Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Rob Roy Way - Day 1 of 4 - 'Drymen to Aberfoyle' via Milngavie

The "Rob Roy Way" is a long distance route across the southern Highlands of Scotland, starting at the village of Drymen near the south east corner of Loch Lomond & travelling in a north easterly direction to Pitlochry following paths & tracks associated with Rob Roy MacGregor.
The tracks & trails range from forestry roads, dismantled railways, farm tracks, the national cycle network route 7 & minor roads through some of he most beautiful scenery that Scotland has to offer.
The route is 79 miles or 94 if you decide to take an alternative extended route. I opted for the 79 mile route as I needed to leave the RRW at some points to pick up supplies etc.

Rob Roy MacGregor born in Glengyle 1671 & died in Balquhidder 1734, simply known as Rob Roy he was a famous Scottish folk hero & outlaw of the early 18th century, also known as the Scottish Robin Hood.
 Below I have added a link to Wikipedia with more detailed information of what Rob Roy was all about.
Wikipedia - "Rob Roy"

My journey started from my home town of Dunbar where I had to board a train to Edinburgh then change train's to arrive in Milngavie, a small town just north of Glasgow.
Milngavie is the starting point of the West Highland Way & also my start point too as the WHW passes Drymen the starting Point of my chosen long distance route the "Rob Roy Way". 
So I had a 14.5 mile cycle along part of the WHW to get to Drymen to start the RRW proper.

In Milngavie there are lots of references to the WHW. 
Lots of photo opportunities & good to get you hyped up for the journey ahead, so after a quick visit to the Milngavie butcher shop to buy some black pudding & sausages for my wild camp breakfast I set off for Drymen. 

I only took a couple of photos along the WHW as this was not my chosen journey, but I had no other way to get to Drymen with my bike & camping gear.
This section of the WHW is fairly straight forward with good hard packed paths & great views over the Campsie Fells & it's prominent volcanic plug of Dumgoyne.
This track was really busy passing dozens & dozens of WHW walkers starting their hike to Fort William.
It was tempting to stop off here at the Glengoyne distillery to buy another one of their bottles of 10 year old malt whisky which I did in 2012 when I cycled the WHW but decided not to bother this time round.
Finally arriving in the village of Drymen to start the Rob Roy Way.

The route starts from Drymen village square & I was quite disappointed that there is no official starting point like a statue, plaque or the sorts to get a memorabile photo of the journeys start !?
So the route leaves the village square past the 'Clachan Inn' the oldest registered licensed pub in Scotland & up hill out of the village following the national cycle network route 7 where I cycled by a local who rose a smile & said 'You've a long way to go yet' !
I soon found out what he meant as the hill out of the village was steep, long & straight, a good little warm up for what lay ahead in the coming days.

Up & over the Moor Park hill opening up to great views around although the weather was a bit gloomy & threatening rain.

Turning left off the Old Drymen Road & into Loch Ard forest, passing some de-forestation along the way which really scars the landscape, but at the end of the day soft wood plantations are just another cash crop just like fields of vegetables or grain crops.

Looking beyond are the craggy Menteith Hills.

The engineering marvel that is the Loch Katrine water scheme.
Built to provide the ever increasing population of Glasgow with clean drinking water.
In the 19th century water companies sold water from horse & carts & disease flourished.
The cholera outbreaks of 1838 & 1848 resulted in many thousands of deaths.
In 1853 the city fathers commissioned John Bateman, a civil engineer, to look at options to improve the city's water supply. He reported that the best source was Loch Katrine: there was very heavy rainfall in it's catchment area & also it's water was exceptionally pure.
An act of Parliament (1855) was needed to authorise the engineering works. These were on an impressive scale:

* A huge dam to raise the level of Loch Katrine.
*An aqueduct 26 miles long to carry water to Glasgow.
*A storage reservoir at Mugdock just north of Glasgow.
*26 miles of mains aqueduct & 46 miles of distribution pipes to deliver the water to households throughout the city.

This ambitious engineering project was completed in under four years. In October 1859 Queen Victoria opened the scheme which was a huge success wiping out Cholera within the city.

The route soon leaves an open track & enters into thick forest where there are many of these domed shafts all in a row, these shaft are ventilation shafts for the aqueduct running underground.

Stopped for a moment in my tracks at a route diversion due to forestry work being carried out in Loch Ard forest, but there was a good clear description of where the diversion goes & was well sign posted.

