Sunday, 30 January 2011

Balquhiddar and Loch Voil

While Im still visiting the Balquhidder area, I thought I would introduce some previous photographs I have of Loch Voil and its surrounding area. There is a long single track road that follows its north shores to end at a car park near Inverlochlarig. Inverlochlarig farm was where Rob Roy lived out his later days in life. The car park is the start of several other great mountain walks to Stobinnein and Cruach Ardrain to name a couple.

A walk on the Braes of Ballquidder

A lochside home nestled at the foot of the Braes of Balquidder

The summer hills reflected on a calm Loch Voil

Water lilies make a lovely foreground to this Loch Voil Reflection

Winter hills at Loch Voil

Stob a Choin covered in snow and lost in the clouds.

Loch Voil and Loch Doine from the start of the steep walk up Stobinnein

Thursday, 27 January 2011

Balquhiddar and Meall an Fhiodhain

The ridge itself posed no problems as it is very wide and flat. It was at snow level but I had no problem walking because it was hard snow that I could kick into on the steeper parts. It was pleasant walking as there was little wind and the sun was breaking through the clouds.

The other two summits on the ridge, Cam Chreag (812 meters) and Meall an Fhiodhain (817 meters) both have steep crags on their flanks so care would have to be taken in the mist if you were not aware they were there. This photo is looking back towards the crags on Meall an Fhiodhain with the summit of Meall an t Seallaidh in the distance.

I started a diagonal descent to the south and below the cliffs of Leum an Eireannaich which marks the eastern end of the ridge. It felt like a day in spring in the sunshine. I disturbed a small herd of deer.

The long cold snows of December didn’t seem to have slowed them down.

Stobinnian and Ben More seen from below the cliffs of Leum an Eireannaich

I then headed for Rob Roy’s Putting stone. Its big enough to be marked on the OS map so I wondered what it would look like. It was first climbed in 1899 and you can read about that climb in the SMC Journals on line at this link

Another view of Rob Roy’s putting stone below the cliffs of Leum an Eireannaich

Then it was a brisk march back down Kirkton Glen to get back to the car and home. Its the best walk I have had this year..and although the year has only begun, I think it could be a while before I can better this one :-D

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Balquhidder and Meall an t-Seallaidh continued

Meall an t-Seallaidh is a two summit hill and the views were as good as they get. The first summit is on a rocky outcrop and has a little stone cairn to mark it. The views to the SE towards Ben Vorlich and Stuc a Chroin were impressive. Their summits still smothered in snow. I could just imagine how busy it was as an army of walking ants clambered their way to the tops.

To the South, I could see the freezing fog in the valleys of the central belt around Stirling area. Ben Ledi is to the right of the photo and there would be a lot of people there too. I had not seen a single soul on my walk, nor a footprint in the snow, apart from my own, the deer and the hares.

To the SE loch Voil shimmered silently in the cold clear air. Ben Venue stood proud on the horizon.

A short walk then brough me to the second summit marked with the trig point. Stobinnian and Ben More also looked very impressive to the NW

To the N the snow covered hills on the other side of Glen Dochart . Beyond them was the Tyndrum Munros and beyond that again stood the Glencoe mountains.

Then over to the NE was the Tarmachan and Ben Lawers ranges.

My small photos don’t do the 360 degree panorama justice. To do it the justice it deserves ..I can only recommend you go see it for yourself. Im glad I turned back in December when it was misty. If I had continued to the summit I would not have seen the views nor would I have returned so soon.

The rest of the ridge was still in front of me and I had more visual delights to see ....

Sunday, 23 January 2011

Balquhidder and Meall an t-Seallaidh

Before starting the slog up the hillside, I took a look at the old sheep pens at the edge of the forest. Although there were still sheep on the hillside, it looked like the pens were no longer used. At one time the sheep would have been driven in one end, dipped to kill the parasites like tics etc, then let out the other side. Now its no longer a legal requirement to dip sheep and I often wonder if thats why I get so many tics during the warmer weather ?

The view to the west of the sheep pens revealed the hills on the other side of Kirkton Glen

The relentless steep slog began. I didn’t mind it much as I knew I was gaining height very quickly and I was still fresh as the walk was just beginning. I zig zagged to break the gradient and tried to follow the sheep tracks where they existed. The view over to the east was stunning. Ben Vorlich and Stuc a Chroin dominated the skyline.

While Beinn an t –Sidhein stood proud to the south. At only 572 meters high, it offers great views over Loch Lubnaig although I couldn’t see the loch from this hill.

