. To complete the ‘challenge’ you need to walk it in under 12 hours.

The Yorkshire Three Peaks is very popular with charity groups and can get busy in the summer, so a good-weather day out of season is your best bet for avoiding the crowds in the car parks as well as on the hills. There are no technical difficulties, but it’s a long day and if the weather’s bad, you’ll need to be confident navigating in low visibility.

The Welsh 3000s

If you want to step up from the Yorkshire Three Peaks, the Welsh 3000s, also known as the “14 Peaks” will challenge the fittest hill walker. The official challenge requires an ascent of the 15 (yes, 15 not 14…) Welsh peaks over 3,000ft in 24 hours, without using any form of transport.

The traditional route starts on the summit of Snowdon (sometimes with a bivvy) and finishes on Foel-fras. It’s around 24 miles long but the approach walk and final descent take the total up to 30 miles. There aren’t many technical challenges, but you’ll need to be comfortable with the scrambling on Crib Goch and Tryfan and a very long day in the hills.

The Bob Graham Round

The Bob Graham is to fell runners what the Cuillin Ridge is to mountaineers. The 66-mile circuit of 42 of the highest peaks in the Lake District includes 8,200m of ascent and, to officially complete the Bob Graham Round, the circuit has to be done in 24 hours.

For many fell runners, completing the Bob Graham is a lifetime achievement requiring years of preparation. Only around 1 in 3 attempts are successful and most take place in the summer, to make best use of daylight. I’ve spent long days in the Lakes hiking just a handful of the 42 peaks and I actually struggle to comprehend HOW people can be fit enough to complete the challenge within the 24-hour time limit.

For those who’ve completed the Bob Graham Round, more challenges lie ahead in the Welsh and Scottish equivalents: the Paddy Buckley Round and the Ramsay Round.

The Cuillin Ridge

The Cuillin Ridge is the most prized of all British ridge climbs and arguably one of the best mountaineering challenges in Europe. It requires stamina, excellent navigation skills and the ability to move quickly and safely on complex terrain.

The ridge itself is 12km, but including the walk in and walk out you’re looking at a 25km route with 4,000m of ascent and descent. Although none of the climbing is harder than ‘Very Difficult’, there are large sections of exposed scrambling and easier climbing and to have any chance of success at the traverse, you’ll need to be comfortable soloing most of the ridge.

If you’re super fit then it’s possible to do the Cuillin Ridge in a day but many parties take two days and bivvy overnight, either at the start of the ridge or part-way along. On many British ridge climbs, route-finding is fairly straightforward — you just keep to the crest of the ridge. On my one excursion into the Cuillin (to date) I was surprised at the level of technical route finding required. For this reason, if you’re looking to attempt the ridge it’s worth reccying different sections of the route in advance.

The Munros

This one may take you more than a year! The record for completing all 282 Scottish mountains over 3,000ft is an impressive 39 days and 9 hours (set by Stephen Pike in 2010) and the women’s record of 77 days was set in 2017 by Lisa and Libby from Beauties and the Bog. For most people, bagging all the Munros is a lifetime achievement, but if you have a lot of time on your hands or easy access to the Scottish Highlands, it’s possible to tick them all in a year.

While most Munros aren’t technical climbs (only one — the Inaccessible Pinnacle — involves a graded rock climb), many involve long days in the remotest parts of the UK and mountain skills are a must. Find out more about the Munros in our guide to Scotland’s ultimate ticklist.

My Outdoor Goals for 2018

My Outdoor Goals for 2018

Around this time last year, I wrote a post about how I wasn’t setting any New Year’s Resolutions for 2017 other than enjoying being outdoors. This was partly in response to my failure to complete most of the goals I’d set myself in 2016!

So, how did I do with my non-resolution resolution? Not bad… And not great. I DID enjoy the time I spent outdoors – very much so. There just wasn’t enough of it. Looking back, 2017 was an incredibly busy year. We moved into a new house (okay, technically this was in 2016, but right at the end!), I left my job and went self-employed, we got married and I published my first book. I worked hard. Really hard. And my outdoor time suffered.

So in 2018, one of my main aims is to spend more time outdoors. I’ve learned that, if I don’t get enough exercise or time outdoors, I start to get grumpy. I’ve also had more aches and pains in the last year than ever before – I’m putting this down to not exercising and stretching my muscles enough and too much time in front of a computer!

Enough of my waffle! Without further ado, here are my goals for 2018.

Goal 1: Complete the Isle of Wight Challenge

This is my big outdoor goal for the year. I’ve signed up to join a group of authors and creatives tackling the Isle of Wight challenge in May. We’ll be aiming to walk 104 km around the island over two days. Now, I love walking and have done some multi-day hikes in my time but this is harder than anything I’ve done to date and I have to admit that my legs are quaking slightly!

To give me some added motivation, I’m raising money for Mind, a mental health charity here in the UK. I’ve written before about how walking helps my mental health and it’s a cause that’s close to my heart for a number of reasons. If you’d like to sponsor me and give me an extra nudge to get out training, you can do so here.

So, ummm, training… I’ve entered a 15-mile trail run at the end of February to get my general level of fitness up. After that, I’ll be planning lots of long walks at the weekends (ideally back-to-back days) and trying to get out during the week. One of my goals for my author business this year is to master dictation, so I can get out walking and still get lots of stories written!

