Hills: Ben Vrackie
Who: Just me and the mountaineering minion
When: end of August 2016
Weather: windy but clear with scattered showers
Bog factor: pretty much non-existent
Post walk watering hole: The Moulin Inn, then the Coach House Hotel in Killin
Post walk drink: Coke (as driving) then Shiraz
This was the walk that got forgotten about! The nights are drawing in, winter is coming (as characters on Game of Thrones would say) and I’m squarely in the middle of my usual ‘off season’ from walking; I had hoped that it might be possible to get another walk in this side of Christmas, but it isn’t going to happen. I did however realise that I’d never quite got round to writing up an account of this walk which was done towards the end of our holiday in Scotland.
Ben Vrackie was a hill I’d meant to do for ages but for whatever reason never quite got around to. For starters it isn’t a Munro and my Scottish walking has very much been focused on those. Secondly I never seemed to quite be in the right place at the right time with the right sort of weather. Thirdly it’s a very popular hill and the parking is pretty limited which always makes me nervous as I hate planning a walk and it then being scuppered by not being able to park, as I’m not an early riser – about the earliest start I can remember recently was 8.30 to do Scafell Pike which was itself a side effect of insomnia rather than actually being deliberate!
After our trip to Islay, we had been in Aviemore for 6 nights during which time I had got boiled on Ben MacDui on what was one of the hottest days I’d ever been out on a hill. The weather wasn’t quite as glorious after that but was still worth planning a walk. We were leaving Aviemore to spend a couple of nights in Killin to round off the holiday and would therefore be passing close to Pitlochry, so it was a good opportunity to get the hill done. The weather looked okay although the forecast was for it to be windy, and a few showers blew in and out as we travelled down the A9. I dropped Stuart off in the Edradour distillery as he fancied having a potter around and arranged to meet him in the Moulin Inn after the walk, a rather nice old pub which has its own micro-brewery attached (Stuart’s verdict on the beer was generally positive). I had no issues parking, and was booted up and on the way up the good path from the car park at around 10.45.
The path initially heads straight up at a reasonable gradient, before levelling off later on, and sports various helpful signs but also slightly draconian ones asking the walker if they are really prepared for the walk. The path – at least until the last steep bit of which more later – is really good, and progress was quick although I maybe went off a bit fast to start off with. The views were okay to start off with, and a few showers (not evident from my sunny photos – the phone stayed in my waterproof when it was raining!) meant that I decided to get my head down and get on with it rather than faff about too much, although showery weather inevitably leads to faffing with taking waterproofs on and off etc! I got to the lochan fairly quickly.. and then realised that the steep bit to the summit really was quite steep. Nothing for it though other than to grit teeth and get on with it.
This bit seemed to go on forever. One of my pet hates is steep staircase type constructed paths particularly going downhill – and this path is definitely steep in parts. However it is generally well constructed and without it I think the hill would be an eroded mess and a lot more difficult. Nevertheless I wouldn’t want to come down it in snow or ice! It does zigzag a bit in parts but this bit of the walk seemed to go on forever and I was pretty relieved when I popped out at the summit shortly before 12.30.
The views all round were extensive – particularly over to the Beinn a’Ghlo range and Carn a’Chlamain which I had really enjoyed doing a couple of years before. The hill is very central and you can definitely see a lot of Scotland from the top! It was extremely windy though, so I didn’t hang about but dropped back down towards the lochan. I didn’t much enjoy the descent down the steep bit – never do with this type of path – and am always slow on steep descents, the main reason it usually takes me just as long to descend a hill as to ascend it!
I stopped for a break at the lochan and to have a bit of lunch and a drink. After this the walk back to the car was straightforward and pretty quick, and from the car park there was a 5 minute drive to the pub to meet Stuart – and then another short drive back to the distillery to consider buying (and then buy) some more whisky. We actually bought so much whisky on this holiday that we had to buy an extra suitcase to get it all home on the train! Maybe the blog should be renamed Mountains, Malbec and (single) Malt.. distillery visit done, it was an hour or so’s drive to Killin where the post walk drinks were waiting at the always excellent Coach House.
All in all a good walk rather than a great one, but a nice short walk for a day when you don’t fancy an epic, and some very good views from the top. I don’t know if it’s one I’d be in a hurry to repeat, but it’s always good to get one you’ve meant to do for ages off the to do list!