The bus fromRome was busy enough to be interesting, but neither too crowded nor, other than the girl across the passage with the ill-fitting headphones, too noisy to be oppressive. So far, my public transport options in Italy had ticked all the boxes: clean, efficient, punctual, cost effective with, oddly, the TGV coming in from France the only late arrival on my journey so far.
The first stop was Chieti, just inland of the Adriatic, around two hours east of Rome. Here I was to meet Jacqui and Kevin who would take me the 20 km or so to Kokopelli Camping on the edge of the Majella National Park.
Their website and my communications with Jacqui had convinced me that theirs wasn’t an ordinary campsite. And, arriving at sunset, with a simmering orange sky strewn behind jagged, snow-capped peaks, I wasn’t disappointed. Indeed, looking round from the 360 degree panorama, even in the fading light it was possible to make out traditional stone villages, limestone crags, cherry trees struggling under the weight of their fruit and rows of healthy green tomato plants lining the hillsides. But equally obvious was the absence of any hook-ups, motor homes, manicured uniform plots or campsite queues and only the howling of a few village dogs interrupted the twilight chorus of birdsong.
Next morning, Kokopelli produced some more pleasant surprises: daybreak revealed a stunning vista of delicious shades of green that seemed far too lush for a latitude on par with Rome and Barcelona and a short walk down to the village of Serramonacesca unearthed some delicious cheese and ham and an excellent bottle of local wine from its two shops, plus a classic macchiato from the village bar.
Kokopelli is a labour of love for both Jacqui and Kevin, escapees from work-life imbalance in the UK, who want to share their love of climbing, walking, cycling, running and all things outdoor in this beautiful locality, with those of a similar outlook.
“We live a self-sufficient, minimal impact lifestyle and aim to share it with like-minded people,” explains Jacqui. Food is grown organically, water heated by solar power and everything possible is re-used, composted or recycled. As such, holidaying at Kokpelli is more about joining in with a compatible community, than spending time on a campsite.
Even the accommodation options are novel:
“You can bring your own tent and/or bedding, or if it won’t fit in your bag, use one of our options,” advises Jacqui. And, as a long-time exponent of pop-up tent rage, the Strawberry Hills canvas bell tents on offer, complete with duvets and Bedouin rugs, were certainly appealing.
However, my home for the week was to top even these opulent tents. Rosemary is a T25 VW Camper, now peacefully retired after a lifetime of travelling across Europe.
With her comfortable double bed, heater, sink, cooker and even her own expresso maker, my problem was to drag myself up and away from her delights every morning – she also boasts a large awning and can sleep another two adults “upstairs” in her pop top, for those who prefer not to get too friendly.
But, if you simply can’t entertain the idea of sleeping under canvas, or in a campervan, then there is also a converted room in the barn, and a family en suite room in the house.
Showers and toilets at Kokopelli would grace a boutique hotel and there is a host of other facilities, ranging from hair dryers to a well-equipped cooking and dining area.
Given its locality and Jacqui and Kevin’s expertise, Kokopelli is a haven for all kinds of outdoor activities: you can hike from the door to the summit (2,800m) of Mt Amaro, test your stamina and cycle skills on sweeping mountain roads, or choose your own spectacular, deserted crag for a range of climbing challenges.
And, if all this is not enough to keep you occupied, then the Adriatic coastline with its alluring beaches is only a few kilometres away.
But Kokopelli is not just about adrenaline-fuelled adventures. An injured ankle impeded my plans to spend the week hiking through the national park, but enforced rest enabled me to appreciate the variety of wildflowers and butterflies, range of birdsong and darkness of the night sky. A short ramble to the village of Roccamontepiano was rewarded by a glimpse of a young deer in the woods, a deserted house among the olive groves and a delicious cake from the village bakery.
Throughout history the Majella has been renowned for its spirituality and as a refuge for hermits, monks and others seeking peace and reflection and the remains of many hermitages and monasteries are found throughout the area.
Today its sense of solitude and of being at one with nature is still very evident.
I’ll bring my boots when I return to Kokopelli and maybe my bike too, but I will definitely also take some books, my camera and binoculars and factor in time to sit, to observe and to contemplate. History, culture, landscape, food, climate: Kokopelli is a special kind of place.
