Category Archives: Linlithgow

Don’t Stop Believing

The last ‘Feeding The Soul’ blog I wrote was two years ago.   I didn’t do any ‘real walking’ in 2013 but earlier this year my friend Debbie and I starting walking together again and the main reason for my re-starting the blog  is because one walk in particular made me start believing in myself again.  Prior to that, I had started having my doubts about my fitness, especially after the year’s break.

Anyway, in January we went along the Union Canal from Linlithgow to Philpstoun and back. Neither of us had taken sustenance as we fondly believed there was a café just under half way along.  We saw the café after about four miles but were full of vim and vigour so decided just to call on the way back.  Huh!  Like a silly so-and-so I was wearing jeans (which no sensible walker does if rain is threatened), and on that return journey the heavens opened.  This resulted in my being the wettest I had experienced for a very, very, very long time, with utterly sodden legs trailing water behind me.  We were still in good spirits though because we always make the best of whatever the weather throws at us, but we were sooo desperately needing a hot drink – only to discover the aforementioned café was closed for refurbishment!  It certainly taught us never to rely on buying food and drink on a walk ever again!   Left pic: view from the canal before the rain.    Right pic: a sight no drowned walker wants to see.










In February  we tested the newly opened John Muir Way from Bo’ness to South Queensferry, starting with the weather a bit driech but cheering up nicely .  It is a lovely walk along the coast with varied terrain and the finish at the bridges made a perfect ending as we sojourned in The Hawes Inn waiting for Debbie’s husband, Martyn, to collect us. Left pic: Debbie at Bo’ness at the start of the walk.  Right pic: Debbie at South Queensferry at the end of the walk.









April saw us tackling Kilsyth to Falkirk, a longer section of the John Muir Way.  Debbie’s husband drove us to the start and my partner, Walter and our friend, Sid, met us at the Falkirk Wheel to drive us home.  Again we had a very enjoyable walk, meeting friendly folk along the way, with a lovely ending at the Falkirk Wheel.  Mind you,  the start was a bit fraught when Martyn couldn’t find Kilsyth, and his SatNag took him off the motorway to spend 3/4 hour traversing back roads to rejoin the motorway 10 miles on – but, hey ho, it all adds to the great tapestry of life – or so I’m told.  Pic above: The start of the walk at Kilsyth marina.  Pic below: The finish of our walk at the Falkirk Wheel.


We had a few adventures/silly incidents on all our walks, which we giggled our way through.  Laughter is a great energy booster.

Now, walking along the canal was ‘safe’ for me insofar as long as I was on the flat I was fine, never having any problems with my legs, even after 15 miles.  However, I was very cautious about coping with much of an ascent because I had problems breathing deeply enough to power my body uphill – or at least that’s what it felt like to me.  However, although the low-level walks fed the soul to a certain extent, there was something missing when we were not actually in the hills, so we both knew that we had to go up again.


Anyway, in May we went up Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh. I was really struggling with my breathing – half a dozen steps…stop – half a dozen steps….stop – until we met up with Walter and Sid , who had approached from another direction.  Before meeting the boys on the plateau, Debbie and I had already been to the summit and back (albeit with me panting away and scarlet-faced), but I was so thrilled that Walter had managed to climb the hill, that there was nae problem at all going back to the summit with him and, lo and behold, all signs of difficulty breathing had vanished.  Pic: The four of us at the summit of Arthur’s Seat.

I began to accept then that my so-called breathing problems were ‘in my head’ and the crunch came when in August, Debbie and I decided to go up Scald Law, the highest hill in the Pentlands.    I parked at Flotterstone and we began by walking alongside the reservoirs – a gentle way to get the body working.  2014augPENT-1  We had a couple of false starts which added to the overall distance and amount of ascent but also greatly increased the fun. First we missed the turnoff for Scald Law and went around another mile or so before meeting another walker who told us where we had gone wrong.  We retraced our steps and set off at long last for yer ackshual ‘ills.  Left pic: Glencorse reservoir. Right pic: the correct place to turn up to Scald Law.2014augPENT-5 When we got to a bealach we went left, but half way that hill up Debbie noticed that the one on the other side of said bealach was higher – hence that had to be Scald Law.   2014augPENT-hangONSo, off we went down again – climbed up to that higher summit then back down and up the first one again, (that being Carnethy).  I can go at a fair walking speed on the flat but an experienced hillwalking friend had advised me to take it a lot steadier on any ascents – slowly, slowly catchee monkey – and it worked,  I was able to pace myself much better, albeit at half Debbie’s pace.  It was a lovely day and we eventually did all three – Scald Law, Carnethy and Turnhouse – loving every minute.  Right pic: “whoops, we should be on that one”.  First below left: Me on the summit of Scald Law.  Second below left: Me on Carnethy. Right below: Debbie with ‘walker hair’ .  Next two right pics: view across the hills and view across the town from Turnhouse.





