Last month, I spent about two weeks in the UK with my daughter Lara looking at universities. We put about 1800 miles on the rental car and visited schools in England, Scotland, and Wales. Originally, Scotland wasn’t on the itinerary due to time constraints, but we ended up not only visiting the University of Edinburgh, but activating a summit just north of Edinburgh in North Berwick.
Easter weekend was right in the middle of the trip, and I had picked that downtime to visit the Isle of Man. By that part of the itinerary, we had already gone north to U. Nottingham and then west to Bangor. Along the way, we routed through Macclesfield to visit SOTAbeams and picked up a ten meter fiberglass travel mast and some other kit.
From Bangor, it wasn’t too far to Liverpool to catch the ferry over the Isle of Man. Unfortunately, the ferry hit the pier in Douglas the night before our departure. When we got to the ferry terminal on Friday morning we were told that the ferry was temporarily out of commission. I spent the next half hour tapping away at my phone in the ferry terminal car park, calculating what other interest places we could reach and then booking a hotel in North Berwick. In the back of mind, I was hoping to get on the air as MM/AI4SV, but I didn’t have any SOTA peaks in mind.
As we approach North Berwick on the highway, one very prominent peak stood out and I joked that we’d have to look it up, because it might just be near our hotel and a SOTA peak. It turned out that the the hill is an extinct volcano and stands just behind the town itself. The town has a nice harbor and I found a telescope there, presumably to scan the horizon and look at various rocks and islands around the harbor. I swung the telescope up and back to check out the hill and the whalebone [replica] monument on top. With the scope, I could see the cement pillbox on the south-east corner, just below the summit and remnants of an iron-age settlement nearer to the summit as well. Consulting the database, I learned that this was indeed a SOTA peak, GM/SS-280.
Getting to the peak is simple – a road runs from the town past the high school and passes a public car park at the base of the south side of the hill. It seemed very popular with dog-walkers and there were plenty of people present to point the way to the top. The trail is obvious and winds up the east and southern faces. If you are in a hurry, like my daughter was, you can beeline up directly like a mountain goat, but if you are carrying radio equipment and a lead acid battery, like I was, following the zigzagging, but less steep path makes sense. On the way up, I took advantage of this bench, which speaks to the hill already having some historic connections with communications.
At the top, there is a rocky outcrop that provides some shelter from the wind (my daughter, pictured below, might argue that is an overstatement). On top of those rocks is a stone monument and the trig point. The view from up extends in all directions over relatively flat terrain, with the sea to the east.
This was the first chance that I had to try out of the SOTAbeams travel mast, which worked great. I used the sturdy wrought iron fence around the whalebone monument to support the lower couple sections of the mast and extended it to its full height. There was some wind, so we guyed the pole as well. I used my end-fedz 10/20/40 antenna, supporting the match box with a line from the monument on top of the rock and dropping coax to the sheltered pocket next to the rock just below.
I made a total of 21 contacts including 3 summit-to-summit with operators in Switzerland and one with an operator in Norway. The last two contacts were two meter with a small HT antenna thanks to operators who came back to me on the FM calling frequency (145.5).