Friday, 24 February 2017

Rob Roy Way: Callander to Aberfoyle

Ben Ledi from Callander
Friday, 24 February 2017
15 kilometres
3 hours 10 minutes

A dry morning after storm Doris persuaded me to walk another section of the Rob Roy Way from Callander to Aberfoyle. I ran this route regularly in the 1980's when we lived in Glasgow and came out to see my in laws on Sunday. I had also walked the route in the 1990s with two 11 year olds who were raising money for a Leukaemia charity. The route has become more difficult since then with the growth of newly planted trees and today it was covered in deep wet snow over a path that was part bog.

The walk began at the bridge over the river Teith in Callander and took me to the mini roundabout where the back road runs towards Loch Venachar. The old moss covered stone walls and native woodland make it an attractive amble despite the flooding on the road and the row of caravans at Callander Holiday Park overlooking the road. I stopped at Gartchonzie bridge to watch the gushing Eas Gobhain below the weirs at the exit of the loch. At the outflow of Loch Venachar there are benches that provide a fine view down the loch to the mountains, which were blasted with snow.

The early brightness of the day was turning grey before the rains arrived. A party of volunteers were litter picking and a massive sign had been erected to by the national park to proclaim the newly introduced 'no camping zone'. The Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park has refused to allow new housing, introduced measures that restrict the right to roam and seem to be in hock to hotel owners and tourism chiefs, who are more focused on making money than giving folk the opportunity to enjoy and explore the splendours of the natural environment. John Muir would not have approved, he saw national parks as places for people to engage with the natural environment as well as protecting it from exploitation for profit.

At the east lodge a car park has been constructed and a forestry track climbs steadily through the conifer plantations for about 3 kilometres. By the time I had reached 200 metres in height, the tracks were covered in a wet snow. Passing the small lochan is the high point of the walk, thereafter the Rob Roy Way turns off the track and becomes a boggy narrow path through the forest with burns to cross, tree roots to negotiate. Quite a few trees had blown down in recent high winds and required some tricky diversions. Rain was threatening so I pushed on eventually leaving the forest for a 2 kilometre passage over open moorland with a path that had disappeared into the snow. I was the first walker coming across the Way since the snowfall on Wednesday evening, 36 hours ago.

My aim was the gate into the forest below the Menteirth hills, the snow was less deep here and it was the bogs that slowed me until I alighted onto the forestry track that leads down to Braeval. The path continues along the top of the Aberfoyle golf course, a place with superb views but not today. I dropped down through the golf course and arrived at the village below Dounans camp. I arrived home as the rain began and dosed in the afternoon.

Eas Gobhain below the weirs
Loch Venachar with Ben Venue

Looking north over Loch Venachar to Ben Ledi

The loch an at the top of the route

Slow going in the snow along the boggy path

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