Thursday, 27 June 2013

27. Land's End to John O'Groats. Edinburgh to Tyndrum. Midges. The Falkirk Wheel. Union Canal. Munro Bagging.Loch Lomond.

Edinburgh Linlithgow Falkirk Kilsyth Strathblane Tyndrum 
John O'Groats

                             The Reverend Robert Walker skating on Duddingston Loch,   
by Sir Henry Raeburn 1790s
National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh. 

Robbie Brough and David Sansom are making excellent progress in Scotland, and should be in John O'Groats very soon.  They are walking to collect money for Emmaus Oxford, which houses and gives work to the homeless. You can donate money to this worthy charity via The boys have raised £5,845.00 so far, and their original target was £5,000 so they have done well.

Robbie has written the latest account of the journey: it is clear he has a good grasp of the Falkirk Wheel, which is the only rotary canal connector in the world. Robbie is going up to read Maths and Philosophy at Manchester University this autumn. 

I have asked the boys for photos of them wearing head nets they had to buy to ward off the midges, but perhaps they won't send those! 

The stray dog they acquired on the last leg of their journey went to friends of Rob's family, pending enquiries to find the owner.

Loch Lomond is well known for the song from around 1841. Most people know the chorus:

"Oh, ye'll tak' the high road, and I'll tak' the low road,
And I'll be in Scotland afore ye;
But me and my true love will never meet again
On the bonnie, bonnie banks o' Loch Lomond".

Many people die climbing the Munros, but the practice- known as Munro Bagging-  is to climb all 282 of them.

The Falkirk Wheel was completed in 2002; 
it connects the Forth and Clyde Canal to the Union Canal.

Facebook. 26 June

"Hi ya'll. Sorry the updates have been pretty slow in coming in recently. Smashed the Pennine way in 11.5 days (experienced walkers are supposed to do it in We are now in Edinburgh! We adopted an abandoned dog for a short while and have left him at a kennel in Kelso, hopefully we will be able to pick him up. We've walked the whole of england! Only scotland left..easy. Rest day now though, most important".

26 June.  Email from Robbie Brough.

Hi Mary, good to have you back!  Are you all ok and well? 

We are currently in Tyndrum, 50 miles south of Fort William, the going has been very uneventful from Edinburgh to here. 
David with friend Patrick and a piper in Edinburgh

We started out from Edinburgh on the Union Canal which starts near the city centre last Wednesday morning.  The canal goes north-west up through Linthithgow for 32 miles until it gets to Falkirk.  We followed the towpath the whole way and it was flat easy walking for the most part. 

We spent a night on the side of the canal in a small wooded area where we set up camp and were able to cook and sleep in peace from the busy towpath!  We covered around 20 miles that day. 

Thursday morning we continued on the Union Canal to Falkirk where there is a very interesting feature of the canal.  The Falkirk Wheel is a lock-replacement whereby instead of a series of locks the canal is suspended in mid-air and a huge wheel takes a section from the canal down about 40m to the canal below.  There is a picture attached!  The engineering principle is simple and relies on a basic law of physics where a tank of water (filled to the brim) weighs the same as the tank filled to the brim with a floating object in it.  (The weight of water displaced by the floating object will weigh the same as the floating object) this means in theory it should be able to be pushed round by a single man!  However it is not quite friction free and there is a 1000hp engine pushing it! 

The other highlight to the canal was a 600m tunnel just before Falkirk which was very spooky! 

There is another canal that leads from the Falkirk wheel to Glasgow called the Forth and Clyde Canal.  We took this canal along to Kilsyth where we camped on the side of the canal again.  (We haven't paid for a campsite in Scotland yet!)  From here it was an easy track along a cycle path to Strathblane which is a few miles north of Milngavie (pronounced mull-guy) where the west highland way begins.  

We camped in a small sheep's field just near Strathblane right on the West Highland Way so in the morning we were able to get away straight away. 

We started out from Strathblane on the WHW which starts easily along an old railway line until it gets to Drymen where it joins on to the east side of Loch Lomond. 

There are a few settlements along east Loch Lomond including Balhama, Rowardennan, Inversnaid and Beinglas.  The going from Drymen to Balhama is relatively flat and easy but Balhama to Rowardennan and onwards from there is very rocky!  The paths are practically boulder fields and it's half climbing-half walking.  We tried to camp at Rowardennan but there is a camping ban on due to misuse and overuse so we had to keep walking until we are out of the banned area where we just found a small area of flat ground (which is very rare in Scotland!) to pitch the tent. 
Loch Lomond: Summit of Beinn Ruisg

Ben Nevis is the highest Munro or summit in the British Isles

Yesterday's walking was a 20 mile stretch to Crainlarich on the last bit of Loch Lomond and then through Glen Fullock.  We are finally in Munro territory (Munros are the 277 Scottish mountains over 3000 feet (913m)) and the scenery is truly epic.  Coming out of Loch Lomond there were brilliant views of Ben Lomond and Crainlarich is looked over by the towering Ben More standing at over 1000 metres (I think!) With its head shrouded in clouds. 

My grandparents who live in Comrie (20 miles east) came for the evening and bought us dinner in Crainlarich at the Best Western Hotel there.  We found a flat area near a river just outside the village where we could camp but before we had a chance to we got talking to a man walking his dog in the area.  After talking for a while he told us he was once homeless himself here in Scotland and down in Kent.  He told us about some of the psychological problems that homelessness inflicts on people and how hard it was to break the way of living for having a home again.  It gave us some new ideas to think about for the trip and seeing someone who has been through such a horrible situation and is now living productively and happily made us realise again why we are doing the walk! 

We are currently snacking at the Bridge of Orchy, 13 miles on from Crainlarich. To get here we walked along the valley to Tyndrum where there is a very famous shop/restaurant/cafe/service station called the Green Welly Stop.  This brought back many childhood memories for me as we used to sail in Oban and travelling to and from there we always stopped at the Green Welly Stop to pick up some home-made fudge and bacon butties.  So as a tradition we stopped and rested here for a cup of tea and a bacon sandwich and then pressed on in the afternoon.  The West Highland Way is getting more and more crowded and we are starting to see more and more people around which is nice. 

The Devil's Staircase, West Highland Way

There is only one big problem for us now which is the midges!  The Scottish midge is awful and has been biting us since Loch Lomond (midge capital of the world!) they are horrible in the evenings and make being outside a huge chore so we have invested in some head nets which protect our faces.  However I have some very painful bites on my hips and lower back which aren't being helped by the constant rubbing of my bag against it.  However we are almost out of midge territory.  Tonight we are heading to Inveroran and tomorrow over Rannochmoor and into Glencoe (famous for the Macgregor clan massacre by the Campbell clan!) where we will be dropping down into Fort William, the penultimate checkpoint! 

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