This lochan (small loch) sits high above and behind the strip of cottages known as Letterfearn, on the shore of Loch Duich. It is a very steep climb up from the hamlet, but on cresting the brow of the ridge, you may be greeted with the sight of a stag, silhouetted against the skyline. Stumbling upon the lochan on a warm afternoon, nestling in the midst of the wild highland moor, its dark waters seem to simultaneously threaten and beckon. It is remote, isolated, tranquil and offers a serene wild bathing experience.
We camped at Blair Atholl a few times when I was young. We'd generally stay around the area since it's such a stunning spot with plenty to do. The most memorable moments for me were when my brother and I went swimming in the absolutely freezing cold waters of the River Tilt. I remember it being so scary and exhilarating! It's a narrow little river but pretty deep; you can't see the bottom in many parts which means there's lots of pools to jump in to! Each time we'd stay in the water until we couldn't feel our fingers or toes. I like to think that I'll do it again one day.
It's free! OK, it's only one day so no camping as such but you'll be struggling to find such a mixture of attendees from hardcore hippies to grans and granchildren, plus a fine selection of music.
Midsummer Common, Cambridge, 6th June 2009 www.strawberry-fair.org.uk
My tip while you are at the Latitude (or any other festival for that matter) is take a roll of extra large bin bags. You can use them for rubbish, as a survival bag if it gets a bit cold at night, as ground sheets, as an impromptu flag when yours blows away, as a mac to protect against the elements, as a dirty washing bag, as a rucksack cover and as a chair protector when you get in your car after living in mud for three days.
And be extra good - roll them up and reuse them for rubbish when you get home.
Latitude is in Suffolk. And mighty fine it is too...
Get your self an old telescopic fishing pole and attach "individually made" flag / cuddly toy / inflatable banana... Anything that takes your fancy and parade yourself round the festival in the knowledge that your friends will always find you. Can also be stuck outside your tent to draw back your friends after hours of dancing / trudging (in mud) and general festival antics.
Also check out the Oxford Cowley Rd Festival. A day of great music, authentic food from a huge number of places, arts and crafts and loads more... Check it out - Sunday 6th July!
Travels on Horseback is the only 'trail riding' company in England. It takes good riders out on great horses travelling across the countryside. You and your horse stay in a different hotel every night! It's such amazing fun and really, really good quality.
The riding (in the Quantocks in Somerset), is incredible. They also take people out for shorter rides (a couple of hours, day rides etc), again, just for good riders on good horses. This is what I did in April 09 and here's what I wrote about it as a testimonial for their own site:
It’s hard to believe that a simple two hour train journey out of London would take me to such breathtaking countryside. I’d booked a two hour trek with Kathryn and her stunning horses. I was instantly smitten when I mounted ‘Smooch’ right after grooming him (realising a childhood dream!).
The well-trained and happy horses clearly enjoyed their surroundings almost as much as me. We cantered up hills and through trees, trotted in the forest to the beat of a woodpecker pecking on a tree and strolled under the huge wingspans of buzzards flying overhead. As an Advanced Beginner, I learnt more about riding and horses in those precious two hours than on any riding lesson. Kathryn had responsive Smooch and me naturally entering in and out of canter from and to trot which was so wonderful. This is the best way to learn. I always felt safe too.
As a polluted Londoner, I felt as alive as Kathryn’s horses and smiled all the way home, fully revitalised and back in touch with glorious Mother Nature. I can’t wait to re-visit.
Nearest station is Taunton. Their website is www.travelsonhorseback.com and the address etc is:
01278 438 794
07900 673 632
As a veteran of one or two washed out Scottish festivals (and one or two glorious ones as well), I offer the following tips to any festival virgins thinking of staying on home soil and taking up the challenge for the first time this summer. They're not specific to any particular festival, but hopefully will help turn a great weekend into an unforgettable one:
1) Mouthwash - for those bleary mornings when you wake up in your tent with a sausage roll stuck to your forehead, and your mouth tastes like a dairy farmer's slippers. Liquid life...
