Category Archives: Walk Reports

Cruach Ardrain & Beinn Tulaichean – WALK REPORT – July 2021

I had a week off earlier in July and the wife and I decided to try and take one of the days off to do a bit of Munro bagging. We spent a while going over a few different routes and tried to find the most suitable day trip for us. We settled on a pair of hills to the south of Crianlarich, Cruach Ardrain and Beinn Tulaichean. I’ve climbed hills either side of this pair before, so I was looking forward to seeing those hills from a different perspective. Our initial idea was to attempt these hills from the south from Inverlochlarig, however when we began to pack our kit the previous evening, we found out that the map that we had of that area actually doesn’t cover much of this approach. Back to the drawing board, we decided to keep the same targets, but approach from the north, on the A82 south of Crianlarich. It was a longer walk, but we both felt more comfortable walking a route that we have a map for.

Forest track in Scottish woodland
Rough path through the woodland

The morning of the ascent was spent wrangling the children to various grandparents and aunties and we were on the road north by about 8am. After a little faffing about, we were parked up in a layby off the A82 and booted up by 9.30. We struck out into the long grass towards a footbridge over the railway and veered right following a rough track through the woodland. After a time, this lead us to an access road that headed uphill towards our target.

Max and I posing for a photo on the access road
Max and I posing for a photo on the access road

We followed the access road, with Max the dog bounding along, taking a left and right turn at the following junctions. We even stopped for a short while for a photo! Eventually, after about 20 minutes or so we came across the walkers cairn, signalling our deviation from the road and the end of the easy terrain. To be honest, the cairn is quite small, we nearly missed it. Following the bent grass path through knee high grass, we toiled our way up the grassy hill and reached the tree line.

The next section will live long in the memory, and unfortunately not for a particularly good reason. I had assumed that with these hills being fairly far south, the amount of foot traffic would have eroded a fairly well worn path through the trees, coming out the other side to start the ascent of Grey Height, which is the first major obstacle on this route at 666m. However, this turned out not to be the case. What followed was about 20 minutes of boggy scrambling through low hanging branches of immature pine trees. The sort of branches that leave scratches on your arms, whilst trying to avoid losing a boot in the bog. It was a nightmare. Even looking back on it now, it wasn’t particularly fun although it was certainly adventurous.

After what felt like an age, we managed to escape the boggy tree line, and were out onto the hill proper. We began the ascent cursing the previous section, but still in decent spirits. These spirits were to be sorely tested from here on. With the temperatures heading north of 20 degrees and the time of year, we were almost immediately assaulted by clouds of midges and flies, which was certainly unpleasant. We had to stop multiple times on this initial climb to apply insect repellent, which we were sweating out due to the heat.

Making decent time on the initial climb (taking into account our midge repellent application breaks) we achieved the first part of the climb, reaching Grey Height and its lochan. Of course, Max thought this was great and jumped straight in for a swim.

We were now able to see ahead to the second challenge of this trip, Meall Dhamh. Sitting at 814m, this is not an insignificant bump in the road to cross. The path became somewhat clearer after this, easing the pressure on our navigation. We duly headed on and upwards starting to scale the hill ahead. As we were nearing the top of Meall Dhamh, we started to get glimpses of the first summit on the trip, Cruach Ardrain.

The path then veered westwards, taking us across the hillside, contouring along at a reasonable height. Note here, that if you are a little bit wobbly with exposure, you could find this a little difficult. Following the path and turning into the slope, it was about a 10 minute slog up to the top of the summit ridge. We met there the path running along the ridge, we turned left here towards the summit.

Summit of Cruach Ardrain

We quickly reached the false summit and then on to the true summit maybe 100m further along the ridge. This is a great spot, high, airy and with some great views in all directions. I was particularly taken by the view along the ridge to the next summit, Beinn Tulaichean. It really looked like a bump in the main ridge rather than a Munro in its own right, which is nice. I had figured that we would be doing a lot of descending and reclimbing for the second summit, but that didn’t look to be the case.

Max heading for Beinn Tulaichean

We didn’t stay long at the summit, the midge cloud descended on us and we made a hasty retreat back to the saddle where we joined the summit path. This is not the lowest point between the two hills, rather a depression in the descent to the true saddle. We pushed on down to the saddle and looked up to the next target – it didn’t seem far or too much higher than where we standing.

