Category Archives: Hiking

The West Highland Way – Tyndrum to Bridge of Orchy

August 7 – After yesterday’s exciting post, today’s may be less so.

We met Angela, a lovely lady from Nova Scotia doing a solo hike, at our B and B. We set out together after breakfast, and walked together for a while.

Karen and Angela
This is the softest moss I’ve ever seen

After a while the trail became an open track, with mountains to the left and mountains to the right. Our book says this is an old military road, used to keep the Jacobites in their place.

Clouds touching the mountaintops

And so it remained for the rest of the day.

The road ahead
The road behind
Look! Train tracks!

In the middle of nowhere was a solitary little house, with a sign saying it belonged to the Mc Dougals . They must really like their privacy.

Before we knew it, we’d reached Bridge of Orchy, which was our stop for the day. There is a bridge here:

Bridge over the River Orchy

There is one hotel / restaurant here:

The restaurant was all booked for tonight, so we accepted our B and B host’s gracious offer to fix us dinner. She made pasta and veg and salad and apple pie for dessert, and rolled the feast into our room on a little cart. It was lovely – and no chips!

Our room also contained a drying closet, which is a much sought-after amenity here in the highlands. You hang your damp things in it, push a button, and four hours later, you have dry clothes! It also dries your boots, but makes the whole room smell like dirty feet. Better than squelching around all day in wet boots!

The West Highland Way – Inverarnan to Tyndrum

August 6 – I miss Loch Lomond. Now I’ll have to come up with a new song to hum as we walk along.

Tired of mountains and trees? Today we have some history! Also, mountains and trees…

Mountains, trees, and sheep!

King Robert the First of Scotland (Robert the Bruce) fought the battle of Bannockburn in 1314. On the night before the battle, he prayed to St. Fillan, a monk from the early 700s. When Robert won the battle, he dedicated a new priory to St. Fillan, the ruins of which can be seen below.

The ruins of St. Fillan’s Priory from the 14th century

The Fillan River was known for healing the mentally ill when monks dunked them in this deep pool. Men were dunked in this section, and women were dunked a little further upstream. St. Fillan is the patron saint of the mentally ill.

The Holy Pool
Old bridge crossing over the River Fillan

A little further on is an old cemetery, containing some memorial stones from the 8th century. One of the stones bears the image of a forearm – a very unusual thing to carve on a memorial stone. Except…. St. Fillan was known to have a luminous forearm, that he used as a lantern so that he could continue reading scripture in the dark! Coincidence? You decide!

Kirkton family graveyard containing some 8th century memorial stones

Skipping forward to Robert the Bruce again, when his army lost the battle at Dalrigh right here in 1306, he disgustedly threw all his army’s swords into this small lake, known as the Lochen of the Lost Sword.

Lochen of the Lost Sword
Field of the Battle of Dalrigh

Wow! That’s a lot of history for one day’s walk. So, here are some more sheep and goats.

And flowers:

We approach the town of Tyndrum, where they used to mine lead.

There is a sign here inviting people to pan for gold, and we stood and watched for a while as some fellows panned away.

So now we are cozy in our B and B, after another hearty meal of haddock and chips (what we would call steak fries). I’m beginning to weary of the chips, which are served with every meal, but the fish is very good.

The places we’ve eaten in Scotland are all very solicitous of dietary restrictions / food allergies, and offer lots of vegetarian, vegan and gluten free choices. On our menu tonight was ‘tofush’ for those who desire a plant based alternative to fish.

Out the window of the restaurant were a row of bird feeders, set up for the entertainment of those eating within.

What a nice place.

The West Highland Way – Rowardennan to Inverarnan

August 4 – What do we do on our rest day? We walk around, of course!

Today was our first opportunity to order a full Scottish breakfast, which is very much like a full English – fried egg, tomato, farm sausage, beans, black pudding (blood sausage), mushrooms and bacon (looks like ham). We pronounced it excellent.

It’s a beautiful sunny morning, but a chilly 50 degrees, so we put on our fleece jackets and set off to see the first part of the hike to Inverarnan.

Not sure what this is, but isn’t it interesting?
A reminder of how far we have to go

We met a Ukrainian who was spraying foliage along the trail. We asked what he was spraying for, and he told us that he was killing rhododendrons, which are very bad. We pressed: the shrubs with pink flowers in the spring? Yes – very bad. Huh!

