Symonds Yat

Symonds Yat

Symonds Yat Walk

Where:

Symonds Yat, Forest of Dean

Season:

Winter

Weather:

Cold and unexpectedly sunny

Route:

The Mailscot Wood Trail

Length

4 miles

Walking Buddy:

The awesome Ziggi

Musings:

We couldn’t believe our luck when we saw how gorgeous the weather was this day. When you holiday in England in February, you expect rain at the very least – but no, we opened our curtains to glorious sunshine. There was only one thing to do, make some sandwiches and head out quickly before it changed its mind.
Symonds Yat Walk
My mum had recommended we visit Symonds Yat when I mentioned Zigs and I would be staying in the Forest of Dean and she was absolutely right to, it’s stunning up there. As usual, my photographs do not do it justice. Although this walk takes you in the opposite direction to the main view point, make sure you detour up there before setting off (or after you get back, your call).

When you arrive at Symonds Yat, you will find that there is ample parking (£3 for the day at the time of writing), toilets, information boards with walks of various lengths, and (if you go in season) a visitor centre and cafe. We took a quick snap shot of the information board so we had a record of our route (top tip there, hikers!) and set off. There are walks of various different lengths starting from Symonds Yat, we decided to do the Red Walk which took a couple of hours.

The walk was clearly marked with red arrows which made for a nice, untaxing ramble through the pine trees. It had been raining pretty consistently in the weeks leading up to our holiday so there were sections that were pretty muddy, but nothing a sturdy pair of hiking boots couldn’t handle.

This walk is a nice mixture of wide paths and narrow tracks through the trees, uphill treks and downhill tumbles, with plenty of points at which you can stop and admire your surroundings – often with a well placed bench. There were a couple of points we had to stop and consult our info board photo due to us joining the walk a little way in and going the wrong way round. It doesn’t overly matter as most of the markers have been placed to be used from either direction, but there were a couple of points where this wasn’t the case. Should you be doing this walk, start at the beginning and go anti-clockwise if you want to avoid this!

The bonus to doing the walk backwards (clockwise) was that we got to finish the walk at the viewpoint. This is slightly lower than the main vantage point we visited before setting off and, as such, is a lot quieter but the view is still stunning. Even if you aren’t doing this walk, it’s worth pottering down to as it’s a lovely, peaceful spot; it’s within the woodland, so less exposed than the view from the rock. I had such a nice time on this walk, really must go and do it again sometime – anybody want to come with…?

Symonds Yat

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The Rollright Stones

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Rollright Stones Side 1

Where:

The Rollright Stones through to Little Rollright.

Season:

Very late autumn.

Weather:

Bright, sunny, and cold.

Route:

Walk #11 (The East chapter) in this book.

Length

Just under 3 miles.

Walking Buddy:

Just my wellies.

Musings:

Yesterday I did something that I haven’t had the opportunity to do for ages: I sacked off work and went for a walk.

Shortly after we moved, I invested in a couple of new walking books and noticed that one of them contains a walk that starts at the Rollright Stones.

I love the Rollrights and have been to see them several times over the years – in fact I’m pretty sure my Grandad was with us when I first saw them so I must have been quite young. I was delighted to discover that they’re not far from my new house.

It was a beautiful morning yesterday, it had been raining overnight but the sun had come out making everything look fresh and sparkly. So fresh and sparkly that I was soon regretting not bringing my sunglasses on the short drive over.
Rollright Stones Side 2
The Rollrights aren’t overly well known so you will often have them all to yourself. You park up in a lay-by and walk into a tree- lined field and there they are. There is an entrance fee to onto the site of £1 (50p for kids) – a small price to pay towards the upkeep of a beautiful site.

