A day on the hills.

Short walks in Mid Argyll.

For years I hated hillwalking. Really loathed it. It took until the beginning of my twenties to truly appreciate hillwalking and just exercising in the outdoors in general. I now genuinely enjoy walking and running up hills. In Scotland we have many amazing options from gentle walks to gruelling Munro’s and climbs. I’ve bagged a few Munro’s but some of the most enjoyable and challenging hill walks I have done have been small to medium sized hills. Being based in Argyll means larger hills and Munro’s are in some ways more challenging than Munro’s in the north as you don’t have the luxury of starting from well above sea level. But regardless of where in Scotland you are walking or how big the hill, there are some things to always bear in mind.

The weather

Scotland is famous for its changeable and sometimes less than favourable weather. Check the forecast but also be aware that the temperature and wind speeds on summits can be drastically different from whats been forecast. Visibility can change really quickly even at the top of small hills. I’ve climbed many a hill with low cloud all the way up only to be rewarded with a stunning view above the clouds or a burst of sunshine and blue sky. Or a blanket of cloud and zero view. Having a map and compass skills is highly recommended, as well letting someone know where you’re going and when you’ll be back. Relying on mobile hillwalking map apps is becoming more and more common but these can be unreliable in remote locations. Navigational skills can always be improved upon for when adverse weather hits. I for one could do with improving my compass and map skills.

You never quite know what’s its going to be like at the top!

Clothing

The old adage goes there is no such thing as bad weather only bad clothing. To an extent this is very true. Finding outdoor clothing that works for you and the conditions you’re walking in can make or break a walk. I barely go anywhere without my waterproof jacket and waterproof trousers. I love my waterproofs, not only do they keep me dry but they also keep off the windchill and you can park your bum pretty much anywhere. I personally buy mid range to cheap outdoor wear. But when it comes to essentials like my winter and summer waterproof coats I’m happy to pay a bit more and have something that lasts. Thin thermal layers are also a great edition rather than bulky jumpers. Layering is in my opinion the best way to stay at a pleasant temperature. Sturdy walking boats go without saying and a set of gloves, a hat and a scarf of some form are great for chilly walks. Scarf wise I go for Buff’s as they are adaptable and can be folded away to a small size to conserve space. Other things to think about are sunglasses and sun protection. As it’s entirely possible to catch the sun in April/May and get burnt. Overall my best advice would be to not scrimp on waterproofs, there are an investment and when taken care of can last years. And rewaterproofing is something that is totally achievable as well.

Layers are your friend.

Rucksacks & backpacks

My first hillwalking friendly rucksack was a Vango that was on sale. It was a cracking wee rucksack but after being heavily used at university and lacking a padded section for a laptop or tablet, I needed an upgrade. After a bit of research, I settled on the Osprey Axis rucksack. A happy meeting of everyday and hillwalking rucksack with a 18 litre capacity. I’ve stuffed it to the gunnels and even managed to fit my entire Didriksons winter coat in it. I’m gradually updating my outdoor wear and clothing in general, moving away from ‘fast fashion’ and trying to invest in more ethical brands or products that I can buy once and repair or reuse when they begin to break or show wear. Of course sometimes budget options like Mountain Warehouse or even Lidl’s clothing can be the right choice in the moment. Finding a rucksack feels comfortable on you is the most important thing. Weighing up litre capacity versus how much you actually want to carry is also an important thing to think about. Chest and waist belts for me is something I have to have on a rucksack even if I’m using it for work or a city break. I’m all about comfort.

It should go without saying that you should respect the outdoors and take away any rubbish you make. I’ve recently switched to beeswax wraps instead of cling film and it really cuts down on your plastic consumption.

The walks

Right enough about the weather, the clothing and the rucksacks. Here are some cracking short walks in and around Mid Argyll.

– Dun na Cuaiche: Cracking walk up to the folly that’s sits high above Inveraray castle. After the steep and sometimes muddy walk up you are treated to stunning views down Loch Fyne. Starting from Inveraray Castle you follow the blue signs across the bridge and up into the woods. It’s about 40 minutes up and 20 minutes down.

– Castle Dounie: Starting from Crinan Harbour, the walk, though very steep is definitely worth it. The view point at the top gives you amazing views of the sound of Jura and some of the islands. Word of warning the final turn up to the summit is easy to miss! I’d also recommend taking binoculars as whales, dolphins and porpoises frequent the sound. I was lucky enough to spot some Minke whales the first time I went up. On my second visit despite there being no whales we were treated to some seals popping up in the harbour.

– Kintyre way, Carradale to Campbeltown section: Full disclosure, I didn’t walk these sections in one go. But completed them over 2 years as part of the Kintyre Way Ultra relay running race. Kintyre is a part of Argyll that is truly stunning. It’s like going to one if the islands without going on a ferry. The landscape is just phenomenal. Definitely a longer more challenging walk.

– Gigha: I was going to pick a specific walk for Gigha but honestly the whole island is brilliant. A 20 minute ferry trip some Tayinloan. A day walking on Gigha is grand.

– Tirefour Broch and Castle Coeffin: A surprisingly difficult walk on the isle of Lismore. Can be very boggy but great views and the Broch and Castle Coeffin really make it. We were lucky enough to see an otter at Castle Coeffin. Lismore is reached by ferry from Oban. The island also has a really nice cafe and museum.

Of course this is just a sampling of some of the many walks excellent walks in and around Argyll. More information on all of the walks and more can be found at https://www.walkhighlands.co.uk/argyll/ or try the local tourist information shop. For ferries and timetables check out Caledonian MacBrayne at https://www.calmac.co.uk.

Remember check the forecast, stay warm, stay safe and most importantly have a good time.