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AFTER a hideous amount of time in front of a computer screen, the need to escape was growing. Time meant it would have to be a quick dash and where better than the Trossachs, a place of proper hills, wooded slopes and a series of picturesque lochs?
HIS fairly long route takes in all aspects of the Ochils. Beginning in the quiet Glen Devon, you climb up to start a wonderful circular walk on broad grass ridges, offering views along the length of the summits which plunge down to the Forth Valley.
Despite the area's high annual rainfall, Fort William is an excellent base for hillwalking, with a number of local low-level walks suitable for those damp days. One such walk served well during a wet April week that Margaret and I partly shared with the Mountain Maid and Hare.
Last September, amid the stalking season, I took the Aberarder/Coire Ardair path to Lochan a'Choire. Above the loch lies Stob Poite Coire Ardair (SPCA), linked to the Creag Meagaidh massif by Uinneag Coire Ardair, simply known as The Window, a narrow gap amid a jumble of boulders.
There is a lot of history packed into the eastern end of Loch Tay. There is a crannog, reminding us of our Iron Age ancestors; Kenmore, where the salmon fishing season on the Tay starts each year; 19th-century Taymouth Castle and the nearby Chinese Bridge which forms part of the estate.
The official car park is at the south end of Loch na Craige, map ref 887452. An entrance signpost, with a map giving cycle routes, makes it clear that the mapped cycle routes are not rights of way and may be subject to temporary closures for forestry operations.
Binny Craig in West Lothian is a prominent landmark – a sheer face of rock with a trig point on top which gives excellent views across the Firth of Forth to the Trossachs and Ochils as well as south east to the Pentland Hills.
A Hawick native and former president of Hawick RFC, my neighbour Malcolm Murray most kindly gave me his copy of a book, Walking in the Land of the Reivers, which he correctaly assumed would be of interest to me.
With overnight snow then gale force winds forecast for the west, it was an easy decision not to go to the high tops.
PRING is here at last and it is time to get out and enjoy the sight of new life.
For Jimbo, John and I, following the eastern mapped path to Kindrogan Hill in the centre of Kindrogan Wood, it was yet another example of the best-laid schemes o' mice and hillwalkers going aft agley.
Within the next few weeks birdwatchers will be waiting to see if the Loch of the Lowes, above Dunkeld in Perthshire, will see the return of an amazing osprey.
Two men jogging around Mugdock Reservoir, just north of Glasgow, were chatting when the view caught their eye.
Jimbo, Joe and I headed for the sheltered tracks of Griffin Forest, ideal for a raw day. However, on the way, the recent significant snowfall quickly became apparent. The A826 was still open at the high point, but only extensive shovelling would have cleared access to the parking area.
A COMMON complaint I get is when I describe a walk that is special to someone. This happened with a friend in Dunblane when I said I was doing this walk for Spectrum. "Please don't," they said. "There'll be loads of people coming down to do it."
In January 2006 I climbed Glas Maol, thus achieving a long-sought target of being on top of a Munro on every day of the year. That same month I also went to Ben Cleuch, the highest point on the Ochils, and five years later there I was again, on the last day of January 2011 … a windy, cold, cloud-covered day when only the masochistic or driven individual would be prepared to struggle to the 721m/2365ft summit trig point. There had to be a good reason.
GOOD hill walk was in order so I met up with a fellow walker and his dog in Stirling.
From the centre of Linlithgow, go west along the High Street, the A803, for 1½ miles, heading for the railway viaduct over the River Avon.