The 'Frog' Roy Way - A 6-day solo hike

Date walked: 07/07/2018

Time taken: 6 hours

Distance: 128km

Ascent: 565m

Time to get ready for my annual long-distance hike again. This year I'm going to walk the Rob Roy Way. The weather forecast promises nothing but sunshine all week, but this is Scotland, so I pack my waterproofs and layers anyway. At the last moment I chuck in a summer dress too - if it's really going to be that hot, I'll be glad for the extra ventilation. 8)

I'm going to wild camp again, and I'm slightly nervous about the camping management zone which applies to a large part of the way between Aberfoyle and Killin. I wonder if I should book a place at the permit zone by Loch Venachar just in case. But I loathe being tied to a predetermined itinerary (I've no idea how far I'm likely to walk each day). Instead, I'm going to trust that it's all going to work out just fine. (Spoiler alert: it did!)

DAY 1: Drymen to Loch Ard Forest, or (Really) Warming Up (8 mi / 13 km)

After two train journeys and a short bus trip (Edinburgh - Glasgow - Balloch - Drymen), I am ready to start hiking at around 3 pm.

Starting in Drymen brings back some memories of the West Highland Way, and where the two routes cross each other, I take a moment to reminisce about that day when I barely made it up the Conic Hill. I see a bunch of other hikers, but (unsurprisingly) they stick to the WHW, and I get to keep the RRW all to myself (well almost, a lot of over-friendly clegs are keeping me constant company).

My nemesis, the Conic Hill, in the distance

I walk on along several minor roads in the sweltering heat. Along the way, I pass some domed shafts (I read in my guidebook what they're for, but really I'm none the wiser) as well as the Corey Aqueduct. There are wildflowers, dragonflies and damselflies everywhere. (And more clegs.)

Reaching the shade of the Loch Ard Forest is a relief. It's around 6 pm and my feet ache. I spot a slow worm and grouch down to take a photo of it. But when I try to get back up afterwards with my heavy rucksack, I really struggle and nearly fall flat on my back. A sign to set up camp soon if there ever was one... Thankfully, I soon find a flattish bit of ground for my tent under a gnarly old tree.

The slow worm that nearly toppled me over

DAY 2: Loch Ard Forest to Loch Lubnaig, or Amphibians Aplenty (17.5 mi / 28 km)

I'm up at 7 am and set off by 8 am. I'm not far from Aberfoyle (Scotland's fairy capital apparently!) but nothing is open yet when I get there, so I just pass through.

Gorgeously sunny!

As I approach the Allt a' Chip Dhuibh reservoir in the Menteith Hills I notice some movement on the ground. I look closer at the mud under my feet and realise that there are tiny little froglets everywhere, hundreds of them, presumably busy dispersing into the woods en masse. (Well, they could be toadlets, I'm not certain.) For the next quarter of a mile or so I'm stepping very carefully to avoid squashing any by accident, and the going is very slow. But I adore amphibians, so I'm feeling very lucky. :D

Tiny froglet/toadlet with a spider for scale :D

Loch Venachar

In Callander I discover that the Rob Roy & Trossachs Visitor Centre hasn't existed for many years. But I treat myself to an ice lolly which alone makes visiting the village totally worth it. (It's also a very pretty village.)

The next section follows the Cycle Route 7 (in fact the rest of the RRW will not veer too far from it). A lot of cyclists zoom past me, and I envy just a little their speed and their light loads.

It's incredibly hot. Clouds, trees and the breeze are my best friends. When I reach the Falls of Leny, I seriously consider going for a dip to cool down, but I'm also conscious of wanting to get out of the camping management zone quickly. (My wee detour down is rewarded by another amphibian sighting though - and this time I can tell it's definitely a frog.)

Another amphibian ♥

All works out fine with camping: I get to the western shore of Loch Lubnaig (where camping is allowed) by the time I'm too exhausted to go on and find an excellent spot for my tent on a little peninsula. (Other campers have obviously been there before me, since I find a number of stray tent pegs - very handy since I was missing one!)

