Hiking the Highlands

The past couple of weeks, I’ve been able to travel out of the city for a bit and see the natural beauty of the Highlands. Having been here for over a month now, I couldn’t wait to see the parts of Scotland that everyone always gushes over. And man was it worth it.

My first trip was a class-sponsored trip to the Kilmartin Museum in Kilmartin Glen. This is about a 3 hour drive north from Glasgow through the mountains. Unfortunately, it was raining on the bus ride so I wasn’t able to get too many pictures of the landscape but I promise you it was FANTASTIC. I already need to go back.

This museum is really unique because the surrounding area is full of standing stones and cairns, so the material in the museum was actually excavated within a couple miles of the site. We didn’t get to see as much of the area as I would have liked but the trip itself was a lot of fun. It’s really exciting to see how much local communities care about their heritage here.

 

Lately, my friends and I have been wanting to do some hiking but haven’t exactly had the funds to go too far. So decided to do a day trip north of Glasgow to Loch Lomond. We found a 7 mile hike up a mountain near the village of Luss that promised some spectacular views of the lochs. So we made the plans and with a short hour bus ride out of the west end, it seemed like we were in another world. Luss is a small village that attracts visitors in the warmer months for hiking and boating. We started out our day with a cup of coffee, which we enjoyed on the beach. Just these views alone made the trip worth it.

 

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Fueled with caffeine, it was time to start our hike. And what a hike it was. The path wasted no time easing us into the terrain, but rather started immediately up the mountain. Armed with only a print-out of directions, we did our best to tackle it. The sheer incline meant taking quite a few breaks to catch our breath, also we just used it as an excuse to take pictures. After only walking for a little while, the views of the loch behind us were spectacular. It seemed that every time we stopped for a break, it grew more and more beautiful. Also helps that we couldn’t have asked for more gorgeous weather! Imagine turning around and seeing this:

Amazing right?! But also turning back around and seeing this in front of you:

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The hike became steeper and steeper the further we went. With every ridge we went over, there was always another rising up before us. But seriously so worth it when you could see this behind you.

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Finally though, as we rounded what we thought had to be the top of the mountain, all we could do was laugh hysterically when we saw this rising before us:

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Eve looking at the formidable distance we still had to go.

At this point, our friend Kate decided that she had seen enough. Eve and I decided to forge onward, wanting to conquer the mountain. We continued our trek, needing to stop more and more as we grew winded. I couldn’t tell if it was the altitude or just me being out of shape, but boy was that tough on the lungs. The further up the mountain, the more rocky and boggy the terrain became. I was thankful for my wellies, although I found out the hard way that they had a small hole in each of them! Finally though, after a few more false hopes, we reach the top of the mountain. The views were amazing and the feeling of accomplishment was almost as good. Until we realized that, according to our directions, reaching the top of this ridge was only about 1/3 of the way through the hike. At least the views kept our spirits up!

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A small cairn sits on top of the mountain to let you know you’ve made it!

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Victorious!
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This is my favorite photo from the hike. The loch in the distance looks like a painting!

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Now that we had finally made it to the top, the path lead us around a big horseshoe along the top of the ridge. This part of the hike was particularly boggy, which made finding the path rather difficult but we managed. Eventually the  path looped around the ridge and began to head back down the mountain. For me, this was the worse part. It was extremely steep adn I constantly felt like I was going to stumble down. Oh and just for fun, here’s a view of the ridge we hiked up, taken as we climbing (falling?) down the one next to it:

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Gives you a pretty good idea just how steep that thing was! Once we finally stumbled to the bottom of the ridge, we found ourselves on a paved road that led back to the village. We thought this had to be close to the end, but a quick look at our directions told us that we still had 3km along this road until we reached the trail head. I’m almost positive that Eve and I practically ran that last 3km, the promise of a warm pub lunch calling to us from the village. We did eventually get back to the village to met Kate for a late lunch. We reckoned it took us about 4 hours to finish the hike, which for a 7 mile hike isn’t too shabby! We treated ourselves to homemade scones, sandwiches, warm soup (served in a mug!), and a nice big pint. All in all, a delicious meal and it really hit the spot! After our meal (and a few minutes of digesting), we took a walk through the town. It really is a charming place, with quite a few walking trails, shops, and old churches. I particularly liked the old church and cemetery with its medieval hogback grave stones.

Most everything in the village closes at five, so we decided to start making our way back to the bus stop. After waiting quite a while, it seemed that we missed the 5:15 bus back to Glasgow. Oh well, this gave us a chance to go back to the pub and try their chili hot chocolate. Definitely worth it! img_1326

Finally though, it was time for us to head home. Or so we thought. After waiting about 45 minutes at the bus stop, we began to worry that the buses had stopped running for the evening. The timetable claimed that another bus was still coming just after 7, but we were starting to worry. Just as we were trying to decide if a hotel room for the night or a taxi back to Glasgow would be more expensive, the bus finally showed up. Despite the nerve-wrecking end of the day, we still had a great time and I can’t until the next adventure we get ourselves into!

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