The West End of Glasgow is not known as a mecca for hillwalking – although there are a few steep inclines within its boundaries . However a fair population of folk living in the West End have a passion for the outdoors and many of our city dwellers nurse ambitions about conquering the Munros.
Few are more committed than Helen Rose, who shares her hillwalking experiences in Scotland, Ireland and elsewhere….
The annual holiday of the walking club this year was to the Algarve. I have been to Lisbon and the area north of it but never to the Algarve. The Algarve, Portugal’s southernmost region, is known for its Atlantic beaches and golf resorts. Along the southern coastline there are whitewashed fishing villages on cliffs overlooking sandy coves. The region’s western Atlantic coast and rugged interior are less developed. We had five walking days and one day in the middle to do our own thing – I went to Lagos that day.
On the first day we took the bus from our base at a comfortable family hotel in Burgau to Lagos to walk back along the cliffs to Burgau. I really liked the painting of the bus shelter of older ladies. Very colourful, just like our group! The walk was from the centre of Lagos and the paths were good although sometimes precipitous as we were on cliff tops. We visited a light house and continued on to a lovely beach to have lunch. This is a holiday so we have plenty of coffee and refreshment stops at cafes. The weather was warm with some cloud so it was good for walking. We continued towards Praia de Luz and up a hill where there was an obelisk. We finally found the very steep descent path into the town and then it was straight to Burgau where some of the group were anticipating Happy Hour at the Beach Bar.
The walk on this day was intended to be at Monchique but due to the terrible forest fires in August and the devastation caused, the walks were changed to the Silves area. We had a circular walk near Silves at Ilha Do Rosario through orange groves with fig and almond trees alongside irrigation channels similar to the levadas in Madeira. We were walking near Falacho and Vale De Lama and came to the confluence of the Arade and Odelouca Rivers. We had our bus to take us to Silves where we spent the afternoon. The town dates back to Palaeolithic times and in 1189 King Sancho of Portugal conquered the town with the aid of Northern European crusaders. Sancho ordered the fortification of the city and built a castle which is today an important monument of Portuguese heritage.
I was most impressed by how colourful the Algarve was with its Mosaic pavements and even paintings on the Telecom boxes.
On our free day from walking, we took the bus to Lagos and went on a small boat to sail into the caves below the cliffs. It was interesting to see the cliffs from the sea that we had walked along the top of on our first day. There were many kayakers out and on one occasion we turned around a rock and almost collided with a group of kayakers coming towards the boat. The boatman was very skilful in avoiding them. After the boat trip we walked around the old town, seeing the city walls and admiring the tiles on the front of buildings. Lagos is a historic centre of the Portuguese Age of Discovery and at one time was the centre of the European slave trade.
One day we travelled to Cabo de Sainte Vicente to see the most south-westerly lighthouse in Europe. According to legend, the name of this cape is linked to the story of a martyred fourth-century Iberian deacon St. Vincent whose body was brought ashore here. I liked the modern metal sculpture dedicated to St. Vincent. We returned to Burgau and started our walk to Salema where I walked along the beach to see the Dinosaur footprints on the rocks. They were first discovered in 1995 on a flat rock at the western end of Salema beach. At the hotel, we had our very own dinosaur descendant in the form of Maria, the seagull, who had a broken wing but was waiting for treatment at the local bird sanctuary which was overwhelmed with victims from the forest fires.
On the last day, the walk was from Vila Do Bispo to the western coast and a beach at Castelejo for lunch. On the way we passed cork oak trees in the nature reserve. Cork is an ancient industry ans Portugal is the largest producer in the world today. On this coastline the ocean breakers are strong and many surfing schools train on the beaches. I tried paddling but the waves were so strong it was difficult to stay upright and bathers tended to have the feet taken from under them by the waves. There was a red flag that day so not many people were in the water. On our beach at Burgau, it was much calmer and many of our group had a daily swim in the sea. We returned to Vila Do Bispo for coffee and ice creams as the weather was hotter than the earlier part of the week. It is a sleepy village but has a lovely church and bougainvillea spills from the houses.