Loch Lubnaig

DAY 3: Loch Lubnaig to Killin, or Marvellous Rocks (16.5 mi / 26.5 km)

Today I know to anticipate the daytime heat even though the early morning is cool. It's a dress day! 8)

My feet hurt really bad, and each toe seems to have a blister or two. I hobble on at a very slow speed and have to remind myself that I'm not in a race and it's ok.

After Strathyre the path briefly parts ways with the Cycle Route 7. Walking uphill on a forest path is slightly easier on my feet, but somewhere along the forestry road I feel like I can't take one more step. I'm wondering if I have accidentally bought a pair of torture devices instead of hiking boots. (Eventually I do have to admit to myself that my boots are in fact a size too small).

There's a large, flat rock by a quarry and I sit on it, gathering all my willpower to go on. (The rock, however, is truly fabulous - I can't get over it. :lol: There's even a gap in the trees right in front of it providing great views.)

Love this rock.

I end up taking a painkiller. I also whip out my walking poles which haven't seen much action yet. Then I soldier on and manage to fall into some sort of rhythm while the pain subsides from unbearable to moderate.

(At this point I meet two other people - a father and son I guess - also hiking the RRW. They walk about ten times as fast as me and soon disappear from sight.)

By the time I get to Kingshouse and stop by to have a cold drink at Mhor 84, I'm feeling pretty good again. (But not so good that I'd want to walk on a road in the blazing heat for an extra 4 miles to visit Rob Roy's grave. Sorry Rob, another time!)

The rest of the day features some of my favourite bits on the RRW: the views over Loch Earn, the Glenogle Viaduct, the sparkling waters of the Lochan Lairig Cheile and the deer in the woods before Killin.

Passing Loch Earn

Glenogle Viaduct

What a bonnie evening ♥

Around 7 pm I start to look out for potential camping spots, but the evening sun is still bright and warm and I just want to keep on going.

I end up walking to Killin and decide to stay at the Falls of Dochart Inn - my one night of luxury on the RRW to celebrate completing the first half of the way (and also a chance to charge my phone and battery pack).

I dump my rucksack into my room and have a pint of 'Heading East' (fitting, I think :D ) before exploring the falls. The water is really low and a lot of the curious-looking potholes in the rocks are visible. Then a bath (the tub has feet!) and I'm off to sleep in a four-poster bed.

Art by nature

DAY 4: Killin to Ardradnaig, or More Hills, Less Road Walking. Please? (13.5 mi / 22 km)

I take my time in the morning. I have a cooked breakfast (I approve of them playing Phosphorescent and First Aid Kit in the cafe :D ), then visit the post office to send a postcard to my daughter and pick up some more blister plasters. I set off around 11 am, far later than usual.

The day is overcast, but it's still really warm. The section past Lochan Breaclaich has the wildest feel to it on the walk so far. I take plenty of breaks to take photos (any excuse to rest my feet really).


Approaching Loch Tay

The hills are behind me too soon though and after a scenic descent down to Loch Tay, I have miles of walking on the South Loch Tay road ahead of me.

On the South Loch Tay Road

I start to feel a little claustrophobic: there's no way to get off the road as it's sided by barbed wire fence and pasture on both sides and there's barely enough room to get out of the way when cars zoom past. Even reaching the forested bit makes no difference: there are now luxury homes instead of pasture but still nowhere to get off the road to stop for a rest - or pitch a tent. :(

(On the bright side, this seems to be where all the red squirrels hang out - I spot three of them. Or more if you count the road kill... :shock:)

Finally, somewhere past Ardragnaig, there's an area next to the road that isn't fenced, a pasture or anyone's backyard (the only place to camp along the entire length of the loch it seems). Someone else has already claimed the perfect spot under some trees, but I find a serviceable one (even if it's on a slight slope) a bit further along.

