New day, new trail, and the third long distance trek in our charity thru-hike of all 29 of Scotland's Great Trails.
The Rob Roy Way
The Rob Roy Way starts in Drymen, a few miles north of Glasgow, and finishes in Pitlochry in Perth and Kinross. It’s nearly 80 miles long so not huge. There is an optional small divertion that adds an extra few miles on to the total. We are not sure if we will opt to do this, but as ‘purists’ we will most likely keep to the official trail.
Now, Eve and I do have a confession to make to you, we have hiked the Rob Roy Way before. We hiked it a few years ago and some of our social media followers might remember us doing that.
Also I think we should mention that we live only 30 minutes drive from Drymen, and 10 minutes from Aberfoyle. We have walked the tracks and trails around Aberfoyle and Drymen since Eve was in a backpack (we didn’t have a pram, we had a Osprey Poco Plus) so we know them well.
Aberfoyle is also the first village that the Rob Roy Way passes through and is where we chose to end our first days hiking. Conveniently Aberfoyle also has a co-op with a well stocked ice cream section.
Starting the Rob Roy Way
As usual the alarm clock was set for 7 am. We had a frenetic morning of getting dressed and having breakfast arriving in Drymen for about 9 am.
The weather today was predicted to be interchangeable. Rain, sun and wind. We had it all but at no pint was it severe or presented any challenges. At its worst it was an inconvenience, but nothing more.
At one point on the way out of Drymen we could see the rain coming around us like a horse shoe, but we managed to avoid most of it!
We timed the start just right. The schools had just opened so not too many people about and the rain and wind was calm. It was a pleasant start to a fantastic trail.
Since we were in Drymen last, there has been a big improvement to the official start of the Rob Roy Way.
The bus shelter has been painted with murals dedicated to the Rob Roy Way. On a wet or windy day, starting the Rob Roy Way it would be awesome. The photo opportunities to commemorate the start are fantastic.
Also, Scottish Water has installed a water tap next to the bus shelter so hikers can top up their water bottles.
These are cropping up everywhere and I think they are a brilliant idea.
We took the opportunity to grab a few photographs with Sarah before we set off hiking.
Drymen is not just the start of the Rob Roy Way, it’s also the first village West Highland Way walkers come to. The West Highland actually passes the outskirts of Drymen. On a summers day, you can't move in Drymen for backpackers in various states of ill repair.
Also the village of Drymen is where everybody who wants to drive along the east shore of Loch Lomond, or even attempt to summit Ben Lomond (the most southerly of all Scotland's mighty Munro’s) have to pass through.
Drymen is a busy place during tourist season. Today is was quiet, just the way we like it!
The start of the Roy Roy Way passes by the Clachan pub, the oldest licensed pub in Scotland. We have never been inside for a ‘wee dram’ but it’s on our bucket list!
We followed the Old Gartmore Road until we turn off heading into Loch Ard Forest.
The road is long, we hiked for about 4 miles along the tarmac road, mostly uphill. It’s not a huge gradient but it stretched out in front of us looking steeper than it actually was.
On the way out of Drymen, I met a former work colleague coming the other way. We chatted for about 10 minutes. It was really nice to catch up and know that she is doing well, and now owns her own business!
We carried on up the hill. The road wasn't busy so we didn’t have to worry about dodging loads of cars and trucks, but we kept our eyes out ready to step off to the side if needed.
At one point we both got really hot. Eve got so hot that she walked with no waterproof or windproof on! I didn’t think it was that warm, but Eve did. 5 minutes later it started to rain, so Eve put her waterproof jacket back on!
One of the exciting things about this first section of the Rob Roy Way is that it crosses with the West Highland Way at Garadhban Forest.
The last time we were here was last year, when we were on our JOGLE charity adventure! It felt really odd to be back there but also strangely comforting (I know that doesn’t really make sense). When we were here last year we met up with some friends who drove to see us, and gave us (Sarah was there as well) coffee and cake and Eve an ice cream.
One small section of the road further on was flooded. Really flooded. The burn had busrat and it was flowing down the road like a white water rapid. Luckily the grass verge was slightly elevated so we managed to skirt around it and avoid wet feet.
