Scotland holiday

We’re off to sunny Scotland. Well it had better be sunny; we’re fed up with England, it seems permanently submarine these days!

Jimmy and I have just pored over the maps, and come up with a very skeleton set of alerts. I expect these will be needed to be taken with a pinch of salt, by the chasers, and indeed by us.

Who knows what the weather will be? Who knows what the best day to go out in the Cairngorms with Barry GM4TOE will be? Who knows if the two Cairngorm summits we have guessed will match with Barry’s expert recommendation and local knowledge?

Who knows where we will be staying in the “middle day” when we have to find a night’s accommodation somewhere in between the booked Lossiemouth week (Friday to Friday) and the booked nr Stranraer week (Saturday to Saturday)? Who knows what day the boatman will advise for the Ailsa Craig DXpedition? Who knows if/when Marianne will put her foot down and say “no more disappearing early for SOTA”? Who knows if Marianne will put her foot down and demand additional family walks, forcing us to add even more SOTA activations to the schedule? (I know, ridiculous, but I have always been an optimist).

So I guess the posted alerts are more to provide a ‘flavour’ of our intentions, rather than a definitive itinerary.

Notes on working conditions: The plan is for Jimmy to use 145 FM using his handheld and SOTA Beam, and for me to use 40m CW with 817 & dipole. Jimmy likes 2m FM and always prefers to try this first. In the possible/probable event he cannot qualify on 2m FM, he will use 7.118MHz SSB (+/- QRM), which worked so well for him from Ben Nevis GM/WS-001 last year.

Several of our intended summits are “SOTA virgins”, so it will be essential for Jimmy to get the first timed QSO, before me. I have several “first activations” to my name, but Jimmy has yet to register one, so that is a priority for him on this vacation.

So there you go. We look forward to working many chasers in between the haggis stalking and deep fried Mars Bar hunting.


In reply to M1EYP:

Good luck - and don’t let the locals catch you dunking your crisps in your whiskey!


Brian G8ADD

Hmmm, that’s the one slight drawback in my plans. Enjoying superb Speyside single malts is not necessarily compatible with 5am get-ups for pre-breakfast previously-unactivated SOTA bagging. Wish me luck…!

No, I have my priorities right. I hardly touched the whiskey in Fort William last year. But will I be able to resist the temptation when actually in Speyside for a week?


In reply to M1EYP:

What’s the point of temptation if you don’t give in to it?:slight_smile:


Brian G8ADD

In reply to M1EYP:

I hardly touched the whiskey in Fort William last year.

I didn’t think there’d be much demand for Bushmills and the like in Scotland, even on the West Coast.

Oh you mean whisky! If you ask for whiskey in Speyside don’t blame me for what happens to you.


In reply to M1EYP:

Don’t forget the most essential item for visiting God’s country…

Midge repellent (or even better a ‘Midge Hood’)

In reply to M1EYP:

Several of our intended summits are “SOTA virgins”, so it will be
essential for Jimmy to get the first timed QSO, before me. I have
several “first activations” to my name, but Jimmy has yet to register
one, so that is a priority for him on this vacation.

I’m not sure that even that works. I’m not sure what algorithm is used by SOTAwatch
to determine who is the first activator when multiple people do it on the same
day. On the basis of those summits where Martyn & I did the first activation,
I had guessed that it was the first QSO that counted, since I’m reported as
first activator usually because I can get the first QSO on 2m before Martyn has
the dipole up. However when we recently did GM/SS-057 Beinn na Gainimh,
Martyn got both the first QSO, and was first to 4 QSOs, but I still seem to
be reported as first activator.

Caroline M3ZCB.

Hi Caroline,

Yes, I am aware of the fact that the Database shows the order of activators incorrectly at present. I think it shows them in date order, but within the date I am not sure how it orders them.

It should, as you suggest, be determined on the time of the first contact, because that is the first activator, even if it turns out not to be the first qualification for points.

I’m pretty sure Gary G0HJQ is aware of this issue, and it is on his “to do” list.

