The move to Australia is all planned and in motion. Steven goes and then at the end of the week our furniture is collected. Our whole house is going to Perth and all that is left is Samson, a few essentials, and me. I have 9 weeks ahead of me in Scotland, during summer, to make the most of. It would be all too easy to see that time pass over a new TV series or, re-watch all the Marvel productions. Instead I decide to take the opportunity to see Scotland up close and personal. I would hike and walk all over this beautiful country! At least the bits close enough for me to get to and from in a single day. I kept working at the Bakehouse until my last couple of weeks so I couldn’t stray too far!
Planning The Hill Walks
I started with shorter walks and hikes and was building up to conquering Ben Nevis! That was my ultimate goal for those 9 weeks. Gourock is in Inverclyde, a beautiful and luscious part of Scotland. It is situated right on the border of the highlands and lowlands very close to Loch Lomond – which is always picturesque no matter the weather. I was in no short supply of walks to choose to from. I made so much use of walkhighlands website. Thanks to all the contributers who make it easy for people like me to discover some of my new favourite places! I would absolutely recommend this website to anyone who wants to hill walk in Scotland.
Samson and I were no strangers to walking. He comes everywhere with me. Around town, to the park, to the beach, we make it our job to go everywhere! He is a border collie and if you know the breed, you know they need as much exercise as you can muster. He would usually have a couple of walks in day around town but on the days we went for a proper hike, he’d only get one. I always knew when he had enough because he would sleep the whole car ride home.
For those of you dog lovers who might be concerned, rest assured we always stop for lots of water breaks. Samson also has a splash in any stream or body of water safe enough to cool off in! Don’t forget you can follow Samson on insta @samsongetsaround for some extra cute photos of his world.
My pal Mia and her border collie Sonny are keen hillwalkers so whenever our plans aligned we took our adventures together. They’ve become our very good friends and feature in many of our photos. Love to you both!
Oh the views…
In order of first to last these are the hill walks we’ve done during our last 9 weeks in Scotland. The distances I’ve listed are very approximate by the way.
Conic hill (4km)
The effort to reward ratio of this walk is off the charts! The walk was quick and easy whilst the view was absolutely incredible! The whole journey only took an hour and half. That includes gawking at the views from the summit and negotiating with Samson for a photo of the two of us BOTH looking at a camera. As you can see, easier said than done. There are loads of stairs which I love, hate. On the way up they can be exhausting and feel a bit like a stair-climber machine. On the flip side, they are much easier underfoot on the way back down. I would absolutely recommend this walk to anyone who fancies walking for a view!
Greenock Cut (11.5 kms)
This walk is alongside an old viaduct that cuts around the side of the hill. Quite a telling name. I started from Loch Tom and walked around to the Greenock visitor centre, then continued around the backside to Loch Tom making the circuit. It is a very well maintained track and easy walking as it is mostly flat. Samson and I did this one night after work in about 3 hours. One thing I love about Scottish summer is the long daylight hours!
The Whangie (4.5 kms)
We walked through what felt like a meadow on the side of a hill up to the trigg point. Although the summit is at a fairly low altitude, the view surrounding was peaceful and calming. Just watch out for the springtime bog! Samson found it unexpectedly as you can see by his brown legs. After a quick photo taken by kind strangers, we continued on the path until we ran into the whangie. Imagine part of a mountain, made of rock, split into 2. Almost like a miniature canyon. All in all, a pleasurable walk.
Hidden Side of the Falls of Clyde (4.5 kms)
I must admit, this was the first walk I did after I got ‘hiking boots’. I thought it would be a nice short one to starting breaking in the boots. Wrong. We probably walked more like 10 kms this day because I made us take a wrong turn somewhere and we ended up in-between two farms. Luckily, the river was nearby for much of the walk so Samson could go for a dip to cool off a few times and I had an excuse for more pictures! When you go just keep an eye on your directional devices and maybe don’t wear new shoes.
Ben A’an (3.7 kms)
The drive from Inverclyde to Ben A’an was just as gorgeous as the walk itself. This whole day was magic. There were other walkers at the top who managed to get the photo of Samson and I sitting on the true summit. A small rock that protrudes just higher than everything surrounding. Normally we just have a snack at the top and then carry on but I couldn’t resist lingering here. The climb did involve a few big steps up large rocks and interesting bits but nothing that can’t be overcome with a helping hand. Despite being one of the shortest walks, Ben A’an was one of my favourites!
Ben Ledi (10 kms)
Ben Ledi is where I learned what a false summit is. And my goodness do they disappoint! You think to yourself, there’s the summit just there, a few more minutes and we’ll have another break and a snack to take in the view. Then no. You reach the crest only to find you get to do another pep talk for yourself! The cross is a memorial just near the trig point and both are surrounded by spectacular views in all directions. Thank goodness for that!