As soon as we got to the turn off for Loch Ard Forest we decided to find somewhere to stop for a break. We knew of a small area with some steps to sit on. We decided to stop there, about another 15 minutes walking from the main road.
Loch Ard Forest
Loch Ard Forest is a magical and stunning place best experienced by getting off the main trails. We are truly privileged to call this area home, and we will never take it for granted!
The path we followed to start off with was tarmac (we really don’t like tarmac) but it’s easy and the only vehicles that use this road are forestry trucks, that are usually driven with consideration to the walker.
The route also follows some of the old infrastructure for the Loch Katrine reservoir that gives Glasgow some of its drinking water.
The place we decided to stop at for our break is where one of many ventilation shafts are located for the main viaduct that’s carries water to Glasgow. We passed several of these as we walked towards Aberfoyle.
We picked our break time just right as the rain and wind had lulled and when we started walking again the wind picked up and the rain started again. When the rain came on I couldn’t help feeling a little smug about getting our timings right to stop and have a break.
Apart from a very small zig zig section that hardly warrants a mention the route all the way to Aberfoyle is flat and easy from here on dirt tracks.
We passed more ventilation shafts, countless pretty burns and gnarly old trees. We passed one of the most well known land marks for this part of the Roy Roy Way, the longest aqueduct on the Loch Katrine water scheme.
There is a tree at the top of the aqueduct where Eve and I have stopped for picnics over the years more times than I can remember. We didn’t stop there today.
As I have pointed out, we are familiar with this area of Loch Ard Forest, but if you are not I strongly advice using a map and GPS. There are not a lot of way markers for the Roy Roy Way and the tracks and trails make the forest a maze. Getting lost would be very easy and you wouldn’t be aware that you were lost until you were very lost!
We found another small area where we got out our sit mats and had another wee break. Once we started walking again we put Christmas songs on and sang all the way into Aberfoyle.
I was expecting to bump into somebody but luckily we didn’t, saving them the pain of our interpretation of Mariah Carey’s All I Want For Christmas... Eve and I had great fun!
Arriving in Aberfoyle it was only about 3 pm. We had a great days walking along easy paths.
We walked into Aberfoyle passed the famous grave yard where Robert Kirk is buried. Folklore says he was taken away by fairies and pixies on a near by hill. It’s very famous and his grave usually has lots of coins on it! We didn’t go into the grave yard to visit his grave as we have been there many times before.
I think she was also getting excited about seeing Sarah and of course... ice cream
Eve phoned Sarah to tell her that we were walking into Aberfoyle, however with our usual good timing, Sarah was currently on the library bus getting reading books for Eve...
We walked into Aberfoyle, stopping at a picnic bench in the carpark round the back of the Co-op next to the River Forth.
We didn’t have to wait long until Sarah arrived to scoop us up! But not before popping into the co-op for an ice cream.
Thank you to everybody who donated to us on Buy Me a Coffee as we used some of those funds to get Eve an ice cream (I have to confess I also had one, thank you). We ended up getting a 4 pack, as it was cheaper than getting two single ice creams, so we have 2 in the freezer at home for another day! THANK YOU SO MUCH.
Today we walked 10.7 easy miles. Eve was happy and motivated throughout the day and we're looking forward to the next section to Callander.
That’s it from us today, so keep safe and I hope you enjoyed reading our post.
Ian, Sarah and Eve
Ian, Sarah and Eve
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2023 Charity Adventure...
Eve and Ian are currently thru-hiking all 29 of Scotland's Great Trails totalling nearly 2000 miles, aiming to complete them ALL by 2024.
They are doing this to challenge stigmas and stereotypes of autism and raise money and awareness for the fantastic charity Scottish Autism.
About Eve & Ian
Eve and Ian are both autistic and struggle with elements of life most people take for granted, as well as the mental health impacts this causes. Eve is just 8 years old and passionate about the outdoors with ambitions to scale Mt Everest. Eve is also the youngest person to ever walk the length of the UK in one continuous hike at the age of 8 in 2022. Ian, whilst hiking, is also home-educating Eve. Ian then spends every night writing 2000+ word daily blogs containing dozens of photographs so you can follow along on their adventures.
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