How to get to Kokpelli: buses run regularly from Rome’s Tiburtina Bus Station and take about two hours to Chieti and the same route will take you from Chieti to Pescara where there is a main line railway station with links to the rest of Italy.
Forget stressful airport transfers and illogical sat nav instructions: be cool and arrive at your destination by boat. Visit the Knoydart peninsula in North West Scotland: inaccessible by road, so boat, boot or bike are your default modes. It’s remote, stunning, has four Munros and is a haven for walking, diving and photography, but it also offers top class cuisine and is famed for its hospitality, culture and community spirit.
Across the Sound of Sleat from Skye, Knoydart is actually part of the mainland. However, unless you walk, or mountain bike from Kinloch Hourn you need to arrive by sea. Known as the Rough Bounds, it is one of the last real wildernesses in Western Europe. In 1999, the Knoydart Foundation , a partnership composed of local residents, the Highland Council and the John Muir Trust, was set up to “preserve, enhance and develop Knoydart for the well-being of the environment and its people”. Today, it is a thriving community, home to about 100 residents who welcome visitors to share its rugged beauty and enjoy its relaxed, genuine way of life.
As you can’t drive into Knoydart, why take the car? It is perfectly possible to reach Knoydart by public transport, the most civilised option being the overnight Caledonian sleeper: board at Euston, or stations through the Midlands, wake up in the southern Highlands, then breakfast in Fort William before catching the West Highland Line to Mallaig.
Frequently voted one of the top railway journeys in the world, this 42 mile ride takes you past Britain’s highest mountain, deepest loch and shortest river, before reaching its most westerly station. Travel between April and October and the steam engine, Jacobite will power you across the 21 arch Glenfinnan Viaduct, immortalised in the Harry Potter books, past the monument to the 1745 Jacobite rebellion and alongside the iconic silver sands of Morar, the setting for the films Highlander and Local Hero.
If you have a few minutes to spare, drop into the Mallaig Heritage Centre beside the station, where the imaginatively presented exhibitions tell the history of the Rough Bounds and show the rapid transformation of Mallaig into a busy fishing port after the railway was completed in 1901.
Head towards the harbour and, keeping to the left, you will arrive at the public steps on the small boat pier. Here, a small boat will take you on the last leg of the journey, across Loch Nevis to Knoydart. Doune is on a rocky headland on the western edge of the peninsular and the accommodation is run by two couples, Martin and Jane Davies and Liz and Andy Tibbetts and their families. Doune Stone Lodges offer fully catered, comfortable double or twin rooms, en suite toilet, shower and porch, while the Doune Bay Lodge is designed for larger families, clubs, corporate events, and consists of eight rooms, open-plan living area and kitchen.
The setting is idyllic, with unforgettable sunsets behind the Skye Cuillins to the west, and the absence of mobile reception and power-thirsty hairdryers and trouser presses adds positively to its unique ambience. The lodges are effectively and sensitively equipped: warm duvets and invigorating showers – particularly welcome after a bracing day in the hills.
Doune Dining Room is one of only seven institutions currently holding the Destination Dining Award for providing the best of food in the finest of settings. Everything is home-made, seafood is caught locally and Jane and Liz’s organic gardens provide most of the vegetables and soft fruit. While meat eaters can tuck into locally-produced lamb and venison, my vegetarianism was expertly satisfied, with a sumptuous nut pate and mouth-watering desserts particular highlights, and fully catered means exactly that, with breakfasts, packed lunches and evening meals all included.
ThreeCorbetts, added to its four Munros make this hill-walking heaven, particularly for those who seek peacefulness and solitude.Ladhar Bheinn, at 1020m (3,346ft) is the highest and most dramatic mountain, although like many peaks on Knoydart, it is difficult to access. Martin and his team are generous with their local knowledge and, by using their boat Mary Doune, it is possible to sail to many mountain approaches.
That said, it is not necessary to go stratospheric to enjoy the beauty of Knoydart. Sailing from Doune, we headed north along the Sound of Sleat with Sandaig Islands clearly visible in the distance. Turning east into Loch Hourn, our progress was observed by some bored looking seals basking in the April sunshine, while Alastair, our knowledgeable skipper, identified Beinn Sgritheall as the snow-clad peak dominating the northern shore.
