A couple of weekends ago we decided to take a jaunt to the Trossachs to blow away the cobwebs with a good walk and soothe the soul with a fix of some bonnie Scottish scenery.
It had been a bad week for The Wee White Dug. It involved a visit to the dog groomer where he shook like jelly. A trip to the vet for his annual booster where he shook like jelly, then another jelly legged visit to the vet after he got a glass splinter impaled in his foot – ouch.
The poor wee sausage deserved a treat after a few days of limping and a course of antibiotics. Some quality time off the lead and a good old wilderness sniffing session was just what he needed.
A lovely Loch Ard hike
We chose a lovely walk in the Forest of Loch Ard near Aberfoyle, which winds its way by Ghleannain Loch (the little loch of the small glen) and Loch Ard.
Deep in the Queen Elizabeth Forest Park there are several marked walking trails to be found here. We took the red route, a circuit trail which is just under 7 kilometers long and takes around 1 1/2 hours to complete depending on how many photo and sniffing stops you factor in en route.
Our trail was scattered with artworks by the Scottish sculptor and environmental artist Rob Mulholland. I love his works, many of which can be found dotted around this region.
After setting off we quickly reached the pretty Ghleannain Loch and scrambled off track for a clearer view. The autumnal colours and reflections were gorgeous and better still the sun looked like it was threatening to join us on our walk. Hopalong Cassidy was in his element exploring, his sore foot now a distant memory along with his traumatic week of new hairdos and visits to the vet.
We wandered along enjoying the burst of autumn sunshine, chatting about our favourite topic – road tripping around Scotland. The amazing places we’ve been, future trips we’ve planned and that buzz you get when you find an awesome new places. Our best, and most animated chats always take place when we’re surrounded by nature.
Stopping frequently to take photos, I tried to snatch a few candid shots of my boys, but Mr G is a nightmare when it comes to photos. He LOVES a selfie so if he twigs that he’s being photographed he’ll pose like a turkey even when walking! It’s infuriating as he’s ruined many a walking off into the distance shot with his unnatural photo walk.
Luckily I’m a ninja with the camera after so much practice so I managed to sneak a few natural shots. It’s like a game now – snap Mr G really quickly and quietly before he realises and the weird, contorted photo walking begins!
As we wound our way into more dense woodland fringing Loch Ard we found a wee spot on the shore where we could admire the view.
In a flash the wee dug charged into the loch. We looked at each other in disbelief – this is the boy who’ll only normally paddle when his Mum goes into the water with him. He was almost up to his neck when the realisation of what he’d just done seemed to hit him. He stopped, looked back at us as if to say ‘How on Earth did I end up in here?’ and out he skulked drookit (Scots for awfy wet) and resembling a drowned rat.
Loch Ard started to drop away below us as the walk got steeper and finally we spotted one of Rob Mulholland’s artworks hiding in the trees.
‘Red rebels’ two native Red Squirrels fighting valiantly against the larger grey predator who almost drove them to extinction. Despite the bad reputation of the Grey Squirrel I love both, although nothing beats spotting a Red Squirrel in the wild, tufty ears and fast as lightning.
As we neared the end of our walk we passed the iconic boat shed on Loch Ard which is a firm favourite with Scottish photography enthusiasts. It felt odd viewing it from behind instead of trying to snap it from across the loch and cursing the terrible, flat light.
There were a few other pretty little boat sheds dotted around the fringes of the loch but the lovely blue sky of earlier had gone so we didn’t get to see them looking their best.
The Wee Blether Tearoom
The fresh air had made us hungry so it was definitely time for some lunch. I remembered passing a wee cafe at the side of the loch earlier in the year so we headed there.
The Wee Blether Tearoom is a quirky little gem of a place with great food, friendly staff and an awesome loch-side location with drop dead gorgeous views. It was the perfect choice for us as it served our lunch time favourites of home-made soup and toasties. Although there were several dog friendly tables outside we decided to grab some take-away lunch to eat in the car.
Mr G popped inside to order our food and the boy and I enjoyed looking at the various knick-knacks outside in the garden. After a minute he emerged to see if I fancied sharing a slice of cake with him. I agreed even though I don’t normally have much of a sweet tooth. I’m a real savoury fan and would choose Bombay Mix over chocolate or cake any day of the week.
Lunch was tasty – old school lentil soup made with meat stock. A blast from the past and just how my Nana used to make it.
Soup and toasties devoured we turned our attention to our coffee and cake. I tentatively opened the brown paper bag containing the cake. What is it I asked? Elvis cake was the reply! Elvis cake? Yes, Peanut butter, jam and banana – the ingredients of one of Elvis’s favourite sandwich fillings.
I split the giant wedge of sponge cake and took a tentative bite before shovelling it down my throat in record time like Augustus Gloop on a rampage in Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory. It was beyond delicious – a perfect, subtle flavoured banana sponge cake with jam in the middle and topped with a thick layer of peanut butter, buttercream icing – Absolutely divine. By the time I’d finished my bloodstream must have been around 95% sugar.
Mr G loved the cake too but seemed more delighted by the fact that the gents loo had a picture of The Fonz hanging in it.
Botanic Lights, Edinburgh
Later that afternoon I slept off the half tonne of cake I’d eaten, then freshened up for a visit to the Royal Botanic Garden to see Botanic Lights 2016, an annual event which runs for several weeks during October and November. This was our first visit.
We stood in the queue grumbling about the wait and being surrounded by too many people – a stark contrast to our near people free day in the Trossachs. It was raining too and we were on the verge of leaving when the rain went off and the queue began to shuffle slowly into the garden.
I’m so glad we stuck it out as it was a brilliant experience. The garden which I could walk around with my eyes closed was transformed into a mysterious, fairytale landscape unfamiliar to me. It was disorienting as it looked so different in the dark with the beautiful lights everywhere.
We were left to follow a set route round at our leisure. It took us on a wonderful journey around the world, visiting the countries where the plants in the garden came from. The music to accompany the lights was perfect. My favourite was African music which played as we watched colourful jets of water dancing.
The highlight for me was the Chinese hillside garden which is stunning by day, but magical by night. We stood transfixed as dragons, warriors, wolves and mountains were projected into the air before our very eyes – it was fantastic.
As I’d eaten my body weight in cake that day I didn’t indulge in any of the goodies on offer from a vintage truck selling hot mulled wine, or a cosy looking hut selling toasted marshmallows. I felt cheated and made a mental note to arrive hungry in 2017.
The Nepalese prayer tree was busy with people making wishes. I made mine, wrote it on a ribbon and tied it to the tree. Even as a grown up there’s something delightful and innocent about making a wish.
As our visit to Botanic Lights drew to a close, and our long day to an end Mr G declared it to have been a great day on planet earth, and I wholeheartedly agreed.
La vie est belle.
Until next time ……….