Sunday, 23 December 2007

Dingli Cliffs walk Sunday 23 Dec 2007

A group of around 30 ramblers turned up for this restricted walk. The weather forecast was for scattered showers -luckily it did not rain much throughout the whole walk.

From our meeting place, near the radar station on Dingli cliffs, we walked southeast along the edge of the cliff for about 200m, and then went down the cliff and headed northwest. This part of the walk was completely off the beaten track, with not even a footpath in most places. We walked steadily northwest for about 4km, passing through areas known as Ghar Bittija, Rdum ta' Dun Nazju, Ta' Gfien, and the appropriately-named Tal-Gawwija, until, just before Ras id-Dawwara, we headed inland again. Then up to the Qattara area and on to the paved road back to our meeting place.

A tough walk that was enjoyed by all.

Walk Leader: Romano

Duration: 4 hours




Some of the spectacular scenery of the area


An easy patch



A poser



Ramblers on the slopes

Beneath the radar station

Thursday, 13 December 2007

Has-Saptan Walk Thursday 13th December, 2007

A group of around sixty ramblers turned up for today’s walk, in excellent walking weather, especially considering the rainy weather that prevailed all week.

From our meeting place, il-Palazz ta’ Bettina, in Gudja, we walked to Birzebbuga and back, via a circular route. Most of the walk was through the scenic green countryside typical of this time of year.

Below are some photos from the walk.

Walk Leader: Felix

Duration: 3 hours





Walking through the green countryside



The Ippolita remains


Ramblers with the Freeport in the background



Countryside shrine




Single file



Ta Loretu Chapel - detail


Ta Loretu Chapel dressed up for the forthcoming feast

Saturday, 24 November 2007

Southern Cliffs Walk 24Nov 2007



Around 30 ramblers turned up for this first restricted numbers activity for the season on what turned out to be a surprisingly warm day for the time of year. From near Gnien il-Gibjun in the Nigret neighbourhood of Zurrieq we winded our way downhill to access the point called Il-Munqar - characterised by a curious skyward-pointing beak-like rock outcrop.
This point affords arguably the most spectacular vista over the famed Blue Grotto and the adjacent Wied Babu.

A little backtracking was made here in order to get to the cliffside seaward path which we then followed all the way to Wied il-Bassasa.


This cliffside path is characterised by sweeping sea vistas and a rock terrain rich in a varied carpet of coastal flora - at its best in spring rather than in autumn.

From Wied il-Bassasa it was a steep uphill climb which tested energies and brought out the sweat on a day which saw temperatures rising to 23c. From here a succession of paths bypassing used and abandoned quarries brought us back to our start point.


A particular curiosity of this scenic and peaceful area is that around half a century back it witnessed the worst airplane crash in Maltese history.
On the 18th of February 1956 an Avro York airliner belonging to Scottish Airlines crashed here with the loss of 50 lives. There were no survivors.
There was some debate among ramblers as to the exact crash site and whether any memorial is in place in the area. None could be traced however.



Total Time : 2.5 hours with stops Walk Leader : Steven

Friday, 23 November 2007

Gardens & Fortifications Walk 14Nov07



Ramble with a difference

Usual rambles organised by the Ramblers Association seek the quiet open spaces and scenic spots out in the countryside. Not on Wednesday 14th November when RAM showed its members that even urban Valletta and suburban Floriana have so much to offer in quiet open surrounds with scenes that are spectacular and unique. With some surprise many members got to visit for the first time some sites on the fortifications flanking Valletta on the landward side which offer that peace and tranquillity unexpected in hustle and bustle that are Valletta and Floriana.

Starting with the Hastings Gardens ramblers greeted the scenic views of Marsamxetto harbour but their awareness was raised of the frail stone bridges that span the ditch just below at frequent intervals and half-way up the high walls. The purpose and make up of these bridges were explained and the intricate tunnel system that connects all of them under the bastions was described. It was a pity that today all the hard work and ingenuity behind such a marvellous tunnel and bridge system was left to crumble when it potentially constituted a means of upgrading and balancing the tourist product of Valletta. For visitors whose interest in baroque may wane in favour of other interests like military architecture, sightseeing and open areas, the whole bastions complex is bewildering in itself and leads to lovely gardens and open high spaces with magnificent views of both harbours and typical Maltese landscapes.

