Once upon a time on a family holiday to the Highlands I hiked up Ben Lawers with Dad - we went up the normal route from the National Trust for Scotland car park - a route which has the unfortunate reputation for being crowded in the summer months - to stand on the highest point in Tayside and the highest peak in the country south of Ben Nevis. As I recall there were a fair few tourists heading up the hill but despite that it was still a good day out.
|Rainbow at Strathyre|
One of the reasons this route is popular is the fact that the start point is almost 500 metres above sea level and leaves an ascent completely free of difficulty to the summit which at 1214m or 3984ft would be a much longer undertaking - if still an easy one - from the shores of Loch Tay.
So it was that after a drive in the rain from my campsite at Strathyre, stopping off to see the Falls of Dochart in Killin; there are some things that are better in this weather - I arrived at the infamous visitor centre which turned out not to be there. Apparently the building was demolished a few years back and the site returned to the wild. There is still a car park - on the other side of the road - and information about the area but if you're after a coffee it's back into Killin! Personally I think it's better now as I remember
|The start of the path|
The route I followed is initially through the nature reserve on a path known as the Edramucky Trail where can be seen a wide range of arctic alpine type flora and fauna which thrives in this area protected from deer and grazing sheep. The trees too are returning and I was amazed to see trees at around 2000 feet above sea level this far north - a height level with the highest parts of Dartmoor or the Peak District.
|The last of the trees|
The route from the nature reserve - far from being crowded - was extremely enjoyable and is clearly marked all the way to the summit. In fact I had planned a more varied route involving Beinn Ghlas and Meall Corranaich but as the weather made a return in the form of heavy showers and hill fog, I opted to remain on the main path. Beyond the wooded area, the path climbs past some old shepherds' huts known as shielings and turns sharply to the left up the grassy valley of Coire Odhar. At this point the path via Beinn Ghlas carries straight on but I followed the broad trail to the bealach or col at the head of Coire Odhar which is at about 850 metres.
The col is in a fine position with the path heading through towards the Glen Lyon side and the summit route continuing its steady climb to the right without losing much height. I had wanted to
|Meall nan Tarmachan|
Here one rejoins the route coming over Beinn Ghlas which is the one we followed that first time in these hills and begins the final climb up to Ben Lawers. Again the route is nowhere difficult but this is the first part that seems like hard work as the path climbs steeply up the final slopes which today were battered by Westerly gales bringing rain and increasing cold as height was gained. The Met Office website had informed me to expect temperatures of 3 or 4 Celsius at this altitude with
|The col at about 850 metres|
A short rest on the summit with lunch behind the cairn and sheltered from the wind was a welcome relief from the wind and rain but it was not a place to linger today so I was soon heading back down the way I had come to the warmer climes below. The short film below gives some idea of the conditions encountered on this walk - perhaps the day was better suited to looking at the region's waterfalls.
The following morning I had planned a return to the hills above Killin and Loch Tay, to climb Meall
|Loch Earn seen from the cycle path|
Instead, during a lull in the weather, I got on my bike and headed to the old railway track that heads through Glen Ogle in the direction of Killin. It's a track I've done before and is one of my favourite
|Lochan Lairig Cheile at the top of Glen Ogle|
The track itself is part of the National Cycle Network Route 7 aka the northern half of the Lochs and Glens Route from Glasgow to Inverness. The section north from Lochearnhead through Glen Ogle over the old railway viaducts is one of the highlights of that route and from Strathyre to Lochearnhead isn't bad either all being off road with some nice forest trails around Balquhidder. Incidentally, the ride south from Strathyre is also highly recommended; the first night here I rode down along the shore of Loch Lubnaig as far as the Falls of Leny (close to Callander) but failed to take a camera so you'll have to take my word for it. In all the whole way from Callander to Killin is on traffic free paths and would make a fine day out - well it would in better weather.
On this trip I stayed at the Immervoulin campsite at Strathyre which I can highly recommend - facilities are excellent and it's a big open field with plenty of room to camp - I'll be back soon. Finally here are the videos from the trip - I've overcome the difficulties of filming from a moving bike without falling off but we're still working on getting the sound better for all weather filming - probably need to invest in a decent mic for starters...