Scrambling ashore on Barrisdale Bay, it was impossible not to be moved by the still beauty of this sandy inlet. From here to Inverie, the “capital” of Knoydart is a trek of about eight miles through a spectacular mountain landscape. Passing the Barisdale bothy and campsite, the route climbs steadily along the pony path through Mam Barrisdale, until, at the top of the path, the cylindrical outline of Loch an Dubh-Lochain appears on the horizon. From here it is a relaxing stroll along the Inverie river to the Old Forge pub in the centre of the village.
The Old Forge, the most remote pub in mainland Britain, is much more than just a pub. It has won many accolades for its beers, wines and locally-sourced food and also provides a rewarding coffee and slab of cake, as you relive your walk, climb or dive. But it is also the undoubted hub of the community; the stock of musical instruments in the bar testament to its famed reputation for impromptu entertainment. Its website is a treasure trove of local information, advertising local jobs, advising on hill-walking routes and listing local accommodation.
Staying on Knoydart can be as lavish or basic as you want to make it. It is possible to wild camp on the beach, backpack in a bothy or indulge in a luxurious b&b. Match your requirements to the surprisingly wide variety available – check out the Knoydart Foundation and Barrisdale and forget any excuses for not experiencing this magnificent corner of Britain.
Britain’s cyclists continue to rule the world: well, at least that’s true on the track thanks to the likes of Sir Chris Hoy and company. But off the track it’s a different story and 2012 has begun with more depressing news for those of us who hazard on to the roads on two wheels.
The Times’ Cities Fit for Cycling Campaign instigated by the horrific injuries sustained by one of its reporters after she was crushed by a lorry, has spearheaded a string of appalling examples showing the risks cyclists take each time they venture out. But for every video of a bus swerving into the path of a cyclist, or a length of wire hung across a forest track at neck height, there will be dozens of calls, texts and tweets from infuriated motorists enraged about cyclists jumping lights, or listening to iPods, or riding without lights. Indeed, a recent phone-in on LBC radio seemed to suggest that most of their contributors consider horrific accidents are no more than cyclists deserve.
Little wonder then, that a Sustrans survey today shows that a majority of people are now put off cycling because it is too dangerous. Research by the cycling and sustainable travel charity found that 56 per cent of people believe cycling in built up areas is dangerous and 70 per cent seek a 20 mph speed limit in urban areas.
Unfortunately, this isn’t the whole story. In my experience cycling along rural roads – sometimes even on Sustrans designated routes – is, at times, arguably more dangerous: riding along a quiet, high-hedged, picturesque country lane may seem cycling heaven to the urban rider, but it certainly is not when confronted by a massive 4×4, its driver unaware of its width and unwilling to share any of its god-given road space, or when you are tailed by a filthy agricultural vehicle for miles before it tries overtakes on a blind corner.
And, while more cycle lanes could improve safety in urban areas, they are hardly a feasible proposition across the length and breadth of the country. No, the hard truth is that improving safety for cyclists, will not, on its own, substantially change attitudes towards cycling.
A previous survey into walking and cycling in 2011 found that years of government efforts to promote cycling have had almost no impact on a sceptical population who largely view bikes as either “children’s toys or the preserve of Lycra-clad hobbyists.”
“Many people barely recognise the bicycle as a legitimate mode of transport; it is either a toy for children or a vehicle fit only for the poor and/or strange,” Dave Horton, of Lancaster University, wrote in an interim assessment of the Understanding Walking and Cycling study.
“For them, cycling is a bit embarrassing, they fail to see its purpose, and have no interest in integrating it into their lives, certainly on a regular basis. Depressing reading indeed for anyone hopeful the UK could, one day, have a Dutch-style mass cycling culture.
What is needed is a change in the whole mind set about cycling and indeed walking, so that they are seen as our most natural, obvious and effective means of transport, not just forms of recreation confined to half term at Centre Parks.
The mentality that regards cycling as the preserve of freaks, children and the enemy of the motorist, whose participants deserve any injuries they sustain, is the key factor that must be changed and if it is not, any improvements to safety still will not effect a sizable increase in cycling and walking. Sure, you’re not going to get that mentality to change if safety is not improved, but improvements to safety alone will not lead to mass cycling if we do not change our attitude to those who travel by methods other than by motorised vehicles.
