Healthy (Vegetarian) Hill Walking Snacks

One of my new years resolutions for 2018 was to cut down on meat and I’m proud to say that I have already went full vegetarian. 4 months in and I can honestly say that I haven’t missed it one bit!

The next challenge is to become vegan… baby steps though.

That’s not to say that it hasn’t been difficult, like many others I’m sure, I kept falling into the false assumption that I needed meat to feel full and give me lots of energy. So when it came to packing some snacks for when I was going hiking, I felt a bit confused and often ended up packing more sugary snacks than healthy ones.

However, I have managed to find some fab lil finds around local supermarkets and one of my favourite home made recipes. (I’ve tried to avoid the booooring, generic ones like fruit and nuts etc).

First up, Marks & Spencer’s wraps – I could eat these every single day. They are sooo good and have a huge variety to choose from. My two absolute favourites are the ‘beetroot and feta wrap with a pea, edamame and avocado crush’ and the ‘mexican three bean wrap with a bean & sweet potato salsa & Monterey jack cheese.’ 

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Marks & Spencer

Next up, Jewelled Couscous salad from Marks & Spencer’s Deli range. I’ve taken this a few times with me on hikes and it is so filling and tastes amazing. ‘Cous cous based salad with roasted vegetables and orange pieces dressed with a pistachio pesto dressing.’ I am now starving haha.

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Marks & Spencer’s Deli Range

Anyone that knows me, will know I am a total M&S snob but I make an exception for Tesco’s ‘Feta Semi Dried Tomato pasta’ – cooked pasta in a tomato dressing with roasted red peppers, onion and spinach, topped with feta full fat soft cheese and semi dried tomatoes – sooo good!

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Tesco’s cooked pasta 

These little ‘Bounce‘ balls are perfect for a hiking snack and also gluten free. Win-win!  You’ve got loads to choose from as well – they taste great and give you that much needed energy boost when you’re almost at the summit. I highly recommend the ‘Peanut Protein Blast’ and ‘Coconut Macademia Protein Bliss’ (Available in most supermarkets and petrol stations).

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Bounce Energy – Peanut Protein

Next up, Popchips! My new obsession. Thanks Sam – Sam recommended these on her Insta story a few days ago and has ultimately ruined my life haha… and diet. The sea salt flavour is insanely good and only 94 cals per serving, they’re the perfect hill walking treat.

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Popchips

I’ve also started experimenting with baking a bit more and found this great recipe for these banana oat cakes. They are super healthy, gluten and sugar free and taste AMAZING! I’ve included the recipe below.

Let me know your favourite snacks to take with you!

Banana Oat Breakfast Cookies
Image Credit: Watching What I Eat

You will need:

  • 2 x ripe bananas
  • plain cocoa powder (no sugar)
  • gluten free oats
  • pumpkin and sunflower seed mix
  • Berries/ chocolate chips (I usually add blueberries)

Recipe

  • Pre-heat over to 180 degrees.
  • Mash the two ripe bananas together with a fork and add 2 tablespoons of the gluten free oats and 2 tablespoons of the plain cocoa powder.
  • Next, add 2 tablespoons of the seed mix and a handful of your berries or chocolate chips.
  • Spread some butter on a baking tray and spread batter across or form the mixture into balls or squares.
  • Bake for 10-12 minutes and then allow to cool.

 

The Liebster Award

I was nominated for this award by the beautiful, Kayleigh, if you haven’t already had a look at her blog – definitely check it out! Kayleigh is just a little ray of positive sunshine and one of the most supportive and encouraging bloggers I have ever came across. Thank you so much for nominating me.

This is the first time my blog has ever been nominated for an award and it was the best surprise EVER to receive on a Friday!

The Rules:

  • Acknowledge the blog that gave you the award
  • Answer 11 Questions that the blogger gives you
  • Give 11 random facts about yourself
  • Nominate 11 blogs and notify them that you dig them
  • Give them 11 Questions to answer

Kayleigh’s Questions

1. What’s your favourite season?

Hmm, I think it’s definitely got to be Autumn. I have always loved Fall fashion – beautiful, big winter coats and scarfs, everyone’s starting to get in the Christmas mood and everything looks so picturesque. Plus, all those horrible spiders go into hibernation.