At the Garden of Repose on the Floriana bastions facing Msida all marvelled at how well the place is maintained after having been vandalised and pilfered savagely immediately after the British left Malta. The stone marking the place where Mikiel Anton Vassalli is reputed to be buried, next to the monument of Hookham Frere, shows the importance that the British gave to the father of the Maltese language. The splendid views over Msida creek and Manoel Island are enhanced by the peace of the place and the bright sunshine.

The delightful Argotti gardens treated the ramblers to more scenic charms and the visit here unfortunately could not take in the botanical purpose to which the University of Malta is today devoting to the place. Instead it was a quick romp to remind all of the tranquillity that reigns supreme in that place. Once back at the gate the ramblers could admire the baroque exterior of the Sarria church and the Wignacourt Water trough and the adjacent Gothic style Robert Sammut Hall, formerly the Methodist church, designed by Maltese architect Caruana Galizia.






The unexpected St Philip Gardens, which many members hardly knew about let alone visited, came as a pleasant surprise in such proximity to the Argotti. The ramparts there offered an unusual overview of the major traffic thoroughfare of Portes-des-Bombes, the Pinetum and the Maltese landscapes beyond. The stone fountain which Grandmaster Wignacourt had erected in front the Palace in Valletta to commemorate the arrival of running water in the city, today stands there in its lonely majesty

At the next garden of Sa Maison (commonly known as Tal-Milorda), the various carvings on the walls and other free standing stone works left by the various regiments stationed in Malta drew admiration. But the main attention fell on the crumbling state of the marvellous arch that spans the outer fortifications of Floriana, at the far end of the garden. This is no ordinary arch as its ceiling slopes dramatically and its sides veer diagonally. A hidden master-piece is in grave danger of being lost through neglect and disrespect. The valley it spans, if cleared from overgrowth and other waste, will extend the lovely garden to, and make it easily accessible from, the Ospizio at Floriana, below the Police HQ. The area is crying out for rehabilitation and yet remains another potential gem waiting to be recovered. Ironically an iron gate and a gate-keeper today stand guard indiscernable of the derelict ramshackle surrounds of the Ospizio and beyond.

At Ta’ Braxia cemetery the Caruana Galizia chapel dominates the restful grounds of many expatriates who served militarily or administratively in Malta during the last two centuries, remembered by inscriptions on their lofty or humble tombstones or forgotten by the erosion of time. The cemetry has come under the administration of the Maltese authorities after the Commonwealth War Graves Commission spent long years caring for the place, and it is a pleasure to witness that the place is being very well maintained.
The ramblers paid special admiration to the elaborate monument to the memory of shipping magnate Olaf Gollcher.


The longest part of the walk took ramblers up the hill to the Grand Harbour side of Floriana and to the gardens and open spaces flanking the bastions overlooking the new Valletta Waterfront (ex Pinto Stores), past the Ruzar Briffa Hospital and into the King George V gardens with its lovely views of St Angelo and the Three Cities. The St Peter Counterguard was toured and its sights endorsed from the lonely Gardjola there before the last lap was taken to the Bus Terminus through the tunnels on the outer ramparts which today house the Central Bank annexe.

It took five solid hours well spent on walking, sightseeing and cultural reflection on those other elements of the cultural heritage of Valletta and its environs which carry so much leisure potential yet are sorely underutilized and direly crying for attention.













Sunday, 11 November 2007

Mixquqa – Mizieb – Xemxija

Mixquqa – Mizieb – Xemxija 11th Nov 2007

The feast of San Martin, on November 11th, provided a varied walk of sun and rain clouds, garigue and woodland. Forming a long snake across the area recently declared as a national park (instead of a golf course) 170 Ramblers crossed from the ancient hamlet of Manikata to a eucalyptus grove near the reservoir.















View of garigue - pity it's spoilt with that monstrosity
in the background












Ramblers snaking across the garigue.














The old hamlet


Past the Church, after an area of cart ruts and ancient walls we arrived at the location for our first environmental initiative.

Gun cartridges were collected during a rest stop here before entering the wooded area where narrow pathways and tree-scapes provided a wonderful sense of isolation surrounded by greenery. Many abandoned hunters’ hides were encountered. One of these even sported a roof garden to the amusement of all.