The Rollright Stones consist of thee ancient monuments: The King’s Men (approx. 2,500 BC), The Whispering Knights (approx. 3,500 BC), and The King Stone (approx. 1,500 BC). The story goes that a king who wanted to conquer England with his knights was stopped by a witch who told him that, if he took seven strides from where he was and could see Long Compton when he was done, his campaign would be successful. So off strode the king, knowing that Long Compton would be easily visible, when a mound rose up out of the ground before him, blocking his view. The witch turned the king to stone (The King Stone), along with his knights (The King’s Men), and a small group who were conspiring against him and/or praying (The Whispering Knights). There are lots of myths and legends surrounding the Rollrights, if you’d like to read some more (and frankly, who doesn’t love a bit of myth of a Wednesday?) you can do so over here.

Whether myths and legends are your bag or not, one thing you should definitely do when visiting the Rollrights is to count The King’s Men – which, funnily enough, is what I’m doing in the black and white “About” picture at the top of this page. The story goes that if you are able to count them three times and reach the same number, then you’ll be granted a wish. Easy, right? Nope, they are notoriously difficult to count – try it.

Once I’d finished wandering around The King’s Men, I headed around the filed to The Whispering Knights, thought to be part of a Neolithic long barrow. I then continued on down-hill before turning off to the left, over a stile and through an avenue of trees. They’d mostly lost their leaves, however the sun was hitting their bare branches and casting some pretty brilliant shadows on the grass as I walked along it. At the end of the avenue, I turned right down a farm track and passed by a farm house which had some pretty lovely views across a valley.

At this point I crossed three fields which had been ploughed and sewn. I was quite glad I’d decided to swap my walking boots for my wellies as it got pretty muddy! I was also glad that, for once, I’d been organised enough to put a change of shoes in the car. Beyond the fields, I set out along a quiet road towards Little Rollright. I thought I must have been to Little Rollright before, but it turns out I hadn’t as I definitely would have remembered it. Little Rollright is a small gated hamlet which consists of a handful of houses, a church, and quite a few sheep. On googling it when I got home, I discovered that the whole place was actually for sale last year! It’s very cute and well worth a de-tour into.

I then joined the D’Arcy Dalton Way for the last leg of this walk which is mostly uphill and eventually returns you to the field containing The King’s Men and The Whispering Knights. Before getting back in the car and heading off, though, do make sure you pop over the road to say hello to The King Stone. For one thing, you can climb up the mound that caused him so much trouble and see the view he should have seen…

Rollright Stones Footer

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Introducing My New Local Walk

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Where:

Near Sibford Gower

Season:

Autumn

Weather:

Lovely

Route:

Sibford Gower, past Haynes’s Barn, right along the Macmillan Way (Ditchedge Lane), and back down to the village again.

Length

Roughly 2 1/2 miles.

Walking Buddy:

James

Musings:

You may remember that I was rather sad to leave behind my old just-popping-out-for-a-walk walk when I moved house a few weeks ago. Well, I am pleased to report that I have found a new just-popping-out-for-a-walk walk, and it’s rather lovely.

Where I’m living now is considerably hillier than where I was previously. The Ridgeway aside, my former surroundings were rather flat and I am delighted to be back in a hilly area, I find the views are far more interesting.
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This walk starts off through a couple of grassy fields (with frequent opportunities to say hello to various cows), the first of which takes you downhill to a stream, the second starts your climb up the next hill. The majority of this climb takes you through a couple of fields which were planted with corn – I personally love walking through crops that are taller than me, I always feel like I’m going through a tunnel to somewhere exciting. When you find yourself huffing your way up a hill it is worth stopping and turning back to look at the view periodically, and the corn in these fields framed the view really beautifully.

The last little bit of climb is along a newly tarmacked lane and passed an old barn which looks as though it is likely to fall down at any minute. We’ve done this walk a couple of times now and it is always quite a surprise to find it’s still there. Will keep you posted on whether it survives the winter!

Once you reach the top, you are onto the Macmillan Way which is a grassy lane flanked by trees with frequent gates into fields of various shapes and sizes. There are some properly spectacular views from these gates, such as the one I’ve attempted to capture at the bottom of this post. As it provides access to the surrounding fields, there is clearly farm traffic along fairly frequently which stops it from getting too overgrown. It’s therefore pretty easy going underfoot, albeit with the odd monster puddle to pick your way around (or wade through, depending on how waterproof your boots are!).

