Author Archives: gm7something

About gm7something

64, married, three kids......overweight, unfit, folically challenged, need I go on ?

Caledonia Way – Fort William to Inverness.

Fort William to Fort Augustus

Fort William to Fort Augustus

Glencoe

Glencoe

I decided on (yet another!) whim to cycle from Fort William to Inverness, I’d been looking at doing a Scottish ‘Coast 2 Coast’ but there seems no definitive, I’d looked at options, Oban to Broughty Ferry, Bowling to Carron Sea Lock (at the Helix park, Falkirk) which I have done, the longest mainland traverse Ardnamurchan to Girdleness Lighthouse in Aberdeen (popular years ago, I’m informed). Fort William to Inverness was even mentioned..

Mrs M is getting used to this ‘Let’s go tomorrow’ thing, I used the Sustrans info page on this trip HERE .

I had used plotaroute to create a GPX track to load into my Elment.

The bike was ready to go, a quick run through my checklist to take and everything was ready to pack into our wee Chevy.

Canal path near Fort William

Canal path near Fort William

The weather forecast wasn’t the kindest but I thought, just grin and bear it.

Bookings made and off very early on the Sunday morning, a wet, windy journey up through Lomondside, Crianlarich, Tyndrum (a short stop for scran), Glencoe and we arrived at Fort William at lunchtime. Glencoe with clag covering the tops was its usual stunning self and alive with tourists at the Meeting of the Three Waters.

A quick change (no telephone box needed) and soon Polly was ready for us to head NE, I had arranged to meet Katie at some point in Fort Augustus, I had mulled over doing the trip in one session but I later found out, two days was the better idea.

The rain started (again) as I set off following Route 78 signage towards the start of the Caledonian Canal but spotted the ruins of Inverlochy Castle and decided on a brief visit.

The local high hill, Ben Nevis was under clag today.

Loch Lochy from forest track

Loch Lochy from forest track

Ah, I then had to deviate back on local roads to find my way to the canal, I cycled up beside Neptune’s Staircase before heading at a steady pace in the now pouring rain, I met a few bedraggled walkers heading the same way. There was plenty of boat traffic and I met and chatted with a fellow heading to Inverness by waterboard. A few miles later at Gairlochy, I bid farewell to the canal and headed off on a minor back

Laggan Lock

Laggan Lock

road running above Loch Lochy, which I could glimpse occasionally before joining a long testing forest section through Clunes Forest, the rain was incessant as I pedalled up and down the roller coaster forest track, Surprised at how good a track with no need to get off on rougher sections, my hybrid bike coping no problem. I left the forest to get back on to another back road.

Invergarry

Invergarry

I passed through Laggan Locks then along to North Laggan where I crossed the busy A82 on to a side road which led me to the Invergarry path, passing through the old Invergarry Railway Station , this part is on the old track bed then it was off towards near Abercalder where I crossed the road and ran along the Canal bank to Fort Augustus. I arrived drookit (soaking) and my clothing caked with white sandy mud, poor Polly too.

 

That was enough for the day, I had thought of a quick drive over the hill heading out of Fort Augustus but no, I’d quickly find out the next day…

Fort Augustus lock

Fort Augustus lock

18 hours later in Fort Augustus, again busy with tourists, I got Polly ready and set off through the back streets joining the B862, built on General Wade’s Military road. I soon found out about the Glendoe climb, as I left the village I spotted two white vans diagonally heading up the hillside and thought, oh boy. I knew it was a constant ascent over 8 kilometres with two short level breaks, with over 1,250 ft of ascent.

Loch Tarff and a welcome break

Loch Tarff and a welcome break

The first section (2 km) was relentless but with the knowledge of no gradient of over 12% but a steady haul of 10% on the first 1500 metres, slow but hard going. I kinda blew at the top of this section and had a quick break, I managed the rest of the ascent with two more short stops, one of which was on a level section to take photos of Loch Tarff, I did though walk around 200 metres. 8 kms later, I arrived at the summit, leg-weary but with the view of a long downhill section, the break was welcome as I fuelled up before setting off. Chocolate peanut bars, my carb choice. The 12 piece breakfast I’d eaten earlier hadn’t been the best idea.

Loch Ness

Loch Ness

I spoke with another couple of cyclists at the summit, their bikes on top of their car and they warned of another steep section at Foyers but after Glendoe? easy.