Hunter's hide


Threading our way through the trees and along the rough pathways we emerged near a modern-day “girna” where Ramblers tidied the area for future visitors, leaving a positive mark on this lesser known part of the countryside.












Spent shotgun shells collected from the area













Walking through the woodland


At the Archeological zone on Xemxija Ridge the walk disbanded as some descended via the Roman Apiary to walk or catch a bus back to Golden Bay – or to Mosta/Valletta. Others had parked cars waiting for them and a lift back to the starting point. The really intrepid ones chose to ramble back along a separate track, extending the ramble by another hour.

Thanks to all who made the morning a pleasant one. On a personal note it is 36 years to the day that I arrived in Malta therefore the Mizieb Ramble was the very best way I could think of to mark this day which is so special to me.












Alex and Anne addressing the assembled masses

Our presence at Mizieb, in a non-aggressive manner, is a statement in itself. Words are hardly necessary. It was encouraging to see families enjoying themselves in these wild surroundings. Such a sight made us feel that this pine and olive wonderland may be one of Malta’s best kept secrets.

Walk Leader: Anne
Duration: about 3 hours to Xemxija


Note 1. This is the first RAM walk guided by our new walk leader, Anne Zammit. The write-up and ideas are hers.

Note 2. Clicking on a photo will open it up to a larger size.

Wednesday, 31 October 2007

Press Release - Ramblers on Future MLP Plans

The Ramblers Association of Malta has noted with great concern the unilateral direction taken by the leader of the Opposition, Dr Alfred Sant, toward developing more golf courses - two in Malta and one in Gozo - as quoted in several media reports.

RAM is strongly opposed to the idea that more swathes of open countryside and scarce water resources should be sacrificed in such a wasteful way - more so when recent studies, carried out in connection with the now abandoned Xaghra l-Hamra plans, confirmed that a stand-alone course would not be viable.

RAM also questions the Labour Party's stand on two particular sites in Gozo - namely ta Cenc and Hondoq - and would like to remind the Party that its representatives at the Save Gozo environmental protest, held earlier this year, manifestly opposed development at both sites.


Sunday, 14 October 2007

SPTT Wied id-Dis Walk 14th October 2007

San Pawl Tat-Targa Wied id-Dis Walk
14th October 2007


Despite the rainy weather forecast for the day, 105 people turned up for this walk. And they were amply rewarded, as there were only a few drops of rain at the start of the walk. Fortune favours the brave, as the saying goes.

This walk was also the “maiden walk“ of our new walk leader, Jack Vella. The RAM committee hereby extends its thanks to Jack for his time. Unfortunately a lot of people only go as far as making comments and suggestions on how walks should, or should not, be conducted, but only a very few are willing to actually lead a walk or two. If any ramblers are willing to lead walks, you know what you have to do!

From our meeting place near SPTT chapel, we walked down the hill (Telgha T’Alla u Ommu), then turned right towards Gharghur, passing just below Birguma and an active quarry until we hit the Victoria lines. After a short detour to view Ghar San Brincat and Ghar San Pietru, we continued to follow the Victoria lines until we reached Wied id-Dis. We walked up the valley bed for a short distance, then struck up the side of the valley to Gharghur.
From Gharghur it was only a short distance back to our starting point.

Below are some notes on the features seen during this walk, as contributed by Jack.

Walk Leader: Jack
Duration: 3 hours including the breaks.


Captain’s tower


The Captain’s tower was built during the reign of Grand Master La Vallette and prior to the Great Siege of 1565. It was sometimes used by Grand Master La Vallette who used to stay here when he was touring the vicinities. It is named so because the Captain of the Militia (a group that guarded the area) was stationed in this tower. On the other side of the road one can also see a similar tower; Gauci’s tower, which was built round the same time.

In the upper part of the tower one can notice several drop boxes that were used in case of any attacks, when boiling oil was dropped on the enemy. There are also several holes that were used by soldiers to shoot from. It is important to mention that the Naxxar Militia at the time had round about 100 soldiers making it only second to the capital city, Valletta.


It-Torri tal-Kaptan



Pill box

This pill box, formerly known as Defense Post R15, was built in the late 1930’s just before beginning of World War 2. It is located in the upper part of T’ Alla w’ Ommu, and was built to enhance the safety of the area. In fact, before the time of Mount Maghtab, one could easily have a view of the whole area from Salina to Bahar ic- Caghaq. These type of pill boxes used to have two floors, the upper part for the guard and as target box while the lower part served as an accommodation for the soldiers.


