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Where is this?

The Rob Roy Way is a long distance footpath through Scotland's beautiful southern Highlands. It is 79 or 92 miles depending upon your choice of route.

It follows the paths that have been used for centuries and in particular by Rob Roy MacGregor, the famous outlaw who lived in this rugged landscape in the late 17th and early 18th century.

The official Rob Roy Way website.

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The Rob Roy Way, Scotland

Drymen to Aberfoyle

We met in the small village of Drymen, about fifteen miles north of Glasgow, on a drizzly spring evening. Our small but select band had travelled from Canada, Fife, and Dorset, to achieve the hat trick of the third long distance walking route in Scotland- the other two being the West Highland Way and The Great Glen Way.  We enjoyed an excellent meal, with lots of variety for all the different tastes and diets, at the Winnock Hotel, before catching an early night.

loch in rain

The next day, fortified with drinks, snacks and sweets from the corner shop, we set off up the gentle slope out of the village, building up our hill muscles as we went.  After a while, we turned off the road, into the Loch Katrine reservoir estate, where Victorian engineering skills had built a remarkable, and still very much operational, clean water system for the then growing city of Glasgow. Moving along the track, we saw strange dome-like buildings which had been both air shafts, and the places where spoil was extracted during the building process, as well as the impressive Corrie aqueduct, which from the gurgling noises we heard, was evidently still in use.

Our arrival in Aberfoyle, some ten miles and four hours later, was greeted by thundery and threatening skies. We just had time to photograph the two mortsafes at the ruined Kirkton Church- these were heavy cast iron coffins to deter body-snatchers. As the rain started to come down in stair rods, we beat a hasty retreat to Liz McGregor’s café for tea, cake, apple pie, and pancakes, all home made, and just what we needed.  The bed and breakfast was clean, comfortable, and convenient for the village centre, so that we were able to make a number of short excursions to buy postcards, souvenirs, and to replenish our stocks of snacks, without obvious hobbling.

Aberfoyle to Callander

Day 2 dawned and bright and sunny, and after a fortifying meal including porridge, full Scottish breakfasts, and far too many croissants (it was Sunday); we set off along the main street to the far end of the village.  From here we climbed steeply above the Aberfoyle golf course, over the Menteith hills, enjoying fabulous views to the south.  As we made our way uphill, passing endearing flocks of new lambs in the fields on either side, the forest path became increasingly muddy and waterlogged, and we crossed several small streams, until we reached a lochan (small loch), above which was a well positioned picnic table.  The extra effort to climb the mound on which it was situated was well worth while, as the views of Loch Venachar below, and the mountains around, were superb. However, the wind was chilly, so once we had eaten, and replaced our boots and socks, we moved on. 

bullThe forest path, with lots of signs saying “forestry works in progress”, meandered downhill through the privately owned Invertrossachs estate, which came out at one end of Loch Venachar, and we then followed a rather busy minor road alongside the river to Callander.  Along the way, we spotted some delightfully unusual lambs in a nearby filed- if I knew what football team wore white with black stripes, I would say this is where they come for new recruits.

 It had been quite a strenuous day, with ten miles covered, and some steep inclines, so we headed straight for a tea shop, and sampled their range of home made cakes.  Outside, in front of the converted church which is now the Rob Roy Centre, we could see the local dance group displaying their skills, to the sound of traditional bagpipes.  It was a very appropriate end to this section of the route, which was topped off by a delicious meal at a local hotel, The Crags, – melt-in-the-mouth venison pie, locally sourced, and cooked to perfection. 

Calendar to Strathyre

We knew that today would be an easy day, with only nine miles and a good surface, along National Cycle Route 7.  Along the way, we encountered a group of teenagers on bikes, accompanied by some adults, who had disembarked from an Edinburgh City Council van in the car park. By their behaviour when unsupervised, we concluded that they were still in the process of learning to take responsibility for their actions, and had some way to go. We agreed that the scenery, the peace and quiet, and the intermittent rain should have had a calming effect, but did not hold out much hope.

Loch Lubnaig “the loch with a bend” (and it did) was not as reflective as the guidebooks had promised due to the intermittent mist, but did afford a couple of benches for a short break. We passed through an area of special scientific interest, but moved quickly to avoid the flying insects which were far to interested in our skin for comfort.

Although momentarily tempted when passing the starting point for climbing Ben Ledi, one of the Munros, [over 3000ft.] reason prevailed and we were not diverted.  From our guide book, we knew it would take a good four hours, and a lot of energy, which we decided to conserve.  Strathyre itself is in a very attractive setting, although the main road through is quite busy. Our overnight stop was in a delightful bed and breakfast, built into the hillside, with a large, carefully tended garden, and luxurious well appointed rooms. We invited the other guest for that evening to join us for dinner at the local pub, amid much hilarity, which was continued after dinner in the sitting room. Although by now the rain was quite heavy, we were impervious, and retired for a good night’s sleep, in preparation for a longer day.