After about a mile there’s a turning off to the right. This is a great little path with hedges either side and interlocking trees overhead which takes you steeply back downhill to the stream. When you reach the bottom, there’s another field (potentially full of cows) which takes you back up towards Sibford Gower. Be warned if you’re on this walk, the approach to the gate by which you leave this field is incredibly muddy, try to keep a little to the left of it and walk back down along the fence if you can.

Provided you don’t sink into said mud never to be seen again; crossing the next field will bring you back to the village with more lovely views to the South. So there you have it – you now know where to find me if I’m not at my desk!

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The Deerpark Forest Walk

Pine Trees in Deerpark Forest, Cornwall

Deerpark Forest Walk 1

Where:

Deerpark Forest, Cornwall

Season:

Autumn.

Weather:

Surprisingly nice.

Route:

The Deerpark Walk

Length

Around 3 miles.

Walking Buddy:

The awesome Ziggi.

Musings:

I’m going to level with you here, Hikers. I’m from Devon and I am slightly disappointed in myself that the first Westcountry walk I’m uploading onto this site is in Cornwall. I will be rectifying this as soon as possible…
Deerpark Forest 2
A few weeks ago, my best friend from home and I had a long weekend away in Cornwall (she actually packed teabags, Hikers – such is the Devonian mistrust of the Cornish). I naturally collected a walking map from Reception upon checking in and on our first morning, we donned our hiking boots, grabbed our cameras, and prepared to take some woodland selfies (which I won’t inflict on you).

Although this walk is supposed to start from the public car park and picnic area on the right as you approach the site from the main road; we decided to start halfway along the route as it passed by relatively close to our chalet. Once we reached the track, we followed the route clockwise with some lovely views of the pine trees which covered the other side of the valley.

We found this to be a nice, easy woodland walk with a clear path which takes you from one side of a valley to another and back again – the perfect setting for a catch up chat. It even featured a slightly creepy hut at one end to ponder, although we did find the walk to be slightly under-benched (until you reach the picnic area) and therefore ate our snacks perched precariously on a fence.

Zigs had recently invested in a new camera and the forest provided her with some excellent shots (which I attempted to recreate with my smart phone – mixed results, hikers!). Although the scenery wasn’t overly dramatic, the views were pleasant and the air was beautifully fresh. The sun was shining through the treetops for most of the walk so we had lovely dappled light to play with – interesting light is always good for photography!

This walk was exactly what we needed to kick off our trip, nice and gentle but fresh and interesting. I am pleased to report that it was followed by a great weekend!

xxx

View from the Deerpark Forest Picnic Area

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Down the Lane

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Where:

Little Coxwell to Longcot

Season:

All four and then some.

Weather:

Everything from blizzard to blazing sun.

Route:

Down the lane from Little Coxwell to Longcot and back again.

Length

3 miles (or a handy 5k, if you happen to be training for Race for Life)

Walking Buddy:

So many people…

Musings:

This walk is a little different to most of the walks I write about on here as it’s one that I’ve been on with alarming regularity over the last couple of years.

I’ve been on this walk in spring, summer, autumn and winter; in sunshine, wind, rain, and miscellaneous weather. This was the route I used when I was training for Race for Life. I’ve contemplated pretty much everything from what to cook for dinner to whether I should radically change my career path, from how irritating that Travelodge advert is to global politics.
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So why am I writing about this walk now? Well, Hikers, I’ve just moved house which means this walk is no longer on the menu (unless I feel like making a 2hr round trip in the car).

The walk starts at Little Coxwell on a nice, wide lane. When I first started taking this walk, said lane was pretty uneven and regularly punctuated with vast, muddy holes. It has since been filled which makes for a far easier poddle.

The track swiftly starts to dip down and very soon you find yourself out of sight of the village. Once you’ve passed some allotments, you have the option on detouring into a field to your right. At the top of this field is a bench with stunning views across to white horse hill. Fun fact: you can also pick up 4G from it and I have, in fact, written various blog posts on my phone whilst sitting there.