In the UK urban and rural roads are regarded as the territory of the motorist and everyone else – cyclist or pedestrian – is considered an intruder, something that hinders the free flow of motorised traffic. Until that mind set changes, then the needs of cyclists and pedestrians will always take a back seat.
And as we live in Britain, where even sensible initiatives for economic or environmental reasons, like parking restrictions and congestion charges, are regarded as a war on the motorist, don’t hold your breath for a speedy, or a positive outcome.
This is my reply to a letter published in the March issue of TGO magazine, in which the correspondent complained about a £10 parking charge levied in the Snowdonia National Park. I hope it might stimulate a debate on what measures we can use to reduce car usage in National Parks and how we can campaign for the preservation and improvement of public transport in rural areas. Any suggestions?
RE: “PARKING TROUBLES” TGO MARCH 2012
John Morris’s complaint about high parking charges in Snowdonia raises some interesting wider questions about the entitlement of motorists to drive and park cheaply within our national parks.
If a high parking charge discourages one motorist from driving around a beautiful, but fragile, environment like Snowdonia, then I would support it, however spurious the reasoning behind the charge.
Has Mr Morris considered joining the National Trust (NT)? Membership would enable him to enjoy free parking in NT car parks. Another answer could be to share his journey to North Wales with other walkers, especially if he usually travels on his own: four people in one fairly economic car not only reduces emissions, but lowers individual petrol costs and parking charges.
An even better solution would be for Mr Morris to “dump his car” at home and try to access most of our beautiful places by foot, bike or public transport. Then he might just appreciate the difficulties faced by those of us who don’t/can’t /won’t drive. Perhaps his experiences might also encourage him to join this neglected group in lobbying for the preservation and improvement of public transport in rural areas.
Mr Morris protests that high parking charges equate to “taxing our outdoor pursuits”. An alternative view would question how much entitlement motorists should have to pollute and obstruct our national parks without appropriate penalty.
Hopefully, the question of parking charges might lead to a general debate on how we can reduce traffic throughout all our national parks and other beautiful areas: yes, we may have been there before, and no, trying to reduce the number of cars in these areas does not represent a war on motorists. We need workable solutions before we ruin even more of our countryside.
For anyone seeking information about how to access walks in national parks (and other areas throughout the country) without a car, check out: www.carfreewalks.org while www.bootandbike showcases walking and cycling routes in UK and Europe, as well as giving advice on how to plan trips on foot, or by bike and how to get there without flying, or using a car. www.bettertransport.org.uk campaigns for sustainable transport options and www.livingstreets.org.uk lobbies for the rights of pedestrians in urban and rural areas.
The shortest day is almost upon us and this, the darkest time of the year, usually with the worst weather and the most chance of colds and ‘flu, is also the time of least opportunity for most of us to get out and about.
But equally, it’s the ideal time of the year to plan for the spring/summer; next year’s holiday; a wish, or intention, of Munros to bag, coast to coasts to conquer, long distance trails to attack. Therefore, to keep us going over the winter, to recreate our experiences in sunnier climes and times, to find out more about places we want to visit, or re-visit, many of us spend more time reading about the great outdoors during the gloomy months.
But what do we read to keep our umbilical cord connected to the mountains, coasts and wildlife beyond our artificially warm and bright winter quarters?
Obviously, guidebooks, Rough, Blue and of other hues, for specific areas, plus cycling, walking and climbing handbooks, as well as factual information on wildlife, history, food, culture and topography will be obvious starting points. But, it was a childhood consumption of classics like, Ring of Bright Water and Tarka the Otter,that sparked my love of wildlife and determination to visit Skye/Knoydart and Devon respectively. Equally, the Iliad and Odyssey triggered a grander plan to explore Greece and her islands.
