About the Loon

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A happy chap who likes a walk every now and then

Sunday, 14 June 2015


Oban to Stonehaven, hopefully...

 I decided Oban would be the start point this year as it looked like a nice easy start to break ourselves in, Susan had never walked this far before and I haven't been to Oban in 30 odd years. The rest of the route was also planned out to be on the easy side, just as well really, our training had been very limited,  in Susans case, very very limited, mainly due to work.  If i was being honest, I wasn't overly confident of both of us making it. So not the ideal frame of mind and not the ideal preparation,  what could possibly go wrong...

We're off

Aberdeen to Oban on the train is a bit of a trek and it was a relief to eventually arrive. The few hours spent in the Scot Rail (or whatever they're called this week) cooncil class seats between Glasgow and Oban nearly required an erse cheek rebuild. Nice scenery mind.

The guesthouse in Oban (Corriemar) was perfect and right next to the sign out point, we checked in and headed off to spend the afternoon and evening checking out the local establishments of ill repute and having a really fine pasta meal (Professional training at last) down by the harbour.

Day 1
Oban to Caolasnacon (via Lismore island)
13 miles

We woke to a cracking still morning, but with a crisp frost (the last of the year nae doot...) whitening the ground outside. The view at breakfast was worth the train journey, and the black pudding was worth the room price. 

Not a breath of wind as we wandered down to the ferry port

The ferry coming into Oban to collect the six or so challengers that were eagerly awaiting the 40 minute trip to Lismore

Lismore was a very easy, enjoyable walk, we even bumped into and had a quick chat with Cameron McNeish and his crew, much to Susans delight.

The Calmac ferry leaving Lismore for it's return trip to Oban. 

 Five or six odd miles later and its time for another ferry (during rush hour), Lismore to Port Appin this time

 and we were back on the mainland in time for lunch. 

A couple of road miles and we crossed the fancy new bridge, well its new to me, I'm sure it was a scabby old thing when I passed here a couple of years back.

After crossing the bridge we got straight onto the old railway line/cycle path and wandered along for a few miles, eventually we made it to the Creagan Inn, just in time for supper, the food was okay, we were hungry, the beer was cold, we were thirsty, a few miles further on we reached the Glasdrum nature reserve in Glen Creran for our planned overnighter.

We ended up with a nice pitch, a decent distance up the hill, en suite,  running water and a bench for breakfast, I suspect it was also a popular abode for the locals as well, we didn't find this out until the next evening when we discovered we owned a tent full of ticks, a couple of which had taken a liking to my nether regions. 

Made it through day 1 without mishap, It had been a nice, very flat andeasy day to break us in.


Day 2
Glasdrum to Caolasnacon
14.5 miles

The day dawned looking like it was going to be a scorcher

Another couple of miles alongside Loch Creran to start the day.

A new pal

At Elleric we entered the forestry section and begun a long steady climb up hill on forresty tracks.

The views were very pleasant

It was a long climb in rather warm conditions,  but a long climb deserves a long lunch, boots off and feet in the ice cold burn revitilised the old trotters.

It seems I forgot (not for the last time either) to mention that there was still a wee climb to do until we made the belach, a short, sharp, cheeky wee number it was too.

The expensive, designer water bottle had had a few refills by this stage, I think that bottle actually lasted for the whole walk, not to shabby

Going over the top the path was ok and well defined, then it either disapeared, or more likely, we lost it on the decent down into Gleann an Fhiodh, Susan had been diagnosed with a piece of bone floating in her knee about 3 weeks before the start, and really didn't enjoy the decent.

Another 5 minute chill out break at the bottom, although going by the expression,  I must have just made one of my kind and compassionate comments

Ballachulish for the shinty,  we were both really puggled by this stage and I had thoughts of finding somewhere near by to doss down for the night.

But an ice lolly and a tin of juice revived us enough to wander along to Glencoe village for a decent feed.

The gathering was just what the doctor ordered, good food and drink. Unfortunately the surcharge for using a bank card left a sour taste and stopped me leaving a tip, either that or I am a tight fisted Aberdonian (no comments required, thank you)

The climbing wasn't finished though, after leaving Glencoe village we cut up and along side the Pap of Glen Coe to get to Caolasnacon,  in hindsight I should have gone the long way around, on the road, the path became really horrible, especially the down section at the Caolasnacon end and Suz was really suffering with her feet today and our mantra "slow and steady" was born. 

The early evening views over Loch Leven were cracking though.

It was a relief finally getting off the path and arriving at the camp site, the rain came on just as we got the tent up, Susan got her boots off to find a large blister underneath her big toe nail, ouch, we drained and dressed it, although I wasn't overly confident what condition it would be in tomorrow.

Two days done, still going, Slow and Steady

Minging trotter picture below, proceed with caution

Thursday, 11 June 2015

Eating and Drinking across Scotland 2015

Finished the TGO on the Tuesday, signed in at Montrose on the Wednesday, unpacked on Thursday, re-packed on Friday and drove to Brecon on Saturday, 15 bloody hours, at 50 mph (downhill in a tailwind), alone and with no working radio, for a couple of weeks hard graft with work. This is the first time ive been able to attend to the traditional post walk ramblings,  Phone signals and internet coverage will get to South Wales eventually I presume. Just need to get around to doing the trip report thing now, maybe...

But this year we did our utmost to ensure every local buisness we passed had a profitable May, so I though a wee bit of blurb on the delights of the Scottish hospitality industry might be a good start point.

Glasgow Thursday 7th.