I had set off on what was a dry day but very windy with crosswinds in open sections. I stopped at Whitebridge for a scran break but it wasn’t long before the blue 78 signs sent me along the B852 to Foyers, the forest road was up and down like a yo-yo but I soon ascended up through Foyers then dropped down to ride along Loch Ness, and yes, no Nessie. This was still Wade’s Military road and I pedalled along the tree-lined road before stopping in Dores where I took a side road up to have a look at the local church, time for a quick seat and fuelling session.

Dores church

Dores church

Fort Augustus to Inverness

Fort Augustus to Inverness

Not long after Dores, the blue 78 signs took me off the main road and on a path with led me to a country road where I joined the B820 at Scaniport, a shared path then it was off to the right again and I’d arrived on the outskirts of Inverness, again NCN signage is excellent and a couple of miles later, after passing through the outskirts of Inverness I arrived at the bottom of a short hill, and sighed but I looked up and saw the castle at the top. I’d arrived at my destination.

Polly at Inverness Castle

Polly at Inverness Castle

Time for a quick look around..

I mentioned earlier that this was as a possible C2C, did I go find the sea? nope, but I’d cycled along the River Ness so I counted that…

I then had to find my way back to where we were staying, 20 mins later with no problems, I arrived back.

Inverness has excellent bike infrastructure..bike lanes and shared pavements.

Think I will return…..

Climbing out of Fort Augustus, I could see new pathways at various points along the route, turned out as the South Loch Ness Trail info HERE

Not many photos, I’m afraid, the weather especially on the first day was atrocious, I did take a few during the odd dry spell. The following day, I didn’t really want to stop on Glendoe plus a large section of the lower run done through wooded sections.

I did this as an alternative to the Great Glen Way, the only difference ?, I took NCN Route 78 on the second day.

Where next? watch this space.

Once again, click on each image to embiggen.

 

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‘We could go for a drive?’

10.20am…’What you doing today, bike?’

‘Dunno, I’ve been out almost every day for the last three weeks, my legs are asking for a break’

‘A drive then?

‘How about a walk up Conic Hill?’

‘Eh, okay’

10.35am… we leave home.

Luckily, I’d my handhelds all charged up, just for when. Rucksack packed in readiness.

12.04.. we set off from the car park at the base of the hill.

Lower forest path

Lower forest path

We’ve had unseasonable weather the past month, temperatures reaching 30C and the last rain was mid June. I’d a screenshot from my bike computer of 91F two days earlier. 91? not often that happens but I’ve found I was getting used to the well above average temperatures. Today would be helped by a cool NW breeze near the top.

We turned through Balloch, headed to Drymen where we headed down to Balmaha.

To the top

To the top

The car park was full, boots on, a last minute check and off we headed through the  cool forest section before heading up the open hillside and a stepped path, we kept moving to avoid the plague of clegs(horseflies) that were in the area. A slow ascent meeting those returning, this hill is always busy, with many accents and ‘ages’ today.

I spoke with two North American couples as we ascended. It was busy even on a Friday lunchtime..

The breeze, we reached at the point where you turn to head parallel to the hill’s north flank, a well-worn and dusty wide path today, Dusty, a word unknown in any walking done in Scotland. This  part of the path is also part of the ‘West Highland Way’ .There a few ‘tops’ to this hill, the first couple as you get higher are the ones for the magnificent views of Loch Lomond.

Loch Lomond south basin

Loch Lomond south basin

The highest point is 361m (just under 1,200 feet). The summit on this top is bare after being trod on over the years, I found a grassy area just off its summit to set up the portable mast and beam antenna. I decided to have a call on 4m FM first just using the handie and the centre loaded antenna, nothing, nada, came back to my call. I had expected it could be quiet as weekdays and especially sunny days, people are not stuck in the house but after a few calls it was on to 145mhz.

Looking N

Looking N

Quiet at first then a call from Paddy IPO in Paisley, followed by Ken NTX south of Stirling, Graham GHM was mobile at Prestwick Airport, finally the hill got qualified when Steve XPZ in Greenock returned my call. I had alerted that my time on the summit would be short. I kept calling on 4 and 2 for another 15 mins but nothing, no more takers.