Well written (auto)biographies, particularly when they are first hand accounts of pioneers in fields like climbing, walking and cycling, are often worth reading. Jock Nimlin’s May the Fire Always be Lit tells how, in the 1930s, young workers from the Glasgow area escaped unemployment and harsh living conditions through walking, cycling and climbing, in the Trossachs and beyond, often equipped only with working boots and washing lines. Gwen Moffat, another climber, but from a completely different background, recounts her experiences as one of the few women on the summits in the 1940s and 1950s in Space Below my Feet. For present day cyclists (and anyone else interested in a good book), Rob Penn’s It’s All About the Bike has to be a required read.
But, for me, a good novel has always been the best introduction to the area in which it is set. A superficial selection could include:
North East Scotland in Sunset Song; the Cotswolds in Cider with Rosie; Yorkshire Moors in Wuthering Heights; the Trossachs in Sir Walter Scott’s Waverley novels; the Cornish coastline in Rebecca; Exmoor in Lorna Doone, Dorset in Far from the Madding Crowd, Tess of the d’Urbervilles et al; and Sweden Norway and Denmark in just about any Scandinavian crime novel!
And, of course, we can add Wordsworth’s poetry for the Lake District, Burns for South West Scotland and Owen Sheers for Wales.
That said, you don’t need to spend all of the winter months wrapped in a book. When you do have a few hours spare over a weekend, or in the Christmas holidays, why not plan a literary-themed series of urban walks and cycles?
CharlesDickens’ London; Ian Rankin’s (Rebus’s) Edinburgh; Colin Dexter’s (Morse’s) Oxford; James Joyce’s (or Wilde’s, or Synge’s, or Yeats’) Dublin; AlasdairGray’s Glasgow come immediately to mind.
Recently, the Ramblers organised a series of walks based on films set in London, including an Ealing comedy circuit, and East End gangland route. Well on that theme, how about a Shane Meadows’ inspired mystery tour of the East Midlands?
However, if you like your pre-Christmas jaunt to be somewhere a little more magical than Uttoxeter, then what about a visit to the canals and medieval markets In Bruges, or make a Killing on some of those suddenly-trendy woolly jumpers in Copenhagen?
Add in a few favourite TV series – a Foyle’s War reconnaissance of the Sussex coast, or a Wycliffian trip around Cornwall perhaps – and the possibilities are endless.
More darkness means less time in the great outdoors over the next few months, but more time for reading and catching up with the latest movies and those you’ve missed. And remember, as with your trips to the great outdoors, your literary themed walks and cycles should always be planned around an appetising, calorie-fuelled pub/cafe stop.
What’s not to like?
Share your suggestions here for more Boot and Bike literature, or literary-themed trips.
Scotland has been in the news rather a lot recently – what with the growing possibility of outright independence, the shameful Neil Lennon saga and the final(?) demise of Taggart – although it’s interesting to speculate if the drastically-reduced Scottish influence on this Westminster government (compare Fox and Gove to Brown, Darling, Reid, Cook, Dewar, Smith et al of old) is, perhaps, an interesting pointer to the divergent path now being taken, on many key issues, by the Holyrood administration.
Tuition fees, prescription and hospital parking charges immediately come to mind, but for those of us intent on preserving the environment and enjoying the great outdoors, the contrasting ideology in Scotland is just as clear. The Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003 allowed virtually unrestricted access to the outdoors. To date, with a few exceptions, it has been a success and, along with the Scottish tradition of wild camping, provides far more positive opportunities for more people to enjoy the outdoors.
South of Hadrian’s Wall, we may have stopped the government from privatising Forestry Commission (FC) land, but this was only round one of the fight for greater access, given that the FC owns only a fraction of our forests and woodlands and that proportion falls still further in lowland areas. We have to increase the pressure to gain access to the 60% (figures from Woods for People, the Woodland Trust’s dataset of accessible woodlands) of forests and woodlands currently barred to walkers, cyclists, horse riders, wheelchairs users and others.
In view of this, the formation of the new Forest Access User Group, composed of organisations ranging from the Ramblers to the Kennel Club and British Horse Society, is cheering news, particularly as the raison d’être of this rather diverse alliance is to campaign to put public access at the heart of the government’s policy on forests.
February’s climbdown on the forests was caused by outrage from an astonishingly eclectic range of organisations and individuals – many of whom were traditional Tory supporters. It is vital that we sustain this pressure on the Independent Panel for Forestry, set up after the U turn, to show that access to our forests and countryside is an issue that unites vast numbers of people, from whatever walk of life, or political persuasion.