Summit of Beinn Tulaichean

Gathering ourselves, we set off once more to climb Beinn Tulaichean, and actually made it to the top in about 20 minutes. We were getting a little tired by this time, so I think we would usually do this climb a bit quicker, but as I say, we were getting a little tired by this point in the walk. Again, the midges descended whilst we were on the summit, meaning this too was a quick pitstop for the obligatory photo and then we retraced our steps, downhill back to the saddle. We had only left the saddle 30 minutes before, and were already back, having bagged another Munro!

We climbed back up to where our path met the ridge path and took the left turn off the ridge. The terrain here is steep and now we were facing the drop straight in front of us. If you’re a bit funny about that sort of thing, beware! Tracking back towards Meall Dhamh, we covered the ground pretty quickly, finishing the contouring part of the route.

Heading North to Crianlarich

Broadly following our route of ascent in reverse, we headed north back towards Crianlarich over Meall Dhamh and then Grey Height all the way to the tree line. We even bog-trotted down the hill back to the access road before using the easier going to relax and reflect on a great day out in the hills, with another two Munros in the bag!

Max the dog really dirty in the back of the car.
Max was exhausted and very dirty after our walk

Devilla Forest – WALK REPORT – June 2021

The next instalment of our family adventures, we spent a day last weekend exploring the delights of the Devilla Forest in the Kingdom of Fife. There is a lot to see in the Devilla forest, but we decided on the smaller loop of the Red Squirrel Trail. Red Squirrels are known to inhabit the forest and seeing them in the wild is a big draw for many visitors. Clearly, you are not guaranteed to spot the squirrels, and taking a walk around the trail is a pleasant way to spend an hour or so even if they are not spotted on your walk.

The walk starts from the carpark just off the A985 to the east of Kincardine. There is space for about 30 cars or so here, which even on a hot June day seemed to be enough. It was busy, but not completely packed. Once we had got ourselves sorted out, the whole crew headed into the treeline to begin the walk. We had the baby in his carrier again on this walk – its certainly something that I would recommend having if you are thinking about taking small children into the countryside as it keeps your hands free to do other things, they are also comfortable for you and your child. Check out our family picture later in the post to see how comfortable. Here is a link to the one we use as I really like ours and it has given us the ability to get back out and away from the places that are pram friendly.

Walking path in the woods
Heading off on the start of our walk

There is a relatively large sign at the start of the walk, detailing not only the Red Squirrel Trail, but also the various other pathways, ponds, lochs and point of interest in the forest. There are about 8 or 9 things listed here, but we didn’t take a picture unfortunately. Plenty of things to keep us interested on this walk and potentially many others in the coming weeks/months. The walk is listed as a moderate walk online, but to be honest I think this is quite a harsh grading. The path is good and well maintained (as you can see in the picture) and relatively flat. It is also less than 2 miles from start to finish, which is not that far all told. I would grade it as an easy walk overall, and we thoroughly enjoyed it!

Well maintained path in the forest
Path threading through the trees

The path winds its way through the old pine trees and low bushes of the forest, crossing many small culverts and dry stream beds, using a short section of board walk at one point. The path was dry and a little dusty, Max loved it, bombing up and down and running all over the place. I am sure the smells of the wildlife, were fun for him.

Overall, we were heading in a westerly direction into the sun. However, the shade of the pine trees and the temperature of the air (the car was reading 24 degrees C when we left) made for pleasant and easy walking. Everyone was already feeling the calming influence of walking in the forest, its great when you can get to unwind like this.

Child hiding in a log shelter
Exploring the log shelters

After a few stops for pictures, we started coming across shelters that people had built, leaning logs and sticks up against the trees. The kids thought this was great and wanted to explore them all, which of course they did at high speed and volume – they probably scared off all the squirrels!

After a while, we happened upon the loch that you circumnavigate on the walk and found ourselves a picnic bench. I’ll be honest, even though our youngest is only 8 months old, he is bloody heavy! It was nice to sit by the loch side let Max take a dip whilst the kids played, ate and refuelled. We took the chance to feed the baby whilst keeping an eye on proceedings.

After our food stop, we followed the left hand branch of the walk, looping around the loch in a clockwise direction. Here, the path rises slowly to the top of the ridge line, giving you a view, through the trees, southwards towards the firth of Forth and across to Grangemouth and Falkirk. The kids decided they wanted to explore this view and went off track through the brush to the edge of the tree line to get the best view.

