Ben Vrackie, Perthshire’s “speckled hill”, is one of the most popular walks in the country.
On any given day, you’re unlikely to be alone on the path, and that’s something of a comfort on a blustery November day. With the days darkening early and the wind having an edge to it, it was nice to know someone would pass by if things went wrong.
I felt like Willie Shand, striding out on to the tussocky hillside in my waterproof jacket.
My brother-in-law and nephew were with me, so I wish I’d had some of Willie’s stories to tell on the climb. I bet Willie would have a few good swashbuckling tales of tell of the area — of illicit distilleries or vengeful clans.
Sadly, all I knew was what the name of the hill meant and where the car park was. Nobody was very impressed, especially when it turned out to be full.
I don’t often climb hills
I’d convinced my brother-in-law, Steve, that we should drive to the car park from their holiday cottage. Very lazy of me, as it was about 200 metres around the corner. But every little helps!
We had to turn around and drive back to where he had been parked, much to the bemusement of my sister and wife, who we’d just left there. Steve joked that we’d done it already, and we should just head into town for café. But my nephew was keen to earn his cake the honest way!
Much as I love being in the great outdoors, I don’t often climb hills. Mainly just because it’s really hard work!
Ambling through the woods or up and down coastal paths isn’t quite as arduous as going straight up and coming straight back down again.
But I’d forgotten how magnificent the view from the top can be.
In the picture above, Loch Tummel and Loch Rannoch stretch off to the left, while the A9 continues up to the right.
It’s fascinating how the hills either side of the A9 look pretty substantial as you drive up from Dunkeld, but they’re mere ripples on the landscape from up top.
Again, comparing myself unfavourably with Willie, I didn’t bring gloves. He wouldn’t have forgotten those.
The wind was persistent. Not strong, but very cold, and I regretted my mistake about halfway up.
What A View!
Unsurprisingly, the scenery was stunning in every direction.
My eyes were drawn away to the north-east, towards the edge of the Cairngorms. Possibly my favourite mountains in Scotland, they form Britain’s biggest National Park, and have been the site of some of my favourite bicycle rides.
Plus as they’re on the east side of Scotland, they don’t get the rain the west coast does.
Though the wind fair picks up across the plateau. 173mph was recorded once from the summit of Cairngorm mountain itself!
To The Cake Shop!
I was tripping over my feet on the way back down, with my hands stuffed deep into my pockets.
My eleven-year-old nephew, brought up in the flatlands of Oxfordshire, was getting tired by now, too, and just a touch ratty. So was I, to be honest. We needed cake!
When the path began to level off, it was a little easier to chat without worrying about our feet, and we registered that this was officially my nephew’s biggest mountain to date!
Which, of course, had to be marked by a slice of cake.
Re-joining my sister, my wife and neice, it wasn’t easy finding a coffee shop that could handle a group of six.
But when we did I ordered two cakes and a hot chocolate.
For more from Alex, read his blog here.
Read more from the rest of the “Friend” team here.