Hillwalking adventures, and finding the friendliest Scottish cows
Why am I doing this to myself?!! - I shout to the hills as I fight my way out of yet another mud puddle while trying not to faceplant into a heathery, peaty bog. It’s all to meet cows, of course.
I had set an alarm for a ridiculous 4am start, and I was hardly awake as I got on the train. Again, why am I doing this to myself?!! Well, for one I can pretend I’m a Gore-Tex clad superheroine about to go on a perilous war against giant peat bog monsters. It get to meet new friends (aka Highland cows). Above all, it’s my favourite way of coping with PhD stress. Conference deadlines and paper abstracts just seem to matter a little bit less when you’ve taken another fall into a river and are questioning every single one of your life choices.
Here on the PGR blog, we have already written plenty about the benefits of sport in reducing stress, whether it’s running around Glasgow or cycling to work. I should probably confess at this point that I cannot ride a bike -maybe learning should be a 2018 resolution of mine! I love to hate and hate to love running, but sometimes you just need to get out of Glasgow and away from crowds and buses and the odd broken Buckfast bottle sitting in a street corner.
Here’s where hillwalking comes in. I grew up in the hills in Transylvania, they’re home - no mum, I didn’t get lost again, I simply got misplaced…I adore cows and want to meet and befriend all of them. And I want to get as many people to fall in love with the outdoors as possible, so we can all try and keep our wild places wild for everyone to enjoy. So whether you’ve been hiking before or are thinking of lacing those boots for the first time, I’ve got some tips about how to stay safe outdoors and where my best places to go are (read: where the cows are the friendliest).
Scotland might not have any hungry bears or venomous snakes, but it can be scary and dangerous when it wants to. Avalanches in winter, swollen rivers after the usual rain and even how large the distance to the nearest village can be means that things can turn ugly, and quick. Cows might be adorable and the best thing on the planet, but they can be aggressive and dangerous, so it’s best to keep a fence between you and them, especially if they have calves around.
All this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go, but it does require a bit of planning before grumpily setting off to catch a 5am bus or train somewhere. Check the weather forecast, and if it looks really bad, go somewhere else, or stay at home and day dream about cows. Dress in layers, pack spare clothes and don’t forget your waterproofs. Have some extra food, water and a fully charged mobile phone with the numbers for the emergency services (dial 999 or 112, asking for police and then mountain rescue) just in case. Carry map and compass and know how to use them. And please let someone know where you’re heading and when you’re planning to come back, and try to go with someone else if you can rather than alone.
Where to go around Glasgow
This is a tricky one. There’s so many amazing places around Scotland, with trails ranging from nice gentle walks to nightmare inducing bucket list ridges (I’m looking at you, Skye). I love the Isle of Arran for how varied the terrain is and the views from the summit of Goatfell on a clear day. Arrochar has quite a few Munros (Scottish mountains over 3000 feet high), the iconic Cobbler and some low-level walks in between them.
Conic Hill is a short, fairly busy walk but the views across Loch Lomond are amazing (also, cows!). It also happens to be along the West Highland Way, a long distance path between Milngavie near Glasgow and Fort William at the foot of Ben Nevis, Scotland’s (and Britain’s) highest mountain.
I usually check the Walking Highlands website for ideas on where to go, what to do and to get an idea of how challenging the walk is going to be. It also tells you if the start of the walk is accessible by public transport, which is useful for car-less folk like me.
Folk to know
There’s lots of Meetup groups around Glasgow, as well as Facebook groups that organise regular trips. Here at UofG, we have the Mountaineering Club you can always join - you can contact them via their website here https://www.gumclub.co.uk/ , or go to one of their weekly meetings on Tuesday at Dram!.
Have you been doing any walking in the Scottish hills? Where are your favourite places? Leave us a comment or tweet us at @UofG_PGRblog. And, if you’ve spotted any super friendly, super fluffy cows on your walks, please let me know so I can find them too. Tweet me at @physicsBianca or find me on Instagram at @themonsterrific.