Posts Tagged ‘the Trossachs’

Glen Finglas and the Mell

Ben Venue from a distance

An early start this morning in glorious sunshine to head up to the Trossachs for a day walk that turned out to be bang on 17 miles.

The walk is a part linear, part circular – a walk past the Finglas Reservoir, to where the route splits, then a big circle climbing to over 600m, all on farm track.  The walk itself starts near Brig O’ Turk, and while it is tempting to cut a little distance off the route by parking at the dam, it is really worth the extra effort starting just up the road at the “Glen Finglas Car Park”

So it was here I started, in an empty car park – not particularly early, starting to walk just before 9 – in glorious spring sunshine, with perfect light and not a cloud in the sky.   Driving up over Dukes Pass, it was so tempting to stop and take a few snaps – and I regret not doing so now – a couple of magic moments were missed.

The first section of this path is fantastic, and shares a waymarked route with some woodland trust trails – there are plenty of shortish routes that can be walked from here.  Climbing fairly steeply, the path pops out from the trees, rewarding you with panoramic views towards Loch Ard and beyond.  It is easy walking, and there has been a generous allocation of benches along the path for those that want to sit and enjoy the quite fantastic views.  Again, I was tempted, but with rather a long way to go, it was a case of snatch a few photos and press on.

One of the early viewpoints

Once on the hill, the path contours round into the Glen itself, again with plenty of viewpoints and seats – this really is a section of the walk not to be missed.  Eventually it drops down to an access road for a farm (run by the woodland trust I think) that sits on the reservoir, mettled at first, then just a stony farm track.  The walk along the reservoir is very pleasant, and with it being so still, the water made for some great reflections from the surrounding hills and sky.  A number of Canada geese were wandering about on the track here, and started honking loudly as I approached, before flying off in perfect formation over the water (another photo opportunity missed).  Near the head of the reservoir there is a junction, right takes you towards Balqhuidder and is signed “the Mell” and is the route I took as the clouds started encroaching on the perfect sky.

Glen Finglas stretching away behind the reservoir

The glen here was not so interesting, and a little bland, so out came the ipod and on went (a rather eclectic) mix of music – much of which I don’t have a clue how it managed to get onto it!  It does however wander along the lower slopes of Benvane, (the little brother of Ben Ledi), which towers above it to the right.

Looking back over the reservoir before heading up "the Mell"

Once at the head of the glen the track climbs quickly, and looking back you begin to get a reward, the reservoir just peeping out at you in the distance.  Views open up to the North as well, Ben More and the Stob looking like they were getting a bit of a pasting from the vanguard of cloud that seemed to have appeared from nowhere.

Looking right back down the Glen that has just been walked up

Dropping into Glen Finglas itself, after passing a cairn that marked the high point, again was a tad bland, although some grand views began to open up over the reservoir as the track contoured round its upper slopes.

The reservoir with Ben Ledi in the background

Once the reservoir was in sight again, it was a very enjoyable tramp to complete the circuit and return along the outward route.  Looking back though presented the sight of a rather large cloud, spewing its contents over Glen Finglas and heading at speed in my general direction.  Out came the waterproofs, away went the camera, only for it to pass quickly and the sun to appear.

Last photo of the day. 10 Minutes later it was raining!?

It was probably inevitable then, that when I gave into the excessive heat of having the cag on – it started raining heavily – all the way back to the car.

Sods Law!

Day Rating 6.5/10

The good bits are great, the not so good bits are meh!  Worth it for the views at the top of the Mell and over the reservoir.  However the first mile or so is worth doing on its own.  The weather made it a good day – just a pity the sun didn’t hold on to the end.  Hey-ho!

Plenty of options for different walks here – Benvane or Ben Ledi are easily accessible, although it is a bit of a walk in.


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Ben A’an

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.

Near the start

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.

Approaching Ben A'an

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.

The view 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!

Ben A’an by aaronbarnes6632@hotmail.com at Garmin Connect – Details.


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Benvane from Brig O’Turk

With the snow already hitting the North East of Scotland with a vengeance, this had turned out to be the last real walking day (until the snow subsides at least) of the year so far.  Benvane was the choice –  a little brother of the better known Ben Ledi, though far less accessible.  Our starting point of choice was Brig O’Turk, the intention to walk up alongside the Glen Finglas Reservoir and then strike up the long ridge to the summit.  The weather at the bottom was clear and cold, but with very little wind.  In fact, things were remarkably still, allowing just a base layer shirt and bodywarmer to keep the heat in, with the rest of the cold weather gear being stowed in the packs.

From the car park at the bottom of Glen Finglas it was a walk in of around 4km to where we would strike off up the hill, an easy walk along first a mettled road which turned into track at a farm seemingly owned by the woodland trust.