Spraying the rhododendrons

We encountered a family – mother, son and girlfriend of son – having a jolly walk. What a good son!

August 5 – So here is our conundrum. The guidebooks all agree that the next leg of our journey is the hardest day of the Way. It is over 14 miles of rugged walk with lots of big hills. Jim is under strict orders not to let me die on this vacation. There is no bus, no Uber, no way to get north of here as the road ceases to exist on this (east) side of the Loch. There are no bridges or ferries that can get us across the Loch to civilization. What to do?

Jim, who always says there is no corner so sharp that it cannot be rounded, found a solution, of course. For a princely sum, we hired a taxi to take us 30 miles all the way back to a town at the southern tip of Loch Lomond. From there, we caught a bus heading north on the west side of the Loch, and in 45 minutes, presto: Inverarnan (In-ver-ARR-nun).

Once again, not a town, just a hotel and a campsite. Once again, we were given a cabin, very cozy and nice.

View from our cabin

We spent the rest of the day walking south back down the West Highland Way to see a few miles of what we missed on the trail today.

A mossy old tree

Walking the trail, which is a stream. Lots of jumping on rocks to keep our boots semi-dry.

Little waterfall

Our last views of Loch Lomond. We’ll miss you!

A wonderful day.

The West Highland Way – Drymen to Balmaha

August 2 – We shared breakfast with our B and B companions – a couple from Holland and a young couple from Paris. We all practiced saying Balmaha (Bal-muh-HAAA). They are all walking 14 miles today, but we are only walking seven. Some people walk 21!

Nice young couple from Paris

After yesterday’s long but fairly flat walk, today’s route will be more challenging, requiring a steep climb to get over Conic Hill. The weather is overcast and gray, but the promised rain isn’t falling yet. Off we go.

Conic Hill – see the trail heading up on the right?

We met a couple from Calgary, and walked together until the trail started to get steep. Everybody is faster than me when going uphill.

We saw our first glimpse of Loch Lomond. Remember the old song?

You take the high road and I’ll take the low road
And I’ll be in Scotland afore ye
For me and my true love will never meet again
On the bonny bonny banks of Loch Lomond.

Loch Lomond is a great long lake and we will be walking beside it for days. Gaelic for Dummies advised to always pronounce Loch as though clearing one’s throat. Lochhhh LOW-mun .

First glimpse of Loch Lomond in the distance

As we climbed, the rain started, and the trail was busy with hikers ascending the narrow path. The trail became a stream, with water cascading down as we went up. I was going really slowly, and looking for a place to rest, but there was none. No pix of the uphill slog – you’ll have to use your imagination! Finally, we got to the top.

Made it to the top!

What goes up, must come down, and so we did. The rain stopped, and the views were gorgeous.

Heading down toward the Loch

We walked triumphantly into Balmaha, and found our B and B. Our hostess invited us to use her hot tub – what luxury!

Balmaha is a lakeside tourist town, with lots of boats in the harbor and families on holiday.

Their hometown hero, Tom Weir, has a statue at the waterside. I wonder what he did to deserve it?

Tom Weir

A tiring but successful day!

The West Highland Way – Balmaha to Rowardennan

August 3 – After a hearty breakfast, we put Balmaha in our rearview, and walked on. Once again, it’s gray but not raining, temperature in the 50s.

Because most hikers do not stop overnight in Balmaha, the trail was quiet this morning, as we walked along the shore of Loch Lomond.

Ducks!

In a little while, the sun came out.

Even when the path moved close to the road, we could still hear the sounds of the nearby Loch.

A house flying the Scottish flag – St. Andrews Cross

We met a man from Bangalore, taking a holiday hike before starting his new job in Ireland. Lots of young people are hiking with big packs on their backs, and some are just out for the day.

Jim climbing some stone steps – I’m not far behind

We saw some Oreo cows – they are actually called belted Galloway cows. They looked content.

Belted Galloways

So we followed the up and down path throughout the day, ending up in Rowardennan (Row-ar-DEN-an) at the edge of the Loch.

There isn’t a town, just a hotel and a youth hostel. People come here to enjoy the Loch, or to climb Ben Lomond, a huge mountain that is, thankfully, not part of our plans. Rowardennan is literally the end of the road – there is no way to proceed north from here except on foot.