Defence Post R15


Il-Widna

Il- Widna (acoustic mirror) can be considered as a primitive form of radar. It consists of a curved wall, in the form of a parabola, with a microphone or a person at the focal point. Sound waves, coming from the direction of Sicily would be concentrated at this focal point, providing a sort of amplification of faint sounds normally inaudible to the human ear. The idea was that enemy planes could be heard approaching from the north while they were still far enough to scramble fighters, warn civilians of an impending air raid, and also provide sufficient notice to man the anti-aircraft batteries. Its usefulness was in fact short-lived, as it was soon overtaken by the first radar.



Jack with Mount Maghtab and il-Widna in the background


Ghar San Brincat

This consist of two caves, one of which is relatively small. In other times, when farmers and shepherds were common around the island, these caves were used as means of shelter from the weather. In the smallest cave we can see a frame of Our Saviour’s crucifixion. According to legend this was put up to protect the shepherds from bad spirits who used to haunt and taunt them, sometimes even ending in fatalities, with people being thrown into the valley below. Mass was sometimes said inside this cave during the month of November.


Victoria Lines

The Victoria lines were built as a defense for the southern part of the island against a probable attack from the enemy if they land in the northern part such as Golden Bay, Xemxija or Ghadira bay. Even though Malta is a heavily- fortified island, the majority of the fortifications lie in the Cottonera and Valletta area. The main objective of the Victoria Lines that of offering security against attacks from the north, was never realised. However, they are still considered as part of our heritage. Unfortunately, although some parts have been renovated, many other parts are still in a bad state of repair. We have seen other sections of the Lines on past walks, and will certainly see more on future walks.



Crossing Wied il-Faham


The Master Antenna

The master antenna in Gharghur is the main telecommunication antenna on The Maltese Islands. The main TV stations as well as other telephony companies make direct use of this antenna. This antenna was built in 1960’s, and, forty years later, it Is still being used for the same purpose. The antenna is the highest point in the Maltese Islands, as Gharghur is at about the same height as Dingli & Rabat, with only few metres difference. In fact the motto of the village is “Excelsior”, which means the highest.


Wied id-Dis and Santa Marija taz- Zellieqa

This valley is one of the most beautiful and extensive in Malta, with its trees and the renowned seven arched bridge. This bridge was not so long ago used for abseiling. It is also home to robins during their season.



Wied id-Dis


Gharghur

The current population of Gharghur is around 2700 people. Its history dates back to Roman times. Remains dating from Roman times were found in the main street, St. John Street, in 1955. In fact the olive crusher exhibited in the Domus Romana, was actually found in Gharghur. In 1436, with some 700 people living (200 families), the process started that would finally detach Gharghur from the neighbouring village of Naxxar. It was at this time that the first chapel dedicated to St. Bartholomew was built. Even so, it was not until 1598 that the village made its request to officially separate itself from Naxxar, finding harsh opposition from the parish priest of Naxxar, Fr. Julian Borg. And in fact it was not before 1610, following his death, that this request was finally accepted, with the villagers losing no more time to start building the present-day church, a project that took 28 years to finish. In 1734 some major alterations were made to the fa├žade, lasting to the present day.

Needless to say Gharghur is one of the most beautiful villages in Malta, having kept its identity throughout the centuries and, as far as I am concerned, the most important, as I was born here.



Climbing from Wied id-Dis to Gharghur


Jack Vella

Wednesday, 3 October 2007

The Three Palaces

Wednesday - 3rd October 2007

101 assembled. No, they were not Dalmations but a pure breed of genuine ramblers that challenged the heat to start off from St. Dominic Church and up to Tal Virtu. The quiet suburb was soon alive as the start of a new season of walks gripped all and sundry in a flurry of excitement. Once through the gate that lies at the extreme western corner of the perimeter of the Seminary grounds, the country lane was followed down into Il-Wied tal-Isqof, where a hunter displaying his shotgun greeted us amicably and also showed us the way up to the old and derelict summer place that the bishop of Malta had built for himself in the first half of the 17th century. After a close look at the dampish cave under the lush cliff, which still displays a large stone table and a vivid spring of fresh water, the group were welcomed by the President, Lino Bugeja, who then proceeded to give the historical details of the derelict site. It appears the Bishop of Malta at the time envied the Grandmaster and the Inquisitor who both had built a summer residence for themselves in the vicinity.




