Having settled down to watch some of the Olympics after breakfast it was a thought to get going! Not a great start to my first day on the Rob Roy Way, let alone the longest one! However, 3 miles in and I had mercifully found my running legs again.
Setting off from Drymen, the route initially follows the West Highland Way path along a minor road. I’d forgotten that this is a gentle ascent, maybe just as well as it was a ‘treat’ for the legs starting the day like this!
Within a couple of miles I saw my first sign for the Rob Roy Way, the West Highland Way heading off in another direction. This was the start of good signage at most key points.
Beyond the West Highland Way
Until this point, I’d passed quite a few folks laden down with rucksacks. Beyond this, I met more cyclists than cars, both at a premium. The route continued to follow a very minor road and I bimbled along happily.
A little further on I came upon the next sign, now diverting me off the road. I was a little disappointed as I’d been enjoying the descent.
I very much enjoyed the scenery around me, lots of wild flowers growing along the edges of the road with buzzing around them.
The road became fire road beyond this, a very good track following close to the Aqueduct. This began to climb again, the good track making this manageable. I met few people; strangely, for those I did meet their voices carried in the silence and I’d hear people approaching long before seeing them.
Further on the descent began, heading down into Aberfoyle.
I was very happy to see the village appear, my light breakfast beginning to tell (sadly no porridge on offer today).
Aberfoyle: Halfway Cake Stop
I made the decision to stop for a cup of tea and some cake; justification: I am after all on holiday. This short, 20 minute sit down, was enough to leave me feeling refreshed and ready to continue onwards.
Lost: Not the Best Start to Part 2!
Setting off on a good path behind the tourist information centre I was happy. My legs felt good and the path made for easy running.
After just over a mile though, I realised I may be on the wrong route! Double checking (thanks Bruce for downloading the route on the Garmin) I found I’d gone too far and had to retrace my steps.
No harm done, aside from an extra mile or so, I found my way onto the correct path and proceeded to begin the climb out of Aberfoyle.
Up, Up, Up
I enjoyed the views looking back on this section of the route but found the climbs tiring. As predicted by the weather forecasters, the sun had broken through by this time and it was getting hot! Thankfully I was clarted in Factor 50!
The tree line was useful in identifying where the ascent would level out and I moved between walking and running as was my want.
Further on, the path narrowed to a single track. This was overgrown in places with ferns needing trodden out of the way, pines scratching me and some stones and boulders underfoot. Again, this necessitated a walk, primarily to avoid tripping. On the upside, the path opened up as I progressed and the feeling of being in the wild was wonderful.
This section has the potential to be boggy, but with the dry spell of late was blessedly dry; the worst I encountered was a very easily passed puddle. This made me happy, alongside the little burn crossings that were also extremely easy!
I can’t recall the distance I’d travelled prior to the gate that heralded the sheep grazing area that is Glenny Hill. This was a really pretty section of the route initially, lush and green.
It was also where the temperature picked up as any tree cover disappeared, leaving me exposed to the sun as the cloud further cleared. The path deteriorated and this reduced me to a walk once more. I feel there’s a bit of a theme emerging!
Out the gate at the end of the sheep area, no sheep seen but their presence apparent on the track, the path widened once more, initially with further ascent.
What Goes Up Must Come Down
Finally the track began to descend again and the views opened up to the lochan below. This was a very welcome relief.
There were also views down to Loch Venachar, a substantial loch that had attracted many.
Continuing down towards Lochan Balloch, I stopped to admire the view. The lochan was beautiful in the sunlight, the lilies growing on the water, the lovely yellow flowers becoming clearer the closer I got.
Revitalised by the stunning landscape, it was a real pleasure to then begin a proper ascent towards Callander. Reaching the eastern shores of Loch Venachar sadly meant running along a minor road again. This had signs suggesting it was ‘people and cyclist friendly’ alongside a 30 mph speed limit. Suffice to say, I’m happy I was on foot as I don’t fancy my chances on a bike. I stepped off the road onto what little verge there was to avoid the odd car but aside from one they lacked the manners to acknowledge this.
Open Garden (CHAS Fundraiser)
To lift my spirits once again, I stumbled upon some older ladies wearing CHAS t-shirts. On stopping to chat I discovered it was an open garden event, raising funds for CHAS. https://www.chas.org.uk/?fbclid=IwAR0qUJoDQ4QoiDsCUNX1PoNGdq7hulYh97jmRcKu15kMMAZ1c3jQWy2VBqs
For a donation, there was the opportunity to peruse the garden before relaxing to enjoy some live music. Were it not for the charitable element I may have felt a little guilty stopping with only a couple of miles to go! However, the garden was gorgeous and the whole experience added to the pleasure of the day. Unable to buy plants – I wasn’t convinced they’d fare well with the baggage carriers – I instead took lots of photos for inspiration on return home.
The ladies at the ‘teas’ were lovely and welcoming, keen to ply me with goodies. I settled for juice and lemon drizzle cake, disappointing them with my reluctance to indulge in more. I could happily have demolished lots but wasn’t sure how I’d get on further down the road!
I’m so glad that I did stop. Sitting outdoors, chatting to strangers and listening to live music courtesy of Garbh Uisge (or two thirds of them) was such a special part of the day. It’s these impromptu things that make a journey such as this so memorable.
The Final Haul
Leaving the garden – let’s be honest, reluctantly, but in fear my legs might seize up if I stayed much longer – I headed back onto the road for a short distance. I was very tempted to join those paddling in Loch Venachar; the only thing that prevented me was the stony shore – had it been sandy I’d have been in! The road section was short-lived and led onto a good track – back to my happy place (at least while it was flat)!
A short distance along, the mpath met the road and I bumped into a gentleman I’d chatted to in the garden. He advised there were a few options: continue on the road, cut through the caravan park, or go up the way I was headed. The ‘up’ was yet more single track, pretty rough at that, and he said the only people he’d seen on it were mountain bikers. That said, it did appear to be the ‘correct’ path, so up I went, slowing to a walk pretty swiftly.
It was a great relief to reach the top and another good track. This time it led all the way down towards Callander (and more food).
And relax …
Having checked into my hotel for the night, coffee called and I found myself a wee cafe up a lane enjoying a well earned latte and bacon roll.
Showered, fed and watered, I’m feeling pretty good all things considered. The profile of the second part of the route has made me realise why it felt harder. Alongside the terrain that was tough work.
Just shy of 22 miles for the day overall, I’ll be glad of my bed tonight! Cheers!