2. Who is your favourite book character?

My favourite book character is from my favourite book, ‘A Thousand Splendid Suns’ by Khaled Hosseini. Laila, is the second female protagonist, I love her because throughout this book, she represents light and happiness in a truly awful world. She has a healthy skepticism toward authority and a headstrong nature that really inspired me when reading it.

3. What’s your fondest memory?

Every couple of years, me and my family go to Florida and of course, Disneyland so going there as a family will always be my fav.

4. Beach/pool holiday or sightseeing holiday?

I get asked this all the time for some reason and it breaks me every time ha-ha! I can’t choose. I love both.

5. How long have you been blogging?

I think around 2 years maybe? But I didn’t start really putting much effort into my blog until around a year ago now.

6. One thing you love most about yourself?

I would say I’m a good listener, I think it’s such an important quality to have.

7. What are you looking forward to this year?

Ah there’s so many! I’m excited to be progressing my career in marketing and learning new things. I’m excited for my sister coming home from Milan, after studying there for a few months. I’m also looking forward to holiday planning and seeing the sun, it’s been sooo long.

8. If you could be an expert on anything in the world what would it be?

Ooh the pressure to pick something cool and exciting… Hmm, maybe something like Veterinary science and then everyone would bring all their puppers to me ha-ha.

9. What’s your favourite food?

This is another question that will break me… I love all food! Buuut sushi maybe? Or Mexican… No, Tapas?

10. If you could have dinner with one person who would it be?

Robin Williams. Hands down.

11. What’s your favourite item of clothing that you own?

This is a hard one… probably any of my clothes from Zara, I never tire of them.

11 Facts about me

  • I sincerely hate talking about myself, cringing so much writing this
  • Total neat freak
  • I am the pyjama queen, as soon as I’m in the door, there on
  • I watch a Harry Potter at least once a week
  • Obsessed with candles and bubble baths
  • Yogi
  • Vegetarian
  • Total water babe – I love swimming so much
  • I used to be a swim teacher for Rebecca Adlington (sweetest person I’ve ever met)
  • A good 80% of my days are spent watching vlogs
  • I’m such a morning person

My Questions to my nominees

  1. What makes you happiest?
  2. If you could go back 5 years and give yourself one piece of advice, what would it be?
  3. Who inspires you daily?
  4. What’s your favourite joke?
  5. If gravy no longer existed, what would you have with your steak pie? Tomato sauce or Mayo?
  6. What is your favourite quote?
  7. What is the nicest thing you’ve ever done for someone?
  8. What is the nicest thing someone’s ever done for you?
  9. I woke up this morning and thought…
  10. ??? for President
  11. Something you really love about yourself is…

As always, please don’t feel like you have to take part if you don’t wish to, it’s entirely up to you!

My Nominees:

 

 

 

Bali: Climbing Mount Batur

If you ever get the opportunity to visit Bali… take it! I guarantee you’ll question why you didn’t go sooner.

I visited Bali last May and am planning to visit again soon. It sounds super cringe, but it was honestly the holiday of a lifetime. I stayed in Pan Pacific Nirwana, which was incredible! It has unfortunately now closed to make way for a Trump Golf Resort of all things! B******

I stayed in Seminyak, which is a quiet, peaceful part of Bali, if you’re looking for a slightly more livelier area then I would recommend Kuta or Legian. I had a couple of excursions that I booked through Expedia to break up the two weeks that I was there including visiting some of the sacred temples, monkey forests, scuba diving and where I had my first surf lesson, not a bad place to start, eh? But my favourite by far was the sunrise trek up Mount Batur.

Mount Batur is an active volcano located in Batur village, Kintamani District, Bali, Indonesia. According to Hindu belief, it is considered a sacred mountain, standing at 1717 m above sea level.

I was picked up around 1am from the hotel, it took us around an hour and a half to reach the village – the drive was by far the worst part of it all, the road is so rocky and winding. I can still feel the all new level of travel sickness I reached. We were guided only by the light of our torches as it was pitch black and a young Balinese Sherpa who told us he can do this hike 4-5 times a day. Gaaadsss!

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I took these on the way back down, had I been able to see what was ahead in the dark, I think I might’ve cried.