Continuing along the lane, you’ll pass several fields which will often contain North Devon Cattle. I’ve had several (admittedly one sided) conversations with them over the last couple of years, Devon Maid to Devon Maids.

Just before the lane runs out, there’s a left hand turn into a track between two fields which brings you out into open farmland. The path proceeds straight across the middle of the next two fields. When I was training for Race for Life back in June, we’d had a bit of a heat wave (ish) and the ground was extremely dry and cracked. The weekend before the race, however, it rained just enough to make the top few milimeters of soil nice and slipery without doing anything to lesson the deep cracks caused by the draught. Hikers, if it weren’t for my freakily flexible ankles, I would probably have done some serious damage! So if you are running cross country under these conditions where the ground is slippery and uneven, and the crops were high; be very, very careful and be sure of your footing!

But back to hiking. After the fields, you will find yourself on a narrow lane. This is the point at which I would generally turn back, however if you follow the lane down to the road and turn right, you will find yourself in Longcot which boasts The King and Queen, which is apparently the winner of The Oxfordshire Restaurant Awards 2014.

I will miss this walk, Hikers. I’ve always found it very calming. My new home, however, is surrounded by beautiful rolling Cotswold countryside – so you can expect lots of new walks coming your way soon.

xxx
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Alfred’s Castle

Field near Ashbury

Alfred's Castle 1

Where:

On and around the Ridgeway near Ashbury.

Season:

Summer.

Weather:

Overcast but warm and reasonably bright.

Route:

Pages 62-63 in this book (“A Circular Walk via Ashbury”)

Length

6.5 miles

Walking Buddy:

My lovely James.

Musings:

I’ve clearly brainwashed poor old James with all this hiking stuff – he asked for some walking books for his birthday! In honour of this, we thought we’d better take one of them out for its maiden voyage.

This walk starts on the Ridgeway near Ashbury. We’d noticed on the map that Ashbury Folly is marked quite close to where we parked the car so we spent some time trying to find it without success – we have since discovered that this is because it no longer exists (just in case anybody else has the same idea!).

Once we’d given up folly hunting and started the walk, we turned off the Ridgeway and headed downhill through fields with various ripening cereal crops before arriving at Alfred’s Castle.
Alfred's Castle 2
Alfred’s Castle is a small bank and ditch enclosure and so called due to a legend that this is where King Alfred gathered his troops prior to fighting the Danes in AD 871. Whether that’s true or not, the castle is actually an Iron Age settlement and therefore much older. It’s recently been excavated by Oxford University, but there is no sign of this now as the meadow grass has well and truly reclaimed the enclosure. It’s really pleasant to walk round as it has lovely views on all sides and we sat on its southern bank for a bit with a flask of tea.

Just beyond the castle, you pass by Ashdown House which was built by Earl William Craven for his beloved, Queen Elizabeth of Bohemia, in 1662 but sadly she died before construction began. I can’t help wondering what she would have thought of it as, although it is very pretty – sort of like a life-sized dolls house, it seems all wrong. It’s the wrong size, it’s the wrong shape, it’s in the wrong place, and it’s facing the wrong way. Unfortunately it was closed when we were there but I’m so curious to see what it’s like inside!

When we reached the other side of Ashdown House and crossed over the B4000, the landscape seemed to change somewhat. We were at our furthest point from the Ridgeway and found ourselves climbing up a small, but steep hill whilst surrounded by slightly scraggy looking sheep. The fields the other side of this hill were mostly full of oilseed rape (which was mostly around the same height as me!) and it wasn’t long before we came to a track heading back up towards the ridgeway. We took a slight detour here and found a nice spot to sit and eat our sandwiches.

We crossed over the Ridgeway and the landscape changed again, this time to a wide path heading for some trees. Before we reached them, however, we took a fork to the left down a sunken track, through a gate (well, under it actually, but who’s counting?), and the landscape suddenly opened out into a properly stunning valley. We walked down through this towards Ashbury itself, admiring the view as we went. When we reached the bottom, we ambled the village, past the lovely old church, and started the climb back up to where we’d started. With the familiar views of the Ridgeway opening out behind us, we finished the last of our water and made our way back to the car.