Ben Arthur – The Cobbler (11 kms)
I feel like The Cobbler was my true initiation as a hill walker. The first 80% of the walk was pouring Scottish rain. The actual summit is up that rock peak which I wasn’t about to navigate on my own, with Samson, in the rain. I had read it is quite a scramble to get up and I didn’t want to risk an injury to doggo just a couple of weeks from him flying overseas. The fog was so thick that there was no view from the highest point we reached, or even half way. I was a bit disappointed that I wasn’t going to see the view from the iconic Cobbler and that we had not truely reached the summit. Despite all of this, the walk was still worth it.
Ben Lomond (12 kms)
I had been looking forward to the Ben Lomond walk for weeks! This Scottish munro is the furthest south of them all and is practically in my back yard. Mia and Sonny had summited Ben Lomond months ago and gave glowing reviews! It was finally our turn to go and it surely did not disappoint. It was a very long haul up the hill but the views are behind you the entire way. Any time you turned around it was breathtaking. One cloud seemed to babysit the summit for our entire ascent. I hoped it would dissipate or blow away but it was committed to staying all day. That last 20 minutes of the walk was absolutely freezing. Everyone seemed to stop at the same point to put on waterproofs going up. Although the view from the summit was pure white, it was still magic. We walked straight into a cloud and if it wasn’t so cold we would have stayed longer!
The Merrick (13 kms)
Of all our walks The Merrick was the most southern, and possibly the most diverse! We walked along the river bank for a while, then passed the Bothy, up through a mossy green glen, through paddocks, over a green hill (another false summit), then the final ascent along an old stone wall. Although they’re not pictured Mia and Sonny were there as well! We all agreed this was the hardest walk of them all. Purely because the incline was so steep and so consistent for so long! The views were stunning and we stayed for lunch at the summit. By the time we drove 2 hours south, walked, and drove home we only had time for dinner and then straight to bed. We were all exhausted!
Ben Nevis (17kms)
This walk was the ultimate goal. The biggie that all the previous walks were building up to. The be all and end all of Samson and my adventures through the Scottish hills. It did not disappoint! My pal Mia and her border collie Sonny had been our adventure buddies throughout the year so it was only fitting that our biggest and our last walk was done side by side with them. We planned to meet at 6:30 for our departure to Fort William. Although neither of us like to be alive at the crack of dawn, we both managed to get there and left on schedule! Now the drive through Glen Coe was a speedy one as we didn’t get trapped behind any tourists… another win! Not to mention some of the most breathtaking landscapes you’ll ever see in your life.
We started our walk around 9:30 up ‘the mountain path’. For those unfamiliar, this is basically the tourist route where one can safely ascend and descend without a guide, and in summer, without relying on too much equipment. We each had a day pack with the essentials like water and snacks plus a couple of emergency type things like wipes and band aids. Nothing too wild but we were going to do this comfortably. The first third of the walk is through the glen on a very well kept track of mostly large stone steps. Luscious green surrounds and plenty of sheep to pique the dog’s interest. Given the amount of rain that had come down the previous two days, and while we were walking, there was no shortage of burns for the dogs to get a drink and splash about.
The next third brought the halfway waterfall – ‘Red Burn’ and halfway loch – ‘Meall and t-suidhe’. A lovely couple asked us if they were close to the loch or if we knew whereabouts it was. We never saw it until our return journey when we realised we were practically right next to it before! The fog prohibited us from seeing that it was only a tiny short detour off the main path to the summit. After this section you come to the zig zags which seem gruelling at every second turn. On the zigs the weather was right in our faces freezing our foreheads where the zags allowed for a slight reprieve. As you climb the track becomes entirely grey and you’re walking through volcanic rock. It’s very uneven and slips under foot so you tend to look at your feet while you’re moving.
Eventually you come to a series of cairns which mark the otherwise vague path to the summit. Arriving via The Mountain Path you see two sheer faces on the left which are quite terrifying and yet amazing to look down into… from a safe distance away.
The next thing you see is the observatory followed by that ever desired trig point marking the fact that you made it!
The descent took us only half as much time as going up. After a strenuous effort to get to the top we were sweaty underneath our rain coats so stopping quickly for breaks quickly brought on that cold freezing feeling. We kept up a decent pace and kept our eye on the prize… a pint and a warm meal at the pub. The fog had lifted a few hundred metres so we were granted a few extra views on the way down. That lovely loch revealed itself as well as a few extra waterfalls we hadn’t been privy to before.
These little delights made the descent seem easy and in no time we could see the kissing gate where we first began our journey. After a quick car park change into dry clothes we were off to the pub with our soggy doggies and warm fingers! We felt we had earned a pint and a wee rest of the legs before we jumped back in the car for the three hour car ride back home.
The Beauty Never Ends In Scotland
We did a few other walks that were more about scenery than conquering hill tops. Some of the most incredible land I have ever seen is so easily accessible. I could have stayed for hours at any of these places just to take it all in. (More on these later)
- Devil’s Pulpit
- Falls of Falloch
- Kilchurn Castle and Loch Awe
- Cornalees Nature Trail
- Pucks Glen
- Bracklinn Falls
Have you done any of these walks? I’d love to hear your stories! Also, if you have any recommendations for your favourite walks send them my way!