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At this point last year, I really hadn’t done much hillwalking, so this was bloody hard – we were straight into a steep climb through some forestry… in complete darkness! I’m not exaggerating when I say our young Sherpa saved my life countless times on that mountain, every trip or almost fall, he appeared out of no where and pulled me upright haha! And put up with my constant ‘Are we there yets?’

After around 3 hours climbing in the darkness, we reached a break point which is just under the summit, we were told this was just as good a place to stop and watch the sunrise over breakfast, but I didn’t think I could live with myself if I didn’t go all the way, so we pushed on, me still moaning every step. We finally made it just in time to see the first rays of light appearing from the clouds – it took us roughly around 4 hours. Breakfast is cooked from the steam of the volcano by the Sherpas whilst all the tourists fight for the perfect picture site.

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Sun rise at the summit

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It was probably one of the most romantic spots I’ve ever been to and sharing it with around 100 other tourists made it all the more special… LOL

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The climb down was a lot more picturesque and waaay harder than the climb up – that poor Sherpa. He held my hand the whole way down again and took us through the craters around the volcano, I even met some more monkey friends.

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My hero showing me some of the crators

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Clearly only interested in our food…

Part of the Mount Batur expedition included lunch at a local Chinese buffet and then a trip to a hot springs spa called Toya Devasya ‘Natural Hot Springs’… the ultimate treat after that trek! I thought the spa at Pan Pacific was incredible but this one was on a whole different level and OMG the view!

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These just don’t do it justice
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Toya Devasya ‘Natural Hot Springs’

This was by far my favourite holiday ever and climbing Mount Batur is something I’ll never forget. I would highly recommend this to everyone.

New Years Resolutions – 2018

I’ve never really been one for new years resolutions, mainly because I never stick to them and usually by the end of January, forgot what they initially were. But I decided to try setting myself a few this year, mainly for a reference point and to challenge myself a bit.

This all sounded great in theory but when it actually came to writing a few down… I hadn’t a clue!

The obvious and slightly more unrealistic ones came to mind – eat healthier, drink more water, go to the gym, be kinder, get more sleep, be more sociable. YAWN!

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That last one… LOL
I had set myself a goal in 2017 to climb 5 hills and managed to exceed that (Ben Lomand, Ben A’an, The Whangie, Dun Na Cuaiche, The Cobbler, Beinn Dubh and Glen Douglas) so I’ve set myself the same again this year, if anyone can recommend any different ones, please let me know! I’m aiming to see a lot more of Scotland this year – Skye and Harris are top of my list so all recommendations welcome.

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A shockingly early sunrise picture – Glen Luss

I also decided that I spend waayy too much of my time on social media – being in marketing- it’s hard not to but I’ve decided to take myself off all social media for the month of January (besides this post) with the intention of cutting down there after. I’ve taken all the apps off my phone so I’m not tempted to check any notifications or have a nosey. On average, we apparently spend around 2 hours per day on social media, I definitely exceed that haha! I’m hoping to spend my now free time reading more, learning more Italian on ‘DuoLingo’ and going to the gym more. I can sense the eye rolling guys…

Last year, I attempted my first ever open water swim at the Bardowie Loch Swim Festival and came 8th which I was pretty happy with so I’m aiming to do another one this year which will hopefully force me to get back to the gym and swim training.

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I also became OBSESSED with the documentary ‘What the Health’ and have since watched sooo many TED talks on meat and vegetarianism. Don’t worry, I’m not about to give you a headache with a lecture on how bad meat is and tell you how vegan I am. I’m not a huge fan of meat anyway but definitely didn’t think I could live without it so had decided to become vegetarian Monday – Thursday and then allow myself to have meat at the weekend, initially, I couldn’t wait for Friday to come and tuck into the biggest burger I could find but after a few weeks I wasn’t really all that fussed. I had hoped by doing this I would begin to eat a lot more fruit/ veg and all that jazz but I was finding that I was reaching more for the easiest thing I could make because I couldn’t be bothered to meal prep but my goal this year is to start doing that! Watch this space… (Any tips would again be appreciated).

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Animal Friendly

So there ya have it! For someone who never does new years resolutions, I’ve set the bar pretty high!