However the view along Loch Voil to the west must be one of the best of that particular loch

Once I reached the shoulder leading to Meall an t- Seallaidh I got my first views of Loch Earn to the east.

Walking north along the shoulder, I finally I saw the top I was heading for. Meall an T Seallaidh..the hill of the views .. and the views will follow shortly :-D

Balquhidder and Creag an Turic

Having recently walked up and down Kirkton Glen, I was a bit reluctant to do it again so soon and wondered if there was another way onto the top of Meall an t- seallaidh by a direct assault from the southern slope. I couldn’t find any reference of a route from this direction but noticed it could be ascended from Lochearnhead via Glen Kildrum. Yesterday, as I drove to Balquhidder church, I surveyed the hillside and saw no great difficulty tackling it direct from the south assuming I could avoid the cliffs and trees at the start of the walk.

I wondered if following the forest walk to Creag an Turic, which was the ancient gathering place of the Maclaren clan on top of the cliffs, would lead to a way through the trees and onto the open hillside.

Incidentally, although Rob Roy MacGregor is a national hero and is generally thought of a good guy, he and his kin stole the lands in this area from the MacLaren Clan after being ousted from Argyll by the Campbells. But then again , the Maclarens were no great good guys either as they slaughtered the Buchanan clan at a battle on Creag an Turic. Such was life in those days. I guess everyone had a neighbour from hell.

The walk starts behind the church and after a short distance leaves the forest road for Kirkton Glen by heading east. The path is not very clear but there is a gate through a fence there and a little further a bridge crosses a stream.

After half a mile or so, the path opens out on the top of the cliffs at the monument to the Maclaren Clan on Creag an Turic. The views over Loch Voil make it a worthy walk.

Don’t go too close to the edge of the cliffs as its a long way down. I imagined the Maclarens throwing the Buchanans over the edge here as not one Buchanan survived the battle.

Behind the monument I could see the open slopes of the hill I wanted to climb. I just needed to find a way through the trees.

In reality the trees did not cause a problem. It is a very old part of the forest and it was quite open making for easy walking.

Once clear of the trees, I saw the open hillside in detail and although it looked quite steep, I could see a way to the top by going diagonally across the slope towards the top right in the photo.

I was please to see it possible to go this way as it meant I could get the climbing over and done with early in the walk and do a circular route returning via Kirkton Glen. A distance of approx 7.5 miles and around 2800ft in total ascent .. to be continued

Balquhidder and Kirkton Glen

I love walking in the Trossachs because there are many “gems” to be found just off the beaten track, both from a historical and scenic point of view. Our national hero’s like William Wallace, Robert the Bruce and Rob Roy MacGregor all knew the Trossachs well and roamed its hills and glens fighting battles with other clans as well as the English.

Yesterdays walk actually started on the last day of last year 31st of December. I was full of too rich Xmas food and also recovering from a bout of flu when I first ventured out to discover the Kirkton Glen at Balquhiddar. I was hoping to climb to the top of Meall an t- Seallaidh, a Corbett of 852 meters high and reputed to have some of the best views in the Trossachs. The walk starts in the heart of Rob Roy country. In fact you park at Balquhiddar church where Rob Roys grave is.

Balquhiddar Church. If its a Sunday, I park further down the road to allow the congregation to park at the church.

Rob Roy’s Grave. He still has a great following as I often see coins and other small tokens left on the grave stone.

The path into Kirkton Glen is the forestry access road that runs behind the church. In December, the snow was right down to road level.

Although the OS map shows the glen as heavily wooded, there has been a lot of tree clearing in the past and its a very pleasant open woodland track for walking on. However, it was very slippery and icy in December, so I put on my crampons to assist my stability.

Half way along the glen the views of the cliffs at Leum an Eireannaich and the ridge leading to Meall an t- Seallaidh start opening up. Well the views normally appear unless the mist is down. I was disappointed to see the ridge was in the mist. Its a rocky ridge full of steep crags and I was not looking forward to navigating along it, having never been there before.

Looking back along the length of Kirkton Glen, I could see the mist was closing in even more.

I continued to the head of the glen and as I reached the top of the pass beside Lochan an Eireannaich, I came into the full force of the northerly wind. I could hardly stand it was that strong and it was also bitterly cold.