Looking to Arran

Looking to Arran

I switched everything off, broke down the antenna and mast, packed everything in the rucksack and headed to get some photos before descending back the same route. I counted over 40 people on this summit plus a constant stream of people moving up and down the hillside. I spoke with those who had shown an interest in what I was up to.

Luss Hills

Luss Hills

A gentle descent and soon it was back through the cool forest section and the car park. Kudos to the local council who make no charge for this car park, I dread to think the charges in other areas. The loos are now a charged one in the Park Authority building.

The car was like an oven and as we waited, I asked ‘Fish and chips?’, ‘Aye, lets go!’

Soon we were in Balloch tucking into haddock and chips, lovely.

Heading down

Heading down

An hour later, back at home, ‘I know some other hills you might enjoy!’

Still waiting on a reply……

I’ve done SOTA(Summits on the Air) from the hill before

The first in 2009 HERE

For full image, click on to open in a separate window.

Corlic Hill……………..by bike

Not for the first time, I’ve taken the bike hillwalking.

Previously HERE I pushed Polly to the top of Corlic (or Corlick, the OS map says). Five years ago!!!

I checked to see if any SOTA alerts for the day were posted, I saw one for a hill on the Isle of Mull. I thought ‘where could I work it?’.

Corlic(k)…..

I’d treated myself to a bike pannier rack which fits on the seat post, I quickly fitted it and checked over everything, I did this on a spur of the moment and I ran about looking for my antenna, portable mast etc. I packed the pannier bag, a power pack to charge my phone en route. This was an late off the wall decision. I’d 90 mins to the alerted time of 11.30. I left and dropped down on to NCN 75 where it would take me into Greenock, along some back roads and then I joined Old Largs Rd out of Greenock and the constant climb until my destination, one lower part has sections of around 20% which test the legs but as I passed a farm en-route and saw an OS NBM, I stopped to take a photo. By this time it was hot and I was glad of the buff below my helmet. It was a steady climb to where I’d turn left up the narrow single track road to the base of the hill.

Trig Point, Polly and 2m Beam

Trig Point, Polly and 2m Beam

Passing a radio mast, the tarmac ends and I ‘bounced’ slowly down a rough track and made my way to the base of the hill. When you approach, you can see the faint track running up the hill to the top. As the rough track turns north, there is a stile to the right of you, so I lifted the bike over a wire fence then it was a push up the rest of the way. I was glad of a steady cooling breeze from the south west. I arrived at a familiar summit.

Polly on the summit

Polly on the summit

I parked the bike at the trig point and got busy setting up the portable pole and fitting the delta quad beam. I had the other handie in my handlebar bag and heard Robin PKT. I quickly called him and made the 2 M contact to Mull, he was on Beinn Chreagach, a 377 metre high Marilyn in the Borlass area of the island. A few higher hills in the Cowal area between us but no problem. I worked him later on the 4 m band.

View N

View N

I checked APRS and saw another possible contact heading up Ben More on the same Island, I’d been on the same hill in 2011 HERE. I just sat in the sun and enjoyed the view, the panorama

Not long after, I saw they had reached the summit so I answered their call and worked Caroline ZCB. Time to head home, they way I’d came? I decided to head back by the rough forest track at Garshangan before enjoying a run downhill to join NCN75 between Kilmacolm and Port Glasgow, I was two miles from home and a welcome cuppa.

Plenty of WW2 activity took place in these hills,

War Department Boundary Marker

War Department Boundary Marker

Cairn marker

Cairn marker

 

Cycle profile

Corlic run

Corlic run

Mhor meets Mhor

Fancy Beinn Mhor on Sunday?‘ An email drops in my inbox on a midweek evening..

Seconds later, reply sent ‘Aye’no thought needed.

I’ve never been on any of the Cowal hills (I’ve cycled over a few!) so a trip to the highest and of course, the name Mhor was not to be missed. Sunday couldn’t come quick enough.

got everything charged and ready, packed on Saturday, walking boots nixwaxed etc.

8.30 at Roddy’s, well…

I’d been up to the early hours following baseball and had slightly? Overslept, with a quick look out the window to check the Luss Hills across the water, mist to 1800 ft, it’ll clear they said. Saturday afternoon I‘d watched a spectacular fork lightning display just beyond the summits of a’MhanaichChaorach and Banknock. I‘d followed the storm moving SW but the wind changed and we (locally) avoided any of the tremendous downpours or localised lightning. I‘d thought if it had reached Glen Masson, the place would be damp and alive with midges next day. I had prepared for this by wearing a merino mid layer long sleeved, of course and a pair of lightweight walking trousers and my regular floppy hat.