View of the Loch from Rowardennan Hotel

We hear Polish, German, French and languages we can’t decipher at dinner. I order steak and ale pie, which is neither steak nor pie, but chunks of pot roast in brown gravy served with mash (potatoes) and veg.

Bird that kept us company

Our hotel room is actually a little cabin!

We have walked three days in a row, and now deserve a day of rest, don’t you think? This will be a lovely place to chill out.

The West Highland Way – Milngavie to Drymen

July 31 – This morning we packed our stuff and bid adieu to our tiny room in Glasgow. It is time to hop on the bus and move on to the town where we will begin our hike tomorrow.

Before leaving home, I looked up Scottish Gaelic for Dummies, and learned several things. First, unlike Irish Gaelic (GAY-lick), in Scotland it’s pronounced GAL-lick. Second, I have no hope of mastering the rules of this confounding language. Since arriving here, we’ve found it challenging enough to try to understand folks when they are speaking English!

Our guidebook cautioned that we need to learn to pronounce the name of this town if we have any hope of getting there successfully. Any guesses on which letters to pronounce and which to skip over? I won’t keep you in suspense. Milngavie is Mell-GUY. Who needs all those extra vowels and consonants? And just in case, we started in ED-in-burra, then visited GLAZ-go. Now you’re all caught up.

We checked into our lovely hotel (windows! coffee maker!), set down our packs, and went out to explore the town.

I liked the speed limit signs for the residential areas – twenty is plenty!

I liked that they have signs for people like us:

There was a shopping street for pedestrians, with lots of folks out enjoying the afternoon sunshine. There was a busker singing Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah, and a carved bench to bring a tear to your eye.

Mostly, there were signs for the West Highland Way.

We had a scrumptious three course supper at the local restaurant (I had prawns, not shrimp) and rolled back to our room to figure out what to carry in our daypacks and what to send ahead in our big packs. Will it be too chilly in the morning for my sweatshirt? Should I bring my fleece jacket? No rain is forecast until late afternoon – should we chance not carrying raincoats? Momentous decisions before our first day – you’d think we’d never done this before!

August 1 – 12 miles planned. We were up at 5:30 and and anxious to start our hike, but the restaurant didn’t open for another hour. It was 39 degrees, although the sun had been up for an hour. Guess I’m wearing my fleece!

The trail started in the middle of Milngavie, descending to a shady path along a babbling brook.

There were several sculptures topped with polished rocks – when we asked one of the local dog walkers what they were for, she said the town had installed them because this area of the Way was so boring. Not so!

Polished rock sculptures surrounded by pretty ferns

Then things became more interesting:

The West Highland Way trail marker is supposed to be a thistle. You really have to use your imagination:

There’s a mountain in the distance. I wonder when we’ll reach it?

We talked to lots of fellow hikers as they passed us by – two couples from Holland, a group of 10 from Ottawa, a couple from Paris and several who came from different parts of Scotland. Lots of young girls hiking on their own, including a Muslim woman fully covered and in a headscarf.

The first hikers to pass us today were from Liverpool

Pretty flowers:

Never saw this plant before:

Unusual plant with shiny black pods
A bit of humor at the 7 mile mark

As we approached Drymen, we saw a small waterfall, and some interesting signs.

So now we’ve arrived in Drymen (pronounced DREM-men, rhymes with lemon) at Kip in the Kirk, a B and B that used to be a church.

We’re clean and warm, with bellies full of good supper. Our total mileage today was 13.5. The rain is pouring down outside our window, and the weather forecast is for rain for the rest of the week. This may be my last happy post!

Scotland

July 24, 2022 – So, it’s been a minute since our last post in March 2020, and I don’t have to tell you why. I have fewer readers now, and I bet you are missing some folks in your life too. But if life is short, we’d better get on with enjoying the time we’ve been given!

Jim booked this Scotland hike several years ago, so he reactivated our reservations this spring, and we started to plan. We are scheduled to hike the West Highland Way (96 miles) and the Great Glen Way (78 miles) over the next month.

The map below shows our daily hiking goals in blue. The yellow stars at bottom right show our arrival In Edinburgh, and the yellow star at bottom center shows the start of our hike in Glasgow.

Scotland

We are several years older than when we initially thought this hike would be a great idea. The world has changed and so have we. Can we do it? Only one way to find out!