The views over Loch Tay are pretty amazing, but bloodthirsty midges (the news of me losing my head net earlier today have evidently reached them) descent upon me and I quickly crawl into my tent. All I've wanted for the past 3 hours has been to get inside my tent and cease all movement anyway, so I forgive them. For a moment though I think in horror that I'm hearing them trying to bore through the tent to get inside to eat my face, but then I realise that it's only raindrops and fall asleep.

DAY 5: Ardradnaig to Aberfeldy, or Touring Waterfalls (12 mi / 19.5 km)

Raindrops are drumming against the tent fabric when I wake up, and I read my book for a bit hoping it's just a passing shower. An hour later the rain dwindles into a light drizzle, and I pack up as fast as I can.


I don't hate the road quite as much today after a night's rest, but nonetheless, I'm grateful when I reach Acharn and it's time to get off the tarmac. A farmer is about to drive past me but takes one look at my rucksack as I'm having a snack break by the track and kindly offers me a lift up the hill. :lol:

He drops me off at Hermit's Cave and the Falls of Acharn. From there the way follows the Queen's Drive (a rather grandiose name for a muddy farm track, I think :) ), and I'm excited to see lots more little froglets/toadlets!

The Queen's Road

Through the woods

The next section through the Bolfracks Estate leaves me soaking wet. Not because it's raining but because the path is fringed by long grass bent low with the weight of water droplets. My trousers, socks and boots absorb it all. When I reach another short road section, I take a moment to dry my feet and change into dry socks.

The last stretch before Aberfeldy is via the Birks of Aberfeldy, where the falls and the trees inspired Rabbie Burns to pen down some of his poetry (though his statue is on holiday, i.e. being repaired somewhere, so no selfies with Rabbie for me :lol: ).

Walking down by the falls

At the car park I wait out another shower under some trees, then make my way to the Aberfeldy Caravan Park where I intend to stay tonight.

The very first thing I do when I get to the campsite is have a hot shower. Then I wash and dry my minging wet socks. When I get around to pitching my tent, some kids marvel at its tiny size - and to be fair, my one-woman wonder does look comically diminutive next to everyone else's huge palace of a family tent. :lol:

DAY 6: Aberfeldy to Pitlochry, or A Non-Dramatic Finale (9.5 mi / 15 km)

Last day! There's a flock of mallard ducks between two rows of campervans and they all waddle straight at me when I move closer to take a photo of them. Sorry duckies, I've no food for you...

It's overcast and damp again, though thankfully not raining heavily. And most importantly, my feet are dry. And oddly not in pain... :o In fact I'm walking at a *normal* human speed today. I'm even able to pass a bench and not feel a desperate urge to sit on it. I feel invincible!

Wildflowers and potato fields

Then I get a déjà vu: a section of the path goes through some very dense growth of vegetation - which is loaded with last night's rain. This time I have the good sense to change into my waterproof trousers. Some of the plants reach up to my armpits though and I feel like I'm walking through a carwash. :lol:

There's a path in here somewhere!

Past the village of Strathtay the path crosses a moor. Then I'm on the last leg of the journey in the woods and the clegs flock to me to take one last wee farewell nibble before I'm gone. (Apparently, there are some standing stones nearby, but I never see even a glimpse of them.)


Nearly there

Finally, I cross a busy road and a bridge and I reach the end of the RRW: the Memorial Garden in Pitlochry. I park myself on a bench among some blue flowers and bees and just sit for an hour before I head to the train station.


A part of me is a little disappointed that the last day didn't offer something more dramatic scenery-wise - but hey, at least it wasn't an endless drag along the South Loch Tay road... Maybe I'll come back again to walk the extended section of the way to see what I missed this time. :)

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Activity: Walker

Munros: 1
Corbetts: 1
Grahams: 1
Donalds: 1
Sub 2000: 5
Long Distance routes: West Highland Way    Loch Lomond and Cowal Way    Rob Roy Way   

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Trips: 1
Distance: 128 km
Ascent: 565m


Trips: 2
Distance: 127 km
Ascent: 870m


Trips: 1
Distance: 154 km
Ascent: 548m

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