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The Scottish Mountaineering Club Journal
The Braes of Balquhidder


THERE is perhaps no centre, within easy reach both of Edinburgh and Glasgow, from which so much may be done in the way of interesting climbs and walks, as Ba!quhidder. It can be reached from either of these cities by the early morning trains, in sufficient time to allow of the accomplishment of a good day's work before returning to town in the evening. If notice be given to the guard at either Callander or Strathyre, the train will stop at Kingshouse Platform. Within a radius of ten miles there are no less than eleven first-class Bens of an altitude of 3,000 feet and upwards, not to speak of a multitude of lesser hills, every one of which is well worth climbing on account of the magnificent panorama of hill, loch, wood, and glen disclosed from it. And should mist unfortunately enfold the high ground, the fatigue of the railway journey need not have been undertaken in vain, for the surrounding glens and passes afford plenty of exercise for mind, lungs, and limbs, and amply repay exploration. Nor is it merely from a scenic point that the district claims attention. It is well dowered with song, tradition, and legend, the historic names of Robert the Bruce and Rob Roy being intimately associated with it. It is in the hope of making it better known to members of the Club that the writer ventures to submit a few notes of walks and climbs done during a recent sojourn amid Baiquhidder's Braes.

I. To the top of Ben More (3,845 feet), and Stobinian (3,827 feet). The latter is locally known as Ben Em.

From Kingshouse a good road leads westwards by the picturesque shores of Loch Voil and Loch Dome for about seven miles to the bridge where the Carnaig water rushes down to the latter loch. We follow this burn for about a mile to the north, breast the steep green slopes of Stob Coire an Lochan feet), and from its summit make an easy ascent to Stobinian. From there a drop of some 900 feet takes us to the Beallach eadar Beinn, whence Ben More is easily ascended by his southern side. Thence there is a steep descent to Crianlarich in Strathfillan, or a way home may be found through Inverlochiarig glen to the west of the mountain. From Kingshouse to the top of Ben More, and back by the Inverlochiarig glen, is about twenty-three miles, and can easily be done in eight hours. The writer's time from Baiquhidder to the top of Ben More by the route described was three and a half hours.

II. Ben Tulachan (3,009 feet), Cruach Ardran (3,477 feet), and Stob Garbh (3,148 feet).

These three hills offer another good day's work. Keeping the road by Loch Dome until it descends to the gate leading into the meadows at the head of the loch, you follow the track along the dykeside. You then cross the Iriverlochlang Burn and set foot on Ben Tulachan. Hence to Cruach Ardran there is no difficulty. The steep northeast face of Cruach leads you to Stob Garbh—a peculiarly broken-up hill. The descent may be made on Crianlarich to the north-west, or by taking the eastern face the Inverlochiarig glen is reached. Cruach Ardran is possibly the most shapely hill in the district, while some very fair climbing is to be found on Stob Garbh, especially among the rugged rocks that tower over the pass betwixt it and Stbbinian.

III. Ben a Chroin (3,107 feet), An Caisteal (3,265 feet).

About two miles west of Inverlochlarig farm house, at the foot of the glen of that name, lies Ben a Chroin, a fine rocky hill. From this summit, one bitterly cold day in July, we made out St Rollox chimney in Glasgow; while in the north the eye roamed over the whole fraternity of the Blackmount and Ben Nevis Ranges, Ben Alder, &c., and only stopped at the far blue peak of Creag Meaghaidh, forty miles away, beyond Loch Laggan. As you approach it, up the course of the Loch Lang Water, you pass on your left a most perfectly shaped hill—Stob a Choin (2,839 feet)— which is well worth the ascent. Down the short glen, whose mouth you leave on the north, nuns the Earb Water. Its head is blocked by the bold rocky face of Stob Glas (2,673 feet), whose rugged contours are seamed by one or two fair chimneys capable of affording some interesting scrambles. The Falloch River, which falls into the head of Loch Lomond, rises close to the saddle connecting Ben a Chroin and Stob Glas. For the first three or four miles of its course it runs north-west, then makes an abrupt bend to the south-west, and pursues its course down the beautiful glen to the loch. North-west of Ben a Chroin—to which it is joined by a fairly low saddle—and nearer Glen Falloch, is An Caisteal,,a bold, bluff hill. It may be climbed from Baiquhidder—from which, however, it is distant about fourteen miles—by following up the Earb Water already mentioned, crossing the saddle (north of Ben a Chroin) to the Falloch, and then holding well to the left. The easier ascent and the shorter is, however, from Crianlarich. It may be mentioned that there is a most remarkable view of Stobinian from a point about half a mile west of Inverlochlarig farm house. From no other point does this great hill present so imposing an appearance.

