I’ve really missed not getting out walking as much over the past few months. This has also stopped me writing any posts. I feel I’ve nothing interesting to write about as I haven’t been on a long day’s walk or a great Scottish adventure.
Then I started thinking that even the smallest of adventures have something wonderful to share. I could be out walking for an hour or two and still capture the beauty around me in photos. I usually share photos of these shorter walks on my Instagram, Facebook or Twitter rather than writing a blog post.
I’d love to share some short winter walks over the last few months.
I’ve hiked up Loudoun Hill in Ayrshire once before on a warm sunny day in June 2015.
This day was cold and frosty. My friend came along with me as she’d never been before. We normally try to run together once a week, but our running has fallen away a little. We wanted to try something different.
I vaguely remembered which way to walk. I’m sure there’s another path somewhere around here. Like all the walks I explore, I always need to return to see what I’ve missed. That little cluster of trees on the left is calling me back!
The view across to this volcanic plug is just spectacular. It looks so far away, but it’s not really. Depending on what way you walk you can be at the top in half an hour.
We walked down towards the Spirit of Scotland sculpture by Richard Price.
This commemorates two battles fought at Loudoun Hill during the Wars of Independence.
- William Wallace 1297
- Robert the Bruce 1307
I love this sculpture and could take so many photos at different angles. You feel a real sense of sadness knowing that men fought and died here.
We walked down the hill and over the stile towards the bridge. It was looking rather frosty!
After a short steep incline we reached the right-hand side of the hill. Even though it was frosty the ground wasn’t so crispy walking amongst the great trees. We walked alongside the wall and to the back of the hill before climbing.
I found out later that we should have starting climbing upwards round about here! Just past the trees above there’s more of a trodden path to follow.
With a few high leg lifts over rocks and clutching at the grass, we reached the top eventually. I suppose it doesn’t really matter which way you climb, just some sections are more challenging than others!
The reward was stunningly beautiful with 360 views across Ayrshire and beyond.
We had a little bit of a panic on the way back down though. My friend lost her phone after a slip down the hill! Luckily, when I was trying to call we could hear ringing and it wasn’t too far away. Phew! My knees were really sore going up and down. I’ve been having problems with them for a wee while now.
After a final glance back, it was a fond farewell to the wee hill. A short hike with breathtaking views.
Another friend and I met up just before Christmas and planned to sail over the sea to Arran. We met through our love of the TV series Outlander and then My Peak Challenge. I was so excited to show her the Glenashdale Falls and Giants’ Graves.
Disappointingly, that morning the ferry was cancelled due to bad weather. That didn’t stop us though. We decided we would explore locally and hike up to Straiton Monument in Ayrshire.
Now this is strange … every time we meet it rains. Honestly, bad weather is like a curse that keeps following us when we meet up to go for a walk. We only see each other about three or four times a year! I remember when we walked around the Isle of Cumbrae in the pouring rain and fog. We were soaked to the skin and walked 14 miles that day. We always have a laugh about it though.
I was driving to Straiton, not really knowing the way in my mind. I do get a little nervous driving to places I’m not familiar with. Then out of nowhere the snow came. It was so beautiful, huge floating flakes and virgin snow right in front of my eyes. I love the snow, but driving in these conditions is more nerve-racking.
I looked at my friend and we both thought this could only happen to us. I was fine though, I took my time driving until we came to a stop. A car had skidded across the road in the snow.
We sat for a while as there was no space to get through, then a tailback of trucks and cars started to build up behind us. We couldn’t turn back and I wasn’t risking trying a three-point turn in the snow. Or maybe a nine-point turn!
Eventually one of the cars moved aside and we carried on to the village of Straiton. Yay! I parked beside the start of the hike and looked up at the monument on the hill.
At this point snow and hailstones fell from above. We both decided we’d sit for a wee while and decide what to do. We weren’t in a hurry, and the whole point of the day was to talk and catch up. I love days when I don’t need to rush to be somewhere else.
We almost moved on to drive somewhere else, then the hail and snow stopped. As I looked up at the monument on Craigengower hill I thought how wonderful it would feel to be on top of it in the snow.
We decided, let’s just do it. We could see two people at the top, looking like little stick people. If they can, we can!
It was a trudge up through the field and I felt unusually tired again. The sheep seemed happy though and looking not so white against the snow.
The contrast of autumn colours was so pretty against the evergreen trees and snow.
We reached the entrance to the woodlands and I perked up a little. As I turned around to look back there was my picture. A light dusting of snow with apple green from the fields peeking through. Sometimes the best views are behind you. Always remember to look back!
I loved these ever green woodlands. On this day, it was like the magical Narnia with snow draped all over the trees. I half expected to find a glowing lamp-post!
I tried a few times to capture some photos but my hands were so cold. The hail came back too.
Even though the woods sheltered us from most of it, drips would find a way through and land on to my camera lens! Many of my photos didn’t work out too well.
We wandered up through the snowy and boggy woodland trail until we reached a drystone wall and stile. We climbed over the stile into the open land where we started our steep but short ascent up, up and up!
We reached the top and the views were looking quite fine for five minutes. We’d planned to eat our lunch at the top but the wind and hail was determined to send us back to where we came from.
The monument was built in memory of Lieutenant-Colonel James Hunter Blair of the Scots Fusilier Guards who died at the battle of Inkerman in 1854.
Between short bursts of wind, hail and snow, I managed a few snapshots.
The little bump of an island Ailsa Craig can just be seen from the top. On a clearer day you would be able to see right across the ocean to the Isle of Arran too.
The minty green fields with a touch of orange looked so crisp and beautiful. Sounds like a bar of chocolate!
We only stayed at the top for about ten minutes. This hike is part of a circular walk called The Monument and Bennan Circuit (4.5 miles/7 km). The weather was so unpredictable with the path not being obvious in the snow so we sensibly made our way back down the way we came up.
It was very slippery going back down in the snow. A sledge would have been handy and great fun. Then the hail came back again. Look how quickly the weather changed from the photo taken above about 10 minutes earlier.
I will return here though and try some of the other beautiful Straiton walks.
Dundonald woodlands and old auchans house
I have also been walking in Dundonald woodlands recently. I decided to split up a very long post about the Smugglers’ Trail in this area and included some winter photos. See more photos in my posts Dundonald’s Ancient Woodlands and Old Auchans House.
Future plans and my peak challenges
I’ve thought about my challenges for this year and hope to visit some new exciting places and share them with you. Check out my peak challenges for 2018.
I hope you’ve enjoyed my story and photos. Remember to also explore what’s on your doorstep, you might surprise yourself!
Thanks for reading as always.