73, Tom M1EYP

In reply to M1EYP:

Hi Tom,
I listened around on 144MHz both SSB & CW tonight during the UK activity contest, but I didn’t manage to find you or Jimmy. The Angus beacon on 144.452 MHz which I can recieve here most of the time was quite strong tonight so conditions in that direction were good. As your alerted summit was in more or less a straight line on from that for me, it may have been possible for us to work tonight.

Conditions overall appeared excellent with good propagation around the UK and even my setup (50 Watts & 5 element Sotabeam) managing to work 4 GM’s a GI & a GD, as well as many G stations in a variety of squares. I had 26 QSO’s in tonights contest, which beats my previous personal record of 23, so I hope you & Jimmy made the most of it up there in GM land.

I Hope to catch you next Tuesday 11th, on 70cms.


Mark G0VOF

(edited to correct date of 70cms contest)

We did GM/CS-120 Brown Muir for the contest. We made six QSOs each, all local, two on SSB and four on FM. I could just about hear two other ‘regular’ GM contesters - but they couldn’t hear us. I’m sure they would have done if they had beamed north, but expect that was the last thing they were thinking of doing on contest night hi!

SOTA so far on the GM holiday:

Fri 31 Jul: Arthur’s Seat GM/SS-272 2m FM
Sat 01 Aug: Hill of the Wangie GM/CS-121 2m FM, 80m CW, 80m SSB
Sat 01 Aug: Burgiehill GM/CS-123 80m CW, 40m SSB
Sun 02 Aug: Knockan GM/ES-081 40m CW, 40m SSB (1st ever activation, by Jimmy)
Mon 03 Aug: Knock Hill GM/ES-073 2m FM, 40m CW, 40m SSB (1st ever activation, by Jimmy)
Tue 04 Aug: Brown Muir GM/CS-120 2m SSB, 2m FM
Wed 05 Aug: Ben Macdui GM/ES-001 2m FM, 40m CW
Wed 05 Aug: Beinn Mheadhoin GM/ES-005 40m SSB, 40m CW
Fri 07 Aug: Bin of Cullen GM/ES-084 2m FM, 40m CW

We were blessed with super weather for that first week up in Lossiemouth, which even allowed for three beach and sea-swimming sessions as well as all the activating. The day out in the Cairngorms with Barry GM4TOE (and Tommy the black lab) was stunning, and a monster 25km circular route taking in two ten pointers, and taking over 14 hours!

Now down in Sandhead, near Stranraer. The weather is not quite so kind, and an attempt at the week’s first activation this morning was abandoned at the parking spot. 30 minutes of watching the heavy rain from inside the car was quite enough, and we returned to the cottage.

Plans for the rest of the week are as follows:

Tue 11 Aug: Beneraird GM/SS-201 (early morning, 2m FM, 40m CW)
Tue 11 Aug: Cairn Pat GM/SS-281 (evening contest, 70cm SSB/FM)
Thu 13 Aug: Ailsa Craig GM/SS-246 (multi-op activation, never previously activated, 2m SSB/FM, 40m CW/SSB)

Thanks to all chasers for your excellent support last week; look forward to more FB QSOs this week.

Tom M1EYP & Jimmy M3EYP

In reply to M1EYP:

Quote; " The day out in the Cairngorms with Barry GM4TOE (and Tommy the black lab) was stunning, and a monster 25km circular route taking in two ten pointers, and taking over 14 hours!"

Not to mention the 1500m of ascent! This was a really pleasant day with good company. Jimmy put everything into perspective when we were at the head of Loch Avon (the lowest altitude of the day) at about 7pm when he pointed out that we had now to make an ascent equivalent to climbing Snowdon before dropping down the long ridge back to the cars - and there were no more points to be claimed!

I look forward to the next time: Braeriach and Cairn Toul with a return via the Lairig Ghru - about 35Km!

Barry GM4TOE

Count us in Barry, er, I think…

Yesterdays activations went well, and Jimmy and I both qualified SS281 last night in the 70cm contest reaching staggering serial numbers of 006 and 007 respectively. My seven QSOs included five DXCCs!

Looking forward to Ailsa Craig tomorrow, should be fun.