Goal 2: Hike the John Muir Trail

This is a tentative goal at the moment, as, to hike the JMT, you need to get a permit and these are in hot demand! If it goes ahead, it would also be me and my husband’s ‘proper’ honeymoon. Yup, three weeks hiking with no showers is our idea of a romantic holiday. 🙂

If we can’t get a permit, then we’ll rethink our plans and come up with an equally exciting alternative. Whatever we choose, it’s likely to involve a lot of hiking, so all that walking training in the first part of the year will come in handy.

Goal 3: Get Back Into Climbing

For various reasons, I didn’t get much climbing done last year. For the first part of the year, this was largely due to not having enough time to get out, or even to the wall. (DIY weddings, it turns out, are a LOT of work!) Then I developed RSI and my wrists and forearms were so bad that I couldn’t climb for most of the second half of the year. (I tried, but it meant I struggled to work the next day.)

Needless to say, after this long break, I am as weak as a kitten! I had my first session back at the wall this week and couldn’t even manage an hour on easy routes! But I have really, really missed my climbing, so even though I may not achieve any climbs of significance, I want to get some strength back.

Goal 4: Tackle a Long-Distance Cycling Challenge

This is a bit of a vague goal! But I’ve really enjoyed getting into cycling over the past few years and I’d like to take this a step further and take on one of the UK’s cycling challenges. Because I need to prioritise walking and running at the start of the year, this is likely to be an autumn goal, so I’ve got plenty of time to come up with something.

So, that’s it! Four goals for 2018. Some more challenging than others… What are your goals for this year? Post them in the comments and we can all check back at the end of the year and see how we did.

Why I Walk

Me hiking in Scotland

I walk to feel the warmth of the sunshine on my skin. To feel the rain and wind lash my cheek, the elements batting me around as if I‘m a small toy in their giant game.

I walk to hear the birds chattering in the hawthorn bushes and calling to each other across the woods and moors. I walk to catch glimpses of hidden creatures. Voles and field mice, stoats and deer, and occasionally, at night, a fox or badger.

Sometimes I walk with purpose, to reach a destination. The top of a hill or mountain, most likely. A viewpoint from where I can survey the world or what little of it I’m allowed to see. But a walk does not need a destination and sometimes I just let my feet carry me where they will.

I walk to give myself thinking time. To mull over a problem or reassess my priorities. It’s as if the movements of my legs turn cogs in my head that power my brain to find a solution to whatever’s bothering me. The answer does not always come on the walk, but the walk is part of the process of discovering it.

But, there are also times when I’m content to think about nothing. To just let thoughts flow through my mind like water trickling down a beck. This too, is what walking is all about.

When I get angry or frustrated, I can feel trapped in the house. This place where I should be doing this or should be doing that; where I haven’t done this, or have failed at that. Walking is my escape. A chance to walk away from the anger inside and be calm again. To return to work with a fresh state of mind.

I walk to forget about the problems of the world. To put aside worries and cares, particularly those that I have no control over. To realise that I don’t have to change the world, I just have to do my bit.

I walk to feel the ache in my muscles and the pain in my feet. The focus that comes after you’ve been trudging for hours. How your world narrows to focus on just one thing: putting one foot in front of the other. It’s almost like a meditation. Left, right, left, right. There is just you and the footpath in front of you.

But, perhaps most of all, I walk to be outside. To breathe fresh air and walk in the beautiful countryside that we’re blessed with in the UK. Whether it’s a stroll through my local woods, a walk up over the moors or a hike up a remote Scottish mountain, walking makes me truly appreciate how lucky we are to have these beautiful landscapes. And why we must protect them.

Walking outside makes me feel alive. It reminds me of why life is precious. It makes me happy.

That is why I walk.

Exploring the Best of New Zealand’s South Island

I’ve been sorting out the photos on my laptop recently and came across some snaps from my trip to New Zealand. It’s easy to lose track of time reminiscing about holiday memories and dreaming of beautiful places! The New Zealand landscape is one of the most varied and beautiful I’ve come across, so here’s a little photo inspiration to brighten your day.

Marlborough Sounds

Forested hills rise out of the drowned valleys in the Marlborough Sounds

Kaiteriteri Bay

Hire a canoe to explore the waters of Abel Tasman National Park at Kaiteriteri Bay

Bark Bay

Beautiful Bark Bay, viewed from the Abel Tasman Coast Track

Takaka Hill

The Tolkienesque landscape of Takaka Hill

The path to Wharaiki Beach

The path to Wharaiki Beach

Wharariki Beach

Wharakiki Beach: spectacular, beautiful and remote

Pancake rocks

Natural rock sculptures at Punakaiki (Pancake Rocks)

West Coast New Zealand

The beautiful west coast of the South Island, New Zealand

Morning light on the west coast

Morning light on New Zealand’s west coast

Kea flying over Fox glacier

A Kea is caught in the morning light over Fox Glacier

And, because I can’t fit all of the beauties of the South Island into one blog post, I think this will be the first of several!

All photographs are copyright © Alison Ingleby and Windswept Writing, 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Alison Ingleby and Windswept Writing with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.