Monday 30 July 2012

Walking with the Strathern Ramblers 29 July 2012

Sunday 29th July saw us take on our first proper walk in the area, as part of Comrie Fortnight, the Strathern Ramblers were offering a 12 miles walk to the Standing Stones above the village of Comrie.

The weather forecast was changeable, sunshine, rain, windy... so we went prepared for wet weather, although no-one thought to take sunscreen which was the most needed!

The walk started from the village of Comrie, about 7 miles west from Crieff it is a small village that has a great community spirit and always seems to have something happening. Starting along well walked paths through woodland, we soon started to climb gently up the hills coming out at the Auchingarrich Wildlife park.

Just before getting to the park, we had the pleasure of meeting a colourful local character known as 'Dr Death'. As one of the ramblers climbed a gate, instead of using the kissing gate, a Landrover pulled up on a bend in the middle of the road a farmer leapt out shouting to get off the gate. Presuming it was someone her knew, doing it for a laugh I gave him a big smile and carried on walking... apparently it wasn't a laugh though and he is well known to always find fault with walkers, even previously having a dog trained to bite anyone following the public footpath across his land!

Anyway, near miss from Dr Death over and we stopped for coffee and cake at the Wildlife Park, enjoying stunning views over the valley and mountains from their café terrace. The park looks amazing, and even before you pay your entrance fee you get to see wallabies, mountain goats and camels. We will definitely be paying a visit to wander round the whole park.

Suitably refreshed, we walked though the back of the parks, seeing curly coo's, red deer, albino deer and yaks and through a forest of Christmas trees.

The next part of the walk is where going with a walking group really does pay as we were walking over hillsides, though farm land and onto the moorland, places you would not really go otherwise. We had several field crossing where the bull thankfully was more interested in laying in the sun, than charging, before reaching the standing stones. Set in straight lines, the stones are believed to be 3000 years old and so huge it's amazing to think they were placed there with no mechanical aid.

Lunch was taking in a little hollow out of the now blowing wind, and the sunshine meant we could sit, eat and enjoy the views over the Ochil Hills.

After slightly retracing our steps, we followed woodland paths round Cultybraggan- a former POW camps that is now a community centre- before joining the Ruchill River path back into the village for a well earned pint at the Royal Hotel.

A great day out, with good company and seeing places we probably wouldn't have otherwise... so looking forward to the day out!

Walks and Cycles Around Crieff and Comrie

One of many reasons for moving to the area we did was the opportunities for walking, cycling and outdoor pursuits in the area, so it was imperative that we got out and enjoyed while the relatively good weather lasted!

Last Tuesday (24th July) was a bonus day off for me in lieu of working 6 days the week prior and after waking up on the Monday to constant heavy rain, blue skies and sunshine gave me the boost needed to spring out of bed and pull on my walking boots. To encourage locals and visitors to make the most of the beautiful scenery around the town, there are several way marked walking rounds, either circular or linear with the option of catching a bus back.

Making the most of a clear morning, I headed along the Lady Mary path, which follows the banks of the River Turret, or through the river where it has burst it's banks with all the heavy rain, under a canopy of trees. There was a lovely smell of damp woodland as it dried out after several days of rain and the sun shone through the trees creating sun beams and dappled patches of light. At the way mark I turned off the Lady Mary walk to join the Laggan Hill walk. A steep, muddy path climbs out of the river side woodland before entering more woodland at the top of the hill and there are great views down to the town of Crieff below. The path winds it's way through more woodland until it comes to another cross roads of paths, where I opted to follow the Currochs Path as I had made good time and even though I'd lost the blue skies and sunshine, it was still dry and warm. Following a rough path down the edge of a farmers field, I created quite a lot of interest from the resident sheep. Deciding it was best not to scare them, I moved further off the path away from them, turning in my ankle in the process, only to find the sheep were actually walking towards me. A flock of sheep shouldn't cause too much alarm, but with visions of Wallace and Gromits and Close Shave, I beat a hasty retreat through the kissing gate at the bottom of the field, through a housing estate and across the busy A85!

The Currochs Path winds around the hillside at the opposite side of the road from the Glenturret Distillery. The start of the walk gives amazing views over towards Ben Chonzie and further afield into the Lomand and Trussochs National Park. Other than the rushing water of the River Turret, it was truly peaceful with rabbits happily bouncing around in the fields and Red Kites soaring above. Following the path across the small road, it follows behind the distillery, where there is a tempting detour to go sample some whiskey, but as I planned to cycle to Comrie in the afternoon I resisted and instead followed the path back through MacRosty Park and home to refuel before pedalling off.

The afternoon cycle was really a mission to get to Comrie Croft and try out their new Tea Garden for some cake. It had stayed a lovely afternoon, even though there was a slight headwind, I made it to Comrie Croft in good time and sat under the veranda in the sunshine enjoying some of the best Carrot Cake I have tasted and planning future walks and off road cycling with a map purchased from their shop. On the route home I continued up the A85 to Comrie before taking the 'back road' home to Crieff which is a lot quieter than the busy main road... although that didn't stop a huge 4x4/ pick-up type thing trying to run me over while I was stood off the road on a grass verge taking pictures of the cute curly coo's! Even with maniac drivers there was plenty of wildlife around, a pinemarten was so engrossed in running up the road it didn't seem to notice me peddling towards it, until I had to change gear and it suddenly looked up confused as to where I had come from! A dead crow hung on a post by it's legs near a duck pond baffled me... any suggestions as to why this might be here?

2 days later we both enjoyed a cycle, starting the same way as I had on the Tuesday on the back road to Comrie, but deciding to turn off onto one of the even smaller back roads that looked like it might be a nice ride. I learnt a lesson that evening... however bad I though hills were in Jersey, there are nothing compared to hills in Scotland! While the hill up towards Balloch was not particularly steep it went on and on and on, leaving me with no gears left and sweat dripping off my nose. I would say the views from the top made up for it, but by then we were in woodland and as soon as we stopped I started shivering, so I am ashamed to say I put my head down and steeled myself for the descent.

Single track road with mossy parts, gravelly bits in the middle and some sharp hairpin bends means I will probably need some new brake pads but the sound of a big shot gun not too far away and knowledge we are now in stag stalking season was a good incentive to keep riding, until we found a great road, straight, slightly downhill with a few little bumps for fun, before heading home.