Valley near Ashbury

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To the Teapot!

ridgeway to teapot tearoom

Where:

Along the Ridgeway, near Uffington.

Season:

Early Summer.

Weather:

Absolutely gorgeous.

Route:

Wayland’s Smithy to The Teapot Tearoom and back.

Length

4.5 miles (give or take)

Walking Buddy:

A very hungry James.

Musings:

This walk involves one of my favourite things in the world: a cream tea. On a previous afternoon when I’d escaped the office and gone for a walk on and around the ridgeway, I’d noticed a teapot shaped sign (teapot shaped, guys – teapot shaped !!!) for The Teapot Tearoom on which the magic words “Cream Teas” were written. It pointed down the hill across some fields and said it was under a mile away – it was very difficult not to head off then and there, but I remained strong and made a mental note to go back instead. So one sunny Saturday, armed with a James, I did just that.

We’d not actually done the walk between Wayland’s Smithy and Uffington before, we tend to park at one or the other and go in the opposite direction, so I thought it was high time we did. Just a note, there is only space for two or three cars at Wayland’s itself so if your alternatives are either a) the White Horse carpark which will shorten this walk somewhat, or b) Ashbury Hill which will add a bit on.
ridgeway to teapot tearoom
This is a very lovely section of the Ridgeway with gorgeous views across fields and into valleys. It’s very gentle in terms of gradient too, and we had a lovely stroll. We very nearly missed Uffington Castle as we’re not used to approaching it from that angle and were far too busy admiring the carpets of buttercups in the adjoining field. Once we’d twigged where we were, however, I started to look out for that glorious teapot sign.

Naturally it was further on than I’d anticipated – although probably not quite as far as it seemed because things you are anxiously looking for invariably aren’t. Eventually I spotted it and we turned off the Ridgeway and started our descent. The hillside to our right feel sharply away affording us beautiful views across Oxfordshire. We were a little bit early, so stopped at the bottom of one of the fields for a sit.

The farm on which the Tearoom is situated also has a camp site and we could see the campers coming and going far below us. There were kites hovering in the valley and a gentle breeze rustling the crops around us. It was really nice just to sit for a while and watch the world go by. We also had a brief game of “What does that cloud look like?”.

We set off again down a narrow track cordoned off from a field of cows (who we naturally said hello to. And by “said hello to”, I mean mooed at). The walk gets much steeper at this point so I had to concentrate on my footing instead of admiring the view. The last few feet down to the road contained steps and at the bottom we found a sign directing us round to the tearoom itself.

Now I grew up in North Devon so I have pretty high standards when it comes to cream teas. The scones must be large and preferably warm, the cream must be clotted, and everything must be plentiful. In the past when attempting a cream tea outside of the West Country, I’ve been presented with tiny scones, jam in those little packs, and (my personal favourite) whipped cream in a shot glass. This cream tea ticked all my boxes and the garden we ate it in was just lovely – it had bunting and everything! – so I was delighted.

We ate every crumb, drained the teapot, and set off once more. In contrast to Newton’s law, what went down unfortunately had to clamber back up and the hill seemed to have made itself even steeper while we were eating. I feel that our walk back to the car definitely cancelled out all calories consumed!

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Along the Shore to Rob Roy’s Cave

Loch Lomond and Rob Roy's Cave

Where:

Loch Lomond.

Season:

Spring.

Weather:

Ghastly (but brilliant).

Route:

Walk #3 in this book.

Length

Roughly 2 miles, but with a climb that makes it feel much longer!

Walking Buddy:

My lovely James.

Musings:

This was without question the worst day weather-wise of our entire holiday in Scotland. It was wet, windy, cold, overcast, misty – in short, a concoction of the most miserable conditions you could ask for. But through all that I could feel the wild, rugged strength of the landscape in a way that I wouldn’t have done if it had been mild and sunny. I was viewing the mountains in their natural habitat. And this walk was my personal highlight of the entire trip.

