10th May 2023: Kingshouse to Killin – 11.5 miles
I ‘fixed’ the issue with the curtains in my room, so I slept through until about 6am and then grabbed a few more winks and come fully conscious just after 7am, which is pretty good for me when I’m walking. It helps that both the hotel and the town are fairly quiet. The window in my room has an air gap at the top, so although it fits snugly in the frame, I can still hear whatever is happening outside. However, there are no church bells, no rowdy late never revellers, no early delivery lorries, not even much road noise, so I’m sleeping mostly undisturbed once all the retiring guests have thundered past my room.
The weather forecast is pretty grim again, so I doubt I’ll be doing the high route I had planned for today. The warning for thunder and lightning has been removed, so that’s a relief. Not much point doing the high route though if I can’t see anything and the chances of any sheltered lunch stops are pretty slim. I’ll stick to the official RRW route and hope the views of Glen Ogle make up for what I expect to be more tarmac cycle path.
I’ve had another dreary self-service breakfast of tea and toast and I’ve got another one to look forward to tomorrow as well. There are no cafés in town that open early enough for me to get a cooked breakfast and then catch the bus. I have almost 18 miles to do tomorrow, so I imagine I’ll really miss the cooked send off I’d normally get in a good B&B. I’m sitting on my bed now, waiting to set out (into the drizzle) to catch the bus to Kingshouse.
I’ve developed a bit of a sore throat and a sniffle. It started yesterday morning as a tickle in the back of my throat and hasn’t gone away. It feels a bit worse this morning and the runny nose isn’t a great sign. I don’t feel any other adverse effects and it’s not putting me off my stride at all, but I hope it doesn’t develop into something else.
I f***ked up last night and I didn’t realise until 10pm when I got a text from brother, but I missed the Man City vs Real Madrid Champions League semi final first leg. I thought it was tonight and I could have watched it on my tablet. We had a pretty good result at least, 1-1 in the away leg is what we needed to do.
I left the hotel in plenty of time and made a beeline for the bakery I used yesterday morning. I got another scotch pie and a couple of caramel chocolate shortbread biscuits for later in the day. I arrived at the car park where the bus stop is located, long before the bus was due to arrive, and somewhat unsettlingly I watched it drive off! It turned out of the car park and headed south instead of north though, so I hoped it was just going to a different bus stop before coming back to this one. I spent a nervous 15 minutes ticking off alternative modes of transport to Kingshouse in my head. It came back, 2 minutes late, which didn’t help my stress levels, but at least I was on it.
As we passed through Strathyre I saw Malter and Jan, the two German guys from Mayfield B&B – they were just setting out by the looks of it – I waved, but they didn’t see me. I guess they will be in Killin tonight, so I may see them tomorrow.
The bus dropped me at Kingshouse, just as it started to rain properly. I had a small faff in the bus shelter, adjusting my pack, and switching on my GPS and by the time I set out it had stopped. It didn’t rain properly for another couple of hours and only then for a short while. On the whole the forecast ended up being too pessimistic and I actually finished the walk in warm sunshine!
On the bus I’d been assessing the cloud levels and I reckoned my high level route up Kirkton Glen would be in the cloud, so although there was no danger of being struck by lightning any longer, I still decided to stick to the traditional route through Glen Ogle, and if I’m being honest, it wasn’t that bad.
I never intended to turn the day into a 12 mile sprint, I blame the weather forecast and the tarmac surface of the cycle path. The first couple of miles of the path are a little undulating and mostly on tarmac or good gravel track, so it’s really easy going. When I checked my GPS I realised I’d done the first couple of miles at an average speed of 3.5mph. The GPS suggested that at that pace my ETA would be about 12:30pm. The bus back to Callander runs about every 2 hours, and my options for today were 3pm or 5pm. I had planned on getting the 3pm one, but there would also be one about 1pm. I figured if it was going to rain all day, I wouldn’t be stopping much and I could easily manage to keep this pace up, so maybe I should aim for the 1pm bus. I’ve been walk-training all year in preparation for this summer’s walking and I’ve done 12 miles at an average speed of 4mph a few times, so doing the same today didn’t hold any fears for me.
The first couple of miles are mostly beside the main road and you’re never out of earshot of the traffic, so I plugged my headphones in and listened to my audiobook. The scenery is muted or restricted by the trees beside the path. You get the occasional long view up to the mist-shrouded hills, but you’re mainly looking at old birch woodland and the lorries on the bypass.
At Craggan, the path climbs up a long, steep zig-zag cutback and enters Glen Ogle. The views improve and the road noise becomes a distant buzz as the path is now on an old railway bed, half way up the side of the valley. I have no idea what made them build the railway so high above the road and there are plenty of signs warning of the danger of falling rocks, which I’m sure the railway engineers had to consider too! There are rocks scattered all down the hillside below the path, down to the road in the valley bottom. It’s very picturesque, but probably not when you’re driving an old steam engine, with one eye on the pressure gauge and one on the rocky cliff above, watching for boulders tumbling towards you.
To my left along this section it was mostly steep, rocky cliff faces, often obscured by trees, so not much to look at really. To my right though I had the lower slopes of this side of the glen, and all the other side of the glen, rising away from the road at the bottom, to the mist covered summit. The trees came and went, but the view was mostly uninterrupted and I really enjoyed this section. I could see a lovely track rising from the valley bottom, climbing diagonally along the face of the hill opposite, and towards the top it made a single cut back and went on into the cloud. I bet it wasn’t tarmac covered and I was envious of it from the moment I spotted it.