The Cotswold Way – Cold Ashton to Bath

July 21 – This is it! Last Cotswold walking day! I must say, I was eager to move on from that shepherds hut this morning. Jim made us a lovely breakfast with the meager provisions provided by our host, with me staying in bed to keep out of his way.

Then Jim moved outside so I could wash the dishes! (Yes, there is a tiny cold water sink behind the stove.) I know tiny houses are the rage these days, but I don’t think I’m a suitable candidate for one…

Nine miles gets us into the city today. A hill to climb, some woods, some farmer’s fields. Here is the ultimate cow.

We walked through the battlefield of the Battle of Lansdown 1643. The Royalists beat the Parliamentarians as far as we could tell.

The ultimate golf course. Have I mentioned that everyone walks with their own cat here? We haven’t seen electric carts at any of the courses.

Ready for one last word? On our maps, areas of “tumuli” are indicated. We thought it was some kind of plant that we had never heard of. Turns out, it’s another word for burial mounds or barrows. Tumuli, (TOOM you lee) plural of tumulus. I learn something new every day.

Before we knew it, there was Bath below!

We walked to Bath Abbey, the official end of the 102 mile Cotswold Way. More about Bath tomorrow!

The Cotswold Way – Chipping Sodbury to Cold Ashton

July 20 – Didn’t want to leave our cool and spacious room over the gastro-pub this morning. We lingered over a fantastic breakfast chatting with the chef before beginning our penultimate hiking day. The chef spends his summers here, then travels to Japan in the winter to teach snowboarding. He reminded us of Christopher. Nice life! Eleven miles today, still sunny and warm.

We stopped into the church of St. Mary Magdalene, and I was thrilled to see memorial poems on the walls. Usually, I love finding interesting tombstones, but with the sandstone used universally here, any writing over a hundred years or so is no longer legible.

The church had a sign about the Ceysell Brass from 1493, and we looked high and low but could not find it.

I looked down and lifted a corner of the rug and voila! There it was!

We approached another little town at lunchtime, that had a similar church, St. Peters, and a similar brass. This one was open for all to see.

We ate our lunch in the church cemetery – cool and shady. There were formal gardens below, with lots of tourists strolling about.

I promised myself to stop showing hillsides and pastorals, but this is our penultimate day, so here are some penultimate cows.

By mid afternoon we arrived at Hill Farm B&B, where we had been warned by our travel agent that there were no rooms available, so we would be sleeping in “the shepherd’s hut.” It sounded quaint, but turned out to be a teeny tiny trailer with a corrugated metal roof out in the hot sun. It was REALLY hot inside, with no fan or way to make a cross-breeze. The host was not home, but left us a note to make ourselves comfortable. Ha!

We showered in the tiny bathroom, but started to sweat as soon as we emerged. Our host had left us one bottle of water, with instructions not to drink the water that came from the tap. We were dehydrated and overheated. We’re gonna die!

I went outside looking for any shady place, and found a lovely covered patio with a cool breeze at the top of the hill. We retired there with our books and waited for our host to return. When she did, she assured us that the hut would cool down in the evening, and she was right. This is a self catering B&B, so we heated our lasagna dinners in our tiny microwave, and ate outside at our tiny table.

Here’s to the Cotswold Way!

The Cotswold Way – Wotton-under-Edge to Chipping Sodbury

July 19 – I’m really not making up the names of these places. Walked out of Wotton (pronounced Wooton) this morning without ever learning what it was under the edge of! 13 miles planned for today.

At breakfast this morning, we overheard two ladies discussing their walk, complaining that the architecture here just wasn’t as quaint as they expected. We agree. The cool houses were back in Chipping Campden, but the flowers here are still are very nice.

Every town should have a Pansy Appreciation Club, don’t you think?

Here’s a company that’s adapted to local tastes:

What kind of a headstone is that?

A sign we haven’t seen before:

Oh, that explains it!

Into the woods again. A little waterfall.

A tree with a French braid.

Passing through a little town with ducks and geese.

Who wants to guess what this is? A shaggy dog? A bear?

Nope, guess it’s some kind of bovine.

Another monument – didn’t we climb that yesterday?

This one was for General Lord Somerset for whatever he did at the Battle of Waterloo. And no, we didn’t climb this one.

A little folly, built to encourage endangered birds to nest in safety:

And now we are in Chipping Sodbury, in a room over a really nice gastro-pub with gourmet food. Looking forward to a relaxing evening. No crises today!