Having dispatched my musings on the West Highland Way, I can now recount my wanderings on the last weekend in August, a bank holiday in England but not Scotland; they, like Éire, get theirs at the start of August. A Saturday free of driving lessons meant that an excursion was very likely so I returned to Scotland when I saw a promising forecast.
Saturday, though, was not to be the best so I chose that day for travelling. Everything was going hunky dory until I took a tumble in Dumbarton East train station and felt the worst for wear afterwards. I got to my hotel for the night and took it easier from then on. It had been a good train journey all of the way from Macclesfield, with changes in Lancaster, Manchester and Glasgow. The change in Glasgow allowed me to get a new Explorer 365 after its predecessor had somehow managed to disappear. My maps don’t usually do things like that but it was fortuitous in the sense that the Rob Roy Way is shown in it these days.
The sun made fleeting appearances while I was in Dumbarton but I wasn’t to make much use of my camera there. The nearby castle looked promising as did the Kilpatrick hills. A return sounds a good idea and I’ll watch how I go in train stations around there. Sunday saw me leave for Balloch where I caught a bus to Drymen for the start of my walk.
It was just as well, given my tumble, that I had chosen part of the less challenging Rob Roy Way as the route for my weekend stroll. I had designs on heading to Balmaha and starting from there and rounding Conic Hill but I dropped this idea because my start was later than originally intended. From Drymen, the RRW follows the old Gartmore Road for three and a half miles (5.6 km) before it heads west to Aberfoyle through Loch Ard Forest, where the trail is usefully waymarked. Views of the Campsie Fells were plentiful and there were glimpses of Ben Lomond to be had too. I am usually not a fan of road walking but the road was quiet and I appreciating the easier going. Having to remain alert for cars is my main reason for disliking road walks. Once off the road, northward views opened up with the Menteith Hills being among what was to be seen. The tarmac was lost too along with any sights of pylons and it was all pleasant stuff. I made decent progress even with carrying a heavy rucksack and I polished off the ten mile walk in five hours to reach a sun drenched Aberfoyle; cloud abounded so the sun wasn’t out all of the time.
For the evening, I settled myself in an Aberfoyle guesthouse before going on a stroll to and from Loch Ard itself. Surprisingly, I wasn’t feeling the effects of my endeavours and so enjoyed my walk along the quite road, which lead all of the way to Inversnaid on the shores of Loch Lomond. The sun was playing hard to get but some photographic opportunities did present themselves and I did my best with them. When I got back to the guesthouse, road workers from the council were proceeding with road repairs that were to continue all night, much to the annoyance of other guests at my lodgings. I suffered no such inconvenience, though, but I was extra careful when passing lorries, dumpers and other such carriageway maintenance machinery.
The next morning began promisingly. The sun was out and it wasn’t overly hot either, a feature of the whole weekend; walking and hot weather are not made for each other. I encountered some Americans at breakfast who were wondering what bank holidays and speed cameras were. I satisfied their curiosity before they were continue their way on a holiday that was to lead them to Ireland’s mid and south west. As I finished my breakfast, children were making their way to school. It was a normal Scottish weekday.
I took my leave of the guesthouse to follow the RRW to Callander. It was 10:00 by the time that I began to make progress away from Aberfoyle; this always seems to happen me on these trips: I leave somewhere later than I would have liked. From Aberfoyle, it was on to Dounan’s Centre and into more forestry; more RRW waymarkers were there to resolve any confusion. Views of the Campsies and towards Ben Lomond still pervaded as I headed along the Menteith Hills. The forestry track turned into a path that was to take me through open with splendid views before me lit up by the sun. It was after an unnamed lochan that I again found myself with forestry track underfoot. That track was to drop me down to the shores of Loch Vennacher with views of Ben Ledi percolating through the trees.
Sadly, cloud predominated while I was walking by Loch Vennacher so the sun was nowhere to be seen. Still, the scenery looked glorious and I must return when the sun is unencumbered by cloud. The Trossachs proper were further west and a busy A821 could be heard though it wasn’t to be that intrusive. It remained cloudy as I bashed more tarmac to arrive in Callander at 15:00; I had made good time and put three miles behind me in an hour without too much effort.
Callander was the end of my walking for the weekend and I caught a bus from there to Stirling. It started to rain as I left: some sort of pathetic fallacy perhaps? At Stirling train station, I was in something of a dilemma regarding the next stage of my journey: was I going by Edinburgh or Glasgow? It should have been a no brainer; I had a return ticket from Macclesfield to Glasgow. Being overcautious me, I had to double check things before plumping for Glasgow. I made it to Queen Street station shortly after 17:20 and hot footed it to Central station in a pleasing 10 minutes. I’ll keep that in mind for the future. I hopped on the 17:40 departure for London Euston and was home by 22:30, having changed in Preston and Manchester on the way south. It was a good trip into countryside where I hadn’t been before and I hope to return.