Monday, 16 May 2011

A short tour of the Trossachs

There's seven weeks between the Fling and the WHW race, and I'm keen to get two 30+ mile training runs in those seven weeks. I'm not as keen as others on doing the two runs on consecutive days, so instead am spreading them out by a couple of weeks. On Saturday I got up good and early and drove to Aberfoyle to do a route I'd been thinking about for a while...

I left the car park at Aberfoyle just before 5am (I needed to be back home by lunchtime to do some family stuff) and followed the Rob Roy Way (a waymarked trail from Drymen to Kenmore) for 10 miles over the Menteith Hills and around the east end of Loch Venachar to the Ben Ledi car park. The route over the Menteith Hills was a nice easy warm up for the bigger hills to come. I'd last been over these hills nearly twenty years ago and the small trees I remembered where much bigger now - I'd been looking forward to some of the views I'd remembered but now all I could see was conifers. At the small lochan at the high point on the path I saw an osprey quite close to me which was a good start to the day. On the descent to Loch Venachar I had some good views of Ben Ledi, looking ominously big across the loch.

Looking across Loch Venachar to Ben Ledi - the locals call it Chomolungma

I reached the Ben Ledi car park in just under two hours. I changed from my trainers into my inov-8 running boots (I was a bit worried about twisting an ankle on the hill paths) and set off up the hill. I felt really good on the climb and in about 50 minutes I was at the top of the hill. Ben Ledi is just under 3000 feet but is probably one of the most prominent mountains in the Southern Highlands as it sits right on the southern edge of the hills. Looking north and west from the summit there are mountains as far as you can see, while looking south and east you can see for miles over to the Ochils, the Pentlands and the Campsies. I set off west from the summit, down through some pretty rough and rocky terrain to eventually pick up a track leading down into Brig O'Turk (there were lots of hidden holes and rocks on the descent so I was glad of the extra ankle support from the running boots). I followed forest roads round the south side of Loch Achray, stopping to take a photo of the church I got married in nearly ten years ago as it was momentarily picked out in the sunshine.

The Trossachs Church and Ben A'an - another great wee hill

I headed past the Achray Hotel and started climbing up through the forest towards Ben Venue. Once out of the forest I took the direct route to the summit rather than following the dog leg route the path takes - it was steeper but the going was good through short heather and blaeberry. I reached the summit of Ben Venue and took a few minutes to enjoy the views. Ben Venue may not be very high (about 2,400 feet), but you get a lot of mountain for your money and the views over Lochs Katrine, Achray and Venachar are fantastic. The bigger mountains to the north (Stob Binnein and Cruach Ardrain) looked impressively high from the top of this wee hill.

Looking toward Ben Ledi and Loch Venachar from Ben Venue

I took the path down from Ben Venue to Kinlochard - I had been hoping for a nice easy cruise down the hill, but the first couple of miles were pretty rough and rocky - quite similar to the WHW path between Inversnaid and Beinglas. The run through the oak woods just before Kinlochard was uplifting. I stopped in Kinlochard to change my shoes again (back to the trainers now) then followed forest roads round the south side of the loch and past Lochan Spling back to Aberfoyle.

Loch Ard - one of my favourite places in Scotland

In total the run was 33 miles with 6,000ft of ascent. It was a really good route - I had thought about trying to run on some of the second half of the WHW before the race in June, but didn't really have the time to drive up there. I think I probably enjoyed this run more than I would have enjoyed running over Rannoch Moor say - I prefer to get to the top of hills on training runs, as you can tell from the elevation profile...


  1. sounds like a cracking training run - looks like the training is going well. Ian

  2. it definitely has its high points ali! looks great.

  3. looks another great run Ali.

    Iam passing by north Thirds res on saturday about 2.30pm doing my 30m route if your about, will be going by on sunday also but early morning if your about :-)

    cheers Norry

  4. Looks like a fantastic route.

  5. Awsome that Ali.Even to just run Ben Ledi is a hard one but you've tagged on Ben Venue too and the little matter of 30+ miles.
    Good stuff!!

  6. This looks a great route, is it easy to follow or do you need to know the route pretty well? I'd love to go and try this on Sunday but dont fancy getting lost.

  7. Michelle, it is all on paths that are marked on the OS Landranger map, except for the bit coming off Ben Ledi and the final ascent up on to Ben Venue, but both those bits are pretty obvious if you have a map and compass. From Ben Ledi summit, head downhill and west to the track at the bottom of the glen. For Ben Venue, once you come out of the forest head uphill to the right and you'll get to the summit. There is a bit where the track goes round the back of the Achray Hotel just before Ben Venue and it looks like it will just stop, but if you keep following it crosses a hidden bridge then it's obvious. And finally just before Aberfoyle you need to go through the Milton Car Park to find the path to Lochan Spling - it's on the OS map.

  8. Cheers Ali, Ive managed to pick up a lower back injury in the last 2 days and cant even run 10 strides at the mo but will def give it a go when I'm back running.