A Relaxed Ramble//Lomond Hills Park

Taking our time and enjoying the moors of Lomond.

It might sound implausible, but Scotland’s first ever Regional Park wasn’t carved out until 1986.

Although it only covers 25 square miles, it’s still a large enough space to get truly lost in and with a huge network of paths, you can easily spend a day wandering through some stunning moorland without needing to consult a map even once. That was exactly our aim, when a small group of us packed a few small bags and set out for a day of relaxed rambling around Fife’s gorgeous hills.

There’s something truly liberating about going out for a day’s hike with just a small 10 litre bag. You’d be surprised what you can fit in such a small space. Six of us set out for the day with just the basic hiking essentials packed in our day-packs. Thanks to the development of super compact pack-away waterproofs, it’s not difficult to cram all that you need for a day of relaxed walking into just one bag. Randy had the first aid kit on him, I carried a survival bag and we divvied the rest of the emergency gear between the rest of the walkers.

The Lomond Hills are incredibly accessible as a walking destination. In addition to there being plenty of places to park a car, there are also a tonne of events that take place each year in and around the area, making it a great destination for families or outdoorsy types. Despite the relatively small space that the moorland has to offer, there’s still a wealth of wildlife that calls the Lomond Hills home – park rangers organise nature walks regularly, which are a great opportunity to get know the area a little better and receive some helpful tips from someone who really knows their stuff!

With the sun shining, our group had clearly decided to forgo wearing traditional hiking gear. Practical trousers were still a must but, suddenly liberated without their large packs, many of our walkers had decided to wear jackets that were a little more…ostentatious shall we say. The most eye-catching of all of these was a rather fetching embroidered bomber jacket, a recent purchase that our Angie was clearly rather proud of. Although I could tell she got a little worried when dark clouds began to gather on the horizon, we were lucky enough to not feel any rain on us throughout the whole day.

The highlight of the day has to be reaching Ballo Reservoir, a huge body of water that made for a perfect place to stop for lunch. With the sun bouncing of the calm water and our mouths full of food, we sat for a good hour, taking our time and idly skipping stones on the water. As much as we enjoy the long distance treks and the truly backbreaking hikes, it’s always pleasant to change the pace and take some time to simply enjoy the wonderful countryside that we’re surrounded by.

By the time we’d finished our day of walking we were all more than ready for a pint or two back in Aberdeen.


Summer Mountain Trek//Cairngorm

In and around the Cairngorms – the first hike proper for our newbies

Our first major trek of the Summer, this was an opportunity for some of our newer additions to the group to truly stretch their legs and experience the real Aberdeen Rambling Walkers experience.

There were quite a few nervous faces on the minibus on the way out of Aberdeen. Smiling faces, but nervous nonetheless. A wealth of shiny new equipment (some with the tags still on!) beamed back at us through the rear view mirror, as myself and Randall sat in the front and tried to defuse the tense atmosphere. It almost felt like returning to school in some ways. Many of these people had not met each other before and the novelty of the situation suited some better than others.

It’s always interesting to see how new people react to each other – for the new initiates into the group, this might well be the first time they’ve been forced to talk to new people in some time. Most of our members are middle-aged folks, looking for a relaxing way of exercising without having to break a sweat too much. They send us an email (which you can do right here) and talk to myself or Randy for a bit and then pop along for a walk, forgetting that there might well be a dozen other new people that they’ll be meeting. One of our hikers has likened their first walk with the ARWs to turning up to a party alone, only to find that the party wants to leave and walk 12 miles or so in the other direction.

Our starting point on this day was the car park, right at the edge of the Cairngorm Ski Centre. Disembarking from the minibus, I could tell that there were a few people who were a little intimidated by the environment there. It’s important to remember the peaks of Cairn Gorm and Ben Macdui rise to well over 1300m each, these peaks truly dominate the landscape and can seem like insurmountable challenges to even veteran walkers, let alone newbies. Add to this the hordes of experienced walkers that swarm these areas on the weekends and I could tell our new recruits were literally shaking in their boots.

Still – once we started on our way and we found our pace, the group started to chat to one another and the mood soon became that of a relaxed group of friends. The air was fresh and clean, blue skies dotted with grand cumulus clouds set a fine contrast to the rugged mountains and forests that surrounded us. Even though there tends to be a lot of traffic on the footpaths during these peak times, there were still long stretches when we didn’t cross another group – this gave us a great feeling of seclusion and a tighter sense of camaraderie.

The hard climbs that took us up past Sron an Aonaich and onto Cairn Gorm were by far the toughest parts of the route. Even some of our more experienced members were lagging at moments, so there were plenty of breaks where we took our loads off and simply gazed around at the amazing landscape around us. The circular route that took us back around and down to the base station was a refreshing change of pace from the uphill struggle that we began with. It was clear to see that the route had bonded many of our group.

The minibus journey back to Aberdeen was certainly more lively and less quiet than our journey at the start of the day.


Hiking Through Canyons//Caminito del Rey

At least once a year we like to take our walkers well and truly outside of their comfort zone.

