We’ve had a good year of walking so far and have reached the top of a number of hills that, with my still deteriorating bit of sight, I’d started to think I may not get to. Standing at the tops of Lochnagar, Stuc a’ Chroin and Ben Macdui, has given my confidence a bit of a boost this summer and I’ve been feeling positive despite struggling more with my mobility both around town and on the hill.
On Wednesday however, I was brought down to earth with a bit of a bump, although mental, not physical! We’d been invited to join some friends who were staying in a lodge at the southern end of Loch Eck, not far from Dunoon. We had no real plans ourselves as we’d never really explored the area before and so just turned up with fairly basic gear…. waterproofs and walking boots…..just in case.
When we’d left Irvine it had been pouring down with rain and although it had eased as we crossed the Firth of Clyde on the ferry, it was still pretty damp when we arrived and not looking particularly promising weather-wise. It certainly wasn’t a day for a big or high level walk and our friends suggested a short wander over to Pucks Glen a few kilometres from the lodges. Sounded perfect and with the cloud starting to break from around the steep sided hills above Loch Eck, the five of us set off. After following a gradually rising track for forty minutes or so, we reached a sign pointing to a smaller path leading up through the trees ….Upper Pucks Glen ….and headed up that. Despite it being a very good path this was immediately more difficult for me as the light under these fairly dense woods, was limited. On this kind of path it wasn’t a problem especially as Nita was in front of me to point out any slippery tree roots etc. As the path gained height the ground started to drop more steeply away on our right and before long we reach the stream that has formed Pucks Glen. It wasn’t big and despite the morning rain, it wasn’t very full either, but it dropped away down the hillside steeply and the wee path that followed down beside it immediately screamed ‘problem’ to me. I really struggle walking down narrow paths by streams especially so when the light is poor…..in these conditions it was really dark for me and so I said I’d have to return by our outward path …I wasn’t going to risk trying to get down that way. Nita and Evelyn said they’d go back with me and we left Stewart and Holger to take the more direct route. We kind of figured we’d meet them back on the main track.
Well ….even getting back down the good path was quite slow progress for me. When we reached the top of the ‘Lower Puck’s Glen’ path however, (with the bit we could see, looking reasonably good) we decided we might as well go back that way. After just five minutes I was starting to have my doubts though. It was in general a very good path, but it was just so dark for me in the depths of this narrow tree filled little gorge. Thankfully all the steep sections had steps and handrails but even so much of the path was right by the stream. For a large part of this walk I couldn’t see much at all and relied on Nita’s great guiding skills, (honed over years on the hills) to get me down through this amazing little glen. It was for me really difficult ….probably the most difficult and challenging thing I’ve done for a good few years! I have to say, that I was very glad to hear Evelyn say we’d reached the main track at the bottom of the glen ….phew! I was hot and more than a little stressed!!!
It was quite an adventure although it’s a shame Nita didn’t really get to see this amazing little glen either as she spent all her time keeping me on the path. She did take some photos as we descended but it was so dark that my little camera couldn’t cope with the conditions either, (I have some sympathy for it)…..but here is one photo that came out reasonably well. It’s spectacular and well worth a visit. When we met up with Stewart and Holger, they said that the upper glen path was even steeper but without the helpful handrails in places…….definitely not for me!
Of course, after that we just had to go for a beer or two. By this time the rain had all gone and the hills were clear and looking fabulous in the afternoon and early evening sunshine. We had planned to catch the late ferry back but forgot to check the time of the last ferry. We arrived at the slipway at about 22.20 to find it deserted and in darkness ….oooops! The last ferry had been at 22.00. Nothing for it but to have a good laugh, eat the emergency packs of crisps Nita had packed for just such circumstances ….and then start on the lengthy drive home back past Loch Eck, up and over the Rest and Be Thankful, down along the side of Loch Lomond and over the Erskine Bridge. We arrived home in Irvine to find a very hungry cat at about 00.30! It had been a great day ….an adventure out of no-where!