When ye cannae tak the high road…
Huh! Low-lying cloud-cum-fog reduced visibility to 100 yards or so as I drove to my friend Debbie’s house in Livingston but we were living in hope that the weather would be different further north, so off we set for Callander with the intention of climbing Ben Aan.
However, as we passed Loch Venachar (on the route to Loch Achray for Ben Aan), we had to accept that with the cloud base still stupidly low, we were on a hiding to nothing – there really was no point attempting to get up high. So, when ye cannae tak the high road, ye tak the low yun instead!
I had a few printouts of walks in my rucsac, including low level ones, so we turned back to Callander to find the route listed as “Loch Venachar and the hidden lochan”. (Yes, I know I said we were at the loch already but that wasn’t where the walking route started . )
We’d started getting eaten alive by midges in the few minutes we were in the layby so our next stop was in Callander to get insect repellent. Tesco was sold out, but I bought a pack of Mars Bars so the visit wasn’t wasted, and we had a wee walk further into town to the chemists. They were almost sold out too but we snapped up a Jungle Formula roll on and spray and applied it liberally.
We then followed the instructions to find the start of the walk – another huh! in fact triple huh cos we (well I – seeing as it was me driving) went the wrong way twice (to the amusement of a walker we passed) then when we were finally on the right one we met a humungous lorry coming toward us on a no-passing-places single track road! (No probs actually – he backed up for me cos I had no room to let him pass.)
Forty-five minutes after starting to look for the route (!) we eventually located the elusive car park and set off along the forest track.
We were half way up it before I remembered my stick so, by the time I had gone back to the car and caught up again, it was 1pm before we set off in earnest. Time for a Mars Bar each.
There was a slight wetness in the air – not rain (yet)- more like walking through the edge of low-lying cloud (hmm!), but despite this we both removed our waterproof jackets because the temperature was still quite high and we were uncomfortably warm in them. Near the top of the path we met a young woman from Texas who lives in London and was walking the Rob Roy Way from Aberfoyle . (Our route followed the unmarked Rob Roy Way for the first section but, as it is unmarked, we wouldn’t have known if it hadn’t been in the said printout). We enjoy talking to other walkers – ships that pass in the night and all that.
From here, according to the description of the 7km walk, there would be “excellent views across the loch to the unfamiliar southern slopes of Ben Ledi”
We didn’t mind really – no honest, we really didn’t – the most important thing was to be out in the countryside getting some exercise and just having some “me time” or in our case “her time and me time” . No two walks are ever the same and we revel in the different weather conditions and terrain. The path was steepish for a few hundred yards but soon levelled out through a forest of sitka spruce and led eventually to Lochan Alt a Chip Dhuidh, described as “a secretive sheet of water so well hidden by trees”. I can’t find a direct translation for it but based on what little I know of Gaelic, “Allt” means “water”, “Chip” is yet another word for “hill” and “Dhuibh” is “black”. It certainly did look black today. At this point our “low lying cloud” metamorphosed into actual rain, so on went the jackets. As it happens it had got slightly cooler so we didn’t mind.
The walk through the forest is not challenging but it does have its own beauty with little waterfalls appearing amongst the trees, water-boatmen on the puddles and ducks on the loch.
The path leads down eventually to “a grand view over Loch Venachar ahead” and joins the tarred path of the National Cycle Network 7 which extends from Carlisle to Inverness.
Now then, Debbie had the route printout at first and confidently told me there was to be a cafe along the return route. Accordingly we held off stopping for lunch until we got to the alleged cafe.
Another Huh! My tummy started growling like a lion with a thorn and Debbie’s energy was waning, so I checked the text and discovered it was “views across the loch………new Harbour Cafe on the far shore” . The other side of the loch!! What on earth possessed the writer to tell us about a cafe we could only look at ? Talk about cruel and unusual treatment!
So we had another Mars Bar each to give us an energy boost for the final quarter of an hour . We arrived back at the car at 3pm. I can’t tell you how chuffed I was to have done the walk in the time quoted in the printout – proving I cannae be that unfit. And what’s more, every now and then my voice went really low – back to normal in fact. It reverted to being high but it still proved that the normal voice is there – all it needs is for me to relax. Once again walking provided food for the soul and worked its magic.
And finally, another view across the loch to Ben Ledi – – – allegedly.
We are going to ensure we always have a low level option for each of our planned hillwalks so that, like today, we can still have a great day out in the open in spite of whatever the Scottish weather throws at us. If ye cannae tak the high road…..