It’s only when we’re presented with a truly novel situation that we can discover how much progress we’ve really made.

It’s all very well taking relaxed rambles through our beloved Aberdeen or slightly more challenging treks throughout the Cairngorms, but we here at Aberdeen Rambling Walkers believe that only by leaving the country altogether and experiencing completely different walking conditions, can we truly grow as hikers.

Although some of our International travels have taken us as far as distant Africa or Asia, this year, considering the sheer wealth of new walkers that we currently have in our ranks, it made sense for us to organise a trek that would appeal to as many people as possible.

This meant finding a country that would appeal to sun lovers, whilst not scaring away those with fears of dehydration. A location that felt new and exciting, whilst not so outlandish that the less travelled amongst us might be intimidated. Most of all, we needed to find a great place to walk in that would provide us with challenging terrain to walk across and stunning vistas for miles around. After much discussion, we settled on a place that certainly had no shortage of sun and which would hopefully provide even our more experienced walkers with a challenge that they would not forget in a while.

When you’re looking to transport around 20 or so Brits across a few thousand miles, you’re always posed with a few logistical issues.

We’re a mixed bunch here at Aberdeen Rambling Walkers, coming from many walks of life and all of us with different budgets to deal with. Although every one of us is capable of booking our own flights and making it to the meeting point ourselves, we agreed that it would be easier, and more enjoyable, if we all made the trip over together. In the end, we deferred to the greater knowledge of Michael, one of our recent additions who had experience in driving the distance from his time working for an international removal van hire company. It was decided then – we would leave Aberdeen together and arrive in Spain as one team, it was going to be a long drive!

Thirty-two hours of driving later (thankfully shared between the confident drivers amongst us) and we had reached our destination, a place that was once known as one of the scariest hiking routes in the world – Caminito del Rey. The legendary hiking trail has seen something of a face lift since it’s dangerous days, with planned constction removing the risk-factor that claimed the lives of several intrepid hikers, in the years after it was closed for safety purposes. Whilst the hike has arguably lost a modicum of it’s daredevil reputation, it still remains a truly incredible location to walk through.

By the time that it came to embarking on the 2-day hike that would take us from the recently constructed boardwalks of Caminito Del Rey through the rural reaches of Malaga proper, the heat had soared up to a scorching degrees and only promised to grow warmer as the day progressed.

The heat, the rough terrain and gorgeous views were all a part of why us 15-ramblers had sat on a minibus for over 30 hours – this was a chance for us to prove our worth and truly challenge our rambling skills.


City Walking//Aberdeen in Summer

Our walkers were more than a little surprised when they found out that we’d be staying in the city for our first walk of July.

Many of our group are school teachers, they’re usually free every weekend and are always the first to offer to drive us out of the city on the weekends, however this week was different.

As we’re reaching the end of the school term, many of our teaching compatriots are starting to really feel the pressure. The closer they get to the summer holidays, the more restless the children get and the harder it is for them to keep control of them. In addition to this, they also take the kids out on more school trips during these final weeks, resulting in their working days being almost doubled. So, by the time they get to the weekend they’re exhausted and the thought of driving a bunch of excitable walkers all the way out to the Trossachs just feels like far too much effort.

With our teachers out for the count last weekend, we had to limit our plans for the first walk of July and keep our first ‘wander’ within the city limits of Aberdeen – our base of operations. Around half of us live in the city itself, whereas the other half live in the surrounding villages, towns and suburbs; so our walkers either drove in or simply picked up a bus. As we recently received a new influx of members, we thought it best for us to meet in the city and take our time, so that we had a good chance to chat and get to know each other.

The weather in Aberdeen during this time of year is usually very pleasant. Although it was perhaps a few degrees cooler than it usually is in July, many of us decided to brave it with a pair of shorts and we were rewarded with legs that were at least a few shades darker by the end of the day.

The circuit that we took was a simple loop, taking us through some of the most picturesque parts of the city. An amble down Ship Road brought us down cobbled streets and then along to Regent Quay. Dazzling sunshine shone down on us throughout the day, illuminating the fine granite slabs that make up the majority of the construction materials around this area. Many of these buildings are well over a century old, but that doesn’t stop them from shining as if they were built last week.

Before too long we’d reached Aberdeen Harbour and were soon making our way towards Footdee. Once a fishing village, this quaint little village is now pretty much a part of the city itself, but if you ignore the bustling metropolis behind you, it’s not hard to imagine teams of fishermen heading out to sea every day, dragging their boats along the short strip of sand each day.

It’s surprising how quickly your appetite builds after walking for just an hour or so. Although we had packed food with us (Aberdeen Rambling Walkers¬†always come prepared) there was a jovial spirit amongst our group and we decided to drop in at Footdee’s premier fish restaurant, The Silver Darling. With a piping hot meal inside us, there was no way that we weren’t going to enjoy a pint of ale to wash down the crab and bass.

Our steps back to the centre of Aberdeen were certainly a little more laboured, but we’d definitely got July’s walking off to a good start.