As a member of the Ramblers’ board of trustees, I visit many interesting places—but, ironically for a Rambler, I spend most of that time indoors.
Take Ramblers’ Scottish Council, for instance. This is the annual meeting of the Ramblers in Scotland. It is good to see what is happening there and to learn from their experiences. The meeting over the weekend of 11-12 March was excellent. We met in Dunblane, just north of Stirling, which I had not visited before—and I had to grab every opportunity to get outside.
We arrived on Friday evening. We stayed at the Hydro hotel, an imposing building which first opened in 1878 as a Victorian health spa.
As the weekend’s events did not start until 1 pm on Saturday, those of us who had come early were keen to join the morning walk led by Ray Findlay of Stirling and Falkirk District Ramblers. He took us north-east through forestry to Sheriff Muir.
Rights of access in Scotland are far greater than in England, and are governed by the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003, as explained by the statutory 133-page Scottish Outdoor Access Code.
I passed the sign pictured above which I found interesting because I am not sure that there is any requirement to keep to footpaths unless there are Forestry Authority bylaws, and I also wonder whether they can prevent riders on horses and ponies from going there.
The sign below is also interesting because it explains that the forest is part-dependent on European funding. What is its future?
We came out of the forest and would have had a fine view of the Ochil Hills to the east but for the low cloud. However, it was not low enough to obscure a disastrous piece of old-fashioned, angular-edged forestry plonked on the hilltop.
We joined a back road by the Clan MacRae monument (grid reference NN815019), which was erected in memory of the MacRaes. Many of the clan members were killed at Sheriff Muir on 13 November 1715 while fighting with the Jacobites.
Nearby, on a nice stretch of lowland heath, there is a gathering stone—a former standing stone, now on its side and protected by iron hoops. It is said to have been the site where the Jacobite standard was placed at the start of the battle.
It was a good walk, but I was frustrated that I had not yet seen Dunblane. The only chance for that was early on Sunday morning. So I set off at 7am with Van Griffiths, the Ramblers’ chief executive, and Chris Hodgson, chair of Ramblers Cymru. We walked into the town past the Leighton library, the oldest private library in Scotland which is open to the public.
The cathedral is a massive, largely thirteenth-century structure with an eleventh-century bell tower (originally free-standing) on the south side.
The Allan Water flows below the cathedral. The town formerly had a thriving milling and weaving industry.
As we stood on the small bridge across the river we heard the chattering of grey wagtails above the roar of the river and then saw three. I shall treasure that memory because they cheered a grey morning.
We walked back beside the river with a good view of the cathedral looming over the railway bridge.
And so we returned indoors, but at least we had made the most of the spare moments to explore the splendid surroundings. I was sad that I had to leave before the walk in the Ochils on Sunday afternoon.