Well, “loving every minute” until we came “the other way down” (being straight down a steep tussocky hillside, wading through a Burn and crawling under a fence – none of which is to be recommended). This meant that I used every ounce of energy my little legs possessed, which resulted in their refusing to work properly for a few days afterwards, but hey! the breathing was ok.  I was not sure exactly where we were when we finally reached the minor road leading to the reservoirs so I stood, arms akimbo, in front of an approaching car. ( I tell you – for a few seconds Debbie and I both thought he wasn’t going to brake. ) The desperado action was to make the driver stop just so I could ask directions, but the kind chap offered us a lift to the car park which we gratefully accepted.   I had to bite my tongue when he started going on about women not being any good with maps, but then his car the last place for me to deliver a lecture on feminism considering that a) we had just come down a hill the most ridiculous way  and b) I had stopped him to ask directions.  Let’s face it, I didn’t have had a leg to stand on metaphorically, morally or even literally at that moment!   After a well earned rest at Flotterstone Inn  I managed to drive Debbie home to Linlithgow, but on my own way back to Livingston, my legs finally gave up the ghost and cramped badly, meaning driving became a little scary – luckily I was on quiet back roads.  I was totally spent but happy.  2014augPENT-susSLEEPRight pic: Me the following day , my system going into ‘auto-recovery mode’  at every opportunity – this one at Knockhill car-racing course.
That walk in the Pentlands was my cathartic moment referred to at the beginning of this blog.  The distance we had walked, and the overall ascent covered on the three (and a half) hills in the Pentlands, was a “Munro’s worth” , so that made me start believing in myself again – hence the title.  Therefore, a couple of days later when Debbie asked me about taking part in doing a Munro for the Skye Whisky Challenge to raise funds for Mountain Rescue, I immediately agreed.

We chose to climb Schiehallion on 22nd September.  I completely underestimated how difficult that mountain would be.  Although I knew there was a boulder field leading to the summit, I did not realise it covered so much of the mountain.  There are umpteen false summits too.Schiehallion-002-2    There is a good stony path up the ridgeback  but it vanishes at the boulder field.  I had forgotten to take my stick out of the car and was really missing it as I walked up.  I happened to comment about this as a few people went past me going down, then to my absolute astonishment a lovely thing happened. The lady of a couple who were both using sticks said she too would be lost without hers,  then moments later she called me back and insisted I take one of theirs!  Naturally I declined because there was no way I would get back down in time to return it to them, but the man came up to me and made me take it, saying that they had more in the car and that I really would need it later.  How kind was that!   I didn’t ask their names so I will never be able to thank them.   As I said, the path is fine for a good length of the way and afterwards it is not that difficult to work out a route, but I found the later terrain to be ultra challenging.  It’s not too bad for those with long legs and good balance because they can use the big boulders like stepping stones, albeit with occasionally loose ones, but for folk like me with short legs and a dodgy sense of balance it was a laborious job of picking a way around and over the boulders.    I was so grateful for that stick!  I honestly don’t think I would have managed without it, especially on the ‘everlasting’ boulder field.




Anyway, three hours after we had started (!) and a few hundred yards from the final summit, I knew that I had to stop in order to have enough strength in my legs not only to get down the mountain but to drive the two and a half hour journey home as well.  Debbie continued by herself to bag her first Munro and photograph the Skye Whisky Challenge flag and a Yes flag at the summit cairn.   I never took any photos on the way up or down this mountain – I was too busy concentrating  hard on where to put my feet.  However, I did get a few snaps with my mobile phone while I was waiting for Debbie   – unfortunately they are not that clear but believe me the pic on the left of the summit really does have Debbie waving from the top!  The other has Debbie waving her flags on her way back to where I was waiting.

