We woke late this morning, sleeping in until 7.30 am. Even Eve slept in, and that’s rare. Sarah woke Eve up at just after 7.30 am, while I started to get breakfast sorted. It was hard for all of us to get going this morning, but gradually our energy increased as the caffeine from a mug of tea started to work its magic. By 8.30 am we were ready to leave, driving to Aberfoyle started walking just before 9 am.
Arriving in Aberfoyle, it felt surprisingly cold. We all felt tired, making it feel a lot colder than it actually was. The sky was blanketed in thick cloud, but it wasn’t raining. It’s always a nice feeling being able to start walking in the dry, even if rain is inevitable later on. We set off feeling slightly cold, knowing we would warm up as we walked. It wasn’t long before we felt toasty and snug.
The Rob Roy Way in Aberfoyle has been permanently changed to follow a different route. The original route took you down the main street in Aberfoyle, passing through the Dounans Centre to connect to a forestry road towards Callander.
The new route takes you up and immediately out of Aberfoyle via the A821 (Dukes Pass) to connect with the National Cycle Network route 7 that would lead you back onto the forest track, above the Dounans centre and onto the original Rob Roy Way.
I have no idea why they changed the route as in my opinion the original route was better, as it would take the walker through Aberfoyle and passed all the local shops, cafés, tourist information centre etc.
Leaving the car park where we finished the last section, Sarah popped into the Co-op as we carried on up Dukes Pass following the new Rob Roy Way route. We have walked this more times than I can remember, so didn’t need to use a map. In any case, the route is so well-signposted you wouldn’t need one anyway.
The first short section goes through the forest around the David Marshall Lodge. This is a tourist trap during the holiday season. In the summer you cannot walk the trails around here without constantly bumping shoulders into other people. It’s as busy as any town centre on a weekend. This morning we didn’t see a single person and the woodland was silent.
Being local to Aberfoyle we are aware of a disease that is killing lots of the huge, old Larch trees in the area. As we walked we read a sign asking people to be careful, as the disease is being spread by people. Consequently, the Forestry Commission Scotland is having to cut down many magnificent Larch trees to try and limit the damage to prevent other trees from meeting the same fate.
Large sections of the Rob Roy Way during 2023 are therefore having to be diverted for safety, to allow for the felling of the trees. The whole area is going to have a very different feel to it after this year!
As we left the area, we passed the Aberfoyle Golf course with some splendid views over the countryside. Due to the low-lying cloud, the views were slightly restricted, but it was still beautiful. The edge of the golf course is also a popular place for Rob Roy Way hikers to wild camp. It's not allowed and the golf course does not allow it, but I have seen people camping there on several occasions.
As we were walking, Eve asked to have the last few hours of her Harry Potter audiobook on, so I tried to play it for her. However, it had expired, and been reloaned to somebody else. Eve was really upset, and I could see her lip start to quiver! Luckily it didn’t last for long, as I managed to distract her with word games! We didn’t stop playing word games all day… literally, nonstop. The only break was for about 30 minutes when we sang the 12 days of Christmas walking into Callandar.
We walked passed a huge area that had been recently felled creating large areas of thick mud. Luckily, because it wasn’t raining, it was easy to walk over. If it had been raining it would have been a very different story.
We had walked about 3 miles by now. We found a small tree stump and decided to have a break, eat some food, and have a drink. We sat there for about 20 minutes and would have stayed longer if we hadn’t started to feel cold.
The weather was doing odd things. It was swinging between warm to freezing. We walked for a few minutes with nothing more than our base layers and fleeces on. A few minutes later we were wearing jackets, hats, and gloves. It was hard to get into a rhythm.
The main section we were both looking forward to was a small wooded section just before we entered an open area of moorland, beside the Menteith Hills. When we got there the entire trail was gone, covered with an impenetrable maze of twisted and broken tree trunks.
There was no obvious way through or around until Eve spotted a small path that had been created by walkers, with spray-painted way markers to help navigate through the trees beside the main trail. Eve seemed to really enjoy it, and lead the way.
We emerged from the trees, crossed a huge muddy area and crossed the open area of moorland. The trail was crossed by several burns that Eve navigated quicker and with more confidence than me. I had to ask her slow down so that I could catch up with her!
We went back into a small wooded section following a well-made but very short step section towards the beautiful small Lochan of Allt a’ Chip Dhuibh (I had to get Sarah to read me that out from the map as I kept spelling it wrong). We found a small bench, stopped for another break and phoned Sarah. Sarah was at home busy putting the labels and string onto the Scotland map, ready for ‘map day updates’! Eve and I sat snuggled up to help keep warm, it felt wonderful!
We carried on walking, following wide forest tracks to be rewarded with a spectacular view over Loch Venachar and surrounding hills. The rain was starting to come on now, but never amounted to anything more than light drizzle.
The views were genuinely spectacular and as we walked down the track we lost lots of time as we kept stopping to turn around to look back up the loch. As we walked downhill towards Callandar the views diminished until we reached the tarmac road near East Lodge.
We walked down the road a short way listening to the sounds of the Loch reaching a picnic bench where we stopped for a drink and some food. We sat there for about 20 minutes and Eve snuggled so close to me that I think she would have sat on me if the bench was a little wider!
One of the best things about today that seemed to excite us more than anything was seeing our first Snow Drops! They were beautiful!
Walking through the last section we both started to feel really lethargic. We tried sweets, talking about dinner and anything we could think of, finally settling on singing the 12 days of Christmas, loudly! The route lead off the tarmac road and up into Coilhallan Wood. We carried on with the word games before singing the 12 days of Christmas again. It was slow and hard.
We were quite relieved to see the A81 that leads into Callander. It’s not that often we are excited to see a busy road, but today we were both relieved. We finished singing, held hands and crossed the road onto the path and Eve phoned Sarah to tell her we were in Callander.
The route through Callander, doesn’t follow the main road, rather it follows a small path that leads around the back of the high school then over the River Teith using a small footbridge and onto the main high street next to the police station.
It was as we approached the bridge that we saw Sarah walking towards us. It turned out that Sarah had been tracking us and drove to Callander to pick us up. We stood for a few minutes to watch some fly fishermen who were standing in the river.
We walked down the high street, leaving Sarah to drive the car into the Meadows Car park where we were going to end the day. Sarah had parked on the high street to meet us as the main car park is pay and display!
Once in the car we had a quick photograph next to the river with our Scottish Autism t-shirts on. Today we walked 10.2 miles, but it feelt like twice that!
We are back out again tomorrow walking towards Strathyre along Loch Lubnaig. We are looking forward to this section!
Sleep well and we will see you all tomorrow!
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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