2) Tea lights (mini-candles) - different festivals have different rules for naked flames, although in the absence of a campfire, tea lights provide atmosphere, light, warmth and somewhere for you and your friends to get cuddly and sing songs round when the sun goes down.
3) And finally, visit the loo at 5am - If your squeemish about hygiene, festival toilets may not always push your buttons... But fear not, for the more 'demanding' calls of nature, try to visit the loos in the early hours and they will have just had their daily freshening.
Follow the sunshine and bassline!!
A beautiful, quirky boutique party, where anything goes as long as it glitters!
DO: Take sparkles, dressing up materials and all your eccentricity.
DON'T: Take the programme too literally - while the bands are all just about on time, some of the 'Action Camps' (tents full of various wonderful weirdness) don't open when they say they will, or even exist!
They'll only tell you when you get tickets.
Bruar falls is full of plunge pools which are very refreshing to take a dip in after a long walk on one of the trails surrounding the falls. Bruar falls is near the House of Bruar.
8 miles from Pitlochry,Perthshire.Off the A9. www.walkhighlands.co.uk/perthshire/falls-of-bruar.shtml
Gorgeous glassily calm natural pool with beautiful views of the nearby Roaches crags, the rolling hills of the Staffordshire Moorlands and, on a clear day, the Cheshire Plain.
Seemingly bottomless, this is the perfect spot for an outdoor dip while travelling through the White Peak or the rugged, much underrated Moorlands (although not suitable for children, as there are no shallows - the sides of the pool are sheer and it is not possible to stand up once in the water).
Legend has it that years back, a foolhardy local jumped in for a late-night swim, after one too many beers, and was dragged into the depths of the pool by the resident mermaid, never to surface again. Careful, sober swimmers shouldn't have this problem but if in doubt wear a wetsuit to counteract cramp and don't even think about taking the plunge without some sensible soul staying put on dry land to keep an eye on you.
The last time we visited, my companion jumped in despite warnings from a solitary canoeist, whose cheery advice ("well, don't say I didn't warn you...I'm not pulling you out if you get into trouble...") did not put him off.
Once you're out and drying off, make your way back over to the other side of the A53 and have a nice cup of tea, a sit-down and crucially, a scone, at Tisha's Teas, on the Gradbach road.
Between Upper Hulme, Upper Elkstone and Heathylee. Coming from Buxton, turn off the A53 just after The Winking Man pub, and follow the road. You'll pass the pool after approx 1.5 - 2 miles, on the right - park in the layby opposite. To get to Tisha's Teas; heading back to the A53 from the Mermaid's Pool, go straight over the crossroads at the A53 and follow the road down to the left - the tearooms are on the left (gorgeous views of the Roaches).
Probably the best cocktails in town, and it's a great, ornate classy bar tucked away just behind Princes Street.
They serve food too and its generally pretty good. If you're looking for something a little different then I'd recommend a visit.
It's very near Waverley Train Station on West Register Street, telephone 0131 556 7060. Website:www.thevoodoorooms.com
The best kept secret for the last two years, a lovely friendly house music festival tucked away on a beautiful site in Devon, with hot showers on tap and loos with flowers in them that smell as sweet on the sunday as they did on friday! Great house music from local DJs and musicians in the South West such as Kinky Movement, DIY, Magic Hanstand, Duvet Vous? and Fruity Antics plus many more, plus 360 degree projection madness from the Igloo fellas (who graced last year's Glastonbury). So friendly you'll wonder why you ever went to a big festival:
I think parents shouldn't underestimate how much their kid absorbs at a festival, big or small! I got taken to Glastonbury at nine-years-old with a friend and for me it was the most surreal but memorable weekend of my life.
As a small person, every colourful character, smell, taste and sound was somewhat magical.
My friend and I liked to make up stories about the people we saw walking past - such a thieves, delinquents, rock stars etc - kids really have developed senses of humour by that age!. Oddly I am grateful of even the toilet memories too, plus tons of life experience to never forget - like developing a great par with the surrounding adults.
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