Ramblers in the grounds of Verdala palaceThe group then walked past the Chapel dedicated to St Lucy and St Nicholas of Bari at Gnien il-Far, a justapatronatus of the Testaferrata Viani family, which served as a refugee centre during the last war. And then on to the Verdala Palace grounds, which were thrown open to us by courtesy of the President (unfortunately the palace itself is undergoing restoration and maintenance) and the quaint chapel of St Anthony the Abbot, which was amply detailed by the caretaker there, Mr Mifsud.
Mr Mifsud was kind enough to let us through the back gate that leads to the Buskett forest and through this path all could admire the west fa?de of the palace with its imposing staircase.

We were running very late and it was only at noon that we arrived at the third palace, the Inquisitor?s at Girgenti. Mr Robert Cutajar from the OPM welcomed the Ramblers and gave a brief description of the place. The Secretary thanked him warmly as he was instrumental to render possible the visits to both palaces. He also explained that Mr Cutajar is the person entrusted by the Prime Minister to liaise with the RAM where difficult people or situations are encountered in the countryside.




All ears to the commentary by Mr Mifsud inside the Chapel of St Anthony the AbbotFifteen persons at a time were permitted to tour the halls and view the rooms of the prime-minister?s residence, so well over an hour was spent there. It was at this point that the intended visit to Ghar il-Kbir and Clapham?s Junction was decided to be forsaken. After taking a group photo the ramblers took the road back to Buskett , which was crossed from south to north, and thence on the tarmaced road back to San Duminku, arriving there at around 2.00pm.

The numerous turnout, the interesting talks at all the three ?palaces? and the engaging walkabouts there did slacken the walk enough to force the cancellation of the visit to the last site. However none was sorry for it as there was more thrown in than any had been bargained for.


Group photo

Friday, 28 September 2007

Scotland Trip

RAM’s first rambling experience abroad: 6th - 17th September 2007

Written by Alex

Thursday 6th September: Excitement was in the air as seventeen of us lined up to the Check-in Desk of AirMalta on the start of a first ever venture abroad by RAM. The flight was good and timely. Not the same could be said of the queue at the car-hire desk and the availability of the hired cars at Glasgow airport. It took us one hour to get sorted and on our way to Stirling.

In no time we were at the Sterling Management Centre on the campus of Stirling University and lining up again to retrieve our key to the individual rooms. However coffee and sandwiches were offered while accommodation details were sorted out. All were out within one hour and after a quick shower, expressing satisfaction with the accommodation and its location. The secretary handed out some maps of the place and gave other information as to the frequency of buses to the centre, bus-stops and details of the surrounds, and prompted everybody to roam about independently for the afternoon until the appointed dinner time. Some ventured to the center, others to Bridge of Allan nearby.


Friday 7th: A lively group of Scottish ramblers from Biggar and Hamilton were massed and ready to welcome the arrival of the Maltese ramblers for the first outing in Biggar. It brought to mind the welcome that awaited the Scottish ramblers six months earlier on their first outing in Malta. On that occasion more than a hundred locals greeted their surprised counterparts in Rabat on the start of the walk to the Chadwick Lakes.

It took no longer than thirty minutes to renew friendships and exchange greetings before the motley group followed Jan and Bernard on a leisurely stroll around the historic village, along its golf course under the shadow of Tinto Hill, past streams and over the small “Cadgers Brig” (named after William Wallace “Braveheart”, who crossed it disguised as a pedlar to spy on English troops camping in Biggar in 1297) and finally to Biggar Kirk (1545), the last such collegiate church to be built in Scotland before the reformation of Scotland’s religion. We lunched lightly at the Gillespie Community Centre on hot soup and appetizing sandwiches prepared for the occasion.

Then came the crunch, as the seemingly-easy challenge was laid before us to surmount Tinto Hill, which from the bottom looked like relatively easy going. But what an optical illusion is Tinto as viewed from the bottom. Vertically it climbs to a height of 800 meters (a mountain by Maltese standards) yet seemingly peanuts as the summit appears so near. It is only on walking the first mile up that we realized that Tinto had hidden contours that made the ascent to the top another four miles distant! What with a cold biting northerly blowing strongly against, and a gravel surface tricking our every step?