View of the Firth of Forth
View south towards the Forth, with Grangemouth in the distance.

After taking in the views, we returned to the track and followed it around the loch, meeting several other walkers, dogs and bikers on the way. If there was one thing that I were to complain about on this walk is that having walkers and bikers on the same path network could be potentially problematic. We didn’t have any issues, but I can foresee a time where children/dog and bikes collide due to the speed of the bikes and the lack of speed of the rest of the path users. I have nothing against mountain bikers, I think it is a cool hobby that I would enjoy if I ever get the time/chance, but I think that the pathway planners could consider segregating the two types of traffic. Clearly, this is my observation from one afternoon, but it must be worth considering?

Family by the carved totem pole
Even Max behaved for this one…

We looped around back towards the picnic bench, where there was a carved totem pole which had three local animals carved into it – an owl, a woodpecker and a squirrel, in case you were wondering – and we stopped for the obligatory family photo.

After the photo stop, it was a quick march back to the car to pack all of the stuff and the kids back in. Overall, a thoroughly enjoyable walk for the kids (and the adults) with good weather, lovely countryside and fresh air. Devilla Forest is definitely on our list of places to visit again as there are loads of other paths and trails to explore, not to mention that list of 8 things that we saw at the start.

Thanks for a great visit – we will be back!

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Carron Valley Reservoir – WALK REPORT – June 2021

As lockdown eases, the weather is warm and the nights are light and long, we made the decision to try and have more short evening adventures with the kids. We added to the brood late last year, so this is the perfect time to take the entire family out and into nature. It’s a great break from homework, screen time and brings us all closer to nature and to each other.

The target this evening was to take a walk near the Carron Valley Reservoir, in the middle of the Campsie’s, just to the west of Denny. The kids were excited to take our first real adventure with the new baby carrier, as it meant we were not stuck to the paths and where the pram could get to.

Heading into the woods from the carpark

After a short drive up through Kilsyth, past the start of a previous walk up Tomtain, we parked up at the carpark to the eastern end of the reservoir, near the dam. Which charges £2 for 3 hours of parking. I didn’t see any way of anyone checking who had paid and who had not, however, I don’t mind paying a little to support the conservation of the wildlife and local flora. After the usual faffing about getting organised, as well as organising 3 kids and a dog (4 times the usual faff) we headed off into the trees towards the dam looming through the trees.

We even had Charlie along for this excursion, who was sitting comfy in his new carrier. After a short walk through the woodland, the trees got a bit denser and the air a little cooler. We let the dog off the lead and the kids away off the path to explore and see what they could find. Loosely following the winding path up towards the access road for the dam itself.

Right at the base of the dam the trees are much closer together, giving this short section of the walk a different feel to the rest. We could have been anywhere, but we’re in reality only 10 minutes from the car park. The kids thought it was great, space to explore, but we could keep them in sight so they wouldn’t feel lost.

A short climb up to the height of the dam and we joined the dam access road for a short stretch before keeping right and following the obvious footpath between the road and the edge of the reservoir. On looking closer at a map later on, the road actually goes all the way to the other end of the reservoir to Todholes car park. I’ve got my eye on that spot for the start of another walk in the coming weeks.

First view of the reservoir

A few meters along the path and the view across the reservoir opens up for the first time. Looking ahead you can see Miekle Bin, the highest point in the Campsies, and across the reservoir to Cairnoch Hill and Craigannet Hill. Both of which are now firmly on the list to explore with the family. They aren’t big high hills, but they looked great in the evening sunlight across the water.

We followed the footpath, stopping often to take in the views along the southern shore of the reservoir. It was not too busy, a few walkers out with their dogs or just enjoying the evening sunshine.

After a couple of kilometres, we reached the end of our walk, to a picnic bench situated on top of a small rise on a bluff out into the reservoir. We headed down to the stony beach to sit, let the dog have a swim and skim some stones, one of the kids (and my) favourite activities. As a kid is there anything better than the making the biggest splash you can with a stone?

Final destination picnic bench

After about 15 minutes the midges started to congregate around us and we decided to pack up and make our way back to the car following the same route, but in reverse. Of course, we couldn’t help but stop at a few smaller beaches on the way to chuck a few more stones in, at least before the cloud of midges caught up with us.

All in, it took just under 2 hours for the whole walk. The perfect way to unwind after work, school and a day in the life of a busy family. We all enjoyed it so much, plans are already underway for our next adventure!

