I like to think words and I get along pretty well.
There’s never a shortage of adjectives in my arsenal; prepositional phrases are my jam; and participles are a personal hobby of mine (a quality that has men lining up around the block – well, at least the fictional variety).
I’ve even kissed Ireland’s Blarney Stone whose magical properties bestow the gift of gab upon whosever’s lips they caress. So it’s pretty much scientifically proven that I have a talent for writing.
Yet despite the rising tally of words infiltrating the Oxford dictionary year after year, there are just some settings where words are ineffective – no matter how seductively they’re spun.
Places like Scotland’s countryside where even the most lyrical of poets can’t fully capture its effusive beauty.
When it comes to the Scottish Lowlands, a picture is worth a great deal more than a thousand words.
Up until a couple of weeks ago, I had only experienced city life in Scotland. And by city life, I really only mean Edinburgh. My time was previously dictated by short weekends that never allowed enough time to venture into the countryside that I always ached to see. A countryside that’s long been an inspiration for writers, poets, and film producers.
I had built up a preconceived notion of rugged landscapes and Mel Gibson look-a-likes. Though apparently I arrived a few centuries too late for Scottish warriors and wasn’t lucky enough to step through a pile of rocks that’d take me back in time (so that means no Jamie Fraser either ladies).
However, the landscape didn’t disappoint.
I was staying in the small town of Stirling in the Scottish region that goes by the same name. I had come to the area for a week of R&R before my hectic travel schedule picked up. I spent the better part of my time wandering from one quaint village to the next, getting my history on at medieval castles, and frequenting pubs to enjoy the live folk music. You can find my full guide to the towns of Stirling here.
As Stirling is prettily situated amid the Lowlands, it’s ripe with day hiking options that can range anywhere from 45 minutes to 6 hours – each course with their own varying levels of difficulty.
I spent one night perusing the routes listed on the Walkhighlands website along with a French girl I’d met who had recently moved to Stirling. A local previously recommended the summit of Dumyat so we agreed to take the long way round and try the more difficult trek towards the peak the next day.
Dumyat From Blairlogie
Together with an Australian traveler we convinced to join us and a set of old school printed instructions in hand, we boarded one of the frequent buses departing from Stirling City Center and headed to the tiny hamlet of Blairlogie.
The hike started behind a smattering of whitewashed houses strewn throughout the base of the hills and continued up and over small streams as their chilly waters descended down the slopes. The path descriptions were split into 6 stages and were more of a loose guide as the majority of the directions were fairly nondescript.
Guidance included commands to “head through a thick section of gorse before the bracken takes over” and “cross boggy ground and a stream with a patch of scree”. There were mentions of “burn” and “stile” too and we quickly came to the conclusion that we should have googled gorse, bracken, scree, burn, and stile beforehand.
Yet surprisingly none of the above caused us to stray off track. It was the bit that stated “aim directly uphill towards a lone tree” that tripped us up and got us lost. How we missed the only single tree on the entire mountain, I’ll never know.
You might expect that bringing an Australian along would’ve help our cause; but despite growing up in the outback, his navigation skills fell somewhere on the scale between subpar and nil.
We didn’t mind too much though as the worn “pathway” we had been blindly following for a quarter mile turned out to be a narrow sheep’s path.
And at the end there were……well…..SHEEP!
Not the attacking kind made famous by viral YouTube videos, but rather the kind that skittishly skirt around you before finding a spot to graze upon where they can keep one eye warily on you.
Mud flung from our heels, coating our legs as we backtracked downhill through the boggy terrain in pursuit of the right course. A problem we were slightly concerned with as the days are short in November with the sun making its final descent around 4pm.
Good Girl Scouts that we are, a set of headlamps lay tucked away in the bottom of our packs. Though in the end, it never came to nighttime trekking.
We found our way back to the correct patch of bracken and continued onwards, slipping and slogging our way up the final ascent – eventually making it to the rock-filled beacon sitting astride the summit of Dumyat.
We stood in silence before amiably breaking away to find pockets of solitude, allowing us to process the panorama surrounding us in our own way.
A muted pallet of yellows, greens, and browns stretched below as the sun’s rays cast a golden hue over the contours of the valley.
Turning slightly to my right yielded views of the sinous River Forth as it wound through the countryside while a further 90 degrees turn saw the National Wallace Monument standing tall and proud atop its own rocky outcrop.
The quiet settled around me as I reflected on where I was and truly lived in the moment. I didn’t think about work. I didn’t think about the blog or social media. I didn’t think about issues that had been plaguing me all week. I didn’t really think about anything. I just reveled in the stillness and contentedness that so rarely comes around.
There’s no need for fancy words to put it into context. It was simply beautiful. Touching.
We came back together the same way we broke apart – irreverently silent. We sat down in perfect camaraderie and shared our Tesco-bought sandwiches before taking in our last views of the lands below.
The biting chill finally shook us from our reverie so we packed up, snuck in one more snapshot, and made our way down the hill, wondering if there would ever come another time when we’d find ourselves the only ones atop a mountain.
Practical Information for Hiking in the Scottish Lowlands
- Trekking – Walkhighlands.co.uk is the number one source for all walks in Scotland. The site is very user friendly and breaks down all the walks by region. It also provides information on the type of terrain, levels of difficulty, and the length of the hike. I would highly recommend a proper set of hiking boots as the land is often very muddy and wet due Scotland’s wonderful habit of rain. The exact route we took can be found here.
- Where to Stay – I stayed in the city center of Stirling though there are numerous villages throughout the area where you could base yourself. A guide to the towns can be found here. In Stirling, the Willy Wallace Hostel offers cheap prices while a middle-of-the-road option includes the Golden Lion Hotel. The Stirling Highland Hotel or the Victoria Square Guesthouse are two alternatives if you’re looking for a more upscale experience.
- Transport – Car Parks can be found all over the region of Stirling – especially along the popular trails. Maps of the car parks can be found here. If you’re staying in any of the towns in this area, the buses are cheap, frequent, and reliable. Timetables can be found here.
- Bracken – a large coarse fern
- Gorse – a spiny yellow-flowered European shrub
- Scree – an accumulation of loose stones or rocky debris lying on a slope or at the base of a hill
Have you ever been hiking in the Scottish Lowlands? What are some of your favorite trekking spots? Let me know in the comments below!
Why Suffer From FOMO When You Don’t Have To?
Taking on the classic “round-the-world” route, the next Travel Dispatch journey kicks off Nov 15 as I travel east to west, looping the globe over a period of 12 months with $25,000. Now’s your chance to get in on it from the very beginning!