Welcome to another edition of the rambling ecologist. As promised, this time round I’ll be chatting about a (relatively) recent trip to Scotland. I headed up there with a few friends partially as a break from the constant writing, and partially because one of my friends had never been to Scotland (!). Being a northerner, this was unfathomable to me, but hey ho, if it gives me an excuse for a holiday, that’s fine by me.
We decided to hire a car for the weekend which was much cheaper than each of us getting train tickets, and it allowed flexibility on a day by day basis. We then headed up to Tyndrum, which is the north of Loch Lomond (a bit north of Glasgow) to stay in what could only be described as a small cylindrical shed (actually named a “hobbit house”) for 3 nights.
After a ludicrously early start on the Friday, we arrived at a lakeside café/hotel at the south of Loch Lomond for some lunch and a cup of tea (and a bit of Frisbee), around midday and took a bit of a stroll up the West of the loch. The weather was fantastic and pretty much set the tone for the whole weekend, with vast quantities of sun cream required. Dinner of the Friday was a rather delicious pub meal in a little Scottish pub, where we also sampled a few of their billions of different whiskeys. We then headed to our hobbit house, where we discovered that Hobbit houses are phenomenally well insulated. Unfortunately, due to the warm winter we had last year, the midges were out in serious force and seemed somewhat enraged (can you enrage a midge?), so we couldn’t open the window/door for fear of being devoured in our sleep. Instead we just gently boiled to death.
On day two it was another fantastic clear day and so we decided to head up Ben Nevis (the highest mountain in the UK). The route to Ben Nevis from Loch Lomond takes you through Glen Coe, and some of the most fantastic scenery I’ve seen in the UK. Between us I believe we had 3 A levels in geography, and one degree in physical geography, and therefore there was much discussion of U-shaped valleys, hanging valleys, abrasion, and erratic boulders on the journey. Unfortunately we had no idea how long it would take to get up and back down Ben Nevis, and therefore we didn’t stop off for photos (though I will most certainly be returning to walk the West Highland Way when I get a chance… which might not be for a while).
Arriving at Fort William, Ben Nevis is down a very unassuming track, with a small car park (which was rammed) and a small pub (which was rammed). Indeed it felt like we had chosen the hottest day of the year to do the trip, and there was an endless trail of other walkers heading up there, including a bloke who we decided was called “weed guy”…. because he was smoking something very herbal every time we saw him. The walk itself isn’t too difficult. Sure, it’s rather steep and somewhat relentless, but with a few exceptions the whole length of the trail is very well maintained with rock/gravel surfaces the whole way up (except where it’s snow), and steps at the steeper sections. In the end it took us about 4 hours to get up to the top, and with it being a very clear day, the view from the top was amazing (cue gratuitous photos of the view).
The view from the top of Ben Nevis, looking out over the mountains to the south
It only took a couple of hours to get back down (partially due to it being downhill, partially due to hunger forcing us on like zombies), and a cold lime and soda at the pub at the bottom was much appreciated. We then headed to a different pub in Fort William where we had some rather delicious venison burgers, and then collapsed for the evening to play assorted card games (“hearts”, munchkin, and a monopoly card game, quickly became brutal and cutthroat).
The following day it quickly became apparent that Ben Nevis had taken it’s toll on our party, as our legs were beginning to seize up. We therefore decided to set out from our hobbit house and head south to see some of northern loch Lomond (much less uphill than the day before). It turned out we were walking through some semi natural pine forest, and vast areas of pine plantation, which unfortunately is relatively baron in terms of wildlife, and relatively drab in terms of impressive landscapes, though it’s still fairly pleasant to be surrounded by pines. Despite this we did find a few interesting insects around the place, including this rather lovely (and blurry) dragonfly.
As this was only a “short” walk, the aim was to reach a pub for some lunch, which we successfully achieved in a small village called Crianlarich. I had the stereotypical “Haggis, neeps, and tatties” (aka minced sheep organs, turnip, and potato) which is delicious (highly recommended), and then we progressed back very slowly (aching and stuffed with sheep’s intestines) to the hobbit house, where we sat back, relaxed, and got devoured by midges (for some reason we still hadn’t bought any bug spray/head nets).
The final day was largely just clearing up and heading back down south, still fairly exhausted, but mostly just irritated that the holiday had been so short. At least it renewed my drive to get the PhD finished off so that I’d be more free to go galavanting. I had planned to walk the Pennine Way (approx 16 days from southern Scotland down to Scale, near Sheffield), and go back to Scotland to do the West Highland way (such is the wonder of the place, I immediately wanted to go back), however events have transpired such that I can’t get out and do them this year… events which will no doubt be the subject of another post in the not too distant future.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this vague, half remembered ramble from nearly 3 months ago (or at least I hope you’ve enjoyed the pictures and achieved some level of procrastination with the words). I’m still figuring out what to write about in this here blog (largely just “whatever comes to mind at the time”), but feedback on the content, writing style etc is always appreciated. Oh, and I’m very aware of the total lack of ecology considering the name of the blog. That is currently being rectified (by planning more ecological posts, rather than changing the blog title).
You never know, I might even be able to make some semblance of a “regular” posting schedule… but I think we all know that is unlikely at best.
Until next time