23 October 2016

Castle Sween, Shores of Loch Sween, Knapdale, Scotland

Castle Sween

Welcome Sign
Welcome to Castle Sween, on the shores of Loch Sween, in Knapdale, Scotland; the last of my castles to Blog about. 

Castle Sween was built for/by Prince Sween of Denmark in 11th Century. The round tower on the seaside of the castle is named for Prince Sween. Before, there were any roads in this area, this castle would have only had to worry about attacks from the sea via Loch Sween, a loch that connects to the sea. The Danes that called this castle home, would have ensured to keep scouts watching the approaches for any enemies.
Castle Sween
In the 15th century, this castle came into the possession of one Alexander MacMillan. Under his ownership, had the castle expanded by building the large square tower on the back of the castle. This tower is now known as MacMillan Tower. Inside this tower on the lower level was where the great kitchen was built, with huge stone ovens and it even had running cold water.

Later, the MacMillans, lost ownership of this castle. The Lord of the Isles and the Campbells factor into this change of ownership. Legend has it an inscribed stone once stood on the shore of the property, which had words to the effect of.....So Long As Waves Wash Upon This Stone, Shall The MacMillans Claim These Lands.......or something similar. Rumour has it the Campbells had the stone dropped into Loch Sween, somewhere offshore. Now, I again caution you, I am not a historian. So, do your own fact checking, please.
Castle Sween
I first visited Castle Sween in the '90's. The caravan park beside the castle was still a small and welcoming place. I found this visit to be less welcoming. I am not sure of the why's, but the fact is, if you wish to visit this beautiful ruin you have to park your vehicle on the public road and walk in. The walk in is pleasant on a paved road, it is the principle that has rubbed me wrong. I will get over it. Just be fore warned.
Main Gate, Castle Sween

Courtyard Looking to Sea Gate, Castle Sween

MacMillan Tower, Castle Sween

Sween Tower, Castle Sween

MacMillan Tower, Castle Sween
The new camera sure did capture the extreme of the greens of the grass and the contrasts of the grey stone and skies. These pictures were very vivid.

You can almost imagine what it would have been like to reside here....almost. The roofs and inner woodwork maybe missing, but I can imagine what this castle must have looked like in its glory days.

This would have been a tough castle to get to, without a vessel of some kind. Even today, with paved single track it is not easy to get here with an automobile. Much less, trying to ride cross-country on horseback. 

The biggest changes I noticed between my two visits were the number and locations of chain-link fences and the changes to the signage. I am not sure if this is a Historic Scotland site, but my pictures from the '90's had more signs on the grounds. Also, in the 90's more of the castle was accessible, like Sween's Tower.

This was a long day for us. We started our day in Ullapool at the Broomfield Holiday Park, before driving to Inverness and back across the Great Glen to Fort William. Then we made haste for the Kintyre Peninsula. We drove a different route in the '90's, but the route we took was equally as pleasant. We departed Fort William around 1420 hours, arriving at Castle Sween, not sure forgot to write that in my journal. We finished taking photos at Castle Sween around 1815 hours and made our way to Kilmory Knap Chapel to take pictures of the MacMillan Cross. (That will be a different Blog post.) We depart Kilmory around 1850 hours and went to Lochgilphead, Argyll Pizza & Cafe for a late supper. After supper we made our way back to Fort William. After driving around Fort William a few times (2347hrs) and finding no room at the inns, we headed for Glen Nevis in hopes of finding a camping spot. We finally, found a friendly place called Glen Nevis Caravan Park. By 0130 hours we had camp pitched and twelve minutes later we were all sawing logs. Later that morning we would climb Ben Nevis. I promise to post that adventure in due time.

Until next time.......research some family history and go explore!!!


For more information about the Clan MacMillan visit: http://www.clanmacmillan.org

For Kilts and Accessories in MacMillan Tartan see the fine folks at; Duncan Chisholm & Sons Kiltmakers: http://kilts.co.uk
Castle Sween

16 October 2016

HAM Radio Antenna Pouch for Your Ruck

Finished Pouch Attached to the Cubist Escape
The Cubist Escape has become a pack to hold radio gear. So, for all my friends who are operating (or are planning to operate) HAM radios in the field.....this project is dedicated to you. Today, we built a lightly armoured HAM Radio Antenna Carrier.

Read on for more details......I will try to post the plans, upside right this time.

Yes, the plans are now a part of this post and they arrived exactly where I needed them. That was a nice change.

So, if you have a portable HAM radio unit like a Baofeng or something similar, then you probably have a magnetic base antenna to attach to the roof of your vehicle to increase the range of both receiving and transmitting. But, how do you safely transport said antenna when it is not on the roof?? You need a pocket or pouch that you can attach to your radio ruck that both carries and protects your antenna from unintended abuse while in transit.