Created with Nokia Smart Cam

We  were both more than chuffed with our achievements – Debbie for bagging her first Munro and me for getting back out there again.  pic above: we celebrated with a selfie.  Despite six hours of really hard terrain and my legs beginning to shake on the descent, I was absolutely fine afterwards – no stiffness or aching.  My breathing was a bit tight at first but perfectly ok most of the time, though admittedly I was probably moving at a quarter of the pace needed for effective hill-walking.  We are planning more Munros now I have started believing in myself again – possibly Ben Ledi or Ben Venue at the end of October .  All that remains is for me to get back the voice I lost in 2010 – but that’s another story.

Soul-Feeding At A Lower Level

Walking in Scotland is wonderful ‘Food For The Soul’ but we don’t have to go up high to be ‘fed’.   For various reasons my walking chum, Debbie, and I have had to confine ourselves to lower level and local walks for a few weeks (and anticipate doing so more during winter weather)  all of which were equally rewarding even though not physically challenging.

Linlithgow Loch, Palace and St Michael’s Kirk.  approx 3 miles

The first walk in this blog was just 3 miles around Linlithgow Loch which is extremely picturesque.  The weather ‘came in’ as they say, but that didn’t spoil anything for us.

We also went in St Michael’s Kirk, the church nestling alongside the Palace.  The volunteer guide showed us around the interior of the kirk and related the
history and notable events.  It never ceases to amaze me how knowledgable are volunteers  in all types of historic buildings I visit and how they communicate the history and the events with such infectious enthusiasm.  My trouble is I tend to forget what I’ve been told quite soon thereafter(!)  Thank goodness for T’interweb!  More info here:

Mary, the future Queen of Scots, was born at Linlithgow Palace  on the 8th December 1542. The infant Queen was baptised at St. Michael’s.  However, according to the link above,  “ 1559, the Protestant Lords in their zeal to to obliterate all traces of Roman Catholic practises from the church destroyed not only the statues and alters but also the baptism font.  To this day occasional fragments of this orgy of destruction are still found around the church”.  The photo  is of the current font which I think dates from the 1800s.

As well as the historical artifacts the church has had more modern additions such as this stained glass window erected in 1992.  In 1964 a replacement, and at the time controversial, spire in aluminium in a modern style by the prominent Scots architect Sir Basil  Spence, representing Christ’s crown of thorns, was added. I lived in Linlthgow during the late 70s/early 80s and well remember neighbours discussing this in not too favourable terms – I have always liked it though.

As a result of my recent attempts to get back on my bike I was most interested to see this memorial plaque.  I can’t recall seeing mention of a cyclist battalion before.  See here for info about this rare battalion.

On our way home we called at a tiny church at the other end of town, St Ninians.  See here for more info.

We couldn’t go inside and I didn’t take a photo because there was scaffolding around it for work to be done on the roof.  However we did chat to the roof repairer – as you do – and found to our delight he was a font of knowledge about old churches in Scotland.  (no pun intended)  He strongly recommended us to visit Abercorn church – the oldest in Scotland – which we did a couple of weeks later. (Later in blog)

Prior to that visit though, we had walk on part of the Linlithgow Heritage Trail and River Avon Heritage Trail which includes the Union Canal.

Linlithgow, Linlithgow Bridge and back –  Union Canal_ – approx 5 miles

It was a beautiful day and again, although not particularly physically challenging, was a truly lovely wee walk. As it happens, I forgot to transfer my wee point and shoot from my handbag to my rucsac so I had to make do with my 2mpx mobile phone. But, as I say ad nauseum “the best camera is the one you actually have to hand” .   Our walk actually started in Kettlestoun, Linlithgow Bridge at an information point all about the battle of Linlithgow Bridge but really the route began in earnest underneath this viaduct.

Then along a river leading to the canal.






Going across the aquaduct….

This view is from the canal as we neared Linlithgow and is  looking across to the viaduct where we had started at Linlithgow Bridge. Along this stretch we saw a bird of prey in the far distance which, when I double checked about the shape of it’s tail at home, I am fairly sure was a White-tailed Eagle.

Canoeists getting their own Food For The Soul on the canal …..  

Being low level did not detract from the beauty that surrounded us and the sheer joy of being part of nature.

Abercorn Church to Blackness Castle and back  – approx 5 miles

The next trip was from Abercorn Church to Blackness Castle.  The church is a little gem with a history dating back over a thousand years.  For more info click here.

After visiting the church and the teeny museum we went through the woods then down onto the shore to Blackness Castle.