  • Climb more hills
  • See more of Scotland
  • Cut down on social media
  • Open water swim
  • Cut down on meat/ be more healthy

My Christmas Wish List

It’s only 17 days ‘til Christmas!!! Excited is an understatement for me – this is without a doubt my fav time of the year. Christmas songs on repeat all day, every day! Starbucks Ginger Bread lattes, cheesy Christmas jumpers, mince pies and mulled wine comin’ out my ears – Ahhh I cannot wait!

Having just started a new job and a little on the skint side, my Christmas list has almost doubled in size this year haha but I am in much need of some new outdoorsy things so have put together a list of fab gifts idea for me (or if you know of anyone who’s outdoorsy as well and stuck for ideas).

1. Climbing hills in Scotland means that you need to have a pretty decent jacket, I absolutely love the one I currently use – it’s from Superdry and it’s never let me down! It’s so warm and lightweight but being the fashionista that I am, thought it was time to mix things up so I found this supa cute jacket in Tiso from The North  Face range.

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Super cosy quilted jacket – The North Face

It is virtually the same as my current one (in a different colour). Lil’ bit pricey but I think it’s worth investing in a good jacket and if it’s stylish also… Win! Win!

2. Next up, boots! This is a MUST – the amount of people I see climbing hills in trainers is insane. If you’re going to spend some money investing in this hobby, please let it be boots. I bought mines a few years ago from ‘Go Outdoors’ for doing The Duke of Edinburgh Award and they’ve lasted well but it’s time for an upgrade. I found these beauts on ‘Go Outdoors’ from ‘Mammut’ but they have sooo many nice boots in this year. These are perfect for me because they’re lightweight, the ones I’m currently using are too heavy and loose around my ankles.

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Girly Hiking Boots – Mammut

These boots are the answers to my problems and will go perfectly with my usual all black attire. If you would rather walking shoes, they have a great range in also.

3. This is my favourite thing ever to shop for! The North Face is my go to brand, everything is so chic and flattering. There’s so many fab brands to choose from when it comes to backpacks, but The North Face will always be my fav!

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Backpack – The North Face

I’m not surprised this ‘Women’s Borealis back pack’ is a best seller – I love the subtle hint of colour, giving it a slightly more feminine look. It’s small and lightweight enough to fit any extra layers and lunch in. It also has a padded sleeve to protect your laptop or tablet from bumps.

4. I’m not going to lie, I wear black, A LOT. Especially when it comes to sports wear and most of it comes from H&M or New Look, I have a few slightly more expensive pieces that were gifts – I used to think that spending hundreds of pounds on jumpers was a bit drastic but let’s be honest, we all would if we had the money. I don’t have the money. So, I’m just going to dream. I thought I would venture out of my comfort zone (seeing as it’s Christmas) and found this jumper from The North Face in Tiso.

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Pink Jumper – The North Face

It looks warm enough to wear as a jacket as well whilst adding a splash of colour to your outfit.

5. Anyone that knows me, knows that I love a bobble hat. New Look and Topshop have some gorgeous ones in this year! ‘Barts’ have some really cute ones in this year also…

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Bobble Hat – Barts

They come in a range of colours and designs – the only part of my outfit I’m prepared to have some colour in. A nice tag of £20, wee stocking filler perhaps?!

If you’re still undecided what to get me or don’t want to spend a lot, Tiso, Go Outdoors and The North Face are doing a Christmas Gift Guide on their websites where you can set a price limit etc. and plenty of ideas for smaller gifts like water bottles, hand warmers, socks – there’s so many to choose from. On my best behaviour from now ’til Christmas!

Meikle Bin

Winter has always been my favourite time of the year, I love being all wrapped up and drinking copious amounts of hot chocolate (with mini marshmallows obv) and wearing a bobble hat… any excuse for a bobble hat! I’ve probably climbed more hills in the winter than any other time – the autumn/ snowy surroundings just make each view that bit more picturesque.

Seeing as it was Sunday and I was obviously hungover, I opted for a shorter walk and one that wasn’t too far away, que Meikle Bin. Located North end of Carron Valley Reservoir, in the Kilsyth Hills, along the B818, just 45 minutes from Glasgow, this is an ideal, super easy walk for a Sunday. Standing at 570m (1,870 ft) Meikle Bin is classified as a Marilyn.

