Monthly Archives: October 2014

Conic Hill, Balmaha, Loch Lomond and the Trossachs






Total distance – 4.2 kilometres

Ascent – 360 metres

Walking conditions – Good well-defined footpath, slightly steep in places. No difficulties.

Time required – Around 2.5 to 4 hours

Nearest town – Drymen

Conic Hill sits directly on the Highland Boundary Fault Line and is a joy to behold. Conic Hill also bailed me out of a very tight spot once. It was around New Year and I had just invited my future wife out on our first date. The plan was to go ice skating in George Square, Glasgow. However, when we reached George Square to my horror the temporary ice rink was no longer there. Thinking quickly I suggested a trip to Balmaha and so it was agreed. As we sat in Balmaha having dinner in the Oak Tree Inn the allure of Conic Hill proved too much. Re-assuring my future wife that her Converse pumps were adequate for a walk up Conic Hill in fading light and icy conditions we set off. Unbelievably, it actually went well although I have to say that I do not condone this type of reckless behaviour, but that’s first dates for you. Then again, you could never go wrong with a trip to Conic Hill.

Start your walk from the large car park at the foot of Conic Hill and next to Balmaha’s Visitor Centre (the car park fills up quickly on bright summer days so get there before 11 am on these occasions). Follow the forest track as it winds its way through the trees remembering to take a left at the first junction. From thereon it is a fairly steady ascent through the trees for a few hundred metres until you reach a gate at the end of the forest. As you walk onto the open ground you immediately start to appreciate the splendour of your surroundings. The path continues to climb a little steeply in some places until you are on the shoulder of Conic Hill. From here on in it’s just a steady climb to the top. You have the choice of staying on the path or walking directly up the shoulder for a better view.   When you reach the top you will be see a trig point surrounded by a diverse range of people. Some will be wearing full Gortex waterproofs whilst others will be wearing Converse pumps. They’ll all be smiling and gazing out over Loch Lomond. Return via the same route.

When you get back down you can let the children play in the play-park, feed the ducks, or even go on a boat trip to Inchcailloch Island. Whatever you do take time to have a wander around this enchanted place called Balmaha.

Conic hill, Balmaha


Carn Aosda, Glen Shee, Aberdeenshire



Total distance – 3.8 kilometres

Ascent – 275 metres

Walking conditions – Fairly easy walking on footpaths and tracks although the boulders can be a little awkward in places during the descent. No real difficulties

Time required – Around 2 to 3 hours

Nearest town – Braemar

As of 14th October 2014 we can proudly announce to the handful of people who currently read this blog that our five year old daughter has conquered Carn Aosda and she is therefore now a Munroist. Admittedly Carn Osada is certainly not the most prestigious of Munros and it’s a fairly easy 275 metre ascent. Indeed, she made light work of it, albeit off the back of the usual promises of Haribos and Chocolate Buttons awaiting her at the top. Confectionery wasn’t the only treat at the top of the hill. There was also a crystal clear, breath-taking view and this is something my daughter will soon realise is not a treat to be taken for granted on Scotland’s 3000+ feet hills.

Park at the Glen Shee Ski Centre on the A93. At this point you are already over 650 metres above sea level. From here, there’s a short, steep ascent that brings you up to the café. You will now see a number of tracks and paths. Do not head up the direct route to Carn Aosda (that’s the way down) but opt instead for the well-defined winding path that takes you to the lowest point of the shoulder coming down from the summit. When you turn onto the shoulder it actually becomes a very pleasant high level walk with great views and it’s not that hard to forget that you’re close to a series of ski runs. This gentle shoulder takes you onto the summit and a large cairn presents itself. To return, walk down the straight, bouldery path which takes you back to the car park, pretty much as the crow flies.

Carn Aosda


Drimmie Woods, Blairgowrie, Perthshire




Total distance – 7.4 kilometres

Ascent – 180 metres

Walking conditions – Easy walking on forest tracks and good footpaths. Some walking on a single track road. No difficulties.

Time required – Around 2.5 to 3.5 hours

Nearest town – Blairgowrie

Over the years I’ve passed through Blairgowrie on my way to either Glen Shee or the Cairngorms. On this occasion, for the first time Blairgowrie was the destination and about time too. Blairgowrie is a town with a lot going on. This is certainly the case in terms of walking routes. Whilst driving we noticed numerous public footpath signs. This prompted a visit to the Blairgowrie Tourist Information Office where we received the Drimmie Woods tip-off. What the very helpful assistant failed to mention however, was the weird wooden boards nailed to the trees or the sinister looking wooden spider’s web lying at the side of the forest track. Were we being set up in some ‘Wicker Man’ style occult ritual? Read on…….


