I left Chester at noon on Monday 17th October and as I reached the Scottish Border the weather had dramatically changed with heavy rain and high winds. At the back of 3pm I was in Hawick and calling to see my friend Allan Graham and his wife Dot. Dot makes wonderful sandwiches. After an enjoyable “catch up” I left at 5.30pm and I was bound for Cardrona to stay for a few days with my friends Andrea and Martin Brown.
Tuesday was a wet morning so it was a run in the car to check out Glentress mountain bike trails and to check as to hiring a mountain bike. The facilities are first class and we have coffees in the new café area. Glentress is probably the best biking centre in the UK with over 73km of purpose built trails that cater for all abilities. We then took a run to Innerleithen and drove up the Leithen Valley and continued on the B709 until we where able to see Edinburgh and the Pentland Hills in the distance.
Wednesday was a nice sunny morning after a frosty night (the first frost of the oncoming winter) and at 9am we are away to Traquair and the start of our walk to Minch Moor 567m. We reached the top at 11am and we saw snow on the mountain tops in the distance. For a time we were on The Southern Upland Way (a challenge for the future!). At the back of 1pm we had lunch in Innerleithen before tackling Lee Pen 502m and reaching the top at 3pm with lovely views all around. We continue along the ridge and drop back down into Cardrona at 4.30pm. A most enjoyable day on the hills.
It was another frosty night and on Thursday I am bound for Glentress and my 4 hour mountain bike session. I started at 12.50pm and finished at 4.45pm having successfully done the Green Trail and with some stops also the Blue Trail. This proved to be very demanding with some steep climbs and some wonderful fast and twisting down hill sections. Not for wimps!! I was well pleased with my performance but to attempt the Red Trail I would need to acquire a lot more skills.
Friday 21st October saw me leaving my friends and I was bound for the Moorfoot Hills where I did Windlestraw Law 659m (2,162ft), Broomy Cleuch 657m and Glede Knowe 591m in two and a half hours. Had it been a nicer day with better visibility I would have loved to have got to the top of more hills in the area. It was dry but strong winds battered me on the tops and ridges. The Moorfoot Hills are a range of hills south of Edinburgh in east central Scotland, and are one of the ranges which collectively form the Southern Uplands. The Hills run from Peebles, Scottish Borders, in a north easterly direction to Tynehead, Midlothian. The highest of the Moorfoot Hills is Windlestraw Law.
For many a year I had wanted to call to say hello to Stewart McCullum who I knew still lived in Penicuik but alas I had never been able to find him. On this occasion I had more time and I drove around the various streets until I found Waukmill Drive. Stopping my car and walking down to a garage where I did spot a gentleman working, I immediately recognised Stewart (he had not changed – other than like myself - had “matured”) and within seconds of me saying hello, he knew who I was. Perhaps it was around 1984 (near 30 years ago!!) since we last worked together? Patsy, his lovely wife, took us in for coffee and we spent a couple of hours going over old times and what former colleagues we were still in touch with, etc. We will meet again in 2012 on one of my trips to Scotland and have a few pints.
I then went to see my friend Doreen O’Neill who was my next door neighbour when I lived in Penicuik and who I have always kept in touch with and visited on a number of occasions. Doreen was busy catching up, her daughter Lesley and family had been on holiday with her and they had left the day before. Doreen showed me her new laptop, she was now “online” and enjoying the internet and e-mails. As usual I had a lovely coffee, with Doreen bringing me up to date with her active life, family and holiday locations. Doreen left me with a wonderful quote – “Old Age ain’t for wimps!”
I was now bound for The Kingdom of Fife and Inverkeithing where I was to stay in a B&B for two nights as I hoped to walk a further two sections of The Fife Coastal Path and catch up with Wendy Smith a friend I used to curl with in Edinburgh. It was a 7am breakfast start on Saturday morning and then a drive to Crail and at 10am I was on the coastal path. On the whole it was a good walking day with periods of sunshine as I made my way along this very special coastline. Can I warn readers that this is a very demanding walk with lots of steps along the way. Make sure you also check the tides. The tide was out thus enabling me to walk on many of the beaches and watch many Saturday golfers on three pristine courses as I made my way to St Andrews. This is a wonderful walk and the high light of the day was watching gannets dive, so skillfully, to catch fish. At 4pm I arrived in the town centre (what a lovely location) where Wendy was kind enough to pick me up and take me back to my car in Crail and then catch up on what we both had been up to. Wendy is still very much involved in curling but like me is enjoying retired life and is heading for a holiday in Canada in November.