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The short drive alone was worth it, the views were gorgeous – overlooking the Carron Valley reservoir and onto Meikle Bin itself. There is a small car park on the left-hand side of the road with free parking – it does, however, get pretty busy throughout the day so as always, I’d recommend getting there early. For the first time in my life, I was there before 11 am! I was really hoping that it would be snowing on the hill as some of the pictures I’ve seen look incredible but instead, I got a sunny, dry, warm day (with warm being 8 degrees).

We parked up, and headed past the reservoir along the forestry track with the summit showing through the trees most of the way. The walk is so straightforward with a few twists and turns throughout but it is signposted the whole way making it pretty idiot proof to get lost.

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Once you emerge from the forest, the track wraps round to the right of the hill and as you head up, the view opens out to show a glimpse of the mountains to the north. You will be able to see Ben Ledi and Ben Vorlich at this point with Ben Venue coming into view a little higher up.

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The last bit up is the steepest and also has a little picnic bench for you to enjoy some lunch and the views North. Me and my friend were total rookies and forgot to bring any food OR water! Mainly because we didn’t pass an M&S or any other supermarket for that matter.

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Almost there

The views from the top were amazing, you are surrounded by the bigger mountains like Ben Lomand and from the right the unmistakable peaks of Arran are visible (Goatfell, Cir Mhor and Caisteal Abhail), looking South – you’ll be able to see Tinto hill as well.

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Summit

Meikle Bin was where the Fairey Fireplane crashed in January 1950 and both crew members on board lost their lives. You can still see some of the wreckage on the upper and lower western slopes. I was waaay too busy thinking about food at this point though and completely forgot to visit the crash site.

It took us just over 2 hours up and down – mainly because we were so hungry and cold haha. In all honesty, not the most spectacular views but a really enjoyable walk anyway. The only thing missing? … a cosy café nearby for some hot food!

Ben Lomond

Ben Lomond has been on my list of munros to climb for so long but I wanted to wait until I knew it was going to be a clear day (which isn’t very often in Scotland) there was no way I was putting myself through that climb to then not be able to see anything at the top. No thaaaanks!

Ben Lomond is one of the most popular munros with an average of 30,000 climbers every year with the views overlooking Loch Lomond and the Trossachs. Situated in Rowardennan, just past Balloch and Balmaha, along the B837, it sits at 974 metres and is also known as the ‘beacon mountain’ – I’ve never heard anyone say that it’s a particularly difficult climb but compared to some of the other ones I’ve climbed, I thought it was pretty tough especially nearer the top, with varying steepness the full way up.

The plan was to be on the road for half 9 but of course, that was never going to happen. It took around an hour and 15 minutes from just outside Glasgow, there is a car park at the foot of the hill, (parking is £3 all day) it is usually really busy, so I would advise getting there early. We got there around 12, with our wee M&S packed lunches – we’re classy like that, and hangover free for a change. The start is clearly marked, just behind the car park but there will be plenty of people to keep you right, you can’t see the summit from the car park but the start is pretty easy with a clear path all the way up through oak woods and lots of forestry.

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Shortly into your forest climb, you will cross a small bridge and then through 2 gates. The nice thing about this walk is that if you look back behind you at any point, you have stunning views over the loch, looking over to Inverbeg and all the islands. The path then continues to climb at a steady gradient and you will pass through heards of sheep and cows who are very photogenic. This part took us around an hour – it is long and as you can’t yet see the peak, can be frustrating. However, the views are incredible all around and there’s usually plenty of puppers to pet!

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Of course, we stopped for a selfie

Keep walking and you will now be able to see the final peak and the zig zagging path that leads you to the summit. Don’t freak out, it’s not as hard as it looks! We decided to stop for lunch here as we could feel it was getting colder and were beginning to come across some snow and ice. Que the posh sandwiches and Magic Stars!