Our hearts sank as we got closer to the castle though – it looked as though we were snookered by a wee river – but luckily we eventually discovered a tiny bridge.   (Debbie could have leapt from bank to bank but I wouldn’t have stood a chance with my wee legs.) We had our lunch at the castle them made our way back – this time by the wooded path all the way back to Abercorn.

The final low level walk taken in the past few weeks was further afield and is part of the West Highland Way.

Tyndrum, Allt Kinglass and back  – approx 10 miles.

When I checked the weather forecast early in the week it looked good for Wednesday so we made plans accordingly.  We planned to go from Tyndrum to Bridge Of Orchy and to get either a train or bus back.  Then on Tuesday night the forecast changed drastically to our great dischuffment so we were going for a ‘plan B’ instead.   Luckily I checked again on Weds morning and it was back to being hopeful, so we reverted to ‘plan A’.  I am SOOOO glad we did.  The weather was absolutely beautiful all day – amazingly bright, quite mild, no wind (changing to lovely wee breeze later) and was downright gobsmackingly gorgeous.  However, we learned a good lesson….check the bus times FIRST!   We were a bit late starting off and had a couple of stops to take photos on the way, so we were not exactly giving ourselves the best chance.  If we’d known the times we might have made adjustments or simply got a move-on.   This is a stitch of Loch Lubhair taken on the way up.

 The words ” Dull would they be of soul who could pass by a sight so touching in its majesty”  sprang to mind. (I know Wordsworth was referring to London but how well it fits. )

When we finally started on the section it was 1.30pm.  We consulted the computer in the Green Welly Stop to find to our dismay that the bus times from Bridge Of Orchy were 3.04pm  and 8.14pm!!   There was no way we’d cover seven miles in 90 minutes!   We also considered getting the bus TO Orchy and walking back, but that had long since gone too so we had no choice but to attempt the walk both ways.   Quite frankly I was happy just to be there in such wonderful conditions – it didn’t matter about actually reaching Bridge Of Orchy.   Oh what a day it was!  Just see the weather conditions at  the start of the walk just behind the Green Welly Shop.

Ben Dorain was lording it over the route.   I’ve driven past this mountain “millions” of times and been across the area on the West Highland Rail Line twice.  I’ve always wanted to walk it ….. so chuffed to have done so at last.

We had noticed two other walkers in the distance who appeared to be struggling a bit with heavy packs and by the time we stopped for lunch we had caught up with them. While we were stopped we had a chat with a walker who had just come off Ben Dorain and said chappie reckoned the others were two German ladies planning to walk to Glencoe that day.  They’d been on the same bus as him that morning and he had been up the mountain and back in the time it had taken them to reach that point.  There was no chance of their reaching Glencoe, over Rannoch Moor, by the time the sun went down!
The route is clearly signed to go under the West Highland Rail Line via a wee tunnel .  The German ladies didn’t appear to have a map, or be observant, because they set off to continue across the hillside and had to be called back to go via the correct route under the tunnel.

On the other side of the tunnel…
We never saw the German ladies again so we suspect they turned left after the tunnel to take  the other part of this path which eventually met up with the main road after about a mile and led back into Tyndrum.  I do despair of folk going to the hills or on walks over roughish terrain without being properly prepared and equipped.

We turned back ourselves at Allt Kinglass.  It was only about a mile and a half from Bridge Of Orchy but to make it feasible for getting back to the car in daylight, and taking into account a two hour drive home after that, we decided it made sense to go no further.  Unfortunately my wee point and shoot’s batteries had failed soon after taking the photo of the coos and my replacement batteries were dead (duh!) so once again my mobile phone came to the rescue for the ‘golden light’ on the way back.

We were quite warm, so much so that Debbie stripped down to a sleeveless top, but then she noticed someone coming towards us who appeared to be smoking and realised that it was in fact their breath visible in the cold air – not smoke at all – it was actually rather chilly my dear!   We hadn’t noticed that the route went downhill on our way out but we sure did notice it was uphill coming back!   Our wee hearts were racing at full pace but in a good healthy, exercise way – not stressful at all.

Even a puddle can be beautifully photogenic……

Then of course the sun went down behind the hills and the golden light vanished, but by then we had arrived back at the car.    A nice hot coffee from the wee shop and we set off back home, both souls well fed.

I am getting more and more confident of my fitness – not a trace of aches or tiredness on any of these walks – despite this last one being around 10 miles and having some steepish parts.  When the soul’s appetite is satiated the body benefits as well.