The alternative route was slightly longer but none the less impressive meandering along forestry tracks with just birdsong for company. Stopping to take a picture & a quick look at my map then realising that my map was gone from where I had it tucked into my luggage for quick access...Ahhh !
I knew it wasn't that far back that I stopped for a photo, so about turning I cycled back the way I came for about 50 yards & just around the corner there it was...Phew need to be more careful !

This was a really enjoyable cycle through the peaceful forest, lots of bird life singing away & those strong pine wood smells. The route so far was well way marked & when you see the way markers it's good piece of mind that your on the right track.

While stopping for yet another photo break of yet more trees, I heard the sound of snapping sticks behind me, I looked around to see a small herd of red deer scurrying up the hill to get a away from me then stopping at the top to watch me.

Emerging out of the forest I arrived at Kirkton graveyard just on the outskirts of Aberfoyle where there are these two "mortsafe" coffins.
Made of cast iron, these coffins were not intended for anyone to move or enter. This was the answer to Burke & Hare & the problems of body snatching.
What is unusual is the fact that these precautions had to be taken so far from the main teaching hospitals.
And finally Aberfoyle just a short distance away where I would get something to fill my belly by now I was starving !

Passing these guffy's snuffling about my thought by this time were bacon rolls.

Over the bridge where the river Forth flows below I arrived at the "Poker Tree"
 It is the amusing tale associated with it which marks it out as a tree of significance. 
Baillie Nicol Jarvie a Glasgow magistrate & cousin of the infamous outlaw Rob Roy MacGregor was travelling on business in the wild Highlands. He stopped at an inn where a truculent Highlander took exception to his presence & drawing his sword challenged him to a fight. The Baillie unused to such violent encounters tried to draw his sword but found it rusted to his scabbard through lack of use. As the fierce Highlander advanced upon him the desperate Baillie grabbed a poker from the fire & brandished it's red hot tip to his assailant. The poker set fire to the Highlander's plaid & sent him fleeing. The browbeaten Highlander later returned to concede defeat & congratulate Baillie on his guile & mettle in battle. In memory of Baillie's exploits the iron poker was later hung from the branches of the old oak tree which stood outside the inn & became a tourist attraction. Some years ago the poker was removed for safe-keeping. It was thought to have been lost, but subsequently reappeared.
The poker in the tree before it was removed for safe-keeping.
Anyway cycling through Aberfoyle I stopped off to get a fish supper from the chippy, after eating nothing all day it tasted absolutely divine & I wolfed down every single morsel.

After enjoying the fish supper onwards I went to find a camping spot for the night. I had planned to camp just past Aberfoyle golf coarse so that I would have good unspoilt views but that was not possible due to the terrain of big trees, rocks & very steep hill face so it wasn't as good as I thought it might of been, I kept going knowing somewhere suitable would soon come along.

And soon enough the perfect spot presented itself, great views a nice secluded group of cherry trees to hang my hammock & a little burn flowing down off the hill next to my camp site so I could have a wash & clean my cooking gear.
After setting up camp I explored my environment & collected some wood for a camp fire later in the night.

And with my camp made for the night it was time for my dinner & tonight's menu was red hot meatballs with potatoes & for dessert chocolate pudding with chocolate sauce both were utterly delicious.

Now with a full belly I climbed the big hill behind camp for a birds eye view only to find that the cloud had thickened & rain was in the distance.

Within 15 minutes of coming down from the hill the rain had started luckily it was just light drizzle which didn't really bother me too much under the cover of the cherry trees, so I lit the camp fire & enjoyed my surroundings, thinking about the great day that I'd had so far & what the next few days ahead might be like.

After a couple of hours I was starting to weary & having a good sleep was soon in my thoughts, but first a supper time snack of smoked sausage cooked over the camp fire with a mug of coffee...

...and some of this novelty freeze dried spaceman neapolitan ice cream which was strangely amazing & tasted exactly like ice cream but obviously not cold !
Feeling very contented & in my element of the great outdoors I cleaned up, had a wash & hit the hammock where I drifted off to sleep with the patter of rain on my hammock.

Thanks for sharing the journey with me so far, the next post will be up in a day or two titled...

...Rob Roy Way - Day 2 of 4 - 'Aberfoyle to Balquhidder'