On Sunday it is another 7am breakfast at Inglewood Guest House where I did enjoy my stay, the accommodation and excellent breakfasts. Getting breakfast at 7am was also much appreciated. I drove to North Queensferry to have a look at the two bridges and the start of the first section of The Fife Coastal Path. The early morning darkness was fast receding and as it was turning out to be a nice morning I decided to return to The Pentland Hills to try to do a few more of these very special hills. At 9.30am I have parked and I am on my way to climb Castlelaw Hill 488m, it is then onto Fala Knowe 439m and up to Allermuir Hill at 493m and wonderful views over Edinburgh and in the distance The Kingdom of Fife. It was then along the ridge to Caerketton Crags and Hill 460m before retracing my route back to Allermuir Hill. It was a steep drop and then up to Capelaw Hill 454m where two vertical metal rods marked the top. It was now 12.30pm and my target of Black Hill at 501m, the highest point of my walk, seemed a long distance away. In between were Harbour Hill 421m and Bell’s Hill 406m and then a steep long slope up to Black Hill and with some fast walking and the odd trot I was there by 2pm - beyond my wildest dreams. It must have been the porridge with honey and cream I had for breakfast!! Descending Black Hill on a good track there are lovely views of Glencourse Reservoir in the distance. Gask Hill 412m is on your right as you continue to make your decent and then you meet a tar macadam road that leads you back to Flotterstone where I arrived at 3.15pm. I stopped at Flotterstone Inn for a bite to eat.
I was then on my way to stay with my sister Anne and her husband Tam for a few days and hopefully if the weather permitted I would get a couple of Munros climbed. On Tuesday I got to the top of Ben Ghlas 1,103m and Ben Lawers 1,214m (10th highest Munro) with strong wind and low cloud. This is a 10.5km (6.5miles) walk with an ascent of around 968m. I marked my way to the top as I knew I would be returning by the same route as it would have been silly to attempt more mountains in an area that was totally new to me. Ben Lawers is the highest point of a long ridge that includes seven Munros and it was ever so tempting to have gone further but due to severe weather conditions, sense prevailed. I took the time to visit the lovely small towns of Killen, Kenmore and Aberfeldy before returning home.
Wednesday saw me travelling north once again and my target was Schiehallion 1,083m (3,553ft) a walk of around 10kms (6.25miles) and an ascent of 731m. This is a famous Munro (ranked 59th out of 283) and lies totally isolated between Loch Tay and Loch Tummel, 10 miles north of Aberfeldy. When I left the Braes of Foss car park (£2 parking fee) at 10.30am there was low cloud but it looked promising that this would lift which it did as I gained height. By 12.30pm I had reached the top with one walker getting to the top before me. With breaks in the cloud on top I was able to see the beauty of the surrounding area and glimpses of the long East Ridge I had come up. It was cold on top so I was well wrapped as I stopped for some lunch and to enjoy the roll and cheese between two pan cakes my sister had made for me. As I made my decent lots of walkers were making their way to the top of this popular mountain. By 2pm I was back in the car park thus taking me three and a half hours which I was well pleased with. I went all the way to the top without a stop.
I popped in to say hello to my friends Moira and Ian in Perth before returning to my sister’s for dinner. After dinner I went to say see my friends Louise and Grant, again living in Perth.
After breakfast on Thursday it was alas time to travel south. 293 miles lay before me and my driving time was 4 hours with around an hour’s stop near Carlisle. In my enjoyable short break visiting friends I had done a total of 1,031 miles in my car, 15 mountains, a 13 mile walk on The Fife Coastal Path and a half day on a mountain bike in the UK’s premier mountain bike location. I have to say I was well pleased.
30th October 2011