Needless to say, we had a fantastic adventure and we arrived at Robin Hood's Bay with an incredible sense of achievement.
It seems unbelievable now but back then not many people in our neighbourhood had a family car. Jump nearly forty years and our roads are congested but the car gives us the ability to escape and explore new places.
Enter the North Coast 500™️ (wouldn't want to get sued!) and each year we experience thousands of people exploring the least populated and least spoiled areas in the UK, a long distance route - in a car. Following a prescribed route, the majority drive the same roads, see the same sights, and take the same photographs as everybody else who have travelled the route. That's fine, the consensus is that it's a fantastic holiday and many strike up new friendships and vow to return again.
This is an amazing place to live and work but with the benefit of time, and exploring off the beaten path, the real amazement starts. You don't have to climb mountains or disappear into the wilderness (although that's easy to do!) within a mile or two of the village can be found places which are simply jaw dropping in their beauty. Away from the roads and the traffic, these places can be enjoyed in complete peace and quiet.
I discovered this place just a couple of hundred of metres from the main road in one of the many small areas of woodland between Durness and Tongue. That's a couple of hundred metres off the NC500™️ route. I had no idea what I would find, I was simply wandering, exploring.
What I did discover was a complete joy. A small burn wandered through a birch wood, the gentle sound of running water negotiating and tumbling over rocks, I could have been miles away from civilisation. Following the burn, I unexpectedly came across a series of small waterfalls, each really pleasing in their own way. This one stopped me in my tracks. The water plunged into a pool from a height. A collection of birch leaves swirled around in circles in the current in a never ending journey, each following it's neighbour on a preset path. Accompanied by the gentle sound of the falls, I sat in what would otherwise be complete silence and simply took it all in. I'm not a particularly religious person but this place just seemed special in a spiritual way, this was one of those moments when you wonder if anybody else had ever experienced this place.
It's great to see so many new visitors come and experience the 'Far North' - afterall, for years businesses, Community Councils and various community groups wondered how to attract more visitors. What I would suggest though is that visitors take time to really experience what's beyond the windscreen. Don't be like those birch leaves in the pool, spend a few days in a handful of key places and discover your own secret falls.
Although my 'Pro' camera gear is insured to the hilt, I still like to look after it and make sure it's safe when I'm out and about. Over the years I've searched for a backpack specifically designed for photographers but which would also be as comfortable and robust as possible for my treks in the wilderness in all four seasons. That has proven more difficult than you might think.
Photo enthusiasts are often surprised that I have always restricted myself to one SLR and 3 lenses. This is because I'm often walking a reasonable distance and climbing high. In addition to camera gear, on some winter ventures I'm often carrying crampons, ice axe, and winter survival gear. This is why I decided that what I needed was a 'fit for purpose' mountain grade photo backpack.
I researched all the major manufacturers but found that most backpacks looked like suitcases with shoulder straps.
At last I've come to realise the best solution for my needs.
A backpack which has the most comfortable harness I've ever worn. Simple access to waterproofs etc, snacks, and all my essential photographic kit. Accommodates my 'mid-size' tripod either inside or outside and raincover for additional protection. What product is this? The backpack I already have!
It also means that once on location, I can fit each of these items on an accessory belt for easy access.
Why go to such trouble, afterall I've never had a camera damaged on the hill yet? Well, when carrying £3,000+ of the tools of my trade, I don't like to take chances. After all, I've never been in a serious car accident (thank goodness) but I still wear a seatbelt!
Just incase you were wondering, I have no commercial relationship with either Lowe Alpine or Lowepro. Perhaps I should!