Tuesday 31 August 2021

Backpacking Around Glen Lednock

LTD is waiting for his tea on the first night/last sunny evening

The countryside just a bit North of Comrie is occupied by a couple of reservoirs, a Munro and a fine selection of heathery/grassy/empty hills. It seems, from my wanderings, which , it has to be admitted, were midweek, that nobody much goes there. Me and LTD parked the knipemobile quite prettily in a car park in Comrie which has a time limit of just 72 hours. This was just about enough
Lord Melville's Monument

We began by following the made path to Deil's Cauldron and them foolishly up through stupidly steep woodland to visit Lord Melville's Monument which has a fine view of Comrie if you can see it for the sweat stinging your eyes. Carrying a big backpacking pack up here in the first hours of a trip counted as a mistake. We took to the road. Glen Lednock's road ends at a car park and is quite a nice, level, and easy passage. From the car park, there's a good track....
One of Glen Lednock's tracks

Quite nice, really.....

Like wot I said... quite nice
We passed several attractive-looking camping spots but considered that we hadn't walked far enough until, finally running out of steam, we pitched up at a flat spot beside a stream. As I was putting up the tent, a family passed heading back down the glen. These would be the last huming beans I would see until it was almost time to move the car from the car park. 
Note that all references to "we" and "us" above and below, refer mainly to me. Consulting LTD on plans has never been all that productive. I'm just being diplomatic in case he reads this.

End of Day 1 There's a dog in there somewhere
In the morning (which would have been a Wednesday) (I'm not entirely sure why I mention this, as it happens) we set off about 9:00 a.m and followed the track higher and higher, passing some really nice camping spots, but noting the grouse shooters' infrastructure ... traps and stuff.... and on to Creag Ruadh (crag of the rude man), having a long talk with JJ on the phone on it's East top. Creag Ruadh is 712 metres and is easily achieved. Other tops are available. Passing over to Meall Daimh 690 mtrs (Pudding of the devil) involved some bog-trotting  and some random outcrops, but no difficulties. It has some very nice ponds or tarns too...  The sun was still shining.
Camping spots higher up (than we were before)

LTD amuses himself as I chat to JJ on the phone

A Meall Diamh pond or tarn or lochan
After Meall Diamh we had to retrace a bit to avoid losing height on our way to Ruadh Meall 682 metres (Hill of the rude meal - so called because it looks a bit like a lady's breast) - at which point it became lunchtime and also at which point me legs mentioned that some of the uphill bits were getting quite hard work. We made hard work of  Ruadh Meall which was hard work. The legs did a magnificent job and we're all really proud of them and they'll probably get a medal or something for their sacrifice

LTD lines up to have a wee on a cairn.

LTD wonders if that hill over there is Ben Vorlich

Some red deer running away
Having encouraged the legs with some flattery (they're doing a fine job) - staggered over to it's East top (621 metres) where we informed that the legs would regrettably not be available for the forthcoming ascent of Creag Uchdag (Crag of the vomiting dog), due to a previous diary engagement involving not climbing 1000 feet up a big hill. I must admit, that from the East Top, it did look very big. It was here,, that during these negotiations, I found some orange peel and a bit print . These were the first indications of anybody else having been on these hills before. Shouldn't be leaving orange peel about anyway.  It's litter. On the map, a stream at the bealach below looked like a camping spot, but the water turned out to be very irony - that is to say, full of iron salts, not smug and a bit amusing....  Another nice spot was found by the Allt na Criche (stream of the day nursery), just a bit South. We  settled in and so did the midgies. After tea we visited a nearby top Tom a Mhoraire - about 550 metres. The legs mentioned that there would be no more of this sort of thing or else. During the night, the hill fog and even more midgies rolled in and we battened down and lit smoky coils and drank cheap whisky and listened to rock and roll and did some snoring.

Camp by Allt na Criche

Tent seen from Tom a Mhoraire

LTD in his woofbag Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

In the morning (probably a Thursday by now, I should think) , the clag had clagged even more so we waited a bit to see if it would clear. This meant drinking lots of coffee and  a wearing midge hood and lots of deet whilst taking LTD out for a wee.
Eventually, we had to leave and get stuck in to the big climb up Creag Uchdag 879 metres (Crag of - oh yeah, we've done that one...) - a 370 metre climb , the top of which could have been almost anywhere for the view of absolutely nothing. 