Meall Nan Tarmachan – WALK REPORT – May 2021

Hands up here, I had so much fun on this walk, that I forgot to take a lot of photos. Throughout the entire walk, I took a grand total of two photos. Apologies that there are not hundreds of beautiful pictures and panoramas of the Scottish countryside to go with this walk report. The weather was also pants, so even if I had, you wouldn’t have seen anything anyway, just a lot of clag.

We set off early from the central belt, Max and I, and headed north up to the small town of Killin, nestled nicely next to the River Dochart, at the western end of Loch Tay. It was quite a pleasant drive, without too much traffic or anything of note to get in the way. Heading along the north shore of the Loch, we eventually reached the junction for out destination, the Ben Lawers National Nature Reserve.

We parked up and paid for the carpark before getting booted up, checking the kit for the last time and setting out roughly westwards onto the well made hill path towards our target for the day. This was to be Max’s first Munro, so I had tried to think of anything that he might need during the walk. I needn’t have worried, he was off like a shot, exploring all of the new smells and plants along the side of the path. He even had time for a quick dip in the river to cool off. He certainly put me to shame, continually coming back to check on me, to make sure I was alright. Similarly, it was also my first Munro in quite a while, so it was not much of a shock to have lost my hill legs and quite a bit of fitness – although it didn’t help my pride much.

After a few hundred meters of relatively flat, is undulating path, the way head got progressively steeper and more consistent. We headed on up into the clouds, which were hanging relatively low at around 700m.

This part of the walk was a bit of a slog, if I am honest. It was hard enough going, the views over Loch Tay were no more and we still had a fair bit of climbing to do. Eventually, the path meandered more northwards as we crested onto the shoulder of the ridge. I imagine that in good weather, this would be a great viewpoint looking westwards along the loch towards Killin, you could probably also see more of the tarmachan ridge from here – I shall have to go back…

We met another couple at this point, with their dogs, it was nice to see some others on the hill, even if we had caught them up. Thinking back , the car park was packed, so I shouldn’t have been surprised, but I had assumed that most people would be heading towards the Ben Lawers massif and the variety of climbing on that side of the nature reserve.

Max finally standing still for a photo
Max enjoying himself

We made short walk of this slope, encountering our first patch of snow, which Max thought was great. He certainly enjoyed watching me struggle up it anyway. We made our way to where the ground slightly flattens off and had a quick breather, before tackling the final steep ascent to the summit. The wind really started to pick up here, gusting quite strongly at times. We hung around for a couple of photos (THE couple of photos) and then headed back down the way we had come back to the car.

Cairn at the top of Meall nan Tarmachan
The top of Meall nan Tarmachan in the mist

Overall, it took us about 2 hours to get back to the car, which is not too bad at all. I will definitely be back to tackle the whole ridge in future, hopefully on a nice day so I can enjoy some of the views. I also still have a couple more of the Munros in this area to complete, so I will be back to Loch Tay before long.

This was the first outing at this height for a few new bits of equipment, you can read the reviews of them here:

Karrimor Boots


Roman Ruins: A Lockdown Walk – WALK REPORT – Feb 2021

After a few weeks of usual dog walks and not a lot else, Max and I started to get the itch to do something a little more adventurous. Unfortunately the current travel restrictions mean we cannot get anywhere close to some big hills, so we had to settle for more of an explore in our local area. After a bit of research and map searching, I settled on a walk from Auchinstarry quarry along the canal to Twechar and then climbing the hills behind the canal via the Roman road loosely following the Route of the Antonine Wall.

Crags at Auchinstarry Quarry

We left early and parked up in Auchinstarry Quarry, just under the crags. When we are allowed friends to cross the border, I’ll have to get some climbing in here as it looks epic. The grades didn’t look too hard and I’m not sure where else you would find good rock within 20 mins of my front door. I haven’t climbed in ages, so it would certainly be a good eye opener to see what level I am at.

Looking back towards Kilsyth

We set off roughly westwards along the canal. The path here is good and would probably take a pram if you are looking at doing this walk with small children. Max and I put the hammer down and made short work of this stretch of the walk.