From a purely political angle, Cameron desperately needs to score positively on some kind of green issue if he is not to become more of an environmental joke. From hugging huskies and promising the “greenest-ever government” when in opposition, to classifying almost every piece of environmental legislation as “red tape”, within his first year of government, the metamorphosis has been as swift as it has been shocking: indeed, if it wasn’t so potentially tragic, it would be hilarious.
So far, the blue and yellow mix certainly hasn’t equalled green and some of Cameron’s Lib Dem allies have proved to be equally environmentally reprehensible. Justifying its decision to include virtually every piece of environmental legislation on the bonfire of the bureaucracy, the Department for Business headed by the saintly Vince Cable, believes: “it takes a lot to grow a business.” Clearly it doesn’t take nearly as much to destroy the environment.
David Cameron is not a stupid politician. He knows environmental issues galvanise a wide range of individuals and groups, many of whom are Conservative-leaning and whom he cannot afford to alienate. Everyone who cares about green issues, whether access to the countryside, protection of wildlife, reduction of carbon emissions, sustainability or preservation of public transport, needs to work together to keep the environment at the top of the agenda. By definition, this will be a broad church, with some not normally-compatible bedfellows. But the preservation of our planet and our responsible access to it are sufficiently important to rise above traditional political and social differences.
Cameron could set an example by, for once, looking beyond the Home Counties and, instead focusing on a green path up the A1 to Edinburgh. By overlooking his political differences with Alex Salmond, he could learn about how unrestricted access to the outdoors has proved to be so effective in Scotland.
If the news on carbon targets is correct, it’s a welcome first step and an impressive victory for the energy secretary, Chris Huhne. We now have to build on this and work together to preserve our environment and ensure as many people as possible can enjoy responsible access to it.
A wealth of culture, some of the finest art and architecture in Europe, a shopping mecca, vibrant nightlife: just some of Glasgow’s best known features. But, alongside these attributes, its marvellous location for walking, cycling, sailing and numerous other outdoor activities is all too often overlooked.
A city infamous for poor health and housing and blighted by its planners in the mid 20th century, Glasgow, which means Dear Green Place, has, surprisingly, more green spaces per head of population than any other conurbation in Britain, with beautiful parks to be found all over the city. And, within an hour of its centre, you can be climbing a Munro, cycling along Loch Lomond,or sailing in some of the world’s most beautiful coastal waters. This fairly unique combination makes the city ideal to shop till you drop, enjoy many varied forms of culture, but equally easily escape to the great outdoors that are literally on your doorstep.
In addition, the city has an excellent public transport system; in terms of connecting areas and scope, second only to London. And, given Glasgow’s location, its commuter lines actually reach some of the most scenic and iconic places; for example, Balloch, at the foot of Loch Lomond, is around 40 minutes out of the city on a twice-hourly service, whilst the legendary West Highland line, reaches Arrochar and the northern end of Loch Lomond at Ardlui in about an hour.
It is this mix of unique location, plus easy availability of public transport, that makes Glasgow such an ideal base for a boot and bike trip.
Get there and about:
Virgin Trainswww.virgintrains.co.uk travel to Glasgow from London, the Midlands and North West England on the west coast main line; journey times are about five hours from London and just under four from Birmingham.
Strathclyde Passenger Transport www.spt.co.uk is responsible for city and suburban trains, buses and subway.
Scottish Citylink coaches www.citylink.co.uk run out of the city along the A82 en route to Fort William, Portree and Oban.
Loch Lomond Cruises www.cruiselochlomondltd.com operate a ferry service from Tarbet across the loch to Rowardennan and Inversnaid, between April to October.
Glasgow Guest House www.glasgow-guest-house.co.uk enjoys a great location on bus routes, five minutes from Dumbreck rail station, within walking distance of the subway, virtually next door to Mackintosh’s House for an Art Lover and 20 minutes walk from the Burrell. It’s clean, welcoming, serves brilliant breakfasts, has a residents’ kitchen and ample and secure storage for boots, bikes and equipment: Glasgow with hospitality, humour and style.
