Total distance – 2 kilometres
Ascent – 40 metres
Walking conditions – Good footpath up very gentle grassy slope
Time required – 1 to 1.5 hours
Nearest town – Castle Douglas
Loch Ken is one of the nicest parts of Kirkcudbrightshire and home to the Galloway Kite Trail. There are lots of walks and other outdoor pursuits to be had along the way. Whilst driving along Loch Ken we pulled into a layby at the Loch Ken Holiday Park (about halfway along Loch Ken on the eastern shore) to look at our map. It was then that we spotted the sign for the Parton Walk footpath.
Without a moment’s hesitation we got out of the car, crossed the road and joined the footpath. After a 1 Km walk and with only 40 m of ascent on this cold, bright and beautiful day, we made it to the fantastic viewpoint just in time for elevenses. Nowadays, elevenses is an underused term which we are trying our best to resurrect for no other reason than it provides us with another opportunity to eat biscuits during the day.
Total distance – 12 kilometres
Ascent – 300 metres
Walking conditions – Good, well defined footpath. No difficulties
Time required – Around 3.5 to 5.5 hours
Nearest town – Crianlarich
When I was a teenager, I somehow managed to convince one of my friends to accompany me on the West Highland Way. With no tent and minimum equipment the plan was to get from Milngavie to Doune Bothy by the end of the first day. We didn’t make it. At around 11pm, whilst sliding and falling about in a pitch black, rain-sodden Rowardennan Forest we opted to huddle together and wait for daylight. When daylight finally came we found that we were no more than 300 metres from our objective of Doune Bothy. We dried ourselves off in Doune Bothy, went for a sleep, got the boat across to Ardlui, and then went home. In hindsight it was a predictably disastrous first attempt at the West Highland Way and I still smile when I think about it. Similarly the walk from Inverarnan to Doune Bothy also makes me smile. Not least because it gives me a good excuse to visit the Drover.
Park at the Drover and walk north for approximately 400 metres, then turn right over the bridge. Turn right again and simply follow the West Highland Way footpath south for 5 Km until you reach Doune Bothy. Doune Bothy is easily recognisable as at any given time there is likely to be at least one weary but cheerful hiker with a large rucksack sitting down eating a bar of chocolate. Sample the ambience, then turn around and walk back. It’s as simple as that.
There’s a really good viewpoint just before the footpath drops down to Ardleish on the way to Doune Bothy. We always stop there for a picnic and photos. Don’t eat too much because the portions at the Drover are huge. Please don’t be scared off by the bear at the door. Even the ghosts are friendly. The Drover is always well worth a visit.
Total distance – 4 kilometres
Ascent – 80 metres
Walking conditions – Good footpath but can be muddy in places. No difficulties.
Time required – Around 2 to 3 hours
Nearest town – Blantyre/Bothwell
Blantyre has been at some point Scotland’s second largest village, or so I was told when I was being brought up there. David Livingstone was also brought up in Blantyre. Unlike me, David did not spend his time writing blogs but instead became one of the world’s great explorers who discovered large parts of Africa. Consequently, his birthplace has been preserved within the aptly named David Livingstone Memorial Centre. My birthplace however, was more akin to something out of the Five Yorkshire Men Monty Python sketch. I do not expect it to be turned a shrine when I pass through this mortal coil.
The David Livingstone Memorial Centre is a great day out on its own, With extensive grounds, playpark café and museum, there’s loads to do. We decided to combine this outing with a visit to Bothwell Castle simply because there’s a very pleasant 2Km walk between these two tourist attractions via the David Livingstone Memorial Footbridge over the River Clyde.
Leave the car at the Bothwell Castle car park. Walk towards the left hand side of the castle. Just as you walk past the castle you will see a gate. This will take you to the footpath that skirts along the River Clyde. Walk along this (or keep to the higher path if it is particularly wet or muddy). After about 1.5 Km the David Livingstone Memorial Bridge will come into view. Simply continue to follow the path and it will lead you over the bridge. At the other side of the bridge you are right outside the David Livingstone Memorial Centre. Entry is free although there is a cost to visit the museum. Return by the same route.
Total distance – 3.6 kilometres
Ascent – 250 metres
Walking conditions – Good footpath primarily with gravel and boulders underfoot. A relentless ascent but never gets steep enough to cause any difficulties
Time required – Around 2 to 3.5 hours
Nearest town – Ballachulish
Dangerous and exhausting are two things you might expect from a place in Glen Coe called The Devil’s Staircase. Surprisingly, The Devil’s Staircase is actually a safe and easy winding walk that offers some truly magnificent views over the West Highlands. It was named not by outdoor enthusiasts but by General Wade’s road building soldiers who were lugging materials up and down it all day. Evidently, they did not share our enthusiasm for this stretch of land.
The whole exercise is a straight-forward undertaking. It should take you well under one hour to reach the top of the Devil’s Staircase. Park at Altnafeadh on the A82, directly across from Buachaille Etive Mor. Take the West Highland Way footpath (travelling roughly NNW). You will find this path right next to the parking bay. Simply follow the footpath as it winds its way up the 250 metre ascent of The Devil’s Staircase. At the top of the Devil’s Staircase there is a bealach marked by two large cairns. This is an ideal picnic spot with a fantastic view of the Mamores. Take plenty of time to identify some of the best mountains in Scotland and at the same time cheer on the West Highland Way walkers, as to them, the Devil’s staircase was indeed aptly named by General Wade’s soldiers. Return by the same route.
Total distance – 1.1 kilometres
Ascent – 88 metres
Walking conditions – Good well defined footpath but can be muddy in places. No difficulties.
Time required – Around 1 to 1.5 hours
Nearest town – Balloch
I don’t know how many times over the past 20 years or so I’ve passed through Gartocharn. I was aware of a small hill close to the village but thought nothing more. My apathy towards this little gem changed when I was looking for new walking routes suitable for my children aged 2 and 4. What a fantastic mini expedition! Make sure you’ve got a camera for this one.
Driving from Balloch take the right turn at the House of Darrach restaurant and park at the foot of the hill. Follow the clearly marked path straight up the 88 metre ascent through a forest, then a patch of muddy, open ground, and finally winding up the steeper slope of the hill. No more than 20 minutes after leaving the car you’ll find yourself nearing the top. As you leave the trees behind and the ground levels off you will have a 360 degree panorama and one of the best views across Loch Lomond. This little dumpling even has its own trig point! Return by the same route.