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Almost there…

Following the path as it sticks to the ridge of the mountain, there are some more stunning views over the loch where the path then climbs steeply on the final ascent to the summit ridge before curving round to the left. We finally made it to the top where it was FREEZING!!! We lasted all of 5 minutes but OMG the view! Breath taking doesn’t cut it. Totally worth my complaining the full way (sorry Laura) …. Got our Instagram worthy picture and started our retreat to the car. If you want to challenge yourself, there is a tough alternative route going back down but I’m going to assume you’re all sane and would just re-trace your steps back down.

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Made it!

This was by far my favourite munro, it wasn’t the hardest to climb and the views were incrediable the whole way up – WIN! WIN! I would recommend plenty of layers and walking boots 100%. The temperature, ground level was 6 degrees and -3 degrees at the top. When I did the cobbler a few weeks ago – I seen people passing us in FLIP FLOPS! … Insanity. Anyway, there is usually snow and ice the further up you go so wrap up kids!

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Get me hameee

La Point Surf Camp – Portugal

Seeing as summer was almost over and I still hadn’t been away or done much surfing this year, I decided to book a week away to a surf camp in Portugal. After a bit of research, I found La Point! They have a great reputation among surfers and were super easy to book with.

La Point are ‘A travel company out of the Ordinary’ based in Norway and Sweden with camps in Portugal, Bali, Sri Lanka, Norway, California, Morocco and more, their goal is to share their love and passion for surfing with their guests in a relaxed and safe environment. They cater to a range of levels – from beginner to advance. I chose Portugal as it was close to Scotland and I’d heard it’s a great place to surf and ideal for people on a budget.

I traveled to Lisbon Airport where the La Point team had arranged for a shuttle to collect me (the camp was roughly half an hour from the airport) I stayed in camp garden, Moinshois in Ericeria, which could sleep 14 and shared a room with 4 people who were so, so lovely, a girl from Germany and then 2 guys from Austria. There was a mixed group – some travelling alone, others in couples or big groups and as the company are based in Norway, there were a lot of Norwegians who were really nice also. There was another camp up the hill from us which is where we had most of our meals and meetings and a bigger camp about a 15 minute drive away – which was the most up-dated and renovated.

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Morning Views

The accommodation was nice although could have done with a few renovations but everything was clean and so well-organised. I was told towards the end of my trip that the company are currently building a bigger camp which will be able to hold 100 guests and should be ready for next year and that camp Garden and Hill will be closed at the end of this year’s season so stayed tuned…

The package included your stay, breakfast and lunch, 5 surf lessons (equipment included) and 2 yoga lessons. The surf lessons were roughly 2 hours long and could take place at any time of the day, depending on the swell, ours mainly took place around 9:00/9:30 am and an occasional sun-rise surf which was always a fun (cold) start to the morning ha-ha! Our instructor, Ricardo, was great with us; he took us through all the theory of surfing which I had been really keen to learn as well as the practical and made sure everyone felt safe.

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…There was also a professional photographer
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so that you could prove you actually got up…
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Sun-rise surf

I had initially been worried that I might be a bit bored during the day after surfing as I wasn’t sure what else there was to do in the small town of Ericeira but La Point had this covered! There were activities planned almost every day, some being a trip to Lisbon to visit the city and do some shopping, another day we visited a local vineyard which was extremely popular and absolutely stunning. We also had a volleyball match against the other camps; BBQ’s and dinners were all planned also so I wasn’t ever really stuck for something to do. I also ventured into the town where there loads of little shops and restaurants – I highly recommend ‘Brunch Me’ and a sushi restaurant, Hayaci, where you could get ‘all you can eat sushi’ for €11 and it was all made fresh in front of you… I ate my body weight in it that week! The great thing about Portugal is that there are no chains – no Starbucks, no Subway, nothing, it was so refreshing! Everything was really cheap and I didn’t really spend much over there, RESULT!