Make sure you see:
Architecture; Look out for Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s buildings and designs www.crmsociety.com Alexander”Greek” Thomson’s buildings www.greekthomson.org.uk There is a wonderful Victorian legacy throughout the city and the magnificently-renovated 18th century Merchant City www.merchantcity.com is also a must-see.
Art; Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, Museum of Modern Art, Burrell Collection and Pollok House
Museums and Culture; Kelvingrove, Tenement House, Cathedral, People’s Palace, new Riverside Museum of Transport with the Tall Ship and any of the 13 major museums in the city www.seeglasgow.co.uk
Music; King Tut’s, O2 Academy, Royal Concert Halls, Theatre Royal, SECC
Film; Glasgow Film Theatre and Grosvenor, numerous multi-screens
Theatres; King’s, Citizen’s, Tramway, Arches, Theatre Royal, Tron and many more
Why? wonderful views only usually enjoyed from much higher aspects, ideal to fit in for morning/afternoon, or for a winter walk
But; shares some of access route with West Highland Way and can be busy, especially in holiday periods and in spring dog-walkers cannot access the high moor behind the hill
Info; OS Explorer 347, Harvey Superwalker 1:25,000 Glasgow Popular Hills www.harveymaps.co.uk Glasgow, 40 Town and Country Walks, www.pocketmountains.com
Directions; path starts from Visitor Centre in Balmaha where bus terminates, follow the well-signposted route and good path to the top of the hill
Distance; 3 miles
Terrain; woodland and hill paths, steep in places
Refreshments; Oak Tree Inn in Balmaha www.oak-tree-inn.co.uk village shop next door also sells hot drinks and sandwiches, as well as provisions
iii) Where? Dumgoyne Hill, Blanefield, north of Milngavie
How? bus (no10) from Buchanan Bus Station to Blanefield (hourly during most of the day)
Why? more fantastic views to southern aspects of Loch Lomond, Arrochar Alps, Ben Lomond and more, from a steep, but short, climb, within easy reach of city centre
But; very boggy in places, have to jump across a couple of burns en route
Info; OS Explorer 348, Harvey Superwalker 1:25,000 Glasgow Popular Hills www.harveymaps.co.uk
Directions; start from war memorial in Blanefield, carry on up Campsie Dene Road to Cantywherry Cottage, then take path to the right up the hill
Distance; about 6 miles
Terrain; hill paths, boggy and muddy, steep in places
Refreshments; nice deli with lovely little coffeeshop www.pestleandmortar.com across from bus stop in Blanefield
iv) Where? Loch Humphrey and Duncolm, Kilpatrick Hills, west of the city
How? train to Kilpatrick from Glasgow Queen Street or Central
Why? extensive views over the city from a surprisingly remote, heather-clad range of hills very easily accessible from the city
But? bleak and isolated on the hilltops, steepish climb to the Loch
Info; OS Explorer 347, Harvey Superwalker 1:25,000 Glasgow Popular Hills, www.harveymaps.co.uk Glasgow 40 town and Country Walks, www.pocketmountains.co.uk
Directions; from the railway station head along the road under the A82 road bridge to Kilpatrick Gasworks, then follow the track signposted Loch Humphrey. At the loch keep on the obvious path, passing Little and Middle Duncolm before climbing to the summit of Duncolm
Distance; about 8 miles
Terrain; tarmac stretch at start, then rough heather and bracken, boggy in places on hillside
Refreshments; none on direct route, pubs and shops in Kilpatrick
Where? Ben Lomond
How? train from Glasgow Queen Street to Arrochar/Tarbet, Cruise Loch Lomond www.cruiselochlomondltd.com from Tarbet Pier across loch to Rowardennan (April-October), leaving Tarbet at 10am, returning from Rowardennan at 16:45
Why? great way to climb Scotland’s most southerly Munro on day trip from city without having to drive
But; absolutely vital that you have sufficient hill-walking experience/fitness to complete the climb and descent before return sailing
Info; Harvey Superwalker 1:25,000 Glasgow Popular Hills www.harveymaps.co.uk OS Explorer 364, 347
Directions; follow clear route to the mountain from car park in Rowardennan
Distance; around 7 miles
Terrain; tough mountain climb, remote and exposed in places
Where? Ben Arthur (The Cobbler), overlooking Arrochar