There is a parking place just outside Drimmie Woods on Drimmie Road which is about 4 kilometres outside Blairgowrie. It is at this point you get a flavour of the fantastic viewpoints which await you should you survive the first 1.5 kilometre walk through the dark, spooky forest with all the Blair Witch style paraphernalia I mentioned earlier. When you exit the tree line within about 200 metres you will see a lochan on your left, after which the path goes in a circuit returning to this point. There will be some walking on a single track road so watch out for the occasional vehicle. When you get all the way around go back through the spooky forest. Run past the locals who by now, are wearing fancy dress and have brought with them a large wooden structure that looks highly flammable. Jump in your car and drive…..anywhere.

Drimmie Woods



Cathkin Braes, Glasgow


Commonwealth Games at Cathkin Braes




Total distance – 4.2 kilometres

Ascent – 60 metres

Walking conditions – Easy walking on good footpaths. Fairly flat. No difficulties.

Time required – Around 1.5 to 2.5 hours

Nearest town – Glasgow/ East Kilbride

Cathkin Braes is undoubtedly the best location to view Glasgow from the south. It is now home to one of the UK’s best mountain biking trails and was the setting for the Commonwealth Games mountain bike competition. It is also proof that walkers and mountain-bikers can co-exist without conflict. The vast network of tracks and paths within Cathkin Braes ensures that even on a busy day we tend not to get in each other’s way. What’s ideal about Cathkin Braes for us is that it is within easy walking distance from our house and if the children are misbehaving we can speed-march them up the hill or the bad fox will catch them.

The start of this walk is from the large car park on Cathkin Road which is a few hundred metres up the hill from Carmunnock (Glasgow’s only village). Head west across the fairly flat, open ground. After about 800 metres this leads to a viewpoint at the edge of the tree line over-looking Carmunnock and you can see as far as Arran. Then change to a north easterly direction until you enter the forest. Take one of the many tracks going east. It’s probably best to stay near to the tree line that you entered from. After about a kilometre you should come into open ground. You’ll see a building with a huge mast. Beside it is a trig point (we love trig points). This is a fantastic place to stop for a picnic as you can see the whole of Glasgow, the Campsies, Ben Lomond and beyond. From there walk over to the stone circle feature which is clearly visible form the trig point. To get back to the car follow any of the paths through the trees which run parallel to Cathkin Road.

A visit to Carmunnock is to be recommended. We’ve had great days out there at the Carmunnock Highland Games and we’ve often stopped at Mitchell’s for dinner and to look at the fish tank.

Cathkin Braes


Calton Hill to Edinburgh Castle, Edinburgh


Calton Hill

Total distance – 3 kilometres

Ascent –  80 metres

Walking conditions – Entirely roads and pavements. Some stairways could prove awkward for buggies.

Time required – Approximately 1.5 hour’s walking time plus however long you wish spend at the numerous attractions

A trip to Edinburgh is always a good day out. We’ve had particularly good times in the city centre during the Edinburgh Festival and also the Christmas Market. On our most recent visit we did a 3 Km loop incorporating the fantastic viewpoints of Calton Hill and Edinburgh Castle with a number of attractions in between.

This particular route starts at the top of Calton Hill. Parking near here can be quite difficult so we tend to have these excursions on a Sunday when there’s less traffic and less parking restrictions. Calton Hill can be easily accessed from all directions and is an easy 40 metre ascent. The only issue might be that if you’re using a buggy you may have to carry it up flights of stairs. When you get on top you’ve got a 360 degree un-interrupted panoramic view and it’s magnificent. You can also marvel at Edinburgh’s finest architecture including the National Monument and the City Observatory. Exit Calton Hill and turn right on to Calton Road, then a left at New Street over the railway line. You then take a right at Canogate onto the Royal Mile which leads up to Edinburgh Castle. On returning from the castle go left which takes you down to the Mound and the home of the Scottish National Gallery. Finally make your way back via the Princes Street Gardens.

If you’re visiting in December my wife recommends you get a coffee and Bailey’s at the Christmas Market to warm your cockles.

Calton hill


Boat of Garten to Aviemore, East Highlands


Boat of Garten Railway Station

Total distance – 7.7 kilometres

Ascent – 50 metres

Walking conditions – Well maintained forest tracks. Fairly flat. No difficulties.

Time required – Around 2 to 3 hours for the walk

Nearest town – Aviemore

Normally, when we go for a walk we make our own way back to where we started. However, when you’ve got the chance to incorporate a trip in a steam train as your return journey it’s an opportunity too tempting to pass up. That’s right! Both Aviemore Station and Boat of Garten Station are lying on the recently re-established steam railway. Brilliant!  

You’ll need a map and a compass for this one as you are on forest tracks and it’s not difficult to get lost. Please pay attention to points on the map that you can identify whilst you are walking. That said, it is a fairly straight-forward, very enjoyable walk along well maintained and generally flat forest tracks with fantastic views of the Cairngorms in the background. You are more or less walking in a south-south-westerly direction for the full 7.7 kilometres of the journey from Boat of Garten until you reach Aviemore.  