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Quinta de Sant’Ana Vineyard

On our trip to Lisbon, I went with the girl I was sharing a bunk with and one of the social hosts, as soon as we got there, we headed straight for the food market called ‘Time Out’ – It’s like the equivalent to a food court here but so, so much better! It’s apparently the number one tourist attraction in Lisbon located in the Mercado da Ribeira at Cais do Sodre, you are truly spoiled for choice. In Portugal, people don’t eat until around 8/9 pm which was weird at first but so fun at night with lots of live music and sangria… lots of sangria! It felt like the weekend every night there…

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We also found a few hidden gems – there is a car park situated in Calcada do Combro where the top story is a bar and has the most incredible views over the city and the best cocktails! We also visited a restaurant called ‘Lost in India’ which appears to be a clothing store but if you go around the back you will see stairs up to a restaurant and through the back of that is another hidden bar with beautiful views over the city also, they  do the most amazing sangria! (Google Maps is also handy for these places). We also did some shopping with my new favourite store being ‘Brandy Melville’ where one size fits all!!!!! The clothes are gorgeous. It’s very Topshop meets H&M – I cannot believe we don’t have this in Scotland!

lisbon
Car Park bar

I had the most AMAZING time and met the most incredible people. Initially, I was a bit apprehensive travelling on my own but the staff there were fab and great at integrating the camps and introducing us all. The social hosts at each camp became our friends and made sure we were well looked after. I would highly recommend La Point to anyone looking to try out surfing.

group

https://www.lapointcamps.com/

 

The Cobbler

I had initially been put off climbing The Cobbler as it seems like everyone and their granny climbs it but after doing it I can see why…

The Cobbler (also known as Ben Arthur) is found in Arrochar, just passed Tarbet, about an hour’s drive from Glasgow, with CityLink buses available also. It is famous for its unique outline and stunning views over Loch Long with a clear path all the way up which zig zags making the climb a bit more pleasant. The path explores both peaks of the mountain with two alternative ways to climb up and descend.

Me and my friend, Laura set off around 10 O’clock as we were told it takes around 4-6 hours, so with our backpacks loaded and hangovers in full swing we set off. The drive up passed Helensburgh and Luss is so scenic with plenty of cute places to stop for lunch or have a coffee. I’d recommend the Coach House Coffee Shop in Luss – they sell the most AMAZING cakes!

There are 2 car parks at the foot of the mountain (£1 parking) just to the west of Arrochar across from the start of the walk. The walk is vaguely way marked in red with there being 3 stages to climbing The Cobbler with the first being the most boring…

Once you begin, you are straight into a steep climb through a forest which eventually starts to zig- zag, making it a little easier, after around 20 minutes in, I started evaluating my life choices – it was hard and made with worse with a hangover, I never learn. Anyway, there are plenty of people to keep you right as it very popular but when you reach a bench, turn left on to a forestry track where you will then turn right and continue up. The views from this point are incredible, overlooking the loch and on a good day you can see the peaked summit of Ben Lomand. The first part took us around an hour and as you were just walking through a forest, it became very boring; we couldn’t see the foot or anything else for that matter except trees.

Part 1 - The Cobbler
Ben Lomand summit just to the left

Once we emerged from the forest, we followed the path along a stream, passed a small dam and finally the three peaks were in sight!

Three peaks
Finally! ….Hey, Laura

This path was a lot more scenic but long. The path continues to climb more gently, crossing a number of side streams with large stepping stones where we eventually came to a cluster of boulders known as ‘The Narnain Boulders’, which had been previously and still today used as shelters by groups of climbers who did not have the resources for accommodation but also a good place to stop for food. By this point we had been walking for around 2 and a half hours and with the daunting climb ahead thought we’d stop for lunch.

Lunch

The climb
The Climb

After a quick bite to eat, we continued up the path where a fork is reached, keep right and continue up the valley (the lower route to the left is the return route). Be prepared for some actual rock climbing here, this was the fun part for us! We did however lose our balance on a few occasions so be careful. The path is less well made towards the top but still straightforward enough to follow.

Once you reach the top, you are between the North and Central peaks, on the right is the higher, central peak with panoramic views and the chance to climb out onto the rock pinnacle which marks the height of the summit – No thaaanks! …it gave me the fear so we nervously watched others risk their lives for their Instagram worthy photo.

