Walk: Legless on Lui

The first time we laid eyes on Ben Lui and its snow-filled coires, it took our breath away. The popular "grab-and-go" Munro bagger's route from the north has problems with bog and a wide river to ford, also missing out on the hill's best side. Instead, approach from Dalrigh to see this graceful, formidable massif in its full glory, returning over the range's three other Munros. It's a long day: 16 miles with nearly 2000 metres of ascent meant we felt pretty legless at the end of it all. But this intensely beautiful route is well worth suffering for, taking in dramatic coires and ridges, magnificent vistas, clear mountain burns and majestic glens. Save this one for a day when the ground is dry - otherwise bog will spoil the descent through ancient Caledonian woodland at the end of the day.

Name: Walk: Legless on Lui ★★★☆
Length: 25 km / 16 miles
Ascent: 1880 metres
Main summits: Ben Lui (1130 metres, Munro); Beinn a' Chleibh (916 metres, Munro); Ben Oss (1029…

Walk: Ben Donich dash

Small scramble aside, Ben Donich is one of the more straightforward summits in the Arrochar Alps thanks to its position next to the top of the Rest and be Thankful pass. With a decent path all the way to the top, a return trip can be accomplished in a few hours in good conditions. Despite the relative ease of ascent, it yields nothing to its more awkward neighbours in terms of views. The summit cairn is a perfect place to spot many of western Scotland's natural landmarks: lochs Goil, Fyne, Lomond, Awe and the Firth of Clyde; Mull, Arran, the Cumbraes and Ailsa Craig; Ben Cruachan and Ben Nevis among others. Ben Donich's own slopes are also interesting, with a chaos of huge boulders adding drama to the higher parts of the ascent. Beware: the geology has led to deep fissures close to the path in places. Dogs have been lost down these on more than one occasion - plenty of the openings are human-sized too.

Name: Walk: Ben Donich dash ★★★☆
Length: 7 km / 4 miles
Ascent: 580 metres

Cambuskenneth Abbey

Founded in 1140, Cambuskenneth Abbey used to be a grand, rich complex with links to nearby Stirling Castle. Resident canons prayed for generations of Scottish royals, with James III and his wife, Margaret of Denmark, both buried inside the church. Most of the buildings were razed to the ground during the reformation (and in subsequent quarrying of the stone for building materials), but the ornate bell tower remains intact as well as the tomb in which king and queen were reburied in 1864 following excavation. You can still easily see how the rest of the abbey was laid out thanks to its surviving foundations; also take time to wander down to the tidal River Forth behind, with excellent views of the Ochil Hills and Wallace Monument as well as faint remains of further ecclesiastical buildings.

Name: Cambuskenneth Abbey★☆☆☆
Location: South side of Cambuskenneth, G.R.: NS 809939 / silly divisions ages
Open (2017): Daily, April to September
Cost: Free

Walk: Warlocks & rock bands - Dumyat by the corridor route

Dumyat's craggy profile when viewed from the south makes it one of the most characterful hills in the Scottish Lowlands. And yet the "tourist route" to the summit from the west misses out on all of this, crossing unremarkable grassland on a busy and eroded path. Starting instead from Blairlogie allows access to a rarely used traverse route. This ingeniously follows a corridor of grass which miraculously navigates a maze of conglomerate cliffs and rock outcrops, with superb views across Clackmannanshire's plains: admittedly requiring more effort than the other route, but visually ten times better. After enjoying the panorama at the crowded summit, head east into Menstrie Glen to pick up the Hillfoots Diamond Jubilee Way for an easy ramble back to the start.

Name: Walk: Warlocks & rock bands - Dumyat by the corridor route ★★★☆
Length: 6 km / 4 miles
Ascent: 430 metres
Main summits: Dumyat (419 metres, sub-2000')
Start / finish: Car park off A91 just east of Blairlo…


Bordering the north bank of the Firth of Clyde, Helensburgh is an attractive seaside resort with a small but busy centre and beautiful cherry blossom-lined suburban streets in springtime. The town grew up as a wealthy commuter base for dirty Glasgow in Victorian times, and still has good transport links to Scotland's largest city - though it's recently lost the ferry service to Gourock across the Clyde, leaving behind an conspicuously empty pier. Away from the coast at the top of town, Hill House is something of a pilgrimage site for fans of Glasgow designer Charles Rennie Mackintosh.

Name: Helensburgh ★☆☆☆
Location: G.R.: NS 297824 / later aunts fully


>> see separate post for Hill House★★☆☆ (1 mile away)
>> see separate post for Walk: Ardmore Point's birds & bays★★☆☆ (4 miles away)

Hill House

Set among other widely spaced mansions in the upper echelons of Helensburgh, Hill House is Charles Rennie Mackintosh's finest domestic creation. The architect and his wife designed almost every outside aspect (and most of the interior) of this striking building in 1902, after being approached by wealthy Glasgow publisher Walter Blackie, who needed a new home. If you've visited any of Mackintosh's other masterpieces you'll immediately recognise his clean, geometric designs all over the property. The ugly grey colour (though it looks better in the sun, as above) of the exterior was apparently specifically requested by Blackie... well, the customer's always right.

Name: Hill House★★☆☆
Location: Upper Colquhon Street, Helensburgh, G.R.: NS 300838 / defaults work rainbow
Open (2017): Daily, April to October
Cost (2017): £10.50 (adults), £7.50 (children), free for National Trust for Scotland members

Road: A702 Dalveen Pass

The scenery of the Southern Uplands is seriously underrated. Too many visitors from across the English border zoom by on the M74 bound for Scotland's cities or the Highlands. Except that leaves the roads fabulously quiet for the rest of us. The Dalveen Pass threads its way south from the motorway through the southern part of the Lowther Hills, first following the broad Lanarkshire glen of a baby River Clyde, before clinging to the edge of the Carron Valley in a long but gradual descent to Durisdeer and Carronbridge in Dumfriesshire. Parts of the route used to be a Roman Road but you'd never guess, thanks to all the bends stopping you admiring the fine surrounding hillsides. It's probably best driven (and definitely cycled) in a southbound direction: 9 miles with hardly any need to touch the accelerator on the downhill side. The narrower, higher Mennock Pass provides an alternative scenic route a few miles to the north.

Name: A702 Dalveen Pass ★★☆☆
Location (summit): A702 be…