Strathyre to Killin

The heavy rain did not abate, and it makes you realize why Scotland is so green and lush.  Our landlady’s son kindly led us literally up the garden path, through the gates and into the forest, where we climbed steeply to a forest road.  Once we had thanked him, and were almost breathing normally again, we set off towards Kings House, about three and a half miles away, where we found, in the Rob Roy Bar, a very welcome real fire, [all that wood in the forest] and some delicious coffee and scones. We enjoyed a chat with a couple of motorists, who were amazed at our program, and with whom we discussed the benefits of different kinds of boots and walking poles.  With reluctance, we donned our water proofs again, and set off in the intermittent showers towards Lochearnhead.

glen ogle viaductPart of this track was again shared with Cycle Route 7, which included a restored bridge across a ravine, as well as a viaduct which had been built for the railway, now long abandoned.  The excellent surface of the path above Lochearnhead made up for the steep and zigzag of the climb, while the views down the loch and up into Glen Ogle made all the effort worthwhile.  We came across a number of odd looking rough wooden seats, which were designed for observing wildlife.  Unfortunately, we never managed to get a seat which coincided with a break in the weather, so we just nibbled away at our snacks as we went, until we got to the car park at the far end of Glen Ogle. Despite a promised and publicized tea van, we were disappointed, and had to settle for a short break on a windswept picnic table to ease our feet and share our biscuits.

dochartThe descent into Killin was made in watery sunshine, and was particularly enjoyable as a result of the number of walkers we encountered, and with whom we exchanged chat.  The path led us out onto the main road, and across the Falls of Dochart, for which Killin is rightly famous. The narrow bridge has double yellow lines painted on it, so there must have been people who thought it was a good place to park? Feeling very dishevelled and footsore after twelve miles, we dodged the smart visitors from the tour buses, and headed for our lodgings in a former bank, and a welcome cup of tea.

Killin to Aberfeldy

Having consulted the Ordnance Survey map and the weather forecast, and discussed the steep climb which would have been one of our options, we decided instead to follow the minor road along the south side of Loch Tay.  This was one of the best days of our trip, as it stayed dry and sunny most of the way, the surface was good, and we found another serendipitous stop at the Ardeonaig Hotel, after seven miles, where the excellent and attentive staff provided us with more superb scones and jam, along with a perfect cup of coffee.  When I win the lottery……!

acharnWe broke this section of the trip by arranging for a taxi to pick us up and return us to Killin for the night, and take us back the following day. When we reached the Falls of Acharn, [around 800ft. in ascent] having seen the “hermitage” just below, and speculated on which pool the hermit would use for bathing, we came upon a sign on a gate which said “beware of the bull”. Then we saw the bull, and more to the point, the bull saw us. It did not take long to decide to retrace our steps, and, consulting the map, go back to the road.

As we walked along the side of Loch Tay, we were intrigued to see the local Crannog Centre, complete with a visitor’s centre and reconstructed crannog. These were fortified buildings, built out in the water to protect them from invaders, and looking like round houses. However, we were already behind schedule, so pressed on to Kenmore, and then zigzagged up a narrow road leading to Glen Quaich. Passing a road sign which said, “ this road is not gritted in winter”  made us glad- a) that we were on foot, and b) that it was no longer winter.

The views down across the Tay Valley, with Taymouth Castle [which looks like a real Disney castle, all gothic turrets and battlements] nestling at the foot of wood clad hills, were fantastic –photos can hardly do the grandeur of this scene justice.

Further on, and back in the forest, after some lovely open walking, we encountered a road which had turned more or less to mud for about a mile, which made us glad of our walking poles, as well as our waterproof boots. Getting the mud off them afterwards was another problem altogether.

This had been our longest day so far, with several steep and rough climbs, so we were very glad to see Aberfeldy in the distance, and having the end in sight made the last three miles easier. Our accommodation was just along the road, and we were very glad to rest and refresh ourselves in a beautiful former manse. When we inquired of the locals about good places to eat, we were recommended to the Chilli curry house which served our purposes admirably. It was one of the best curries I, as an experienced consumer, have ever tasted.

Aberfeldy to Pitlochry

Today we decided to follow the cycle path which leads along the south side of the river, towards Grandtully [pronounced “grantly” just to confuse the issue].  The sign posting and local knowledge of this path were somewhat limited, but once we had passed the whisky distillery, we soon found our way. 

This part of the river Tay is used for various rafting, kayaking, and canoeing activities, and we were accompanied by squeals and shrieks of laughter, unseen but coming from a group of young people who were navigating the waterway.  Once the path opened out along a disused railway track, the going got easier, and we were ready for yet another coffee and scone at a tea shop in Grandtully. The scones and cakes, as well as the coffees, are a major feature of these walks, and I am pleased to report that we had excellent examples throughout. This tea shop also sold hand made chocolates, and I bought some as gifts, hoping they would survive five miles in a hot backpack, as well as my long journey south afterwards. [They did!]
Thus fortified, we changed our footwear to sturdier boots, crossed the bridge to Strathtay village and started our climb, again at the side of a golf course. Looking back at the range of mountains, with snow on the top in some sheltered spots, and the valley resting below, we used the frequent photo breaks to catch our breath, and just enjoy the sunshine and the majestic views towards Ben Lawers. In this instance, I can say with conviction, Queen Victoria had good taste in her scenery.

killinI used the map and compass here, to make sure we took the right path across some rough moorland, and we congratulated ourselves for having climbed to 1150ft, and celebrated with a biscuit. We then clambered over yet another ladder style, into the Fonab forest. To my delight, at one side in a woodland glade, we saw the remains of a prehistoric stone circle, and went to pay our respects. What did they use it for? How did they get up here in the first place?

As we came down our final mud and stream covered forest road, Pitlochry lay regally waiting to greet us, bathed in sunshine. We mingled with the crowds around the Festival Theatre, crossed the river Tummel by the 1913 suspension bridge [trying not to rock it, and not succeeding], and reached the Tourist Information Centre in Pitlochry, our destination. After 79 miles, seven days, several good scones, lots of chat and discussion, plenty of fresh air, with rain and sun, often at the same time, only two blisters amongst us, and more fantastic views than we could have imagined, our journey was complete.

May 2009

 

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