Why? One of Scotland’s iconic mountains, yet within easy access of the city, stupendous views of Ben Lomond and other peaks in the Trossachs, lochs Lomond and Long How? Train from Queen Street, or bus from Buchanan Bus Station www.citylink.co.uk to Arrochar But: very steep last section to exposed summit where slabs can be very slippery; liable to be cold, windy at higher levels irrespective of conditions at start; proper equipment, clothing and adequate fitness essential; limited train service and seats on return bus journey often need to be booked in peak months, so check timetable carefully to avoid a long wait in an area with few places to shelter Info: Harvey Maps: Glasgow Popular Hills, OS Explorer 364
Directions: turn right out of station, head into Arrochar, then follow road round head of the loch to the start of forest path opposite car park at Succoth Distance: 6 miles Terrain: excellent, easy-to-follow stone path for majority of route, steepish climb at start, then reasonably gentle gradients, apart from final stretch to the summit which is very steep and involves a short section of scrambling Refreshments: fish and chips and some daytime cafes in Arrochar but few options in the evening, Tarbet, perhaps better bet
Where? Loch Katrine by western access from Inversnaid
How? train from Glasgow Queen Street to Arrochar/Tarbet, Cruise Loch Lomond www.cruiselochlomondltd.com from Tarbet Pier across loch to Inversnaid (April-October), then cycle from Inversnaid along Loch Arklet to Loch Katrine, with option of using paddle steamer, Sir Walter Scott http://www.incallander.co.uk/steam.htm on outward or return journey across the loch
Why? quieter, better way to enjoy wonderful scenery and the iconic loch, without having to drive or having a long cycle in from Stirling
But; watch timings carefully to catch return sailings and take bike spares and emergency kit
Info; OS Landrangers 56,57 Harvey Superwalker 1:25,000 Glasgow Popular Hills www.harveymaps.co.uk
Directions; only one road out of Inversnaid, so cycle (or push!) up the hill out of the village and follow road along Loch Arklet to Stronachlachar, then either take the steamer to Trossachs Pier and cycle back, or cycle to Trossachs Pier and return on ferry
Distance; depends on what route you select, but with a full circuit of loch total distance will be in region of 30 miles
Terrain; quiet, mostly well-surfaced tarmac roads, steep climb out of Inversnaid, undulating round the loch
Refreshments; Inversnaid Hotel www.lochsandglens.com/HotelInversnaid.asp
Cafes at Stronachlachar and Trossachs Pier www.lochkatrine.com meals and refreshments at Inversnaid Bunkhouse www.inversnaid.com
West Highland Way Walk:
Where? stretch between Rowardennan and Inversnaid (or reverse) on eastern side of Loch Lomond
How? train from Glasgow Queen Street to Arrochar/Tarbet, then Cruise Loch Lomond www.cruiselochlomondltd.com from Tarbet Pier across loch to Rowardennan (April-October) and back from Inversnaid, or route can be done in reverse from Inversnaid to Rowardennan
Why? fairly easy stretch of WHW on eastern side of Loch Lomond, within easy travelling distance of the city
But? can be busy, some of the route is in forest, so restricted views in places
Info; OS Explorer 364, 347, Harvey Superwalker 1:25,000 Glasgow Popular Hills www.harveymaps.co.uk
Directions; follow the obvious and plentiful route signs for the WHW
Directions; from Helensburgh station, head towards the shore and walk along the promenade to Rhu Marina, then turn right into Pier Road, right into Station Road and then up the hill till a large metal gate, before following the track through fields and woodlands to the Hill House
Distance; 7 miles
Terrain; tarmac roads and woodland paths, steep in places
Refreshments; selection of restaurants and cafes in Helensburgh, tea room at Hill House
Walk into History:
Where? New Lanark Mills and Falls of Clyde
How?train from Glasgow Central to Lanark, then take shuttle bus, or 20 minutes walk to New Lanark
Why? see Robert Owen’s 18th century mill village, often regarded as the birthplace of socialism and now a World Heritage Site and combine with a walk along the Clyde valley past the spectacular Falls of Clyde, taking in a wildlife reserve along the way
But? train takes over an hour and the site can be very busy during holidays and in the summer