I have survived a life time in the Scottish hills without getting into trouble and I put that down to knowing my capabilities and when to turn back. Although the ridge was not much higher, I knew it would wait for me. I turned back having enjoyed my walk. The wind had blown my xmas cobwebs away

I knew I would return to complete that walk and I did.. it was a great day on the hills yesterday.. to be continued :-D

Thursday, 20 January 2011

An Anniversary and the beginning of some changes

I started this blog with a view of documenting my journeys around Scotland’s west coast using my “inheritance” which was my father’s little inflatable boat and outboard motor. It is also dedicated in memory of my father as he is never far from my mind when I paddle or power my way round some of the most scenic seascapes in the world.

Hopefully I captured some of the beauty and the excitement of discovering the sea for myself as a solo sailor, in some of last year’s posts and photographs. The blog then changed direction as the weather started to get colder and I headed for the hills which is another great passion of mine.

My father in his last boat

This week was the first anniversary of my father’s death, and I have been doing a little reflecting over the way I now want to live. Like this blog, over the next year or so, I hope to have a few changes in direction. I realise some of the things I want now are still pipe dreams, and some can be reality but require a little more work or are further down the road. But I also remember from early school lessons in Physics that things tend to travel in straight lines because it is the easiest way. That doesn’t mean to say its the best way. Changes in direction require some form of energy. I’m hoping to find some of that energy by searching into my inner self.

Never fear though, I still intend keeping this blog updated on a regular basis and if you are interested in following my metamorphic transformations while changing my directions, I hope you will stay tuned and perhaps find it interesting or even entertaining ?

My first change will be in the direction of my little inflatable. Im now taking my father’s last boat under my wing and when the warmer weather arrives, I hope to renew my acquaintance of the sea in a little more comfort. Its a proper little boat and not full of so much air as my inflatable. I fully realise it won’t cross the Atlantic but it will be a good deal drier in the calmer days of summer. I have many sea lochs still to see. I also hope to do a bit more fishing from it and not worry about bursting it with a hook, or wondering what I would do if I caught an eight foot conger eel :-o

Talking about crossing the Atlantic, I also hope to do that a little more often too and also for my American friend to visit here a bit more often. In three weeks time I’m heading for another break in New Orleans. You can be sure we will be in the crowds watching the parades and trying to catch the prize beads and doubloons of the Krewe de Vieux as they dance down the streets. The description of this mob from the official web site reads ...

Founded in 1987, the Krewe du Vieux is one of the most anticipated krewes with the hand-made mule-drawn floats and adult themes. This wild, satirical Carnival parade, which first marched in 1978, was based out of New Orleans' Contemporary Arts Center. The Krewe du Vieux is a non-profit organization dedicated to the historical and traditional concept of a Mardi Gras parade as a venue for individual creative expression and satiricalcomment. It is unique among all Mardi Gras parades because it alone carries on the old Carnival traditions, by using decorated, hand or mule-drawn.

Im looking forward to it very much and you can be sure I will post my adventures on here.

In the meantime.. as I await more changes in direction ..Im heading back to the hills..and will post a few more walks shortly.

Sunday, 16 January 2011

A memory from Autumn

Perhaps some may remember I posted a few autumn photos taken at Loch Tulla a while back. It was always on my mind to paint one of the scenes. I finally got round to it last week and this is the painting. Guess I was away with a faeries last week but Im happy with the result.

The Ochil Hills and Dumyat

Its funny how we can let ourselves go, get really out of shape and not notice it happen. Six years ago I quit smoking and became quite overweight. I could hardly walk the length of myself and had little drive to do anything more strenuous than go for a trip in the car.

Then one day I decided to get myself fit again. I packed my rucksack full of sandwiches and coffee then set off to climb Dumyat from the road to Sherrifmuir. It took most of the day doing it and I ached by the time I got home. However, on the way to the top, I dreamed of all the mountains that I climbed as a youngster. I decided to revisit them again.

Now I run up and down Dumyat without a full rucksack or even a bar of chocolate. I’m fitter than I was at half my age .. a lot wiser too. It was all thanks to that walk on the Ochils, no wonder its a favourite short walk of mine. I have walked it in all weathers too. This was a day from the recent cold spell

Looking towards the Wallace monument and Stirling from the path near the start.

Looking back towards Ben Lomond and Ben Ledi from the path.

Looking towards Grangemouth and the river Forth

Looking towards Ben Ledi , Stuc a Chroin and Ben Vorlich from higher up the path

This is the only time I have noticed this rock looking like a kneeling bishop ? I guess it was the angle of the sun that spot lit him.

Looking over Alva and Tillicoulty From near the summit

The Summit cairn and memorial to the Argyle and Sutherland Highlanders