A truly wonderful trip organised by Peter B and all the other committee members. Our walk leaders did a great job and we appreciate it. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
It’s nearly eleven years since I completed the entire round of Munros in Scotland. These are mountains of more than 3000 feet that Sir Hugh Munro listed in 1891. When I compleated (original spelling!) them, there were 284 as more modern measuring devices have been used since Sir Hugh divided the summits into 283 separate mountains (now known as the Munros), whilst 255 further summits over 3000 feet were considered to be only subsidiary ‘tops’. His list caused quite a stir at the time, as it had previously been thought that there were only around 30 mountains of that height. The present list is 282 as some Munros have been demoted! Over the past few years I have tried to do an annual Munro and this year it was Beinn a’Chochuill (meaning the Hill of the Shell in Gaelic) at Dalmally. I went with the Bearsden and Milngavie Ramblers and after I checked my Munro Log, I discovered I had climbed this hill with its neighbour Beinn Euniach with the group twenty five years ago.
These hills are located near the small village of Dalmally which is spread along the Stratch of Orchy in Argyll & Bute 2 miles east of the tip of Loch Awe. The village was established by the first Lord of Glenorchy, Sir Colin Campbell, and started as a settlement serving the nearby historic Kilchurn Castle. Nowadays, Dalmally is a popular tourist destination surrounded by lochs, rivers, mountains and beautiful scenery and a railway station operating on the Glasgow to Oban line. We started the walk on a gently rising landrover track. It was a very hot day and we were walking at an easy pace as a group. The faster walkers had gone on ahead as they were climbing both Munros. As the weather had been so dry for a prolonged spell, the burns were down to a trickle at best and some people dipped their sunhats in the water to cool down.
The hills to the side are known as the Dalmally Horseshoe and comprise Ben Cruachan with a ridge round to Stob Daimh. Ben Cruachan is famous as one of the hidden wonders of the Highlands with a power station buried one kilometre below the ground. At its centre lies a massive cavern, high enough to house the Tower of London! Here, enormous turbine converts the power of water into electricity, available to you in your home at the flick of a switch. There are tours available and it is on my wish-list to take the tour. We stopped for a tea break to relax and take in the clear views. There was no shade and some people used an umbrella as a parasol. There was a lovely view down to Loch Awe with the island in the centre where the ruined Kilchurn Castle is located.
After our extended tea break we left the landrover track and it was a pathless ascent on steep ground until we finally reached the ridge. We had frequent stops to admire the view and to drink to keep hydrated. The last time I had climbed this hill it was on a clear day but not as warm. When we approached the bealach which is the pass between two mountains, we passed the faster walkers heading to the second Munro. It was a very pleasant walk along the gently ascending stony ridge to reach the top where we relaxed and had lunch. It was 26 degrees celsius on the top at over 3200 feet. We had views over to Ben Lomond but not as far as Ben Nevis which is the highest mountain in Scotland at 4400 feet. There was a heat haze but on a clear winters day Ben Nevis is visible. It was a case of choosing which way to face for lunch as there were panoramic views of mountains all around.
I was delighted to complete the annual Munro and thoroughly enjoyed the day out. For the record we were out for seven hours with a lot of stops and I drank two litres of water as it was very warm for walking. We were all prepared with plenty of water, sunhats and suncream. Everyone was so friendly and obviously enjoying the walk at an easy pace. Thanks to Peter B. for organising it and Peter A. for leading it.
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The walking club recently went on a day walking trip to Culzean Castle and Country Park from Maidens in Ayrshire. It is many years since I last visited Culzean and was I happy to explore further in the Country Park.
We drove to Maidens, a fishing village at the southern end of Maidenhead Bay two miles north of Turnberry and five miles west of Maybole. The village retains an old world air of peace and tranquillity and is a favourite spot for artists and camera enthusiasts. It was at Maidens that Robert the Bruce landed when he sailed from Rathlin Island. Rathlin Island is situated off the north east coast of Ireland and is the only inhabited offshore island in Northern Ireland. Robert the Bruce was a 13th century Scottish king. You may have spotted a version of his persona in Mel Gibson’s Braveheart movie in 1995. We walked along the beach at Maidens on a beautiful hot sunny day and entered the Estate of Culzean. Although the temperature was 30c., the seawater was still cold but a few brave souls went paddling anyway.
Culzean Country Park is a glorious 260 hectare estate and was once the playground of David Kennedy, 10th Earl of Cassillis, a man who was keen to impress with his wealth and status. Opulent to the extreme, the park is planted with conifers and beech, sculpted around miles of sandy coastline dotted with caves, and finished off with a Swan Pond, an ice house, flamboyant formal gardens and fruit-filled glasshouses. The Castle and Grounds are now run by the National Trust for Scotland, a charity whose aim is to protect the heritage of Scotland.