We parked up at Inversnaid – the carpark is pretty easy to find, drive until you run out of road and it’s there – and set off on a nice, wide path. The shore of Loch Lomond is very rocky, however, and it wasn’t long before our path started to reflect this. We met rather a lot of walkers using sticks – I have my suspicions that said sticks probably just got in the way.
Loch Lomond RSBP Reserve
As we continued on, the path got rockier and less easy to follow. Eventually, we came across a sign pointing towards a heap of boulders at the water’s edge, saying “Rob Roy’s Cave”. The journey up to Rob Roy’s cave is a bit of a scramble over some large rocks and you do go up there at your own risk. I personally like a good scramble so took a deep breath and channelled my inner mountain goat. The good news is that you can tell when you’ve found it because they’ve painted “CAVE” in large letters on the rock face next to the entrance, presumably so it can be easily pointed out on boat tours.

On the way back, we detoured through the RSPB woodland and this is the point at which it all got so beautiful I barely knew how to deal with it. The path leading away from the shore is incredibly steep and steps have been provided to help you as have strategically placed benches on which you can catch your breath, look at the view, and remember why you’re doing it. The view over the Loch to the mountains on the other side is pretty awe inspiring – and, naturally, the higher you climb, the better it gets.

All of a sudden we reached a plateau and the landscape changed completely – I feel like I’d stepped into some classic fairy tale woodland: moss covered stones, the occasional twisted tree, wild flowers, bracken, winding streams, and a narrow twisty path to follow. I half expected a pixie to pop out and start causing mischief. It was a really magical place and, as we were the only people mad enough to venture up there in the driving drizzle, we had it all to ourselves.

This isn’t a long walk by any means, but the twists and turns and ups and downs of the woodland track makes it feel like you’ve been lost in the wilderness for hours. It’s quite a shock to the system to find yourself back at Inversnaid with it’s large carpark and even larger hotel. On our return, we went round to the far side of the hotel to see the waterfall which is said to have been the inspiration for Wordsworth’s To a Highland Girl. It’s well worth the extra time to see, there are steps up to the top of the fall which take you into Craigrostan Woods (a firm fixture on my to-do list for my next visit) which is a whole other world again. As we turned to head back, we were lucky enough to see one last treat: a Pine Martin sitting on a rock by the water.

Waterfall at Inversnaid

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Coxwell the Great

Great Coxwell Header

Great Coxwell

Where:

Great Coxwell and Coleshill

Season:

Early Summer

Weather:

Quite hot.

Route:

Walk #6 of the Faringdon Walk Cards which you can download for free here

Length

Roughly 6 miles.

Walking Buddy:

Just me and my shiny new backpack.

Musings:

I went on this walk on one of those gorgeous days when you just can’t stay indoors a moment longer than you have to. It was the first proper day of summer, the sun had been shining and it was hot, but it was early enough in the year that the air was still fresh.

I was into open fields a few paces after leaving my car in Great Coxwell. After a packed day in front of my computer screen, it was good to get away from my inbox and have nothing more taxing to do than work out which stile I had to clamber over next. This walk contains a lot of stiles, often coupled with a small bridge (and by “bridge”, I mean plank or two of wood to avoid those feet-in-soggy-ditch situations).
Great Coxwell
My day had been so packed that I’d not had time for a lunch break so had brought some sandwiches with me. I found a lovely shady spot to eat them with Flamborough Wood behind me and a field sloping away in front with the ridgeway rising up on the horizon. I sat there for far longer than intended, enjoying the quiet.

With a slightly less rumbly tummy, I continued on into Coleshill Park which is just a lovely place. It was golden underfoot as far as I could see with beautiful old trees dotted about which could easily have popped straight out of a painting.

Once I’d passed through both the park and Coleshill itself, I resumed my search for stiles and found myself climbing up-hill through various fields. As I climbed, the views got better and better until I disappeared into a spinney, leaving them behind. A field or two over, I was faced with a problem: a herd of cows clustered around the field corner containing my next stile, blocking my path and regarding me coolly.