IV. Ben Chabhair (3,053 feet).

This hill is the farthest west of the group. Its summit is about two miles west-south-west of Ben a Chroin, and about half that distance south-west of Au Caisteal. It is a commonplace hill enough, were it not for the wonderful effects of light and shade, and the rich and varied colouring. These more than repay one for the long tramp to the head of the glen. The distance from Kingshouse, taking this hill en route and proceeding to Crianlarich by Glen Falloch, is about twenty-two miles.

V. Ben Voirlich (3,324 feet) and Stuc a Chroin (3,169 feet) lie eastwards from Kingshouse. They can be reached most directly by climbing the hill immediately behind Kingshouse Inn, but this involves a considerable ascent and then descent into Glen Ample; although the distance is made shorter by about four miles when compared with the usual route by Lochearnhead. Should the latter route be chosen, the road must be followed as far as the Free Church, and the glen entered at the Edinample Kennels, and followed to the shepherd's house. Here we turn to the eastward along the burn descending from the Craig Dhu Corrie, and the top of the mountain is soon seen right in front; while on our right the black rocks of the precipitous face of Stuc a Chroin come gradually into view.

Seen from a distance the latter looks very formidable, but in reality is quite easily climbed—at least in summer. When snow and ice are present, the conditions are very different, as the writer has good cause to remember. Both these hills may easily be ascended between the morning and evening train times; and the descent may be varied by following a south-west course from the top of the latter, over the shapely Ben Each (2,660 feet) down to Loch Lubnaig at Ardchullarie More, and so by the Pass of Leny to Callander. Another enjoyable descent may be made from the saddle between the mountains down into Glen an Dhu Choirein, and thence by the Keltie glen to Callander —a distance, from the tops, of a dozen miles. Both hills command splendid views. We once saw from them North Berwick Law to the south-east, Tinto to the south, and the peaks of Arran to the south-west, distances in each case of seventy or eighty miles.

It may be well to mention that Glen Ample is a first- rate grouse moor, and should not be entered for a month or so after the 12th of August. No harm can be done at other times, except possibly in the nesting season, when due care should be taken not to tread on any nests. Glen an Dhu Choirein is part of the Glen Artney deer forest, and ought accordingly to be respected in the stalking season. The country west and north of Loch Vail is of small account in a sporting sense, so no hindrance is placed in the way of the wanderer.

Space forbids more than mere mention of the bold rocky Creag MacRanaich (about 2,500 feet), one of the highest tops on the west side of Glen Ogle. It is best reached by way of Kendrum Glen, near Lochearnhead Station. Although of no very great height, it is as rough and rocky a peak as any in the district, towering as it does in splendid scarps and cliffs for well nigh half its elevation.

So much for climbing. The walks through Baiquhidder's glens can only be briefly mentioned here. (a.) North of Loch Earn, through the hills to Loch Tay, strikes Glen Beich----distance from Lochearnhead Station to Loch Tay about seventeen miles, thence to Kuhn, six miles more. (b.) From Balquhidder Church, through the Kirkton Glen to Kuhn Junction or Luib Station, about ten miles. (c.) From Balquhidder village up Glen Buckie, on the south by Glen nam Meann and Glen Finglas to Brig of Turk, thence to Callander, about twenty miles, twelve of which are stiff hill walking. (d.) This latter may be varied by holding straight west from Bailemore in Glen Buckie, up to the head of Glen Dubh; thence southwards to Loch Katrine, which is reached at Brenachoile Lodge, keeping a little to the left after reaching the watershed. Brenachoile is two miles from the Trossachs Pier, thus making the whole distance to Callander about twenty-three miles.

The foregoing somewhat prosaic notes will, it is hoped, prove of use to any pedestrian who proposes an expedition in this district; and it may safely be prophesied that when an acquaintance has been formed with the blue lochs, the waving woods, the heathery uplands, the long green slopes, the plashing burns, and the soaring rocky tops of the bonny "Braes of Baiquhidder," it will not be long ere it ripens into a warm and lasting affection.

P.S.—These names and heights are, with a few exceptions, taken from Bartholomew's two-mile to the inch map, for the most part a very accurate production. Oddly enough, however, it understates the height of Cruach Ardran by 177 feet, nor does it give either the name nor the correct altitude of Caisteal. The one-mile to an inch map repeats both these errors and omissions, and it is to the six-inch Survey that I am indebted for my information. As regards distances, it is very difficult to be exact in a hilly country. The figures given will, however, be found very near the mark, taken as they are from careful map measurement and personal knowledge.

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