The castle itself is perched on the Ayrshire cliffs looking out to the Irish Sea, incorporating everything the earl could wish for in his country home. It was designed by Robert Adam in the late 18th century and is filled to the turrets with treasures that tell the stories of the people who lived here. We did not go in to the castle on this visit but had lunch at the Visitors Centre, originally the Old Stables. From the lunch stop we had wonderful views over to the island of Arran and its mountains which I have climbed many times. Within the Castle there is the apartment at the top where US President Dwight D. Eisenhower used to come to relax.
After lunch we continued to walk round the many paths in the Castle grounds and saw a mixture of llamas and deer in the Deer Park where they seemed to be happy living alongside each other. The Deer Park has been there since the 1750’s. We walked over to the area in the south west of the grounds to see the Cat Gates, sculptures on the top of an entrance arch pillars which really looked more like lions heads but I suppose they are regarded as ‘Big Cats’!
The gardens close to the castle are well manicured and include an Orangery and a Fountain Court. The Earl of Cassillis certainly knew how to live in style. There is also a garden specially created for children and as we are all ‘Big Kids at heart, we had a walk around it and saw the wood carvings including the Gruffalo which was based on the well-loved books for children.
It’s around 50 miles drive from Glasgow to Culzean and we were very thankful to the members who volunteered to drive. It was a great day out. I really enjoy walking by the sea on a glorious day with the views over to Arran. It can sometimes be very grey and wet in Scotland which makes it atmospheric. Come rain, hail or shine we are out walking in Scotland in its many moods. It is thanks to the Bearsden and Milngavie Ramblers that I have the opportunity to see the many and varied landscapes of the central belt of Scotland. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Helen Rose Outdoor Diary.
It is nine years since I lasted visited Hadrian’s Wall and I wrote about that visit. The wall has not changed in that time! Here are some facts. Hadrian’s Wall was the north-west frontier of the Roman Empire for nearly 300 years. It was built by the Roman army on the orders of the emperor Hadrian following his visit to Britain in AD 122. At 73 miles (80 Roman miles) long, it crossed northern Britain from Wallsend on the River Tyne in the east to Bowness-on-Solway in the west. The most famous of all the frontiers of the Roman Empire, Hadrian’s Wall was made a World Heritage Site in 1987. It is located in the north of England not far from the Scottish border. Presumably it was built to keep out the marauding Scots! The Glasgow HF Outdoor Club https://www.meetup.com/Glasgow-HF-Outdoor-Club/ planned a weekend of walks along the wall. You can read about the wall on https://www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/hadrians-wall/history-and-stories/history/.
The Romans are reputed to have reached Inverness in Scotland and in fact Pontius Pilate was possibly born in Fortingall in Perthshire when they invaded Scotland for the first time in AD80, reaching the area including Perthshire in about AD83. It is reported that Caesar Augustus fathered a child with a Caledonian woman and he was Pontius Pilate which makes him half Scottish!
We stayed at the George Hotel in Chollerford which was very comfortable and convenient for the AD 122 bus that travels along the wall offering a shuttle service to points of interest. Just love that quirky bus number!
On the first day we took the AD122 to Milecastle Inn to walk the nine miles to Housesteads Fort along the wall. To my mind, this is the best bit of the wall to walk. People on the longer walk took the bus to Greensteads and finished at Vindolanda which is a stunning fort and town with a recreation at the museum. I had been there on the last visit. The weekend was primarily a walking and social holiday but we also had the Roman history as a bonus.
This part of the walk has many ups and downs which we referred to as undulations. It was a beautiful sunny day and the route was surprisingly quiet apart from 200 walkers we passed on a Charity Walk for Cancer Research, some of them wearing pink tutus! The views were clear over the surrounding countryside which is mainly agricultural and fairly flat. The Romans always built in a straight line and over hilly bits rather than going round them so undulations have to be expected. The wall is in good condition and well restored. The stone wall was originally a maximum height of about 15 feet (4.6 metres), 10 Roman feet (3 metres) wide, enough for there to have been a walkway along the top, and perhaps also a parapet wall. Now it is about four feet high in most sections.
We came to a gap at Steele Rigg where there was a lone sycamore tree in the dip and this was featured in the 1991 film ‘Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves’, starring Kevin Costner. It is probably the most photographed site in Northumberland.
We stopped for lunch at Sill Visitors Centre named after Whin Sill, the crags on which Hadrian built the wall. The Centre has a grassland roof with fine views over the countryside. The walk continued to Housesteads Fort where we caught the bus back to Chollerford.