Marianne Muscat Azzopardi was the first up there in some 90 minutes, with yours truly a close second. Almost all made it to the top somehow or other, but the descent was even more treacherous as the rounded pebbles rolled under our weight.

Our Scottish friends baptized us with fire. And they told us so.

Saturday 8th: By comparison the day visit to Falkirk was relaxed and undemanding, yet most intriguing and scenic. Even the weather turned sunny as we met our friends at the Falkirk Wheel. What a sight and a marvel of ingenuity is this Scottish project of the Millennium. One and all were fascinated by the mechanism as we took the boat ride up and down this simple contraption, which takes boat canal and water together up some twenty five meters in a matter of ten minutes. It raises the water of the Clyde to the level of the water of the Forth to enable barges to travel all the way up from Glasgow to Edinburgh. Fascinating!

After a light lunch we set off on the “tow-path” alongside the Union canal, led by Jo and Fay. This path was trodden by beasts of burden towing the barges before the advent of steam-power. The walk was most exhilarating in the splendid sunshine; the green meadows beyond the canal had early rusty touches of autumn with glimpses of shy deer staring or starting away ; snow white swans and their cygnets followed us on the still water while some leisure barge steamed quietly on its way. We plodded on through the Falkirk Tunnel, at 630meters the longest canal tunnel in Scotland cut with picks, shovels and gunpowder in 1822. We had a feeling of paradise regained as ripe juicy blackberries lined the way to tickle our throats, dry as they became with the gentle sun beating down on some five miles of trodden path. Walking back we thanked our luck as the opportunity presented itself to view the gates and sluices of the canal locks in action as the water leveled down barges on their way.

Sunday 9th: It was the turn of the South Lanark Older Walkers (S.L.O.W.) and Mary leading to prepare a full day of activities for us in Hamilton. The day started off with a guided visit to the Mausoleum and crypt, where Alec the caretaker gave an account of the history and lives of the various dukes that were laid to rest there, all from the noble lineage of Hamilton. After some group photos were taken to commemorate the visit the hosts treated us to a mouthwatering lunch at the Hamilton Bowling Club where greetings and appreciations were exchanged.

In the afternoon we drove to Chatelherault, the restored William Adam hunting lodge, with visitor centre, set in 500 acre country park with superb views north to Ben Lomond, and ten miles of footpath in historic landscape and Avon River gorge including ancient oaks and extensive semi-natural woodland. We did not walk the ten miles but a solid three hours along the Cadzow Oaks Trail was enough to tire our limbs. It was almost sundown before we got our cars started on the way back after two dizzy members stumbled to the wrong car-park.

Monday 10th: The Trossachs pier on Lake Catherine was our destination and our caravan of three cars was timely to meet up with Moira and Sue on this another day full of glorious sunshine. The boat was lousy but the trip diverting along the shores and around the islands, with the various Bens and falls in the background.

We drove back to Callander at noon and parked at the southern point of Lock Lubnaig. It was a delightful walk along the 7-mile western shore of the lake all the way north to Strathyre. Again the sun shone brilliantly overhead as we covered territory that lit up in various shades of green, encountering some half dozen pure breed highland cattle grazing away in the shade of an old oak tree, their golden tufts covering their heavily lashed eyes. Further along sandwiches were shared under another mighty oak, and a little nap taken by some, especially the young ones. A smooth climb toward the northern side of the lake got us to a vantage point from where the whole stretch of the lake came into perspective. By the end of 4 hours we were downing cold ale at the first corner pub in Strathyre.

Tuesday 11th: The sun did not shine today and our arrival in New Lanark was delayed by at least one hour due to my missing the proper exit on the M9 and a misunderstanding of the meeting place. But all was well as we met up with Dorothy and Isobel. The local guide explained all about David Dale and his mills in the valley below Lanark. We toured the impeccable environs and the orderly rows of buildings that housed the mills and the orphans that lived, learned and worked there. After eating our packed lunch we set off along the river Clyde often stopping to admire the rapids and spectacular falls on the way up to the dam which diverts the water to the hydroelectric turbines below. The lake created by the dam reflected the trees along its edge as the sky by now had turned blue. It was a feast of colour, though not as brilliant as we know it back home!

