The weather was typically changeable, the odd sunny spell but mainly showers and wind, there's a surprise this year! That meant we couldn't really spend much time too high, but that fitted the guys' desires. We were looking for expansive landscapes, sinewy skylines (to be sketched) and a feeling of wild land, all within reasonable driving distance, as they had come up from Gloucester....yep, we can do that.
We met at a leisurely start time for the first day, this being a toe-dip into the walking water as it were. The team were well prepared, with shiny new gear and lot of enthusiasm. Bubbles the 11yr old Jack Russell even had a coat. We aimed for the summit of Ben Vrackie 841m from the lovely village of Moulin, just outside Pitlochry. It is a steady walk, passing through beech and birch woods, resplendent in their autumn livery, out onto the open moorland, and finally up a well-mettled path to the summit. The day started showery, but improved gradually, and we were even dry as we descended. We were joined by a nice chatty chap who seemed glad of some company. The day was finished off with a welcome drink in the delightful Moulin Inn, complete with hearty fires and home-brewed ale for the thirsty guide ;)
After staying overnight in Aberfeldy, we drove along Loch Tay through yet more beautiful leafy scenery, pausing at Killin to take in the Falls of Dochart, which pass dramatically right through the village. It was then on over Rannoch Moor, again pausing, this time to sketch the brooding hills and skylines as the cloud ebbed and flowed over them. Finally, we made an ascent of the Devil's Staircase up to the high point between Beann Bheag and Stob Mhic Mhartuin. It was raining heavily, and we huddled into our Goretex, which did its job laudably. On the descent we chatted to a bedraggled Polish family doing the West Highland Way together, complaining about the weather ruefully. They had finally dumped their tent at The Bridge of Orchy, and were pressing on to Kinlochleven, hoping to beat nightfall for a warm and dry bed. Well done folks!
A nice bed awaited Hattie and Clem too, as they booked into the Glencoe Hotel. I stayed in my van and did my bit supporting the local economy in the Clachaig bar ;)
Our final day was the usual showers, but as we planned to do the Lost Valley, or Coire Gabhail, we knew we would be sheltered from the wind. We met sharp at 9am, and managed to get the valley pretty much to ourselves on the ascent, over-taking a very unfit couple en route. We made short work of the river crossing, Clem demonstrating her sure-footedness by leaping across the boulders. Bubbles got a lift from Yours Truly. The surprisingly flat valley was as atmospheric as usual, and the ladies took time to do some more sketching, while Bubbles warmed her paws on my lap. We pressed on a little up the valley, but decided to return, as the guys wanted to drive to Edinburgh before the main rush, which was their next destination. There were very many more folks on their way up as we descended, many heading for very wet feet indeed in all manner of footwear! We felt smug in our quality boots :)
We bade our farewells at the large parking space, which was thronging with selfie-happy tourists as usual, but not before discussing what's next. There's always a next time......... :) Well done to Hattie for organising the trip, and keeping reasonably sane in the process, Clem for being a veritable mountain goat, dealing with wet greasy rock with no problems at all, and finally wee Bubbles, who trotted on stoically with her tiny legs, only pausing for an odd bark or two. Imagine how we would enjoy a dry day!?