After staring at each other for a bit, it became clear that the cows were not planning on moving anytime soon and did not look as though they’d welcome a hiker disturbing them, no matter how shiny her new backpack was. I consulted my map. I was about two thirds of the way through my walk so turning back wasn’t really an option. Then it struck me, my route actually turned back on itself shortly beyond the cows’ stronghold and ran along the edge of the previous field. So I decided to divert – Cows 1, Debs 0.

The final leg of this walk is along minor roads and farm tracks. Although, on the whole, they’re for access only so I didn’t see much traffic, it was a stark contrast to the grassy tracks I’d been walking on for the previous hour or so. The wide path through the last couple of fields towards Great Coxwell felt almost processional – I was glad to be wearing my good hiking trousers.

Great Coxwell Footer

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Priory Island

Inchmahome Priory

Inchmahome Island

Where:

Inchmahome, Lake of Menteith.

Season:

Spring.

Weather:

Slightly murky with the odd bit of sunshine.

Route:

Anti-clockwise around the Island, then sort of zig-zagged about a bit.

Length

As long or short as you want (opening times allowing!), we were there for a few hours.

Walking Buddy:

James.

Musings:

So, first things first, this is a pretty short walk. Like, really diddy. Although it’s the largest of the lake’s islands, Inchmahome isn’t very big and you can walk around the whole thing in no time at all. But I had such a lovely time walking around both the Island and the ruins of the Priory that I simply couldn’t leave it out of my Scotland walks.

We were actually staying right on the shores of Lake of Menteith so knew about the Priory from our pre-holiday research and it was firmly on our to-do list. You do have to pay to visit Inchmahome, but at a whopping £5.50 per adult, it’s well worth it. Just a note to anybody going there, you pay once you get on the Island. We missed one ferry trying to find where to pay before walking to the end of the pier and reading the notice that explained this. I very much liked the high tech method of calling the ferry: you turn a small board so that the white side is facing the Island. The white stands out against the trees of the shore and the staff will see it and bring the boat over.
Inchmahome Priory
Once we reached the island, we started walking. Within a few moments we were into woodland scattered with bluebells, according to the ferryman the island would usually be carpeted in them, however spring reached Scotland very late this year so they were a little sparse. As the water table is naturally pretty high on Inchmahome so all the foliage was really fresh despite the age of most of the trees.

As we neared the end of our walk around the island, we saw a swan sitting on her nest. We made sure we didn’t get too close, but sat on a bench on top of a hillock nearby. What we didn’t realise at the time is that said hillock is actually known as “Nun’s Hill” and so called due to a legend that a nun had been caught doing un-nunly things with the Earl’s son for which she was buried upright there. We may not have stayed so long had we realised we were sitting on this poor woman’s head…

Aside from the Sinning Nun, as she’s known, the Island is also where the first MP ever suspended from the House of Commons for swearing is buried and it once played host to a 4-year-old Mary Queen of Scots. We ate our lunch in Queen Mary’s Garden, a lovely little area with picnic tables and a huge tree that was reportedly planted during the battle of Waterloo. As 2015 is the 200th anniversary of Waterloo, we wished it a happy birthday.

The Priory itself is gorgeous, you can get a sense of the beautiful complex it must once have been. It was founded in 1238, however there had been a church on the island previously which the canons probably used while the present structure was being built and, although it’s not known for sure, it may well have been incorporated into the priory. There was only one room where the canons were permitted to converse, speaking in sign language the rest of the time – to be honest, Inchmahome is such a peaceful place that I didn’t feel compelled to talk much either. On the journey back to shore, I considered how lucky those canons were to get to live on such a beautiful island.

One final note: We couldn’t quite see all of the lake from our chalet and had thought that the Island was around the corner from us, it wasn’t until we got back and took a closer look at the treeline on the opposite bank that we realised we’d been staring straight at it the whole time.

Lake of Menteith

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