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Archive for October, 2013

Scotland long distance walks: West Highland Way – part 6

Today was day 6 and the last day of my long distance walk. I was going to trek from Kinlochleven to Fort William, a distance of 24 kms (16 miles).

Once again it was a clear skies day. I slept well inside my tent last night with a few beers.

The path to Fort William is a good path at this last stage. There is a steep climb out of Kinlochleven, then there are no more serious gradients. The path through Nevis Forest is a bit rough, then on to some tarmac descending into Fort William. The sight of Ben Nevis is impressive. The highest mountain in Britain, I had climbed this mountain back in 2010. For details of my climb in 2010 see the link below:

www.britisharmysgtmonkey.wordpress.com/2012/03/09/my-climb-up-ben-nevis-in-scotland

I have no photographs to show you as my camera died last night! So there you go, no battery and no photos.

Anyway I made it to Fort William and celebrated completing my walk in six days.

My backpack weighed a mere 14.5 kgs when I got home. It was 25.9 kgs when I started the walk.

When I got back home, I checked my feet for sores and blisters.

My feet were sore with blisters

My feet were sore with blisters

I had blisters….

Having finished my walk, I had to examine my sore feet.

Having finished my walk, I had to examine my sore feet.

….as well as my foam going mouldy!

I was examining my feet for blisters.

I was examining my feet for blisters.

Luckly for me, I know first aid.

I put a plaster on my sore feet.

I put a plaster on my sore feet.

I did my walk. A cuddly toy completing the 96 miles route in six days.

I would like to thank all the people who supported me in my long distance walk.

– The End –

For more information on the West Highlands Way please visit:

www.west-highland-way.co.uk

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Scotland long distance walks: West Highland Way – part 5

Today was day 5 and I was going to trek from Bridge of Orchy to Kinlochleven, a distance of 34 kms (21 miles). A busy day of trekking to make up lost ground from the last three days of heavy rain.

It was still raining when I woke up and look outside the window, but at least I was dry.

After paying my hotel bills, I left to continue my walk. After crossing the bridge, the Way breaks onto a path which climbs steadily up through pine forest and moorland.

Looking back onto the hamlet of Bridge of Orchy.

Looking back onto the hamlet of Bridge of Orchy.

It was still raining as I made my ascent.

The path descends upwards.

The path ascends upwards.

This section is a short, straightforward stage of 3 kms to the hamlet of Inveroran.

It was a straight forward path.

It was a straight forward path.

It was still raining and low clouds blocked the views from the summit of this climb.

I almost made the top.

I almost made the top.

This section of the trail is moorland.

The heather were colourful.

The heather were colourful.

Last night in the hotel, I was able to dry my feet up and patch my blisters.

I was glad that I had dry feet.

I was glad that I had dry feet.

As I made my descent to the hamlet of Inveroran, I could see the flooding of the moorland before me.

I made my descent to the hamlet of Inveroran.

I made my descent to the hamlet of Inveroran.

The forecast in the weather was that the rain was moving south. Ahead of me I could see clear skies.

I could see signs of clear skies ahead of me.

I could see signs of clear skies ahead of me.

The hamlet of Inveroran has a hotel and a few homes.

Severe flooding before me.

Severe flooding before me.

As I approach the hamlet I could see the extent of the flooding.

Three days of heavy rain caused flooding.

Three days of heavy rain caused flooding.

After passing the hamlet the next stage starts at Victoria Bridge which passes Loch Tulla with its crannogs. The way then follows an old drove road.

The path passes a plantation.

The path passes a plantation.

As I walked through the plantation, the rain stopped.

The autumn colours were out.

The autumn colours were out.

Coming out of the plantation I came into sunshine. This was to be the Rannoch Moor. One of Britain’s largest and wildest moors.

Coming out of the plantation and into the moor.

Coming out of the plantation and into the moor.

Many guidebooks warns that conditions here can be harsh in bad weather as the path is extremely exposed with no shelter.

The sun was coming out and I was enjoying it.

The sun was coming out and I was enjoying it.

I was lucky that the rain had stopped and the skies was clearing.

I stopped here for a break and to dry off.

I stopped here for a break and to dry off.

There are signs warning not to stray from the path as there are places you can sink into a peat bog.

This is one of the biggest moors in Britain.

This is one of the biggest moors in Britain.

With the skies clearing the scenery is spectacular.

The scenery is spectacular.

The scenery is spectacular.

After three days of heavy rain, it was good that the sun was out.

The sunshine was out.

The sunshine was out.

