May 16
Algae Agony
icon1 Paul | icon4 05 16th, 2015| icon32 Comments »

A terrible tragedy has befallen Beanie and Biggles. Actually, since they haven’t run out of dog food, rawhide chews or dried fish pieces I suppose you could argue that it isn’t that terrible a tragedy, but it certainly is cramping their style. You see their favorite beach is out of bounds due to high levels of toxic algae in shellfish on the Ayrshire coast. The local councils haven’t made a big deal out of it; there are little paper notices up at the beaches warning against eating shellfish, but you have to look for them, and I’ve seen many dog walkers out on the sand as normal – either through ignorance or choice – apparently without any dire consequences. None of them have Beagles however.


Even if I kept our two out of the water and on lead while running at (for me) a decent pace, both of them would still manage to grab shells and assorted washed up sea food. Any time Biggles drops behind for a second, you can pretty much guarantee that he’s just picked something up, or is having a pee, or both. More often than not when I look round I see little crab legs dangling from his mouth, or a razor shell getting crunched in half in his jaws. As for Beanie, well she’s become so fast at snatching and swallowing things that if I don’t spot a hazard while it’s still two yards away, it’s going down the hatch.


I did my best to explain to them what algae is, but I don’t think they really understood, as evidenced by their joint suggestion on how to defend themselves against it.


While blankies work well for fireworks and thunderstorms, they’re totally ineffective against marine toxins

So I’ve used one of those cloud-based page-watch services to alert me when the local restriction on shellfish is lifted, and we’ve just finished our first completely beach-free week since the dreaded palm-oil problem last year. In the meantime we’re making up for the loss with extra trips to the poo-filled dog enclosure at Troon (best avoided when I’m due to brush their teeth later in the day), runs on the grass at the beach-park, and play sessions on our rear lawn.




So it could be much worse. But lets just hope that sea food is back on the menu soon, or we could be facing protests from the furry party.



Apr 26

So far we’ve had icy cold, bogs, naughty room training and a tick, but no fire; that came our visit to Castle Stalker in Appin, the final adventure of our Highland trip. This short and flat walk starts out in a layby, and takes you across a long, low and very narrow wooden bridge. During particularly high tides even the bridge can be submerged beneath the surface of Loch Laich, but on this occasion it was thoroughly dry. It was however still a challenge to get to the other side, because the planks going across it are widely spaced, and Biggles does not like that one little bit.


He seemed OK for the first few yards, but then he dug his front paws in and froze. Rather than simply picking him up and carrying him, Susan just gently coaxed him along. It took a while. A long, long while.


But eventually he made it, and immediately returned to his normal cocky self as we walked along the shore by the castle. Other dog walkers and photographers all received a stern woofing! I love the way my boy can instantly put bad experiences behind him; it’s a good way to be.


The area around the castle is renowned for spectacular sunsets, but this evening was colorless and grey. I took a few long exposure shots, the sunset came and went behind the clouds, and I was all ready to pack up when some of the clouds started to pink up. I kept taking shots and a few minutes later it looked like the sky behind the castle was on fire.

Castle Stalker Long Exp [IMG_5693]

From grey…

Castle Stalker Fiery Sunset Pano

To spectacularly colorful, and all this well after the official sunset time. Click the above pano to see a larger image.


The colorful show continued long after sunset, with the sky turning a deep red as we retraced our steps to the wooden bridge. Biggles trotted onto it quite happily, and this time made it to the half-way point before a steady supply of biscuits was needed to coax him to the other side. The last night of our holiday we all slept soundly in our caravan, and in the morning we packed up and drove home. But not before Beanie had one last stint in the naughty room.

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Apr 26
A tale of ice and fire. And bogs. Part#4
icon1 Paul | icon4 04 26th, 2015| icon3Comments Off on A tale of ice and fire. And bogs. Part#4

The next day we were back on the ferry – this time as foot passengers. This was a much more satisfactory arrangement for the furry types.  Finally they were able to sniff the air and poke their noses under, over and through everything in reach.


Beanie samples the air like a true connoisseur


Spying on the vehicles as they park up on the lower deck

Corran Ferry [IMG_6887]



Why do Beagles so love to stick their heads through things? Probably just because they can..

Still fatigued from the previous day’s exertions, we just had a gentle stroll around Ardgour – the little village by the ferry port. It has its own miniature lighthouse, a pub, an abandoned rowing boat, and a short stretch of two-lane road – both lanes of which are for use by the local sheep. Biggles stayed surprisingly calm as the sheep passed us; perhaps he was afraid that if he badmouthed them, they’d all come over and beat him up.

Ardgour Mini-Lighthouse [IMG_6905]





Then it was back to the caravan to rest in preparation for another night-time climb: a section of The Devil’s Staircase just outside of Glencoe. Or at least that was the plan, but Beanie had other ideas. Time and again she leaped up onto the worktop to investigate the cooking equipment, and time and again I grabbed her in mid-leap, locked her in the naughty room, and asked for a paw on her release. She was really trying my patience. Why wasn’t she learning this simple lesson? Regardless, eventually she just gave up and settled down for a nap, allowing me to do the same.



When we eventually got up to pack for the walk, Beanie was instantly back up on the worktop. As I moved to grab her she nabbed a quick lick of the grill, jumped back to the floor and ran into the naughty room, where she sat neatly ready to give me her paw. So there you go – it seemed she had learned the lesson after all!

The walk itself was a pleasant departure from our other adventures; it was a short and easy drive away, with no hassle from monstrous cows or stroppy sheep, and minimal bog. It was admittedly still a bit chilly, but not overly so, and we had plenty of time to enjoy the pre-sunrise colors on the way up to the final cairn.

A moment of contemplation [IMG_5590]

The colorful glow before sunrise can often be prettier than the sunrise itself..


Beautiful scenery or not, when there’s a big pile of stones to clamber over you can always count on Biggles to do his duty!



Cairn Sunburst [IMG_5659]

One of the great things about this short section of The Devil’s Staircase is that after all the colors have faded, you still have the majesty of Glencoe ahead of you as you retrace your steps back to the car. Even Beanie and Biggles seemed happy to hang out for a while and soak in the views.



Morning Wrinkles [IMG_5680]



While getting some of those shots I had to crouch and even lie down in the heather. I didn’t give this a thought, until later that day when I went for a shower. As I soaped myself up, I spotted what looked like a tiny piece of gravel in the skin of right hip, and went to brush it off, but it seemed really stuck in there. I aimed a bit of water at it, and to my horror, saw tiny little legs unfold from it and wriggle. Then I remembered the heather, and everything clicked: I’d picked up a tick! Obviously I’m no stranger to removing ticks from Beanie and Biggles, but I never expected I’d be rushing out of the shower only half-dried to use the doggy tick extractor tool on myself. I must confess to being a bit squeamish about this kind of thing; I can never watch those “monsters inside me” programs on the telly. Nevertheless, I took a deep breath, grabbed the little bugger in the tool’s plastic jaws, twisted and pulled. It took a surprising amount of force to pull it free, and I had a little involuntary shiver as I consigned it to a slow death in the toxic fluids of our chemical toilet. I had hopes that Biggles might show some sympathy toward me after my distressing experience; after all he’s had loads of ticks on previous highland trips and I’ve always been there to get them off him and give him a biccie for being such a brave boy. But no.. all I got was this:


So you had a tick Dad? Too bad. Gimme a tummy tickle!

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