Mostly, this is random stories from my various trips as I collect them, but I've a wee backlog to get through too and those will pop up occasionally.

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Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Revisiting some old ground - and some new

The "get Mim fit" campaign stepped up a gear last week as we took advantage of a Groupon deal to head for the Bridge of Orchy Hotel. I've passed it many times and been attracted to it more recently as it seems to have been spruced up a little and has an excellent reputation for the quality of its food. With only one night booked, we decided we'd do two walks in the area, so all I had to do was come up with a couple of candidates. The presence of snow at higher levels ruled out any Munro-bagging attempts so I decided that we'd just stick to low ground and that our first walk would be a section of the West Highland Way. One advantage of this option was that we could jump on the train from Bridge of Orchy to Crianlarich and so walk a longer stretch - in one direction. the only down-side was that the train would be leaving Bridge of Orchy at 9:03 - and we had to get there first!!

An early start got us on to the road and we were well on track until a small convoy of trucks gradually settled in front of us and as the A85 is never the est road for overtaking, we just had to bide our turn. That over with, we then hit some lengthy roadworks and now we were beginning to worry a little. We made it to the station car park with just five minutes to spare, got our boots on, grabbed our rucksacks and headed out into the blistering cold for only a couple of minutes before the train showed up.

Alighting at Crianlarich, we were already in the mood for a second breakfast and so opted for a quick stop in the Crianlarich Hotel. Thankfully, by the time we stepped out again, the day had got a little warmer and we were certainly warmed up by the time we reached the top of the little spur path that leads onto the WHW. After a little calculation, I worked out that it was 20 years since I'd first walked the WHW and 10 years since I'd last attempted it, on the trip that brought on all my foot problems and effectively put and end to my days as a backpacker.  The path hasn't changed much in the last 10 years, although some of the trees have grown a little.
Looking down Glen Dochart from above Crianlarich
 The section down to the the A82 was all the better for the lack of summer leaves, being altogether brighter, and as we crossed the River Fillan to Auchtertyre, Ben More was looking resplendent and almost alpine in the sunshine. The path through Dalrigh dragged on a bit, as it has on my previous two visits. I reckon knowing that a coffee and food awaits at Tyndrum has some detrimental affect on the brains ability to judge time. In due course, the Green Welly Stop arrived and we were soon in for a bit of a carb treat, reasoning that we could break our diet on account of us doing "so much" exercise! 
Beautiful Ben More

I'm just impressed they can read - never mind close gates behind them!
Soon enough, it was time to head out again and up the track past the new graveyard, eventually walking alongside the railway we'd been on only a few hours earlier. Beinn Dorain was looking very majestic and the view towards Stob Gabhar showed lots of snow higher up. I managed the walk down to Bridge of Orchy much faster than last time. Not having to stop to relieve the pressure on my heels every 15 minutes or so certainly made a difference! 


14.5 miles all in and a very pleasant route. So much so that my thoughts of cycling the West Highland Way this year were very much in my mind and I really have to decided whether I opt for a two-day, relaxed trip or go for the one-day all-out challenge. Or maybe I'll just have to do both!


The result of a wee after-dinner walk and a 60-second timer on the compact camera

For day 2, we opted for a straight out-and-back on the path from Victoria Bridge to Glen Kinglass, reckoning we'd simply head out for a couple of hours before turning back. Although it features as one of the mountain biking classic routes, I'd only ever been here on foot and only as far as the farm buildings at Clashgour. I was therefore very keen to see what the track was like further along towards Loch Dochard. 


Scotways sign at Forest Lodge
 It wasn't long after leaving the van that we spotted our first red deer of the day and he seemed pretty much unperturbed by our presence. I reckoned that the intervening river was making him a bit less skittish than he might otherwise have been. However, that didn't explain our next encounter, with one stag standing only a few feet of the track as we passed him by. He looked up at us, watched us go past, then carried on with the salt lick at his feet.

The cheeky beggar was sticking his tongue out at us!
The Right of Way is signposted along the river bank rather than through the forest so we took the opportunity to remain in more open surroundings on the way to the little ford and then the footbridge over the Abhainn Shira. At one section, the riverside path has disappeared altogether due to water erosion and it's still possible to see large chunks of what was river bank slightly further downstream, obviously carried under the power of the river. 


It won't be long before this path is impassable

The track "was" here....
The good track carries on after the little footbridge, eventually climbing up the terminal moraine of an old glacier, past an old stable and then Loch Dochard. We carried on a little further until the path threatened to descend again and we were now astride the Druim Alba - the watershed of Scotland. Strange to think that this far west, we'd only just reached the point where the streams we saw would eventually lead in to the Atantic rather than the North Sea. A brief lunch in the open and a pleasant walk back - passing Clashgour farm this time - saw us back at the van in a little over 4 hours.