The Rob Roy Way 2013

Day One: 4th June

Weather: Sunshine most of the way, cloudy later - about 21deg.

Route: Drymen to Aberfoyle - 12.8 miles with 775ft of ascent


Day one dawned, my bed was too short, and my toes were poking out of the duvet - which was a shame as the rest of the B&B was just fine. A light breakfast was quaffed down with quantities of tea, and a bottle of pink grapefruit juice – very refreshing and it’s always best to start the day hydrated, saving me carrying the extra weight of too much water. I pinched a sausage from my breakfast for my lunch, wrapped it in foil and that was enough for my lunch. Today was a shorter walk of around 11.5 miles with an added 1 1/4 miles to my B&B just past Aberfoyle. The weather forecast was good with no chance of rain, so I reduced my kit to the minimum for my bumbag and slapped on the factor 50 - I crammed in my snacks (snickers bar, chewy trail mix, Soreen malt loaf, apple bake, apple and a foil wrapped sausage from breakfast), 0.75l of juice (I also had my travel tap for using as needed), GPS, packet of Fruit Pastilles (essential kit that rarely lasts beyond 5 miles), compass and Harveys strip map, plasters and lipsalve, and a few coins. I didn't bother with an extra layer as I was fairly certain of the weather being set fair (but only just as it happens, although I had my Berghaus Paclite strapped on the back of the bumbag). I looked like a ghost leaving Drymen, with milk bottle legs, but I’ve had tandoori baked legs before and it’s not nice. Another little faff around and I was ready to go, said my goodbyes and settled down to some relaxed walking - I love the first steps of a long distance walk, and Drymen had the buzz of people about to savour the second day of the WHW. The route today took me just over 5 hours including a stop for a toasted scone in Aberfoyle, a nice steady plod, a pace to be repeated over the next few days. The route sets out north of Drymen, passing the local school, houses and village hall, and out to the north on the old Gartmore road - dappled sunlight and very quiet apart from the WHW walkers. Ahead of me was a steady stream of people taking the shortcut to the West Highland Way, a walk I remember so well from a few years ago. It was great to look across the fields towards Conic Hill and although I couldn’t see Loch Lomond I knew it was there - I was a little envious of those going to enjoy the WHW and the scenery they would see or not depending on the weather. Up the minor road I soon caught up with some Chinese hikers, heavily laden with pots, pans and tent. I reassured them they were heading in the right direction and after a bowing contest I was soon at the top of the lane and on my own. I didn’t see another walker all day long – very peaceful and tranquil, and a little strange at times. It was a bit odd to be walking on Tarmac for the first 6 miles, although there was enough too see with just me and the birds; plenty of insects but precious little else in the terms of wildlife. Scotland always has the views to distant hills which look very enticing, but I shan’t be climbing any of them this week - I'd probably include Ben Ledi if I did this walk again, as it could be incorporated if I'd had a short walk to Callandar instead of Strathyre - but that's another day. My general fitness isn’t what it was so it's probably just as well that the Rob Roy Way is fairly flat in terms of ascent. There has been plenty of harvesting of the pine plantations which has opened up the views to nearby hills, and as ever the cuckoo was calling – I don’t think I’ve ever been to Scotland in late spring and not heard it. Up on the top of the Old Gartmore Road at a lowly 233m the views opened up to the north to Ben Venue, Ben Ledi and the Menteith Hills, with plenty of fresh green growth around and abundant bluebells in the verges – splendid, and quite a few other wild flowers in bloom. From the mast at Bat a' Charchel it was all downhill for the next mile, dry and dusty, but with the views opening up to the NE. The first change on the Rob Roy Way came after 4 miles where the way turns from the NE to the NW just before the Drymen Road Cottage. More roadwork, but very quiet and open along here I started to see the evidence of the aqueduct that carries fresh water from Loch Katrine down to Glasgow – a great feat of Victorian engineering that was completed in only 4 years – must have been hard task masters in that era, but it helped to wipe out Cholera in Glasgow. There are some distinctive stone built shafts, now covered with metalwork domes that were used as ventilation shafts and for removing spoil from the underground tunnels - they are quite grand built of red sandstone blocks. Old stone markers show the path that the aqueduct takes underground, usually overgrown with grass so you don't see that many of them. I suppose that the highlight of the day was the Corrie Aqueduct, dating from 1859, still in working order and now covered over. It’s been painted black recently and looks in fine condition - I resisted the temptation to shin up a ladder for a peek inside the aqueduct, and carried on, finally off the Tarmac and onto some forestry ride. Shortly after the aqueduct the path rose through a bluebell covered hillside, zigzagging gently as I went. That was the last view I had today back to the south and the Campsie Fells, with the old volcanic plug of Drumgoyne prominent against the skyline. Unfortunately so are the electricity pylons – definitely not a thing of beauty, and you pass by many on the Rob Roy Way. Once up on top by the Drum of Clashmore the way turns to the NE and it’s mostly downhill all the way to Aberfoyle. There is a beautiful property at Clashmore, and I’d rent that one if it was available, lovely fish ponds and beautiful landscaped gardens. The final couple of miles out of the forest were beside the Bofrishlie Burn with some wonderful sunlit glades. It reminded me a bit of BC in Canada, but without the bears, wolves and other things that want to eat you. High above against blue skies the buzzards were soaring on thermals, shame they weren’t eagles. Out of the forest it was back to the Tarmac and a wander down into Aberfoyle. I passed by the Kirkton church with its two ‘mort-safes’ – coffin shaped, made of heavy metal and designed to thwart the body snatchers of the day. I suppose that was the dead centre of Aberfoyle then – sorry I’ll get my coat. Once onto the high street I plonked down on the nearest cafe seat at Liz MacGregor's and had a very welcome toasted scone with a cup of Earl Grey tea – aah. All that remained was the 1 mile walk to the B&B at Milton, arriving to an empty house, it gave me a chance to type the blog up in peace, looking over the start of Loch Ard - another lovely setting. Overall a very good start to the Rob Roy Way - no footpaths, half road walking and half forest ride.... Did I say it was sunny?

