South West Scotland 2021: Part Four
5&6 September 2021
I woke up in my lovely forest parking spot quite refreshed, but I really struggled to get myself motivated. I had no idea why. I think maybe yesterday had been a bit of a blow, even though I had managed some recovery in the end.
I eventually got myself together, and made my way to the first location in my next county, West Dumbartonshire. Here I found myself at the northernmost location on my list, The Dumpling, a perfectly positioned hill that overlooked the southern end of Loch Lamond. Parking was easy, and the walk, although steep in parts, wasn’t long, and before I realised it, I was standing on top of the hill looking out at the view that was… well, very disappointing. I have seen some cracking shots from here, but today, even though the sun was shining, most of the loch was lost to a very heavy haze. I had a small lunch with me, so I waited some time, just chilling to see if it would lift, and though it did a little, after nearly two hours I gave up. I hoped I might be able to recover whatever shots I had managed to get, in the editing stage, but I dont think they are too great. I pretty much only saved one of them – sort of – its definately not of a quality I am happy with. Strangely, my eyes could see more than my camera at the time, which actually quite curious.
On way down my footing slipped on the very dry and dusty ground, and I instictively reached out to grab something to break my fall. Without looking, my hand found a thick, very thorny bramble, and as I went down it tore through my flesh. I startled (and worried) River as I landed, yelping in pain. My hand instantly poured with blood and I had to stop to pull out a bunch of thorns and try to supress the bleeding, before I could continue any further. This really dragged me down on top of a whole bunch of things I was already feeling. I gingerly continued down until I got back to the van, managed to clean and dress my hand properly, and made myself a calming cup of tea. I sat for some time, contemplating what to do next. I was now out of milk, and still needed anti histermine for my very itchy face, so went to find a local shop. Unfortunately, they only sold the expensive branded stuff (I won’t pay for a name if I can help it) and no skimmed milk, so I changed my plans a little and went to find a supermarket at Dumbarton instead, aiming to get some fuel at the same time.
Now I was here, I hoped to try Dumbarton Castle – only to find it closed due to covid restrictions. This just felt so sad on top of everything else. Feeling a little sorry for myself, I settled for a wander instead, with River, my mobile phone, and no weight on my back. I took a snap of the castle from the front and then explored all around the castle rock to as far as I could walk. The last of the blue sky quickly left, turning more and more cloudy until it gradually started raining. I returned without exploring much further, loosing motivation completely for tonight, had some dinner, and just stayed put.
I did find this castle to be an interesting location to be sitting next to however! It struck me as being a very unusual looking hill, and you could see it from quite a distance as you drove in. It was very steeply sided, while there was no other hill close by, and the town of Dumbarton was laying all around the base of it. Curiosity grabbed me as I settled for the evening and I found myself looking up its history, both geological and human. Turns out it was formed by a volcano some 350 million years ago. A lava flow basically hardened in the middle of the volcano, plugging the vent, and after years of weathering, ice erosion and ground movement, the outer, softer layers of rock gradually wore themselves away, leaving just this ‘plug’ of hardened basalt rock. From Iron age times, it has been used by people as a spot for a fortification, being particularly suited to seeing enemies well before they are near, and being fairly impenetrable once they had arrived. It also housed prisioners (like William Wallace) and served to hide monarchy as they waitied to flee. (Mary Queen of Scots hid here before fleeing to France) Quite a spot I think!
It rained all night and quite late into the morning. Eventually it stopped at 11ish, so I took River for a walk just to get her moving and to go to the loo if she needed it. She didn’t want to come out initially, but I made her anyway and she eventually loved it when we got going. I left the camera in the van not thinking I would see much in this miserable weather, hoping simply for an exploratory walk upstream. I had my mobile for any reference shots if I needed it. As it goes, I did end up spotting an interesting view that I hoped would work at high tide – if the water stilled long enough. (see header) I went back to the van, had lunch, and decided to leave again at around 1-ish ready for high tide at 2. River chose to stay, so I headed out alone for the picture I aimed to get. The tide was now fully in, but the water didn’t really still completely as I had hoped. I did manage to get a shot that showed the volcanic dome well though. Now I knew the history, it seemed all the more interesting to me and I really found it fascinating to try and visualise a much bigger volcano in this area.
I tried a couple of other shots of some rotted pier legs (I assumed that was what they were) but the shots didn’t really work here. It gradually started raining again and I didn’t really want to leave River alone for too long so I made my way back to Fred and chilled out for a while.
When the rain stopped, it was much later, but I decided to go out again, this time back to the front of the castle. The light wasn’t great but I hoped that when the tide was fully out I could possibly try a bit of bird spotting as there seem to be quite a few wading birds here. Unfortunately I struggled to photograph or identify any birds, because the tide had already gone so far out, they were impossible to see clearly, even with my 400mm lens! The castle was grey and dull with a heavy black cloud over it, so any pictures there were a bust too.
As I stood aimlessly looking downstream, I noticed some sun rays were trying to break through the dark cloud. They looked really pretty as they danced across the scene at the end of the river. Initially they were quite a distance away, but then I realised the cloud was actually very slowly making its way up towards my position. I watched and hoped they would come up this far for a while, before I realised I should be photographing them!! I hurridly got the camera out, focused, and snapped a few shots, fearful the beams would fade one last time. They never did come right up to me, but just as a nice one was streaking through, I heard geese behind me. I didn’t dare turn round but kept my eye on the beam as the light strengthened. As soon as they started to dim, I thought, I would press the shutter regardless – but at the same time I prayed that the birds would get into the shot. Please hang on, please hang on, please hang on!!! I held my breath as I prayed, and then, there they were – 4 birds were flying through my frame! I pressed the shutter. Hoping and praying I had a decent shot as the screen went black, I gasped when I saw what I had captured. Those geese couldn’t have been in a more perfect position!!
The beam was just on the turn, so the timing couldn’t possibly be any better either. The shot looked great and I was over the moon! The hole in the cloud closed shortly after this, and in no time it got to a point that there was no light at all and so close to sunset that the cloud effectively presented a prematurely dark and grim night. Nonetheless…it was a happy end to the day!