Thursday, 11 August 2016


Over the past week I have been keeping a close eye on the weather in the Highlands, with a view to getting up one of its mountains. At first I planned to summit Ben Ledi, just outside the town of Callander, but I've done it before, so Pauline suggested a new peak, one she had enjoyed a winter walk on in February. Ben Venue, its Gaelic translation meaning The Miniature Mountain.

The forecast on the BBC at 7am on Wednesday morning looked favourable for the Trossachs area, just on the southern fringes of Callander, with light rain not forecast until early afternoon. So I set off early for the village of Aberfoyle to be able to make and early ascent the mountain Ben Venue before the rain came. It is a short journey to Aberfoyle and by 9am I was parking the car on the edge of Loch Ard.

It was raining.

Thanks BBC, for your ever accurate and reliable forecasting. Not!

Looking up the valley to the mountains beyond was not a welcome sight, with the tops obscured by low cloud. But I was here now, and the rain was light enough, plus the temperature warm enough, to warrant not wearing a waterproof shell, so I set out optimistically, with the thought in my mind, as I walked up the farm road for the turnoff to the hill path, that I can always turn back if it the weather gets too bad.

As described by Pauline, the first part of the route was very pleasant, and sheltered from the light rain, through an indigenous wood. The path was fairly muddy in places and somewhat overgrown, but it was an easy start and the smell of the damp bracken, its colours already changing to Autumn hues, made me happy to be in familiar surroundings.

As I emerged from the wood the river gorge stretched on before me, a gradual uphill toward the crags of Ben Venue, peaking out from the low cloud every so often, teasing me with views of its craggy features.
As a bonus the rain had stopped, albeit temporarily. I was now in open hillside on a very good path, following the river, with the occasional pretty little waterfall. The path takes an arc, turning toward the east, as it skirts round toward the summit, but the ascent is gentle.

The best part of this route appears a little over half way, as you reach the top of the river valley. Suddenly the landscape opens up. Despite the low cloud on the mountain top, to the north, across the mountain slopes carpeted in vibrant purple heather, I had a hazy view of Loch Katrine. It was a shame that it was so damp and murky, as I could imagine in the sunshine this would have looked even more spectacular.

To my east the path hugged the side of the slope to the summit, winding it's way through rocks, narrow in places. With Loch Katrine on my left and the snaking summit path ahead I was in a good mood.

As the path started to steepen visibility dropped to about 20 feet, and with it the air moisture rose. Time to break out the waterproofs. Pauline had prepared me in advance that there were several "summits", but with such low visibility it was hard to know if I was ever at the highest point. I'd be thinking that this must be it, when a darker shape of another peak would come into view feintly through the cloud. Onwards I went, deciding that the path would naturally lead me onto the top, whereas so far it was curving round and through these other peaks.

After just two hours I arrived at the top of Ben Venue at 2,392ft.  This had been an enjoyable walk, despite the weather, and overall I thought the route was easy. Surprising seeing as how its a fair number of years since I've stood on the top of any Scottish mountain.

Visibility was down to a disappointing 10 feet, so I could only imagine what the view must be like. But as I sat for 10 minutes, rewarding myself with a flask of coffee, I set my mind to one day return.

But I'll not be trusting the BBC forecast.

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