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!

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

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!

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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!