The Plans
To this end, I give to you the HAM Radio Antenna Pouch for your ruck. For armour, we have a piece of 2" O.D. PVC Vacuum Pipe cut a wee bit longer than the height of your antenna. Now, you Red/Green fans can go ahead and complete this project with just Duct Tape, but the rest of us want function and fashion. To attach this PVC pipe to the pack we need to build a fabric pouch to hold the pipe in place. The PVC pipe is tough enough and light enough to both protect and hold its shape.  

I am currently out of my normal building material 1000 denier Cordura, so this project was built with 600 denier PVC backed pack cloth, tough enough and then some for this project. In fact, if you had ripstop parachute cloth, that would work, especially if your mission requires extreme light weight gear. The PVC pipe is doing all the real work, the fabric is only acting as a means to interface the pipe to your ruck, in a convenient way.

We need a couple of measurement before we get too far in the layout process. First, how tall is your antenna?? Second, will your magnetic base fit inside a 2" O.D. PVC Vacuum Pipe?? Third, what is the outside circumference of the pipe you are using?? And finally, how will you attach this pouch to your ruck??

#1: Antenna: Nagoya model: UT-102UV is about 12" tall. 
 #2: Yes, the base will fit inside the PVC pipe.
#3: Outside circumference = 6 3/8"
#4: Basic 3/4" webbing and Velcro, through the MOLLE style webbing on the side of the ruck.


I start with a 15" piece of the 2" PVC pipe. The fabric required must be 7 1/2" x 16 1/2" to cover the tube and allow enough room for seams.

The zipper will hold the top cap to the fabric lower. The top cap only needs to be 2" x 7 1/2". 

Ready to Assemble 

Progressing Nicely
The ends of the fabric will be closed with either a single or double layer of pack cloth. Since, this antenna is so lightweight, I opted for a single layer top and bottom.

In case I need to share this antenna with anyone, I wanted a webbing strip to feed anchor straps through. This was achieved by adding a 3/4" webbing sewn at 1 1/2" intervals down the centre line of the pouch. The anchor webbing and Velcro be inset about 1/2" from the edge, so you can sew past it when sewing the main seam. You can do this on either side, it depends which side of your ruck you want your antenna pouch on. This one ends up to mount on the left side of the Cubist Escape. Next one will need to be the opposite to mount on the right side of the Cubist Escape.

Basic Shape Achieved

Ends Attached

Insert PVC Pipe

Attach to Pack
Once, all the outside work is completed, it is time to assemble your pouch.

Start with the main seam. Goodside to goodside, sew down the seam. I use the edge of my machine's foot to gauge the allowance. I sew tight allowances, so for me on a project like this, a bit over an inch more than the size I want will do. If you use large seam allowances, you may need to add more when you layout your design onto your fabric. 

This first project I had to design and build the proto-type. Now, that I know the seams work; the next one will utilize inside seams for the ends. Once I had reversed the material I knew I did not want to do that twice more. 

All-in-all, I am quite happy with how this pouch turned out. It fit on the Cubist Escape well. And, I believe this pouch will protect my antenna well. My only concern with outside seams on the top and bottom of the pouch is that rain or snow may collect and seep through.....although, I am not sure the antenna would be affect by some moisture.

Well, when you need gear and cannot find or afford it.....you may as well make it. 

Until next time, design and built something!!!


11 October 2016

Ardvreck Castle, Shores of Loch Assynt, Sutherland, Scotland

Ardvreck Castle
Ardvreck Castle, along the A837, on the shores of Loch Assynt, Sutherland, Scotland. For those traveling the North Coast 500 (https://www.northcoast500.com), this is a must stop and take a picture location. 

We happened upon Ardvreck Castle and even from a distance, this mysterious ruin had our attention. So, strong was the attraction that we stopped at a distance to capture our first images before finding a pullout to park at, so we could explore the grounds of the peninsula/island (depending on water levels) which the castle is located. 

Again, I must warn you I am not a historian. My quick check of Wikipedia helped me to learn this was once a Clan MacLeod stronghold. I find that interesting, but I am here to take pictures. If only I had time to return when the skies are blue and the crowds are few. And pictures I did take.....about 90 images were captured here. From that I have tried, with minimal success, to pare that number down for this post.

I believe the photos will do the talking on this one.  I have more images than I have words to describe it image. I will say, I did enjoy this visit immensely, from the pleasant walk from the A837 along the beach, wading the ankle-deep waters onto the outcrop, as well as, my scurrying under the A837 to go take pictures of the nearby waterfall.