It’s pretty nondescript and pretty flat all told, but it was a nice leg stretch and Max enjoyed gambolling about around the path. The canal is flanked on the south side (the right hand side following this route) by a steep embankment, which is largely tree covered and is home to quite a lot of different wildlife. In the short time we spent on the opposite bank, Max and I saw several different types of birds and a couple of deer too. Its was quite pleasant, quiet and there was no navigation to worry about! We came across one cyclist in this stretch, but I can imagine that on a summers day, this could be quite a busy area.

Max leading the way

After about 3km, we reached the bridge at Twechar and proceeded to cross over to the southern bank of the canal. We headed up hill into the village, where Max met his first Highland Cow. He is not a fan. A short walk of less than 1km along the road and you will get to the war memorial and signage for the Antonine Wall.

Views opening up

Turning hard left following the sign, the road starts to deteriorate as it climbs up past a couple of farms. Eventually the views start opening up to your left over the valley that contains the canal, looking onto the Campsie Fells on the other side. This is the first time I have really considered the landscape in this part of my local area, you can see why the Romans decided to stop the advance here, it certainly not much friendlier as you look north. Imagine marching all the way from Rome, over all the hills, rivers and hostile armies to be harried all the way north to be faced with the relatively “impenetrable” façade of the Campsie Fells. Actually, as I am typing this, it was probably laziness that made them stop… 😉

Looking across to Tomtain

You keep on ascending up the hill after the farms when you enter more open ground. At the top of the climb, near the water plant, you turn left off the tarmac and onto a grassier path. This takes you up towards the first tourist trap of the day, the Roman fort and earthworks at Bar Hill. I’ve lived in the area for about 8 years or so and never been up here. It’s be great for school kids to come and learn about the history or the area. With a bit of imagination, you can see what the hill top would have been like. I was surprised by the amount of remaining Roman stone there was around and the small signs helped me understand what I was looking at.

Trig on Castle Hill

As you move through the old Roman landscape to the left of the main path, the ground rises to Castle Hill with its trig point. There was no way that Max and I were missing this out, so up we headed to the trig and the best views on the walk so far.

The next part of the walk follows the route of the Antonine Wall through the woodland to rejoin the main path. It was quite cool for walk down the hill from Castle Hill along the clearing which follows the path of the ancient construction. It’s an odd thing to see something so clearly man made, and yet there is no sign of anything man made there. Either way, the going was good and Max and I shot down the hill to rejoin the main route through the woodland.

Looking back to the Route of the Antonine Wall

From here the path weaves its way through some scrub and farmland crossing the B802. Following the signs for the John Muir Way, we cut around a few corners and watched for signs of old mining activity, which used to be rife in this area. Eventually we set our sights on Croy Hill, the last significant hill on our route today.

There is another Roman Fort here, so I was looking forward to seeing if it was as well preserved as the one on Bar Hill. We entered a field through a gate that proclaimed that there were wild roaming highland cows in this area. Now, I’m not being funny but those things are huge and have rather large horns. I wasn’t looking forward to meeting one.

The haze and rain had started to drift in making it much more atmospheric, it also meant that a herd of highland cows could have been over the next hillock, but luckily I didn’t come across any today.

Start of the climb up to Croy Hill

After a short but surprisingly steep climb in places Max and reached the top of the hill and attained the roughly flat plateau like area just to the east of the true top. This a a great viewpoint looking across the valley again and also back towards Castle Hill to the west. In the image below, you can see the clearing for the route of the Antonine Wall just to the right of centre on the horizon.

It was starting to look like the rain was here to stay, so Max and I bore left and down hill passing a few other groups of walkers and a family here. After a short 10-15 minute descent the path curves back around to the west and popped out down by the canal at the bottom of the valley.

A quick point to note here. I did a bit of exploring a few years back around this area and actually walked through this area with the family. I enjoyed that walk at the time as it all felt quite tranquil. I mention that here as I got the same feeling on the same stretch of path this time around, before I really knew exactly where I was. I find it odd because I don’t often get this sense of peace whilst out walking. I’m usually concentrating on the navigation, how I’m feeling or something to do with work, trying to solve problems. A sense of peace is something I normally find atop high summits whilst sitting enjoying the view. It’s strange to me that I have found this feeling in a low woodland, twice, without any obvious sign or stop to allow me to reach that state of mind.

Anyway, once Max and I popped out on the tow path, it was a short hop skip and a jump back to Auchinstarry Marina, over the road bridge to the crags and car park of the quarry.