The Counting house, George Sq.
Thankfully just an hour to kill between arriving from Aberdeen and departing for Oban, a swift (apart from the 5 minute wait to get served in an empty bar, i think we were a bit of an inconvenience to the bar staff tbh) guinness and a red wine that was honking and left 3/4 full. 3/10

Oban , Thursday 7th.

The Corryvreckan, Oban
Very friendly staff, £1.99 for a very nice pint of Orkney Brewery dragonhead, im told the pimms was excellent too, it didn't last long anyway.7/10

Piazza, Oban.
Again very nice, friendly staff, great pasta and a very fine house red, decent price too 8/10

Corriemar guesthouse, Oban.
Excellent, comfortable, friendly and next to the sign out hostel, a decent price and a large varied breakfast selection, black pudding was a winner,  a good choice 7/10

Day 1. Friday 8th

Creagan Inn & Restaurant, middle of nowhere
Staff friendly, drink - good, food - filled a hole, maybe a tadge pricey for what it was, maybe im being harsh. 6/10

Day 2. Saturday 9th.

The Gathering, Glencoe village.
We both really enjoyed our late (and large) lunch with drinks, so much so I had a fiver ready for the tip (a fiver from an Aberdonian is a big deal) then we were informed of a £2 service charge for paying by card, the fiver went back in the pocket. Service charge my arse. Food and drink 7/10. service charge 0/10

Day 3. Sunday 10th

The Tailrace Inn, Kinlochleven.
Really hammering down with rain, so we decided the huge "open all day for breakfast,  lunch and dinner" banner was calling us, except  it wasnt actually open for anything, another sign spotted on the bar door said "open at 12", well it was 10 past 12 and it stil wasn't open, so back on with the bergans,  just as some lights came on, too late, they had they're chance. 0/10

The Ice Factor, Kinlochleven.
Just a short wander along the road to a very nice cafe inside the climbing centre, two huge, afy afy tasty bacon rolls and a lovely big cup of coffee was just what was required before the climb up to blackwater dam. Friendly staff and an outdoor shop to buy some more gear you dont really need if required. 7/10.

Day 5. Tuesday 12th

Dalwhinnie bunkhouse.  Dalwhinnie.
Due to losing 3/4 of a day (day 3) after being unable to cross a river near the blackwater dam, we had to do catchup and pushed long and hard to make dalwhinnie from Ossian on day 5,  eventually crawling in the door of the bunkhouse at 1900hrs, cold, wet, blistered and exhausted to a fantastic reception, heat, beer and good wholesome food, plus a warm bed and hot shower. Breakfast the next morning kept us going all day. Little extras like paper for boots, resupply parcels in rooms and offering to do a laundry make this place the star of the crossing.   10/10

Day 7 Thursday 14th

Kincraig post office. Kincraig.
One of those, really really tired mornings, we hadn't had a breakfast and after walking for a couple of hours we were both really quite puggled and it was only 0900ish.  The PO loomed ahead and the coffee sign drew us in, who knew a post office could raise morale so,  the hot counter had two sausage rolls left, with two smelly hikers and three smelly builders all drooling, a great piece of feminine guile ensured one was snaffled for the smelly hikers to share while sitting on the bench outside with a nice cup of coffee. 8/10 (6/10 if the builders had been quicker on the sausage roll snatch)

Roo's Leap, Aviemore
First stop as it was too early to check in across the road, guiness was good, food (fancy burger) was big and tasty, staff excellent, not to bad price wise considering the location. 7.5/10

The Cairngorm, Aviemore
Nice bar, huge room (biggest bed in the world), very friendly staff, no airs and graces, free wifi, fine evening meal and a big tasty breakfast. Very happy with the stay 8/10

Day 10, Sunday 17th

The Barrel, Ballater.
Arrived in town early and it seemed the only place open, If you've ever seen the American werewolf in London film,  the opening scenes must have been filmed in here, swiftly drank our drinks and headed to the alexandra. 2/10 (gains 2 for being open).

The Alexandra, Ballater.
Excellent lunch (we even returned for an excellent supper), fantastic staff and a really good vibe about the place, wish we had booked a room (see next review) 9/10

The Deeside inn, Ballater.
Not really impresed, staff ok, room ok, breakfast not what was ordered, no coffee refill, very very slow, I nearly walked out it was that long in arriving and a surchage for using a card to pay over 100 pound bill, ridiculous,  not recommended I'm afraid. 4/10

Day11, Monday 18th.

Lord Kinord Hotel, Dinnet.
We will be eternally grateful to the three lads that tipped us the wink that Dinnet was the place for scones (scottish pronunciation pleeeaase), we would have wandered by otherwise.  Just as the rain came on we arrived, uber friendy, very comfortable sitting room, and scones, cream and jam to die for. Ive driven past the hotel hunners of times, I'll never pass again without stopping.  9/10

The Boat, Aboyne.
Friends have mentioned it before but we had never been, the weather was shit and it was lunch time, the guiness, soup and crayfish sandwiches were just the morale booster required. Very nice bar/restaurant and again as with most places on the crossing the service was excellent. 8/10

Day 12, Tuesday 19th.

The Ship Inn, Stonehaven.
After another 20 plus mile day, a pint or two of Guinness at journeys end seemed a fair reward before our lift home (with a fine Aberdeen Chinese carry oot in hand) appeared, . No complaints 7/10

It seems I lost some weight this year, unlike last, hard to believe really. Is it possible to cross while passing a pub/restaurant everyday?