A leisurely start saw us leave the house at half past nine for the journey over the Campsie Fells up to the Trossachs. It was quite difficult getting up though, after only four hours sleep! Typically, at that time of the morning the roads were quiet, but as we reached the car-park at the foot of Ben A’an it was abundantly clear that we weren’t the only ones to have the idea.
As well as the two cars already in situ, several more arrived along with an assorted menagerie of Adults, Kids and Dogs, promptly spewing forth and heading straight for the hill. We followed soon after (concluding much fiddling with the GPS) and started the steep climb from the car-park.
Although a small hill in relative terms, Ben A’an is a delightful little walk, although it does make you work for the rewards. There is no gentle introduction here, as the path heads fairly steeply up to a small burn, the course of which it follows for a while. The very bottom of the path is quite heavily eroded, despite the best efforts to the contrary by (I’m assuming) the National Park. Things do improve after passing a well engineered cross drain however. Eventually the sometimes rocky, sometimes very muddy path, levels out a little and good time can be made. Up to this point and beyond the path is heavily wooded sheltering you from the wind and rain very effectively. So much so, in fact, that I was overheating in just a base layer and fleece.
That may have been an after effect of a few to many mince pies over the festive period though!
There are a couple of large muddy patches along this middle section that have to be negotiated. Walking poles provide an essential secondary service here – acting as a “pokey stick” to determine the depth of the mud, thereby avoiding any unfortunate sinking experience.
The path rises steadily, and soon the distinctive shape of the summit can just be made out through the trees and soon we burst into the open to get a sneak preview of what awaits at the top.
To get to the summit there is a steep, but well engineered path that follows a re-entrant, and the amount of work completed up here is impressive. Without the repair work to the path the erosion would quickly become a massive issue, impacting exceedingly badly on the environment here. Still, once the steps have been successfully negotiated it is only a very short walk to the top, and some fantastic all round views of Loch Katrine and Ben Venue.
As we stood at the top the weather began to come in across Loach Kartrine encouraging us to start the descent. There were, by now, a great many people coming up the hill, each of them greeted with a cheery “Happy New Year”.
One thing very noticeable on the descent was the amount of windblow up here. A huge number of trees were over and the ground littered with branches and general detritus. Probably not the best area to be walking through in a gale, I think.
Day Rating 9/10
It has been over 20 years since I last walked up Ben A’an, and it is a little stunner. The views are astounding for very little effort, and once up there are options to extend the walk. I think it could get very, very busy here during the summer though, which, if you like solitude, is not ideal.
If we had gone any higher today there would not have been the views, so it was a superb choice just to blow the cobwebs away. The only downside is it’s a bit short. Never mind eh! More time in the pub!
Happy New Year all and the very best for 2012!