Overall, this was a really enjoyable walk with the dog taking in several small summits that I have never visited before in my local area. I really enjoyed the Roman ruins and the history of the area, I kind of wished I had a guide to take me through it all. The canal was nice and peaceful and the hillier sections whet my appetite for more climbing in the spring and summer when we are hopefully allowed to travel for exercise. A good walk that I would recommend if you are in the area.

Ben Vane – WALK REPORT – Sep 2012

The Good the Bad and the Ugly

The weekend started off with the bad and the ugly in quick succession (an evening on Buckfast – the bad; and the resulting hangover – the ugly) and was followed by the good, a cheeky trip out to Loch Lomond for some exercise on Ben Vane 

After a morning of housework (I had to earn my time out…) I drove up to Inveruglas and parked up at the visitor centre. I was out solo today, so I was kitted up and on the track for 12.45. After the first half a mile next to the road, it was time to get the heart pumping and I made mince meat of the tarmaced track up to the bridge. The views opened up pretty quickly.
IMG_3708.JPGFirst views
IMG_3709.JPGA’ Chrois

It was here that I saw a guy on his own that was navigating using his phone. Now I might not be the most experienced hill waker out there, but if anyone can shed some light on how this is possible/if it safe… I would have thought that if you lost your phone signal you’d be pretty stuffed. Give me a map and compass any day.

Broke track and headed through a bog and up onto the ridge. Looking up at what is to come, I found myself thinking, how the hell am I going to get up that. Usually the closer you get, the more obvious the route becomes, but in this case it was pretty hard to spot.

IMG_3713.JPGFirst of the crags

Now, as I was out to log another experience day for my ML, I was working on my pace and foot placement. What a test! The path seemed to get steeper and steeper and when you thought it could not get any steeper it would throw some more at you and even then there were places that you needed to get your hands on the rock and pull yourself up. It was nice to not have to think about anyone else and concentrate on the goal – if I felt comfortable with it I went for it and there was not much I didn’t go for.

Finally, the views started to open up, with views down to loch Sloy and Ben Vorlich on the right, and A’Chrois and Ben Narnain on the left.
IMG_3714.JPGLoch Sloy and Dam
IMG_3715.JPGOver my left shoulder

A quick stop for a drink and to get some calories in me – a new one for me, yogurt and fruit/nut mix. A bit strange, but it did the trick. 

 Onwards and upwards and I was undone by the same thought that gets me every time. “Not far now, its just there.” Its never there. Ever. Not once when I have been out have I got it right. It was my own fault, it quite clearly shows on the map that there are a couple of false summits to go over before the real summit. And with a small scramble off the main path I was there.

IMG_3725.JPGTwo summit cairns with Ben Lomond between
IMG_3718.JPGBen Ime
IMG_3720.JPGBeinn Dubh and northwards
IMG_3723.JPGLoch Sloy and Ben Vorlich
IMG_3724.JPG3 lochs

After a quick text to the Mrs and some more of the yoghurt mix, I was off back the way I had come. I am not sure about anyone else, but I find it easier to run down the slopes rather than walk. Less painful on the knees too. You should have seen some of the faces of the people that I went past – quite a picture. I made sure I said hi to them all though.

I was back to the tarmac in under an hour and then began the picturesque but slightly slog-ish walk back to the main road and the car. Overall, a great hill for beginners, not too tough, but a good challenge. To take a look at some other routes for beginners, click this link.
IMG_3726.JPGLast look back…conquered!

Tomtain, Hunt Hill, Garrel Hill – WALK REPORT – JAN 2021

The wife had me on the night feed on New Years Eve, which meant an early night for me. However, when life gives you lemons, you go for a walk. I spent an hour or so on New Years Eve planning this walk, you can read more about that process here in my beginners series.

Early on New Years Day, I grabbed a bag (more info on selecting the right bag here), a map and the dog and headed to the Kilsyth Hills about 15 mins from home. This travel restriction of staying in your local authority area is really messing up my plans for some big walks this winter. But it’s better to be safe, so I will stick to the small area of hills I can access and make the best of it.

I had the idea to try and see the sun rise on the new year out on the hills, so Max (the dog) and I headed out about 7.30 into the icy morning. Once we had parked up and skated across the car park, a short walk up the road led to the start of the hill path we were following. This was to be Max’s first proper hill day, so as you can imagine he was bouncing around ready to get going.

