Loch Lomond and The Trossachs: Redheads Rule

13 Feb

Our weather mojo is working again. Scotland isn’t renowned for sunshine, but four crisp, clear early February days were just what we ordered for appetite stimulating walking and cycling in stunning countryside.

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Many, many months ago Stuart booked the three-bedroom house, ‘Calasraid’, in Callander, as a base to explore The Trossachs National Park. Stuart’s sister Catharine would come up from London to join us and we expected Tristan and Jenny to visit for the weekend from Edinburgh. In the meantime we convinced ourselves, without actually checking, that ‘Calasraid’ was a wee, old cottage with a log fire. On arrival we found a newly refurbished, centrally heated, fully kitted out town house in a housing estate on the edge of town.

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As it turned out ‘Calasraid’ was perfect for our requirements. Jenny’s family came up to lunch and we took turns to cook some fantastic meals. We even watched the house copy of the 1995 ‘Rob Roy’ movie (Liam Neeson is Rob and Jessica Lange is his wife Mary) to get in the mood for striding over hills and crags. I must say I think Liam’s dip in the loch is head and shoulders over Colin’s Mr Darcy wet shirt scene. But I digress…..

We also took it in turns to plan and lead each day’s outdoor activity.

Tristan led us on a nine mile walk in ice and snow along Rob Roy Way, then on to the National Cycle Path Number 7 running through Roman Camp Wood beside Loch Venachar. Tris enhanced his reputation for ‘dropsy’ (festival tickets and a champagne bottle have eluded his possession recently) by dropping the OS map en route while photographing the views. Once again he managed to find the map on the return leg.

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Parts of the loch had iced over in the night. Waves broke the ice into small and large fragments that created a symphonic sound close to the shore. Almost like a Philip Glass composition.

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The first of many highland cattle encounters. I adore them.

Next day it was my turn to lead. I took the easy option and, after a bracing coffee at the Oak Inn at Balmaha on Loch Lomond, I took us up Conic Hill. Conic Hill, at 662 metres qualifies as a ‘Donald’, since it’s over 2,000 feet/610 metres high, but it’s less than a Corbett (over 2500 feet/700metres high with a drop of at least 500 metres on all sides). The famous 283 Munros are all over 3,000 feet/914 metres.

Conic Hill is a popular walk, even in mid-winter, so we passed families taking very small children on forced marches. We heard one young lad, walking with his dad and even smaller brother, from a long distance. He was whinging about the walk. Dad was patiently chivvying him along. As we were about to pass we greeted the father and the boy looked up at me mid-whinge. I said to him, ‘If you don’t want to go up you can come down now with us. Your Dad won’t mind.’ Dad said something like ‘That’d be great’. The boy shut up and took a step towards me as if to come with us. We all had a good chuckle at the expression on his face.

A hot lunch and a pint of their best bitter back at the Oak Inn was just the ticket. We finished the day with a walk beside Loch Lomond past two fisherman who’d been set up since first light and would stay until sunset. Their catch so far had been two fish.

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On our final day Catharine took us mountain biking. She hired bicycles from Invertrossacks Cycle Centre right next to National Cycle Path Number 7.

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Retracing our route along Loch Venacher we continued on icy surfaces through a right of way at Achray Farm. By this time we were in need of a warming stop but the Brynn Inn sign outside said it closed Mondays and Tuesdays. The Brig o’Turk cafe was also closed so we scoffed our picnic sitting in a field amongst highland cattle plop. We finally found a sunny spot on the deck at Venachar Lochside restaurant and cafe to get a hot drink. It felt like being at a ski resort, the waiter brought our whiskey, coffee and cake to the table wearing just a tshirt (and the rest) but with wind chill it was freezing.

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How sad is this? Imagine her pain if she’s a milker.

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Teenaged red head!

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We were home in time to head out again into Callander to do some shopping. Pringles had a sale on. Stuart had been eyeing Harris tweed jackets since arriving in Scotland. His only previous ‘Harris’ was passed on to Tristan when he lived in London but it had long since departed to a charity bin somewhere. Whilst there isn’t much call for tweed jackets in Byron Bay Stuart decided he would leave ‘Harris’ in Edinburgh with Tristan and they could share custody. With Stuart’s new ‘Sean Connery’ beard and smart new jacket he is quite the dapper gent. Don’t worry, we won’t go all Maddona on you and buy an English country estate. The beard goes once he’s back in a warm climate. I suggested he get it shaved off in India on the way home. Street barbers do a great job with their cut throat razors.

Tea in front of the fire at Roman Camp Hotel (built as a hunting lodge in 1625 for the Dukes of Perth) and a chat with Kiwi Gavin, the assistant manager, rounded off a lovely day. We seem to be making a habit of visiting hotels our friend Charles worked at several decades ago. So far they’ve proven fascinating and rewarding.

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Roman Camp Hotel

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Mohr’s Bakery – best in Callander.

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The Deli Cafe is the best spot in Callander for a toasty bite and coffee.

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The clans are gathering in Edinburgh for the Six Nations rugby match – Scotland V Wales – so of course that’s where we are now. I can hear a drunken Scotsman singing on Princes Street from our apartment. The match report will be forthcoming from Stuart as I am off to Madrid. See ye after!

2 Responses to “Loch Lomond and The Trossachs: Redheads Rule”

  1. Linda February 13, 2015 at 5:16 pm #

    Beautiful photos of bonny Scotland Sharon. Enjoy Madrid x

    • Sharon Tickle February 13, 2015 at 10:16 pm #

      Thanks Linda. Hope the return from your Egypt hola not too painful. Sxx

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