I looked back on myself facing southwards and I could see the rain clouds that I had previously passed through.

Looking back on myself.

Looking back on myself.

I was enjoying this stage of the walk now that the weather had improved.

The mountains of Scotland.

The mountains of Scotland.

There was no signs of civilisation in all directions.

This was very remote terrain.

This was very remote terrain.

The path turned westwards into Glencoe valley.

I could now see Glencoe Valley.

I could now see Glencoe Valley.

The weather turned bad again but at least I wasn’t far from my stop at Kings House Hotel for pub lunch.

Glencoe Valley is attractive for its scenery.

Glencoe Valley is attractive for its scenery.

Glencoe is famous for the massacre of 1692.

The weather turned bad!

The weather turned bad!

Glencoe has a ski slope resort.

The entrance to the ski slope.

The entrance to the ski slope.

I could not see the mountains anymore because of low clouds.

Looking into the valley.

Looking into the valley.

I was almost at the hotel where I was going to fill myself with hot food. It was only 1pm and I covered a lot of distance so far due to the good weather.

I was almost at my pub lunch stop.

I was almost at my pub lunch stop.

This hotel was built in the 17th century and is believed to be one of Scotland’s oldest licensed inns.

This hotel is famous for it history.

This hotel is famous for it history.

The grounds of the hotel has many wandering deers scavaging on scraps of food.

These deers did not mind our presence.

These deers did not mind our presence.

They did not run away with the hordes of tourists taking photographs.

They were used to being photograph.

They were used to being photograph.

I thought the deers were going to eat me! As I am only 30cms tall myself.

They got right close to us.

They got right close to us.

These two deers were have a right good snog and licking session!

These two deers were getting very passionate.

These two deers were getting very passionate.

I went inside and ordered my pub lunch meal of scampi and chips.

My well earnt lunch.

My well earnt lunch.

After my lunch I carried on with my walk. This stage was to take me to my campsite at Kinlochleven.

I walk through the valley.

I walk through the valley.

This track leads uphill up the Devil’s Staircase. At 550 metres (1850 ft) this is the highest point along the entire West Highland Way. It is a steap climb.

The view of Glencoe from the top of the Devil's Staircase.

The view of Glencoe from the top of the Devil’s Staircase.

The descent down to Kinlochleven is straight forward and I stayed at the campsite here for the hot showers and drying room facilities. I managed to do 21 miles today. I only had one day to go on my walk having made up distance today.

To be continued….

For more information on the West Highlands Way please visit:

www.west-highland-way.co.uk


Scotland long distance walks: West Highland Way – part 4

Today was day 4 and I was going to trek from Crianlarich to Bridge of Orchy, a distance of 21 kms (13 miles).

It was raining very heavy as I lay inside my tent. I was worried that I was going to have to get up and depack my tent in the pouring rain! But with my special forces training, I am used to hardship.

So, I depack my tent in the pouring rain whilst getting soaked.

The path continues through the forest.

The forest streams were overflowing.

The forest streams were overflowing.

Many parts of the path was completely flooded and I had to wade through overflowing streams. My boots got very wet!

The path was completed flooded.

The path was completed flooded.

Leaving the forest I cross over the River Fillan and follow the farm road to Kirkton. Among the trees by Kirkton Farm are the ruins of St. Fillans Chapel and its graveyard.

The ruins of St Fillans Chapel.

The ruins of St Fillans Chapel.

Soon I reach the town of Tyndrum. This town is a popular tourists stopoff for package coach tours. Many tourists with expensive cameras were here but none of the them were soggy after experiencing wild camping in the highlands.

From Tyndrum the path follow the line of the old military road.

From Tyndrum the Way pick up the old military road.

From Tyndrum the Way pick up the old military road.

The rain continues and I decided to head off northwards.

Looking back on Tyndrum.

Looking back on Tyndrum.

This section of the West Highland Way has outstanding mountain scenery – but I never got to see any because of the awful weather.

It was pouring!

It was pouring!

The path follows the West Highland Line railway. To the right of the Way are two viaducts contructed to carry the West Highline Line north towards Fort William. But in the bad weather I could not see the viaducts.

The road goes around the hillside.

The road goes around the hillside.

My feet was getting mushy and I felt my foam stuffing becoming mouldy.

The path passes a farm.

The path passes a farm.

The path passes stunning mountain scenery.

I was getting soaked.

I was getting soaked.

The rain shown no signs of stopping.

The path follows the railway line.

The path follows the railway line.

I could see the hamlet of the Bridge of Orchy in this distance.