Max ready to head off

We headed off into the murky morning gloom, and made our way up what would normally have been quite a significant stream. Luckily this morning it was all frozen. Threading our way through the trees, the view behind started to open up.

Sunrise in Scotland
Sun rising to the East

Heading further up, the ground started to steepen, and Max found that the easiest way was just to bulldoze your way through the snow rather than try and run over it. Eventually the view ahead opened up to give us a view of our first target, Tomtain. It’s the highest point in North Lanarkshire, and whilst not a particularly challenging walk, the views are all out of proportion.

Ochills View
Looking towards the Ochills
View North Mountains
Looking North
Snowy Mountain
More Mountains

I could see Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh in the East, Ben Lomond and Ben Ledi to the North (other indistinguishable hills further north too) and I could also see what I think was Mull way out to the West. I’m not too sure, but it was incredible.

Max and I on the summit of Tomtain

After a brief rest for a drink and a photo we headed on west to the next target, Hunt Hill. For those of you that are used to massive drops and regains in altitude, prepare to be disappointed. Barely 10 mins later after an enjoyable scoot down the hill in the snow, we attained the next summit, not much more than a bump in the broad ridge from Tomtain to Garrel Hill. It was at this point that my phone decided that it was too cold and stopped working, so there aren’t many more pictures of this walk.

View south west
Last photo of the day looking south west

We deviated slightly from the trodden path in the snow to peak on Hunt Hill, followed by an enjoyable slip and slide back down again. However no rest for us this time as we tramped on into what, in warmer weather, would be an absolute quagmire. As it was frozen, it didn’t cause too many issues, but Max definitely got a bit mucky abs wet here. The climb to Garrel Hill is a little longer than the previous one, maybe just shy of 1km.

Max and I made short work of it though and we’re on the summit by the small cairn about 1 hour 45 mins after leaving the car. A stop at the top to play in the snow (Max, not me) some leftover turkey and a drink and we were ready to tackle the return leg. We returned pretty much the way we came, however selecting the lower route, missing the summit of Hunt Hill.

Once back on the summit of Tomtain, we started the long skid back to the car over the iced up snow and bog surface back to the road and on back to the car.

All in all, I had a blast, some great little hills with outstanding views and Max did really well on his first day out with me. We were back home for 10.30 ready to tackle the beginning of the new year with fresh air in our lungs and some miles in our legs. Looking forward to the next one Max.



Ring of Steall – WALK REPORT – AUG 2013

 Now I know we are all either hoping for winter to go away or come properly and stop all this wet miserable stuff, but here is my walk report on the Ring of Steall last summer to help with the winter blues. Truly special.

Taking advantage of the long summer days is one of my favourite activities, especially as it means I can walk great routes and generally get great views. This trip was to the Mamores for the infamous Ring of Steall and the Devils Ridge.

We set off early and made our way up the west coast to Fort Bill. A short drive from there and we were at the car park. We booted up and headed for the path. Caught a glimpse of this sign, which always makes you feel the fear that little bit more.

We started hiking up the glen towards Steall Meadows and the waterfall. Once we got to the meadow the panorama opened up and we were treated to an unspoilt view all the way up to the waterfall. It’s was pristine and felt really remote and wild. We made our way over the wire bridge and up towards the waterfall.

And what a waterfall – truly spectacular. The pictures speak for themselves.

We couldn’t help ourselves but to stop at the foot of the falls and take in some of the magnificence of our surroundings (and some cool photos)

After a short time, we began the steep climb out of the glen and into the heat of the day. Neither of us had realised just how hot it was and even as we gained altitude the heat didn’t seem to stop, it just got hotter and hotter. The path was good, the air was clear and there is no better feeling that I had then, although I would have killed someone for a cold beer.

Just as we reached the top of the slope, we turned around and right behind us, almost looming across the glen was a glorious sight.

The Ben was there like an elephant sitting on your shoulder looking fantastic in the summer sun. Someone once told me that Ben Nevis is only cloud free for a handful of days a year, and we were here what felt like a stones throw away on one of those days. Lucky or what? Back to the task at hand and it was but a hop skip and a jump to the top of the first Munro – An Gearanach – 982m. Not ones to dwell on our success, we shot off down the other side taking in the views all around us.