After a wash and scrub, we drove over to Port Menteith to finish the day – the best view I’ve ever had scoffing a burger. Absolutely perfect watching the sun go down over the Lake of Monteith, and even the midgies left us alone

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Drymen Square and the start of the Rob Roy Way

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 The Clachan Inn overlooks the green - too early for a pint though

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   Conic Hill on the right - the first hill on the WHW, bigger than most on the Rob Roy Way

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 a long steady ascent in dappled sunlight

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   Drumgoyne to the south seen through a clearing

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   not much verge to walk on - the mast at Muir Park Reservoir ahead, with Ben Ledi peeking above the horizon

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   views open up to the north as the road starts to drop down towards Drymen Road

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   I think Ben More is the big one. Serenaded by Cuckoos here

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   Drymen Road Cottage where the route goes left, with Ben Vorlich in the distance

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   the track forks off to the right, and I think that's Ben Lomond in the distance

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 some style left in an old stump - plenty of lichen abound, buzzards on the thermals - hot and dusty - great

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 lovely views to the north

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 a covered part of an aqueduct

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Old bridges here and there

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 more lichen on a telegraph pole - plenty of power lines around

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 the Corrie Aqueduct - highlight of day one

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 well maintained and still carrying water from Loch Katrine

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don't know what the lump is. The Rob Roy Way is well waymarked for most of the route

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 a zigzag path takes me uphill to the highest point of the path today  - feel the power

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   the route bears right at the second ventilation dome - just followed the waymark

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   on my way on solid forest ride - not much to cushion the feet here

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 the delightful setting at Clasmore

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 winding down through the forest towards Aberfoyle

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 finally out of the forest and back on the road to Aberfoyle

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 Kirkton Kirk ruins

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 one of the two 'Mort Safes' outside the Kirk entrance

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   the dead centre of Aberfoyle - not a bad place for a rest

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 a mile along the minor road below the slopes of Creag Dhubh

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looking towards Ben Lomond along the start of Loch Ard  

Where now:                                                Home        :        Long Walks Menu        :        Day Two>>