On the second day, we caught our favourite AD122 bus to Housesteads to walk back to the hotel at Chollerford. The forts on the wall are interesting as they housed a full settlement, known as vicus, which included local people who worked for the Romans. We know the Romans were very civilised and had baths, toilets and a hospital in their settlements.
There were the usual ups and downs to walk and then it levelled out until we reached the temple at Brocolitia and stopped for lunch in the sunshine. Brocolitia is the remains of a third-century Roman temple to the Sun God Mithras, a cult which first started in Persia. It was built next to a Roman fort. There are also a few remains of a sacred well dedicated to the Celtic water goddess Coventina. The Roman name of Brocolitia was probably based on the original Celtic name for the area meaning ‘Badger Holes’. The walk continued mostly without the evidence of the wall but sometimes there were short sections of the wall and mostly restored to a fairly low level.
Near Chollerord, I called in at the Chesters Fort which is Britain’s most complete cavalry fort. It has Britain’s best preserved military bath house. Bath houses were important to the Roman Soldiers as they were social spaces to relax in as well as for cleanliness. Soldiers came from all over the empire in the hope they could become Roman citizens so many languages were spoken. There were sweating rooms, hot rooms and warm rooms, all with evidence of underfloor heating and also cold rooms.
Back at the hotel we relaxed and toasted a wonderful weekend. Thanks to Stephen for the organisation of the walks on the weekend. The weekend was too short for all there was to see. The following day we took the bus to Hexham to catch the train. Hexham has a renowned Cathedral but alas we did not have time to visit it. Maybe another time……
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Thanks to Kathleen Hodge for her sycamore tree photograph.
The Glasgow HF Walking Club runs two low level walking weekends every year at different locations; this year the first one was on the Isle of Bute. The group was based in the famous Glenburn Hotel in Rothesay. Rothesay has many childhood memories for me as a summer holiday resort and was affectionately known by Glaswegians as ‘Goin Doon the Watter’. In other words, sailing down the River Clyde. Bute is 33 miles from Glasgow as the crow flies and is only 15 miles long by 4 miles wide. It is renowned for its glorious gardens and grand architecture including Mount Stuart House, which is a wonder of Victorian engineering and had the world’s first house indoor swimming pool! I have previously visited it to see the celestial ceiling and art works. Stella McCartney got married there so it must be tasteful!
Rothesay is the largest village on Bute. Our walks were planned for the West Island Way, which was Scotland’s first official island long distance footpath and was opened in 2000 to celebrate the turn of the millennium. We walked 12 miles a day and did most of the Way but we were dependent on local buses and had to fit in with timetables. Stephen planned the walks well taking in all the Island’s attractions.
On the first day we took the bus to Port Bannatyne and walked over to Ettrick Bay passing a derelict church with an interesting three dimensional cross. Ettrick Bay has glorious sands and views over to Arran and its majestic mountains. A great place for a coffee break to soak up the scenery. We continued our walk to Rhubodach with some rough walking due to recent inclement weather. We had a diversion to a lookout shelter from World War Two facing North West with lovely views out to sea. Spring has been late here this year but there were some lovely violets and primroses in full bloom. When we reached Rhubodach, we saw the bus coming across on the ferry from the Dunoon Peninsula which is only a five minute crossing!
On the second day we caught the bus to Kilchattan Bay in the south of the island and walked over to Stravanan Bay stopping for coffee on the beach after passing the local airfield, basically a field with a large windsock and a picnic table which we joked was the check in desk! We walked on to a little top for lunch with views again over to Arran where there was a bench. We were approached by a man wanting to take a photo of people sitting on the bench as he was responsible for maintaining it from the Dorothy Marshall Trust . He was the local joiner so well placed to provide us with interesting information on building and maintaining teak benches. . The walk continued through avenues of brilliant yellow gorse and we came to a field where some sheep were in a pen watched over by a farmer. Kathleen could not resist asking the farmer about a black lamb in a field of white sheep we had seen earlier. We noticed the two lambs in the pen were big and a strange grey colour. He explain that they were January lambs and it was the first time they has been out due to bad weather. Their coats had become waxy and turned grey as they had been inside so long. So now you know! Many lambs were lost this year due to late winter snow.
Every night we had entertainment in the Glenburn Hotel including an Elton John Tribute Night on Saturday. On Monday, we took the boat back to Wemyss Bay in glorious sunshine. In fact, we were very lucky the whole weekend had been great weather. Bute is even better than I remembered in my childhood.
Thanks to Stephen for planning the weekend and leading the walks.
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Helen Rose Hillwalking and Outdoors Diary