LTD and the pack ready to set off


Fence posts
The map shows a fence which can be followed. This does not actually exist but some of the fence posts can be spotted in the fog. Some are recumbent. Many are bent and old (we know the feeling....|) and some are missing entirely, so following the fenceposts is what should be done but isn't necessarily all that easy all the time. We followed them easily to Meall Dubh Mor 809 metres (Pudding of the Big Do) (Note that this is evidence of Lancastrian naming systems which clearly pre-date the Gaelic -  a "Big Do" being a significant social occasion such as a Royal banquet,  a diplomatic dinner involving several heads of state or, indeed,  a pub crawl around Skipton. And we managed to find the top of the next hill - Creag nan Eun 850 metres (Crag of Ian's Grandmother) but after that things went a bit astray.  The GPS track of the next 800 metres shows some frantic wanderings, mainly in several different directions the main properties of which were that they were all wrong directions. After a while, sanity returned, somehow and we ended up in the correct place - at Ghlas Choirean. The transfer over rufty-tufty moorland to Carn Buidhe and the bealach just below Ben Chonzie convinced the legs that enougn was enough and that anyway, we have to be fairly near to Comrie in the morning to retrieve the car before the 72 hours was up. So we took to the Invergeldie glen which leads back to Glen Lednock and which produced a nice, quiet camping spot in the midst of some shielings.
Invergeldie Glen camping in the shielings

Brew with a view

This is the bit LTD enjoys the most
So we spent the night quietly amongst the shielings. It was a dark night and a  slow, cold and grey dawn, and as me and LTD dozed snug in our pits, hoping for the dawn to take a bit longer, and amongst the sound of the loud Invergeldie Burn a child was singing. Just a few notes before being whisht by her Mammy. Then there was no more, just the sound of the burn. No birdsong. No sheep. Nothing at all. There's a memory, though of a sweet little song that made no sense.  I probably imagined the whole thing in a half-dream. But here in the shielings, the women brought their children and their cattle and spent a few short summer months and, maybe on a cold and grey morning just like this, the hope for a delay to the start of the day must have been the same as mine and LTD's. 
Remains of a shieling hut
And so we dragged ourselves out of bed and wandered down the track to Glen Lednock, meeting several groups of walkers heading up Ben Chonzie. The fog was still on the hill and they wouldn't have much of a view. Everybody said "hello". A few chatted and mentioned LTD's panniers and one family, completely unequipped asked for route advice and were impressed by the map I showed them (!) I may have advised them badly on the route (I only realised afterwards)  - but as they didn't make the news, I expect they managed. We returned to Comrie and had egg butties and coffee (LTD had a wee). I noted the pie shop and the pubs and went back home to Crook....




This wasn't a major expedition by any means and the mileage was low. If there's a lesson to be learned it is this: That neither me nor LTD are getting any younger or fitter or more able, but we can enjoy a slack-pack and that any pretentions about backpacking lots of hills next summer is probably a bit daft.  I can still do a TGO challenge, though. And empty places are the best places.
Just 70 hours by the way.....

Tuesday 10 August 2021

TGO 2021 I'm Not Paranoid I Really Am Being Followed

Frightened rabbits aka JJ and J on the refurbished Queen Street station. More challengers in the background

 This was The Plan:

Actually the plan was planned in 2019 for 2020. 2020 was cancelled, obviously, and so, we were to use 2020's plan for 2021, except that in 2020 there would have been three of us - Me, JJ and Margaret aka Beryl. This was to be a shortish route so that Beryl aka Margaret could get back to a wedding which meant we needed to finish on the Tuesday. However, both the wedding and Beryl aka Margaret were cancelled, or at least, postponed so we had a short route for just me and JJ. This was just as well since JJ had some surgery five weeks before the Challenge and a short route would have been needed anyway. It's an ill-wind wot blows your recycling bin away, as we say in Crook.

We began by heading West by mistake

McCain's tower. A bit chipped in places

And so, it came to pass, that after almost six hours in Wetherspoons in Oban and a night in Oban Old Fowks Hostel (aka YHA), me and JJ set off at a blistering pace back to  Oban Wetherspoons for a well-earned breakfast.  And then, and only then did we seek out McCains Folly which was badly placed up a steep hill. The we got lost a bit and eventually found ourselves in Glen Lonan for the long road walk to Taynuilt. Our plan, as amended by Section 3, Para 2 (b) of the Big Plan For 2021, saw us walking only eight of the Queen's miles to a lovely spot just off the road, quite a bit short of Taynuilt. This was NOT A MISTAKE, given that most people would head for Taynuilt at least on Day 1, but our plan was to get there at lunchtime on Day 2. For lunch, see? Smart eh?