Ardvreck Castle is a very rewarding castle to photograph. All of these images were taken within about 30 minutes or so, on an August afternoon. And depending on where the sun was in relation to the castle and the background I was able to capture the same castle with many different faces. I have had a few of these images printed and enlarged; Ardvreck Castle is very photogenic.  
Calda House & Ardvreck Castle, Loch Assynt, Scotland

Ardvreck Castle

Ardvreck Castle

Ardvreck Castle, Loch Assynt
I hope you enjoy these pics. I know, I enjoyed taking them. This was a great adventure and look forward to one day making a return.

Until next time, plan an adventure and go!!

Ardvreck Castle

Ardvreck Castle

Ardvreck Castle

Ardvreck Castle

Ardvreck Castle

Ardvreck Castle

Ardvreck Castle

Ardvreck Castle

Ardvreck Castle, Loch Assynt, Scotland

4 October 2016

Castle Sinclair - Girnicoe, Caithness, Scotland

Sinclair Castle, near Wick in Caithness, Scotland. Not the most Northerly castle, but very close.

This was our second castle to visit while enroute to John O'Groats. We attempted to visit during our 1990's trip, however, we could not find the road around the Wick Airport. The old road went right passed the airport. This time with some assistance from the workers at the airport we learned where to find the route out to the castle. First task find Willowbank and drive East continue on Broadhaven Road. Follow North until it becomes Elzy Road. Upon arrival at the "T" intersection turn left. Roads don't really have names at this point. Follow until intersect across from Runway "26" Wick Airport, turn right. Continue pass the Noss Farm, road angles to the right. Continue until you pass a building/farm on your right and prepare to park in the parking area just passed this building.
Sinclair Castle

It is footborne from here. A short walk, no more than about 500m in each direction to Castle Sinclair. The foot path begins to the North of the parking area. The path is well worn and the castle is visible in short order.

This castle was of interest to us, because it is off the beaten path and we did not expect to see large crowds. We arrive in the afternoon and we did not see more than four others at any one time while at the castle or the approach.
Rough Coast Around Sinclair Castle

Sinclair Castle, Getting Closer
We did take one of the side paths to see what we could see. We were rewarded with a very good view of the rugged coastline. Be careful, if the grass is damp or wet, a nasty fall into the North Sea would most likely be fatal. Try not to do that.

The water here is crystal clear and the colours are hard to capture in the pictures. It is simply amazing. Well worth the detour.
Sinclair Castle Ruins

Sinclair Castle, Reno's in Progress

Sinclair Castle, Tower House

Sinclair Castle, Harbour
It would appear that Castle Sinclair is currently under restoration. Unfortunately, it was not possible to access the scaffolding area.....I am sure the views from there would be of the million dollar variety.

I will continue the castles, soon.

Until next time.....find something you enjoy.


Find more information here:


Sinclair Castle, Harbour 2

Sinclair Castle

1 October 2016

Urquhart Castle, Shores of Loch Ness, Inverness-shire, Scotland

Urquhart Castle

Approaching Urquhart Castle
This was a travel day for us. We started our day at The Old Pine Yurt, near Tomintoul, Cairngorm Mountains. ( Old Pine Yurt ). Our end game for today would be John O'Groats, Caithness country in Northern Scotland.

Our first big stop of the day was on the shores of Loch Ness at Urquhart Castle. Plan to stop at Urquhart Castle at the beginning of a day or just before closing. The middle I guess would be a zoo. As we were on our own, not on a bus/coach tour, we just wanted to do a quick stop and get some family group pictures. Yes, I remembered the tripod for this trip. 

We arrived just at opening and the car park was almost full!!! At 0927 in the morning. Parking is limited. I am not sure where you would park if you arrived later. (My trip in 1990's, we arrived at the end of the day and rushed to see everything.) When we left an hour later the car park was officially "FULL".

Massive Gate at Urquhart Castle

Urquhart Castle
We did our best to stay ahead of the crowd to get as many pictures with as few people in them. I rarely succeeded.

I did manage to get some very nice shots from both inside the walls and from outside. 

From the damage done to Urquhart Castle, to reduce it to ruin.....it is easy to see how much of a threat these castles posed to the powers that be, at that time. Now, it is just a mere shadow if what it would have been. The image of the thick wall around the main gate, shows to me, that this would have been a very difficult castle to storm-by-force of ground troops. However, a fleet of naval ships with all guns trained on this stronghold, something had to give.

Nice View of Urquhart Castle
Our visit blessed us with calm, blue waters and clear, blue skies. Our previous pictures showed both skies and waters to be much darker and more grey.
Tower, Mostly Intact

Awesome Iron Work
 I hope you enjoy the photos. I enjoyed taking them. Later this day, we would visit Sinclair Castle. But, that will be another post on another day.

Until next time.....grab your camera and capture some memories!!


Final look