Now, I say ‘shot’ but it was with a bit of care and caution that we tackled the descent as it was quite scrambly and airy in places – perfect for us as we aren’t ones to shy away from a challenge. This was proper scrambling, others have likened it to the Carn Mor Dearg Arete, but in my mind, it reminded me of the Aonach Eagach in places. Once we reached the saddle, we realised that we had both drained all the water that we were carrying – not a great situation as we were a quarter of the way through the day and it was only going to get hotter as we progressed. We made a tactical decision to try to find some water from a spring or stream. Not easy at 800m+.

After dropping down to the north side of the saddle, we eventually found water that was running fast enough not to pose us too much of a problem. Dunking headbands and t-shirts into the stream was a quick and efficient way of cooling down and we were able to refill water bottles for the remainder of the journey. Although lesson learned – when you think you are carrying enough, you probably aren’t.

Back on the trail and we were greeted by what looked like an impregnable buttress across our path. From our research, we knew that we could tackle it head on, but neither of us could see the route up it for love nor money. So we made a decision to head over to the saddle on the opposite side of the summit and drop the bags. This was beautifully technical with a bit of exposure thrown in, and all the while, The Ben was looming behind you reminding you that it was still the daddy.

We reached the saddle without too much trouble and dropped the kit. We turned back and climbed the ridge up to the summit of Stob Coire a’Chairn – 981m. This offered us great views into the Grey Corries and the main ridge of the Mamores just stretched off into the distance on both sides – truly epic. But alas, no pictures as I had left my camera in my bag!

A quick jog down the path brought us back to our kit and a bite to eat. We even had snow on the ground here, in August!

After a refuel, we continued around the horseshoe with Munro number three firmly in our sights. The descent was uneventful, but started picking up on the ascent. The ground gets a little tricky, with a few loose rocks as well as the steepening and narrowing of the ridge. However, as you climb, you get that feeling you are in for something special, The Ben looking on over to your right and the ridge narrowing in front of you.

The summit came up on me as quite a surprise, this being the highest point of main ridge, I was convinced we had a little further to go. But we had made in to summit number three Am Bodach – 1032m. After the anticipation growing during the climb, you are rewarded with a view that really shows you the best of Scottish hill walking.

The panorama was spectacular. However, one thing caught the eye unlike any other. The Devils Ridge.

In climbing they would call this the crux of the route, the narrowest, most exposed, most jaw dropping part of the walk. I had been looking forward to this short section the most, and had read up on it before going out. It is as good as people say – sometimes when you really look forward to something, it doesn’t quite live up to your expectations, that’s not the case here!

We descended down to the saddle and climbed over Sgor an Iubhair – which in my opinion warrants Munro status. At 1001m, it is certainly high enough, indeed at one point it was a Munro but has been declassified. Now to the crux, the descent starts easily down a broad ridge to the saddle and then climbs back and gradually narrows to pretty much nothing. We had decided in advance that where we could be would keep to the top of the ridge and try not to take any bypass paths. The first part was easy enough, up and over with good hand holds.

Then came the part that I found the toughest. A large gap in the ridge that on approach looked like you could just step over. In reality, it is a little farther that just a step, and at only 5 foot 6, my legs aren’t the longest! I stopped and had a think about it, and found my way onto a narrow ledge over a significant drop. Heart was starting to race and mind doing somersaults, moving slowly, I found a good hold with my left hand leaving my right side swinging in the breeze. Shuffle the feet along and reach up and round out of sight to find the next hold.

Could I find it? I couldn’t even begin to feel it! Now my left arm is starting to ache a little from holding my weight and I am stuck between two rocks 1000m up. One more try, pull yourself into the rock, stretch and reach – there! I found the hold with my right hand and redistributed my weight. With my hands sorted out it was a slightly disconcerting step blindly around the rock and away we went. Definitely lived up to expectations!

From there, it is a relatively easy walk up the quartz covered slopes of Sgurr a’Mhaim to the summit – 1099m. Munro summit number four. Whew! What a day, by this point we were both pretty knackered physically as well as mentally and it was with a little relief that we made it.

The way down is to take the north-west ridge, which whilst steep is not as fatal (apparently it has taken more than one life over the years) as the north-east ridge. Cross the quartz scree and then onto the grass, picking up the path down to the road. A slightly mind numbing 2 km walk will take you back to the car park and salvation after what I promise you will be a thoroughly enjoyable outing. 

The Scarpa Boots performed well here today, would have been an uncomfortable walk without them. Then is was home to check off the Munros climbed today. More info on that here.