Trostan – now how did I miss that one?

It was many years ago.  I was tired and still soaking wet from the best storm that Antrim could render.  I sat on a hillside and admitted to my walking companion that this was a tough walk largely because I had glossed over inconvenient bits in the planning.  Still, I can look back at days of 12 hours’ or 13 hours’ walking a day in the hills as an achievement.  What I did not notice is that the hill in question was Trostan, the highest hill in County Antrim, and passing over its shoulder I missed by a hundred yards or so the opportunity to top it.

The walk had began being dropped off at the spectacle that is the Sallagh Braes, then over the thistle-clad hill tops northward, ultimately to reach the Giant's Causeway four days later.

It was raining in Carnlough and dull –  though I have since been there in glorious sunshine and realise what I missed.  Maybe Carnlough and the walk over the top to Glenariff are for another post.  The next morning from the top of that wonderful glen we followed up a track on the Moyle Way, high above the glen, by this time soaked to the skin and begging internally for a better day than the last.  There was a hill, a fine hill, a hill that seemed to know its place in the landscape – Trostan.  The path led up and over the shoulder of the hill, close to the summit but not to it. By this time, realising my timings were completely out, it was just a question of putting one foot in front of another and bashing through the day, with no thought to exploration or taking pictures or tapping the top of a trig pillar, and so we went on.

It was later when compiling a list of county tops, I realised that Trostan is the highest hill of  the Antrim Hills and the county top of County Antrim – and I had missed it.  In my defence, I was not at that time interested in county tops, and had no thought to dashing round topping as many as possible as I have done since, but it itches at the back of my head that I missed a county top I could have bagged, had I but known.

When I was back in Antrim a few years ago we drove along the coast road and as we came near, my eyes involuntarily started plotting routes, but we had a B&B booked and the walking boots were deep in the packing, and it passed us by.  I only did two county tops that holiday (Down and Armagh). I can at least note Trostan as “nearly done”, and look for an opportunity when next passing to hare up to the summit and bash that trig point.


Beset by harsh beauty; Crianlarich

The mountains might almost sweep over it without noticing, this tiny place in a glen, dwarfed to insignificance by the mountains, but I keep coming back to it, in spirit as much as in body. Crianlarich; at the meeting of ways in the Highlands. ‘Place o’ the wee ruin’ it means and maybe it was once no more than a shattered bothy, but today the village stands as neat as can be in a gash through the forbidding Perthshire mountains, where Strath Fillan, Glen Falloch and Glen Dochart meet, and with them the roads and railway that they carry.  Eventually, everyone comes to Crianlarich, if they care for the hills.

A clutch of houses, a kirk, a hotel, a shop and a youth hostel strung along a road, and the station that fills them. The profusion of signposts pointing to this place belie its tininess.  You do not come to Crianlarich for the village though but because it is the meeting of roads going elsewhere or because of the hills amongst which it hides.

The last time we were in Crianlarich was on the way from Stirling to Oban. The afternoon was drawing in towards evening (which is a long, slow process here). We grabbed a scratch picnic from the village shop (possibly the best stocked village shop I have ever seen outside Ulster), stocked up with Smidge, and followed a path up to see what we could see above the village.

The village soon vanishes in its landscape. The glen is broad enough, but the village is just clinging to the side of a mountain and would barely be noticed if it were to disappear within.  All among the blooming heather, Perthshire reveals itself and all curtaining the southern view were the Crianlarich Hills; mighty fells of which seven are Munros, over 3,000 feet in height, the mightiest being Ben More at 3,852 feet.

My feet began to itch. My eyes flicked involuntarily to the OS map and the vista to choose routes, until reminded gently that I had a family in tow and a B&B booked in Lorne. There would be time for that later.

The Buckinghamshire Way: first steps

I set off by the Thames at the southernmost end of Buckinghamshire, looking north to a route up the whole length of the county. I estimated ninety miles, if the planned route is practical, and that is what I am finding out.

I have advocated the creation of a Buckinghamshire Way and have a project page for it here.   I tentatively plotted a route, but while I am familiar with much of the middle section, the ends were based on conjecture.  I found yesterday, for example, that the actual southernmost tip of the county is private land and inaccessible (so those few hundred yards will be scrubbed from the route map).  Near enough though a public path runs for a short way along a gorgeous stretch of the Thames, which forms Buckinghamshire’s southern border – as stretch spoiled only by the vast M25 viaduct in the middle, but at least it provides an access to a short portion of the riverbank.  ideally I would have walked upstream a few yards to a path beside the meadows and the Colne Brook, but the way here is cruelly blocked by a water treatment site.


(A start point for the route could be in across the river on the Thames Path in Egham. A cartographer has pointed out to me that the river has been altered here and that the original course was slightly further south, so that Buckinghamshire has a claim to own a small portion on what is now the south bank.)

Emerging in Hythe End, I headed along the road a little and then up a wooded path between a lake in an old gravel pit and the diverted course of the Colne Brook; a pleasant wander in the summer with glinting water beside me. However after crossing the railway (a stile to a foot crossing with no warning signals) the linking path runs in the tight gap between high fences, between the railway and the Wraysbury Reservoir and this is, if not impassable, deeply unpleasant:  the whole width is filled with neck-high stinging nettles and briars.  It is not a path down which I would lead the family during a happy morning’s stroll.

This being so, a new track is needed for the opening section of the Buckinghamshire Way.

A walk sticking to the river all the way is not practical here: houses run down to the riverbank.  However there is a permissive path (I always worry about what goes on down a path that is announced as ‘permissive’) which appears to run down to the river around the National Trust’s land here, which is a longer path than following the road, but avoids too much asphalt.  I was unable to explore it this time but will do so on another occasion.

The projected route has a mile or so unavoidably on the road up to Datchet, but when it finally reaches Datchet, it comes into its own, following footpaths through the fields to Eton. From there, the well-established Thames Path follows all the way to Taplow, opposite Maidenhead, then there is a public towpath north to Hedsor, where it meets a spur of the Chiltern Way going north.  This is for later though.

Until there are boots on the ground, ‘The Buckinghamshire Way’ is no more than an idea. The first steps have now been made though. Let’s get it properly established.

Real Lancashire Boundary Walk: lengthing the Mersey

Philip Walsh’s Real Lancashire Boundary Walk continues apace.  On 30 May , Philip set off from Blackpool and was in Liverpool, Lancashire’s Queen of the Seas, on 2 June.  Since then it has been the long haul up the River Mersey.

On 3 June, Philip reached the southernmost village in Lancashire; Hale.  Tonight he was able to sit in a pub in Shaw.  One week and the Mersey conquered.

Soon comes the heavy yomping as the county border runs through the Pennines.  We’re with you all the way, Philip.