The Arrochar Trail

Soooo I was super productive last Sunday and managed to fit in a quick hill walk before my mum was up looking for her Mother’s Day presents.

I also realised this would have been a good walk for any active mums before going for a nice Mother’s Day lunch but as usual I was so disorganised haha. Anyway, it’s a really easy, picturesque walk if you ever want a nice hike but nothing too strenuous – perfect for a Sunday!

It’s the Arrochar trail between Arrochar and Inveruglas. I didn’t actually make it the whole way as I was conscious of time and wanted to be back for my mum getting up so only went around half way. The walk usually takes around 4 hours there, and back (If you remember the post I wrote on Cruaich Tarbert, then it’s in the same location). Head up towards Tarbert Railway Station where you can leave the car and head under the bridge adjacent to you.

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After climbing up through some forestry, you’ll see this sign, turn left. You can see the walk that will take you to the right here.

Once you emerge from the forest, you will reach a cross roads – continue straight up past the yellow things into more forestry…

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Although you are climbing up and down a few hills throughout the forest, there isn’t anything particularly difficult about this walk. And Spring was well and truly in bloom, there was so many tadpoles and frogs eggs along the rivers beside the path.

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Frogs Eggs

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Eventually, you will emerge from the forest and begin to see some gorgeous views over Loch Long and Arrochar. Most of the hills were covered by the morning fog though.

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These views continue as you go further along the path where you will then reach the sign below, you can continue further which will take you across to Inveruglas or you can turn left and head down into Arrochar village.

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I carried on about another 40 minutes or so where the sun finally started to come (a tiny bit) with the help of an Instagram filter…

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Gone in search of some sun

I am keen to do the entire trail one day, however, a couple of my friends that have done it, recommended starting at Inveruglas as there’s more places to grab a bite to eat in Arrochar before heading back, another option if you have the luxury of 2 cars was to leave one at either end. It’s also an ideal cycle route for all ages.

Ben Arthur’s Bothy

Ben Arthurs Bothy

It’s not often I get to say this, but the weather was amazing in Scotland over the weekend. It was still FREEEZING (obvs) but the sun was out, and everyone was absolutely buzzin’.

And what better way to enjoy the weather than with a hill walk and a trip to the pub?!

After spending the morning walking from Inveruglas to Arrochar, we stopped in at Ben Arthur’s Bothy.

This little gem of a pub offers the most beautiful views over Loch Long and onto The Cobbler. With a 4 star rating on Trip Advisor and raving reviews from the locals – I was keen to see what they had in store.

Ben Arthurs Bothy

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From the outside, it doesn’t look like much but as soon as you step inside, you are hit with some spectacular views. They also have the option to sit outside and enjoy a pint or bite to eat. I was told they sell the best soup but was disappointed to discover it was pea and ham – my friends got stuck in though and it did smell AMAZING! It’s your typical pub grub menu, they did have a few vegetarian options but not loads, so I opted for the vege burger. Which I have to say, is one of the best vege burgers I have ever had! The portions were massive as well, just what you’re looking for after a long walk.

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Decking area for Ben Arthur’s Bothy
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Views over Loch Long with The Cobbler in the background

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I would highly recommend Ben Arthur’s Bothy to anyone passing through Arrochar. The staff are so welcoming and friendly, the prices were more than reasonable, and the food is insane! They also cater to private functions, have live entertainment on throughout March to September and have a pool table and plenty of TV’s for anyone wanting to watch the football.

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Hi dad!
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Sunday’s hillwalk

Cruach Tairbert

The first hill climb of 2018 started off well… NAAAT!

Thinking that it’d be a great idea to travel up to Loch Lomand to climb Cruach Tairbert in the middle of all the snow that we have in Scotland right now was not one of my brighter ideas.

Me and my friend headed off around 10:30 am up towards Tarbet, a small village in Argyll and Bute, located within Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park. It is a straight road from Glasgow city centre and so scenic once you’re off the motorway. We noticed that the snow was pretty deep past Helensburgh and, so we opted to do the waymarked circuit that climbs through the forest plantations on the lower slopes of Cruach Tairbert above the village.

The walk begins just behind ‘The Slanj’ which is a cosy restaurant to stop in for some food or a coffee, and if you ask nicely, don’t mind you using their carpark. Head up behind the restaurant towards Tarbet Railway station and pass under it to reach an information board detailing the route, which is marked in red. The other way will take you along to Arrochar – so turn right here.

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Where’s my sledge when I need it

I felt like I was entering Narnia, the forest was covered in so much snow, it was gorgeous! The path then approaches a burn climbing left alongside it, ignore the waymarked branch to the right (it’s the return route), the path then climbs steeply up by the burn and then swings along to the right. You’ll pass a bench which was once apparently an amazing viewpoint but is now blocked by conifer trees. I think I spent more time on the ground than actually climbing ha-ha it was sooo icy!

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This is supposedly one of the easiest routes to do (minus a few steep bits) but we somehow managed to get lost here, so lost! …and I’m pretty sure at one point were trying to climb up a frozen stream disguised with heaps of snow.

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Continue along the path to eventually descend to cross a footbridge (You’ll see a small picnic table just above you). By this point, the snow was coming down pretty heavy – we could barely see 2 feet in front of us and had heard from home that the roads were getting pretty bad also so quickly followed the descending path through the trees and along a second footbridge before passing a gap in the wall. You should be able to see the stunning views towards Loch Lomand over the Tarbet Hotel here.  When the path approaches a burn don’t cut across but follow the loop slightly uphill to re-join the outward path. Turn left to retrace your steps back to the path junction above the station, turning left again to return to the start.

A walk that was supposed to only take us an hour and a half max. turned into a 3-hour long trek! We did however get some really cute pictures which is really the only reason we went.  I am keen to do this one again though and hopefully not get lost next time. I don’t think this walk is a particularly popular one, mainly because the views have all now been blocked by the growing forestry which is why I thought it’d be a good one to do in the winter, if all I’m going to be looking at is trees, they might as well be Instagram worthy.

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First time using my Instax camera – OBSESSED!

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

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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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.

Climbing Ben A’an for my Birthday

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!