The walk The Hill of the Caves

The Herald Magazine - - etc OUTDOORS -


Lo­ca­tion: Ben Venue, Trossachs Grade: Mod­er­ate hill walk Dis­tance: 7 miles/12km Time: 5-6 hours

AWAY to the west, streaks of yel­low light lit up the dark­en­ing sky and be­low our feet Loch Katrine stretched it­self through the rough and tum­bled land­scape of the Trossachs. In the north-west the Cri­an­larich hills bowed their heads to the higher tops of Stob Bin­nein and Ben More and fur­ther east the Ben Law­ers range all but dwarfed its neigh­bour­ing Tar­ma­chans. The twin tops of Stuc a’Chroin and Ben Vor­lich stood clear, their high­est slopes still topped by the win­ter’s snow.

Dark­ness was prob­a­bly less than an hour away yet we lin­gered, ea­ger to tease out ev­ery mo­ment we could from our eyrie on the sum­mit of Ben Venue, one of the finest view­points in the south­ern High­lands.

Ben Venue is some­times said to be “the Hill of the Caves” and, with its twin tops, west­ern out­liers and craggy coun­te­nance, it lords over the rugged land­scape of the leg­end-rich Trossachs. There are whis­pers of the past in ev­ery notch and cranny of these hills. The slopes that tum­ble from the sum­mit of Ben Venue down to­wards Loch Katrine are breached by the Bealach nan Bo, the Pass of the Cat­tle, an an­cient trade route for stolen cat­tle, driven back from the low­lands to the Macgre­gor lands at Glengyle. And be­low the bealach lies knob­bly Coire na Uris­gean, the cor­rie of the goblins.

Sir Wal­ter Scott, who found so much in­spi­ra­tion in the Trossachs, de­picted the gob­lin’s cor­rie as a re­treat for Ellen Dou­glas and her fa­ther af­ter they had with­drawn from Rod­er­ick Dhu’s strong­hold on Eilean Mo­lach. An even older ac­count sug­gests this cor­rie was the meet­ing place for all the goblins in Scot­land. Ac­cord­ing to Scenery of the South­ern Con­fines of Perthshire (1806), “the solemn meet­ings of the or­der were reg­u­larly held in this cave of Ben­ve­new”.

Most peo­ple climb Ben Venue from Ledard Farm on the B829 Aber­foyle to In­ver­snaid road, and from the road­side sign­posts point the way – seven miles to the Trossachs via the sum­mit of Ben Venue.

A good track runs past Ledard Farm and passes a lit­tle pool and wa­ter­fall where Scott ap­par­ently liked to come to work on his notes for Rob Roy and Waver­ley. A foot­bridge crosses the Ledard Burn but we weren’t to keep our feet dry for long. In its lower stretches this path can be ex­tremely boggy, but we found it does im­prove con­sid­er­ably as you climb higher With the trees left be­hind, the hill grad­u­ally rose as we climbed north­wards onto the eastern slopes of one of Venue’s out­liers, Beinn Bhreac. Here, a wide bealach in­tro­duced us to the craggy slopes of Ben Venue it­self and, even at this point, the first views of the day be­gin to im­press them­selves on us.

On steeper ground now, the foot­path be­gins to switch­back,

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