Off to tie up with Roddy and Gordon, our canine pal for the trip.

A sail across a flat Firth to Hunters Quay then off along the west side of the Holy Loch and a turn to travel up the single-track road in Glen Masson.

River Masson parking spot

River Masson parking spot

The Landy was parked in a designated parking spot next to a pool on the river, a 1.5 mile trek along the Glen to the rough track which would steer us up through the hillside pine forest en route to Beinn Mhor. After a leisurely walkit was upup then up whilst moving quick to avoid any of the flying insects, the path stopped and it was a 200 metre steep walk up a grassy break in the forest on to open ground where we followed a faint quad track to the left which led us almost to Sron Mhorit made for an easier ascent to the summit via the ridge.

Looking through to Glen Tarsan

Looking through to Glen Tarsan

You could go directissma but in this heat, the ridge remained the more preferred option.  I would say to take a grid reference or GPS waypoint as you come out the firebreak as any of the other breaks would be a difficult way back down. I used OS Locate (app) on my phone for an approx reading (I always carry OS mapping with me and a compass, in case). Roddy took a GPX way point.

Beinn Mhor summit

Beinn Mhor summit

The track can be faint occasionally but can be easily picked up again and there are occasional ancient metal fence posts heading to below the summit. Views west and south west to Glen Tarsan and beyond so it is worth stopping to take these in (and a breather). Horizon views were slightly hazy due to the day it was, sunny and warm, very warm.

We arrived at the summit with its views across to Inverclyde, the North Ayrshire hills, Old Kilpatrick hills but to the west, north and east, the panorama is superb. It had taken 2 and 3/4 hours with plenty of breathers to walk the 4.7 miles.

Countless hills to try make out, Ben LomondLuiBeinn Bhuidehills out Kintyre way and countless others I couldn’t place a name to. It would be worth a return visit on a crisp Autumn or Spring day.

Holy Loch and the Firth of Clyde

Holy Loch and the Firth of Clyde

We sat down and had some scran before setting up the radio equipment .

Roddy had the hill activated (SOTA – Summits on the Air), I‘ll explain we are both radio hams and the activation was a small part of the reason we ascended Mhor. I’d often thought Mhor would be an excellent hill for this.

I started off on 4M FM,70 mhz, and established three contacts within minutes, I had solely operated the handheld radio and small centre loaded antenna. I spoke with Jack COX in Lanarkshire, Andy GDE in East Kilbride and a new contact in Jim NTL in Sanquhar. Jim had just recently set up 4 m and I was his first contact on this band 105 kms away, good.

Sron Mhor and Loch Tarsan

Sron Mhor and Loch Tarsan

Whilst I had been calling, I‘d set up the main 2M 144-146 mhz beam and had attached it on to the pole, attached another handheld to it and I was ready to go (you can identify it in the video below). A quick break then I spoke with COX, John KSJ on the nearby Isle of Bute, Ken AXY and Christine YMM in Edinburgh, Steve XPZ in Greenock (also on 4M), Tony AIB who up in holiday at North Ledaig, a site I spent a few holiday breaks at over 30 years ago. Next was Peter HWB in Motherwell then Steve XPZ who told me Robin PKT was summiting Buachaille Etive Beag (Stob Coire Raineach) in Glencoe. It was back to 2M and make contact.

Roddy and Gordon

Roddy and Gordon

A few more calls with turning the beam but no more takers so it was time to break the equipment down and pack away the radios, etc.

I walked about capturing some photos and a panorama video, a lie on the grass, some sugary sweets and water then it was the 4.7-mile journey back down to the Landy back in Glen Masson.

I was glad of the breeze at the top and on the way to the forest where once again, there were no lengthy stops. Roddy had pointed out the forestry roads and their end points so I anticipate a trip across on Polly and a further explore at some point soon.

Beinn Mhor

Beinn Mhor

It was easier on the descent and soon back on the glen floor track back to our set off point.

Leg weary and knowing that a good day once again spent in the hills and thanks to Roddy IOB and Gordon. Another enjoyable day spent in the hills.

 

Where next? Indeed.

Click on any image to embiggen.