These boots are made for walking

My mother and I used to go on long walks in the English countryside. We would fill our backpacks with pyjamas and shampoo and stroll around, feeling desperately at one with nature. We haven’t been recently, since my mum has concerns about her knees and general stamina, but on our recent trip to Scotland I had one major focus: we were going to walk up a hill.

We thought that maybe we would ask the hotel for suggestions but, then, I chanced upon an ordinance survey map. I’d been looking for one for our specific area of Scotland, and I’d found it. OS map in hand, we planned our own route. Mother thought we were being ambitious, but I knew it would all be ok.

Kit

Each of us wore:

  • long puffa coat
  • woolly hat/gloves/scarf
  • leggings/top/jumper
  • woolly socks
  • proper walking shoes

We took with us:

  • OS map
  • water
  • grapes
  • bread/ham/cheese (for sandwiches at lunch!)
  • first aid kit
  • emergency blankets (those silver ones trauma survivors get)
  • camera (including my new wide angle lens, for awesome landscape photography)
  • phones

And now, ladies and gentlemen, allow me to present…

Our one-day circular walk in the Ochill Hills

Our trusty OS map

We started at Broomhill Castle and went up the west-side of the Menstrie Glen. We followed the footpath to the Lossburn Reservoir, and beyond to the main road. We then headed back south down the main road, before heading back east at the ‘sheep pens’. After the ford, we went up both hills – to the memorial and then to Castle Law – before going back down to Blairlogie, and along the footpath behind the houses to Menstrie. It took about 6 hours, including around 1 hour of breaks and a teeny weeny bit of getting lost!

We headed out at dawn! Ok, more like 9.45am but still… the fog looked quite heavy up on the hills, but we were sure it was just morning weather.

The first climb was a little steep, but looking back over that first hill was very exciting and satisfying. After that it was much easier, along a nice gravel track.

The fog was still quite heavy, which is why we didn’t notice a herd of highland cattle. They were so still and silent we thought for a moment that they were statutes – some sort of weird art installation in the middle of the Highlands. We were a little scared of them, so we didn’t take any photos until we were well clear. I really like the shot I got though.

After that, more walking, more fog. It was really very beautiful, I promise! Even if the photos make it seem a little bland. After the Lossburn Reservoir we got to the main road and were very concerned about whether we would notice the turn back onto the footpath…

Fortunately, there was something of a carpark! It seems as though the two hills we’d chosen to walk up were a bit of an attraction. It was certainly very lovely to finally rise out of the fog – as we got higher and higher the air got clearer and the colours got brighter and brighter.

At one point we thought we were choosing between the two peaks, and decided to avoid the ramblers and go up the easier hill. Fortunately, we’d made a mistake and actually decided to go up the taller hill and, I mean, well…

…look at this view! It was really incredible and worth all of the sweat and effort. It was only 1pm or so at this point so we sat down to eat our sandwiches. We found a little nook on the side of the hill that was protected from the wind. It meant we were looking down the valley and, as the clouds shifted, we should see sheep on the slopes below.

After lunch we got a little chilly from all of that sitting down, so we decided to take on the second hill. It was very easy (because we were such champion walkers by now) although the path wasn’t so clear. We ended up cutting through a bog, and my feet got a little wet.

In fact, this was the start of quite a lot of getting lost. On reflection we were very tired and weren’t trying so hard on following the map. We wandered around for a little while, and eventually made it back to the main road. After that, we chose to follow the road rather than go back up into the hills to get back to Menstrie. What can I say, we were tired! If you want to take the scenic (i.e. hilly) route back, just follow the signs to the ‘high road to Menstrie’.

Once we got back to the hotel, we took a well deserved bath (each, not together!) and ate an exceptionally large amount of food. In short, a perfect day.

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