Glen Finglas Reservior with Meall Cala in the background

We crossed the river Allt Ghleann Casaig then struck up towards Benvane along the ridge to the South of the summit.  With no clear track this was stamina sapping ground, large grass tussocks making things uncomfortably difficult.  The initial climb is quite steep, and once clear of the fenced ground there were a number of crags (complete with rapidly retreating Red Deer) to be negotiated. This resulted in a rather grassy scramble up between two rocky outcrops leaving me sitting in a breathless heap at the top.  The compensation was some fine views of Glen Finglas and Gleann nam Meann which were steadily improving as we gained height.

Some contouring was the order of the day up the final steep section and it was with some relief that we gained the first of three plateaus.  The grass up here had been frozen and the effect was almost like walking on newly laid snow; it was just as hard work!  Fortunately there were animal tracks here and there, always heading in the right general direction, which made our passage slightly easier.  This was until they petered out, returning the walk to a slog over the frozen tussocks.

Eventually, and with some relief, we stumbled across what looked like a walkers path – obviously rarely used, but with just enough traffic to maintain a good walking surface.  It is amazing the difference this can make to a walkers speed and we seemed to be flying along.  This continued up the hill and it was nice to be able to concentrate on the views opening up on both sides.  To the North West, Ben More and Stobinian were completely covered in snow, only around 400m higher than Benvane, standing out spectacularly from the surrounding hills.  Overhead, while it was clear above, rather menacing looking clouds were hanging over Ben Vorlich to the North East and beyond – possibly the vanguard of the current weather conditions!

Eventually an old fence line is met coming from the ridge that connects with Ben Ledi.  With the increase in height there are a few patches of snow, lingering from the previous fall that have turned to solid ice.  In many places it was easier to walk on the frozen snow than over the stamina sapping grass tussocks.  With the height gain, the temperature had been dropping rapidly although we had long since donned the cold weather gear, a biting wind having appeared from the North East.  A sheltered spot was found for  lunch, a short distance below the summit, the sweat turning cold uncomfortably quickly.

Looking back down the ridge to Glen Finglas Reservior

The last 50m up to the summit was a rapid affair, the wind up here incredibly cold and vicious.  This is the coldest I have ever been on the hills and a conservative estimate would put it below -10°C.  Even with the gloves on all my fingers had gone numb and my face felt as if it had just been given a local anaesthetic by the dentist.  Unsurprisingly we didn’t linger and beat a hasty retreat back the way we had come.

Ben Ledi, looking glorious in the light.

The initial plan had been to come off the hill to the West of the summit, a steep drop into the glen below and a long walk back along the farm track to the car.  I dislike steep descents, mainly due to a couple of dodgy knees, so the decision was made to follow the ridge round towards Ben Ledi and follow a hill track that dropped right down the length of Gleann Casaig to the Woodland Trust farm at the Reservoir.

The fence line was followed round onto this ridge, and with the drop in height came a welcome increase in temperature, along with a thawing of the fingers.  Fine views were now to be had looking East, especially up towards Ben Vorlich, which only had a spattering of snow compared to Ben More.  With the wind on our backs this was now fairly pleasant walking as the path wound its way through the abandoned metal fence posts.  As we closed in on Stuc Dhubh where the top of the track started, there were a couple of deep scars that had to be crossed where water has eroded the peat away.  This left a couple of awkward drops and climbs to negotiate before reaching the track.

There is nothing particularly notable about the track, other than that it is a fairly convenient way to get fast access to or from the glen and Reservoir.  As the sun was dropping we were left with some beautiful sun dappled hill sides right around Glen Finglas.  As an added bonus as we reached the farm at the bottom of the hill we had a few minutes entertainment as a quad bike chased a cow over the banks of the Reservoir, along with a chorus of Moos from the spectating cows in the field next to us.  All that remained was the 4km walk back to the car in the waning light.

A change of clothes and coffee later we were back in the car and heading to the Lade Inn at Kilmahog, a short distance up the road towards Callander.  This is a superb pub.  They brew their own beer, and have a shop at the side that sells real ale from many of Scotlands smaller breweries.  If that isn’t enough, they have a regular set of folk bands playing in the pub and live music most weekends.  I have added a link on the links page.

Day Rating – 7/10

Cold and a real slog.  Probably not the best route choice, but the first ridge was airy and gave some fantastic all round views.  That’s not to say it wasn’t an enjoyable day, and it’s always nice to sit by an open fire and sample the quite stunning pint of ‘Lade Out’ in the Pub.  In the summer, with a bit more time and light, a round including Benvane and Ben Ledi would make a fantastic days walk in either direction.

The last of the light on Meall Cala

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