This caravan was in the middle of nowhere!

This caravan was in the middle of nowhere!

The old military road reaches the Bridge of Orchy.

The Bridge of Orchy.

The Bridge of Orchy.

The bridge is said to be the best example of the old military road bridges.

This bridge is a fine example of the engineering of the old military road.

This bridge is a fine example of the engineering of the old military road.

After over two days of persistant rainfall I was soaked and needed drying off. I decided to cheat and to book into a hotel. At my age of 18 years old, I am not as young and fit as I used to be so felt justified into booking into a hotel (18 years for a monkey is the equivalent to 75 years for a human). My foam stuffing was going mouldy!

The hotel that I booked into.

The hotel that I booked into.

I was treating myself to luxury.

My "DRY" room for the night!

My “DRY” room for the night!

I had a hot bath after many days of living wild. The hotel staff then hung me up to dry on the washing line.

I was eager for a hot bath.

I was eager for a hot bath.

That night, I was to sleep in a warm and dry bed!

I was enjoying being dry once again!

I was enjoying being dry once again!

The next morning I was completely dry and ready to carry on with my walk…. but it was still pouring!

To be continued….

For more information on the West Highlands Way please visit:

www.west-highland-way.co.uk


Scotland long distance walks: West Highland Way – part 3

Today was day 3 and I was going to trek from Rowardennan to Crianlarich, a distance of 32 kms (20 miles).

It began to rain during the early hours.

A footbridge on the forest path.

A footbridge on the forest path.

This stretch is mostly forestry track following the eastern shore of Loch Lomond with occasional diversions onto a rocky path with crags and boulders.

Soon I arrived at Inversnaid – a village on the east bank of Loch Lomond, near the north end of the loch. It has a pier and a hotel. A small passenger ferry runs from Inversnaid to Inveruglas on the opposite shore of the loch.

The harbour at Inversnaid.

The harbour at Inversnaid.

The village became notable in 2010, when Inversnaid primary school was deemed to cost £54,000 per pupil, making it the most expensive primary school in the UK on a per capita basis.

The next section of the walk is by far the roughest section of the Way. The path is very rough going through the forest with many up and downs as one climbs over boulders, rocks and fallen trees.

About 1km north of Inversnaid is Rob Roy’s Cave. This is not a cave but a pile of rocks on top of each other forming a crevice. This was one of the bandit’s hideouts.

Eventually the Way emerges on an open gravel shore bay.

This could had been a nice picnic stop if it wasn't raining.

This could had been a nice picnic stop if it wasn’t raining.

By now it was raining very heavy now and my cotton fur was getting very soggy.

I was getting very wet!

I was getting very wet!

I put the stove on for a quick coffee whilst sheltering under a tree.

I was hoping for the rain to stop.

I was hoping for the rain to stop.

Carrying on in the rain, the Way leaves Loch Lomond. Across the loch was the village of Ardlui where a ferry can be taken during the summer months.

The last sight of Loch Lomond.

The last sight of Loch Lomond.

The path follow an old pathway towards Inverarnan. Here is the popular stopping point the Drovers’ Inn. It is a favourite with walkers with its range of good value meals and selection of beers and whiskies. It is well worth a visit, if only to see the collection of stuffed animals and birds.

Leaving Inveraran, the path starts a steady ascent out of the Loch Lomond basin.

The path follows the old military road.

The path follows the old military road.

The path follows the river Falloch through a succession of gorges, rocky rapids, short cascades, cauldrons and wide dark peaty pools with short stretches of smooth water in between.

The way follows the river Falloch.

The way follows the river Falloch.

The path follows the river.

The Falls of Falloch.

The Falls of Falloch.

About two kilometres after the falls is the farm of Derrydarroch.

Derrydarroch farm is a working farm.

Derrydarroch farm is a working farm.

Here at the farm the Way crosses the river at a bridge.

An old shed at Derrydarroch Farm.

An old shed at Derrydarroch Farm.

The Way passes under a railway and road by a “sheep creep”.

This tunnel was very low.

This tunnel was very low.

The weather was getting worst with the rain.

The weather was getting worst.

The weather was getting worst.

The path takes another old military road going uphill towards a conifer plantation.

The way follows an old military road.

The way follows an old military road.

At the fence of the forest, the path spilts into two. The Way leads to the left whilst a path to the right leads to the village of Crianlarich. This is the half way point of the West Highland Way.

It was raining very heavy now and it was 7pm.

It was getting dark and raining heavy.