Central peak
The view from the south peak

The lower south peak is slightly harder and again a bit of rock climbing is involved (I thought the views were better here). The easiest route to the summit is to keep left when the path forks and go around the northern side but both routes are straightforward. This summit is equally dramatic, with a large overhang, and a view back to the central peak (I was brave enough for this one).

south peak
North peak
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Why is it never sunny when I climb a hill

All in all, it took us just under 6 hours, the descent was much easier than I had anticipated. The photos don’t do the views enough justice but it is well worth doing. As it is a very popular climb there are plenty of people to chat to or for dog lovers like me, plenty of puppers to keep you entertained on the boring bits.

descent
The descent back down

 

 

Dun Na Cuaiche

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Dun Na Cuaiche

For any newbie hill walkers like myself, this is a great, short, steep walk up to an 18th-century watchtower above Loch Fyne, overlooking Inveraray; the views are incredible, at 700 ft. this is an easier hill and suitable for children.

The drive up is just as beautiful; a straight road from Glasgow, over the Erskine Bridge, following onto the A898, past Dumbarton and Helensburgh, following the road through Arrochar where it will lead you straight into Inverary town centre. There is paid parking available in the town or you can park at the castle for £3.00; which is where the walk starts. There is also a regular bus service which will stop a short walk from the start.

This well marked route, following blue arrows, starts in the shadow of Inveraray. After turning away from the castle and crossing an ornamental bridge over the River Aray, into a steep climb. It is hard going all the way up to a clearing, but the effort is worth it for the amazing view at the top of Dun na Cuaiche, over-looking Loch Fyne and across Argyll. To the east you can also see the Arrochar Alps. From the watchtower you also get a bird’s-eye view back down to the castle.

On reaching the edge of the woodland, pass through a kissing gate and across a field, then, through a gate on the other side and follow a track up into more woodland, bearing right at a blue arrow; follow the track into a steep uphill. You then swing round to the left as the track levels off, before going right after a patch of open ground to follow a path that zigzags up to the top of Dun na Cuaiche and its watchtower.

The walk took just under one hour up and just over back down. The weather was pretty rubbish so the watch tower was a great place to take shelter in and enjoy some lunch.

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18th Century Watch Tower

On the way back down, you can either retrace your steps or, for an alternative descent, follow the zigzag section back to the open ground below the top, then go right on a muddy path, through reeds and grass. The path drops steeply through increasingly mixed woodland, past a marker post with the number 15 on it. Go right at a clearing, down a track, and after only about 100 yards, go left along a small grass path that almost doubles back, then goes down through thinning woodland to a track and a way marker with the number 18 on it. You should go right here.

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Views over looking Inverary

As Inverary is tourist central, you can expect to make some friends on the way up as it is a popular walk. There are also plenty of cafes, restaurants and shops a short walk from the castle to relax in.

It’s my Birthdaaay!

And what did I want to do with my friends? Cocktails? A night in town? Oh no, I decided I wanted to do a hill walk, this is how I know my friends are keepers. They were willing to get up at the crack of dawn on a Saturday so I could drag them up a hill and make them sing happy birthday to me at the top haha!

We drove up to the Trossachs to climb Ben A’an, it’s known as the miniature mountain… don’t let that fool you! It stands at 1. 941 ft. In between Loch Katrine and Loch Achray, We were told it takes around 2-4 hours, up and down. We managed it in around 2 and a half by time we had lunch and shared a bottle of MD at the top… my friends are the best influencers haha!

We drove up towards Stirling and then passed Calendar and into the Queen Elizabeth Forest Park, after a few wrong turns we finally got there, an hour and a half later. There is a car park at the foot of the hill, which was fairly busy when we arrived so we had plenty of people to keep us right. You cross the road opposite to the car park to reach the foot of Ben A’an and you are straight into a steep climb… as a fairly newbie hill walker, it was pretty hard and I’m pretty sure my friends had started contemplating our friendship after around 10 minutes in. They all agreed the first part was the hardest, it then levels out and as you reach the summit there is a bit more climbing involved. The views at the top are so worth it and sharing it with my besties was amazing!

Bottom
After a steep climb, the summit was finally in view
Summit
WE MADE IT!

 

After a quick bite to eat and a few shots we started heading back down, the rain had been on and off all day so it was pretty slippery, it took us just under an hour to climb up and just over an hour back down, we finally reached the bottom to discover I had a flat tyre! And thank god one of us knew how to change it… the rest of us all just stood in total amazement. The beers were definitely on me after that one. It was such a fun day despite a few disasters.

Ben A'an
My tyre changing hero!