Our two centre trip to Scotland started with train journey to Perth, changing at Edinburgh Waverley. We picked up two mini-buses at Perth and headed for Aberfeldy where our bunkhouse was based. From Aberfeldy, we left the town via a picturesque narrow bridge across a river, shortly to turn off along a long unmade zigzag route up to the top of a long hill to our accommodation for the next few days — and what a view when we got there! Besides the amazing view from our accommodation, we found it generally well kept with a well-appointed kitchen. Our cooks, led by Nigel produced a nice meal with salmon. That evening Andrew, helped by feedback from others, proposed a schedule for the following two days.
For our first day, Andrew suggested a circular walk in the morning, with the waterfall in the afternoon, saving the all day walk for the following day. This met our approval and at round about ten we left, walking partly through coniferous forests, but branched off at one point to see a small lake. At one point, we were a bit uncertain as to exactly where we were, but then took remedial action striking initially along a faint path leading downhill through woodland. Back at The Bunkhouse, we had lunch. For the afternoon, we drove into Aberfeldy for the waterfall walk. One thing that we must have all noticed fairly quickly, is the relative lateness — some two to three weeks — of the season. The trees were mostly in winter garb and the daffodils, which were very numerous, were at their peak. The waterfalls were not as dramatic as they might have been though. I’m sure it is because Scotland was having less than average rainfall for the time of year. Af-ter reaching the top waterfall, we then descended on the other side before returning to our vehicles at the bottom. Afterwards, we walked around the town, some of us visited the old watermill and bookshop, and above all — the café there!
Saturday was to be the Ben Lawers (a Munro) day, because there was supposed to be some sunshine and not much precipitation. However, the forecast was for quite chilly and windy weather with snow showers. We decided to try to get to the summit, although some decided (in hindsight a better choice), to stick to trails below the snow line. When we got to the first snowy bump, we found a sheltered spot for a lunch stop, just in time to see the cloud lifting over the lake. We then continued a bit further up the mountain when Andrew decided we needed to turn back, as conditions were decidedly uncomfortable. On returning to the carpark, we found that the 3 who stuck to the trail below the snowline had actually climbed higher than we had and in much better conditions.
In the afternoon, we went to Kenmore at the northern end of Loch Tay. Viewed across the width of the loch is a full-size reconstruction of an Iron Age crannog (above). By the time we reached close prox-imity to it, the adjacent visitors’ centre was closed.
Sunday, we drove to Glen Lyon, roughly similar direction to previous day, but slightly further on. We noted a teashop/café shortly before our carpark, where we started our walk. This route seemed characterized by wooden bridges and planks, not always in the best condition. There were a few unusual plants here. We proceeded through mixed woodland before descending, reaching a road dropping downhill with a river on the left. We could in any case just follow the road down to the carpark, but Andrew thought it a good idea to cross the river and make our way down on that side. However, wherever we looked, crossing the river seemed too difficult, so we made our way down the road straight to the café we had noted earlier. After that, we left to go along Glen Lyon with its beautiful scenery. On the way back, we visited one of Britain’s oldest yew trees, at Fortingall. Modern experts date this tree between 2,000 — 3,000 years old. The highlight of the meal this evening was the haggis.
Monday, we waved goodbye to the Bunkhouse and headed to Glencoe for the second half of the trip. Our journey from Aberfeldy on to Glencoe took us past Loch Tay with a coffee stop at Killin and a chance to see the fine rapids on the river there. Went on to Auchtertyre where most of us did 2 miles of the West Highland Way to Tyndrum in warm sunshine! We had lunch at Tyndrum services with a surprising scarcity of tour buses! We were now joined by Lorraine as we continued across Rannoch Moor and down through the magnificent Glencoe to the visitor centre. Booked in to the SYHA hostel, quite a spacious building and not too crowded as it was the last night for most visitors. Finally we drove back to Ballahulish to join Lorraine and dine at the fish & chip restaurant there. There was a fine sunset over Loch Leven as we returned to the hostel.
Tuesday, we drove up to a car park halfway up Glencoe for a walk to the ‘Hidden valley’. First we descended to cross the river gorge by a footbridge, then steeply up with the help of some fixed cables. Continued along the steep path until we were above the ‘Hidden valley’. Had our lunch before we descended into it, an extensive flat area. Across the far side we found a path continuing up to the head of the valley. Andrew, Tim, Keith, Valerie and Ann climbed right up to the snowline, while others of us turned back at various different levels. Eventually we made our way back down through the boulder field and up to the car park. Then we drove down to a craft/teashop in Glencoe village before returning to the hostel, some of us walking along the quiet road from the village. Later our chefs cooked a delicious evening meal out of the remaining food.
Wednesday, we drove further west across the Ballahulish Bridge to the Corran ferry. After the short crossing we continued along Glen Tarbut to Strontian (gave its name to the element discov-ered here) for the Strontian Valley Nature Trail. Followed it, crossing the river twice, up to the site of the former lead mines. We had our lunch in sunshine with views of distant peaks. We had a look at a small gorge with waterfalls before walk-ing back Found a nice café for tea, then it was time to drive back. No queue again at the ferry, so we were soon back at Glencoe. Then we prepared ourselves for the evening meal at the famous Clachaig Inn. A short walk away, this old mountain hostelry with an ice axe for a door handle and many old photos of famous climbers made a suitable venue for our last night out.
Our last day! (but not for every-one) Made an early start, just after 8.00, for our journey home, driving up Glencoe to the ‘Green Welly’ at Tyndrum for breakfast. Continued to Crianlarich, down the impressive Glen Ogle and along Loch Earn. At Crieff, intending to buy An-drew a bottle of whisky, we came across a fasci-nating old shop with a marvellous choice of spirits.
William and Barry