Surfing in Scotland

Road Trip…

This weekend, I headed to the west coast of Scotland for some surfing, still being a bit of a newbie, I decided to book a lesson which was scheduled for the Sunday morning so me and my friend headed up late Saturday afternoon and camped on the beach… how romantic?!

It’s around a 3 hour drive to the west coast but totally worth it, even the drive up alone is insane. It’s near enough a straight road from Glasgow city centre, along the A82 onto the A83. It is well worth a trip if you ever get the chance, the beaches are so beautiful and the locals are so, so friendly and welcoming.

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My poor, little car just about managed the journey, I am one of those people living in the 1900’s who doesn’t have an AUX cable… I know, I know, okay! So we piled all our ‘NOW…’ and ‘Disney’s Greatest Hits’ CD’s into the car (CD’s ha-ha I can’t believe I’m writing that) tent, sleeping bags, galore and headed off.

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We did stop off in Dumbarton and Helensburgh en route, on the hunt for a disposable BBQ but it seemed everyone else had the same idea and every shop was completely sold out!

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Instead we opted for a take away pizza on the beach with some beers, which I thought, was 10 times better. It was still light at 11:30 pm with the pros still out catching waves until near enough midnight. I could have easily said I was in Bali or somewhere super exotic and you wouldn’t have been able to tell the difference.

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Spot the Glaswegians…

I absolutely LOVE camping, especially on a gorgeous beach, however, I did not take into account how small a 2 man tent actually is, on top of the glorious 30 degree heat (I promise, I’m not complaining) but waking up in the morning was definitely not a pretty sight… to say the least. #sweatfest. Laaavely.

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Once we were up and ready, we headed into the local town, roughly a 10 minute drive from the beach and got some much needed coffee and then headed back for our lesson. There are loads of companies all around Scotland, that offer surf lessons so get in touch if you’re looking to try it.

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We had perfect conditions for learning with clean waves, we occasionally got caught in the rip tide and had to fight our way back up the beach but it was so much fun.

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It was just a perfect weekend all round. The weather was incredible, the beach was filled with sunbathers and surfers – a lil’ seal even made an appearance a few times when we were out, how cute?! And I even managed to stand up and catch a few good waves.

Road Trip: Glen Etive

I had the best Easter weekend EVER!

It was so lovely to have a few days off from my busy work schedule to go and explore some more of Scotland. I started off the weekend climbing Conic Hill up in Balmaha and then climbed Ben A’an the following day. Finishing off with a road trip up to Glen Etive – it was so much fun!

Prepare yourselves for all the spam but the views were truly breath taking and we met the friendliest wild deer.

Glen Etive is just slightly past Glen Coe, situated in the Highlands. Popular with visitors seeking out the famous James Bond’s Skyfall and Braveheart film location, you can follow the route along the river Etive which then leads into a sea loch, Loch Etive.

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It’s roughly a 2-and-a-half-hour drive from Glasgow so stock up on snacks and sort your road trip playlist out! I recommend ‘Disney’s Greatest Hits’. If like me, you’re super dis-organised for these long trips, there are plenty of shops and restaurants on the way to stop in at. We chose to pop in to the Green Welly Stop for some much-needed coffee and sugar. They have a cosy little café where you can get just about anything from soup and a sandwich to burgers and pasta along with a little gift-shop and outdoor shop if you find that you’ve forgotten some of your hill-walking stuff…. Guiltyyy!

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We had planned to climb Ben Starav, which sits on the south side of Loch Etive, however, we struggled to find it and decided to follow a few of the trails along the river. Only to later discover the path to it was DIRECTLY across from where we had parked… Haha, I need supervised.

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The drive up was incredible. It’s hard to believe these views are just 2 hours from Glasgow. I was desperate to get some pictures of the Skyfall film location and feed the deer, who are so tame and friendly (as long as you have some food – we brought carrots).

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How cute is this guy?!

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One of the best things about the day is how much there is to see but also how quiet it is. Whilst we passed a few cars on the road, feeding the deer, the trails and walks were completely empty. Meaning we could take as many guilt free selfies as we wanted haha!

We stopped into Helensburgh on the way home, just as the snow was coming down… in April… I know! We headed into La Barca, a tapas restaurant, and it definitely didn’t disappoint. I would highly recommend it and can’t wait to go back. Just what we were needing and the staff couldn’t have been nicer! I had the stuffed pepper with paella rice, vegetarian paella and the calamari. Soooo good!

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The famous James Bond – Skyfall road

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I have to give instagram.com/aaronspencee credit for the slightly more ‘professional’ looking photos haha. Every gal needs a pro with a camera on these trips.

 

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 Falls of Falloch

This Sunday was spent longer in the car than actually walking, with disaster upon disaster but we definitely had a good laugh. Me and my friend headed up towards Loch Lomand, backpacks fully loaded and kitted up; we had planned to climb Ben Vane so were psyching ourselves up for this massive climb, we were also hung-over so I feel like we deserve extra points. Anyway after about 2 hours in the car, we discovered we were lost and on our way to Fort William instead.

U-TURN! … Thanks Laura

As we were heading back we realised we weren’t going to have enough time to climb Ben Vane whilst it was still light plus it had started pouring down and our hangovers were kicking in HARD… so we headed for The Falls of Falloch which is a waterfall along the A82, 5 km from the village of Crianlarich. I don’t even think you can call it a walk; there is a small car park and to the left is a small, short path that leads you to the bottom of the falls. It is absolutely gorgeous, it full of pesky tourists as well so be prepared to fight for your instagram worthy picture.

We headed up to the newly built ‘Woven Sound’ platform which allows you to see the falls from a different viewpoint. It was constructed by John Kennedy from steel rods, it features an entry from Dorothy Wordsworth’s diary that recalls the thoughts of those who visited the falls during the days of the Grand Tour.

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The Falls of Falloch

We weren’t quite ready to get back in the car yet so we headed down through a small path at the front of the car park to explore some more. The path follows the river Falloch through a small forest, we only got a few kilometres and the path cut off so we headed back. Although it was short visit, I would definitely recommend it, the drive was relaxing as well (once we were on the right road, obviously).  It is sign posted as well so you really can’t miss it.

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Following the path along the river

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Deciding that we still had time to fit in something else, we headed up towards Inverary (which actually passes Ben Vane so I’ll be in charge of directing us next time haha) to do my favourite Dun Na Cuaiche walk and by this time the sun had come out so we snap chatted our way up and stuffed our faces at the top. It took us around half an hour up and about the same back down so totally do-able for everyone although it is steep so walking boots are recommended. You can also see the castle this time, save this walk for a clear day – the views are breathtaking.

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Dun Na Cuaiche