By 4.00pm we were back at New Lanark where all enjoyed a hot cuppa, while the Secretary accompanied by the president of the Biggar Ramblers paid a courtesy visit to Mr Gilbert Duncan, who was indisposed at home. Mr Duncan was the person who instigated the original visit to Malta last March and who had kindly invited us over to Scotland. We wish Mr Duncan a speedy recovery.

At 6.00pm the Maltese were treated to a healthy dinner of varied goodies prepared by the Biggar and SLOW members themselves. The party, which started with a talk about the history of Lanark, lasted well into the night. Then with stomachs full we headed on our long journey to Stirling.

Wednesday 12th: We all took the bus to Edinburgh from the Park & Ride near the Airport and were comfortably driven right to the heart of the city. The Secretary explained directions to the Royal Mile, the Visitor Centre and other vantage points, a meeting time and all went their different ways. All were punctual but exhausted after a long day of exploration and shopping before we trudged back to the car park for the drive home in our cars.
Thursday 13th: Picturesque Pitlochry, famous for its scenery and hydro-electric dam with salmon ladder presented the opportunity to walk along the banks of the river Tummel under the direction of Willie and Blane. Actually today we made two walks. The Edradour Walk of some 3 miles led up to the picturesque Edradour distillery, the smallest in Scotland that sends its brew to the House of Lords at Westminister. Here we sampled the liquid gold before a detailed scented tour of the distillery aroused the appetite for more and all took home a bottle or two. Walking through Black Spout Wood the Kinnaird Burn and the Edradour Burn present attractive water features tumbling down their tree-lined way. The burns are spanned by footbridges linking the paths which criss-cross through the woodland. The Black Spout is an impressive 60 meters high waterfall, pleasantly overlooked by a viewing platform. The longer walk took us around Loch Faskally’s shoreline over interesting footbridges and finally over the Pitlochry Power Station Dam where the salmon don't actually jump up the ladder but swim through interconnecting pipes. An observation chamber allows visitors to watch the salmon underwater through a large plate glass window. We did not see the salmon swim up but got an overall impression of what a sight it presents when the salmon returns to brood.
Friday 14th: For a change it rained in the morning but by mid-day the sun was out again. No walks were on and the Stirling attractions were the order of the day. The Wallace Monument and Stirling Castle were explored by those who did not prefer the commercial attraction of the Thistle Shopping Centre.
Saturday 15th: The last long drive with our cars took us to Peebles sited on the third major river in Scotland, the Tweed. And what an enjoyable day it turned out to be. Willie led us for a ramble of about two hours that from the park in Kingsmeadow led out of town among the tree lined banks of the river and across some historic bridges and remains. As we met the road to Peebles we crossed over the bridge spanning the river and then a left turn uphill. From the top the scenes were charming and pastoral: sheep and cattle grazing on the meadows sloping all the way down to the river with a backdrop of rolling hills heaving up to a blue sky littered with white cloud. Leaving the road we crossed some meadows with more sheep and molehills and down to town again where a nice lunch was expecting us at the Green Tree Hotel. We played hosts this time as we treated our Scottish friends in appreciation of the wonderful programme that was prepared for us. Willie bade the group farewell after lunch, remembering what a good time was had in Malta, and the Secretary retorted with thanks that our tour was memorable and augured that other such activities will follow, as they will always be welcome to our isles. Members intermingled bidding personal farewells and au revoir. After lunch there was enough free time to wander about the quaint town of Peebles before making headway for St Ninian’s Church in Bannockburn for Holy Mass.
Sunday 16th: Our last day in Scotland was left free for all to do whatever they please and pack up for an early start on the morrow. A small group of us ventured to Loch Lomond and others toured the interesting sites around Stirling and Bridge of Allan. Most however ended up sooner or later at the Thistle Shopping Centre to pick up the last souvenirs of the visit.
Monday 17th: Following earlier suggestions all suitcases were by the side of the cars at the appointed early hour and these were diligently packed to fit the cars without the need to hire additional transport. The hotel prepared an early continental breakfast and our caravan set out on its way to Glasgow at 0630hrs, arriving at the airport well in time for the flight back home.
It was always the case during the trip that every member of the group was meticulous in co-operating with the organizer and fellow members to make matters easy and expedient for all. It was an example of teamwork and that is what made the tour so successful and enjoyable. I wish to thank one and all for the company which I enjoyed at all times. Well done to all.