Midgies can't find us under this bridge

Glen Kinglass

Loch Etive

The Wobbly Bridge of Taynuilt

Now the odd thing about Blugger is that it loads the pictures in exactly the wrong order and if anybody tries to move a picture, it immediately disappears.  But anyway I shall try to continue without having ANY KIND OF WOBBLY.....

We progressed, exactly as planned unto the fleshpots of Taynuilt where we had lunch in the tearoom there and shopped, diffidently and inefficiently with a lurking and almost seething disappointment around the lack of midgies.

We managed to put this right late that evening in the wilds of Glen Kinglass, where we found a bit of a shortage in the area of camping spots and , due to industrialisation of the place, a completely inaccurate set of maps. This wasn't much bother since, to save weight we had shrunk our maps to such an extent that we couldn't read them anyway.  Lots of lovely midgies in Glen Kinglass anyway, which cheered us up no end and resulted in kilt-abandonment and the donning of leggings for the next day which was rainy. The midgie followed us up the glen but gave up as we crossed over to Loch Dochart. It seems that midgies are a bit lazy when it comes to crossing contours.

Time for more pics IN THE WRONG ORDER... (Doesn't bother me at all........)

Loch Rannoch brew

Aaargh.... trees........

JJ following the tracks

Gorton Bothy

Camping near Gorton bothy

JJ on the drove road to Crieff

Wobbly bridge number 2

Loch Dochart

Camp at Loch Dochart

Midgieless once again, we battered on to Lochart which, in a warm summer breeze and on a little isthmus, we had a fablious camp. Worra lovely spot....  At some point around here we might have discovered that it was now verboten to travel to or from Manchester. This prompted JJ to mention to anybody he met that he was from Manchester. One person fainted. Another called the police. Most just smiled weakly and took a step or two away.... 

We were soon in the bar at Victoria Bridge, talking to West Highland Wayfarers, playing a guitar and drinking cold and fizzy stuff - and then, not too long after, and finding a spot by the River Shira (named after a Geordie footy player, I expect), we camped with a view of some Big Hills, just a bit short of our target of Gorton Bothy.

And in the morning we bashed on through a gap in the forest to Loch Rannoch for a shoreside camp - a bit off-route, but it was hot and we'd marched for a long time through brain stultifying forest.  

The plan was to hit Kinloch Rannoch at lunchtime the next day. (Can you spot the pattern here?)

Loch an Oiseanneach

JJ looking unjustifiably happy

Heading around the back of Schiehallion

Rob Roy Way

Aberfeldy distillery

Fishing hut rain shelter

Good grief, what on earth is that?

Camp around the back of Schiehallion


Ian Cotterill turns up in Kinloch Rannoch

Our plan was to do some shopping at Kinloch Rannoch - which we did - and, as a change to the dehydrated we bought some almost proper food in the form of corned beef, sweetcorn and rice (we couldn't get spuds). So our camp under the slopes of Schiehallion was a bit better fed than normal. In the morning we had a bit of a scrap with a lot of contours but managed to cross the hill to the banks of the River Tay, where it chucked it down but, luckily there was a fisherman's shelter, so.....  we dripped along to Aberfeldy for dinner and decided  to stay in Aberfeldy for the night at the campsite. This allowed even more drinking , eating and shopping, so the next night's menu was to be stewed beef, baked beans and more rice...

Breakfast at the cinema and  a sort of lunch at Ballinluig, which wasn't at all pretentious, being soup served in a bowl on a damaged Welsh roofing slate and a bit of bread balanced on a pebble. 

After a chat with Dan at the Halfway House, who remembered us from 2018 (lovely chap, noisy dog) we trundled over to Loch an Oiseanneach Mor (Loch an Oyshenach, according to Dan). This is another quite lovely spot as it happens.

Oddly enough, from here on, in this pieblog, the pictures out of Blogger are now appearing in the correct order. The text is in the wrong place, though.

Getting warm in the tussocks

Steve at Kirkmichael

JJ on a bridge


Camp above Glen Dajackson

Last hill

Dogs aren't allowed on a TGO challenge, but the rules are silent on the subject of rabbits

Loch of Linthrathen

Its bloody shut. We'll just wait.....