Currently on Stena Line Stranraer to Belfast for a day trip to see father in law. Just got permission from the master of the vessel, so will be QRV /MM in the next few minutes!


GM trip day 1 - Thursday 30th July 2009

The objective was simply to head north. Our first holiday cottage in Lossiemouth was a Friday to Friday booking. After reaching the end of the M6, the family decision was to head over to Edinburgh, somewhere we had never been before. Accommodation was secured at the Holiday Inn, and we all went out for a nice meal in a Turkish restaurant to celebrate mine and Marianne’s 15th wedding anniversary, which was also today.



GM trip day 2 - Friday 31st July 2009 - Arthur’s Seat GM/SS-272

After a pleasant continental breakfast in the hotel, we drove out to Holyrood Park, and around the estate road to a lay-by between a lake and the summit of Arthur’s Seat. A steep path climbed up to our right, towards an increasingly busy summit.

The four of us sunblocked and sunhatted up - it was a lovely morning - and began the climb. The small rocky summit of Arthur’s Seat commanded super views over the city of Edinburgh and the Firth of Forth. The summit was crowded with many people, and then more so with large warden-led groups of foreign tourists, so HF was out of the question.

We struggled over a period of about an hour and a half to get the requisite four QSOs using 2m FM handhelds, but eventually did so, and returned down to the car. After a short drive, we did a bit of ambling around the sides of Edinburgh Castle, before hitting the A90 north to Moray.

The holiday apartment on Pitgaveny Quay, Lossiemouth, was excellent. Clean, spacious and well-equipped, with great sea views on two sides. We were also impressed with the seaside town of Lossiemouth, a quiet and friendly place, with a great beach and good local services, takeaways etc.



GM trip day 3 - Saturday 1st August 2009 - Hill of the Wangie GM/CS-121

Approaching the end of our second afternoon in Lossiemouth, and Jimmy and I decided to go our for a late walk. We headed in a SSW direction to our parking spot close to the start of the track at NJ118546.

This was now an easy walk along forest tracks, until we cut up a cleared channel on the left to attain the long straight channel to the summit. This was now harder work, with several felled trees to negotiate, and we decided to attempt an alternative return later.

We located the summit trig in another cleared channel, and I set up for 80m. Jimmy managed a couple on 2m FM from his handheld, but was forced to avail himself of the 80m station to catch another two on SSB. I made one QSO on 2m FM and just three on 80m CW before things ran dry. Nonetheless, packing away ahead of 7pm local gave us the chance to still get another very nearby and simple summit activated this evening.



GM trip day 3 - Saturday 1st August 2009 - Burgiehill GM/CS-123

From Hill of the Wangie GM/CS-121, it was a very short drive to get to the start of the track (NJ102569) for Burgie Hill GM/CS-123. This was an even easier walk-in than the previous summit, more or less flat along a vehicle access track that spiralled into the summit.

The summit trig was right outside a substantial radio transmitter complex on summit, and there was a huge amount of that horrid QRM you sometimes get in such places. Suffice to say that Jimmy still insisted on trying to get QSOs on 2m FM as usual, and suffice to say he didn’t get any!

I did 80m CW again, but results were similarly uninspiring as on the earlier summit. I got my four QSOs on nothing further. Jimmy tried to get his on 80m SSB, but failed to solicit any response despite self-spotting. I had worked Roy G4SSH on 80m CW, so I 'phoned him and got him to listen on Jimmy’s SSB frequency. The result was that not a thing could be heard.

I concluded that 80m was not in good shape, and set up for 40m instead. Roy kindly spotted Jimmy on 7.160MHz SSB, and here things burst into life, and Jimmy finally got his point.

It was a more satisfied feeling as we descended in dwindling twilight through the forest after 10pm. Driving into Lossiemouth, we persuaded a just-closed chippy to let us in and scavenge the remains. Red pudding and chips twice was duly collected, but the proprietors would only accept £1 for the lot, as it was all about to go in the bin!

We got back to the holiday accommodation to get our heads down, for we planned to kick-off with the early morning raids the very next day.



