Thursday, 23 November 2017

Rob Roy Way: Strathyre to Callander

The start of the section at Strathyre
Thursday, 23 November 2017
16 kilometres, 3 hours 10 minutes

My attempt to walk the Rob Roy Way has been abysmal. I started about 4 years ago and completed the fifth section today(Two more to go). I treat it as something to do on the odd half day when I do not have the inclination to go hill walking. I had a dreadful winter cold and cough and had been struggling to summon the energy to even walk to the shops. I had spent a few days moping about the house and sorting out accounts and watching the budget. The early morning fog had cleared to reveal  a good dump of snow down to about 400 metres on Ben Lomond. I needed a walk so drove to Callander and caught a bus to Strathyre so that I could walk back the 16 kilometres to Callander along the west side of Loch Lubnaig. It was 12:15pm before I started the walk by the newly refurbished Munro Hotel.

The low angle of the sun meant that most of the walk would be in shadow but the compensation would be the scintillating views across the loch. The primary school at Strathyre was undergoing a major refurbishment. It had been one of the better primary schools with about 40 pupils and excellent staff. It had taken a lot of effort to close the nearby Lochearnhead Primary School that had only 7 pupils, most had already elected to go the Strathyre. What should have been a logical and straightforward decision was delayed unnecessaily by the new Scottish Government in 2007. They believed that all schools should stay open and that decisions like this could be centralised with little understanding of the local issues such as the inclination of the hedteacher to retire.

The narrow road leaving Strathyre passes a lot of former Forestry Commission houses, some of which had been extensively modernised, others lay empty. Eventually the cycle and footpath leave the road and by a series of zig zags descend to the old railway track. Most of the going from here is relatively flat as you pass Laggan House, where a lot of construction is taking place. A micro hydro scheme has been installed and the generator was buzzing. I had estimated about 3 hours for the walk and was halfway through before passing the first person, a teenager who was pedalling his mountain bike at speed from the south. The sun had diappeared for a while but reappeared to spotlight the opposite shore of the loch where Ardchullarie House stood proud. This was where Jim Kerr of Simple Minds and Patsy Kensit had lived in the late 1980's.

I was halfway along and the path on the former railway line that cuts through the conifer plantations with a dogged monotony. As I approached the Forest Holiday chalets, 44 of them, the pedestrian traffic increased with dog walkers taking their afternoon stroll in the sharp winter sunshine. A couple of profesional dog walkers from Glasgow told me that they came every year, loved the location but felt it was becoming too corporate with prices to match. The cafeteria welcomed passing visitors and the offerings were tempting but I didn't need any refreshments.

It was still a couple of kilometres to the Stank from where the path to Ben Ledi starts. I scanned the snowline above and decided not today. I continued along the footpath to Kilmahog realising that I would pass the Lenny Falls. Although I have lived, walked, cycled and run in the area for 30 years I had never been to see them. The river was in full flow and the falls impressive as they gouged their way through the rock bands. Approaching Kilmahog I was feeling the effects of the walk but I managed to keep a decent pace across the meadows to Callander. I had organised a charity run along this section many years ago but like all of the path from the Forest chalets south it was now a tarmac trail, easier to maintain but less forgiving on the feet.

It was just after 3pm as I entered Callander. Two Police Scotland vehicles with four officers were patrolling the car park for what reason I could not fathom, it was fairly empty apart from a mother and her children feeding the ducks. When policing was local it would have been a foot patrol but nowadays Police Scotland are for most of the time a absent concept and when on a rare visit they are hermetically sealed from the local population by their vehicles. I have seen few if any benefits from the creation of a national police force. The police have lost their former close relationship with communities that was the essence of effective policing. Instead the closure of local offices, putting officers in cars, driving with sirens blazing, arming an increasing numbers of officers and getting rid of civilians from back offices has not endeared them to the public, local or national politicians. All of which was predicted when the changes were mooted. The Police Board have not exactly distinguished themselves and they seem to be trapped between the extensive operational powers of the Chief Constable(s) who rotate as quickly as their local superindendents at the Council level and the interference from the Scottish Government.

I strolled down Callander main street aware that it has lost much of its former charm since it was absorbed into the National Park. The woollen mills and charity shops in the main street, the loss of many local shops and the Royal Bank and the decrepid state of many commercial buildings have damaged the viability and vitality of the town. The steady stream of commercial and tourist traffic on the A84 heading north to places that have exploited their attractions with more finesse is a warning that has not been heeded by either businesses or the National Park. The investments by the NHS in a new Health Centre, together with the Council's refurbishment of primary and high schools, a new sports centre and a new cemetery are the only signs of progress in the town.

Forgotten logs

Loch Lubnaig from north

Across Loch Lubnaig to Stuc a' Chroin

Ardchullarie House

Looking back up Loch Lubnaig frpm south

Beinn Each and Ardchullarie More

First snow

Forestry Chalets

Lenny Falls

Kilmahog crossing

Callanader Meadows

No comments:

Post a Comment