Almost as frustrating to me was what looked like a reasonable path along the bottom of the valley, albeit closer to the road, but again not on tarmac. However, I’m not moaning (OK, not too much) the tarmac was easy to keep my pace up on and my GPS was still giving me an ETA in advance of the 1pm bus!
I found a good number of strange rectangular, what looked like, paving stones, laid on their edge, in rows beside the path. Some of them seemed to have a hole drilled in them and I was completely at a loss as to what they may have been used for. They were all completely covered in moss, so they’ve been there for a while and could be railway related I guess. Answers in the comments section please!
I passed over the Glen Ogle viaduct, which is supposed to be an incredible sight, but I’m used to seeing Ribblehead, so I wasn’t overly impressed with it. The Glen Ogle viaduct may just have the better view, but it’s a close run thing!
The rain had mostly held off until this point, an odd drizzle here and there, but nothing like as bad as forecast. As I reached the far end of Glen Ogle though, it came down hard for a while. I’d set out in baselayer and coat, with shirt and fleece in my pack if I needed them – I was warm enough in that combination, so all I needed to do when it started to rain properly was put my hood up, which I did. I was passed by a couple of cyclists here and saw a couple of walkers coming towards me, but they didn’t say hello.
At Glenogle Cottages, the RRW switches to the other side of the road and there’s a car park and some picnic benches. It’s 6.7 miles from the start and it had taken me 1 hour and 55 minutes. I took my first (and only) break here, just 5 minutes, in the spitting rain and had some shortbread and a slug of juice. One reason for getting off again so quickly was because of how cold it was. My breath was misting as I sat on the picnic bench and of course I had my new deadline to meet, but I was getting cold sitting there.
Then I was off again, with a decision to make. The RRW splits here. The left fork continues on the cycle path, going downhill to meet the old military road into Killin, while the right fork takes folk who don’t need to go into Killin (and don’t want to lose the height that would entail) through the forest and out across the fell to Lochan Breaclaich. My plan had always been to use this upper path, but cut down a track beside the Achmore Burn into Killin. It made for a slightly longer day, but the main reason for using it was to get off the cycle path. I reckoned I still had time in hand to take the longer, higher route and catch the bus. If I’d been heading for the last bus I wouldn’t have risked it of course, but with another bus 2 hours later, I was risking nothing and I wanted to get off the tarmac!
The path through the forest is on an old logging road. I’m willing to bet there’s been nothing bigger than a farmer’s quad bike along it for years though. There’s a lovely grassy strip down the middle and even the wheel ruts are hard packed, and easier on the feet than the cycle path surfaces I’d been using so far. There are no views to speak of though, the trees border both sides of the track and block everything. The path climbed steadily, but gently for a mile or so but I kept up my good pace. I passed a lady walking two very well behaved dogs, which she controlled with hand gestures.
The forest road reaches a T-junction, right is the RRW and left is the track down to Killin beside the Achmore Burn and what a delightful path it is too! It’s a wide forest road initially, but that soon bends left and I continued straight ahead, ducking into a tunnel of overhanging branches from the trees either side of the new path. For the next mile I followed the best path of the day (not that it was a high bar to beat) as it dropped steeply beside the rugged looking burn, the hills ahead being glimpsed occasionally through the birch trees. It was warm now! 30 minutes ago I’d been cold and it had been spitting, now the sun was out, the sky was clearing and I was warming up nicely in my boil in the bag hardshell.
About half way down the track and I found the trees had all been felled, which didn’t help with the beauty of my surroundings, but did help with the views. All too soon the lovely path met the road into Killin, and I put a little spurt of speed on as I dropped down into the village.
The Falls of Dochart are very picturesque and they are the first thing you meet as you enter the village, crossing the bridge of the same name. There were hundreds of people here, sitting outside the pub beside the road, on the bridge taking pictures, standing on rocks beside the falls. I’d seen maybe half a dozen people all day and then hundreds in a few minutes.
I found the bus stop and had maybe 15 minutes in hand. I ate my scotch pie and finished my juice as I waited for the bus. A couple of walkers (man and woman) stopped and asked if this was the right stop for Callander. They had huge packs on and the lady was limping badly. They’d been walking the West Highland Way and been forced to abandon it due to her foot injury. They were trying to get beck to their car in Milngavie.
The bus arrived on time and I was back in Callander by 13:45. I took 3 hours 20 mins to cover 11.5 miles and I have to be honest, I’m not particularly proud of that. As I said, I’d never intended the day to become a race against the clock, it just kind of happened. If I’d known the day was going to warm up, I’d have probably been happy to aim for the 3pm bus. As it was I don’t think I’d have taken many more breaks (and certainly no long ones) until it had warmed up and that wasn’t until around noon.
No need to rush tomorrow though, I leave the Crown Hotel in the morning, get the bus back to Killin and then walk to my next B&B. No deadlines, self-imposed or otherwise, should impact what I’m hoping will be a relaxing 18 mile walk, in good weather ????
I’ve been back to the Waverley, not least for the quality of their food – in truth, for a other pint of Old Jock. In the end I had 2 pints of the 7.6% ale and I’m rocking a bit as a result. It’s a fantastic dark ale and I’ll miss it. I also had a tasty gammon steak and a bit of banter with the chef resulted in an extra egg in place of the pineapple and extra chips instead of peas! Winner, winner!
I’m going to post this now as Old Jock is not conducive to accurate typing! See you tomorrow I hope.