GM trip day 4 - Sunday 2nd August 2009 - Knockan GM/ES-081

This hill was one of a shortlist of several targeted by Jimmy for a very personal milestone. He had never had a “first activation”, and that was probably quite rare for someone active in the programme for nearly four years and well-place in the Activator Uniques honour roll. I got a few myself back in 2003 - the three Craven Arms WB summits and the two Isle of Wight SE summits spring to mind - but they are naturally harder to come by these days, in fact none remain in England or Wales.

So the first early-morning raid of the holiday would have to be one of these unactivated hills, for Jimmy to have his callsign listed as the first activator forever more on SOTAwatch and the Database.

We headed out to pick up the A95 between Aberlour and Keith, before turning south onto a minor road, down to the start of a track at NJ371456. Like the two CS summits the previous evening, the track afforded comfortable easy walking with little by way of gradient to worry about. Just a simple, pleasant early morning stroll.

The lie of the track on the map didn’t seem to coincide with what was in fact on the ground, but it took us to where we wanted to be, so persisted with it. The track petered out and became very spongey and boggy, but we could now begin to climb the hill with more purpose along the curving patterns of burnt channels in the heather.

Having learnt my lesson from last night, this time it was the 40m dipole that was erected first. Jimmy went on 7.160MHz SSB and got three easy QSOs. But not a fourth. Twenty minutes of silence later, and running out of ideas, I tried spotting him on 21.200MHz SSB. Jimmy called there, and was worked almost immediately by GM0UDL!

So that was the first activation of Knockan GM/ES-081 safely in the bag for Jimmy, and then 7.032MHz CW was in good form for me, with 25 swift QSOs. We got cracking with the descent and return drive, keen to demonstrate to Marianne that we could do these early morning SOTAs and still be back at a time so as not to take significant chunks out of the day. Our return at 10.25am was deemed more than acceptable, the 5am get-up had paid off, and this was a very successful expedition in more ways than one.



GM trip day 5 - Monday 3rd August 2009 - Knock Hill GM/ES-073

The same strategy was deployed as we continued to make a determined start to our GM holiday. A 5am get-up in Lossiemouth saw us back out onto the Moray lanes, and this time heading slightly further east. Jimmy directed me onto the A95 through Keith, and eventually turning left onto a minor road. We parked in a lay-by at the top of this road, and began the ascent in the field opposite.

The contours did not lie on this one, and we were soon into a steep uphill slog. The distance was only fractionally more than 1km, but the height gain was 240m, so the route up the grassy slope was relentless. However, the top gave fair reward for the effort. Another lovely sunny morning, and fine views out over Cullen and the Moray Firth.

This was another of Jimmy’s identified unactivated summits, so he insisted on claiming the first activation. This he did with ease, working Ron GM4ILS from Elgin, on his 2m handheld at 0649z. Jimmy went on to make two QSOs on 40m SSB and one more on 2m FM, while I stuck with 7.032MHz CW and made 16 contacts.

As wonderful as the summit was, we were again keen to get back to Lossiemouth at a considerate time, and again we managed to make it back there for about 10.30am. Still early into the GM holiday, we had now completed five unique activations and got Jimmy a couple of ‘firsts’. Things were going well.



GM trip day 6 - Tuesday 4th August 2009 - Brown Muir GM/CS-120

A welcome lie-in commenced on this day, for our SOTA activity was planned to coincide with the evening RSGB 2m activity contest. The chosen summit was quite close to us, and selected as one with a fairly easy approach.

However, with a day to kill before heading out SOTAing, we took a trip into Fochabers, and a sort of “pilgrimage” to Baxters! As well as the factory and warehouse operation, the Baxters ‘Village’ also included a deli shop, restaurant, tea-room, video presentation and reconstruction of George Baxter’s original shop. Audrey Baxter’s new Tender Beef & Ale deli soup was available for sampling, as was a very sweet whisky liqueur.

Jimmy yearned for some of Baxter’s discontinued soup flavours like cream of pheasant, but I had shopping to do from the current ranges. Suffice to say that I stocked up on some exotic soups (coming soon to an activation report near you), whisky fudge (known in these parts as “tablet”) and haggis flavour oatcakes. And a bottle of Gordan & MacPhail 10 year Speyside single malt.