It was getting dark and raining heavy.

I was soaking so I put up my tent for the night in the forest.

To be continued….

For more information on the West Highlands Way please visit:

www.west-highland-way.co.uk


Scotland long distance walks: West Highland Way – part 2

Today I was going to walk from Drymen to Rowardennan on the east coast of Loch Lomond. This stage was to be 25 kms (15 miles).

I spent the night camping in the Queen Elizabeth Forest Park. The Queen Elizabeth Forest Park was first designated as a Forest Park by the Forestry Commission in 1953 to mark the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II.

The clearing in the forest where I spent the night.

The clearing in the forest where I spent the night.

I watch the sunrise.

I watch the sunrise over the trees.

I watch the sunrise over the trees.

The forest is a conifer plantation and is currently undergoing harvesting.

This forest is currently undergoing harvesting.

This forest is currently undergoing harvesting.

The park is managed by the Forestry Commission.

Stack of harvest logs.

Stack of harvest logs.

After walking a mile or two through the forest tracks, I stopped in a clearing for breakfast. From the clearing I could see Conic Hill in the distance.

Me at my breakfast view point.

Me at my breakfast view point.

After breakfast, I return back to the track heading towards Conic Hill.

The signpost marking the way.

The signpost marking the way.

Through a clearing I see my first view of Loch Lomond.

My first view of Loch Lomond.

My first view of Loch Lomond.

The path goes along the edge of two fields before crossing the Burn of Mar and emerging onto open moorland heading up the ridge to the summit

The path up to Conic Hill.

The path up to Conic Hill.

It was a steep climb to the ridge line.

The steps up to Conic Hill ridge.

The steps up to Conic Hill ridge.

The Way follows a natural ledge just below the summit. The Way does not go to Conic Hill summit but to reach the summit, take the obvious path to the left of the Way path for the short, steep climb to the top.

The Way follows the ridge line.

The Way follows the ridge line.

Looking towards Loch Lomond, I could see the line of islands following the Highland boundary fault across Loch Lomond.

It was windy up here.

It was windy up here.

I then begin the decent towards Loch Lomond.

The steps going downwards.

The steps going downwards.

The forest path leads to the car park at Balmaha.

Balmaha is a hamlet on the eastern shore of Loch Lomond.

The harbour and boat yard on Loch Lomond at Balmaha.

The harbour and boat yard on Loch Lomond at Balmaha.

Balmaha is a popular tourist destination for day trippers from Glasgow as well a trekkers on the West Highland Way.

Balmaha is a popular tourist destination.

Balmaha is a popular tourist destination.

Boat trips leave from Balmaha for the villages of Balloch and Luss as well as nearby Inchcailloch Island.

The harbour had many boats.

The harbour had many boats.

I stopped here for a coffee.

I stopped here for a coffee.

I stopped here for a coffee.

The view across Loch Lomond was great.

Looking across to Inchcailloch Island.

Looking across to Inchcailloch Island.

I set off on my walk again following the path to the top of a hill, known as Craigie Fort.

Looking back onto Balmaha.

Looking back onto Balmaha.

The path then follows the east shore of Loch Lomond towards Arrochymore Point and then ontowards Milarrochy Bay, a popular picnic and boat launching spot.

The path follows the shore.

The path follows the shore.

It was a sunny day when I trekking here despite being October. I could be happy wearing my shorts.

It was quiet at this time of the year.

It was quiet at this time of the year.

I found a caterpillar on my boots.

This little creepy was on my boots.

This little creepy was on my boots.

The Way continues along the shore between and up a steep stony path into Ross Wood.

The path took me into woods again.

The path took me into woods again.

The mushrooms in this wood were very colourful….

The mushrooms here were colourful.

The mushrooms here were colourful.

….and very big!

This mushroom was huge!

This mushroom was huge!

This mushroom was about 20-25 cms across.

Comparing the size of the mushroom with my foot.

Comparing the size of the mushroom with my foot.

The Way continues along the shoreline to meet the road just south of Rowardennan.

The jetty at Rowardennan.

The jetty at Rowardennan.

Rowardennan is also the start point for the ascent of Ben Lomond, Scotland’s most climbed mountain. At 974 metres (3195 feet), it is the most southerly Munro (a name given to mountains over 3000 feet, approximately 914m).

That night I set camp in the woods. As I did so – five Red Deers crept near my campsite.

These Red Deers were close to my campsite.

These Red Deers were close to my campsite.

I was knackered after two days of hard trekking but the worst was yet to come.

To be continued….