Up The Jungle

And so, shotly after leaving Loch an Oisenneach, it all went a bit wrong. The path, which appears on some maps, disappeared and some off-piste Pennine-like countryside appeared. Happily, it was mainly downhill/ But for a while we bashed through Tussock, Heather and Bog (capital letters used to make it sound like a firm of accountants) - until, proper knackered, we reached forest paths which lead us all the way into Kirkmichael where there is a lovely village shop which does hot pies and tea. Here, we met challenger Steve, last seen being followed by a clutch of midgies in Glen Kinglas. 

We progressed - passing 2018's camping spot and entering yet more rough stuff to Glen Shee, then up Glen Dajackson or whatever it was called (look, see - we were getting tired and fractious, so we didn't care at this point and on to apparently waterless moors. 

Eventually a spring appeared near an ancient settlement site and we could settle anciently into our tabernacles for minced beef, carrots and spuds followed by fruit cocktail and Bell's whisky. A noisy night of snoring and calling after Kylie in the night followed....

And in the morning it was all sweetness and light for half a mile then the struggle with the landscape returned until we hit the roads in Glen Isla.

We had a brief incident in Glen Isla when we noticed that we were being stalked by a small domestic rabbit. At first, there was a frission of fear at being followed by an animal, who's motivation could only be guessed. Did we appear to be a tasty alternative to the usual dandelion diet? Or did our packs look ideal for a stowaway and what damage would this do to our finely balanced and healthy diet of fresh vegetables wot we were carrying?  Apparently, it was on a romantic mission to a nearby cottage which also had a rabbit. The farmer and two of his sons appeared on an ATV and, after some chasing about, recaptured the waskally things and returned it to it's pen with an instruction not to let it out again.....

We headed for the Wee Bear Cafe just by Loch of Lintrathen. Miles past. Shoulders ached. Grumpiness and sweat was the order of the day. And when we arrived.......... it was closed till July 1. We could have waited. We waited for a bit, in fact, consuming water and cheese as the pitiless sun beat down on the bit between the bottom of our kits and the top of our socks. Eventually, it was time to go. I had identified a bijoux camping spot not too far away by a river. More eventually we arrived and found...... a jungle. Lots of nettles and deep grass and fallen trees and blackfly and the rumble of herds wilderbeast thundering magnificently over the Plains of Angus. Actually, the last bit isn't true. We had a lovely, quiet night. Nobody in their right mind would camp in there....


Kirrimuir (mainly closed on Mondays)

Forfar campsite

Heading for Kenny's cafe in Forfar

Lovely path near Dunnichen

Battle memorial

More roads


Marion's lawn

Yet more roads

Must get the wife's mother a birthday card.......

And now it was time for a couple of days road walking. We decided to re-route to Kirriemuir, which wasn't too far away and which would have hot tea and pies and other delights. Here, we enjoyed a huuuuge bridie or Cornish Pastie. But as big as your head. 
And then we plodded on to Forfar where we camped on the campsite, joined by Mr and Mrs Skipp. We ate well in a proper eating-place and drank beer and in the morning, we got butties and strawberries from a bakery and had a big breakfast before plodding on once again to Lethem where the Picts once won against the Northumbrians 2 - 0. Lethem also provided yet more scoff.
And so did Friokheim where we joined the Skipps once again to watch the Englend- Germany match. Watching England play footie in a Scottish pub may seem a risky thing to do, but the natives in Friokheim are gentile and friendly and let us play their guitar (this is not a euphamism by the way)
TGO Challenger extraordinaire Marion also offered us a section of her lawn to camp on as she lives nearby. So that's what we did - a short bus journey, more snoring, a lovely breakfast and a lift back to Friokheim and we were on our way once again. More road plodding brought us to Lunan Bay and a dip for me (the only time I wore my undies!) and tea and a taxi to Montrose. The End. 
This was my 16th TGO challenge and a very enjoyable one. Maybe, in a week or two I might begin planning a 17th.
Thanks to JJ (he's from Manchester by the way) - for the socialising with the various people we met along the way - when I walk solo, I don't tend to talk to many people and for putting up with the string of very poor jokes, occasional sulks and playing all the right chords, but not necessarily in the right order (Sloop John B was, frankly, murdered in Friokheim.
If you enjoyed this, send me all your money. I'm in the middle of a campaign to rid the world of malt whisky and funds are needed. Thank you in advance.

The end. That's me in the middle