We then adjourned to the tea-room for lunch - which was to fill us more than sufficiently for the rest of the day. The £9.95 afternoon tea included choice of two sandwiches from the menu, pot of tea, scones, and then the selections of scrummy cakes just kept on being brought to the table! Afternoon tea? It turned out to be a gargantuan feast, very highly recommended.

Into the village of Fochabers itself, the main attraction was a very interesting and well-stocked museum, for which entry was completely free. However, my thoughts were now beginning to turn to getting out on the hills in a timely manner for the night’s 2m contest. Not long after getting back to the apartment in Lossiemouth, Jimmy and I were on the road once more.

Although the OS 1:25000 sheet indicates that the track to the summit starts at NJ261566, a local farmer there advised us that he wasn’t sure if the summit was accessible via that route. Instead, he advised us to drive part-way along the tarmac track starting at NJ275563, a much better approach.

The OS map didn’t indicate that this route connected up to the summit, but we trusted the local knowledge, and parked a short distance along it at Moniemouries. This left us with a pleasant early evening walk of about 20/30 minutes, and we arrived on summit in plenty of time to set up for the 2m activity contest.

Jimmy found a geocache in the unusually metal roofed trig point, which he duly signed. I set up the SOTA Beam, but had the 40m dipole in the rucksack as back-up in the event of not qualifying the summit on 2m. This was a distinct possibility in remote North-East Scotland, but hopefully mitigated by the Tuesday night activity contest.

In the end, we each qualified the summit for SOTA entirely within the contest. However, with four on FM, and just two on SSB, we only reached serial number 006. I did hear a couple of GM contesters on, but naturally they were beaming south, and didn’t hear me!

At around 9.20pm local, we called it a night and headed back down the hill. Being so far north, daylight was ample to do so without headtorches, and we were soon on the road back to Lossie. It wasn’t a great entry in the VHF contest - but an entry nonetheless - and another unique SOTA summit activated.



GM trip day 7 - Wednesday 5th August 2009 - Ben Macdui GM/ES-001

We had been in contact with Barry GM4TOE, who advised that this day offered the best probability of decent weather for a long high-level expedition. We arranged to meet Barry at 8am in the Cairngorm Funicular car park. Thing was, I underestimated the 50+ mile drive necessary, and didn’t account for getting stuck behind 30mph drivers on roads with zero chance of overtaking.

As it was, we finally did meet Barry at 9.30am, and after pleasantries (and apologies), we kitted up and began the walk to Ben Macdui. We headed off on the footpath opposite the Funicular Railway base station, and were soon enjoying an easy walk along a well-made stone path.

The route was busy with plenty of walkers, but the going was good, and dare I say “easy”, with the ascent being so graded. The views started to get really spectacular as we passed over the top of the ridge Miadan Creag an Leth-choin (1083m ASL), dropped, and began climbing steadily onto Ben Macdui GM/ES-001, 1309m ASL.

After the celebratory photocall at the trig point, we chose where we would set down. Jimmy erected the SOTA Beam for 2m FM, and I the dipole for 40m CW. Shortly after, Barry got going on 60m SSB. Lunch was taken in the form of Baxter’s Haggis Broth and haggis flavour oatcakes.

Jimmy was pleased to qualify the summit on 2m FM, and I was satisfied with 18 QSOs on 40m CW. After Barry completed his 60m operation and we were about to head off to the next summit, I flicked on the handheld to hear Helen GM7AAU/P calling CQ SOTA on 145.500MHz FM, from Creag Thoraraidh GM/NS-133. This was a nice surprise indeed, a 2m FM S2S contact in this part of the world! Jimmy soon followed by working Steve GM7AAV/P. It turned out Barry had already worked the S2S on 60m.

After a brief study of the map and compass, we began the descent from Ben Macdui. We could see the whole next section of our route, as it curved around to the left, dropping steeply, before suddenly climbing back up onto Beinn Mheadhoin GM/ES-005. Pleasant walking was savoured on the good and gentle path towards Loch Etchachan. At this col, standing at a “lowly” 950m ASL, we paused for fudge (sugar) before tackling the steep haul onto the second summit.