For more information on the West Highlands Way please visit:

www.west-highland-way.co.uk


Scotland long distance walks: West Highland Way – part 1

Last year, I had completed my first Scottish long distance walk. This year I was determine to walk the famous West Highland Way.

The West Highland Way was Scotland’s first long distance route established in 1980. It is also the most popular of the Scottish National Trails. It is 154km long (96 miles) and run from Milngavie on the edge of Glasgow to Fort William at the foot of Ben Nevis. Many walkers after finishing the walk make the extra achievement of climbing Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in Britain.

A map showing the West Highland Way route.

A map showing the West Highland Way route.

The path uses many ancient roads, including drovers’ roads, military roads and old coaching roads, and is traditionally walked from south to north.

About 85,000 people use the path every year, of whom over 30,000 walk the entire route and I was going to be the first cuddly toy to walk the entire route.

This walk is very popular in the summer when the weather is generally fine. However with Scottish midges being the pest that they are, it was for this reason that I had decided to do the walk in September/October. However, at this time of the year the weather can get bad – very bad! It was vital that I had the right outdoor gear but with my army training and my collection of Ray Mears books, I knew that I was ready for this walk.

As with my long distance walk of last year, I was determine to carry all my camping gear along the way. My backback weighs 25.9 kgs. That is 100 times my own body weight but I was determine to carry all my own gear and not use the commercial baggage services that are popular on this long distance walk (that is cheating!)

My walk starts in Milngavie on the edge of Glasgow.

The start of the West Highland Way.

The start of the West Highland Way.

It was a bright sunny day when I got off the railway station and I was hoping that this dry and sunny weather remains for the rest of the week.

The start of my big trek!

The start of my big trek!

The path officially starts in Milngavie town centre, where a granite obelisk is located. However since almost all trekkers start at the railway station it has become that the railway station has become the unofficial start of the walk.

The first stage of my walk takes me from Milngavie to Drymen. This stage is 19 kms (12 miles).

The walk takes me through a park.

Walking through a park.

Walking through a park.

The urban landscape is left behind at Milngavie as the route enters Mugdock Country Park.

Leaving urban life.

Leaving urban life.

It is easy to navigate the route as the path is well marked.

The route is well marked.

The route is well marked.

This section of the walk is wasy going as it navigates the lowlands however it can be muddy in places.

The walk takes me through Mugdock Country Park.

The walk takes me through Mugdock Country Park.

I was getting hungry so I decided to take a break on a river edge.

Me taking a break in the woods of Mugdock Country Park.

Me taking a break in the woods of Mugdock Country Park.

The walk was interesting and I saw many strange and wild mushrooms.

I was not going to eat this!

I was not going to eat this!

The walk takes me to the lowlands.

The hills of Campsie Fells came into view.

The hills of Campsie Fells came into view.

Suddenly I trodden on some poop! It was animal scat. Referring to my Ray Mears tracking book I tried to identify this animal.

I spotted signs of Scottish wildlife.

I spotted signs of Scottish wildlife.

I identify this scat as coming from a cow!

Then I saw it!

A cow!

Scottish wildlife as it best!

Scottish wildlife as it best!

The hills of Campsie Fells were getting very close now.

The hills of Campsie Fells were closer now.

The hills of Campsie Fells were closer now.

I came across a funny sign!

Warning of dangerous monkeys!

Warning of dangerous monkeys!

Apparently monkeys here are dangerous!

Then I saw it, a wild cuddly toy monkey….

I saw the cuddly toy monkey.

I saw the cuddly toy monkey.

I called out to the Monkey in my native jungle Borneo dialect.

The wild monkey was wild!

The wild monkey was wild!

It did not communicate back! I guess it only speaks Scottish that I don’t understand.

The hills of Campsie Fell.

The hills of Campsie Fell.

I stopped for another rest.

I was admiring the view of the hills.

I was admiring the view of the hills.

I was enjoying my wild mushrooms snack but it did make me poop funny later that day.

I was enjoying the views.

I was enjoying the views.

The path passes Glengoyne Distillery but I was not going to sample a malt whisky as I was set to remain dry on this trek.

The path passes Glengoyne Distillery.

The path passes Glengoyne Distillery.

As the sun went down, I approach Drymen and enter Queen Elizabeth forest.

The scenery was stunning.

The scenery was stunning.

The sun sets on my first day so I set up camp in the woods.

The sun sets.

The sun sets.

It was a dry and mild night.

To be continued….

For more information on the West Highlands Way please visit:

www.west-highland-way.co.uk