Aviemore is a fantastic, bustling town with a great atmosphere. It’s one of our favourite places for a mini-break so we would strongly recommend taking some time to wander around To get back to Boat of Garten simply jump on the steam train and you’ll be there in about 15 minutes. What a great day out it is!

Boat of Garten


The Steeple, Lochgoilhead, Argyll and Bute




Total distance – 3.6 kilometres

Ascent – 390 metres

Walking conditions – Well defined footpath. Steady incline. No difficulties.

Time required – Around 2.5 to 4 hours

 Nearest town – Inverary

We’re quite well connected. We’ve got friends who own a caravan at Drimsynie, Lochgoilhead, and on one occasion they even let us use it. What a brilliant three days it was. One of our many highlights was our walk up to the ‘Steeple’. Seldom has a 390 metre ascent been more rewarding.

Begin your walk from the car park in Lochgoilhead. Head towards the forest in a north to north-east direction and pretty soon you’ll come to the forest path. The path is clearly marked and takes you through the trees, onto the open ground and steadily winds its way up the grassy shoulder of the hill until you reach the top. Absolutely magnificent! A superb view of Loch Goil awaits you along with other sea lochs and the Firth of Clyde. That is, unless you happen to be gazing across Loch Lomond and the Trossachs. Return via the same route.

On the way home we stopped for dinner at Creggan’s Inn, Strachur. It was a slight deviation but well worth it.

The Steeple, Lochgoilhead


Cairngorm Ski Centre Trails, East Highlands


Total distance – 2.7 kilometres

Ascent – 150 metres

Walking conditions – Gravel Footpath. No difficulties.

Time required – Around 1.5 to 2.5 hours

 Nearest town – Aviemore

Located on the northern slopes of the Cairngorms and at an altitude of 550 metres the Cairngorm Ski Centre is an ideal starting point for a stroll about the Cairngorms as it offers a network of paths and fantastic views. It also reminds me that I need to go snowboarding soon.

The Cairngorm Ski Centre is also next to the entrance to the Furnicular Railway which will take you to a height of 1097 metres and almost to the top of Cairngorm. At this ‘Top Station’ you will also find the Ptarmigan Restaurant as well as shops and a viewing terrace. Guided walks to the top of Cairngorm are also taken form here.

From the car park walk westwards, cross the footbridge and follow the path. A number of paths criss-cross which is ideal on a clear, sunny day when you can wander around to your hearts content whilst marvelling at the view. However, if visibility is poor or changeable navigation can be difficult so be careful as it’s not that hard to get lost. Our preferred route has been to walk in a 2.7 kilometre loop that initially travels west for a few hundred metres then veers north down the gentle slope. The path further curves around and takes you directly back to the car park.

Coming back from the ski centre, it is virtually impossible to drive past Loch Morlich without stopping. It’s one of Scotland’s great easily accessible beauty spots. If you park near to the Glenmore Visitor Centre you’ll find easy access to the visitor centre of course, and also to Loch Morlich’s sandy beach and a perfectly located café that features an expansive upper level terrace overlooking the loch.



Glasgow’s West End



Total distance – 4 kilometres

Ascent – 30 metres

Walking conditions – Entirely roads and pavements

Time required – Approximately 1.5 hour’s walking time plus however long you wish spend at the numerous attractions

The west end of Glasgow was my happy hunting ground in my years as a student at Glasgow University. It is also a fantastic urban adventure for the children as there’s loads to do. We’ve carried out a number of incursions into the West End and on our most recent mission we identified three key objectives.

The Botanic Gardens is your first port of call so find a parking space close by. If you are in a metered zone make sure you buy a parking ticket. The parking attendants do not mess about here. The gardens are open all year round (free entry) and there are 19.6 hectares to wander around in. These gardens extend to the river Kelvin walkway. The Glasshouse (Kibble Palace) and Tearooms are also worth a visit and are open during the day.

From the Botanic Gardens head along Byres Road. Take a left at Dumbarton Road. By all means stop for lunch at one of the cafes along the route. After about 300 metres you will see the magnificent Kelvingrove Art Gallery on the left hand side. When you enter, despite what may appear to be the case the Kelvingrove Art Gallery is in fact not a crèche with loads of things to climb onto, but a museum which is free to visit and show-cases numerous invaluable works of art. Make sure you scare the children by visiting the dinosaurs.

The final objective is Kelvingrove Park which is right beside the Kelvingrove Art Gallery. It’s a great park with extensive grounds and for the children there is a skatepark and a playpark beside each other. I could now reminisce about the original skatepark which had been filled in during the 1980s and has made up some of my fondest childhood memories, but that would be self-indulgent. Anyway, when you’re done, walk along Kelvin Way and take a left at Universtiy Avenue which leads you back to Byres Road.

Glasgow's West End